Glendale: Groups to fight bill blockade

Glendale News Press
July 20 2004

Groups to fight bill blockade
Armenian Americans want Congressional Republicans to back off
opposition to bill that would recognize the Armenian Genocide.

By Josh Kleinbaum, News-Press

DOWNTOWN GLENDALE – While more than 30,000 people marveled at classic
cars and grooved to Dick Dale’s guitar licks, Armen Carapetian did
what he could to make sure Congress continued to acknowledge the
Armenian Genocide.

At Glendale’s Cruise Night on Saturday, Carapetian and other members
of the Armenian National Committee circulated petitions encouraging
the Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives to
back off of its objection to recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
The White House also opposes the bill.

And so begins the fight to save the Schiff Amendment to a foreign aid

On Thursday, the House approved an amendment to the Foreign
Operations Appropriations Bill sponsored by Rep. Adam Schiff
(D-Glendale) that would prevent Turkey from using foreign aid funds
to lobby against a House resolution that would recognize the Armenian
Genocide from 1915 to 1923.

The amendment is more symbolic than substantive. Foreign countries
are not allowed to use such funds to lobby Congress for anything. But
by proposing the vote in a late session Thursday, Schiff brought a
genocide-related vote to the House floor for the first time.

“Something should be done,” said George Asaker, sitting outside at a
Brand Boulevard coffee shop. “They recognized the Jewish [Holocaust],
they should recognize the Armenian Genocide and anything else.”

>From 1915 to 1923, 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman
Turks. Turkish officials claim the number of deaths is overstated,
and that the deaths were not the result of genocide. Because Turkey
is a military ally, the United States has never acknowledged it as a

Bush Administration officials immediately began fighting Schiff’s
amendment. The State Department, Speaker of the House J. Dennis
Hastert (R-Ill.), House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and House
Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) all issued statements condemning
Schiff’s amendment and promising to remove the amendment from the
final version of the bill. The Senate must approve its version of the
bill, and then a joint Senate-House committee will piece together the
final version.

In Glendale, Carapetian and others began circulating their petitions,
hoping enough support could persuade the Republicans to back off.
They collected 1,500 in the Glendale area. Through the Armenian
National Committee’s website, another 10,000 people signed online
petitions, which were faxed directly to the offices of Hastert, DeLay
and Blunt.

“The House leadership and the president, unfortunately, don’t see
this as an important issue,” said Carapetian, the government
relations director for the Armenian National Committee’s Western
Region. “They are willing to disrespect over a million of their own
citizens and residents of this country for the sake of relations with
a country that is really not a true ally of the U.S.

“We’ve been getting a lot of phone calls. We’ve gathered hopefully
hundred of signatures here. The public outcry has been focused on the
congressional leaders.”