Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Will a democratic-controlled congress finally recognize the Armenian Genocide?

Major Armenian organizations certainly expect that and more, from Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). The Armenian Assembly issued this press release back on Nov 8:

... House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill) will pass the Speaker’s gavel to Pelosi, making her the first Armenian Caucus Member to hold that position. Pelosi has a strong record of support on Armenian-American issues and has regularly called on the Administration to properly acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. She is currently a co-sponsor of H. Res. 316 – a bill that affirms the attempted annihilation of the Armenian people as genocide.

Last year, Pelosi participated in a Capitol Hill observance of the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and in April 2001, spoke on the floor of the House saying that “the Armenian Genocide is a historical fact. The Republic of Turkey has adamantly refused to acknowledge that the Genocide happened on its soil, but the evidence is irrefutable.
We must learn from the past and never forget the victims of the Armenian Genocide.” Additionally, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) will run for Majority Leader, and if elected, will be another Caucus first. Like Pelosi, Hoyer has co-sponsored legislation reaffirming the Genocide and has given commemoration addresses to Congress during the month of April. During the Assembly’s pan-Armenian Advocacy Conference in March of this year, Hoyer pledged to continue fighting for U.S. reaffirmation of the Genocide and said that he has asked Turkish leaders why they cannot acknowledge the crimes.

Friday saw this press release from The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), which summarizes their frustration with how congressional recognition of the Armenian Genocide had been handled by the GOP:
Speaker Hastert (R-IL), despite his pledge in August of 2000 to schedule a vote on the Armenian Genocide Resolution, pulled the measure from the House floor in October of that year, only moments before it was set to be adopted by a broad, bipartisan majority.
He has, in every year since, actively blocked legislation properly commemorating this crime against humanity.
In July of 2004, following Congressman Adam Schiff's (D-CA) successful effort to secure the adoption by the U.S. House of an amendment recognizing the Armenian Genocide, Speaker Hastert joined with other members of the House leadership in vowing to block the final adoption of the measure.
In remarks posted at the top of the Speaker's website on the day after the amendment's adoption, the Speaker stated that, "Turkey has been a reliable ally of the United States for decades, and the deep foundation upon which our mutual economic and security relationship rests should not be disrupted by this amendment." He and his leadership colleagues also vowed to block any future consideration of the Armenian Genocide Resolution by the full House of Representatives.

Curiously, the Democrats have not always been on Armenia's side on this issue:
On the eve of the 2000 presidential and congressional elections, the passage of another genocide resolution in a House floor vote was prevented at the last minute. Hours before the planned vote, then President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, intervened personally and successfully urged the Republican House leadership to stop the resolution on grounds of national security.

Oh well, the shifting sands of time change all things.
Meanwhile, Turkish groups brace themselves for what they feel is the inevitable adjustment in US policy regarding just how bloodthirsty the turks were during World War I; was it a state-sponsored attempt to exterminate an envied minority, or just typical Ottoman wartime brutality? From the turkish daily news:
"The [Bush] administration will oppose an Armenian genocide resolution as strongly now as it ever has in the past," Matt Bryza, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told a small group of reporters here.

"What I'm saying is there's a change in political reality, so it's impossible for us to predict how this new mechanism will work," Bryza said. "We don't have the same mechanism we used to have in place."
U.S. Armenians blast Bush and his Republican administration for Washington's official policy to reject genocide recognition. As a result the U.S. Armenian community mostly backed Democratic candidates in the 2004 and 2006 elections, although there are many Republicans in the Armenian caucus in Congress.

I feel pretty strongly about this issue, and feel it's high time that Turkey admit to its horrific past. The proposed H.RES.316 isn't in any way similar to what the French parliament did a few weeks ago, making it a crime to deny the historical fact of an Armenian Genocide. It's more in line with what Canada did earlier in April, 2006, when the House of Commons adopted a resolution similar to what is expected soon from the Democrats:
"That this House acknowledge the Armenian genocide of 1915 and condemn this act as a crime against humanity."

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