Turkey has recalled its ambassador in Washington after a House committee approved a resolution declaring that the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I was genocide.
The Democrat-controlled House Foreign Affairs Committee passed House Resolution 252 by a 23-22 vote, even though the Obama administration had urged Congress not to offend a NATO ally by approving it.
The vote clears it for consideration by the full House. But it is unclear whether the measure will get a floor vote.
(click here for the article, which gives the full text of the resolution, as well as a link to two historians sparring over the issue, and a Turkish commentator’s view — he reminds his readers that Russia is more important to Turkey than the US.)
My view is that governments have no business making pronouncements on history, as they have no expertise in such things, only partisan political interests. This is as true for Turkey as the US. Because the Armenian issue is so politicized, historians find it difficult to discuss it with any nuance. Yet nuance and complexity are what is needed, since neither side disputes that a great many Armenians were killed by Muslim Ottomans and Kurds in the early part of the 20th century. What is disputed are intent and numbers.
For Yigal Schleifer’s considered view, click here. An excerpt:
…[A] recent 60 Minutes episode (or the “provocation,” as one Turkish paper called it in its front-page headline) on the genocide issue was a good reminder of just why Turkey will continue to fight the claim so hard. The word “genocide” obviously brings up the image of the Nazis and the Holocaust, things no country wants to have associated with it, but the 60 Minutes episode charges the Ottoman Turks with actually creating the blueprint for the kind of mass killing that the Third Reich ultimately perfected. That’s a charge that’s even harder for Ankara to swallow, particularly on an issue that cuts to the core of Turkish national pride. You can watch the episode here.
Meanwhile, for a good look at just how much political cynicism surrounds the Armenian genocide issue, take a look at this op-ed by Turkey expert Henri Barkey in today’s Washington Post. Previous post on the Armenian issue can be found here.