The White House on Monday renewed calls for Congress to abandon a resolution labeling the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I as genocide. The Turkish government has angrily warned there will be severe consequences if the resolution passes, and the Bush administration fears that Turkey will send soldiers into Iraq to attack Kurdish separatists, and deny the U.S. access to a military base in Turkey that is used to stage operations in Iraq.
What the commentators said
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi knows the damage she’ll do by bringing this measure to a vote, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. So it’s unclear “whether the Speaker's foreign-policy intrusions are merely misguided or are consciously intended to cause a U.S. policy failure in Iraq.” If Pelosi wants to attack President Bush’s war policy, she should have the courage to do it directly, rather than “terrible event of Armenia's past in the service of America's bitter partisanship today.”
The resolution “will serve no earthly purpose,” said Richard Cohen in The Washington Post (free registration). But if one uses the Holocaust as the standard, the Ottoman Turks’ killing of as many as 1.5 million Armenians probably falls short of genocide. Plus, the government responsible no longer exists, and Turkey has immense strategic importance, so Pelosi should have spiked the issue. But none of this would matter if Turkey’s government would just grow up, stop “muscling the truth,” and say that what happened 90 years ago was “unacceptable.”
This is not just a question of pride for Turkey, said Tulin Daloglu in The Washington Times. Ankara is “convinced” this resolution will pave the way for Armenians to demand reparations. Turks also believe the U.S. has allowed Kurdish separatists to gain strength in Iraq so that, eventually, Kurds and Armenians will be able to stake claims to Turkish land. Ankara knows it has lost the “propaganda war” in Washington, but it is not about to “move on.”