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Honesty Is the Best Policy by Samantha Power

Time Magazine

Thursday, Oct. 18, 2007

Honesty Is the Best Policy

By Samantha Power

Ninety-two years ago, the "young Turk" regime ordered the executions

of Armenian civic leaders and intellectuals, and Turkish soldiers and

militia forced the Armenian population to march into the desert, where

more than a million died by bayonet or starvation. That horror helped

galvanize Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew, to invent the word genocide,

which was defined not as the extermination of an entire group but

rather as a systematic effort to destroy a group. Lemkin wanted the

term—and the international legal convention that grew out of it—to

encompass ethnic cleansing and the murdering of a substantial part of

a group. Otherwise, he feared, the world would wait until an entire

group had been wiped out before taking any action.

But this month in Washington these historical truths—about events

carried out on another continent, in another century—are igniting

controversy among politicians as if the harms were unsubstantiated,

local and recent. At stake, of course, is the question of whether the

U.S. House of Representatives should offend Turkey by passing a

resolution condemning the "Armenian genocide" of 1915.

All actors in the debate are playing the roles they have played for

decades. Turkish General Yasar Buyukanit warned that if the House

proceeds with a vote, "our military ties with the U.S. will never be

the same again." Having recognized the genocide while campaigning for

the White House, President George W. Bush nevertheless followed in the

footsteps of his Oval Office predecessors, bemoaning the euphemistic

"tragic suffering" of Armenians and wheeling out men and women of

diplomatic and military rank to argue that the resolution would harm

the indispensable U.S.-Turkish relationship. In Congress,

Representatives in districts populated by Armenians generally support

the measure, while those well cudgeled or coddled by the President or

Pentagon don’t. Official pressure has led many sponsors of the

resolution to withdraw their support.

One feature of the decades-old script is new : the Turkish threats have

greater credibility today than in the past. Mainly this is because the

U.S. war in Iraq has dramatically increased Turkish leverage over

Washington. Some 70% of U.S. air cargo en route to Iraq passes through

Turkey, as does about one-third of the fuel used by the U.S. military

there. While Turkey may react negatively in the short term,

recognition of the genocide is warranted for four reasons. First, the

House resolution tells the truth, and the U.S. would be the 24th

country to officially acknowledge it. In arguing against the

resolution, Bush hasn’t dared dispute the facts. An Administration

that has shown little regard for the truth is openly urging Congress

to join it in avoiding honesty. It is inconceivable that even back in

the days when the U.S. prized West Germany as a bulwark against the

Soviet Union, Washington would have refrained from condemning the

Holocaust at Germany’s behest.

Second, the passage of time is only going to increase the size of the

thorn in the side of what is indeed a valuable relationship with

Turkey. Many a U.S. official (and even the occasional senior Turkish

official) admits in private to wishing the U.S. had recognized the

genocide years ago. Armenian survivors are passing away, but their

descendants have vowed to continue the struggle. The vehemence of the

Armenian diaspora is increasing, not diminishing. Third, America’s

leverage over Turkey is far greater than Turkey’s over the U.S. The

U.S. brought Turkey into nato, built up its military and backed its

membership in the European Union. Washington granted

most-favored-nation trading status to Turkey, resulting in some $7

billion in annual trade between the two countries and $2 billion in

U.S. investments there. Only Israel and Egypt outrank Turkey as

recipients of U.S. foreign assistance. And fourth, for all the help

Turkey has given the U.S. concerning Iraq, Ankara turned down

Washington’s request to use Turkish bases to launch the Iraq invasion,

and it ignored Washington’s protests by massing 60,000 troops at the

Iraq border this month as a prelude to a widely expected attack in

Iraqi Kurdistan. In other words, while Turkey may invoke the genocide

resolution as grounds for ignoring U.S. wishes, it has a longer

history of snubbing Washington when it wants to.

Back in 1915, when Henry Morgenthau, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey,

protested the atrocities to the Turkish Minister of the Interior, the

Turk was puzzled. "Why are you so interested in the Armenians anyway ?"

Mehmed Talaat asked. "We treat the Americans all right." While it is

essential to ensure that Turkey continues to "treat the Americans all

right," a stable, fruitful, 21st century relationship cannot be built

on a lie.

Source :,9171,1673273,00.html

lundi 31 décembre 2007,
Stéphane ©

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