House passes resolution declaring Armenian massacre a genocide; 2 Dems, including Ilhan Omar, refuse to take a stand

October 31, 2019 • 10:30 am

According to several sources, including the BBC and the New York Times, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, by a 405-11 vote (with three people, two of them Democrats, just voting “present”), a resolution recognizing as a “genocide” the mass killing of Armenians by Turks between 1915 and 1923. Here’s the business part of the bill’s text:

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that it is the policy of the United States to—

(1) commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance;

(2) reject efforts to enlist, engage, or otherwise associate the United States Government with denial of the Armenian Genocide or any other genocide; and

(3) encourage education and public understanding of the facts of the Armenian Genocide, including the United States role in the humanitarian relief effort, and the relevance of the Armenian Genocide to modern-day crimes against humanity.

From the report on the vote by the BBC:

The resolution passed by a vote of 405 to 11. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined her colleagues “in solemn remembrance of one of the great atrocities of the 20th Century”.

Mr Biden tweeted: “By acknowledging this genocide we honour the memory of its victims and vow: never again.”

It is the first time in decades that the full House has considered such a measure. In the past, attempts were thwarted by concerns that it could damage relations with Turkey, a Nato ally, and intense lobbying by the Turkish government.

. . .To become official policy, the resolution needs to be approved by both houses of Congress and then be signed by the president. But there is no vote scheduled on the measure in the Senate.

This vote undoubtedly stems from opprobrium by both Democrats and (amazingly) Republicans towards Trump’s unconscionable servility with respect to Turkey and President Erdogan, and his tacitly allowing Syria to kill Kurds. (The House also passed a resolution, again involving “yea” votes from both parties, to impose sanctions on Turkey in retribution for that country’s offensive against Kurds in Syria).

The vote, divided by party, is given in the screenshot below (click on it to see the breakdown).

My own judgment, though I’m not a historian, is that yes, there was ethnic cleansing of Armenians (a genocide) during that period, with historians estimating the death toll between 1 million and 1.5 million. Even Cenk Uygur, a Turkish-born American who long denied the genocide—and a host of the news program ironically named “The Young Turks”—has agreed, after years of denial, that yes, there was a Turkish genocide. And, as far as I know, the consensus among historians (except for some Turkish ones) is that there was indeed a genocide.

But I know how repugnant that conclusion is to Turks, as I’ve been warned not to bring it up when visiting Turkey, and have also heard liberal Turks argue with conservative ones about the issue, a discussion that always gets heated.

One wonders who the two Democrats were that bucked their party to vote “present”, a vote that effectively means, “I’m here but I’m not going to take a stand one way or the other.” I’ll name them below.

At least no Democrats voted “nay”. But 10 Republicans did, probably as a tortured defense of Trump’s bootlicking of Turkey.

Here are those ten nay-saying Republicans:

The Democrats who voted “present” were Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas).  Omar may have voted “present” because she’s a Muslim and doesn’t want to condemn the Muslim country of Turkey.

That may indeed be partly true, because in her statement about her vote (see below), she objects to the Armenian genocide being used “as a cudgel in a political fight.” But the person and issue the cudgel is beating are Donald Trump and his ignoring the Turkish massacre on the Kurds!

Omar has never been reluctant to go after Trump, and so her vote in this case cannot reflect her reluctance to endorse a resolution that may obliquely criticize Trump. What she’s doing, in her muddleheaded desire to be a “progressive”, is acting as a mouthpiece for Turkey. And, according to NBC News, Omar’s refusal to take a stand has angered many, including Armenian groups and some of her own constituents. Further, it’s not going to endear Omar to Nancy Pelosi, who’s already peeved at “the squad”.

Below is Omar’s written explanation of her vote to CNN, an explanation that is simple “whataboutery”. As I said, the academic consensus is that there was indeed an Armenian genocide, so Omar is wrong to imply there isn’t general agreement. What she’s saying is that if you condemn one genocide, you must condemn them all (of course, what counts as a “genocide” must be Omar’s decision, not that of historians). Note that she refuses to give her own opinion on whether there was a mass slaughter of Armenians.

