Congress Iffy on Genocide Vote

Just two weeks ago, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee voted out a resolution declaring the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians from 1915-1917 in the Turkish Ottoman Empire to be a “genocide.” The resolution has been long sought by the Armenian-American community to officially express horror at one of the early 20th century’s most notorious examples of the mass murder of an entire population. The Armenian massacre, which has been fully and amply documented, provided a horrific precedent for later humanitarian calamities, including the Holocuast and the infamous “ethnic cleansing” in the former Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Kosovo, among others.

While the non-binding resolution seemed assured of passage with the support of leaders of both major parties, sudden and increased pressure on Congress by representatives of the current Turkish government have caused several of the initial supporters of the resolution to withdraw their support.


Because of current geo-political realities in the Middle East, Turkey is in a strong position to use its leverage against the resolution, which it regards as interference in Turkey’s internal affairs, event though the Armenian massacre took place nearly a century ago under the Ottoman Sultans who preceeded modern Turkey. Turkey shares a long border with Iraq, and the Turkish military has threatened to intervene directly to attack members of the Kurdish community in northern Iraq. Turkey, like Iraq, has a large Kurdish community, and its regime fears that an independent Kurdish state in Iraq could inspire the Kurds in Turkey to attempt to secede and join the new state.

Because of the above realities, it is perhaps politically unwise to press for adoption of the Armenian genocide resolution at this time, but from a moral point of view the resolution fully deserves to be passed. Suppose 50 years or more from now a German government attempts to pressure the U.S. Congress not to pass a resolution referring to the Shoah as a “genocide,” event though the term genocide was coined by a Polish Jewish attorney who himself survived the Holocaust?

It is also sad to note that while the arguments over definitions drag on for decades or even close to a century, the mass killings in Darfur in Sudan go on unabated. When will they ever learn?