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Commentary Last Updated: Oct 18th, 2007 - 00:29:23

US applies a double standard to Turkey
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Oct 18, 2007, 00:11

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Whether or not the Turks were guilty of genocide 92 years ago is an issue for researchers and historians. The Turks say hundreds of thousands of Armenians died as a result of war. The Armenians put the figure at between 600,000 and 1.5 million, and contend they were the victims of genocide. The question is why are the Americans getting in on the act -- and why now?

A resolution that the killings amounted to genocide was passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week and is set to be voted upon by the full House later this month. Turkey is furious. It has temporarily pulled its ambassador and warns that such a vote risks a breakdown in US-Turkish relations. These, of course, are already strained by Turkish threats of launching incursions into northern Iraq to quell PKK guerilla activity.

The Bush administration is working hard at damage control. It senior officials are pressuring the House not to go ahead with the vote, which they say could affect national security. And, at the same time, they are attempting to persuade Ankara not to interfere in northern Iraq.

On both issues, those involved are guilty of humbug.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing for the vote on a moral platform. But shouldn't she first take the log out of her own country's eye before she tackles the mote in Turkey's?

Perhaps she has forgotten that her nation was founded on what some historians refer to as "genocide." For instance, Ward Churchill, a professor of American Indian studies, who wrote the book A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas 1492 to the Present, or Andrea Smith, the writer of Conquest, Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide.

They may be wrong, but it is generally believed that only 15-20 per cent of the indigenous American population survived the years between 1492 and 1900. It is also true that the US government approved mass slaughter of the buffalo, thus depriving the Plains Indians of their food supply and forcing them into reservations. Incredibly around 300 reservations still exist.


Just as Turkey is sensitive to being accused of genocide, so is the US, which refused to ratify the 1948 UN Genocide Convention until 1988 with the proviso it was immune from prosecution for genocide without its consent. And just to remind you, it still hasn't ratified the International Criminal Court, established in 2002 to prosecute perpetrators of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.

Put simply, Pelosi in her capacity as House speaker has no moral platform from which to throw rocks at Turkey unless she first institutes a vote on whether the US was built on the genocide of America's indigenous population.

Better still, let that alleged genocide be investigated by the UN and if and when the US is found culpable it should make financial reparations to the living descendents of those who suffered. It should also be up to the UN to pronounce on whether or not Armenians were the victims of genocide. Pelosi, a California Democrat, has a large number of Armenians in her constituency and rather than acting out of some deeply held conviction may be playing to the gallery.

President George W. Bush is being similarly hypocritical in his attitude towards Turkey. He has stood firmly against the vote condemning Turkey but only because it is an ally in the so-called "war on terror," a friend to Israel, a member of NATO and, most importantly, a safe conduit into Iraq for US military supplies.

Bush knows that Turkey isn't given to making empty threats since it has already severed military ties with France in response to the French National Assembly's bill that criminalises denial of the Armenian genocide.

Just hours before the vote, the president told reporters, "We all deeply regret the tragic suffering of the Armenian people," but "this resolution is not the right response to these mass killings." One can only wonder whether he would have issued the same response had Turkey not been an ally and a very useful one at that.

But when it comes to glaring double standards, the Bush administration is a master. This is a government that took its country to war on false pretexts, is presently occupying another country and is threatening Iran with military repercussions for allegedly allowing insurgents and weapons to cross its borders into Iraq.

And it does all this prou;_ylt=AiabofXgPYAS5mODja_ak0qs0NUEdly citing its own national security even though the US is 6,000 miles away.


Yet when Turkey, an actual neighbour of Iraq, takes measures to protect its stability and integrity, it is painted as a troublemaker and warned to stay clear.

Finally, I harbour no intent to undermine the Armenian tragedy or to defend the actions of the Ottomans during the First World War. Further, I neither condemn nor advocate a Turkish incursion into northern Iraq. My distaste is reserved for the US government and certain American lawmakers who obviously have never heard of the adage "People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" or even if they have, are simply too arrogant to care.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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