Here’s a BuzzFeed reporter “erased” by Omar:

The other “present” voter, Democratic Congresswoman Johnson, also once dissimulated about the genocide, at least according to the Washington Examiner:

Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas voted “present” on the measure. When asked in 2009 if she recognized the genocide, she said, “I don’t acknowledge, I was not around.”

This is the same reasons creationists use to deny evolution: “I wasn’t there to see it happen and neither was anybody else.” It’s incredibly lame.

Paul Gosar from Texas, was the sole Republican who voted “present”. His long explanation, which can be found here, is that he sees the resolution as an attack on Donald Trump (Gosar is on the hard right). The last bit of his screed derives from the resolution’s statement that it encourages recognizing “the relevance of the Armenian Genocide to modern-day crimes against humanity.”  Well, it’s not clear that this specifically refers to Trump and Syria.

An excerpt from Gosar’s statement:

I voted present on Adam Schiff’s poorly worded, inflammatory and false Armenian Genocide Resolution, H.Res. 296. Make no mistake—the Democrats do not care about the Armenian Christians from 1915. In fact, most Democrats today don’t care about U.S. Christians, much less Armenian Christians from a century ago. This resolution is a pretext to attack Donald Trump.

. . . I will have no part of supporting false comparisons, war-mongering, and agit-prop from the Democrat congress. I voted present, instead of NO, because I want it to be clear I fully recognize the historic record of the brutality in the Ottoman Empire campaign against Armenian Christians. I reject any effort to conflate that tragedy, over a century old, with what is happening in Turkey today.

Well, at least he admits there was a genocide. But he also claims that there’s no credible evidence that Turkey has recently committed atrocities against the Kurds, which shows you how tenuous is his grip on reality—or how frenetically he osculates Trump’s posterior.

52 thoughts on “House passes resolution declaring Armenian massacre a genocide; 2 Dems, including Ilhan Omar, refuse to take a stand

  1. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Given all the genocides by the US in the last several hundred years I think it’s a bit rich for Congress to be wading into this issue.

    1. I was wondering when the first tu quoque would show up here. Sad to see it’s the very first comment. How tedious.

      1. It is tu quoque when the assertion is made to discredit the original claim. My statement was made to reflect on the House of Representatives. Whether or not the genocide occurred is another issue. What’s tedious is to jump to conclusions.

        1. I’m glad to hear you don’t deny the genocide outright. Then you’ll agree your statement was only whataboutism then.

          1. + 1.

            It is irrelevant whether or not there are other genocides that should be recognized. It is good that this one is. It is a start.

            There is nothing more annoying than whataboutery, especially in politics where small steps and compromise are key to getting things done. This is a subject that is a pet hate of mine: those who won’t accept a partial win in politics because they’re not getting everything they want, and so put the kibosh on the whole deal.

            It also has both sides of the House working together, which USians should be pleased to see, considering the current state of US politics. It’s nice to know they can, and that business might be able to return to how it should be when people like Trump are out of the picture.

            Further, it exposes the hypocrisy of Ilhan Omar. I have never liked her, and the reverence in which she is held by the Woke never ceases to annoy me. However, as Jerry says, cognitive dissonance will win out here, as it does with all those on both the far left and far right.

            1. Yes, things are really screwed up lately. The parties won’t negotiate, arguments tend to be shallow, the woke are hypocrites, the religious are completely resistant to reason, and many totalize there politics. I guess my attitude is just to hope we can somehow get past this. Perhaps healing will begin when we have a new president.

              1. Yep. Of course, both sides have to be committed to the healing. As long as there are people like the Tea Party and the Squad, things will be difficult. They can be controlled as long as their numbers aren’t too big though.

