Alex Massie

Who remembers the Armenians?

Text settings

I'd been quietly, if feebly, sympathetic towards some of the realpolitik concerns about the forthcoming Congressional vote on recognising the Armenian genocide. Then the Washington Post came out fighting. Apparently the resolution is "Worse than Irrelevant"

The Post chuntered that Congressman Adam Schiff, the driving force behind the resolution thanks to the vociferous lobbying of US-Armenians in his California district (mere parochialism according to the Post because of course it's stupid to listen to one's constituents...) is up to no good. Worse still, the paper sneered:

How many House members can be expected to carefully weigh Mr. Schiff's one-sided "findings" about long-ago events in Anatolia?

Apparently given:

the high risk to vital U.S. security interests, the Armenian genocide resolution cannot be called frivolous. In fact, its passage would be dangerous and grossly irresponsible.

And yes, for sure, passing the resolution is symbolic rather than substantive - or rather it would be if it didn't also suggest, quite powerfully, to Turkey that it's past time it acknowledged the darker aspects of its history. Certainly EU membership should not even be a matter for discussion until this happens.

I dare say, of course, it's anti-semitic to suppose that anyone  - say, the Iranian president! - adopting this sort of attitude towards the Jewish holocaust (Needs more study, not sure, you know, about these one-sided "findings" about events that are, well, "long-ago" anyway. Really, why the fuss?) might enjoy a different reception from the Post's editorial page.  (For lots on the Jewish angle on this, see the invaluable and excellent chaps at Jewcy)

Ultimately it's pretty simple: you either treat genocide as genocide or you don't. But if you don't at least have the decency to stay quiet about it rather than offering weasel excuses about the national interest and all the rest of it.

Besides it is humiliating to give in to Turkish bullying. To wit:

A top Turkish official warned Thursday that consequences "won't be pleasant" if the full House approves the resolution.

"Yesterday some in Congress wanted to play hardball," said Egemen Bagis, foreign policy adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "I can assure you Turkey knows how to play hardball."

Screw them.

Of course there is that old Mario Cuomo line about campaigning in poetry but governing in prose. If memory serves, Bill Clinton trotted it out to justify any decision that betrayed any previous promise. The tough and manly and courageous thing to do is to shake your head and wish that matters were otherwise and sigh that, you know, given the realities of the world we live in and all the rest of it... Half a tear and a quivering lip can't hurt either. 

I dare say the current President feels the same way. Apparently it's irresponsible for Congress to even discuss the Armenian genocide - sorry, "mass killings". It wasn't always so, but who cares about a little flip-flopping on genocide? Here's Bush in 2000:

The Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies comprehension and commands all decent people to remember and acknowledge the facts and lessons of an awful crime in a century of bloody crimes against humanity. If elected President, I would ensure that our nation properly recognizes the tragic suffering of the Armenian people.

Shame is best borne silently; it shouldn't be trumpeted as a virtue.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleSociety