Monday, March 05, 2007

Blithely talking genocide

I don't know if I've ever seen quite the level of cynical editorializing Jackson Diehl dispenses here.

The Armenian genocide happened, it is a relatively uncovered, yet very real event. The fact is Turkey under Ataturk was embarassed about the actions of the Young Turks before he came to power and made the decision to externally avoid the subject in an effort to obtain recognition (and to placate internal allies), and the world decided to give it rather than deal with its messiness (there is also something to be said for the U.S. leading the charge to ignore the slaughter of the prior decade in the 1920s). This got trapped within his post-death personality cult and concretized into official policy of the Turkish state. Hard to believe an action in which he had no direct part got trapped within the personality cult of an individual who succeeded its perpetrators -- but there you have it. It is hard to believe that ninety years after it happened, the fact that Turkey can't admit it, nor have other counries condemn it says all you need to know about the power of cognitive dissonance. It makes you shudder for the future of humanity (it also makes the failure to recognize what we have wrought in Iraq easier to recognize [hardly a genocide, just slaughter in the hundreds of thousands].

But Diehl does the subject no favors by his obtuse shoulder shrugging. Is it a "great time" for this resolution to be debated? Not really, but when the hell would there be a good time?

The Armenian genocide happened. A series of both intentional and unintentional actions happened and in the period of a year a massive spasm of bloodletting occurred in the death throes of the Ottoman Empire leading to the deaths of half-a million to a million Armenians during the height of the First World War. Was it the mass systemic slaughter that the Holocaust was? No. But neither is it the minimalist propogandized accident that Turkish apologist make it out to be.


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