LACKING MORAL TENET TO RIGHT THE WRONG
Alon Ben-Meir - October 17, 2007
Dr. ALON BEN-MEIR – His exceptional knowledge and insight gained by more than 25 years of direct involvement with foreign affairs, with a focus on the Middle East, have allowed Dr. Alon Ben-Meir to offer a unique and invaluable perspective on the nature of world terrorism, ethnic conflict, and international negotiations.
A noted journalist and author, Dr. Ben-Meir is the Middle East Director of the World Policy Institute at the New School for Social Research, and a professor of International Relations and Middle-Eastern studies at the Center for Global Studies at NYU and at the New School. Born in Baghdad and currently residing in New York City, he holds a masters degree in philosophy and a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University.
In addition to his essays on contemporary global conflict oriented issues, Dr. Ben-Meir writes a weekly syndicated column about current international policies and events, which is published by United Press International.
Fluent in Arabic and Hebrew, Dr. Ben-Meir began his career as a journalist. His frequent travels to the Mid-East and conversations with highly placed sources in Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Israel, and Palestine provide him with an exceptionally nuanced level of awareness of and insight into the developments surrounding breaking news.
Dr. Ben-Meir is the author of numerous books, including: The Middle East: Imperative and Choices, Israel: The Challenge of the Fourth Decade, In Defiance of Time, Framework for Arab-Israeli Peace, The Last Option, and A War We Must Win. He expects to publish his latest book Defeating Terrorism in the summer of 2006.
Dr. Ben-Meir's views on contemporary international affairs are often sought out by major television and radio networks, and he is a frequent speaker before groups and organizations at venues as varied as world affairs councils and town hall meetings. He is a popular lecturer on international relations at a variety of universities besides the New York University and the New School.
The House Committee on Foreign Affairs which adopted a resolution calling the
Armenian mass killing by Ottoman Turks genocide, has basically sat in judgment
on an event that occurred 92 years ago. The question here is whether the mass
killing of Armenians during the World War I era was genocide committed by the
Ottoman's military, as many contend -- or was it the result of world war during
which millions were killed on all sides, including the Armenians, as the Turkish
I believe the resolution is misguided not because there is any doubt about the
hundreds of thousands of Armenians that were killed, but because of the
inclination to dismiss this most abhorrent act by labeling it as genocide, call
it a day, and expect to resume normal relations with Turkey as if nothing
happened. Why have so many congressional leaders been taken aback by Turkey's
swift admonishment of the United States over the committee's vote? Is it because
they miss-assessed the Turkish government's sensitivity or because they have
really never given this important matter the serious consideration it deserves.
Either way, the committee members have failed in discharging their due diligence
and will fail again, even more acutely, if they support the resolution should it
come to the House floor. They must first examine their own motivation and the
dire implications, both moral and practical, of its passage.
Sadly, this resolution was politicized at the outset, thereby diminishing much
of its moral tenet, although not its repercussions. It was sponsored by many
members of Congress, especially House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other
Representatives from New Jersey and Michigan, who have especially large Armenian
constituencies. However large the political benefit these members may gain by
pushing this resolution, it will quickly fade in the face of the moral erosion
the House will suffer by acknowledging the damage they will inflict on
Turkish-U.S. relations. As was once observed by Nehru: "Political surrender
leads almost inevitably to moral surrender also." Such a serious resolution
requires the application of the highest moral review and conduct, not a
politically convenient act which is considered an insult to Turkish identity. If
genocide was in fact committed, it should be left to an international
investigative tribunal, not politicians who need to be reelected every two
Turkey has been a loyal friend of the United States for more than a half
century. It is a modern secular state, and has made great strides in remaining
democratic and progressive. Should the United States Congress hold the great
grandchildren of the Ottomans responsible for sins of their Fathers which might
have been perpetrated 92 years ago? Since Turkey vehemently rejects the term
genocide, what judgment should then be passed, and by whom, that will not
tarnish the present generation of Turks? A generation that had nothing to do
with past events and, in fact, condemns the atrocities committed during that
heinous war, regardless of who the perpetrators were. As one high Turkish
official dismayed by what is happening told me: "The importance of the issue
requires more than a cursory review by some member of the House?" By way of
example he said, "It was not enough to accuse the Germans of the Third Reich
with genocide. The Nuremberg Trials were set up to prosecute the executers of
Hitler's madness, but also established beyond a shadow of a doubt Germany's acts
of genocide." "There was never a review by an international judiciary of the
alleged Turkish genocide and no such determination was ever made."
Regardless of the importance of the U.S.-Turkish strategic partnership, it would
be a mistake to try to persuade members of the House to reject the resolution,
as many have withdrawn their support, solely on the ground that it would
seriously undermine such relations or the United States efforts in the Middle
East. The argument against the resolution by the full House should be based on
moral grounds and the members must not act as judges and jurors. Before the
House establishes, for the record, an official U.S. version of what actually
happened, a thorough and exhaustive investigation of the events by an
international judiciary must first take place.
Yes, America must speak out against genocide. But at a time when America suffers
from a sagging global image and a loss of much of its moral authority due to the
events in Iraq, the United States Congress must redouble its efforts to build
its case on a strong moral tenet. Turkey deserves the judgment of an independent
and impartial international tribunal and the Armenians deserve justice and not