Profiles in Courage

Profiles in Courage April 24, 2015

“Armenian genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence. The facts are undeniable. An official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy.” – Barack Obama, 2008

Barack Obama, April 24, 2015, not so much.

He is the coward the Turks have been waiting for.

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  • Elmwood

    yeah we know he’s terrible, but somehow i think w bush wouldn’t have said anything either.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zflmBNjHfAM

    • Joseph

      Pretty sure the linked article refers to the US government as a whole over a longer period of time, and even points out the fact that Turkey has spent a great deal of time lobbying Congress. Where Obama comes into play is that he ran in 2008 on the statement that he was going to call a spade a spade and act on it… but *now* even in his second term (when he can pretty much say what he wants) has decided that a spade isn’t even a suit in a deck of cards. In his cowardice he lied… plain and simple. Bringing up what previous politicians have said or done is irrelevant.
      .
      Why Turkey is even a member of NATO is odd in the first place (then again, the US, especially in recent years, isn’t exactly a bastion of justice… so it’s no coincidence that they’d protect Turkey). Is it any wonder why Pope Benedict was one of the loudest voices against allowing Turkey into the EU?

    • Dave G.

      If we must point fingers at other politicians, how often did Bush focus on the evils of America’s genocidal and racist past and policies? Just curious, because I can’t remember. I know Obama has mentioned America’s sins many times. If Bush did the same, then yeah, that’s also a problem if he suddenly backed off when it came to this issue.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      As it turns out, Bush isn’t the president right now. Obama is, and this is the discussion that’s happening right now.

      Also, is that what you get from Mark Shea? “I dislike Obama, and Bush is great?” I suggest you read him more if that’s what you think.

      • HornOrSilk

        I also think the fact that Obama the candidate did say something good in relation to this, and gave me some hope that this would be one of the good things he did in his presidency, but that he turned his back on it, and is still president and still has a chance to do the good he said he would, is a reason to focus on him and his stand. It’s a legitimate criticism especially in light of the focus which is going on from others, like the Pope.

      • Elmwood

        point is, this isn’t just an Obama problem, but one that is
        systemic in US foreign policy. Romeny, Jeb, Rubio… etc. wouldn’t say anything either.

        • chezami

          They never, so far as I know, claimed they would. Obama did.

          • Elmwood

            then again you can say that at least Obama called it a genocide in the past which is there for anyone to see, W probably doesn’t even know how to spell genocide.

            if you want to see this as a betrayal, and W as consistently pragmatic, fine, i see two turds who don’t care that christians are being exterminated in the middle east.

  • Dave Watson

    I think we do a disservice to Jews when we call every tyrant Hitler and every murder genocide.

    • HornOrSilk

      I think we do a disservice to reality if we think the only genocide, the only ones who matter, are the Jews. What happened to them under Hitler was evil. What happened to the Armenians was evil. What happened to the Native Americans was evil. Genocide has taken place many times, and we can’t just ignore it when it happens because it once happened to the Jews.

      • Mike Petrik

        The problem is that while all genocide is evil, not all evil is genocide. Because the term “genocide” has multiple definitions (some of which require a motive or ethnic or racial extinction), reasonable people differ as to whether the evils perpetrated against Armenians or American Indians constituted genocide. But the Nazi program to exterminate Jews is generally regarded as qualifying under any definitional understanding. It is uncharitable to assume that a person’s good faith disagreement as to whether the Armenian massacres qualified as genocide somehow signals their belief that they were not evil.

        • HornOrSilk

          Oh give me a break. I guess because the term “evil’ has multiple definitions, reasonable people can differ as to whether or not anything evil is ever done.

          No.

          Reasonable people do NOT differ on these. Genocide has been practiced and done with more than the Jews in Germany. And the Armenians HAVE faced genocide. As have the Native Americans. Only people trying to defend evil and play equivocation games will say otherwise.

          • antigon

            And just in passim, or perhaps not just that, the genocide (holodomor) inflicted on the Ukrainians by msgrs. Stalin, Kaganovich & Khrushchev should neither be ignored.

            • HornOrSilk

              Right. That is another example.

          • Mike Petrik

            Wow. It is amazing to me how rude people can be when hiding behind their computers and fake names. Come visit my office some time. I bet you display better manners.

            • HornOrSilk

              Cry me a river. It’s “rude” to respond to nonsense by showing how nonsensical it is? Wow. And this “hiding behind computers” and “fake names” itself is a rude response… see we can all say “how rude.” But in reality, my comment was not rude — it was just dealing with claims, after you commented to me.

