Thursday, 22 November 2007

Secretaries Albright and Cohen Should be removed from Genocide Task Force

How hypocritical of Madeleine Albright and William Cohen, former Secretaries of State and Defense, to announce the formation of a task force on preventionof genocide, when two months ago they wrote a letter to the U.S. Congressagainst a resolution on the Armenian Genocide!

One would have thought that genocide denialists would not be the most qualified people to lead an effort on averting future genocides. Yet, this is exactly what happened last week.

Albright and Cohen shamelessly stood in front of TV cameras at the National Press Club in Washington on November 13 to declare that they are co-chairing a new "Genocide Prevention Task Force." The other members of the task force are Sen. John Danforth, Sen. Tom Daschle, Amb. Stuart Eizenstat, Michael Gerson, Secretary Dan Glickman, Secretary Jack Kemp, Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, Amb. Tom Pickering, Julia Taft, Vin Weber and General Anthony Zinni. This effort is jointly sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Academy of Diplomacy, and the United States Institute of Peace. The task force has five working groups dealing with early warning, pre-crisis engagement, preventive diplomacy, military inter- vention, and international institutions. It is expected to issue its report in December 2008.

Cohen told members of the media with a straight face that the task force is going "to look certainly to the past for lessons" in order to prepare a setof recommendations to the U.S. government on how best to respond to future threats of genocide. He stated that mass violence is "inimical to human behavior, to human decency, [and] to our sense of humanity=80¦. We can no longer live in a
state of denial or willful indifference." These bold words are from a man whose company, The Cohen Group, is affiliated with DLA Piper, one of the major lobbying firms hired by the Turkish government, at a cost of $100,000 per month, to deny the facts of the Armenian Genocide.

As soon as the two former high-ranking officials finished delivering their opening remarks at last week's press conference, they were confronted by skeptical members of the press and Armenian activists who questioned their sincerity and pointed out their hypocrisy. This accusatory exchange was covered extensively by CNN, AFP, AP, and the Jerusalem Post.

Albright and Cohen were asked by Aram Hamparian (ANCA/Armenian Weekly): "How do you reconcile your work in trying to build a moral American sentiment, an unconditional consensus against genocide, when just very recently both of you signed letters urging America not to recognize the Armenian Genocide?" Albright, forgetting her earlier words about learning from the past, quickly shifted the mission of the group to the future. Carefully avoiding using the term "Armenian Genocide," she acknowledged that "terrible things happened to the Armenians - a tragedy=80¦. While we were Secretaries, we recognized that mass killings and forced exile had taken place, and we also said that the U.S. policy has been all along for reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia on this particular issue." She also said that her earlier letter to Congress against the genocide resolution merely questioned whether "this was an appropriate time to raise the issue." Secretary Cohen, in his turn, referred to the Armenian Genocideas "the human suffering that took place between 1915 and 1923." He said he was concerned that the Armenian resolution "might result in reactions on the part of the Turkish government that could place our sons and daughters in greater jeopardy [in Iraq]." The two officials gave evasive answers when Elizabeth Chouldjian (ANCA/Asbarez) asked whether they were advocating that "for political expediency purposes we shouldn't be taking action on future genocides because of what it could mean to U.S. interests."

Russell Mokhiber, editor of Corporate Crime Reporter, then pointedly asked if Albright and Cohen were in fact saying: "If our friends do it, it's not genocide; if our enemies do it, it is genocide=80¦. If you are going to define genocide by who does it, not by what it is, your task force is in trouble."

Exposing his ignorance on the issue of the Armenian Genocide, Secretary Cohen said: "I don't know that the UN has declared that genocide occurred in the Armenian situation." He must not be aware that back in 1985 the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, by a vote of 15-1, adopted a report which included a section acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. "The experience of the Armenians does indeed conform with the UN Convention," Nareg Safarian (The Armenian Reporter) shot back at Cohen and added: "The two of you have personally worked toward ensuring that the United States government does not take a stand recognizing the Armenian Genocide. However, taking on this new role, how can you reconcile your positions and the U.S. foreign policy?"