                Obama tried in the beginning, but the GOP were so upset about being out of power that they were overly resistant at every turn. Now that they have power again, they’re even worse than before, and many of the Dems aren’t much better because of the way they’ve been treated for the last c. decade. It doesn’t help, of course, that Obama makes Trump feel personally inadequate.

            2. That’s the kind of quality comment I’ve come to expect from you, Heather 🙂

              Where ya been? I feel like you haven’t seen you around as much lately.

              1. Thanks BJ. I appreciate that.

                Life has been a bit rough for the last few months, but things are starting to look up. It’s a beautiful day here, and that always helps. With summer coming, I’m expecting a few more days like this to look forward to.

    2. Please provide a list. (Certainly against Native Americans, 1620-ish until 1920s.)

      Of genocides. Planned and executed to eradicate a defined group. (As I said, obviously: Native Americans.)

      1. I’m not aware of any widespread plan, much less an executed one, to eradicate Native Americans at the level of the federal government. Ethnic cleansing almost certainly, although at the time this was seen as a way to minimize conflict between immigrants and natives. It was also carried out through negotiated treaties, albeit these were arguably under duress and often abrogated in future negotiations.

        I don’t want to downplay the sometimes reprehensible nature of various local, state and federal policies, but genocide has a specific meaning and it’s not clear the US can be accused of it.

  2. In other news the republicans who have been bleating about “illegitimate” closed impeachment hearings (held under rules that they set up) have now voted unanimously against open hearings…….

    1. You can’t please concern trolls because they never want the thing they claim to want.

      And that’s what the Republican party has been reduced to.

  3. My ancestors and my country have done good and bad things. I probably take more pride and shame in these actions than I should.

    Acknowledging their faults does not change my pride in their accomplishments. Refusing to acknowledge their faults would diminish me and cheapen their actual accomplishments. Pretending they were perfect is like telling a child that everything they do is wonderful – it quickly becomes meaningless drivel.

    The Turks refusal to admit their ancestors misdeeds reflects on the current Turks more than anything else.

  4. Representative Omar’s remarks about genocide being a matter for academics and not politics sounds like a recipe for inaction. What will she do if presented with an incipient genocide? And once again we see her saying that you can’t single out one bad thing without condemning all, just like the anti-semitism resolution. I read all that as clearly a dodge.

    1. I think wokeness is capable of coming to any conclusion it wants. You can always find an excuse that sounds woke. It’s one big dodge.

  5. This vote undoubtedly stems from opprobrium by both Democrats and (amazingly) Republicans towards Trump’s unconscionable servility toward Turkey and President Erdogan, and his tacitly allowing Syria to kill Kurds.

    As Madam Speaker told Trump straightaway in their Roosevelt Room face-off following passage of the bipartisan House resolution denouncing Trump’s abrupt removal of US forces in Syria: “All roads lead to Putin.”

  6. Paul Gosar from Texas, was the sole Republican who voted “present”.

    Gosar, you may recall, is the boob who claimed during the congressional testimony of former FBI agent Peter Strzok this his (Gosar’s) training as a dentist equipped him with special psychic skills as regards reading body language.

    He may or may not also be Gozer the Gozerian who manifested himself as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters. Some enterprising investigative reporter should take a close look into that.

  7. The fact of Omar’s vote is just about totally insignificant on this matter, however, if the Senate does not follow up and as usual does not even allow a vote, that just indicates the corruption of the republican party. Just how far bent over they can get will be seen over the next several weeks of open hearings on the impeachment question. Trump is so openly corrupt now, swimming in the mud is now a daily event in republican land.

    1. Moscow Mitch prides himself on having turned the United States senate into the “graveyard of democracy.”

      Let no legislation leave alive, is his motto.

      1. Did he actually say that? I knew about his ‘Grim Reaper’ comments, but priding himself turning the Senate into the “Graveyard of Democracy” and “let no legislation leave alive” is a different level still. I can’t find he actually said that though, link or reference?

