October 18, 2007

Second thoughts

As I grow older, I find that time -- or lack thereof -- is ignorance's main accomplice.

What I knew of the Armenian genocide was limited to a few newspaper and magazine articles, a documentary that I caught the last 20 or 30 minutes of, the excellent Atom Egoyan film Ararat, and not much else.

Today I bought a copy of A Shameful Act, by Turkish historian and humanist Taner Akcam. I have read a mere 15 pages, but already I regret yesterday's post. Akcam--a Turk--bases his views on documents from the archives of the Ottoman empire, and argues that there was an intentional effort to eliminate, not Christians, not minorities, not partisans and troublemakers and sabateurs and fifth columnits, but Armenians. Cohen's argument seems particularly flimsy to me today -- Akcam writes,

This book...is a call to the people of Turkey to consider the suffering inflicted in their name on those "others." The reason for this call is not only the scale of the Armenian genocide, which was in no way comparable to the individual acts of revenge carried out against Muslims. It is also because all large scale atrocities teach us one core principle: To prevent the recurrence of such events, people must first consider their own responsibility, discuss it, debate it and recognize it. In the absence of such honest consideration, there remains the high probability of such acts being repeated...(emphasis added)

If we accept Cohen's argument, mustn't we also presume that Kristalnacht was also justified, since, after all, a German Jew had murdered a petty Nazi official in Paris? Do a few individual acts of revenge, a few partisan operations, justify the systematic, organized elimination of more than a million people?

Posted by Ideofact at October 18, 2007 01:01 AM