              • Mike Petrik

                Some definitions require a deliberate policy of extermination or even extinction of a certain ethnic group whereas others simply a deliberate killing of a large number of such a group. In my opinion the evils committed against American Indians and even the Armenians more easily satisfy some definitions than others. But if you disagree, that is fine by me. Your point is that anyone who disagrees with your definition of genocide and its application to your interpretation of the historical record is simply “defending evil” is truly outrageous. Now personally, I find a more expansive definition of genocide generally more useful, and for this reason actually agree that massacres committed against Native Americans and Armenians can fairly be called genocide. But I’m not so arrogant as to assume that others who favor more restricted definitions are necessarily diminishing the character of the associated evils.
                The My bet still stands. I’ll pay for your plane ticket. Just email me. I’m easy to find.

                • antigon

                  Mr. Petrik (& forgive me, no snark intended, but assuming that’s your real name since how could we know?):
                  *
                  The problem with your analysis here is that it tends to do what folks who defend torture & murder like to do – & am not here seeking to suggest your moral equivalence with them in any way, only the problem with your argument – which is to insist on an endless & insolvable debate on the meaning of the word, period (over against misuse of it); of which the result, as well as often enough the intention, is to deflect attention from the horror of the crimes committed.
                  *
                  Don’t know enough about what was inflicted on native tribes – if enough to suspect genocide was the deliberate policy against at least some of them – but what the Turks, Stalin, & the other examples cited sought to achieve seems sufficient to uphold the genocidal description, & sans much perspiration in the effort.

                  • Mike Petrik

                    While my name would certainly represent an exceptionally odd choice for a pseudonym, you are right that such usage cannot logically be ruled out. And while there are few Mike Petriks, there are indeed more than one, and it could take a few minutes to discern that I’m the lawyer in Atlanta. So fair enough.

                    The torture analogy is indeed instructive. The reason that the definitional debate surrounding the term “torture” became so highly charged is precisely because it was accepted (incorrectly I believe) that the moral nature of the acts (evil or acceptable) at issue turned on whether they were indeed torture. In other words many combox contributors posited that the acts in question were morally acceptable precisely because they did not satisfy the definition they regarded as proper. For this reason it is fair to assert that those who argued in favor of a cramped understanding of “torture” were defending evil, at least if one assumes the acts at issue were evil (I certainly do). This is in contradistinction to the definitional debate re “genocide.” No one, including Presidents Bush and Obama, is claiming that the massacres in question were not horribly evil. They are, however, reluctant to acknowledge them as “genocide” for reasons of diplomacy and international law, and this reluctance is defensible in terms of both definitional integrity and diplomatic prudence. Moreover, this same reluctance cannot fairly be interpreted as a moral defense of the massacres, unlike the reluctance of many to consider waterboarding torture, which generally was grounded precisely in a moral defense of waterboarding.

                    • antigon

                      Mr. Petrik of Atlanta (& I for one believe, for who but a lawyer would publicly confess it?):
                      *
                      Your points aren’t exactly invalid, the dispute isn’t massive, & yet…
                      *
                      …whatever invisible tut-tutting or even horribly eviling about, say, Allied persecution of Germans after their surrender in ’45, the word genocide tends better to bring focus when events get thus described. That’s why the word is both exploited & debated.
                      *
                      And t’is also why the comparison to torture is legit. For despite your valid distinctions, the thrust remains: if it isn’t torture, then whatever qualms, it isn’t bad in the way that torture is. And if it isn’t genocide, then whatever the qualms, at least the imperfections weren’t so awful as genocide would have made them.
                      *
                      Endless debate is thus in both cases a means to avoid calling a thing what it is, with the effect & often the intention, of mitigating what it is.

                    • Mike Petrik

                      Well, then the implication is that in regard to the Armenian massacres, Bush disfavored a gratuitous resolution and Obama avoids unttering the word “genocide” because they “intend” to mitigate the gravity of evil. I tend to doubt that. Instead, as heads of state, they are simply displaying good sense in avoiding calling attention to the historic misdeeds of other nations, whether grounded in fact or not, without good reason. Speaking ill of others without sufficient reason not only risks the sin of detraction, it risks fomenting anger and even violence. Heads of state are, or at least should be, cautious about these things, which is precisely why prudence is a virtue. I’m hardly a fan of our current President, but I do not for a second think that he is indifferent to the evils committed against the Armenian people or a coward for not gratuitously bloviating about such evils in the manner of bloggers and their combox fans. Unlike these courageous Internet warriors, they are actually responsible for consequences.
                      I appreciate your willingness to indulge an exchange, and will allow you to respond with a final post (which I will do you the courtesy of reading of course), but must now return to work well into the evening regrettably.

