Genocide resolution blemishes Bush

The 1915 genocide of 1.5 million Armenian Christians by Ottoman Turks has yet to be recognized by the Turkish government. The victims of the genocide do not have an international day of remembrance, museums or much less a compensation fund set up for survivors and the families of those killed.

Turkey continues to maintain its innocence, stating that the systematic and barbaric genocide never occurred.

When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad questioned elements of the Holocaust and defended pseudo-scholars who do so professionally, the world was in an uproar over his feeble-minded statement. But what about when our very own president supports a similar denial?

In an attempt to play with words, President Bush refuses to use the term "genocide" and is now lobbying attempting to prevent a piece of legislation that would label the mass murder of the Armenians as genocide. Bush sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi saying that the resolution "would endanger our national security interests."

The proposed House resolution (co-sponsored by Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama), has already won the support of a majority of House members, but Bush said Wednesday morning that the resolution is not the right response to the historic mass killings for fear it will harm relations with Turkey.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates – both avid supporters of the Iraq war – expressed similar statements to Bush’s; they all consider Turkey to be an ally in the war in Iraq. Or is Turkey just an imperial order in the region for our "war on terror?"

A recent poll by the nonpartisan group Terror Free Tomorrow found that 83 percent of Turks would oppose assisting the United States with Iraq if the Armenia-related resolution passed.

Denying the Armenian slaughter was genocide should be considered a crime. Former French President Jacques Chirac believed so. In 2006, France passed a law to criminalize the denial of the Armenian genocide. Sadly, though, the Bush administration does not want to even formally acknowledge it for fear it will harm relations with Turkey. According to a Washington Post article, after France passed the law last year, the Turkish military cut contacts with the French military and terminated defense contracts that were under negotiation at the time.

Robert Fisk, a British journalist for The Independent, visited the mass graves below the deserts of Syria and Southern Turkey. He writes in his book The Great War for Civilisation that, "Armenian victims were killed with daggers, swords, hammers and axes to save ammunition. Massive drowning operations were carried out in the Black Sea and the Euphrates rivers – mostly women and children, so many that the river became clogged with corpses and changed its course for up to half a year.

"The only time Turkish dignitaries admitted to the genocide of the Armenians," Fisk writes, "was in 1918, but their successors today maintain it is all a myth… that anyone who repeats what the men of 1918 admitted will find themselves facing prosecution under the notorious Law 301 for ‘defaming’ Turkey."

The Turkish government, which for 89 years has incessantly denied the Armenian genocide, said it would cut off US access to a critical air base if the resolution passes. Turkey is also spending more than $300,000 a month on communication specialists and high-powered lobbyists to defeat the initiative, The Washington Post reported.

It’s disgusting that our president won’t do so much as accept the use of the term "genocide" in its discourse. Presidents George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton also refused to refer to genocide in their presidencies for fear of offending Turkey. Our country must really need to rely on the Turks to help them "liberate" Iraqis. And the Turks are apparently relying (by giving ultimatums) on the Bush administration to keep their savage secret away from the public. Surely, Turks do not want to stain their reputation. After all, they have been, and still are, desperately trying to become a member state of the European Union.

Hammad, the opinion editor, can be reached via [email protected]

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