  8. Virginia Foxx sounds like the stage name of a porn star.
    But she’s actually for real, and well into her seventies. (lest we get the wrong ides 🙂 )

    1. The infamous Fanne Foxe was a stripper who took an impromptu dip in the Potomac tidal basin with House Ways and Means Committee chairman Wilbur Mills back in the Seventies.

      For whatever value that nugget may be to you.

  9. Quite a few of the NewRacists, such as PZ Myers, have been very defensive of Ilhan Omar.

    Her association with various Islamist-adjacent groups, and of course, to Erdogan, was well documented by **genuine** liberals and humanists.

    Very revealing are the people who PZ decides to attack, for example, a Jewish scientist who he said “should have died”. That’s the pattern with PZ – he defends regressives and Islamist-apologists, while he attacks Jewish liberals.

    This pattern extends to the rest of the NewRacists.

  10. I’m sure this resolution was indeed a rebuke of Mr Trump’s profoundly unconscionable betrayal of our Kurdish allies, exposing them to ‘ethnic cleansing’ (aka genocide).
    A good reason for such a resolution. Sadly it will do nothing to help them.

  11. It looks like there is an accidental substitution in this sentence of the post “My own judgment, though I’m not a historian, is that yes, there was ethnic cleansing of Kurds (a genocide) during that period, with historians estimating the death toll between 1 million and 1.5 million.”. This should say “ethnic cleansing of Armenians”.

    Some modern Kurds have apologized for the role that some Kurds played in the Armenian and Assyrian genocides. I don’t know the history that well, but I believe the Kurds were allied with the Turks when the Ottoman empire was falling apart.

  12. This is an interesting development.

    Turkey is in official denial of the Armenian genocide.

    The U.S. lobbied hard to get Turkey into NATO.

    Turkey has a real problem with Kurdish separatists (whether one agrees with the government’s official response to that problem).

    Turkey in general has a decent relationship with Israel, our most important ally in the region.

    Turkey is our ally per NATO.

    Are we going to now lobby to toss Turkey out of NATO? Are we going to stop trying to sell them American arms? Are we going to allow Turkey diplomatically to pivot toward Russia, increasing Russian influence in the region? Is the apparent claim to demonize Turkey going to create friction with Israel?

    Also, since the Kurds are now aligned with Assad, who is the official Darth Vader per the American Hawks, can they still be the supposed good guys “rebel alliance”?

    The Armenian Genocide clearly happened, and deserves recognition, but I am deeply suspicious of the motives of those floating this issue now, and I am not sure how the diplomatic implications are actually constructive to the interests of the United States.

    As a human, I would have to support recognition of the genocide, but diplomatically, I’m not sure what the long-term consequences of this decision will be.

    I think a Turkish/Syrian/Iranian front aligned with Moscow may not be the best diplomatic result for the US, even if Orange Man Bad and Genocide Bad.

    Without going into Israel, Saudi Arabia seems pretty weak (losing the war with Yemen) and unstable these days, and if we lose control of some of these Gulf Monarchies, especially if we see some of the large Shi’ite populations revolt, we might end up with almost no influence in the region.

    1. The Middle East is a perilous place for policy and I too question the motives of those who pushed the resolution at this time. But the Turks did commit a genocide against the Armenian people and our government ought not to ignore that fact. They are a member of NATO but it is debatable if they are either friend or ally.

    2. I cannot see how the emergency alliance of the Kurds with Assad disqualifies them from being the “good guys”, after the prototype “good guys” betrayed and abandoned them.

      And if Turkey “has a real problem with Kurdish separatists”, there is a very easy solution: let them separate.

      1. Ethnic separatism is one of those ideas that sounds great in theory, but usually ends up in civil war and ethnic cleansing, if not outright genocide.

        Rarely do you have territories that are 100% Turk or 100% Kurd. Instead, you have two sides claiming the same territory, and insisting on their need to invade the other side to protect their own ethnic minorities in rival territories from abuse.

        If you look at Yugoslavia, it is precisely separatism and arguments about who territory belongs to and how to assure the rights of minorities that triggered the civil war. Also, the partition of India was a total disaster from a human rights perspective, millions died.

