Robert Fisk: Someone remembers the Armenian Holocaust at last – to Obama's dismay
Once more we have to forget the Armenian Holocaust – the first of the 20th century – in order to appease the Turks. Bill Clinton did it.
George W Bush spinelessly caved in to the Turkish generals. And now our favourite Nobel prize winner – another brave president who promised to acknowledge the Armenian genocide if he was elected and then declined to do so – went whinging and whining to the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington and pleaded with them not to tell the truth about the savage rape and murder of 1.5 million Armenian civilians by the Turks in 1915. Good for the committee that it did not give in. But it will do no good.
Sure, the Turkish ambassador has been recalled from Washington in a huff. But equally certain is that there will be no vote on the genocide by the full House of Representatives. And if there is, there'll never be a vote in the Senate. Obama will help see to that. The man who wanted change doesn't want change on the little matter of a genocide that led directly to the Nazi murder of 6 million Jews.
The events in Washington prove a few things. The Armenian American community have a more powerful and wealthier lobby than ever before. More seriously – for the Turks – is that this year Turkey did not have the Israeli lobby behind it. In the past, Israel, which disgracefully claims that the Armenian Holocaust was not a genocide, has supported its close ally Turkey. But this year, Israel and Turkey have fallen out and the Israelis are still miffed at Turkey's condemnation of the bloodbath in Gaza.
The Turks sent their generals to bully Bush last time round. This time, the Turkish Foreign Minister warned that "Turkish-US ties are going through a very important phase in which they need strategic co-operation at the highest level in their history." The message is simple. Acknowledge the genocide, and the US will lose its airbases in Turkey and the Turkish roads its military convoys use into Iraq.
The fact, unfortunately, is that these roads are the very highways down which the Armenians were sent on their death marches in 1915. That's not mentioned, of course. Our faithful Turkish ally might even pack up its support for the US in Afghanistan, where they are helping fight "Obama's war". But Robert Gates is still in Washington to remind congressmen what he said last year; that America needed "those roads and so on". Well, let's just hope the American troops don't halt their convoys and dig in the fields around those roads in the coming years. The skeletons are still there in their tens of thousands.
One wonders what would happen if Germany suddenly decided that the Nazi Holocaust was not a genocide. Would Chancellor Merkel get away with it? Would Obama lobby that Germany should be allowed to get away with such an obscenity? Perhaps it's worth remembering that in 1939, Hitler asked his generals – before setting off into Poland to murder the millions of Jews in eastern Europe – a simple question: "Who now remembers the Armenians?" Well, Hitler got the answer he would have wanted from Obama this week.