An Op-Ed Piece by Benjamin Wachs
In San Francisco, April 24 has been proclaimed “Armenian Genocide Day” every year for the past 7, and I never know what to get my girlfriend for it. A sweater? An orphan? Or just a card?
But today, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is on track to help give the local Armenian community a much bigger present … a unanimously passed resolution “Urging (house) Speaker Nancy Pelosi to continue to support and immediately schedule a vote on HR 106” – the now infamous bill which recognizes the genocide against the Armenians by Turkey in 1915.
Most of you probably couldn’t care less, but you generally support this bill because President Bush is against it. Which is a pretty good policy except for the way it’s … you know … blind hatred.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors supports it because there is a “significant” Armenian community in San Francisco that they can pander to. Plus – BONUS – it’s a moral thing to do.
Which is why David Noyola, a Legislative Aid to Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, seemed baffled when I asked him if this was really a good idea.
“We do this sort of thing all the time,” he said. “We urge people to do stuff.”
God I hope someone puts that on a t-shirt.
Trouble is, this resolution could get people killed. Not latte drinking gay San Franciscans with a deep appreciation of irony – the people we care about – but people all the same. And if genocide is bad because killing is bad, then the Board of Supervisors should consider their own moral culpability.
On the surface, the issue is simple: the genocide against the Armenians definitely happened, should be recognized, and should secure a place of shame on the history books. No question about that.
But it’s also a profoundly touchy subject for Turkey, which is:
Our largest ally in NATO;
A crucial military ally in the Middle East;
A country whose cooperation we’re relying on to keep things from getting much, much worse in Iraq.
So … I ask you: when we’re so dependent on the good will of one of our few political and military allies in a deeply troubled region, is now really a good time to go pissing them off over a purely symbolic gesture?
Or … will this bite us in the ass?
The Supervisors’ resolution says “do it,” with really noble sounding language. “(T)he San Francisco Board of Supervisors maintains that the proper recognition of the crime of genocide and other crimes against humanity should never be sacrificed for perceived political benefits” it says.
If people were actively suffering as a result of our silence, they’d be right. But this is not the case of gays in Iran, or the Jews in Germany, when American silence allowed millions to die or suffer: there is no current genocide against the Armenians.
Speaking out against the 1915 genocide today will not save a single life. If anything, it will further inflame tensions in Turkey and lead to more persecution at a time when we can do nothing about it.
More importantly, by passing this resolution, we are almost insuring a Turkish invasion of Kurdish Iraq. We are almost guaranteeing an end to vigorous Turkish support of our armed forces. If Congress does what San Francisco wants it to, we are putting Iraqi civilians and American armed forces in greater danger. Casualties are a given.
That doesn’t bother Noyola. “We’re clearly weighing in on the side of the people who say there isn’t a good time or bad time to recognize genocide for what it is,” he told me.
Which is to say: our symbolic gesture is much more important that people’s lives.
See, THIS is why the rest of America hates us.
The Supes shouldn’t pass this resolution, and Pelosi shouldn’t pay attention to it. A symbolic gesture isn’t worth putting our troops ... or Iraqi civilians … or Kurdish independence in Iraq … in danger.
There IS a wrong time to do the right thing.