        1. Don’t you see that you consider the borders drawn by the former Great Powers paramount, and the will of today’s humans insignificant? The Kurds will never be protected from abuse, as long as they lack their own nation state.

          “If you look at Yugoslavia, it is precisely separatism and arguments about who territory belongs to and how to assure the rights of minorities that triggered the civil war.”

          No, the civil war in Yugoslavia was triggered by the continuing wish of Serbs to lord over other nations (often more advanced), and the unwillingness of the oppressed nations to live forever under the thumb of said Serbs, where the Great Powers had put them.

          I suppose that you are not a member of any community with a plight similar to that of Kurds. I am a Bulgarian, and the argument that it is OK for others to be oppressed and slaughtered by the Turks are too familiar to me. The entire West repeated these arguments during the 19th century when my nation was oppressed and slaughtered by the Turks, until finally Russia rescued us.

          1. My point is that ethnic separatism often is a prelude to ethnic cleansing and civil war.
            Even if the Yugoslavian Civil War was entirely the fault of the Serbs, and they were solely responsible for all war crimes (call it the comic book historical narrative), it went directly from competing claims of ethnic separatists over territory to civil war and ethnic cleansing.

            A separation of Turkey would not end the conflict between Turks and Kurds, it would likely escalate it. And note I am not passing a judgment on the justice of either side, I am discussing the probable international consequences of a true separation, which may or may not be in the diplomatic interests of say the EU or the United States.

      1. I had heard there is no process for kicking a country out of NATO but I do not know that is true. I find that hard to believe. I was in NATO years ago and I even did a TDY to Turkey as a NATO commitment. If a country becomes a friend and partner of Russia, I find it hard to believe it makes any sense to stay in NATO. Many countries who use to be under Russia at one time are now free and members of NATO for a reason. And NATO does have a mission and that mission is not to suck up to Russia.

      2. Ken, I took the time to go back and read the article you provided and I have to agree, get them out of Turkey. And I use to be part of this, but remember, it was during the cold war. That is long over now. So exactly why they would have them still, I am not sure. The idea of flying a airplane in to load up and then deliver a nuclear bomb, is hard to believe as well.

        The way it was done in my time was, we would keep 5 airplanes on VA at all times. Those 5 planes would have one nuclear bomb on it. They would be sitting there, ready to go if nuclear war broke out. As you know, it never did. So, to my knowledge a fighter jet has never left the ground with a nuclear bomb on it. It simply is not done. But the idea was, war was on and maybe these fighters could get through to targets in Russia. We had this going on at bases all over Europe, including Aviano that they speak of in the article.

        But as I said, I would be very surprised if they are still doing this today. So if the bombs are simply being stored in Turkey for some contingency I would say, get them out.

  13. Neither the US or Australia have committed genocide.

    Perhaps if the Armenian Genocide had not happened, or had there been a bigger outcry a certain A. Hitler wouldn’t have been so sure genocide was doable. He did say,

    “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” in ramping up for his own genocides.

    There didn’t seem much doubt in Hitler’s mind that it was a genocide.

    Politicians do what politicians do but any condemnation of such an event is good.

  14. Mr Biden tweeted: “By acknowledging this genocide we honour the memory of its victims and vow: never again.”

    Slightly hollow words I think. If vowing to stop genocide stopped genocide, Congress should have taken this vote in 1923 and saved a lot of lives in the remainder of the 20th century.

    Perhaps I am being overly cynical, but the timing does seem odd if it isn’t intended as a political slap in the face for Trump and Turkey. Why didn’t the pass the resolution on the 100th anniversary of the start? Or wait until the 100th anniversary of the end?

    One good thing though, reflected by the first part of Biden’s sound bite is that of acknowledging the memory of the genocide. I’ve always considered myself fairly knowledgeable about WW1 for a layman and yet I’d never heard of it until I listened to Dan Carlin’s treatment in his podcast series on WW1 a couple of years ago.

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