a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Because I just can’t let it go

Posted by Thomas Nephew on October 23rd, 2007

I’ll turn to other subjects sometime, I promise. But comments about the Armenian Genocide Resolution by people I think highly of have been among the sharpest disappointments of the past week. Two cases in point:

In his Atlantic Monthly blog, James Fallows (“Just curious (re the Armenian Genocide vote)”) asks whether American leadership is “insane,” calls the resolution “self-righteous,” and constructs a variety of straw men followups to this alleged political malpractice, e.g., condemning China’s Great Leap Forward. He finally gets around to stating his premises at the end of the piece:

The Armenian genocide was real; many Turks pretend it wasn’t. They are wrong, and we should stand for what’s right. But it’s hard to think of a more willfully self-indulgent step than lecturing Turkey’s current government and people 90 years late.

It’s not just “many Turks” who pretend it wasn’t a genocide — it’s the Turkish state, one that has more in common with its genocidal forebear than was convenient to admit, either then or now. I think if Fallows walked even a couple of yards in Armenian American shoes, he’d find it more difficult to dismiss their decades-long quest for some acknowledgment of what happened to them — and what therefore continues to happen to them. Instead it’s more or less ‘get over it, you bunch of dangers to the republic.’ (That said, he shouldn’t have been misquoted, that was of course deeply wrong, and clearly much worse than denigrating a genocide resolution.)

Elsewhere, Jimmy Carter, interviewed on CNN, said he wouldn’t vote for the bill were he in Congress. His reason:

I think the world generally recognizes that many of the Armenians were killed because they were Armenians by leaders of Turkey at that time. But to resurrect that issue and brand now Turkey and the Turkish people as perpetrators of genocide, I think, exacerbates a wound that may very well hurt the relationship with Turkey which is very valuable.

This is a fairly smooth combination of “diplomatese” — “generally,” “many … were killed because they were Armenians” — and “healing talk”: “exacerbates a wound.” The latter always drives me up a wall, but here it isn’t merely empty, pointless jabber, it’s actively deceptive jabber. For when there is a victim and a perpetrator who denies what he’s done, exactly which one is the wounded party?

The basics came at the end: the relationship with Turkey is very valuable. Well, so are lots of relationships with countries Carter is more willing to criticize, generally from atop a very high horse. I’m with him then, despite the high horse; but he shouldn’t come with “valuable” all of a sudden when that’s the best he can do. I wonder what he really thinks the difference is.

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