Thursday, October 11, 2007

What's a little genocide among friends?

President Bush appeared on the South Lawn of the White House before the vote and implored the House not to take up the issue, only to have a majority of the committee disregard his warning at the end of the day, by a vote of 27 to 21.

“The issue” is whether to support a resolution condemning the Turkish genocide in Armenia during the First World War. Japanese rightists deny the Rape of Nanking, jingoist Americans hate it when we talk of slavery and the genocide of North American natives, there are holocaust deniers galore, and Argentina has taken more than twenty years to start putting right the wrongs of the 70s dictatorship. This is Turkey’s blind spot.

“Greater good” arguments are always powerful. Stalin killed a million Ukrainians for the allegedly greater good of farm collectivization and the priest, Christian von Wernich, found guilty yesterday for “crimes against humanity” in Argentina, stated that he was doing it all to defeat communism.

Bush’s argument has been used by Clinton and others. It’s not a republican stance, but a realist school stance. Realists make the claim daily that the good intentions of the left are na├»ve and seriously self-defeating. If we don’t fight the terrorists in [you name the place], we’ll have to fight them in our own back yard. Collateral damage? There is no free lunch.

Sure there is an argument to be made. Maybe saying shame shame to Turkey at this point is not good timing. They will get pissed and not rally behind us in Iraq. That’s Bush’s argument. He’s being a realist, you see.

But each time that line is taken and America comes down, as it does routinely with the Bush administration, on the side of the Jean Kirkpatricks and the Henry Kissingers, America slips a little deeper into the hypocritical mindset which prevails today, where we talk freedom but help take it away, talk self-determination, but work assiduously against it.

Pinochet, I once heard Kirkpatrick remark, was “muy amable.” Amiable perhaps, yes. But he also presided over a government in Chile which applied electricity to one’s gums and genitals. Kissinger suggested to the military junta in Argentina that they should hurry up and get this nasty business of torture over with because it could backfire. Well, too late Henry. History has caught up with you.

America, you are a dirty place these days. Habeas corpus gone. Geneva Convention gone. The Supreme Court which has just approved a law permitting the Americans to whisk bad guys off to countries where they face certain torture.

And now this dirty president of ours wants us to spit in the face of the victims of the Armenian genocide because he needs every bit of support from his rightist friends in his battle in Iraq.

But what's this? A little light shining through? Congress ignored his White House speech? They didn’t listen to him? They voted 27 to 21 in favor of the resolution?

The Foreign Relations Committee resolution is symbolic and non-binding.

But the American in me feels a little cleaner today than he did yesterday.

1 comment:

jchai said...

Thanks, Alan. I love this piece -- especially set against the the Supreme Court's refusal to consider the abduction and torture of Khaled el-Masri. It's impossible to feel clean these days, even with occasional righteous decisions. This morning I saw a bumper sticker that I will use henceforth whenever I am called upon to recite the Pledge of Allegiance: "one nation, under surveillance." It got me thinking about the idiocy of pledging to a flag, let alone the alleged republic to which it stands. We seem bound to twist everything, and most people appear not to notice. These are frightening times, and I don't think the next election will change that. I would like to see your writing spread even farther around the globe, to a much wider audience than it has now.