The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs recently issued an astonishingly bumptious statement opposing the congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide, beginning with these words: "Like swallows returning to Capistrano, Congress's annual determination to debate the history of the Ottoman Empire is a sign of spring." It is not difficult to imagine JINSA's reaction if some organization were to discuss a historic genocide of interest to JINSA with those same words: "Like swallows returning to Capistrano ..."
Nevertheless, as a half-Armenian American with paternal family members who perished in the Genocide, permit me to make a few observations. I, too, agree that Congress should probably refrain from issuing declarations on historic events that do not involve the United States, and it is certainly true that any discussion of the Armenian Genocide agitates the Turkish government. In my view Armenia, as a nascent, free-market democracy with the world's oldest national tradition of Christianity, surrounded by hostile Muslim powers, has more pressing problems than congressional affirmation of events that history has already judged in its favor.
Having said that, however, it must be acknowledged that the persistent Turkish attitude of denial, denigration, and outright misrepresentation about the systematic Ottoman massacre of Christian Armenians between the 1890s and the end of World War I--common to all Turkish governments, Kemalist and Islamist alike--has had the inevitable effect of infuriating Armenians and hardening their determination to force Turkey to come to terms with its historic past. The fact that governments which should know better--notably our own, and Israel's--have been willing to accede to Turkish threats and intimidation has only deepened the resolve of Armenians to force the issue.
Why the Turks persist in this self-defeating denial, and continue to criminalize discussion of the Ottoman genocide within its borders, is a subject for another day. It is especially mysterious given that the Armenians readily acknowledge that the perpetrators of the Genocide were a Turkish government long vanished from history. In an ideal world, this congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide would have been ratified during the Reagan administration, when it was first proposed but was scuttled under pressure from the Defense and State departments. The Turks would have had their fit, six months would have passed, and Turkey and the Armenians would have moved forward during the past quarter-century.
Instead, in JINSA's charming formulation, the swallows are returning to Capistrano once again.