Excerpted from an article published in the Huffington Post on March 9, 2010 by Alon Ben-Meir, Senior Fellow at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs.
(…) The recent resolution adopted by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs-to officially recognize actions against the Armenians in 1915 as genocide committed by the Ottoman Turks-has less to do with the US government's pursuit of historical accuracy, than political theater that has come at a strikingly inopportune time.Genocide is a serious label, and requires not only moral authority from those who use it but a deep comprehension of the historical context in which these events occurred. Armenians have every right to demand official inquiries about the terms and conditions in which hundreds of thousands of their ancestors were killed, but this is not the task of US Congress, who has neither the moral standing to codify armed clashes of a century ago without proper inquiry nor the right to be selective about human rights offenses for political points.
Every effort should be made by President Obama and the remaining House representatives to prevent the resolution from reaching the House floor.
Beyond the very serious damage that such a resolution could inflict on US-Turkish relations, should it pass the full House, congressional interference at this juncture could severely erode the very moral argument used to justify the resolution. Turkey and Armenia have only recently concluded two protocols calling for closer ties, open borders, and most importantly, the creation of a commission to examine the historical evidence of the tragic events. Not only will this vote undermine the reconciliation process between Turkey and Armenia, but it threatens the US-Turkish relationship at a time when Turkey is playing a critical role aiding the US and the Middle East peace process.
(…) However large the political benefit these members of Congress may garner this election year by pushing this resolution, it is not in US interests, as the end result will hurt the Turkish-Armenian reconciliation process and severely undercut Turkish-US cooperation should it come to fruition. Such a serious resolution requires the application of the highest moral review and investigation, not a politically convenient act which is considered an insult to Turkish identity.
If genocide was in fact committed, it should be left to an international investigative tribunal, not politicians who need to be reelected every two years.
Turkey has been a loyal friend of the United States for more than a half century, and continues to support American efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Arab-Israeli peace process. It is a modern secular democracy, and has made great strides in remaining open and progressive.
Why then should the United States Congress hold the descendants of the Ottomans responsible for the deeds of their fathers perpetrated a century ago? Since Turkey vehemently rejects the term genocide, what judgment should then be passed, and by whom, that will not tarnish the present generation of Turks? This generation had nothing to do with past events and, in fact, condemns the atrocities committed during that heinous war, regardless of who the perpetrators were. What then gives the United States' House of Representatives the moral authority to pass judgment, when domestic political interest shamelessly dominates their motives? The argument against the resolution by the full House should be based on moral grounds, and the members must not act as judges and jurors when Turkey and Armenia have agreed to establish their own joint committee to unravel what in fact happened.
At a time when America still suffers from a lagging global image after years of hawkish foreign policy and two ongoing wars, the United States Congress must support what Turkey and Armenia have agreed to do to resolve their conflict and help facilitate a resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh territorial dispute. (…) It is by no means certain that this misguided resolution taken by Pelosi and Berman will pass in the full House should it come to a vote. Furthermore, it is unlikely these sponsors will even bring the resolution to the floor unless they are certain it has a substantial chance to pass. This represents a keen opportunity for Democrats and Republicans alike to find a common area of interest and work in unison for the best interests of the US, Turkey, and the future of Turkish-Armenian relations.