Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in an overwhelming bipartisan majority to officially recognize the Armenian genocide more than a century after the atrocities were committed. The motion was a departure from decades of U.S. government refusal because of its ‘realpolitik’ considerations of regional ally and fellow NATO member, the Republic of Turkey. The Ottoman Empire’s successor state and the Turkic state of Azerbaijan remain the sole nations in the world that explicitly deny the mass extermination and expulsion of 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians constitutes “genocide.” While the U.S. had previously acknowledged that war crimes were committed beginning in 1915, Washington refrained from using the ‘g-word’ to avoid fallout with Ankara despite the international community consensus. President Donald Trump would be the first commander-in-chief to utter the term if he follows suit, but that scenario is unlikely as the proposal came in reaction to his green-lighting a Turkish invasion of Kurdish-held Northeastern Syria with a U.S. troop withdrawal that was unpopular with lawmakers.
In 2015, WikiLeaks revealed Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton’s email exchanges on the issue with her foreign policy adviser, Jake Sullivan, during the 100th anniversary. The disclosure gave a rare look inside the suspected cynical reasoning behind Washington’s longstanding lack of formal acknowledgement. Sullivan wrote:
“Friday is the 100th Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. I presume the Armenian groups will be looking for a statement or a signal from the campaign on whether she will call it a “genocide” if she is elected president. As a Senator and candidate, she was unequivocal in recognizing the genocide. As Secretary of State, she did not use the term genocide but rather focused on future reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia. The White House has studiously avoided using “genocide” so far. There is an internal debate now about whether to change that posture given that it is the 100th anniversary. But in all likelihood they won’t change. Two questions: Do you all agree that she should embrace the position she took as Senator and candidate, even though she did not take it as SecState? Do you all agree that we should just wait until we are asked as opposed to doing something proactive? Sorry to bother with this, but as you all know this matters enormously to Armenian-Americans.”
Campaign manager John Podesta replied, “quote the Pope.” Just two years into his papacy, Francis had described the mass killing of Armenians as the “first genocide of the twentieth century” which drew Turkey’s ire, but Clinton would never recite the Argentine holy father’s words despite her team’s encouragement. Her decision speaks to the power of the Turkish and Azeri lobbies which have spent millions bribing and extorting U.S. politicians for decades to prevent recognition of the Ottoman crimes against humanity by the legislature and any such proclamation by an American head of state. What an insult to the Armenian-American community which waited generations only to see the step finally taken under such dishonest circumstances. The measure has since been blocked in the Senate by neocon warmonger Lindsey Graham of South Carolina shortly after his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but the changes that brought about the ill-fated resolution should not go unexamined.
Turkey is often said to be the ‘bridge between East and West’, as its transcontinental territory extends across both southeastern Europe and western Asia. An ally during the Cold War with NATO’s second largest army, it was the U.S. placement of Jupiter ballistic missiles in Izmir which sparked the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 after Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev retaliated by deploying intermediate-range nuclear missiles to Havana in an effort to thwart Washington from gaining the upper hand. Turkey has remained vital to geo-strategic interests as the point connecting Europe and the Middle East, but the rise of Moscow under Putin on the world stage has threatened to throw the Atlanticist alliance into disarray along with Washington’s reckless disregard for Ankara with its incorporation of the Kurds into the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) coalition in the Syrian war. The U.S.’s arrogance that it could maintain an alliance while supporting Kurdish militants regarded as terrorists by Ankara marked a turning point in their relations with the prospect of Turkey exiting NATO suddenly no longer an impossibility.
When the neo-Ottoman sultan Erdoğan signed on with the U.S.-Saudi-Israeli attempt to oust the secular Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, he did not anticipate it facilitating a potential Kurdish state on Turkey’s doorstep. The likelihood of U.S. involvement in the failed 2016 coup d’etat attempt against him and Washington’s harboring of rival Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen did not help matters, nor did Turkey’s retaliation by purchasing Moscow’s S-400 missile defense system in noncompliance with its NATO commitments. It is ironic that it took Trump’s throwing the Kurds under the bus queueing the Turkish offensive to result in the house finally acknowledging the ‘other holocaust’, as many Kurds themselves were participants in the slaughter of the Armenians a century ago. Nevertheless, the resolution is further sign of the geopolitical alignment shifting and the inevitable decline of U.S. hegemony with its plans to redraw the Middle East derailed by Moscow. No one should be fooled into believing that Congress is motivated by anything other than a desire to punish Turkey for making the U.S. look bad while rebuking Trump for deviating from the bipartisan consensus of endless war.
Coincidentally, just as the row between the traditional allies of Washington and Ankara resulted in U.S. legislators affirming the Armenian genocide, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been mired in controversy for having awarded an accused “denier” of such atrocities in the Balkans. The Austrian-born playwright and novelist Peter Handke, perhaps best known for penning the screenplay to Wim Wenders’s art house classic film Wings of Desire, was the recipient of the 2019 prize for his body of work. Despite such career achievements, Handke has been plagued by scandal for his political activism, namely opposition to the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia during the 1990s. An Orthodox Christian convert, Handke was a member of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milošević when the former Serbian president was held for war crimes in the Hague Tribunal and even spoke at his funeral after he mysteriously died while in custody in 2006.
