BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
The U.S. House of representatives passed “House Resolution 296” recognizing the Armenian Genocide. This has been all the rage in Armenian circles with everyone congratulating everyone, especially the ANCA, for the success.
It has been 35 years since this last happened under very different circumstances, so the cynic in me is not too excited. But the political animal in me is jazzed.
During those 35 years, Turkey has done much in U.S. political circles to cast doubt on the veracity of the Armenian Genocide or, at least, to bury passage of any resolutions/legislation that are inimical to its interests on this matter. Inaction by Congress, repeatedly, has also muddied the waters and caused the judiciary of the country to make decisions based on the absence of proper, unadultered, unequivocal recognition by the political branches of government (legislature and executive).
The text of the resolution is excellent in that it wraps-in previous instances of U.S. recognition to state the kind of unambiguous, permanent (not episodic or commemorative e.g. “recognizes/declares April 24, 20?? a day of remembrance of…” etc.) recognition needed to go forward.
Nevertheless, in some sense we’re still I a “back to the future” state of affairs since the last resolution to pass was in 1984, giving negativists among us ammunition to whine about the alleged “unimportance” of this type of legislative activity. Plus, what we need is comprehensive recognition by the legislature, so passage of the same resolution (named S. Res. 150) by the U.S. Senate is the next important step.
Here, our compatriots and friends in Kentucky and Idaho have an important roll to play over the coming days and weeks. Kentucky is the home of Mitch McConnell, the current leader of the Senate who has the power, usually unchallenged, to schedule votes on matters pending before that body. But before that, Sen. James Risch, as chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, has analogous power in that committee, which must hear, discuss, and pass S. Res. 150 before it is addressed by the full Senate. That’s where residents of these two states come in. elected officials pay the most attention to their own constituents. No amount of lobbying in D.C. or petitioning country-wide can compare to letters and requests received by these two senators from people in their states.
Equivalent, definitive, recognition by the Executive branch would be the step that follow, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.
As often happens, Turks and Turkey have helped us in achieving this success. The invasion of Syria and its bloody results, particularly regarding the Kurds, have angered most members of Congress, creating the current environment which enabled the overwhelming passage (405 votes out of a possible 435) of the House resolution. The Senate is a bit more challenging, but now is the time to strike. I suspect that Turkey’s being a source of opium/heroin in the 1970s may have contributed to the House’s passage of an Armenian Genocide resolution in 1975. Let’s use the moment to our advantage to pass the current Senate resolution which has the same, unambiguous and permanent text as the one just passed by the House.
And, in another example of Turks helping, Simon Maghakyan, perhaps best known for his work on Baku’s destruction of Armenian monuments in Nakhichevan, posted this in Facebook: “Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson’s chief of staff Murat Gokcigdem told me her boss will vote NO on HRes 296 since he is a Turk. I told him to follow in the footsteps of the kind Turkish woman who saved my great-grandmother during the Armenian Genocide. He called her a traitor.” All I can say is “WOW!” Even as a citizen of the U.S. more than a century after the fact, a Turk is proud of committing the Genocide against Armenians. Johnson should fire this guy immediately, whether or not she changes her mind regarding the resolution. He’s making her look VERY bad.
And, since Baku has entered the discussion, it’s interesting to note that Asbarez reported, just one day after passage of the House resolution, that the frequency of Azerbaijan’s shooting across the front into the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh had increased. I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t Aliyev’s way of trying to assuage Erdoğan’s rage over passage of the resolution. You know, he’s saying “Here, Recep, I killed a few Armenians for you.” Erdogan, reliable as always to further exacerbate situations with his arrogance, stated, “We do not recognize this step, this decision you have taken… [you] have no right to give lessons to Turkey.”
Another interesting aspect of this whole situation is an article in “The Nation” titled “This Is Not How You Show Solidarity” addressing Rep. Ilhan Omar’s voting “present” instead of “yes” on the resolution. I will not address the merits of her vote, itself. Rather, what’s more important to observe is the way in which her vote created discussion that further wove the Genocide into the fabric of American society and consciousness. The same goes even for those who voted against, or commented about the resolution in any way or in any setting. This kind of atmosphere is, in some ways, even more important than passage of the resolution itself. It makes the Genocide part of everyone’s every-day reality, severely blunting, if not obliterating, Turkey’s denial campaign.
Let’s savor the moment then get back to work recruiting the support of the 78 remaining senators who have not yet cosponsored S. Res. 150. What a great Christmas present passage of that resolution would be!