Saturday, October 13, 2007

Politics make me sick.

Juan Cole has a very worthwhile post up giving a quick survey of the various ways in which u.s.-turkish relations are going to shit at the moment, with the u.s. pretty much straight up to blame for all of it (um, that's surprising, huh?). Among the numerous points he touches on is the resolution just passed by the house foreign affairs committee condemning turkey for the armenian genocide. If you read this article, which link I plucked from Prof. Cole's post, you'll note with me that the events surrounding the genocide seem extraordinarily messy. And from the very little I've read, I can also say that when you expand the scope to include other ethnic groups in the region around the time of the genocide (the greeks are what I'm thinking of first), the whole thing gets really messy. Basically, the ottomans were pretty much not that awesome while their empire was crumbling, though I'm not sure really anyone got through the first half of the 20th c. without doing something awful. But that certainly does not absolve turkey from the need to acknowledge the genocide, even if the current turkish government, as Cole points out, is no direct descendant of the ottomans. (Find me a reasonable source that demonstrates within scholarly bounds that it was not a genocide and I will certainly give it its due, but from what I understand, the consensus is in.)

Anyway, there's another link in the Cole post that I want to call attention to: Andrew Mathis is new to me, though his subject here, the Holocaust and its particular status (if I may) with relation to other genocidal events is something I've begun to seriously delve into over the past year or so. (I've been trying with limited success to refer to it as the Shoah recently, but the term "Holocaust" is so entrenched at this point that it's hard to switch in spoken contexts, regardless of which word I use in my head or in writing.) Mathis articulates a number of points in the aforementioned article that I feel are very worthwhile. As this blog gathers momentum (which it feels like it's finally doing *fingers crossed* *no! not crossed! typing!*), Shoah politics are something I will surely dig into more deeply. My first post this time out was a signpost pointing in this direction, but I'm going to need to allocate some real time to getting my own thoughts down. Not an easy subject for me.

So maybe at this point I'll just note, totally unrelatedly and somewhat tactlessly, that this is the second time I've attempted to get a blog up and running (the first one is safely deleted, which is to say safely stored forever somewhere in the google vaults); on top of that, this particular particular blogger address got posted to a bit, got wiped clean, and then got started again about- hmmmm- I guess like a week ago. Feeling good about it this time out- sticking to the happy subjects, I guess that's why.


Anonymous crazymonk said...

Man, this issue is so thorny, and I still don't know what to think of it. But I feel pretty confident in thinking that what happened to the Armenians in the early 20th century lands safely somewhere in the genocide continuum.

By the way, has the United States officially recognized its actions towards the Native Americans as on the genocide continuum?

October 13, 2007 at 10:22 PM  
Blogger O.D.B. said...

I agree with CM - there's not too much that's messy about whether this was genocide. However, the recent condemnation by Congress was/is asinine. A few things to consider though:
*The Bush Administration invaded Iraq, but it's the Pelosi Administration (in a sense) that's condemning Turkey. And have you heard her speak on this? She sounds like a foreign policy infant. Can we be sure and not send her to the Middle East to try to make amends for this?

*Armenia's strategic importance to the U.S. is ascending and relations are very good. I think this has something to with both why this statement was made and why, in my opinion, it didn't need to be made.

October 14, 2007 at 5:12 PM  
Blogger J. Benjamin Franklin said...

This is interesting and thoughtful stuff. From my p.o.v. the strategic choices of genocide denunciation, especially genocides conducted many decades ago, suggest a certain political impotence and in-fighting in American government that is quite alarming, considering the breadth and depth of American involvement all over the world.

I get the feeling that this action, like one earlier that got Bush to come down against health care for poor children, was positioned in essence to let Bush make claims in the media that would then be easily lampooned. This stuff was made for The Daily Show. That way Jon Stewart can say his piece about how genocide needs to be universally condemned, the crowd will cheer, and the liberal stance can be satisfied. Meanwhile, the conservative stance seems coarse, calculated, and at worst barbaric.

In the end, we are still trying to pin together a tent in the increasing shitstorm of Iraq, there are currently genocides taking place, and America is in a pitched battle to keep the rising Yuan and Euro from undermining the vaunted American economy, our greatest political asset (along with our weapons, universities and corporate infrastructure). In short, there are some really big fish to fry right now.

October 14, 2007 at 7:38 PM  
Blogger JDS said...

First of all, thanks very much for the participation. It's a lot of fun to a) know someone's reading, and b) get feedback. I could probably spend the next hour trying to give each of those comments its due, but I unfortunately have some calc to study.

CM and ODB, I'm pretty much with you. It seems pretty clear at this point that it was a genocide that the ottomans carried out against the armenians. It also seems pretty clear that the turkish gov't needs to acknowledge this of their own accord, and can do so in a way that legitimately distances the current turkish leadership from most/all things ottoman.

And the "Pelosi Admin.," as you nicely put it ODB- I mean, what the hell? It just gets me to feeling like our whole goddamn gov't is more or less incompetent/totally lost in electoral politics and not actually doing the job they're supposed to be doing. Dumb move on the house leadership's part, and now it seems like it's basically done a significant amount of damage that cannot be immediately repaired. Go democrats!

J. Ben. F.- I'm def. cynical enough to buy your theory, though I certainly hadn't thought of it in those terms. Re: other genocides taking place right now, one thing that just hasn't entered mainstream discourse around darfur is the true complexity of that conflict. I'm not saying what it is, genocide or otherwise, but I am saying that many people have been too quick to jump on the genocide-finger-pointing bandwagon on that one without maybe knowing too much about what's actually going on there (and let me stress: there's no DOUBT that horrible atrocities have been committed and are being committed and terribly mind-boggling numbers of deaths and suffering and displaced persons, and no one's doing jack shit really (maybe UN peacekeepers can calm things down there at least?) But this article is a really good overview of why words need to actually mean specific things sometimes and "genocide" needs to regain the considered context that it should be being used in but isn't.

Here's a book I'd really like to sit down with:

Gerard Prunier's Darfur, The Ambiguous Genocide

October 15, 2007 at 2:11 PM  
Blogger JDS said...

Oh, and CM: re: Native Americans and genocide, I'm very willing to bet that our government has not officially placed the founding of this nation on the genocide continuum, although I do not have the facts and so cannot speak authoritatively. When I get a chance, I will sum up some of the interesting work I've read in which the plight of the jews in europe, the palestinians in palestine, and the native americans in the entire western hemisphere are shown to resonate with one another, and the different travesties are used to illuminate one another w/r/t nation building, identity formation and such. When I get there, hopefully I'll be able to write about it in a way that speaks to your question.

October 15, 2007 at 2:16 PM  

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