Turks Are Troubled by Probable Next Speaker’s Pledge on Genocide Bill
Sassounian’s column of Nov. 2, 2006
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
Just when Turkish officials are grappling with the devastating blow of the French Parliament’s adoption of a bill criminalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide, it appears likely that they will be receiving a second blow shortly from the U.S. Congress.
The U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who is expected to be the next Speaker of the House, should Democrats win the majority in the House, issued an exclusive statement to this writer last week pledging to support the passage of the Armenian Genocide resolution in the next Congress.
She said : "I have supported legislation, including H.Res.316, that would properly acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. It is imperative that the United States recognize this atrocity and move to renew our commitment to eliminate genocide whenever and wherever it exists. This effort enjoys strong bipartisan support in the House, and I will continue to support these efforts in the 110th Congress."
If the Democrats control the House after the November 7 elections, Cong. Pelosi is slated to become House Speaker. As such, she would control which bills come to the floor for a vote. Based on her 20-year record of staunch support for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the House of Representatives, there is a high probability that the Armenian Genocide resolution would finally get scheduled for a vote in the House.
In contrast, the current Speaker, Dennis Hastert (R-IL), has repeatedly blocked this resolution from coming to the floor since October 2000. In July of 2004, following the adoption by the House of an amendment recognizing the Armenian Genocide, Speaker Hastert issued a blunt statement vowing to block any future consideration of the Armenian Genocide Resolution by the full House. For his denialist efforts, Speaker Hastert has received an “F” rating from the ANCA, while Cong. Pelosi has consistently received an “A.”
Two weeks before Cong. Pelosi made her pledge to the Armenian American community, the Turkish Daily News had already published an article headlined : “A Democratic victory in the US congressional elections next month will mean more ‘Armenian Genocide’ trouble for Ankara.”
The Turkish article stated : “A Democratic triumph in the House, or the Senate, will mean major problems for Turkey in its efforts to stop genocide recognition. In the outgoing House, the International Relations Committee in September 2005 approved a resolution for genocide recognition, But House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a close Bush ally, has never allowed a full floor vote. But if the Democrats win in November, it will be Nancy Pelosi, a staunch supporter of Armenian causes, who most probably will become the new speaker. In the event of a Democratic victory in the House, pro-Armenian lawmakers will definitely force a new legislation for genocide recognition shortly after the new Congress takes office in January.
“Tom Lantos, presently the ranking Democratic member on the House International Relations Committee, is most likely to lead the committee. His position is not predictable. Lantos, a Holocaust survivor, backed Turkey in 2000 but voted for the Armenian side last year, voicing deep disappointment over what he saw as anti-American Turkish policies in the Middle East. In any case, a strongly supported genocide recognition resolution would easily pass the International Relations Committee hurdles, and reach the full House controlled by the pro-Armenian Pelosi, who in turn normally would be expected to favor a quick floor vote. Analysts warn that Turkey is doomed to lose any vote on any platform, so the key would be to avoid voting. Would Bush, like Clinton did in 2000, intervene personally at the last minute again to avoid a floor vote ? Or would the Democrats who hate Bush turn it into a major domestic policy showdown ? The answers are not clear at this point. The only certain thing is that Turkey will have a major headache on Armenian-related matters in the event of a Democratic victory in Congress,” the Turkish Daily News wrote.
After Cong. Pelosi’s pledge, the Turkish Daily News published a second article on Oct. 29, headlined : “Turkey’s ‘Democratic’ woes : Ankara fears fallout from likely Democratic victory in U.S. congressional elections on genocide.” The newspaper quoted an anonymous Turkish diplomat in Washington (probably the Turkish Ambassador in Washington), as saying : “I would never think that I would be wishing a Republican win in the November 7 congressional elections, but it’s ironic to see that a Democratic victory likely will be even worse for Turkey.” The Turkish reporter then wrote that after his earlier report of two weeks ago, Cong. Pelosi made a pledge on the Armenian Genocide resolution to “a prominent U.S. Armenian publisher” (yours truly). This confirmed the Turkish reporter’s worst fears about the likely passage of the Armenian Genocide resolution in the next Congress.
Another major Turkish publication, Hurriyet, featured a lengthy analytical article on the same subject on Oct. 27, stating that the election of a Democratic majority in the House on Nov. 7, would likely create new storms in U.S.-Turkish relations due to the Armenian issue. Hurriyet also referred to the statement released by Cong. Pelosi to this writer, as evidence that things would be much different (meaning worse) in the next Congress for Turkey.
Several other Turkish newspapers and websites also referred to Cong. Pelosi’s statement with ominous predictions for Turkey. The Fresno Bee published a more skeptical analysis. Referring to Cong. Pelosi’s statement to this writer. The Bee wrote : “Armenian Americans are accustomed to hearing election-year promises. Now they have another one to mull over.” The article concluded by raising the prospect that Cong. Pelosi “may be more willing than Hastert to embarrass the White House on this issue.”
Let us hope that the Democrats would win the majority in the House on Nov. 7, thus realizing the Turks’ worst nightmare ! Nothing would be more satisfying to most Armenian Americans than seeing Hastert lose his “speakership” and become once again the lowly Congressman that he used be. He would no longer be able to play sleazy political games with the sacred memory of genocide victims.
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