Given their repeated attempts to block the reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide, both during and after their tenure in government, Secretaries Albright and Cohen should be removed from the leadership of the Genocide Prevention Task Force. They have undermined their own credibility and lost the moral standing to speak on the topic of genocide. One cannot deny a genocide and then turn around and act as a defender of its victims. Furthermore, Secretary Cohen has a personal conflict of interest due to his firm's affiliation with a company that lobbies for Turkey against the congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide. This fact alone should disqualify him from membership, let alone leadership, of the genocide prevention group.

The task force has already backed down from its declared position on another controversial issue. During the November 13 press conference, in response to a question on whether the Task Force would dare investigate allegations of mass violation of human rights in Israel, Cohen told the reporter: "On the issue of whether genocide is taking place in the West Bank and Gaza - certainly that will be part of [what] the task force [is] looking at." However, just hours after that bold announcement, Albright and Cohen changed their tune by saying that the task force will not "determine which situations, past or present, including the West Bank and Gaza, constitute genocide." Arthur Berger, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's senior advisor for external affairs, was reported by the Jerusalem Post as saying: "He did not expect Israel to be singled out or dwelled on by the task force."

Armenian-American groups in Washington should request a meeting with members of the task force as well as its three sponsoring organizations, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Academy of Diplomacy, and the United States Institute of Peace, to request that Albright and Cohen be dismissed. Moreover, they should ask that a qualified Armenian-American be appointed as a member of the task force.

Readers are urged to convey their comments/complaints to: Andrew Hollinger of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, phone: (202-488-6133) and e-mail:; Lauren Sucher of the United States Institute of Peace (202-429-3822) and e-mail:; and Amb. Ronald Neumann of the American Academy of Diplomacy (202-331-3721) and e-mail:


Bernard Lewis, Abe Foxman, Genocide, and `Genocide'
Daniel Koffler, November 12, 2007

TAGS: Armenian Genocide Daniel Koffler Fire Foxman Josh Strawn Raphael
Lemkin Samantha Power

I want to underscore Josh's comments about Bernard Lewis' sinister
complacency on the question of the Armenian genocide. Josh helpfully
mentions the heroic campaign of Raphael Lemkin, the inventor of the
term `genocide', to install the concept into international law. Josh is
quite right that that the concept `genocide' picks out does not merely
encompass its archetypal instance, the Holocaust, but any acts of a
relevantly similar nature that are to be absolutely forbidden among
civilized nations.

If you follow the Wikipedia article on Lemkin, you'll see that his
struggle to have an international law banning genocide began in earnest
in 1933, well before the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jewish people
had begun. In fact, the connection between Lemkin's conceptual
invention and the crime Ottoman Turkey perpetrated against its Armenian
population is not merely theoretical; the Armenian genocide and its
aftermath were Lemkin's direct inspiration. As Samantha Power recounts
in her excellent book A Problem from Hell, in March 1921, in a pleasant
neighborhood of Berlin, Soghomon Tehlirian, a young Armenian man whose
family had been slaughtered by the Turks and who had been conscripted
into a revanchist band of assassins, gunned down Mehmed Talaat, the
former Ottoman Minister of the Interior who oversaw the murder of one
million Armenians and acted as the Turkish government's principal
obfuscator on the international stage.

Lemkin, a linguistics student at the University of Lvov, read about
Talaat's assassination and the events surrounding it in a newspaper.
I'll let Power take over:

Lemkin was intrigued and brought the case to the attention of one of
his professors. Lemkin asked why the Armenians did not have Talaat
arrested for the massacre. The professor said there was no law under
which he could be arrested. "Consider the case of a farmer who owns a
flock of chickens," he said. "He kills them and this is his business.
If you interfere, you are trespassing."

"It is a crime for Tehlirian to kill a man, but it is not a crime for
his oppressor to kill more than a million men?" Lemkin asked. "This is
most inconsistent."

Lemkin was appalled that the banner of "state sovereignty" could shield
men who tried to wipe out an entire minority. "Sovereignty," Lemkin
argued to the professor, "implies conducting an independent foreign and
internal policy...Sovereignty cannot be conceived as the right to kill
millions of innocent people...."

