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      The Tsunami counterattack

The Tsunami counterattack   28/06/2005

EDITORIAL

The Tsunami counterattack

The prominent Turkish journalist Ali Birand had predicted that the 90th commemorative year of the Armenian genocide would turn into a political tsunami for Turkey and warned his government and the media to be prepared for a counterattack. Indeed, Turkey was well prepared to weather the raging tsunami.

Although Turkey engaged in a well-prepared counterattack, its only problem was that truth was not on its side.

Even before that tsunami emerged Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan launched his well-orchestrated campaign by proposing to President Kocharian a Turkish-Armenian committee of historians to research and find out whether genocide was really perpetrated against Armenians in Ottoman Turkey during World War I.

President Bush and German Chancellor Schroder, in their turn, endorsed Erdogan's bid, inviting Armenians to fall into the Turkish trap by trying to prove what internationally respected authorities have already proven beyond any reasonable doubt.

Although President Kocharian responded with a very clever counter proposal, Erdogan himself undermined his own credibility by announcing that no genocide was perpetrated and that Turkey was proud of its history.

Then, any reasonable statesman or a common individual concluded that Erdogam did not mean business and that the purpose of this gambit was to confuse the international community about the issue. Indeed, if he already knew the answer ahead of time, what would be the task of historians?

Later on, adding insult to injury, Erdogan's government banned Turkish scholars who were planning exactly to perform what Erdogan was asking – to discover the truth for the Turks, not for the rest of the world, which already knew that the Armenians were the victims of the first genocide of the 20th Century.

Armenians, in their turn, truly unleashed a tsunami with worldwide commemorations, rallies, newspaper articles, and appeals to governments.

It all began with a high power symposium in Yerevan, where UN representatives, international jurists, renowned Israeli and Turkish historians and the conscience of the world politics Lech Walesa participated. They all demanded Turkey to recognize a well-established event. This symposium was on the heels of another symposium held in Salzburg, Austria, with the participation of mostly Turkish and Armenian scholars.

In the meantime the Armenian drive was reinforced by some developments on the world political scene: Germany's Bundertag passed a resolution recognizing the Turkish atrocities against the Armenian people. This resolution was very significant since Germany was Turkey's ally during World War I and was very much aware of the ethnic cleansing taking place in Turkey at that time, even if it did not participate in planning and executing that grisly act with the Young Turkish government in power at that period.

Another political blow came from France and the Netherlands, when the people voted "No" to the referendum on the European constitution, mostly directed against Turkey's admission into the European Union.

It was no minor incident when the Swiss government threatened Halacoglu, the official head of Turkish denialist commission, for violating a Swiss law on genocide denial.

While Turkey was embarrassed politically, its well-oiled propaganda machine is still working in the international media. The Time magazine's CD, denying the genocide, under the pretense of promoting tourism, was not a coincidence, nor was the resurrection of the nine-year-old story by NBC Dateline, trying to portray the quest for genocide recognition as a terrorist activity when the country is an intense mood of fighting terrorism.

What is most rewarding is the fact that Armenian advocacy groups in the US and Europe have been fighting back the Turkish onslaught, well financed by government funds. Yet the entire exercise has become a learning experience for Armenian masses and individuals, who on their own are mounting the counter offensive.

While Turkey is continuing to wage its denial campaign, Azeri-Turkish cooperation has been moved to a higher level. And Azerbaijan is contributing to that campaign by raising the ante. President Aliyev – Azerbaijan's despot – has become more and more vocal and bellicose. Recently he announced that he has increased his country's defense budget by 70% and that he will use oil revenues to buy new arms, to "liberate" by force territories under Karabagh government control.

As the tension builds up, Armenia has been watching the developing crisis with alarm.

Many people believe that war will never break out, because that will mean disruption of Azeri's newly found black gold from reaching its destination in Western countries. But a cursory view of all oil producing countries will convince that the war logic is in reverse: Is it by design or default that most of the oil producing countries are in turmoil? Somebody must be reaping the windfall from the skyrocketing oil prices. Iraq is in shambles, Iran and Syria are under threat, Congo is in turmoil, Indonesia is fighting an insurgency, Angolan war is winding down, Venezuela is under pressure, the scepter of neocon "democracy march" is hovering over Saudi Arabia, and you may add other countries to this tabulation.

Therefore, the prospect of oil disruption in Azerbaijan is not a deterrence to war.

Armenia's foreign policy is being planned and executed skillfully; one would only wish that its political, economic and military clout matched its diplomacy.

It is a healthy mindset to find and correct our shortcomings, but in this case the Diaspora can congratulate itself that it has gone through a process of politization to put the huge Turkish propaganda machine on the defensive.

Tsunami and counter tsunami will continue for some time to come; therefore, the Diaspora and Armenia must keep the mobilization and political alertness alive.

June 28, 2005


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