International Herald Tribune (Neuilly-sur-Seine, France)

June 5, 1998, Friday

Letter to the Editor: Other Genocides

Opinion; Pg. 9

Regarding ''French Vote on 1915 'Genocide' Infuriates Turkey'' (May 30):

While I applaud the French National Assembly's motion recognizing the Armenian genocide of 1915, the French government should pass similar resolutions recognizing other well-documented genocides.

In addition to those massacres to which the term ''genocide'' is now commonly applied - for example, those in Rwanda, Bosnia and East Timor, for which Western governments bear some responsibility, and of course the Nazi Holocaust - the attacks on Native Americans also qualify as acts intended ''to destroy, in whole or part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group'' (from the definition of genocide in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide).

It would be foolish to attempt an exhaustive list of genocidal acts, but I would also include the enslavement and decimation of Africans and the mass killings in Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Vietnam. (U.S. historians rarely use ''genocide'' to refer to things Americans have done, which reinforces the idea that great acts of evil are done only by others.)

The French Parliament's willingness to recognize other genocides will show whether its motion on the Armenian genocide is more than just a political act.

Denial of genocide continues in Turkey and elsewhere, which is deplorable. But many Turks who understand the historical reality of 1915 are nonetheless insulted by the term ''Armenian genocide.''

I think this is partly a reaction to the mistaken and prejudiced idea that Turks somehow ''invented'' genocide. Perhaps the Turkish people would feel less offended and singled out by the term ''genocide'' if other crimes against humanity were known, as Bill Clinton said recently in Rwanda, ''by their rightful name.''

TODD DAVIES. Istanbul.