Turks Continue to Seethe Over House Committee Vote (Updated)

The Turks’ concern about the recent House Foreign Affairs Committee vote on HR 106, a measure condemning the killing of Armenians in under the Ottoman in the early part of 20th century as genocde, continues:

ISTANBUL, Turkey – Turkey’s top general warned that ties with the U.S., already strained by attacks from rebels hiding in Iraq, will be irreversibly damaged if Congress passes a resolution that labels the World War I-era killings of Armenians a genocide.

Turkey, which is a major cargo hub for U.S. and allied military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, has recalled its ambassador to Washington for consultations and warned that there might be a cut in the logistical support to the U.S. over the issue.

Gen. Yasar Buyukanit told daily Milliyet newspaper that a congressional committee’s approval of the measure had already harmed ties between the two countries.

“If this resolution passed in the committee passes the House as well, our military ties with the U.S. will never be the same again,” Buyukanit was quoted as saying by Milliyet.

“I’m the military chief, I deal with security issues. I’m not a politician,” Buyukanit was quoted as saying by Milliyet. “In this regard, the U.S. shot its own foot.”

I’ve already expressed myself on this issue and, while I don’t doubt that the Turks under the Ottoman killed lots of Armenians I wish that all sides would open their archives on this so we could get to the bottom of the matter. I am not much of one for symbolic action and I don’t see that passing this resolution would do any practical good for the United States (or Turkey, for that matter). I do wonder why everybody—Turks, Armenian-Americans, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee—are behaving as they are.

Armenian-American groups have lobbied Congress vigorously on this issue for many years. I don’t have specific information but I suspect they’ve redoubled their efforts since the 2006 election turned the control of both houses of Congress over to the Democrats. The efforts appear to have borne fruit. The principle sponsors of the bill are from Michigan and New Jersey—both electorally important to Democrats.

Why are the Turks so sensitive? I can only speculate but I suspect there are lots of reasons. The secularists who have governed Turkey for the last nearly 90 years are under increased pressure from Islamists. This topic probably provides fodder in some manner for this contest. This isn’t the only bone of contention between Turkey and the United States. Others include Turkey’s resistance to allowing the U. S. to invade from its soil in 2003 (also a product of the secularist-Islamist jockeying) and Kurdish separatists use of Iraqi Kurdistan as a base of operations for mounting attacks on Turkey.

Turkey continues to have an ethnic Armenian minority and I can only suspect that the Turkish government is concerned that rising separatist sentiments among Turkish Kurds will lead to similar ideas among Turkey’s other ethnic minorities.

BTW, Michael Van der Galien has posted frequently on this topic. The link is to a backgrounder from Michael on the Armenian genocide. Michael is engaged to be married to a Turkish girl and plans to move to Turkey when they’re married so the brouhaha over the House Committee vote and Turkish foreign relations, generally, are of some concern to him.

Update

I’d intended to mention this in the body of the post but somehow it got away from me and Michael van der Galiën was kind enough to remind me of it in comments. One of the likely reasons for the Turks’ sensitivity in this matter is the chronology of the massacres which began in 1915 and continued until as late as 1923. This places them firmly during the period of the founding of the Turkish state and several of of the founders of that state have been implicated in the massacres by the Armenians, notably Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Like every other state Turkey has a founding mythology and the concept of an Armenian genocide by the Turks conflicts with those myths.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, , , , , , , ,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. MarkT says:

    I think I read in the NY Times that during the Clinton admin, both Republicans and Democrats pushed this but that Clinton managed to talk them out of it.

  2. Anderson says:

    Sorry to be contrarian, but if the Turks can’t handle the fact that their ancestors 100 years ago murdered the Armenians, then it seems to me that Turkey is just fine outside the EU, looking in.

    I mean, it’s a bit pathological, no?

  3. Michael van der Galiën says:

    James,

    Thanks for the link. If you want to know one of the reasons for the Turkish reaction: look at the dates mentioned in the resolution.

    The killings took place during the first World War. The resolution however says… 1923. That was the year that the Republic of Turkey was founded. This resolution makes Turkey responsible for the killings.

    That’s, of course, morally not great, but it may also cause people to sue the Turkish government for damages.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    You’re welcome, Michael. I’d intended to mention in the post itself that the timing of the massacres and the personalities who were prominent at the time tie them inextricably to the founding of the Turkish state. Like every other state Turkey has a foundation mythology and the Armenian massacres conflict with that mythology.