Long before the U.S. opportunistically declared what was done by the Young Turks to the Ottoman Armenians to be genocide, they were using the label to mischaracterize the Yugoslav wars as the basis for NATO’s Orwellian-styled ‘humanitarian intervention’ against Serbia. Even though ethnic cleansing was committed on all sides in what was fundamentally a civil war, the heroes and villains were preselected based on the Serbian alliance with Moscow and the time-honored anti-Russian strategy of aligning with Islamists designed by Zbigniew Brzezinski that began with the arming of the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviets. After instigating the ‘USSR’s Vietnam’ in Afghanistan, the Atlanticists applied this same strategy to the Balkans and the North Caucasus to undermine post-Soviet Russia.
Winston Churchill famously referred to the Balkans as the “soft underbelly” of Europe during WWII when it was under Axis occupation. During the Yugoslav Wars, it once again become Europe’s ‘weak spot’ as the West supported the al-Qaeda elements in Bosnia and Kosovo against the Serbs. Mass media would never report the war crimes by the Bosnian mujahideen and Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) nor the ethnic cleansing of thousands of Serbs from Krajina in Croatia. When the Srebrenica massacre of military-age Bosniaks made international headlines in 1995, it became a PR-managed event designed to fixate world attention exclusively on one of many such killings that took place in the enclave by both sides in order to give grounds for NATO intervention without approval from the UN Security Council.
The late, great media critic Edward S. Herman, who proved to be more principled on the matter than his Manufacturing Consent co-author Noam Chomsky, summed it up in his final column before his death in 2017:
“Milošević had nothing to do with the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which Bosnian Serbs took revenge on Bosnian Muslim soldiers who had been ravaging nearby Bosnian Serb villages from their base in Srebrenica under NATO protection. The several thousand Serb civilian deaths were essentially unreported in the mainstream media, while the numbers of Srebrenica’s executed victims were correspondingly inflated.”
In the years since, the inter-ethnic war has been widely referred to in the West as the “Bosnian genocide”, with Srebrenica a microcosm to misleadingly summarize the entire conflict. Thankfully, Moscow has vetoed efforts by the UN Security Council to condemn it as such. The truth is that the dice were loaded from the very beginning, as NATO’s kangaroo court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), was initiated as a U.S. policy option to disproportionately prosecute Serbs for war crimes with a clear bias against them, as revealed in a declassified CIA document from 1993 which states:
“11. Establish a War Crimes Tribunal. Serb paramilitary leaders charged with war crimes might attempt terrorist operations in the West. The Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian Governments might harbor some high-ranking war criminals while turning over those considered expendable. They may even rid themselves of war criminals to cover up war crimes. Most West Europeans — with the exception of Greece — probably woigld support this option. Muslim states would approve a War Crimes Tribunal and publicizing Serbian atrocities. Even treatment of Bosnian transgressions, however, would be regarded as tilting in Belgrade’s favor.”
This would explain why a Bosnian war criminal like Naser Orić, who commanded the assaults on Serb villages that resulted in the retaliatory killings of Bosniaks in Srebrenica, was acquitted while Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladić received a life sentence. Meanwhile, the Bush administration made it clear that the U.S. would respond with military force if the Hague ever attempted to charge U.S. personnel with war crimes in the American Servicemembers Protection Act of 2002, also known as the ‘Hague Invasion Act’, an astonishing display of bullying of the international community even for U.S. imperialism. The ICTY would be one of two rigged judicial organs created by the UN Security Council before the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the other being the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 1994.
Although NATO did not directly intervene in the small African country’s civil war, it spun a similar one-sided account where the Tutsi heroes and Hutu villains were predetermined even as mass slaughter was committed by both factions. Rwanda had been a Belgian colonial territory following WWII where the favored Tutsi minority ruled the landlocked country under a monarchy that subjugated the ethnic Hutu majority until they revolted in 1959 and expelled more than 300,000 Tutsis to neighboring countries. Decades later, Tutsi refugees based in Uganda seeking to repatriate formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front army led by Paul Kagame and in 1990, the RPF invaded the small nation in a guerrilla campaign. The assault came following the assassination of Rwanda’s Hutu President, Juvénal Habyarimana, after his plane was shot down in a probable ‘false flag’ operation that was pinned on Hutu extremists. Despite the fact that the RPF started the armed conflict, the West transposed reality and painted the Hutus as pure villains in the violence that would follow.
