- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 12, 2000

It is difficult to fathom a greater evil than the massacre and willful destruction of a people. Those that deny that a holocaust took place when there are recorded accounts of the barbarity are complicit and often perpetuate a cycle of violence.

This is the injustice much of the world has committed against the 1.5 million Armenians killed in Turkey during and after World War I while trying to establish their own autonomous state. The Armenians were a Christian minority in a largely Muslim country.

Tragically, the Clinton administration is seeking to deny the genocide occurred. The House International Relations Committee recently approved a non-binding resolution which recommends that the president of the United States refer to the slaughter of Armenians by its rightful name: genocide. The full House is expected to vote on the bill shortly. But the White House is opposed to the resolution for pragmatic, rather than principled, reasons.

Robert Melson, a genocide scholar who fled Nazi-controlled Poland with his family, said recently before a congressional hearing, "The Armenian genocide was the first genocide of the modern era and set a precedent not only for the Holocaust but for most contemporary genocides especially in the Third World and in the current post-communist world."

During that hearing, Marc Grossman, director general of the foreign service, said that Mr. Clinton opposes the resolution because "he believes it would be counterproductive." Mr. Grossman outlined how important Turkey is to the United States in geopolitical terms, adding that the United States is promoting the building of a new oil pipeline in the Caucasus and needs Turkey's help. Furthermore, Turkey buys $6 billion a year in U.S. goods, he added.

There is no doubt that Turkey is a valuable ally and a constructive mediator in the Middle East. But the United States can't change history due to geopolitical considerations or economic convenience. And the Clinton administration, which recently apologized for not preventing genocide in Rwanda, has surely been chillingly insensitive in highlighting financial considerations when it comes to Armenia.

However, it is equally unfortunate that Congress has found time to address the Armenian genocide only after it became politically expedient to do so. Rep. James Rogan, a Republican from California, happens to be facing a tight re-election race and needs the support of the many Armenian-Americans living in his district. But the House would only be compounding its past neglect of this issue were it to vote against the resolution now.

The Turkish people argue, fairly enough, that violence hasn't been one-sided and that Armenian aggression against the people of Azerbaijan, who are ethnically and religiously akin to the Turks, in 1995 led to massive casualties and has created hundreds and thousands of refugees. Perhaps that deserves a congressional vote of its own.

The resolution Congress will vote on this week is nothing more than a symbolic slap on Turkey's wrists. All the same, Turkey is threatening to starve the Armenians by blocking trade. Surely, this is no way to redress the sins of the past.

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