BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
For the last three months, I’ve wanted to write this. I owe a debt of gratitude to Ahmet Altan who wrote a piece in early march in the Turkish newspaper Taraf that inspired me. [Click here for a link to the translation.]
Briefly, he takes to task those in Turkey who deny the Genocide. His approach is from a perspective of humiliation— that which Turks feel when a foreign legislative body delivers verdicts about their history. He, rightly, contends that denial and avoidance of the issue bring on deserved humiliation to those who refuse to openly address the past.
I got to thinking. What about the flip side? What about the indignity of our having to beg for (seeming) validation of our tortured history from various provincial, national, and international panels and legislatures? Whoopee, a bunch Swedes passed a parliamentary resolution (of course the government immediately watered even that down to appease Turkey), with the barest margin, of ONE, 131-130. We were happy, “Yay, one more country recognized the Genocide.” How degrading! How humiliating! How embarrassing! This was even more indignity than was heaped upon us by the passage, in committee only, of H.Res.252 by a 23-22 vote.
What the hell? We should be indignant, inflamed, in a frothing lather over these thinly disguised slaps in the face, not pleased-as-pie at “passage”! We are being played for fools, and not necessarily by our legislator-supporters but by Turkey’s leaders and their witting or, much more dangerously, unwitting, pawns.
This goes beyond the idea that Turkey is using our focus on the Genocide and the “sow doubt” strategy they’ve used successfully for decades. It even goes beyond the successor strategy they’ve adopted and are gradually expanding the implementing of:
* Use Armenia—think protocols and previous proposals for “studying” the issue, not to mention subtly playing on the dichotomy of state-to-state relations vs. the dispossessed descendants of the first generation of Turkey’s Genocide victims;
* Use the Iraq and Afghanistan “wars” —think threats to U.S. supply lines and the continued threats to closing U.S. or NATO bases on Turkish soil;
* Use the ”zero problems” policy—think of the tremendous efforts Turkey is making to overcome the legacy of its brutal Ottoman misrule of everyone around it, from the Balkans to Iran and the Arab world.
Frankly, I’m uncertain how deep Turkey’s strategy goes or what form it takes. But when Davutoglu can confidently claim “we handled the Genocide well,” after “losing” the above mentioned two votes, I’m worried. Why? I have to assume he knows something(s) I don’t. Now couple this with an observation I heard on a rerun of “Democracy Now” late last night. The interviewee was Johan Galtung, described as a mediator with over 120 experiences in the international arena. The topic was the U.S. and getting out of Afghanistan. But what was of great interest was his observation that the triad leading Turkey today— Gul, Erdogan, and Davutoglu —has an unparalleled grasp of world affairs. According to Galtung, it is far superior to anything even the U.S. leadership has currently.
If this is accurate, then truly these three (let’s call them GED) are worthy of their Ottoman antecedents who were exceptional diplomats, managing to keeping a decaying empire alive for two centuries. What remains unclear to me is, whether GED is repeating history and just buying their country time before a collapse and long overdue dismemberment, or if they’re presiding over, or ushering in, a period of growth and ascendance.
Regardless, we have to set our best political minds to addressing this problem. Unfortunately, we may have to do this in the Diaspora rather than in conjunction with the government of the Republic of Armenia given their unforgiveable blundering starting with soccer diplomacy and culminating in the infamous protocols. And, we have an immediate challenge before us—how to handle the potential “opening” in D.C. now that the rift between Israel and Turkey has led the former’s U.S. supporters to pull their backing for Ankara’s denialists in the halls of Congress. Is this just another indignity in the making? Or, can we truly progress. Come on political brains! Come out of your ensconcement in the halls of academia and other political hotspots and enlist in the active service of your dispersed nation.