Fresno: ‘Armenian genocide’ used in bill

‘Armenian genocide’ used in bill

Radanovich urges House GOP to vote.

By Michael Doyle
Bee Washington Bureau
July 22, 2004

WASHINGTON — Armenian-American activists are lobbying furiously to hold on
to a surprise victory they’ve won — albeit temporarily — on Capitol Hill.

With thousands of letters, the activists are urging House Republican leaders
to allow a vote on legislation that uses the phrase “Armenian genocide.”
Written by Mariposa Republican George Radanovich, the resolution so far has
remained stalled.

“The leadership is very aware that we have the votes to pass it,” Democratic
Rep. Adam Schiff of Pasadena said Wednesday, “and they are very concerned
about the Turkish reaction.”

Schiff and Radanovich represent districts with some of the largest
Armenian-American populations in the country. Along with 108 of their House
colleagues, they are pushing this year’s version of what is commonly called
the Armenian genocide resolution.

In a tactical strike that caught GOP leaders off-guard, Schiff last week
restored the genocide issue to center stage. He won House approval late in
the week for an amendment prohibiting Turkey from using U.S. foreign aid to
lobby against the genocide resolution. Schiff’s amendment is mostly
symbolic, as countries already are prohibited from using U.S. funds to
lobby. It also is almost certainly doomed, as Republican leaders have vowed
to kill it when House and Senate negotiators convene to resolve differences
on the foreign-aid bill.

“We understand the political motivation behind the amendment, and for that
reason, we will insist that it be dropped,” House Speaker Dennis Hastert,
House Majority Whip Tom DeLay and House Minority Leader Roy Blunt said in a
joint statement.

“Our relationship with Turkey is too important to us to allow it to be in
any way damaged by a poorly crafted and ultimately meaningless amendment.”

Nonetheless, the Turkish aid amendment has succeeded in reinvigorating a
debate that had seemed to fall dormant.

“It keeps the issue of the genocide resolution in front of the Congress,
which I think is good, even if the language is stripped out,” Radanovich
said Wednesday.

Several years ago, Radanovich won House approval for a similar measure that
reduced U.S. aid to Turkey by the amount that Turkey spent on lobbying. That
measure, too, was ultimately dropped from the final foreign-aid bill.

Schiff said that his Turkish aid amendment “places the House on record as
recognizing the Armenian genocide.” Still, though that was his intent, his
amendment adopted by voice vote does not specifically use the words
“Armenian genocide.” For that, he and Radanovich are still pushing the
separate resolution.

This year’s nonbinding resolution states the “the lessons of the Holocaust,
the Armenian Genocide, and the genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda, among
others, will be used to help prevent future genocide.” On its face, the
resolution commemorates the Genocide Convention Implementation Act of 1987.

Fundamentally, though, the resolution’s basic purpose is to get the House on
record as using the phrase “Armenian genocide.” That is why it is so

“We have no intention of scheduling [it] as reported out of the Judiciary
Committee in April, during the remainder of this Congress,” Hastert and his
two top House lieutenants said in their joint statement.

Four years ago, Hastert said otherwise. Meeting with Armenian-American
leaders in Southern California, in a campaign swing designed to help the GOP
incumbent whom Schiff was challenging, Hastert promised to bring Armenian
genocide legislation up for a vote.

Hastert reneged at the last minute in 2000, citing a Clinton administration

Now, it’s the Bush administration that opposes any legislation referring to
an Armenian genocide. The phrase refers to the period starting in 1915, when
Armenians were killed during the final years of the Ottoman Empire —
Armenian-American activists put the figure at 1.5 million, while Turkish
officials say the number is much lower.

Numerous historians and authors have concluded the slaughter of Armenians
meets the modern definition of genocide.

Armenian National Committee spokeswoman Elizabeth Chouldjian said Wednesday
that at least 10,000 automatically generated letters have been faxed to
Capitol Hill in recent days. The organization has also summoned the support
of leading Armenian-Americans in the swing states that will likely determine
the outcome of the presidential campaign.

Radanovich agreed that his Armenian-American constituents have been “very
good” at pressing their point with GOP leaders, and he predicted a similar
resolution will return next year.

“If the leadership follows through on its threat to not allow a vote, this
issue will not go away,” Schiff said.

The reporter can be reached at [email protected] or (202) 383-0006.