                    • antigon

                      ‘the implication is…’
                      *
                      Mr. Petrik:
                      *
                      Come, the qualifier ‘often’ deliberately appeared so as to prevent the preposterous implication you assert sans justification. And while your above post rather changes the subject (from what constitutes genocide & when it should be named, to the obligations of politicians), it seems fair to suspect Davutoglu would like to mitigate the gravity, even as no one seriously suspects that is what motivates either of our own recent heads of state.
                      *
                      Leaving aside what is arguably also an unjustified rhetoric & moralism, your argument for political prudence is plausible enough, tho such machinations are hardly cause for awe, moral or any other kind. Whether cowardly or wise, the pronunciamentos of politicians – not least in the case of Obama’s on-the-record hypocrisy – are & should be subject to analysis by a citizenry, who, also responsible for consequences, perhaps do not deserve to be dismissed as mere bloviators when they engage that often valuable task.
                      *
                      Politicians can mitigate evil for reasons poor or valid, but it does not follow that anyone has any obligation to make them feel comfortable while they trek down that well-trod boulevard.

        • kenofken

          People who go to great contortions to remove the genocide label from events which obviously merit it are rarely motivated by good will or by abstract scholarly interest in etymological accuracy.

    • Mariana Baca

      We aren’t calling *every* murder genocide. We are calling this particular incidence genocide, because it was a genocide.

  • MarylandBill

    The history of Turkish nationalism is rather ugly. It started in the waning days of the Ottoman empire but was ultimately not limited to the Armenians. People forget that Western Turkey had large Greek Populations even into the 1920s. Now the number of Greeks in Turkey is tiny.

  • kirthigdon

    OK, so it is bad to question whether Obama is a Christian, but good to call him a coward. Got it. Actually, unless you live in Turkey, just about nothing requires less courage than denouncing Turkey for the Armenian genocide and assorted other crimes. The term genocide was not used, perhaps was not even invented, until post WWII, but now we are supposed to go back in history and have arguments over which atrocities deserve to be called genocides. Actually, even pre-history, since I’ve seen arguments over whether the cro-Magnons committed genocide against the Neanderthals. All of this is simply part of the competitive victimization branch of political correctness. Oh, but Obama said one thing as a candidate and said/did another once he was elected. Shocker!!! I guess I’ll just call him a politician. It’s one of the worst terms I can think of and has the advantage of being undeniably true.

    Kirt Higdon

    • HornOrSilk

      Genocide is a term, which has specific meanings. It doesn’t matter when the term was established in order for something to fall under its declaration. This form of argument reminds me of Protestants saying Peter was not the Pope because the term Pope wasn’t used until centuries later.

    • antigon

      Caro KH:
      *
      Don’t see why it’s especially complicated. A government seeks for whatever foul reasons either to exterminate or massively slaughter an ethnicity, which then legitimately merits the term genocide. That people use the fact of genocide for less than noble purposes doesn’t alter the fact, one that honest people are accordingly free to observe.
      *
      In regard to which, Belgian & German adventures in Africa also qualify, despite that the victims were but Africans.

      • HornOrSilk

        There are many examples throughout history. It’s a sad situation which shows how cruel humanity can be.

      • kirthigdon

        Actually, if you look up the definitions, the perpetrators don’t need to be a government and the victims don’t need to be numerous or part of a specific ethnicity. So the term quickly gets applied to any noteworthy atrocity and loses its usefulness. The Jews recognized this when they initiated the term “holocaust” for the attempt by the Nazis to exterminate them, but other groups (including American pro-lifers) quickly started using this term too, so the preferred Jewish term is now Shoah. That’s holding up so far, but who knows how long it will be before some other group tries to co-opt that one too. But why argue about the past? What term do we use for what the US and its Arab allies are currently doing to Yemen, bombing civilian targets in a country with no air defense and blockading a country which imports 90% of its food? You think this is genocide maybe?

