Saturday, October 13, 2007

US Congress playing Turkey while Burma burns

This is unbelievable. We have a series of reports out of Burma of a sinister hidden crackdown by the junta against its people. It's happening now. There are many reports of beatings -- the injured being denied medical treatment, secret cremations, and monks being massacred. It is widely acknowledged that thousands of monks and protestors have simply "gone missing." And we hear that protestors are still being round-up; police and soldiers go door-to-door searching homes for suspected protestors. Privately, an editor at CNN even brought up the "G word" in relation to the situation in Burma: Genocide.

So what is the US Congress doing? They are busy debating a statement about a genocide that is believed to have taken place in Turkey almost 100 years ago. What's more, the debate is stirring up anti-American feelings in Turkey, one of America's closest allies. Obviously, the US needs all the friends it's got in the Middle East because Americans troops are dying in neighbouring Iraq.

There you have it: a real genocide -- one that the US Congress could actually do something about -- may well be happening in Burma at this moment. And what does the US Congress do? It decides to debate one that occurred 100 years ago, angering the Turks.

Congress is voting on the "Armenian genocide resolution" to score points with Armenian voters. The great weakness of US foreign policy has long been that it gets warped by elected representatives' eagerness to cater to the narrow interests of various ethnic constituencies. Sometimes this produces policies that run counter to the national interest of the United States.*

Photos: I took the photo at the top of the page in Northern Burma in 2006. The second photo, which I took in 2002, shows Turkish women in Bursa, an historic town not far from Istanbul. Visiting Turkey even prior to the Iraq war -- which is very unpopular among Turks -- I noted considerable Anti-Americanism. The Turkish people don't want any US Congress telling them about right and wrong. The US has no moral authority in their eyes. It won't make them more open to the question of genocide; in fact, it's almost certain to have to opposite effect. Turks are fed up with the US. They are also angry with racist Europeans who say corruption-ravaged (but Christian) Romania qualifies for EU membership, but not their own country. They see where the Greek part of Cyprus gets to join the EU, but not the Muslim side. Why do politicians in the West -- European and American alike-- act as if they are determined to alienate the people of Turkey? It's just plain stupid.

* The election cycle takes precedence over national interest in the minds of little politicians like House Leader Nancy Pelosi, who stands firmly behind the nonsensical -- and possibly dangerous -- Armenian declaration. At times this unfortunate aspect of the US political system has led to some questionable foreign policy decisions; most commonly cited is US policy towards Israel and Cuba. Catering to Polish voters in Chicago, in the late 90's the US drew the whole of the old Eastern Block into NATO -- an arrogant and assertive move which the awakening Russia bear has certainly not forgotten. Less egregiously, Senator Ted Kennedy, catering to his Boston constituents, was able to change US immigration law to favor the Irish.

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