WASHINGTON–Following a hearing Thursday on H.Res 398–the Armenian Genocide Resolution–the House International Operations and Human Rights Sub-Committee decided to vote on the bill on Wednesday–September 20. If this measure passes–the bill will go to the entire House International Relations Committee.
The sub-committee chaired by New Jersey Republican Christopher Smith heard testimony about the Genocide Resolution from a panel which included Congressional representatives–historians–State Department officials and a former Turkish ambassador to the US.
Among the representatives speaking on behalf of the Genocide resolution was Rep. James Rogan (R-Calif.)–who outlined the important meaning the passage of the resolution would have in the world’s efforts to come to term with the crime of genocide.
"In working to recognize the Armenian Genocide–a point needs to be reemphasized. We do not seek this action to point any finger of blame–nor do we seek to legislate history. Our intention is merely to recognize this tragedy occurred–and publicly affirm it’s effect on humanity. It is time for the US House of Representatives to answer Hitler’s question of half a century ago. Who remembers the Armenia’s? America does. And our nation will never again turn a blind eye to horror and pretend–out of geo-political convenience–that crimes against humanity did not occur," said Rogan during the hearing.
House Democratic Whip David Bonior (D-Mich.) said–"Some may say this resolution will alter our relationship with Turkey–and I agree–it will. It might give the Turkish government an opportunity to join with is in acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. Such an acknowledgment will help open the door to improved relations in that region."
"By responding to this crime against humanity–our government and the American people can act together to protest the genocide of the Armenia’s," said California Republican representative George Radanovich–who added–"Silence in the face of genocide–as we have learned–can only embolden those who would again see the systematic destruction of an entire people."
Also speaking at the hearing were historians Robert Melson of Purdue University and Roger Smith from William and Mary College. In both their presentations–the historians brought forth proof about the facts of the Genocide and urged Congress to vote for the resolution. Pro-Turkish historian and historical revisionist Justin McCarthy of the University of Louisville (Ky.) presented his version of history–saying that the matter of the Genocide should be referred to the International Court in the Hague.
One of the most ardent opponents of the Genocide was former Turkish Ambassador to the US Gunduz Aktan–who said that if the Genocide bill passed Congress–"the first loss will be in the Cyprus issue."
Sub-committee chairman Christopher Smith condemned this threat by the former Turkish diplomat saying–"A threat running through your response is something I certainly gleaned from Ambassador Aktan. In all candor–your testimony was a threat and I say that with all due respect. You have come to this committee and we appreciate you being here–but you have laid out a number of areas where you have laid out a deleterious effect on US foreign policy and what I would perceive to be joint foreign policy objective that works to the benefit of Turkey as well with regards to Cyprus–the Caucasus–Iraq. Let me just say that frankly makes me more suspicious of the Government’s efforts to suppress this information."
Also expressing a viewpoint and presenting the official State Department position on the matter was Deputy Secretary of State and former US Ambassador to Turkey Mark Grossman–who said that the passage of the resolution would hinder US-Turkey relations.
The resurgence of interest in the resolution–introduced last year by representatives Radanovich and Bonior–came last month when House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) promised a gathering of Armenian-Americans that he would bring the resolution to the House floor for a vote by the end of the 106th Congressional session–which is scheduled to adjourn Oct. 6.
In response to this pledge–House Democratic leaders Bonior and Rep. Richard Gephardt–poised to become Speaker if the Democrats regain control of the House in November–urged Hastert to immediately bring the matter to a vote on the House floor. The two leaders called into question the Speaker’s current position–asking why the matter had not been brought forth earlier.
In response to Thursday’s events in Washington–Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem once again blasted at the Armenia’s–saying that the Armenian government was behind the efforts in Washington.
The foreign minister said that given Armenia’s poor economic situation–the government was attempting to forge national unity through the Genocide resolution.
If the resolution is approved by the sub-committee–it will then be marked up for a vote by the entire International Relations Committee. If passed there–the bill will be sent to the either the Rules Committee or the entire House for a vote.