- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2008

‘Genocide’ politics

A grim but tireless debate between Turks and Armenians for more than nine decades found its way into the U.S. presidential campaign, as Turkish-Americans began organizing politically against any change in Washington’s policy toward the “Armenian genocide” of 1915.

Officially, the United States recognizes the killings of hundreds of thousands of Armenians as a tragedy, but not genocide. Washington repeatedly has cited its concern over angering Turkey, a key NATO ally, as the reason for avoiding the loaded word. Turkey and Armenia also dispute the number of victims, with Turkey claiming about 300,000 and Armenia 1.5 million.

Yesterday, the Assembly of Turkish American Associations warned its members that the “Armenian dispute with Turkey is being politicized to the point of becoming an issue in the U.S. election campaign.”

Democratic hopefuls Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama have promised to reverse U.S. policy and recognize the slaughter of Armenians under the old Ottoman Turkish Empire as genocide, if either of them is elected president. Republican front-runner Sen. John McCain stuck to the U.S. line and referred to the massacre as a “tragedy.”

“Far from the desired change that Americans are calling for, this sadly appears to reflect old-style politics as usual,” the assembly said, referring to the statements of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama.

“As Turkish-Americans, we are getting involved, watching the debates, volunteering and voting in this election process.”

The assembly, which represents more than 40 Turkish-American organizations, called for Turkish and Armenian scholars to work jointly to study documents from the period.

“It is critical that this matter be handled by objective experts in proper forum,” the assembly said. “It is our firm belief that historians should write history, not politicians.”

Secretary ‘Pear Flower’

Condoleezza Rice has been praised and flattered as national security adviser and secretary of state, but she was never called a “pear flower with surpassing beauty” until she made her latest trip to South Korea.

Miss Rice yesterday traveled to Seoul for the inauguration of President Lee Myung-bak and later received a nickname from the Korea-U.S. Alliance Friendship Society. The society dubbed her “Ra I-su” and inscribed the name in Chinese characters on a document delivered to the U.S. Embassy. Chinese characters are commonly used in South Korea.

Society President Seo Jin-seob explained that “Ra” was inspired by Miss Rice’s last name, the “I” means “pear flower” and “su” means “supreme.”

“Together, they signify a faithful and upright public servant who is respected by allies,” he said.

“In creating her Korean name, we hope that Korea and the United States will strengthen their alliance and partnership.”

Korea.net, a South Korean news Web site, noted that Miss Rice’s last name is difficult for Koreans to pronounce.

The society has also bestowed Korean nicknames on U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow and his artist wife, Lisa, and Gen. Burwell Bell, commander of U.S. forces in South Korea.

Mr. Vershbow is Park Bo-woo, meaning “everlasting friends of Korea.” Mrs. Vershbow is Park Shin-ye, or “trust in art.”

Gen. Bell’s nickname is Baek Bo-guk, “the defender of the country.”

Christopher R. Hill, former ambassador to South Korea and currently the U.S. envoy to talks with North Korea, was called Han Gu-ri. The society said that “han” comes from “Hankuk,” the Korean name for Korea. “Gu-ri” is a Korean word that sounds like the first several letters of Mr. Hill’s first name.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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