Dave Krikorian, the independent scoring well in the polls in Ohio's 2nd, has put out a new flyer about his opponent, Jean Schmidt.
Here [h/t to Independent Political Report] is the text of the flyer:
Representative Jean Schmidt has taken $30,000 in blood money to deny the genocide of Armenian Christians by Muslim Turks.
"The Armenian genocide has been a prelude to the horrors which followed: the two world wars, innumerable regional conflicts and deliberately organized campaigns of extermination that have ended the lives of millions of believers." Pope John Paul II (September 26, 2001)
"At this time she does not have enough information to characterize these deaths as genocide, especially when those responsible are long dead." Jean Schmidt's office (March 29, 2007)
"Like the genocide of the Armenians before it, and the genocide of the Cambodians which followed it--and like too many other such persecutions of too many other peoples--the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten." Ronald Reagan (April 22, 1981)
"The question comes to the definition of genocide, and I don't think we are comfortable making that attribution at this time." Jean Schmidt's office (March 30, 2007)
"Who after all speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" Adolph Hitler
"The United Nations describes genocide as carrying out acts intended 'to destroy, in whole or in part, a national ethic, racial, or religious group.' In this instance it was very difficult to know intent." Jean Schmidt's office (May 11, 2007)
SAY NO TO JEAN SCHMIDT
Let's get a couple of things straight at the outset:
1) The whole Armenian genocide resolution affair is not a simple one, as a quick visit to WorldPoliticsReview can attest. There has been extensive lobbying on both sides of the issue, and the passage of such a resolution is politicized in light of the difficult balancing act between the US, Israel, and Turkey, wherein Turkey is one of the most moderate secular Muslim governments in the Middle East, whose support we need in Iraq, but which is also conducting a campaign of what many consider to be cultural genocide against the Kurds. So it raises real questions of realpolitik versus the need to call a genocide a genocide and let the diplomatic chips fall where they may.
2) If this were a State or local race, the incumbent's opinion on the Armenian genocide wouldn't really be relevant, but this is the US Congress, and the issue touches on a lot of foreign policy and public morality issues. I've got to admit I've always been unhappy with the fact that President Clinton seemed willing to apologize officially to every group the US had ever offended or mistreated, and the sheer audacity of some Congressional resolutions leaves me breathless. It also bugs the crap out of me that American politicians are taking money from either Armenians or Turks [from organizations inside or outside this nation's borders] that will affect their votes on resolutions or legislation.
That all having been said--and assuming that Krikorian has both the contributions and the quotations correct--I've got a real problem with Jean Schmidt's responses. If she'd said, I don't think, given the sensitive nature of US-Turkish relations at this time, it's a good idea for politicians in America to be attempting historical judgments on century-old crimes, I'd have been hard put to argue with it. But that's not what she said. What she did was parrot the official Turkish party line, that we don't know the motivations of the mass murderers of Armenian Christians, and that all the killers are dead anyway, so we can't ask them. This, unfortunately, is right out of the Turkish genocide-denying playbook. And while I may think that the Armenian lobbyists, like the Israeli lobby, aren't exactly pristine, there's no real dent in the historical consensus that what happened to the Armenians qualifies as genocide.
You almost have to accept Adolph Hitler as an expert witness on this one; the man surely knew a genocide when he ordered one.
As part of a political campaign, however, this kind of thing makes us all ... uncomfortable. It's too raw, it smacks of, well, attempting to hold our elected leaders accountable for--of all things--moral judgments.
Yet it's germane--and I cite as my evidence the statements of Senator Barack Obama at his final debate with Senator John McCain:
Moderator Tom Brokaw asked the candidates what their "doctrine" would be "in situations where there's a humanitarian crisis, but it does not affect our national security," such as "the Congo, where 4.5 million people have died since 1998," or Rwanda or Somalia.
In such cases, answered Obama, "we have moral issues at stake." Of course the United States must act to stop genocide, he said. "When genocide is happening, when ethnic cleansing is happening . . . and we stand idly by, that diminishes us."
So if using the power of the US and our armed forces to prevent genocide on moral grounds alone is on the table as possible US foreign policy, then Krikorian's question--regardless of whether or not it grows out of his own Armenian roots--is a legitimate one. Because how can you take up the question of whether or not to intervene against genocide if you lack the ability to define genocide as genocide even in a well-documented case that took place a century ago?
But then, our national political leaders have often lacked the moral courage to do just that: to examine critically the Turkish treatment of the Kurds, the Chinese treatment of the Tibetans, the Sri Lankan treatment of the Tamils, the Indonesian treatment of the inhabitants of East Timor, the Russian treatment of, well, just about anybody in a breakaway republic....
This is one of the paradoxes of American interventionism around the world. We were so morally outraged after September 11 that in building a consensus against the Axis of Evil, we allowed the Chinese to define Tibetan patriots and the Russians to define Chechen rebels as terrorists as long as both Vlad Putin and those old mass murderers in Bejing played along with our rhetoric.
So what Dave Krikorian has done may not have been politically correct, and it may not even work in his favor, electorally speaking, but it is a service to the body politic nonetheless.
We spend too much time shying away from tough questions, which is why the general inertia of American foreign policy and the defense industry rolls on.
A footnote on Senator Obama's stance on genocide: mass murder with exterminationist intent apparently isn't always sufficient reason for American intervention, as the rest of the article I cited above explains:
But that wasn't how Obama sounded last year, when he was competing for the Democratic nomination and was unbending in his demand for an American retreat from Iraq. Back then, he dismissed fears that a US withdrawal would unleash a massive Iraqi bloodbath. "Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn't a good enough reason to keep US forces there," the AP reported on July 20, 2007 (my italics).
Some times the change we're supposed to believe in is just the candidate changing his mind.