By Edmond Y. Azadian
It is well said by English historian and writer Lord Acton that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There can be no better example to demonstrated the veracity of the above adage then citing the names of a political duo at the top of the power pyramid in Washington DC: President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.
On the eve of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Washington, they have already sacrificed the most dispensable issues in honor of the visiting dignitary: Armenians and the Armenian Genocide. Obama and Kerry seemed to be espousing the most humanistic and moral causes while serving in the senate. Mr. Kerry is extremely knowledgeable on the Armenian Genocide and at times he has made the most stirring remarks in favor of its official recognition. Yet during his recent shuttle diplomacy between Washington and Ankara, he praises Turkey’s position as a positive one in resolving the Karabagh conflict. And he makes the statement with a straight face, showing little concern with this political about face. He has no comments on the continuing illegal blockade of Armenia.
As to Mr. Obama, he has already repeated his “Medz Yeghern” charade on April 24 and continues to keep Guantanamo Bay gulag, which had given a black eye to the US human rights position during the Bush-Cheney era and continues the stigma on the Obama administration’s rhetoric on democracy and human rights.
Mr. Obama has given more to Turkey than the latter even expected, because on the political market, Armenian rights and issues have proven to be the most disposable ones.
He had already reduced US aid to Armenia dramatically and now presents a legal gift to Mr. Erdogan on a silver platter. Indeed the Obama administration has urged the Supreme Court not to hear the appeal of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2012 striking down of a California law extending the statute of limitations on the Armenian Genocide-era life insurance claims. This is a third-world practice of exerting political pressure on the judiciary to abort justice. Had this been undertaken by a private citizen, it would be labeled as obstruction of justice. Rather than leaving the Supreme Court to determine the merits of the case, the administration has already intervened to block the adjudication of the case.
It is reported that Prime Minister Erdogan will receive the highest state welcome during his visit to the US on May 16-17. He will receive two full military honors, one at the airport and the other at the White House, as the formal guest of US President Barack Obama.
The agenda of their discussion will comprise a full plate, Syria being the most dominant issue. The other items on that agenda will certainly include Ankara’s initiative to open a dialog with the Kurdish minority, relations between Israel and Turkey, which have always constituted the centerpiece of US Middle East policy under any administration, because, Israel, using the US muscle can continue its hegemony in the entire region, with the tacit collusion of medieval potentates (“moderate Arab nations” in Washington’s lexicon.)
Iran and Iraq have been viewed by divergent views at their respective capitals. Despite US sanctions against Iran, Turkey is continuing its policy of business as usual, and in the case of Iraq, Turkey was scared of that country’s position of Kurdistan emerging as an independent state. But ironically at this time, Ankara has embraced Iraqi Kurdistan, at the expense of destabilizing Iraqi Premier Maliki’s central government, because Erdogan’s administration believes they have contained Kurdish aspirations in their own country, eliminating any spillover of Kurdish irredentism from Iraqi Kurdistan.
As the political agenda is reviewed, we certainly doubt that Mr. Obama will ask Mr. Erdogan whether he has given any thought to his suggestions at the Turkish Parliament during his first term; meaning modern Turkey would make peace with its ugly Ottoman history.
Mr. Erdogan is being accorded all these accolades because he is coming with bloody hands as the front man in destabilizing a sovereign country — Syria — which has refused thus far to bow down on Palestinian rights and continues to make claims on its confiscated territories by Turkey in 1939, the Sanjak of Alexandretta and Golan Heights in 1967 by Israel.
The recent bombs that killed 46 people and injured more than 100 in Reyhanli, which is located in the Hatay region mostly populated by Arabs and Alevis, may have been a warning by the restless Arab populace, agitating against Erdogan’s shipment of mercenaries and armaments in Syria. But for Mr. Davutoglu and for the West, it is most convenient to point the finger at the Assad regime in Syria. That accusation, compounded by the orchestration of “the use of chemical weapons” constitutes a concoction for casus belli.
By serving as a proxy for the West in the Middle East, Turkey has acquired the status of a regional power, and an independent one at that. That status renders Armenia’s maneuvering room very limited. That is why during Erdogan’s visit to Washington no one will give him a slap on the wrist to lift the blockade of Armenia.
The Turks have also planned their version of a Genocide centennial in 2015, as quoted in an article by Robert Fisk in London’s Independent (May 12, 2013). The announcement by Turkey’s foreign Minister Davutoglu is most revealing: “We are going to make the year of 1915 known to the world over, not as the anniversary of a genocide, as some people claimed and slandered [sic] but we shall make it known as a glorious resistance of a nation in our defense of Gallipoli.”
There is no conciliation or repentance in Davutoglu’s tone. Turkey intends to drown calls for Armenian Genocide recognition in the drumbeat of a dubious victory in Gallipoli that was one of history’s mysteries as to how a crumbling Ottoman army defeated French and British forces under Winston Churchill’s command, while troops from Australia and New Zealand were slaughtered by Mustafa Kemal. The jury is out on the issue because suspicion lingers that Britain betrayed its own army to deny access to its World War I ally, Russia, access to the warm waters of the Mediterranean and the strategic Strait of Bosporus.
Armenians could counter Mr. Erdogan’s triumphant march on the red carpet in Washington by a massive rally (not just 50-100 youth, which can prove to be counterproductive), with slogans such as “Recognize the Genocide,” “Lift the Blockade” and “Bloody hands off Syria.” But we have opted for the more comfortable position of armchair diplomats, additionally sacrificing the completion of the Genocide Museum in Washington.
Mr. Erdogan will think “If this is the political clout of one million plus American Armenians, then I can walk triumphantly — not only on the red carpet but also over the bones of 1.5 million Armenian martyrs.”