Lemkin was torn about how to judge Tehlirian's act. On the one hand,
Lemkin credited the Armenian with upholding the "moral order of
mankind" and drawing the world's attention to the Turkish slaughter.
Tehlirian's case had quickly turned into an informal trial of the
deceased Talaat for his crimes against the Armenians; the witnesses and
written evidence introduced in Tehlirian's defense brought the Ottoman
horrors to their fullest light to date. The New York Times wrote that
the documents introduced in the trial "established once and for all the
fact that the purpose of the Turkish authorities was not deportation
but annihiliation" [attn: Bernard Lewis - DK]. But Lemkin was
uncomfortable that Tehlirian...had acted as the "self-appointed legal
officer for the conscience of mankind." Passion, he knew, would often
make a travesty of justice. Impunity for mass murderers like Talaat had
to end; retribution had to be legalized.

The ironies here are numerous, and one I'll mention just in passing is
that while the New York Times was not under any illusions about the
nature of the Turkish atrocities as far back as 1921, the establishment
press of 2007, following conventions of supposed objectivity that in
general do more to throttle truth than disseminate it, can't quite seem
to figure out what the fact of the matter is regarding the Armenian

The bottom line, pace Bernard Lewis, is that the crime of genocide was
originally conceived to describe what Turkey did to the Armenians. Just
as it is a priori that a meter stick is one meter long, so it is a
priori that the Turkish mass-murder of Armenians was genocide, and a
denial of this fact is not merely an expression of ignorance, and not
even, strictly speaking, false. To say "there was no Armenian genocide"
amounts to what the logical positivists called vocus flatus, a
syntactical and seemingly articulate string of symbols that
nevertheless is literally meaningless, due, in this case, to its
containing an analytic inconsistency. "There was no Armenian genocide"
is not a false sentence because it is not even a sentence. It's like
trying (and failing) to refer to "the married bachelor."

One further irony that deserves notice is the role of Jews in alerting
the world to what the Turks had done to the Armenians long before the
Jews themselves were victims of a genocide, and how the profiles of
Lemkin and others compare with cravenness of Abe Foxman and the ADL.
Lemkin was not the first nor the most prominent Jew to assume the
plight of the Armenians as his own. Henry Morgenthau, an emigrant from
Germany to the US, was ambassador to Ottoman Turkey during the First
World War, who began to plead with his superiors to come to the aid of
the Armenians as early as February 1915. "There seems to be,"
Morgenthau wrote to Washington, " a systematic plan to crush the
Armenian race." Power again:

Local witnesses urged [Morgenthau] to invoke the moral power of the
United States. Otherwise, he was told, "the whole Armenian nation would
disappear." The ambassador did what he could, continuing to send
blistering cables back to Washington and raising the matter at
virtually every meeting he held with Talaat. He found his exchanges
with the interior minister infuriating. Once, when the ambassador
introduced eyewitness reports of slaughter, Talaat snapped back: "Why
are you so interested in the Armenians anyway? You are a Jew, these
people are Christians...What have you to complain of? Why can't you let
us do with these Christians as we please?" Morgenthau replied, "You
don't seem to realize that I am not here as a Jew but as the American
Ambassador...I do not appeal to you in the name of any race or religion
but merely as a human being."

Morgenthau's efforts cast the issue rather starkly, I think. If the
Anti-Defamation League cannot call genocide `genocide', for fear that
to do so is impolitic, then the Anti-Defamation League does not need to
exist. At the very least, Abraham Foxman and whichever other ADL
officers are responsible for the organization's behavior on this matter
should resign, not just from the ADL, but from public life entirely;
whatever moral stature the ADL retains depends upon them doing so.

Lastly, we should not forget that Morgenthau's response to the Turkish
Eichmann --- for once the comparison is apt --- was an American, not a
Jewish response. Morgenthau was begged to "invoke the moral power of
the United States"; if the government of the United States cannot be
bothered to state the truth simply and forthrightly, then it has no
such moral power.

No comments: