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Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

What a man of principle you are Mr. von Hoffman.

W. Elliott

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Oct 12 2007 - 12:40am

Web Letter

Mr. von Hoffman, I am very confused about your web posting. It seems you are against the war in Iraq and the killing of innocent Iraqi civilians, yet you're equally angry with the House Foreign Relations Committee for recognizing what has tried to be recognized several times in every decade since 1915: that in fact the Ottoman Empire in its waning days systematically and deliberately committed genocide against its own citizens. What do the two issues have to do with each other? Why are you so bitter and contemptuous? How can you be against the recognition of basic historical facts and attempt to artificially tie them with other parts of your agenda? Justice for one group should not take away justice from another. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Darren Kane

Los Angeles, CA

Oct 11 2007 - 10:07pm

Web Letter

The glib tone of Mr. von Hoffman is deeply offensive and shows a gross lack of respect to those who have suffered from the Armenian genocide. Mr. Von Hoffman hits rock bottom with his comment about being “better sexually adjusted.” This shows either a stunning lack of sensitivity or an incredible degree of ignorance to what happened to Armenian women. Countless women young and old were raped and sexually abused at the hands of the Turks. There is nothing funny at all about that Mr. von Hoffman.

John Yacobian

Brooklyn, NY

Oct 11 2007 - 9:45pm

Web Letter

I don't understand Nicholas von Hoffman's hostility toward the House Foreign Affairs Committee resolution. Didn't someone once say, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere"? Does von Hoffman disagree with this statement, or does he believe it is subject to a statute of limitations? Does he next propose to pooh-pooh the furor over Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's characterization of the Holocaust as "under scholarly debate"? C'mon, Jews, it's in the past, get over it.

Armenians worldwide (not just in California) have been waiting decades for the well-documented genocide under the Ottoman Empire to attain the global recognition rightly given to other crimes against humanity, such as the Holocaust and apartheid. France and twenty other countries have done so. If the United States joined them, it would advance this legitimacy enormously. Yet von Hoffman questions the "value" of acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. Let's see, was there a "value" to characterizing the ethnic cleansing in Rwanda as genocide?

When planning the Holocaust, Hitler famously asked, "Who remembers the Armenians?" By remembering the Armenians, we stand against everything this question represents. Every crime against humanity that attains the weight of historical record provides precedent and ammunition against such crimes happening in the future. When we condemn historical wrongs, we also articulate intolerance for similar wrongs, present and future. Von Hoffman, in contrast, seems to believe that to decry an historical crime somehow means there is "less justice" for other atrocities such as the horrors currently enacted in Iraq, as if justice were a limited commodity, not a principle for the ages.

He also believes that since the genocide occurred "almost a century ago," it affects no one today. I would argue that Turkey's treatment of those who attempt to break the silence about the genocide (for example, the prosecution of writers for "insulting Turkishness," including Turkish novelists Orhun Pamuk and Elif Shafak, and Hrant Dink, the Armenian journalist who was murdered by a Turkish nationalist) demonstrates that the genocide remains very much relevant, particularly as Turkey attempts to join the European Union. Germany, another Union member, has acknowledged and repented for its crimes. Should we expect less from Turkey?

My grandmother is 93 years old and a survivor of the Armenian Genocide. Her father and brother were slaughtered by Turkish troops, and other members of her family died in the march across the desert. She has hoped for this moment her entire life while other survivors, family and friends, have passed away. It offends me to the core that von Hoffman would belittle her long wait for justice.

Anoosh Jorjorian

Los Angeles, CA

Oct 11 2007 - 9:01pm

Web Letter

I will turn 60 years old next month and I can't remember a House Speaker allowing something this stupid. Madam Pelosi makes George Bush and Jimmy Carter look like overachievers in forign policy.

"Why is this not as good a time as any?" she asks with a vacant stare. Well, Madam Speaker, if you can't figure that one, please allow Paris Hilton to replace you.

Frankly, if all the House members who voted for this put their heads together, they still wouldn't be able to come up with a three-digit IQ.