        Kirt Higdon

        • antigon

          Caro KH:
          *
          While your points above are worth raising, I fear they veer too close to simply dismissing the word, somewhat like those arguments folks like to make about the utter impossibility of defining what torture or murder, for examples, could possibly mean.
          *
          Thus despite its misuse, don’t see why that precludes using the description legitimately – that is, not for tub-thumping, but simply as description of what such as Stalin, the Turks, Adolph, the Hutus, the Belgians & others inflicted on their targets.
          *
          That is, something distinct from just the horrors of war, which is arguably at this point what the US & its allies Al-Queda & Sunni Arabia are imposing on the Houthis in Yemen – tho genocide as means, one grants, may indeed loom.
          *
          As to Shoah, the Brit dictionaries just call it a synonym for holocaust, which remains a fair description of what’s been done to the millions of unborn who wanted to live.

          • kirthigdon

            I rest my case. You’ve now expanded Shoah to the killing of the unborn, which makes it equivalent to holocaust to genocide, which is now pretty much just the equivalent of well-known atrocity. As far as the horrors of war distinction is concerned, this was the excuse used in fact by the Turks, the Hutus, Adolph and even Stalin (class war in his case). Only the Belgians did not use this one. The Anglo/American colonists rather consistently used it as the excuse for their genocide of the Amerindians and sure enough the latter sometimes committed vile atrocities against the former. And then we can go back to the Mongols, the Romans, the Assyrians, the ancient Israelites, etc.etc. (Some would also claim that contemporary Israelites are also engaged in genocide.) I am not arguing that any of this is anything other than a great moral evil. Unlike those who quibble about the definition of torture, I’m not seeking to justify anything. My points are: 1) There’s no need to expand the use of horrific terms to the point that they become so routine that they need to be replaced by new horrific terms. 2) Declining to declare the massacre of the Armenians a genocide is not cowardice and criticizing the Turks does not make one a profile in courage. 3) I’m more concerned with genocide underway now amid the horror of war than with the past. I’m praying my rosary daily for the people of Yemen and hope I can find a way to contribute to their relief.

            Kirt Higdon

            • antigon

              ‘I rest my case. You’ve now expanded Shoah to the killing of the unborn…’
              *
              Dear Kirt:
              *
              Don’t see how that’s an expansion over against but a description; but assuming pts 1-3 are your case rested, no problem with 3, especially if the US/Al-Queda/SArabia alliance in Yemen does turn to the word you use & about which you are concerned. And while pt. 2 is true as far as it goes, neither is the application of that term but pandering, or indeed illegitimate. As to pt. 1, again don’t see any expansion in calling something what it is.
              *
              Whereupon I too rest from the points made, since both yours & mine have been, & do not, truth be told, overwhelmingly conflict.

    • chezami

      The term genocide was specifically invented to describe the Armenian slaughter. And yes, Obama is a hypocrite and a coward on this. As I say, “bad Christian” is a better descriptor than “not a Christian.”

      • Do you have a source for this? Everything I can find (in admittedly quick internet searches) traces the term to Raphael Lemkin’s 1944 book, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe.

        In later works and interviews, Lemkin does identify the Armenian genocide as such, but the first uses of the term seem to be descriptions of Nazi policies, not Turkish ones.

        I just don’t want your main point (“genocide” accurately describes what the Ottomans did to the Armenians) to get buried under objections to a possible factual error on a minor point (“genocide” was/was not coined to describe the atrocities against the Armenians).

        • Mariana Baca

          Lemkin was interested in coining the term because he saw a pattern of commonality between the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust. He was researching the concept of genocide before publishing his book.

  • Mariana Baca

    Ok, I understand the Turks wanting to deny the armenian genocide, and I understand Obama bowing to political pressure (for a meaning of “understand” that means “I see the logical chain of reasoning, but still think it is wrong”).

    I don’t understand why posters on this post are so gung-ho to deny the Armenian genocide. Concern trolling about Jews, having pointless etymological discussions as to whether it is “Genocide” or “Government Mass Murder of particular Ethnic Group,” or minimizing the atrocity by burying under the mass of all other atrocities ever committed, or comparing it to a single crime. Why? Supporting Turkey doesn’t win you political points, nor does supporting Obama. Do you think there is something insidious about unmasking euphemisms, or like it makes you a secret liberal to be against genocide?

    • Dave G,

      It’s the inconsistency. Obama has no problem whatsoever pointing out the sins of the West, Christianity, Catholicism and America. He uses direct, even accurate, terms. But with this? Not so much. Again, classical modern liberalism. The sins of the West are the sins of the world. Everyone else? Let’s not be hasty. Not that the massacre was good, or not evil. But we mustn’t offend, overstate, and on and on. There are those who focus on the sins of others to avoid looking at our own. Then there are those who only focus on our own sins to avoid, for whatever reason, holding anyone else accountable for theirs.