About Blame and Blindness: HR252 has no relevance to “protocols”

Yerevan, Armenia ain’t Washington, D.C., any more than this newsroom is a Congressional Committee hall.

But in the world we live in here, most accept what nobody, there, is saying. This:

“Normalization” talks between Armenia and Turkey, failed quite a while before a late-afternoon vote in D.C. had congresspersons talking about that possibility.

Not since last October, when State Department led “protocols” offered promises that soon became impossible to fulfill, has there been reasonable belief that Armenia and Turkey were skipping hand in hand on a yellow brick road to lollipops and Technicolor dreams.

Yet from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Costa Rica, to President of Turkey Abdullah Gul in Ankara and repeatedly invoked by congresspersons who reveal their shallow understanding of the Armenian reality, the collateral damage feared to the protocol process was raised as an emergency brake on House Resolution 252 by those who wrongly think that October roadmap is still leading anywhere.

When Congressman Delahunt, for example, argued that the resolution would impede the protocol process, had he been in recess nearly a month ago when Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called the process dead? (Davutoglu was displeased that Armenia’s Constitutional Court opined that the documents were constitutional so long as they allowed Armenia to maintain its resistance to Genocide deniers.)

And when Congressman Burton said the protocol process would be damaged, had he no clue that Armenia herself has just this week passed legislation that provides an escape clause against enforcing the protocols even if they are ratified?

These are not steps that imply compliance on either side of the State Department’s Kumbaya dance.

It is reasonable that Secretary Clinton wishes to see her hard-fought diplomacy find a payoff. It was she, after all, who spent an October Saturday afternoon hold up in a staff car with cell phones at each ear, just to get the Turk and the Armenian FMs to follow through on signing.

It is not reasonable, though, that all sides shouldn’t admit that the protocols were flawed, scrap them with dignity if possible, and regroup knowing that at least 23 U.S. congresspersons on a House committee see the bigger picture. Which is this: A government, a nation, a race, can either be the aggressor or the martyr; it can’t be both (with the possible exception of Al-Qaeda as today’s reality suggests).

Practically no one in that hearing chamber on Thursday claimed that what happened to the Armenians was anything but genocide. Still, those who voted against the resolution justified their vote by the political equivalent of saying “you murdered, raped, burned, exiled my family and stole their land but, eh, you have feelings too, so let’s be nice to each other”. And it is that loophole in morality that somehow, after nearly 100 years of denial, finds Turkey claiming rights as the aggrieved. And here’s a bewildering aspect: The men and women in D.C. feel it cushions the blow of accountability if references condemn the “Ottomans”, rather than the Turks. Oddly, though, by reacting with indignation, President Gul links his people to the stained past none should want a part of.

“I consider the decision (to endorse HR252) unreasonable. It lacks respect to the Turkish nation . . .”

No. It lacks respect – for none is deserved – to the criminals whose bloodline modern Turks unfortunately share, but for whom descendants should not be held in contempt.

No modern Turk should be condemned for the Genocide anymore than a modern American should be condemned for slavery, for the Trail of Tears, for historic resistance to civil rights, for inequality of women, for a misguided president starting wars that cannot be won...

Unless that modern Turk embraces denial, the bedfellow of guilt.

By retracting its ambassador from Washington – as it did within minutes of the Committee vote – and by threatening diplomatic repercussions, Ankara in effect has said to Washington in March what it said to Yerevan last October: Share our blindness to history so that we all might squint our way to a brighter future.

Yerevan didn’t buy it. But, as said, Yerevan ain’t Washington.