Tuesday, October 16, 2007


When I was a small boy, my mother scolded me for shoving food in my mouth. She said, "Don't eat like a starving Armenian." I had no idea who those people were, but now I know. And now I realize that my Mother, born in 1914, grew up with real stories and images of the terribly suffering inflected on the Armenians by the Turks.

When I lived in Boston, I often drove through Watertown, the focus of the New England's Armenian culture. I never studied this group, I only stopped in Watertown to get lamb kebabs on pita bread -- they really know how to cook lamb, and the restaurant was always packed.

Comes now a resolution before Congress to condemn and name the Genocide against the Armenians by the Turkish government. I oppose this resolution for two reasons -- because there is no justice for historic crimes. When the survivors and the perpetrators have both perished, justice is finished and the historic study begins. Even the Jewish Holocaust will soon become history as well. This is my own standard, to only go back so far.

If the Turks are condemned for their crime in 1915 and afterward, then we might go back ten years earlier and condemn the British for their internment of Afrikaaners in the Boer War in South Africa.

This lesser known atrocity marked the invention of the 20th century concentration camp. The British regular army was combating a rag tag band of crafty guerillas, fighting on horseback calvary. The British had the firepower, but the Boers knew the land and hid everywhere.

So the British invented a new tactic. They stopped attacking the Boer irregulars, but instead went to the Boer farms and villages and rounded up all the women and children, many tens of thousands, and herded them into barbed wire enclosures with little food or shelter and poor sanitation. Some 27,000 women and children were said to have died in those camps.

This was not a major crime, by 20th century standards, but do we forget it? No, but when we remember what the British did to the Boers, then we need to go back further and remember what the Boers did to the Zulus, Xhosas and other South African tribes. How far back do we go?

We shall not forget the Armenian Genocide. But we are past the time of justice or apology.

The second reason I oppose the Congressional resolution against the Turks is that we ought to concentrate our energy on opposing the crimes of today. It is important to defend the rights of the Kurdish minority in Turkey today. Their lives and their freedom are at risk -- this is where we ought to stand on principle.

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