Saving Turks from terrorists

The growing violence to Turkish diplomats in the United States by Armenian groups is shocking. The assassination of an honorary Turkish consul near Boston last week is the second such slaying in a little more than three months. Earlier this year the Turkish consul general of Los Angeles was killed as he sat in his car at a traffic light. Surely it is time the US government gave the problem more attention than it seems to have received so far. When foreign diplomats cannot live and work in the US without harassment and fear of their lives, something has to be done.

At the root of the problem, of course, lie the deep animosities between Turks and Armenians which still linger after so many decades. American Armenians by and large do not condone senseless acts of violence by such groups as the Justice Commandos for the Armenian Genocide (which claimed responsibility for the Massachusetts slaying). But they clearly are frustrated by the unwillingness of Turkey to admit to a mass slaying of Armenians in 19l5, a frustration compounded perhaps by the fact that they are a people without a country. Even while regretting terrorism, many Armenians no doubt feel a certain sympathy with the perpetrators of it.

If passions of vengeance are irrational, they nonetheless need to be addressed if the situation is ever to be alleviated. The Turkish government does not want to take the blame for past history; indeed it does not acknowledge the Armenian contention that 1.5 million Armenians were killed in 1915. Yet, if it perhaps showed a greater understanding of the Armenians' position, it might help defuse their frustration. To its credit, Turkey has established a group to look into the matter and try to come up with a documented history of 19l5. A Turkish study would necessarily risk the charge of being biased, but the Turks could avoid this by enlisting outside scholars and giving them access to the Ottoman archives, which have not been open.

The United States government, for its part, should closely examine the whole problem of protecting resident diplomats -- from not only Armenian but also Croat and other groups whose terrorist activities have international ramifications. When a Turkish honorary consul is slain less than two months after his import store has been bombed, there is obviously slack in the system. Federal agencies may be doing as much as they can. But conflicts arise over federal/state jurisidictions, and local police forces sometimes do not have enough money to provide strong security. Perhaps federal funding will be required to help out communities with special needs. All this calls for thorough investigation.

In the end, the Armenian and Turkish people will need to summon up the best in themselves and put the bitter past behind for the sake of a larger humanity. There is hardly a nation that has not sufffered cruelty -- or meted it out. To keep alive the memories of brutality and feed the corrosiveness of hatred only perpetuates the suffering -- and the suffering of the innocent. Surely neither people wishes this.

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