During World War I, the Turks of the Ottoman Empire launched a genocidal campaign against the Empire’s Armenian population. The facts aren’t in dispute, except by crazed deniers and the Turkish government. It was a terrible event, and it’s to the Turks’ shame that they won’t admit what happened.
That said, it happened nearly a century ago. These days, Turkey is an ally in the Long War, and bases we have there provide important logistical support to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Relations with Turkey have been strained in recent years because of their refusal to grant us passage during the initial invasion of Iraq and their claims that Kurdish rebel groups find safe haven in Iraqi Kurdistan, and both sides have worked hard to keep this relationship on an even keel.
So why is Nancy Pelosi trying her best to screw it all up?
A proposed House resolution that would label as "genocide" the deaths of Armenians more than 90 years ago during the Ottoman Empire has won the support of a majority of House members, unleashing a lobbying blitz by the Bush administration and other opponents who say it would greatly harm relations with Turkey, a key ally in the Iraq war.
All eight living former secretaries of state have signed a joint letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warning that the nonbinding resolution "would endanger our national security interests." Three former defense secretaries, in their own letter, said Turkey probably would cut off U.S. access to a critical air base. The government of Turkey is spending more than $300,000 a month on communications specialists and high-powered lobbyists, including former congressman Bob Livingston, to defeat the initiative.
The bill’s sponsor, Democrat Adam Schiff, is one of my local Congress critters, representing the 29th district, which includes one of the largest Armenian-American populations in the United States. The article also mentions the large ethnic Armenian community in La Nancita’s 8th district. So it’s obvious that both are engaged in a bit of constituent service to please the voters back home. There’s nothing wrong with that: Schiff has been sponsoring this bill for years, but Speakers have wisely blocked bringing to the floor because they know passage will make the Turks furious: they cut contacts with the French military and canceled defense contracts after France passed a law criminalizing denial of the Armenian Genocide.
So why did Speaker Pelosi choose now to bring this bill forward? It can’t be to put the Administration in a bind with the voters in an election year: the districts represented by her and Schiff are solidly Democratic and aren’t in danger of turning Red. And she can’t be so petty as to deliberately try to wreck US-Turkey relations in order to harm the US effort in Iraq. (I hope.)
No, I think Nancy is doing this because she’s stupid and ignorant about foreign affairs. After all, this is the same woman who tried to conduct her own diplomacy by visiting Syrian President
Boy Bashar Assad, thus lending the prestige of her office to a dictator who is helping Iraqi insurgents kill US troops. She bungled her attempt at shuttle diplomacy between Damascus and Jerusalem so badly that the Israelis had to publicly correct her.
Under her and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s pathetic leadership, the Democrats have so far failed to enact much if any of the agenda they ran on in 2006. Her decision to bring Representative Schiff’s bill before the House is nothing more than a cynical attempt to show an "accomplishment."
If this bill passes, she’ll have accomplished something all right. She’ll have succeeded in causing long-term damage to US-Turkey relations, and probably harmed our war effort in the process.
That’s quite an accomplishment, Madam Speaker.
LINKS: At Captain’s Quarters, Ed wishes Congress would attend to the nation’s business, rather than playing arbiter of history. Gaius at Blue Crab Boulevard was ahead of us all, noting this a few days ago. Gates of Vienna thoroughly disagrees with me.