Thursday, October 18, 2007

History: It's all Politics

Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, has backed down from her campaign to persuade Washington and Turkey to recognize the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 as genocide, reports New York Times' Calr Hulse (October 18, 2007). Pelosi did not give a direct reason as to why she is reconsidering her pledge, but rather gives a vague statement saying, "Whether it will come up or not and what the action will be remains to be seen."

What caused such a great change in Pelosi? Has Pelosi simply become bored of this pledge that she so thoroughly sought after up till now? Or are there more intricate matters where the consequences of her crusade would be too great in comparison to correcting history? With further investigation, Hulse reveals that Pelosi's decision was based off of the latter. Her actions had "angered Turkey and raised fears that the Turkish government could reduce its strategic cooperation with the United States", and even President Bush (who criticized in 2000 the genocidal campaign against the Armenians) responded to Pelosi's actions negatively:

"“With all these pressing responsibilities, one thing Congress should not be doing is sorting out the historical record of the Ottoman Empire [...] Congress has more important work to do than antagonizing a democratic ally in the Muslim world, especially one that is providing vital support for our military every day.”

What appears striking, however, is that Washington welcomed the Dalai Lama this past week, risking upsetting China with its "expression of support of human rights and democracy (Hulse). So the pressure put on Pelosi to reconsider her pledge could not have stemmed from a diminishing support of human rights since the America government has shown its continuing support through inviting and welcoming the Dalai Lama. So where does this passion against Congress "sorting out the historical record of the Ottoman Empire" come from?

The answer is politics. As Bush explained, Congress has "important work to do,[...with] a democratic ally in the Muslim world." In short, don't upset the apple cart for just a little bit of history. Turkey is an important ally in the war in Iraq, America can't afford to lose their support, so forget the past and let's all move on. But this attitude does not put the correct amount of emphasis on needing an accurate account of history, something the American government has not necessarily supported before. When the President of Iran claimed there was no Holocaust, Bush quickly condemned his comments. When Japan denied using women from occupied territories as sex slaves in WWII, Congress refused to drop the matter even after angering Japanese officials. Both situations remain oviously similar to the issue with Turkey today, excepting one fact: neither Iran nor Japan was a political ally of America concerning a controversial war where America could not afford losing any of its allys.

It is easy to shrug off a situation such as this saying simply, "It's politics," but unfortunately when history is not acknowledged nor corrected it repeats itself, genocide being the worst kind of repetition. And Washington refuse to fight for the recognition of the Armenian genocide because "it's politics." Granted, considering Pelosi is the House Speaker and is deep into politics, there is a great possibility that her motives were not simply to persuade Turkey into understanding te necessity of recognizing the past. Her timing is too perfect for her actions to be so innocently motiveless. But that doesn't mean that Turkey shouldn't take action in acknowledging accurate history. Hopefully, Turkey will not have to be forced into recognizing history if given enough time to reconsider their county's past actions. Hopefully, America will not need Turkey as an ally for so long that it loses its chance to assist Turkey in acknowleding the past. Hopefully, history is understood before it repeats itself again. Hopefully...but then again, its politics.

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