Final Push to Get Congress to Adopt Armenian Genocide Resolutions
by Harut Sassounian
The two Armenian Genocide resolutions currently pending in the House and Senate should have been adopted without much controversy. Such commemorative congressional resolutions, which do not have the force of law, are routinely approved without any debate or even discussion.
Armenians can thank the Turkish government for turning these legally inconsequential resolutions into international headlines. It is ironic that Ankara has unintentionally succeeded in according these bills such notoriety. Even those in the farthest corners of the earth, who may have been unaware that genocide had been committed against Armenians by Ottoman Turks, are now well-informed of these mass killings due to Turkey's hysterical denialist efforts.
Here is a list of some of Turkey's unwitting efforts to publicize globally the Armenian Genocide and undermine Turkish interests:
- Paying millions of dollars to powerful American lobbying firms to block these Armenian Genocide resolutions. Result: All members of Congress, the Bush administration, the media and the public at large are well-informed about the Armenian Genocide;
- Dispatching waves of high-ranking Turkish officials and parliamentarians to Washington to lobby the Congress, the State Department, Jewish American organizations and the media. Result: These entities now realize how desperate Turkey is to cover up the Armenian Genocide;
- Issuing ultimatums and threats to the Bush administration and leaders of countries who have recognized the Armenian Genocide. Result: Rapidly diminishing number of people in the world is favorably inclined toward Turkey. Despite Turkish threats to disrupt economic relations, U.S-Turkish trade has increased by a whopping 957%, since Pres. Reagan signed a Proclamation in 1981 mentioning the Armenian Genocide. Turkey's trade also increased dramatically with a dozen other countries despite their recognition of the Armenian Genocide;
- Making desperate pleas seeking to defeat these resolutions. Result:
American and Israeli officials see a golden opportunity to blackmail Turkey and demand major concessions in return. Notably, Pres. Turgut Ozal back in 1991 wisely considered recognizing the Armenian Genocide in order to eliminate the genocide card from being used against Turkey.
To be sure, the Armenian-American community does not need to press for the passage of Armenian Genocide resolutions year after year. Such resolutions have already been adopted twice by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1975 and 1984. Similarly, Armenian-Americans do not need another U.S. President to say what was proclaimed by Pres. Reagan over 25 years ago. However, it may be worthwhile to hold these resolutions as a Damoclean sword over the heads of paranoid Turkish officials. Threatening to bring these resolutions to a vote forces the Turkish government:
- To waste its limited resources on lobbying against these commemorative bills;
- To place itself in the awkward and embarrassing position of constantly proclaiming that the Ottoman Turks did not commit genocide;
- To have a on-going contentious relationship with successive U.S. administrations;
- To beg for help in blocking these resolutions thus subjecting itself to indignity and all sorts of reciprocal demands and blackmail.
The current resolution in the House has 196 cosponsors. Another 22 cosponsors are needed to reach the magic number of 218 - one more than the necessary 50% of the votes in the House to guarantee passage. A major push should be made by Armenian Americans with Republican connections. Even though the genocide resolution enjoys bipartisan support, there are more than twice as many Democrats as Republican House members who have cosponsored it. Getting 218 cosponsors also strengthens the hand of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She is under tremendous pressure from the Bush administration not to schedule the resolution for a vote under the false pretext that it would damage U.S. relations with Turkey.
Once Pelosi sees that there are 218 cosponsors from both parties, she can easily maintain that the majority of the House is demanding action on this bill and she has no right to block it.
The same is true in the Senate. Currently 31 Senators have cosponsored the Armenian Genocide resolution. Twenty more Senators are needed to reach the majority of 51 Senators. Once again, Armenian Americans with Republican connections should contact Republican Senators to make sure that the bill has bipartisan support. This would also make it easier for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), a cosponsor of the bill, to push the resolution for consideration in the Senate.
Last week, the Congressional Hellenic Caucus, consisting of 127 House members of both parties, circulated a letter urging all members of Congress to support the Armenian Genocide resolution. While many in the Hellenic Caucus are also members of the Caucus on Armenian Issues, this letter would certainly boost the number of cosponsors of the resolution in the House. Once 218 House members cosponsor this bill, the Armenian American community can then shift its focus to the Senate, where a much harder push is needed to secure the required 20 additional votes.