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      Those Who Live in Glass Houses...

Those Who Live in Glass Houses...   13/04/2006

Those Who Live in Glass Houses Should not Throw Stones…

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

The anticipated self-promotional puff-piece by Gunduz Aktan, a former Turkish Ambassador and member of the infamous Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC), was finally published in the April 8 issue of the Turkish Daily News.

Aktan and Omer Lutem, another former Turkish ambassador and a notorious denialist, toured the U.S. during the second half of March, to spread coast to coast their perverted version of history regarding the Armenian Genocide.

In his article, Aktan says that the objective of their visit was to give seminars to Turkish Americans "on the 1915-1916 incidents" and to "distribute CDs" on this issue. He discloses that the two denialists have made similar trips to several other European countries.

Aktan makes the following self-serving and questionable observation: "We were happy to see that a Turkish diaspora is now emerging in America, as is the case in Europe. Turks who, in the past, failed to come together despite all the efforts made by Turkish diplomatic missions abroad, are now burying their differences and joining hands. Due to the fact that they had lived as subjects of an ‘empire’ in the past, Turks failed to develop the kind of minority psychology that would have enabled them to wage a struggle to defend their rights when they found themselves living outside the borders of the Turkish Republic."

Aktan is implying that he and Lutem deserve some credit for their role in this miraculous transformation, thereby trying to raise the value of their services to their paymasters in Ankara. His explanation that Turkish Americans have not developed the self-defense mechanisms of a minority due to being "subjects of an ‘empire’ in the past," is utter nonsense, as very few Turks still living today were around when the Ottoman Empire was in existence, to be able to acquire such an imperial complex!

Aktan finally gets to the real purpose of his article by falsely claiming: "Armenians tried to prevent us from arranging meetings at U.S. universities. Despite their efforts we gave lectures at Columbia University and the University of Chicago as well as in Congress and held a closed meeting in Georgetown University. The Armenians who put pressure and issued threats, on the other hand, prevented the meeting we were to hold at the University of Southern California."

The former diplomat makes cheap accusations and sweeping generalizations against Armenians without providing a shred of evidence to back up his claims! There have been no reports of threats by a single Armenian at any of their talks. Aktan also falsely claims that Armenians had "prevented expression of the Turkish side’s views at a program to be aired by [the] American PBS television." He must be referring to a panel discussion offered by PBS to its affiliate stations. Contrary to Aktan’s assertions, the panel discussion is not cancelled. Some PBS stations are planning to air that program, while others have announced that they would not carry it because it added nothing new to the genocide documentary. Finally, Armenian Americans, like all Americans, have the constitutionally protected right to freely express their opinion and disagree with PBS, unlike in Turkey where one can be accused of "denigrating Turkishness" and thrown in jail for simply speaking one’s mind!

Aktan finally brings up the same old refrain that he has repeated ad nauseam in many of his articles claiming that Armenians are "wary of taking their cause to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague," implying that they are afraid of losing. The truth is that Armenians would be at The Hague tomorrow if there were the slightest possibility that the ICJ would take up a case that is more than 90 years old! Nevertheless, should the Turkish government accept the Court’s jurisdiction over the genocide issue and consequent remedies, this would mean that Ankara would agree in advance to abide by the Court’s possible verdict to return back to Armenians the confiscated properties and occupied territories. If Aktan is so sure of his phony arguments, instead of simply bluffing, he should get his government to commit to abide by the court's verdict. Just last year, after bravely "threatening" to take the Armenian Genocide issue to the United Nations -- a move Armenians welcomed -- Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul sheepishly reversed himself by announcing that the UN would not be an acceptable venue for his government! Gul may have discovered, a little late, that back in 1985 a UN human rights panel had already classified the Armenian Genocide as an example of genocide!

What makes Aktan’s entire column so ridiculous is that, contrary to his assertions, the University of Southern California did not cancel his and Lutem’s talks because of any "threats" from Armenians. Joshua Fouts, the Director of USC Center on Public Diplomacy, the sponsor of the lecture, told the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles that he cancelled it because "the topic was not what we had previously agreed-upon and thus not something we could host." When a former USC Turkish student accused the university of "curbing free speech," Fouts responded by quoting Mark Twain: "A lie can travel halfway around the world, while the truth is still putting its shoes on." He told this Turkish individual: "The reason the USC Center on Public Diplomacy was unable to host the Turkish event is simple: …The topic that was originally proposed was a different one…. The topic that I discussed with the Turkish Consulate on Feb. 27 was to be on ‘Turkish Public Diplomacy,’ specifically the role of Civil Societies in improving Turkish-Armenian relations…. I notified the Consulate that this was not the event we agreed on…."

The reason that the Aktan & Lutem show was cancelled had nothing to do with "threats" or pressure by Armenians. It was a pure and simple case of the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles misrepresenting to the university the true topic of their talk. This is nothing new. Readers may recall that a year ago, the Ankara Chamber of Commerce placed a Turkish DVD as a paid ad in TIME Europe, ostensibly promoting tourism to Turkey, but actually including 70-minutes of vicious lies on the Armenian Genocide!

Finally, it is simply ridiculous for Turkish officials and their henchmen to accuse a major U.S. university of curbing freedom of speech. As the proverb says: "Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones!"


April 13, 2006


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