The Armenian Genocide Vote May Not Happen

After being beaten up by conservatives, and rightfully so, for trying to sabotage the war in Iraq, the Democrats are starting to get cold feet about pushing the Armenian genocide resolution,

Worried about antagonizing Turkish leaders, House members from both parties have begun to withdraw their support from a resolution supported by the Democratic leadership that would condemn as genocide the mass killings of Armenians nearly a century ago.

Almost a dozen lawmakers had shifted against the measure over the last 24 hours, accelerating a sudden exodus that has cast deep doubt over the measure’s prospects. Some representatives made clear that they were heeding warnings from the White House, which has called the measure dangerously provocative, and from the Turkish government, which has said House passage would prompt Turkey to reconsider its ties to the United States, including logistical support for the Iraq war.

Until today, the resolution appeared to be on a path to House passage, with strong support from the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California. It was approved last week by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. But this evening, a group of group of senior House Democrats had made it known they were planning to ask the leadership to drop plans for a vote on the measure.

…Others who took the same action said that while they deplored the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, beginning in 1915, the modern-day consequences in the Middle East could not be overlooked.

…The Turkish government has lobbied heavily against the resolution, which is nonbinding and largely symbolic. But lawmakers attributed the erosion in support mainly to fears about a potential Turkish decision to deny American access to critical military facilities in that nation and its threat to move forces into northern Iraq to attack Kurdish rebels.

…The Bush administration and top American generals have been vocal in warning that passage of the resolution could cause great harm to the American war effort in Iraq and have put significant pressure on Republicans to abandon their support for the measure. President Bush called Ms. Pelosi today and asked her to prevent a floor vote on the resolution.

“The president and the speaker exchanged candid views on the subject and the speaker explained the strong bipartisan support in the House for the resolution,” said Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Ms. Pelosi.

The Democratic leadership has been examining the exact level of that support to gauge its next step, but lawmakers and officials said it was now unclear whether the resolution could be approved, given Republican resistance and Democratic defections. “We will have to determine where everyone is,” said Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader.

Ms. Pelosi, who has promised a vote on the resolution if it cleared the Foreign Affairs Committee, said she was leaving it to its chief backers to round up votes. “I have never known a count,” she said.

Why in the world is Congress actually voting on whether something that happened more than 80 years ago merely constitutes a massacre or rises to the level of genocide anyway?

For example, has Congress voted on whether what the Holocaust constitutes genocide? Maybe they have or maybe they haven’t, I have no idea: but does it matter? Does genocide somehow not count if there isn’t a congressional resolution condemning it? If that’s the case, how far into history are we going back to condemn genocide? Are we going to have Congress examining the Crusades so they can decide which bloodbaths committed by both sides only constitute bloody massacres and which ones constitute genocide? It’s all rather silly — but, that’s nothing new for Congress.

In any case, silly or not, if Congress wants to vote on this, why can’t they simply wait until Turkey’s troops aren’t massed on the borders of Kurdistan and we’re not so reliant on the Turks as a supply hub for our troops in Iraq? When that day comes, great, then Congress can irritate Turkey to their heart’s content.

If we’ve already waited more than 80 years for Congress to weigh in on the Armenian genocide, then surely it’s not going to hurt anything to wait a few more…

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