Chuck Hagel, Barack Obama’s choice for Secretary of State, has come under quite a bit of fire for his past comments on Israel. It appears that in 2005, Hagel advocated giving Turkey a pass on its Armenian genocide in the early 20th Century.
“What happened in 1915 happened in 1915,” Hagel said during a 2005 trip to Armenia when he was serving in the Senate. “As one United States senator, I think the better way to deal with this is to leave it open to historians and others to decide what happened and why.”
“The fact is that this region needs to move forward,” Hagel continued. “We need to find a lasting, just peace between Turkey and Armenia and the other nations of this region. I am not sure that by going back and dealing with that in some way that causes one side or the other to be put in difficult spot, helps move the peace process forward.”
This really all boils down to one very simple and basic principle Mr. Hagel should have learned as a child – accountability.
After WWII, Germany was held quite accountable. The Nuremburg trials played a part and so did subsequent laws that made holocaust denial illegal. Accountability also helps to facilitate contrition and healing. When victims of genocide see their killers brought to justice, it helps them heal as well.
That’s why what Hagel said is so irresponsible. There has been no real accountability or contrition when it comes to the Armenian genocide. The Turks prefer to deny it and, in some cases, blame the Armenians themselves.
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) also stated that it is “troubled” by Hagel’s comments, which it claims displays a willingness to adopt Turkish propaganda aimed at whitewashing the genocide.
“We remain troubled by former Senator Hagel’s acceptance of Ankara’s gag-rule on American honesty about the Armenian Genocide—the still unpunished crime against a Christian nation that continues to define Turkey’s present-day policies toward Armenia and much of the region,” ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian said in a December statement released prior to Hagel’s nomination.
“As much as [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and his allies might like, the ‘lasting, just peace between Turkey and Armenia’ that Chuck Hagel seeks cannot be built on Genocide denial,” Hamparian said. “The U.S. and the international community must set an example by condemning the Armenian Genocide—and speaking out against all genocides, wherever and whenever they occur.”
Prominent genocide experts and human rights groups also regard Hagel’s comments as a disturbing misunderstanding of history.
“On the eve of the Holocaust, Hitler mockingly asked, ‘Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?’ Not Chuck Hagel, apparently,” Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, told the Washington Free Beacon.
Hagel’s stance on the Armenian genocide is troubling all by itself but when you look at his positions on Israel, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran, an even more troubling mosaic comes into focus.