Turkey is warning Congress not to approve a resolution calling World War I–era killings of Armenians genocide. The House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to vote on the bill—which the White House opposes—on Wednesday. Egemen Bagis, a foreign policy adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip, said approving the law would be “a historic mistake.”
What the commentators said
This is no time for lawmakers to go soft on genocide, said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial (free registration). The first step toward reconciliation for Turkey and “descendants of those who were slaughtered” is “honesty, not the indulgence of irrational threats.” Legislators always “congratulate themselves when they call evil by its proper name, but the real mark of courage is speaking truth when it’s inconvenient.”
In a perfect world, said The Washington Post in an editorial, Turkey’s generals and politicians would act like grown-ups and admit their country’s past sins. But this is not a perfect world, so goading Turkey by passing this non-binding resolution would be “dangerous and grossly irresponsible.” The country’s powerful nationalist politicians could respond by denying the U.S. military access to an air base that is a key staging area for the war in Iraq, and they might even send soldiers across the border to attack Kurdish rebels, destabilizing “the only region in Iraq that is currently peaceful.”
It’s tempting to think that relations between Washington and Ankara can’t “sink” any lower, said Omer Taspinar in The Journal of Turkish Weekly. Ninety-one percent of Turks “already distrust Washington, which means that America’s reputation is worse in Turkey than in Pakistan. Unfortunately, “things can always get worse.” If Congress passes this resolution, and if “Turkey overreacts,” they just might.