Does Truth Conquer All?
Matt Welch concludes an interesting rundown of the tangled congressional debate over the Armenian genocide on a somewhat upbeat note:
Hitler reportedly said, just before invading Poland, "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" It's a chilling reminder that forgetting is the first step in enabling future genocides. Yet Hitler was eventually proved wrong. No temporal power is strong enough to erase the eternal resonance of truth.
I don't think that's right. I think what Hitler's trying to say here is that history will forgive Germany brutal measures -- no matter how brutal -- as long as Germany wins. That historical memory is determined by political power rather than by the objective merits of historical claims. And if you read Welch's account, it's hard to see it as anything other than a vindication of Hitler's thesis. The US government's official position, for perfectly understandable realpolitik reasons, is to avoid talk of an Armenian genocide. The only reason this position hasn't managed to carry the day is the determined lobbying of a politically effective Armenian expatriate community. And, now, the Armenian cause has been boosted by people looking for a kitchen sink's worth of arguments for keeping Turkey out of the EU. People, in short, do speak today of the annihilation of the Armenians, but not because of "the eternal resonance of truth," they do it because the temporal power of Turkey is counterbalanced by the temporal power of Turkey's foes.