A picture is worth a thousand words, and sometimes represents much more. At the 2017 G20 “family photo” one finds the President of Turkey, Recep Erdogan, in the front row just to the right of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Certainly the Republic of Turkey qualifies to attend this summit, being the seventeenth largest economy in the world. However, this economy was jump-started by the Turkish state’s expropriation and redistribution of the wealth of its Armenian (as well as Assyrian, Greek, and Yezidi) citizens subject to genocidal extermination. Many leading Turkish families and industries today trace their success to the stolen wealth of these Armenians.
Upon seeing how cordial the Turkish state is treated and cajoled, a state that vehemently denies responsibly and accountability for that genocide, what is one to conclude? It depends on who is looking and at what. When the Turks gassed their Kurds in 1938 – it was not an issue. When Saddam Hussein gasses his Kurds 50 years later – it was an issue. When Turks continue to oppress what remains of their minorities today – it’s still not an issue. Much to the chagrin of the idealist, international justice simply doesn’t exist.
Why would Germany submit to threats by Britain, France and Russia in 1915, forcing their Turkish ally to stop the extermination of the Armenians, knowing these same enemy powers preferred the Turks expend wartime energy killing its Armenian citizens? Just over twenty-five years later, why would the United States be expected to bomb rails lines going into Auschwitz and other camps? Militarily, it was better the Germans expend effort in tracking down and killing Jews, taking Nazi resources away from real military efforts. This is the same calculation that puts the Republic of Turkey nearly front and center at this year’s G20 “family photo”. The same calculation resulted in almost a million Tutsis exterminated at the hands of the Hutu-dominated government of Rwanda, for NATO and other states were “preoccupied” dismantling Yugoslavia.
Yes, and let’s codify this calculation and call it the UN Genocide Convention. Upon its adoption, the United States on May 28, 1951, in a document entitled, International Court of Justice; Pleadings, Oral Arguments, Documents; Reservations to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in Section C, part 4. Written Statement of the Government of the United States of America, in item I, declared:
“I. The Genocide Convention
The Genocide Convention resulted from the inhuman and barbarous practices which prevailed in certain countries prior to and during World War II, when entire religious, racial and national minority groups were threatened with and subjected to deliberate extermination. The practice of genocide has occurred throughout human history. The Roman persecution of the Christians, the Turkish massacres of Armenians, the extermination of millions of Jews and Poles by the Nazis are outstanding examples of the crime of genocide. This was the background when the General Assembly of the United Nations considered the problem of genocide. Not once, but twice, that body declared unanimously that the practice of genocide is criminal under international law and that States ought to take steps to prevent and punish genocide.”
Clearly, it is not in the interest of the international community to hold Turkey and the Turks fully accountable for their crimes against humanity. The United States valued Turkey’s 1952 entrance into NATO much more than their unambiguous statement only a year earlier. Moreover, the US has pumped billions of dollars into Turkey since to maintain that status. Israel used airspace above confiscated Armenian lands in eastern Anatolia for jet fighter training exercises. Israel too values whatever has remained of Turkish friendship rather than to officially recognize the Turkish genocide of a million and a half Armenians.
In a series of post-genocide successes, Turkey was awarded the Mediterranean region of Alexandretta in 1939 from France’s Syrian Mandate. This was a quid pro quo for Turkey not to side with Nazi Germany as events led to WWII. Regardless, Turkey traded heavily with Nazi Germany until it was clear Germany was on the losing side. Turkey today occupies about 40% of the Island of Cyprus, which it invaded in 1974 and recently has questioned Georgian sovereignty over the Black Sea region of Adjaria. In another wide-scale world conflict, there is every reason to expect Turkey to greatly reduce the geopolitical demographic worth of its Kurdish minority – by the millions – and finish off or absorb what remains of Armenia. Is this paranoia? Well, less than a month ago, Ilham Aliev, the president of Turkey’s closest ally, Azerbaijan, claimed all of Armenia as Azerbaijani land.
One is easily convinced the only way to prevent future genocides on those so threatened, is to be armed to such an extent that committing genocide comes at prohibitively high cost to the perpetrator.