Be honest - it was genocide

April 25, 2007
Source: ScrippsNews (Washington, D.C.)

When is a genocide not a genocide? When nationalist fervor trumps history. When geopolitics trumps justice. When blindness to the truth trumps wisdom.

A genocide is not a genocide if you're the president of the United States, and the subject is Turkey and the mass slayings of some 1.5 million Armenians in the period during and just after World War I. A genocide is not a genocide when you're the U.S. State Department and you're worried about ruffling the feathers of a close military and political ally _ an ally so dedicated to U.S. interests that it closed its borders to the passage of U.S. combat troops in the invasion of Iraq.

The rest of the world has no trouble recognizing a genocide. That's why millions of people, Armenians and non-Armenians alike, will mark the 92nd anniversary of the onset of the genocide today. It was on this day in 1915 that the Ottoman Turks began the systematic roundup of Armenian intellectuals and other leaders. Around 250 were subsequently murdered.

Over the next eight years, Armenians were expelled from their ancient homeland and driven into exile. Many perished from the hardships of that forced expulsion. Many more were shot, hanged and otherwise butchered. It was planned and executed with a determination and precision not seen again until Nazi Germany refined the techniques of genocide and carried out the even bloodier Holocaust during World War II.

But what happened in Turkey nine decades ago wasn't genocide, according to President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. The administration _ like administrations of both parties in the past _ is trying to block efforts in Congress to force official U.S. government recognition of the fact that genocide did, indeed, take place against Armenians. They may not be able to do so; congressional support for recognition is higher than it's ever been.

Time is running out on those who refuse to recognize what happened to the Armenians. Turkey and the United States are increasingly isolated in their revisionist position. Turkey, which desperately wishes to join the European Union, is finding its path to membership blocked by its intransigence on the genocide issue. The world knows the facts of the Armenian genocide, and the world demands recognition of those facts. Now is the time.