Robert Stephens

Flagstaff, AZ

Oct 11 2007 - 8:40pm

Web Letter

As an American of Armenian descent, I am pleased and proud of our Congress (or at least the Foreign Relations Committee) for passing HR106--the Armenian Genocide Resolution.

There should be no doubt that this resolution was in the best interest of the nation. George Bush and his Cabinet have proven themselves complete incompetents in executing the War in Iraq, and their handling of Turkey has been part of that.

When it was important, i.e., when we were preparing to invade Iraq, Turkey would not let us use the air base that everybody is concerned about now (actually, reports say they would have let us use it for $30 billion). And we call Turkey our ally? What kind of alliance is that? The appropriate response for the US government would have been to permanently withhold foreign aid from Turkey and pass the Armenian Genocide Resolution at that time. But neither the President nor the Congress at the time had the spine to deal with the Turkish extortionists.

The Turks can threaten all they want, but Iraq is relatively secure now and there are plenty of airbases there for our military to use. If the Turks are truly as upset as they claim, let them return the billions in foreign aid that we have been giving them. The simple fact is that the Turks need the US more than we need them. They should tread carefully.

Greg Dirasian

Astoria, NY

Oct 11 2007 - 6:48pm

Web Letter

I am amused when I read this article. So the "simple" "unimportant" fact that the genocide of the Armenians occurred 100 years ago makes it OK not to acknowledge. I am curious to know what is the relevant timeline in cases like these. Is it one week, one year, ten years?

All the events that you mentioned in previous times that you so "funnily" wrote about are facts that are well acknowledged in history. People have direct access to these facts without propaganda. In the Armenian genocide case, Turkish propaganda has blurred the lines as to make some people like the author of this article satirically deny the importance of such a tragedy.

You have to accept the facts that history presents before you learn from them.

Comparing Iraq to the genocide is not a logical comparison either. These can go in parallel and are not mutually exclusive.

I am sorry that this article was even published.

Patrick Sislian

Los Angeles, CA

Oct 11 2007 - 6:10pm

Web Letter

It seems pretty clear that Nicholas von Hoffman has never been to the Armenian Genocide Museum in Yerevan and otherwise knows little or nothing about the mass killing and ethnic displacement of Armenians in the early part of the twentieth century. Nor is he aware of the recent public statements calling for recognition of the genocide.

Particulary galling is the suggestion that these events are not relevant because they happened a hundred years ago. Understanding history informs us about the future.

Richard Fitzgerald

Napa, CA

Oct 11 2007 - 6:07pm

Web Letter

"Thank God! We have been waiting almost 100 years for the House Foreign Affairs Committee to do it and at long last they did!"

Your snarky attempt at humor over the issue of a million deaths only shows your ignorance on the issue, as an Armenian Genocide resolution has passed in committee three times just this decade, most recently in 2005. For those who say "it's not a good time, why is this coming up now?"--well, it's not "just coming up now." It's come up again and again, and the same "it's not a good time" excuse has been used every time to put it off. Whether in 1989-90 (when extremely pro-Turkish Robert Byrd fillibustered the bill), 2000 (when President Clinton intervened because Turkey said the security of American lives there could not be assured if it passed) or in 2005 when (according to Sibol Edmonds the Turkish-bribed) Speaker of the House Hastert allowed it to die despite having promised to bring it to a vote, there have been numerous occasions, and this excuse foiled them every time. Is it our fault that Turkey has a radioactive aversion to dealing with its own past injustices?

And any true student of history would know that, unlike Romans from the Battle of Cannae, survivors of 1915 along with their children and grandchildren were all assembled in that room. People who suffered are still waiting for justice, this is very much a live issue. On top of that the effects of 1915 are still felt in the Middle East in numerous ways. To throw it in as equally irrelevant to an over-2,000-year-old battle or the campaign of Napoleon is nothing more than an incredibly insensitive and inaccurate poor attempt for humor.

Paul Sookiasian

Radnor, PA

Oct 11 2007 - 5:07pm