  5. Michael van der Gali�«n says:

    Sorry man. I mean Dave.

    Yes that’s certainly true.

    And there’s also the $-issue.

    And the fact that no Armenians were killed in 1923 by the Turks…

  6. Michael van der Gali���«n says:

    Here is wikipedia on the armenian genocide: “from 1915 to 1917.”

    The resolution holds the Turkish government responsible. So its prolongs the actual (alleged) genocide making it, of course, a matter not just of the Ottoman Empire but of the Turkish Republic.

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    Here’s the Armenian side of things.

  8. bob in fl says:

    Congress wonders why its polls are poorer than the President’s? Great freakin timing, Ladies & Gentlemen! Someone once made the profound observation that it is best to choose your battles carefully. What would be OUR reaction if the Turkish Parliament passed a resolution against the US Government over the 1973 siege which attempted to starve the Oglala Sioux at Wounded Knee, SD into submission? Like the General said, Congress has shot our govt in the foot.

    It is time for Congress to recognise there are consequences to their actions & to Mind Their Own Damn Business. If the Turks shut down our supply lines to the troops in Iraq, how can Congress claim with a straight face that they support the troops? Good God!! You hand Cheney a piece of paper you know he will use as an excuse to attack Iran, you take sides twice against people using their 1st Amendment rights, & now this horse hockey.

    I think I just might be a little pissed . . .

  9. anjin-san says:

    I have to side with Bush on this, which if scary if of itself. Members of Congress would do better to examine their own roles in our war in Iraq which has killed vast numbers of innocents in Iraq. I can well understand why they would not wish to look in the mirror.

    We have pressing problems of our own here in the 21st century. Worrying about an atrocity that is both long ago and far away makes no sense. If congress wants to set the record staight, perhaps they could work on public school textbooks that are a little more honest about genocide a closer to home. How much real estate in America is named after the Indians who were slaughtered so that Europeans could move in?

  10. Dave Schuler says:

    Thank you for that, anjin-san. Presumably Congress is now working off a backlog. They’re up to denouncing the Ottoman Empire.

  11. Anderson says:

    I continue to be underwhelmed. One of the reasons to single out the Armenian genocide is that the perpetrating nation continues to deny it happened.

    If Germany said the Holocaust didn’t really happen, we wouldn’t shrug and say, “well, we need to preserve our good relations with the Germans.”

  12. Matt Dailey says:

    The killings occurred near the end of World War I by the Ottoman Empire, not the Republic of Turkey. Putting the blame on Turkey for what the Ottoman government did is ridiculous. They are two separate entities. It’s like putting blame on Italy for what the Roman Empire did. The Ottoman Empire was not just the present country of Turkey, so by the Armenian logic, shouldn’t Slovakia and Ukraine share some of the blame too?

  13. Wayne says:

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the Dems are doing this just to hurt our Iraq effort. I beginning to think they will do anything to insure defeat for the U.S.

  14. GaylenV says:

    Marjorie Dobkin has a detailed narrative of the Smyrna affair and the zeal with which the Kemalist government completed the goal of ethnic consolitation by way genocide

    http://www.greecetravel.com/smyrna/

  15. GaylenV says:

    The Ottoman Empire was not just the present country of Turkey, so by the Armenian logic, shouldn’t Slovakia and Ukraine share some of the blame too?

    By this logic, the Cherokee and Sioux are to blame for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    The Kemalist regime was mereley a continuation of the CUP, the Young Turk movement.

    The swift condemnation and toppling of the government and all of its officials who had in their turn condemned the intentional annihilation of Armenians is also on record.

  16. GaylenV says:

    As a US armed forces veteran, I can tell you that Turks have principally been a liability. Much of the slush money for NATO is pumped back into the expensive denial campaign.

    Armenian lobbies are small volunteer organizations that do not either need or have the reources to purchase historians. It is an expensive proposition to build a history from a political figment.

  17. GaylenV says:

    Also, what will ensure defeat for the US is the complete and utter diplomatic isolation that the US is faced with. In addition, all social programs are being reduced, all domestic defense perimeters are at below the minimum requirements, body bags of US victims are flown back with the frequency. All of this just to sustain a lie for profit and possible prolongation of an administration that is purely commercially linked. It is rather amazing to what extent fake patriotic speeches convince the average dupe to fall into the deathtrap.