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Legislating “Genocide” in Armenia — What Can Congress Possibly Be Thinking?     Print Email

Once again the US Congress is mystifying the world and seriously muddying US-Turkey relations by trying to pass a resolution declaring that it was “genocide” when over a million Armenians were massacred in 1915 by Ottoman Turks. The proposed U.S. measure was passed out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in early March.

Henri J. Barkey, a Turkish specialist and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, captured the farcical aspects on all sides of this contemporary treatment of a century-old tragedy in the Washington Post.

While most historians agree that what took place in 1915 was genocide, the idea that the US Congress should legislate this judgment is bizarre. (France ran into similar political quicksands several years ago when its parliament passed a similar measure in a midnight session designed to slip through the action to placate Armenian voters in France – with the predictable effect of infuriating Ankara against Paris.) President Obama as a candidate indicated his agreement with the historical consensus and vowed to work for greater public recognition of nature of the deaths, not as “violence” in World War I as Turks claim, but as systematic “genocide.” Now, however, with Turkey at the center of much U.S. regional policy on energy and political stability, the White House opposes any full Congressional action recognizing the tragedy as a “genocide.”

Among other considerations, the polemic comes at a moment when the parliament of Armenia seems to be laying groundwork for possibility backtracking on the historic but still fragile Turkey-Armenian reconciliation pact from last year.