Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Cruellest Month

A lot of cruelty happened in April.

Hitler and Hirohito were born in April.

The genocides in Darfur, Bosnia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Nazi Germany, and Armenia began in April.

The Bataan Death March began April 9, 1942.

The bloody battle of Gallipoli was fought April 25, 1915.

This year, some commemorate April's designation as Genocide Prevention Month. This morbid gesture is the work of The Genocide Prevention Project, which is the next venture of the team behind Dream for Darfur, the campaign that used the Olympics to urge the Chinese government to use its influence with the Sudanese regime to bring security to Darfur. [I have the t-shirt and stickers...]

Jill Savitt, the head of the Project says the group hope their advocacy will prevent future genocides. "What we want the month to show is that there is a support among genocide survivors to try and prevent such crimes from happening by rallying support from the international community," she said.

It appears that Miss Jill has teamed up with the Armenians. It is a good thing she had gotten practice dealing with aggressive governments, like China, who don't feel guilty about much. The Turks will put you in jail if you say the massacres of the Armenians were genocide.

She is going to find the Turks as tough or tougher. Unlike the Chinese, the Turks have been able to intimidate Congress. Every year the Armenian Genocide Resolution comes up for consideration and the Turkish Government plays take-no-hostages-street-fighting mean politics. Japan likes to point to Turkey as an example of lobbying in Washington done right. In fact, Japan's representatives now whisper wistfully that Tokyo should start acting more like Ankara if they don't get their way in Washington.

The current champion of Armenians in the U.S. House of Representatives is Adam Schiff (D-CA), whose district holds the largest concentration of Armenian Americans. On March 17th, he again introduced a House resolution, H.RES.252, "calling upon the President to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide, and for other purposes."

If you look at the Resolution, you will see that it is a mess. There are 30 "findings" stridently condemning Turkey and the declaration requested is simply to ask the President of the United States to denounce and shame Turkey. The cause may be just, but it is a resolution without a constructive goal. It acerbates instead of ameliorates a problem of history. There is no suggestion as to how this difference of opinion over history can be resolved or to what end.

Schiff preceded the resolution with a letter on March 12th to President Barack Obama commending him on his record of supporting the "truth about the Armenian Genocide" and urging the President to make a strong statement of recognition on April 24th. Schiff wrote:
But, of course, the importance of speaking unequivocally about a matter as grave as genocide is a human rights imperative affecting us all. Whether it is today’s Sudanese government or yesterday’s Ottoman Empire, the perpetrators of genocide, as well as the victims, must know that the United States will not shrink from confronting the truth.
In contrast, Cambodia is now conducting its tribunal to prosecute members of the Khmer Rouge for genocide. The effort is to better understand the mass murders and to try to determine responsibility and set out accountability. On the 31st, Durch, once commandant of Cambodia's most notorious prison camp, S-21, testified "As a member of the [Khmer Rouge] I recognise responsibility for what happened at Tuol Sleng,"

He forthrightly said,"May I be permitted to apologise to the survivors of the regime, and also the loved ones of those who died brutally during the regime." And then told the court, "I ask not that you forgive me now, but hope you will later."

"Dry bones can harm no one," wrote T.S. Eliot.

I am not sure if that is true.

N.B.: If you happened to look at this post earlier today, then you know I pressed the publish instead of the save button. And you also now know I research my post. Just like a woman, I am professionally cautious. Personally? Well, all bets are off.

1 comment:

  1. I think it is interesting for Japanese people to mention Hirohito and Hitler in the same sentence.

    An interesting note, April 30 is not only my birthday, but also the day Hitler is said to have committed suicide in a bunker somewhere in Berlin (no relation to my birthday, I think). April of 1945 saw the deaths of Mussolini, Roosevelt, and Hitler, which I guess completes the circle of life.


If I am unamused, your comment will not be posted.