Sunday, October 14, 2007

Democrats press on with genocide bill despite Turkish fury

Africasia, UK
Source AFP
The debate in the US below is a clear hallmark that America is changing and gaining its lost moral ground in the world. In light of recent development on the genocide front Turkeys position is untenable. Turkey will do its duty to this world by recognizing the Armenian genocide to give a clear signal that innocent people should never be held hostage within a political context. I am referring to the final solution whether it was applied to Ottoman Armenians, Jews and presently to Darfur.
Top US Democrats Sunday brushed off Turkish fury and vowed to press ahead with an Armenian "genocide" bill, insisting that bloodshed today demanded a righting of past wrongs.

But Republicans accused the party in control of Congress of waging an "irresponsible" campaign of dubious historical validity that would hurt US troops in Iraq.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said possible reprisals affecting Turkey's cooperation with the US military were "hypothetical" and would not derail the resolution.

"I said if it passed the committee that we would bring it to the floor," she said on ABC television after the House foreign affairs committee last week branded the Ottoman Empire's World War I massacre of Armenians a genocide.

"Genocide still exists, and we saw it in Rwanda; we see it now in Darfur," Pelosi said.

"Some of the things that are harmful to our troops relate to values -- Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, torture. All of those issues (are) about who we are as a country," she added.

According to Armenians, at least 1.5 million Armenians were killed from 1915 to 1917 under an Ottoman Empire campaign of deportation and murder. Turkey bitterly disputes the number of dead and the characterization of "genocide."

The bill is likely to come up in the full House in November. Although the resolution is only symbolic, Turkey recalled its ambassador to Washington last week and has called off visits to the United States by at least two of its officials.

The angry reaction has fueled fears within the US administration that it could lose access to a military base in NATO ally Turkey that provides a crucial staging ground for US supplies headed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Two top US officials, one each from the state and defense departments, are now in Turkey to try to cool the diplomatic row.

"We are certainly working to try to minimize any concrete steps the government might take (such as) restricting the movement of our troops," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Saturday in Moscow.

Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates lobbied hard against the genocide resolution, and the administration says it will keep up its effort to forestall a vote in the full House of Representatives.

US-Turkish military ties "will never be the same again" if the House confirms the committee vote, Turkey's military chief General Yasar Buyukanit told the daily Milliyet on Sunday.

House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer said that he had repeatedly raised the Armenia killings with Turkish political and military leaders during his 26 years in Congress.

"Never once in that quarter of a century has anybody on the Turkish government said this is the right time. In other words, there would never be a right time," he said on Fox News Sunday.

"If we forget what has happened... then we are at risk of letting it happen again."

House Republican leader John Boehner said there was no doubt that the Armenian people's suffering in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire was "extreme."

"But what happened 90 years ago ought to be a subject for historians to sort out, not politicians here in Washington," he said.

"And I think bringing this bill to the floor may be the most irresponsible thing I've seen this new Congress do this year," Boehner said, calling Turkey "a very important ally in our war against the terrorists."

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said there was "no question" that Armenians had been slaughtered en masse.

"But I don't think the Congress passing this resolution is a good idea at any point. But particularly not a good idea when Turkey is cooperating with us in many ways, which ensures greater safety for our soldiers," he said.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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