No one disputes that anywhere from 800,000 to 1 million Rwandans were killed in the ensuing bloodshed. However, the figures of a “genocide” of Tutsis debunks itself, given that there were significantly less than a million of them in the country at the time with the highest estimate at 600,000. The simple fact is that the majority of the victims could only have Hutu, considering there were at least 400,000 surviving Tutsis in the country after the war was over, thus the remaining number of victims in all probability were Hutu. Since the war began with an offensive by the RPF, that the lion’s share of victims would be their opponents is only to be expected except perhaps to Western propagandists and their newspeak that Kagame was conquering the country to “stop a genocide” while committing one himself. Even though the Kagame regime would go on to commit further atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), this would not prevent the media from maintaining its portrayal of him as a hero. However, the BBC of all news organizations would produce a must-see documentary, Rwanda: The Untold Story, that challenged the official story in 2014 but not without stirring controversy.
Historically, the politicization of “genocide” began from its earliest implementations. Coined by Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin, he devised the term from the Greek word “génos” (group or race)and the Latin append “-cide” (killing), supposedly with the Armenians in mind. It was said that if the Genocide Convention of 1948 been ratified during the inter-war period following the annihilation of the Armenians, it could have prevented future atrocities against European Jews in WWII, citing a reputed quote by Adolf Hitler, “who after all, remembers the Armenians?” from a speech just prior to the invasion of Poland in 1939. Of course, for the Zionists this was at the exclusion of other, inferior groups victimized by the Germans whose sins the Palestinians are still paying for many decades later.
From the get-go, the g-word was a political football during the Cold War in order to legislate history with a pro-Western bias. In spite of having survived Nazi persecution himself, Lemkin argued in his writings that the Soviet Ukrainian famine of the 1930s qualified despite the myth of deliberate starvation having been concocted by their Ukrainian nationalist collaborators who fled to Western Europe and North America in order to escape penalty for their war crimes. Stories of the “man-made” hunger were then publicized in the pages of American sensationalist newspapers owned by media tycoon William Randolph Hearst, a Nazi sympathizer who ran columns by Hermann Göring and Adolf Hitler himself, as well as the yellow press of his UK equivalent, Lord Viscount Rothermere, an open supporter of Nazi Germany and British fascist Oswald Mosley. Nevermind that Moscow had liberated both the European Jews and Armenians in both world wars, respectively. The post-war attempt to classify the Holodomor hoax as “genocide” instead of the mass destruction of indigenous peoples across the world by European settler colonialism was the beginning of the West’s conflation of Nazi Germany with the USSR in order to separate the former from its own legacy.
Ultimately, the Genocide Convention is as politicized with a pro-Western partiality as institutions like the Nobel Foundation. While its literature award is accustomed to controversy, so too is its peace laureate which has repeatedly bestowed its honor to questionable choices, if not outright war criminals. In 1973, it infamously awarded then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for negotiating a cease-fire between the U.S. and North Vietnam, even though he was by all accounts responsible for prolonging the Vietnam War, along with a laundry list of other destructive policies in his tenure that many feel warrant prosecution for crimes against humanity. This includes the secret U.S. bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War which facilitated the CIA-backed Khmer Rouge’s rise to power. The tens of thousands of deaths from Operation Freedom Deal would not be included with those attributed to the “genocide” by Pol Pot whose regime would be used to demonize communism, despite his Western support and that Phnom Penh was liberated by Vietnam. Later in 2009, just a year into his first presidential term Barack Obama became the Peace Prize recipient not for anything he had actually done but in a vacuous gesture as “a call to action.” The first African-American to hold the office would go on to drop hundreds of thousands of bombs on seven different nations. Then again, the accolade itself is inherently paradoxical considering that among Alfred Nobel’s list of accomplishments was success in arms manufacturing.
When Slobodan Milošević was being slowly murdered in custody in the Netherlands, Peter Handke was one of the few public figures brave enough to come to the former Serbian president’s defense, but he was not alone even amongst his fellow Nobel Laureates. The late British playwright Harold Pinter, one of the most influential dramatists of the 20th century, also lent his name as a signatory to the Slobodan Milošević International Committee. During a five decade career, Pinter was a dedicated anti-war activist in his private life and used the occasion of his accepting the literary honor in 2005 while still in poor health to deliver a powerful, scathing indictment of U.S. foreign policy in his Nobel Lecture. Since his name was announced, Mr. Handke has been the subject of relentless, unjustified attacks as a “genocide denier” and should be granted the same relative level of respect Pinter was paid when he was its honoree. It is likely geopolitical factors at play making Handke the subject of a smear campaign, with the restart of the Cold War and the need to demonize all things Russia-related with whom with the Serbs share a brotherhood. Be it the case of Mr. Handke or the congressional exploitation of the Armenians, it is clear “genocide” is nothing more than a political construct earmarked for the usage of empire.
Max Parry is an independent journalist and geopolitical analyst. His work has appeared in Counterpunch, Global Research, Dissident Voice, Greanville Post, OffGuardian, American Herald Tribune and more. Max may be reached at [email protected]