Freshman Congresswoman and “Squad” member Ilhan Omar (D-MN) was the lone Democrat not to vote in favor of a recent House resolution condemning the Armenian Genocide, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support (that 11 Republicans voted against it merits its own scorn – I’ll get to that later). The Armenian Genocide took place during and after World War I in Ottoman Turkey, concurrent with the Assyrian and Greek genocides, and involved the systematic murder or expulsion of 1.5 million people. Turkey, to this day, denies the term “genocide,” and many Turks refuse to acknowledge its occurrence.

That these people were murdered by the Ottomans is not in doubt. It is as much historical fact as the Holocaust. That it has not been recognized by the United States since Reagan’s presidency is a shameful case of presidents and Congresses playing realpolitik, appeasing Turkey because of her strategic importance to America’s Middle East interests and military operations.

Political winds do shift, and a combination of various factors has finally aligned to overcome the cynical politics of the matter, at least in the House.

Omar opted to vote “present,” and issued a statement in defense of her vote:

I believe accountability for human rights violations — especially ethnic cleansing and genocide — is paramount. But accountability and recognition of genocide should not be used as cudgel in a political fight. It should be done based on academic consensus outside the push and pull of geopolitics. A true acknowledgment of historical crimes against humanity must include both the heinous genocides of the 20th century, along with earlier mass slaughters like the transatlantic slave trade and Native American genocide, which took the lives of hundreds of millions of indigenous people in this country. For this reason, I voted ‘present’ on final passage of H.Res. 296, the resolution Affirming the Unites States record on the Armenian Genocide.

Let’s unpack this just a bit.

First, the “academic consensus.” I’m calling bullshit. The genocide happened. To question it, or suggest that an “academic consensus” doesn’t exist, is a bald-faced lie. Certainly, some tendentious ‘experts’ can be found who’ve either crafted a twisted alternate narrative or are simply ignoring history, but they, too, deserve nothing but scorn.

Second, the “whataboutism.” That’s the game she’s played in the past, abetted by cowardly Democrats who elevated partisanship over principle in failing to condemn her anti-Semitic comments (the party opted for an all-inclusive resolution instead of addressing the obvious). Whataboutism is a cheap dodge, and one that she almost certainly wouldn’t apply in different circumstances. Would she fail to vote for a resolution condemning China’s repression, internment, and re-education of a million Muslim Uighurs unless it also included a laundry list of all other governmental repressions, past and present? Would she fail to acknowledge the Rwandan Genocide on similar grounds?

Third, the “political cudgel.” The current Turkish government could easily disavow and condemn atrocities committed in its history. Germany and Japan have acknowledged and condemned their World War II atrocities, have they not? But, instead, the Turkish government denies the genocide, claims the death toll is exaggerated, and asserts that there were killings “on both sides.” The ‘why’ is its own matter, but denial doesn’t undermine the reality. What Omar imagines to be the “cudgel” here, I don’t quite know, other than perhaps to diminish Turkey’s moral position with respect to the Kurds. But, as a representative of American citizens, she has no business defending Turkey’s interests or its alternate-history pretense.

The obvious conclusion (see Occam’s Razor) is that Omar won’t allow for “guilt by association” between the affirmation of the Armenian Genocide and Islam itself. Yet, this is exactly the reason that she should affirm the Genocide. If you want to reject atrocities perpetrated under the banner of your religion, you do so by rejecting atrocities perpetrated under the banner of your religion. You condemn the bad actors. You denounce them, you declare them not of your faith, you brand them apostates and you excommunicate them, either in person or in history. You boldly declare “these people did bad things, and they are not of Islam, and we reject their claim to Islam in the strongest possible words.”

You don’t circle the wagons. You don’t engage in whataboutism. You don’t diminish an atrocity by saying “some people did something,” because those people claimed to share religious beliefs with you.

You clean your own house. Only then can you lay claim to moral high ground.

This isn’t mere partisan or tribal politics. This isn’t realpolitik, presumably the lame-ass excuse the eleven Republicans (all hawks, by the way – that tells you their ‘why.’ I didn’t look for statements, but I doubt any of them would obfuscate the history with “academic consensus” mewling). This is a historical event with a seven figure death toll. If Omar’s excuse was “we need Turkey’s good graces to prosecute our war,” it would be reprehensible, but pedestrian. It wouldn’t be some obfuscatory moral preening. If it were, she’d be lumped in with the eleven warmongers who voted no. Instead, she opted for “present,” and shot out some word salad to scold the rest of us about some straw-manning about other historical mass slaughters.

Omar’s history makes it pretty clear she holds defense of Islam in high importance. That’s fine – we frequently see defense of Christianity and Judaism from elected officials. What’s not fine is trying to hide the dirty laundry, to dodge acknowledgment of historical fact. Yes, it is also fact that nearly two million Africans died crossing the Atlantic during the three centuries of the slave trade, and it is also a fact that roughy eight million indigenous people died during the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Whether these were ‘genocides’ depends, to some degree, upon how expansively one wants to apply the term, given that the deaths occurred not as a planned extermination but due to other reasons, but under any definition, what was done to the Armenians was a genocide. To pretend otherwise, especially as a rejection of any criticism of Islam, is to dirty one’s hands with the stain of denialism.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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