July 20, 2007
Advocacy groups have asked Americans to tell their congressmen plenty of things. "I’m opposed to recognizing the Armenian Genocide" may be one of the strangest.
In a video posted on the Capitol Broadcasting Service Earlier this week, Former Rep. Bob Livingston (R, Louisiana) makes an 8-minute plea for Americans to urge their legislators not to make a colossal mistake: endorsing the bill that would officially acknowledge that Armenians were slaughtered by the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
The issue has been controversial in Washington for years. While the "supposed-genocide" is routinely denied by Turkish government officials – whom Livingston has represented for more than seven years – most credible historians have gone out on a limb and described the genocide as fact. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:
"In what would later be known as the first genocide of the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of Armenians were driven from their homes, massacred, or marched until they died."
Not all of Livingston's address is devoted to casting doubt on the genocide’s occurrence -- he also argues that the symbolic resolution could have tangible consequences. Given that Turkey is an ally in a very unsteady part of the world -- and that the nation currently has troops massed on the border of Iraqi Kurdistan -- Livingston's case against unnecessarily angering them highlights valid strategic concerns.
But some of the statements the former congressman makes veer into ideological territory.
"Nobody really knows, in this day and age, unless you're a historian, what really happened 90 to a hundred years ago," Livingston, whose family roots in America date back to the 17th century, declares.
And while he attributes the argument to “The Turks and many historians,” Livingston comes awfully close to suggesting that any possible killing of Armenians would have been committed in self defense: "It was simply a lot of Turkish people getting fed up with their people getting killed and massacred," he states.There’s also a linguistic case to be made against the genocide, Livingston observes: It couldn’t have happened, he said, because the word “genocide” didn’t exist yet. The term, he correctly notes, "was coined in 1947, long after the instance of 1915 and so forth."
A rose by any other name, indeed.The video has already prompted a response by The Armenian National Committee of America, which can be seen here.