Some Basic Questions

By Leonard Manoukian,

In my short–happy–life–I’ve learned that questioning people’s motive is a useless exercise. Inevitably–civil discourse turns to name calling; feelings are hurt and dialogue ceases. So why bother? Instead–I’ve found that decisions and the actions that follow are better topics of discussion and more objective means of deliberation.

In the recent past–two Armenian advocacy organizations–the ANC and the Armenian Assembly–have taken their not-so-private disagreemen’s to the public. Those who know me also know my affiliations–so I will not feign objectivity. For the sake of fairness–I will limit myself to asking some questions and allowing the reader to answer them.

To clarify–the disagreement centers on the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC)–which has the active support of the Armenia Assembly.

From my perspective–here are some general questions regarding TARC. First–how can two individuals–nations or states "reconcile" when one has made it clear that it will not accept the "truth"? How can these two have a dialogue when one does not even acknowledge what the other has been living with for nearly a century?

Second–if a nation is being represented in such a situation–what criteria should be used in deciding the appropriate representative? Should the sole consideration be politics or should deeply held national aspirations be the measure?

Finally–when the entire process comes crashing down when one’s "partner in dialogue" simply decides to stand away from the negotiation table–is it perhaps time to admit the abject failure of the exercise–accept responsibility for compromising a near-sacred national matter and move on?

In a more specific vein–there are questions to be asked regarding the nominal accomplishment of TARC–and a study prepared for International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) at TARC’s request–the authors of which remain anonymous.

Using the Genocide Convention as its analytical basis–this report concludes that:

–Under the rubric of the Genocide Convention–the process that began on April 24–1915–was genocide.

–Under the same framework–no reparations are due to Armenia’s.

Taking a step back–one wonders why anyone would allow the most vital issue that has ever faced his nation be decided by a third party–especially when there is already universal unanimity regarding that issue? Here’s another matter to consider–did anyone think that Turkey was going to change its decades’ long position simply because of the report’s findings? Several nations–many organizations and scores of scholars have already concluded that the Ottoman government was guilty of genocide against Armenia’s. What possible utility would one more report have? The facile answer–of course–is that the acknowledgment of the genocide from every quarter will have the cumulative effect of shaming Turkey into admission of responsibility.

The problem–however–should be obvious; whenever anyone points to the ITCJ report as support for the Armenian Cause–they will necessarily–be pointing to the conclusion that no reparations are due. The Assembly overlooks all this and tells us that no one would ever accept acknowledgment without reparations. Fine sentiment–but it can’t have it both ways. It must either disavow TARC and its product–the ITCJ report–or it must adopt both the report’s conclusions.

The last point–and admittedly the most personal–is the constant reminder that on the eve of the 90th commemoration of the genocide–we have better things to do than to discuss these matters. Really? This sentimentalizes the genocide. We do not remember the genocide only on April 24–we–all of us–live with the genocide and its effects every day of the year. In a manner of speaking–April 24 is the first day of a new year–a new year of diligence and work for the Armenian cause. We do not do this work simply for ourselves; there are one and a half million other reasons for it. Real leaders never forget that.


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