THE HISTORICAL evidence shows that the 1915-1917 massacres of Armenians in eastern Turkey constituted what the world now knows as genocide, and Turkey ought to acknowledge this reality. But a resolution before Congress has provoked an upsurge of nationalism that threatens US interests and would do nothing to lift Turkey's willful amnesia. It should not be pursued at this time.
"There's never a good time," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week. She supports the resolution, which was approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday and is now before the full House. That committee vote, just one step in the legislative process, prompted protests in Turkey and caused the government to summon its ambassador home. Also this week, unrelated to the vote, the Turkish government sought parliamentary approval for raids into Iraq to pursue Kurdish guerrillas there. And as they have done for over four years, US supply planes shuttled across Turkish air space, via the base at Incirlik, to supply US forces in Iraq.
Approval of the resolution by the House would threaten use of the base and make it harder for US diplomats to persuade the Turkish government to stay out of Iraq. Eight former secretaries of state have warned that its passage would harm US security interests.
This page recognizes the truth of the Armenian genocide, but with the nation embroiled in Iraq, we agree that Congress should not inadvertently complicate the mission of American forces.
The Armenian Assembly of America is right to contend that Turkish denial of the genocide "seeks to rehabilitate the perpetrators and demonize the victims." After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the Turkish government created a nationalist history that made the Turkish sections of the empire the victims of allied aggression, abetted by the Armenians. Acknowledging the genocide today would tarnish that national image. To discourage revisionist inquiries and control dissent, Turkey enforces a law against insulting "Turkishness." This week, two editors were convicted of violating that law because they reprinted articles stating that the massacres of Armenians constituted genocide. Those articles had been written by another editor, Hrant Dink, who was murdered in January for speaking the truth.
The Turks need to begin an honest dialogue about the birth of their nation and repeal the "Turkishness" laws. Others can help by reminding Turkey, in nongovernmental settings, about the reality of the genocide and by supporting Turks willing to examine their past. Europeans are positioned to take the lead because of Turkey's aspirations to join the European Union. The House resolution, by inciting the worst aspects of Turkish nationalism and creating government-to-government friction, would delay a reckoning with history.