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Congress and the Armenian Genocide? 05/29/2003
How Many Times Should Congress
Recognize the Armenian Genocide?

 
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
 
The House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved last week a resolution
marking the 15th anniversary of the U.S. implementation of the UN Genocide
Convention. House Resolution 193, which mentions the Jewish Holocaust as
well as the Armenian, Cambodian and Rwandan genocides, is now forwarded to
the full House for its final consideration.
Normally, this would be a routine piece of legislation that would attract no
particular attention from anyone in or out of Washington. Who would be
opposed to commemorating the Genocide Convention? The Armenian American
community, which has a strong interest in the subject of genocide in
general, did not treat this bill as a vehicle for reaffirming the Armenian
Genocide. After all, this was not an Armenian Genocide resolution and the
House of Representatives has already adopted twice, in 1975 and 1984,
resolutions specifically recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Furthermore, the
House approved in 1996 a third resolution that made a reference to the
"Armenian Genocide."
Ironically, the Turkish government was the one that turned this little known
resolution into a major issue by going all out to block its passage. By
overreacting and calling it an "Armenian Genocide resolution," they
publicized the issue of the Armenian Genocide beyond what the Armenians
could do on their own. It is noteworthy that the resolution makes no mention
whatsoever of either Turkey or the Ottoman Empire. Unwisely, the Turks came
forward and identified themselves as the perpetrators of the Armenian
Genocide.
Not realizing the depth of resentment in Washington for Turkey's lack of
cooperation on the Iraq war, the Turkish government demanded that
Washington, as in years past, block this resolution while in committee.
Turkey's Ambassador, Faruk Logoglu, sent a letter to all members of the
House Judiciary Committee denying the facts of the Armenian Genocide and
stating, "the time is for dialogue, not for one-sided pronouncements on
history." It is amazing how fast Turkish officials run for cover or support
"dialogue," the minute they sense that they are in trouble. In an attachment
to his letter, the Ambassador tried incredibly to convince the Members of
Congress that adopting this resolution would "surely affect the ongoing
dialogue between Turkey and Armenia and the process of reconciliation
between the two countries and peoples."
Amb. Logoglu, thinking that the Members of Congress have so quickly
forgotten and forgiven Turkey's recent betrayal, stated quite non-chalantly:
"The strategic partnership between Turkey and the US encompasses close
cooperation, enhanced consultation and strong solidarity on many critical
international issues, including especially stabilizing Iraq...."
He ended his letter with the empty threat that the reference to the Armenian
Genocide in this resolution would "cause severe disappointment and
indignation in Turkey. This in turn will invariably have negative
consequences for Turkey-US relations." The Ambassador does not seem to
realize that those days when such threats fooled US officials are over. Not
even the staunchest Turkophiles in Washington are any longer swayed by such
blackmail. The tiny Turkish tail no longer wags the big dog in Washington!
Amb. Logoglu attached to his letter a dozen talking points for the
convenience of those Members of Congress who would want to argue against the
adoption of this resolution. This list of arguments was most certainly
prepared by the high-powered lobbying firms hired by the Turkish government
in order to justify their multi-million dollar compensation. Unfortunately
for Turkey and its hired guns, none of the members of the Judiciary
Committee used any of these arguments during the hearing, and the resolution
was adopted una nimously.
The U.S. government itself made a rather lame effort to counter the
resolution. In a letter addressed to members of the Judiciary Committee,
Paul V. Kelly, the Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs,
said that the State Department opposed the resolution because it mentioned
the Armenian Genocide. Confirming that the true intent behind establishing
the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC) was to undermine the
recognition of the Armenian Genocide, Kelly stated: "Were this wording
[Armenian Genocide] adopted, it could complicate our efforts to bring peace
and stability to the Caucasus and hamper ongoing attempts to bring about
Turkish-Armenian reconciliation."
Now that the Turkish and US governments have turned this harmless resolution
into an opportunity to deny the Armenian Genocide, the Armenian-American
community has no choice but to go all out to support its passage. Not doing
so would allow the US and Turkish genocide deniers to succeed.
Three years ago, House Speaker Dennis Hastert promised to reintroduce the
Armenian Genocide resolution after he and Pres. Clinton blocked its assured
passage. The Speaker should be held to his promise. The least he could do
now, to make up for his past indiscretion, is to bring this resolution for a
prompt vote on the House floor!
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