where you and i are standing on the end of a century
europes have sprung up everywhere as even i can see
but there on the horizon is the possibility
some bug from out of africa might come for you and me
destroying everything in its path from sea to shining sea
like the great nations of europe in the 16th century
hide your wives and daughters, hide the groceries too
'scuse me, great nations coming through
-- Randy Newman, "Great Nations of Europe"
Don't ask me why somebody in Congress thought it would be a good idea to once again propose a resolution condemning the genocide of Armenians after World War I. It seemed to be a diplomatic bridge to nowhere from the get go. The furor over the resolution, though, illustrates just what an alligator pen U.S. foreign policy has become. No matter what we do it turns around and bites us.
I am of a generation of Americans whose mothers admonished their children to eat everything on their plates by invoking the "starving Armenians." The Armenians were a religious and cultural minority in Ottoman Turkey. From 1915 to 1925, an estimated 1.5 million Armenian Turks died as a result of execution, starvation and death marches. According to the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), over 50 members of Congress joined several hundred Armenian Americans on Capitol Hill on Sunday, October 21st, to honor the victims and survivors of the "Armenian Genocide." ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian said, "We look forward, in the weeks and months ahead, to working with all of our friends in bringing an end to Turkey's campaign of denial and making sure that the lessons of the Armenian Genocide--and all past genocides--are used to help prevent future crimes against humanity."
In my opinion, it was perfectly appropriate for members of Congress to show their support for the Armenian group's initiative, but I'm not sure re-introducing legislation to that effect was such a good idea just now. It essentially wags a holier than thou finger at the Turks over something that happened almost a century ago, and these days we need to keep the Turks on a buddy basis. If we wanted to make an issue about genocide, we should have made a resolution condemning Attila the Hun. Nobody would have minded that (the Germans would have been relieved to catch heat over somebody besides Hitler).
As things stand, we'll have to smear some lipstick over those het up Turks to keep them from queering things for us in Iraq.
The Meek Re-inherit the Earth
Among the highlights of the lasting neoconservative legacy will be how their policies forced the United States of America--history's first truly global hegemon--to suck up to a lemonade stand like Turkey. This isn't to sell the culture and history of what was once the heart of the mighty Ottoman Empire short, but let's face it; the Bill Gates of nations Turkey is not. According to the CIA's World Factbook, Turkey's gross domestic product is less than five percent of America's ($640 billion versus $13.1 trillion), and the disparity in defense budgets is nearly identical. Yet, in the scenario we're witnessing today, lap dog Turkey has Doberman America bent over the kitchen table.
The Turks went ballistic over the Armenian resolution. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made scary sounds at Mr. Bush indicating that Turkish cooperation over Iraq could be seriously damaged. Mr. Bush replied by condemning Congress's condemnation of Turkey for condemning the Armenians to death. Turkey claims the Armenian genocide didn't happen, which Mr. Bush and the rest of his camp let slide even though whenever Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says there was no Holocaust the neocons call him crazy and insist that we need to drop bombs on his country to keep him in line before his country drops bombs on the country full of people he claims the Holocaust didn't happen to. And of course, we never want anyone bringing up our own achievements in the genocide department when it came time to drive the natives out of our continent, and similarly, nobody wants to mention that the Turks are about to go to war with the Kurds because the Kurds are still ticked off at the Turks for trying to commit genocide against them in the way back when.
The Turks have long considered the Kurds a threat to Turkish national stability. If the Kurds in Iraq get their own independent piece of that country, the Turks fear the Turkish Kurds will want to join them and create a new Kurdistan. That's why the Turks don't want to see Iraq split into three semi-autonomous regions. Mister Bush supports the Turkey's desires for a few reasons. Turkey provides land line of supply access to our troops in Iraq, and would be a line of withdrawal should things go very wrong in the Persian Gulf in a war with Iran. Plus, Turkey is the only ally Bush has in the Iraq war. Well, the closest thing he has to an ally in a conflict he still claims to have started, in part, because Saddam Hussein committed genocide against his own people. If the Turks march into northern Iraq to commit more genocide on the Kurds, like they look poised to do, oh man…
Over the weekend, Prime Minister Erdogen told U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that he wouldn't immediately send his troops into Iraq in response to ambushes on Turkish troops by Kurdish rebels. However, Ergogen said he expected "speedy steps from [the] U.S." in cracking down on the Kurds. Rice expressed her sympathy and asked for "a few days" to sort things out. A few days. Condi Rice couldn't sort the shoes in her closet in a month of Sundays.
The last time I looked, the Bush administration was claiming that a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq would invite a larger, regional war. In truth, U.S. troop presence has invited a larger regional war, and there's not a thing our presence there can do to stop it. We occupy a country that doesn't want us there, we can't control its borders with Syria and Iran, and we can't keep our ally from invading it.
The longer we meddle in this muddle, the more it looks like we're going the way of the great nations of Europe.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword and ePluribus. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books, ISBN: 9781601640192) will be available March 1, 2008.