Friday, July 18, 2008

Bush, Turkish lobby stall Genocide resolution's progress

First published in October 20, 2007 Armenian Reporter

Turkish bid to kill Genocide resolution intensifies
President Bush leads the charge against
Speaker Pelosi stands firm
Bipartisan support remains strong
by Emil Sanamyan

WASHINGTON – In the week after the House Foreign Affairs Committee on October 10 endorsed, in a bipartisan 27-21 vote, the resolution reaffirming the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish lobby’s campaign to defeat the resolution reached a fevered pitch.

With all its “pressing responsibilities, one thing Congress should not be doing is sorting out the historical record of the Ottoman Empire,” said President George W. Bush.

Calling the resolution “counterproductive,” the president, who before his election in 2000 had pledged to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide, added, “Congress has more important work to do than antagonizing a democratic ally in the Muslim world, especially one that is providing vital support for our military every day.”

Editorials and commentaries opposing the resolution appeared in several major media outlets. The unifying theme was that the resolution was untimely because Turkey was liable to react to the resolution by undermining U.S. interests in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the face of personal attacks for pressing forward with the resolution, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) said that she continues to support it. The timing of the vote “remains to be seen,” she said; it would be up to its main co-sponsors to decide when to advance the measure.

Having been endorsed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the resolution in its present form can be brought up at any time before the end of 2008.

Some senior House Democrats, however, this week joined the House Republican leadership in speaking against the resolution. They include Reps. John Murtha (Penn.), Ike Skelton (Mo.), Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), and John Dingell (Mich.) While the first three are known opponents of the measure, Mr. Dingell is in fact one of the cosponsors. About a dozen House members last week withdrew their co-sponsorship of the House resolution.

The number of signed-on supporters is now 212, down from a high of 227. Still listed among the co-sponsors is Mr. Dingell and Rep. Jane Harman (D.-Calif.), who this week lobbied the Speaker against bringing up the resolution.

But the list of co-sponsors does not include House leaders, including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D.-Md.), who have spoken in favor of the resolution. Nor does it include several members who voted it in committee last week.

Thus it is hard to say whether the resolution would have the votes of a majority
of the 435 voting members if introduced today.

Armenian-American organizations are continuing to work to build firm support for the resolution. In an October 18 e-mail to supporters, the Armenian National Committee
of America (ANCA) described this week’s developments, including negative media coverage, as “a desperate wave of ‘shock and awe’” designed by Turkey’s lobbyists “intended to intimidate our supporters and deter us – as if they ever could – from our noble cause of putting America back on the right side of this issue.

“But they won’t win. And we won’t back down,” the message stressed, inviting supporters to come to Washington for Advocacy Days next week to join a communitywide
campaign in the U.S. Congress for the resolution’s passage.

The key co-sponsors, Reps. Adam Schiff (D.-Calif.), George Radanovich (R.-Calif.), Frank Pallone (D.-N.J.), Joe Knollenberg (R.- Mich.), Brad Sherman (D.-Calif.) and Ed Royce (R.-Calif.) issued a statement on October 17 saying, “If we as a nation are to be a moral leader around the world we must have the courage to recognize genocide whenever and wherever it occurs.”

They drew parallels to the U.S. awarding the Dalai Lama this week with the Congressional Gold Medal in spite of objections from China. “As we take this principled moral stand in defiance of the Chinese government, we must similarly be willing to speak out on the Armenian Genocide,” they argued.

Asked this week why he would ignore Beijing’s objections by meeting the Dalai Lama, just as the United States seeks China’s support in dealing with Iran and North Korea, President George W. Bush explained that he “admire[s] the Dalai Lama a lot” and that he would continue to bring up religious freedom issues with the Chinese government.

“And they didn’t like it, of course, but I don’t think it’s going to damage – severely damage relations,” he said.

Meanwhile in Mass.

On October 16, two Massachusetts towns – Lexington and Westwood – voted to sever their ties with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) over its opposition to the Armenian Genocide resolution, the Boston Globe reported the next day.

ADL leaders are due to discuss their position at a national conference early next month after a controversy over the issue resulted in six Massachusetts towns withdrawing from ADL’s antibigotry program in protest.

First published in October 27, 2007 Armenian Reporter

Sponsors suggest delay in Genocide resolution vote
Measure to come up again “later this year or in 2008”

WASHINGTON – The Democrats among the main co-sponsors of the congressional resolution affirming the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi to postpone its consideration until “sometime later this year or in 2008.”

Reps. Adam Schiff (Calif.), Frank Pallone (N.J.), Brad Sherman (Calif.) and Anna Eshoo (Calif.) wrote: “We believe that a large majority of our colleagues want to support a resolution recognizing the genocide on the House floor and that they will do so, provided the timing is more favorable.”

The Bush administration and Turkey lobbyists jointly succeeded in reducing the number of the resolution’s formal co-sponsors to less than the majority of 435 members of the House of Representatives.

They cited Turkey’s importance to U.S. policies around the Middle East and U.S. forces in Iraq, and threats to undercut both.

In a letter to all House members, Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), thanked congressional leaders and resolution co-sponsors for their efforts, and expressed confidence that, “as the confusion over these threats [from Turkey] lifts, an even stronger bipartisan majority will stand up against Turkey’s intimidation and vote to adopt this human rights resolution on its merits.”

Mr. Hamparian added that the debate over the resolution revealed that Turkey is “an increasingly unreliable ally” and that “the real danger is compromising American moral leadership” around the world.

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