Questioning the Armenian Genocide ResolutionOctober 15, 2007 - by Donny Shaw
Congress’s Democratic leadership is determined to hold a vote on H.Res.106, a non-binding resolution that would put the House of Representatives on the record as recognizing the massacre of Armenians that took place in the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923 as “genocide.” According to the Associated Press, Turkey’s top general has warned that ties with the United States will be irreversibly damaged if Congress passes the resolution." Indeed, after the resolution was simply passed favorably out of the House Foreign Relations Committee last week, the ties began being severed. Turkey immediately withdrew its ambassador from Washington.
With all of the potential diplomatic fallout this resolution could cause, the question everyone is asking is, why insist on passing it, and why now? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — pictured at left — offered this explanation:
>While [the Armenian massacre] may have been a long time ago, genocide is taking place now in Darfur, it did within recent memory in Rwanda, so as long as there is genocide there is need to speak out against it.
Many nations and U.S. states have recently recognized the Armenian killings as genocide, so in some sense the U.S. would be latching onto a trend. But with the stakes set high — the Turkish government is an ally in the Iraq war and a fellow member of NATO — there’s a lot of suspicion that there is more than meets they eye with the Democratic leadership’s push for this resolution.
Writing for Human Events, Jed Babbin sees it as a dangerous ploy to wind down the war in Iraq:
>Congressional Democrats anxious to force a withdrawal of American forces from Iraq are frustrated by their inability to muster a veto-proof majority for legislation that would establish a firm date for retreat. But what they cannot do directly they are now working hard to do indirectly.
>According to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Incirlik Air Base near Adana, Turkey is the transshipment point for about 70% of all air cargo (including 33% of the fuel) going to supply US forces in Iraq. Included are about 95% of the new “MRAP” — mine-resistant, ambush-protected — vehicles designed to save the lives of American troops. Turkey wasn’t always this helpful. In 2003, the Turks refused permission for the 4th Infantry Division to enter Iraq through Turkey.
>Speaker Pelosi is apparently so intent on forcing an end to American involvement in Iraq that she is willing to interfere in our tenuous friendship with Turkey. When she does, it will be an historic event: the House of Representatives will be responsible for alienating a key ally in time of war and possibly interdicting supplies to US troops.
But Gregor Peter Schmitz of Speigel Online sees the resolution more as a form of pandering to powerful lobbyists and constituents:
>Armenian-Americans are particularly active in California, New Jersey and Michigan — which happens to be the constituency of Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House. Her Californian colleague Adam Schiff, who promoted the resolution, has the issue to thank for his own political career. His predecessor in the constituency lost his seat when he failed to push through the resolution in 2000.
>Armenian groups have been bombarding their representatives over the past few years with an unusually massive PR drive. Their most important umbrella group “Armenian Assembly of America” has 10,000 members and an annual budget of over $3.5 million. It employs four different influential PR firms in Washington to keep the suffering of the Armenians on the agenda in the US capital.
Schmitz concludes by suggesting that, although so far the Turks “have offered no clear sign that they would go far beyond symbolic gestures,” there are precedents that validate Babbin’s concerns:
>The Turks have proven in the past that such threats are not empty promises: When the French parliament passed a resolution making denial of the Armenian genocide a crime punishable by law in 2006, the Turkish broke off their military relationship with France.
Speaking on Fox News Sunday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) summed up Democrats’ confidence with passing the resolution. “Turkey’s help to us is vital. More vital is the United States’ help to Turkey,” Hoyer said.