The US and the West has no Moral Authority to Lecture the People of Turkey about Genocide Press Release Wednesday, 17 October 2007
Last week’s resolution by the US Congress Foreign Relations Committee labelling as genocide the killing of Armenians in 1915 by the Ottomans demonstrates how many in the US and the West in general are either oblivious to their own genocidal track record, or suffer from a politically selective amnesia.
The ‘non-binding’ resolution is expected to be endorsed by the House of Representatives in November and has caused diplomatic tensions between the US and Turkey with Turkey recalling its Washington envoy for consultations. It has even hinted of the withdrawal of logistical support to US troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan if the bill is passed and additionally, may deny US firms lucrative defence contracts.
However, if genocide is what the US wants to discuss, then she ought to first consider her own track record of the indiscriminate mass killing of civilians and those of her European allies.
Establishing a presence in the Americas resulted in a huge decline in the indigenous American Indian population through war, conflict and massacre, with some tribal communities shrinking by 80-90% within a generation. From the 1490s when Christopher Columbus set foot on the Americas to the massacre of Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee by the United States Army, the indigenous American population of the Western Hemisphere may have declined by as much as 100 million.
Of almost equivalent barbarity, the transatlantic slave trade or “Maafa” saw the decimation of numerous African communities over a period of 400 years in order to supply human labour for the economic development of the “New World.” Anywhere between 9 and 12 million Africans were forcibly displaced by European slave traders. Approximately 8 million Africans were killed during their storage, shipment and initial landing in the Americas but historians acknowledge that the true extent of the death toll may never be known.
More recently, the US attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII resulted in the deaths of over 40,000 and 80,000 civilians respectively by the end of 1945, with the radiation fallout killing and injuring generations since. It is a widely held opinion that the second of the two bombs was wholly unnecessary as Japan was on the brink of surrender. Vietnam and the Korean Wars also demonstrate direct and indirect US involvement in large scale atrocities. The UN sanctions on Iraq in the 1990’s – supported by the US and her European allies – lead to over 500 000 children being killed. The current occupation has claimed the lives of an estimated one million civilians with the wide scale destruction of Iraqi society and infrastructure, and a litany of massacres such as those in Haditha and Falluja..
Furthermore, there are examples, too numerous to mention here, of US involvement in the violent overthrow of governments, accompanied by a huge loss of life. The US was complicit in General Suharto’s ascension to power in 1965 – the ‘year of living dangerously’. This was a coup that resulted in large scale massacres, described by the New York Times at the time as “one of the most savage mass slayings of modern political history” and for which some people have suggested that US politicians should have been indicted. Other examples include the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile and Mossadegh in Iran.
The context in Ottoman history that witnessed the Armenian killings was one related to maintaining the integrity of their state. By contrast, the past and present actions of the US and European powers have all too often been related to their interference in the affairs of other states. Given its own track record in directly or indirectly supporting mass killing and destruction, the US, in particular, is in no position to currently lecture others about genocide and mass killing.
Their warning to the Turkish government to resist incursions into northern Iraq is yet another example of how the irony of the situation is lost on the US political elite. The US invaded and occupied Iraq on the dubious evidence that Saddam Hussein had WMDs and posed a threat to her interests. It now prevents others from getting involved in Iraq despite their credible concerns about the impact of Iraqi instability on the region. It demonstrates how the US considers itself the only state to be trusted with power and with the moral authority to invade others. In the words of George Bush Snr after the first Gulf War, “a world once divided into two armed camps now recognizes one sole and pre-eminent power, the United States of America. And this they regard with no dread. For the world trusts us with power, and the world is right. They trust us to be fair, and restrained. They trust us to be on the side of decency. They trust us to do what’s right.”
However, Turkey’s threat to limit co-operation with the US over Iraq as a result of this episode is unlikely to materialise. With CNN reporting that 70% of air cargo for US forces in Iraq goes through Turkey, denying logistical support and routes will clearly impact considerably upon the US’s Iraq operations. The Turkish government has only considered this step after feeling insulted over remarks about her nations history-they have not, however, considered acting in similar fashion on the grounds that the continuing US occupation of Iraq has shattered an entire nation and resulted in the ongoing killing of hundreds of thousands of people.
Turkish denial of logistical support would have seriously dented the US build-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and could have prevented this disasterous episode in Iraq’s history from ever materialising, particularly if supported by similar actions from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. The US invasion of Iraq has brought instability to the region, emboldened Kurdish nationalism and threatened stability in the Kurdish regions of Turkey directly.
Akmal Asghar (www.hizb.uk.org)
Filed under: Politik Luar Negeri