Armenian Genocide Resolution: President Obama and the price of moral courage
The Armenian Genocide Resolution passed by a House committee last week merely asks Obama to tell the truth. Given Turkey’s strategic importance, that will be hard to do.
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The drafted, debated, signed-and-sent-to-parliaments document makes no reference to the Karabakh issue. Armenians saw Turkey’s introduction of this controversy into the protocol talks (after they were signed) as unacceptable. Washington diplomats – mindful of the delicate and protracted negotiations over Karabakh – encouraged Turkey to seek harmony with Armenia “without preconditions” – or in this case, “postconditions.”Skip to next paragraph
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Nonetheless, members of Congress debating HR252 last Thursday and indeed Clinton herself in subsequent statements, seemed either uninformed or dismissive of the reality that “normalization” has reverted to the unfortunate normal state of acrid dislike between Armenia and Turkey.
Clinton’s claim that endorsing the resolution would damage the protocol process plays perfectly into Turkey’s position as the aggrieved nation. Neither she nor the Turks concede that the attempt at reconciliation has been a blunder that not only hasn’t worked, but has torn scabs off wounds that irritate the Turkey-Armenia healing process. What was meant to be a document uniting nations has left the republics divided. And while open borders were intended, closed minds have prevailed.
The process has also split Armenia’s vast diaspora and has been a source of division domestically – in a cantankerous country that needs no encouragement to divide its diminished self. A large segment of the Armenian diaspora rejected the protocols from the start. (Significantd diaspora institutions endorsed the document, but their support was muted compared to contrary outcry.)
Opponents contested a clause that calls for a “historical commission” to explore what happened from 1915 to 1923 in the Ottoman Empire. They reasoned that such a commission would cast doubt on (as candidate Obama called it) the “overwhelming body of historical evidence” and in doing so would betray lost souls to whom nearly every Armenian can trace a link.
The diaspora is unhappy. The natives are uncertain. Turkey is stonewalling. Azerbaijan is threatening war. Is this the “normalization” the State Department envisioned?
The Obama administration won’t call genocide by its ugly but scientifically-deserved name because Ankara effectively said to Washington in March what it said to Yerevan last October: “Share our blindness to history so that we all might squint our way to a brighter future.”
By passing this resolution, a congressional committee has hurt Turkey’s feelings, and the resulting pout could harm American interests. Moral courage carries a higher price than the US can afford.
This resolution – like similar ones before it – will be stopped from going any further. Convenience will trump conscience because Turkey’s importance to US strategic interests is too great. Armenia, landlocked, crippled by Post-Soviet-Syndrome and a soaring national debt, offers nothing – except a share in the just side of moral judgment. All it takes is a word that, again, won’t be spoken by the world’s most influential voice.
American journalist John Hughes is founder and Editor in Chief of ArmeniaNow internet daily in Yerevan, Armenia.