House Resolution 106

I agree with Ewan Watt that the US House of Representatives' Foreign Relations Committee should not have recognized the Armenian Genocide as such, but perhaps for slightly different reasons. Ewan is, in foreign policy terms, very much a realist and I do agree that the results of the Committee's decision have already been profoundly negative - Turkey has summoned its ambassador to Washington back to Ankara for 'a week or ten days of consultation' but has stopped short of a recall. With US troops deployed in Iraq, a country that borders Turkey, Turkey's strategic position and role and the desire not to alienate a country that teeters between West and East or to fuel the continuing problems between Turkey and Armenia - Karabakh and Baku-Ceyhan for instance - it seems like a poor decision.

Nevertheless, fiat justicia ruat coeli stands as a principle; if it is just, I feel it should be done, even though the consequences are uncomfortable, shall we say; to do otherwise is hypocritical and leads to a host of problems in international relations.

I question why the Committee felt the need to address the issue at all. Ewan also identifies the answer - special interest lobbying - but the implications haven't been thought through. There are many other crimes - some committed by the US - that could be condemned.

More importantly, it is not the role of a Government to decide what history is; there can be no official version without grave risk of a government interfering unjustifiably in the process of discussion and debate. Equally, as Nye Bevan put it, 'this is my truth; tell me yours'; whether ordained by the state or not, there is no one, true version of history, only arguments that are more or less persuasive. When the arguments are emotionally and geopolitically loaded, officially recognising a term can only cause problems and is, from a state, philosophically invalid.

As a note, I think it is wrong to use a category to encompass the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust; they are both sui generis, IMHO.

The Committee chair, Tom Lantos, put it well in his comments ahead of the vote:
Today we are not considering whether the Armenian people were persecuted and died in huge numbers at the hands of Ottoman troops in the early 20th Century. There is unanimity in the Congress and across the country that these atrocities took place. If the resolution before us stated that fact alone, it would pass unanimously. The controversy lies in whether to make it United States policy at this moment in history to apply a single word – genocide – to encompass this enormous blot on human history.

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