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NANCY PELOSI'S DILEMMA
The endgame may be near as far as the Armenian genocide resolution affair in the United States Congress is concerned. Press reports suggest that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will find Resolution 106 on her desk next week.
>! e Speaker Nancy Pelosi will find Resolution 106 on her desk next week.
Most analysts believe that Pelosi, an avid supporter of the Armenian cause, will have no qualms in sending the resolution to the floor to be voted on. With a majority of representatives in favor of the resolution, many assume that it will pass this time.
This will, of course, happen against the backdrop of a petition by no less than eight former U.S. Secretaries of State, all of who are still household names, to Pelosi to do the wise thing and consider U.S. interests first.
The current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has also petitioned the House Speaker along the same lines.
The bottom line for former Secretaries of State Madeleine K. Albright, James A. Baker III, Warren Christopher, Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Alexander M. Haig, Jr, Henry A. Kissinger, Colin L. Powell and George P. Shultz is that a passage of this resolution could quickly extend beyond symbolic significance.
“The result could endanger our national security interests in the region, including our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and damage efforts to promote reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey” they said in their letter, going on to “strongly urge [Pelosi] to prevent the resolution from reaching the House floor.”
The signatories to the petition are, of course, putting their country's interests first, and not Turkey's, contrary to what the Armenian side is trying to suggest. It is at any rate ridiculous to even think that Turkey can “buy off” such eminent people, as some Armenian commentators are indicating.
The Wall Street Journal – which is not in a position to be “bought-off” by Turkey either – has also lent its voice here with a strong commentary on the subject (“Political History” - Oct 2):
“As a general rule, legislatures in far-off countries ought to think carefully before passing judgment on another people's history. When their sights turn in that direction, it's a fair bet that points are to be scored with powerful domestic lobbies.”
The WSJ continued thus:
“The sponsor (of non-binding Resolution 106 - S.I.) is Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California's 29th District, which has a lot of Armenian-American voters. His consistent championship of the genocide cause helped him first get elected in 2000 and later made his ‘name in foreign affairs,' as the Los Angeles Times put it in 2005.
“This congressional freelancing puts a strain on America's relationship with an important Muslim ally in a tough neighborhood. If the Resolution passes, the backlash in Turkey will likely be more than symbolic.”
The former Secretaries of State and the WSJ are right. If the resolution passes, the backlash in Turkey will most likely be “more than symbolic.” And it will be so for the same reason that is motivating Adam Schiff, judging by what the WSJ says.
In other words, no politician in Turkey that values his or her career will be able to say or do anything that appears even remotely to favor U.S. interests after such a resolution. Anyone doing so will become an instant political pariah.
Neither will any Turkish government be able to even consider lending an ear to influential Turkish liberals who sincerely believe that relations with Armenia should be normalized, including the opening of the border between the two countries and the exchange of diplomats.
If Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian believes Ankara is amenable to being browbeaten with such resolutions into normalizing relations with his country, then he has not understood much about Turkey.
If Resolution 106 passes, no government in Turkey can do this because it will appear to represent a “caving into American and Armenian pressure,” which will bring with it a stigma that no politician in this country can afford to carry.
No doubt Pelosi feels the burden of all this. No doubt either that her husband Paul Pelosi, who was in Istanbul last week, also conveyed the strong feelings among Turks concerning this issue when he got back to Washington (even though he is reported as telling his Turkish interlocutors that “they never discuss politics at home”).
The reason why the Armenian lobby is working overtime is, of course, apparent. If this resolution cannot be passed now, when the Congress is pro-Armenian and anti-Turkish as it has never been before, then it will never pass.
This is also Nancy Pelosi's dilemma. Should she serve her country's interests, or the interests of an ethnic group that she has committed herself to for so long, and to which she is no doubt indebted politically?
The bottom line here is that events of a century ago - around which a controversy still prevails - have become part of the current political discourse, rather than remaining in the historical domain where they should be discussed.
Armenia and the Armenian lobby are clearly driven by political motivations and are using history for this purpose. But this is not the way to go about “drawing lessons from history in order to prevent new genocides,” as supporters of 106 believe naively will happen.
Had the Armenian resolution passed 20 years ago would it have prevented Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur? Preventing such genocidal events need political will, and a genuine desire to act by politicians of the day.
History not only tells us that genocides have occurred, but also highlights the inaction of politicians of the day as they were occurring. Put another way, if the political will does not exist then Resolution 106 will hardly save the people of Darfur. All it will do is permanently scar Turkish-U.S. ties.
Armenian-Americans would no doubt be more than happy to see this happening. How about the rest?