Monday, October 22, 2007

Poking Friends in the Eye

What is wrong with Nancy Pelosi? Is she trying to take away from George W. Bush the title of Century’s Biggest Foreign Policy Idiot? Are Democrats so invested in American defeat in Iraq that they want to help it alone? Why are they choosing this point in time to poke Turkey in the eye?

By a 27-21 vote last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee adopted a resolution, which formally identifies the killings of the 1.5 million Armenians in the waning days of World War I as genocide. Turkish officials acknowledge the killings occurred but object to the designation "genocide." Maybe Turkey is a tad touchy on this issue. After all, Turkey did not exit at the time. Nevertheless, they find this resolution offensive. So offensive in fact, that when the Committee passed the resolution, Turkey recalled their ambassador for consultation. The Turks claim the events that occurred nearly 90 years ago was a result of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the resulting civil wars and anarchy, but was not genocide.

The reason this resolution is so ill timed is that Turkey and Kurdish Iraq are on the verge of war. At the end of World War I, when the victors divided up the Ottoman Empire, they forgot to give the Kurds a state. The Kurds were divided between Syria, Turkey and Iraq. For the last 90 years Turkey has been trying to assimilate the Turkish Kurds and make them more Turkish. Like many people without a country, the Turkish Kurds are not very happy. For the last 20 years, Turkey has been fighting a gorilla separatist movement in the south of Turkey. Since the Iraqi war, the guerilla movement has stepped up the war against Turkey. The Kurdistan People’s Party (PKK) has been committing terrorist acts in Turkey and then fleeing to Kurdistan and they have also been lobbing mortars into Turkey from Iraq. Turkey has had enough and the Turkish Parliament has passed a resolution authorizing their military to cross the border into Iraq to fight the PKK.

Kurdistan has been our one success in Iraq. It is relatively prosperous, peaceful and democratic. The mess in Iraq is threatening to spin out of control and engulf the whole region in conflict. We do not want an Al Qaeda strong hold, a client state of Iran, and genocide in Iraq. The result of failure in Iraq could be horrendous. We do not need our ally Turkey going to war with the one part of Iraq that represents success. We need stability.

We need to be a moderating influence and try to get the Kurds and Turks to avoid war. Turkey is our friend; they are part of NATO and seek membership in the European Union. Turkey is a modern, secular, democratic, state with an Islamic population. As Bush said recently, “Congress has more important work to do than antagonizing a democratic ally in the Muslim world, especially one that's providing vital support for our military every day." And, he said "... one thing Congress should not be doing is sorting out the historical record of the Ottoman Empire."

A hand full of reasonable Democrats including Tennessee’s own Representatives John Tanner and Steve Cohen urged House Democratic leadership to stop the resolution. "We believe that this resolution at this time takes away or impedes our ability to bring the most swift rapid resolution of this situation in Iraq to a conclusion that is beneficial to our country," Tanner said. In a letter from Tanner and others to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, they said, the resolutions would "threaten our operations and our troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Also, eight former U.S. secretaries of state, Democrat and Republican, also opposed the resolution: Alexander M. Haig, Jr.; Henry A. Kissinger; George P. Shultz; James A. Baker III; Lawrence S. Eagleburger; Warren Christopher; Madeleine K. Albright; and Colin L. Powell. "Passage of the resolution would harm our foreign policy objectives to promote reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia," said the letter signed by former Secretaries of State. “It would also strain our relations with Turkey, and would endanger our national security interests in the region, including the safety of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan."

It looks like saner heads will prevail and that the resolution will not come to a vote. With George Bush as President and Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House, God help us.

Above quotes from CNN (Speaker Pelosi Hedges)

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