Yet another Pelosi stumble

It is not unusual for members of Congress to put their own political welfare above the nation’s interests. It happens all the time to one degree or another. But every time it occurs, it punctuates the fallibility of the system.

Take the current brouhaha over a congressional resolution that would declare 92 years after the fact that the death of a million Armenians at the hands of what was then the Ottoman Empire was genocide, as if anyone who was aware of the 1915 slaughter had any doubts about it. After all, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a sure bet it’s a duck. But what might seem like a harmless gesture to appease Armenian Americans by officially declaring it so all these decades later is threatening to cause a serious break in relations with Turkey, an ally we can’t afford to lose.

One expects the Speaker of the House to be far more responsible, particularly when it comes to dealing with irresponsible, emotional demands of constituents. But what Nancy Pelosi seems to have forgotten is that her position makes her the next in line to be president of the United States after the vice president and that at times that may require putting the national interests ahead of political expediency no matter how many Armenian Americans are in her district.

So ignoring the possible consequences of a diplomatic break, which both Turkish and U.S. authorities warn is a real possibility, Pelosi has allowed the politically mischievous resolution to be voted out of committee and has further inflamed the situation by promising the issue would be taken up by the full House. The result of this, among other things, has been to increase the possibility of a Turkish invasion of Northern Iraq to quell Kurdish separatists who Turks regard as terrorists and the cutting off of vital supply lines and bases for U.S. troops.

Short of calling for actual reparations to the descendents of the 1915 victims at the threat of bombing Istanbul and sending a nasty letter to every Turk over there and here, Pelosi and the resolution’s sponsors couldn’t have done more to undercut American interests. Nothing apparently said by a desperate White House backed up by the last nine secretaries of state has so far been able to dissuade the speaker who came to the high office promising to quell the incivility of a place that often more resembles a juvenile detention center than a legislature. Well, how does one spell bipartisanship now that it is needed. No wonder the only approval rating lower than Bush’s belongs to Congress.

Even if the process were halted now, experts believe, the committee vote alone has caused severe harm to relations between the two countries. There are, they say, enormous hard feelings among Turks who increasingly believe that the United States is a one-way ally. As a result U.S. influence over actions that could be devastating to this nation’s interests has diminished dramatically. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan already is taking considerable heat from his own military over what is seen as acquiescence to Washington over the Kurdish situation and now he faces a public that is enormously angry over the genocide resolution. A recent poll shows that Turks are more and more hostile toward the United States.

What seems terribly disappointing here is that the speaker’s extreme partisanship continues to pervade the atmosphere in the House. She cut her teeth on the partisan ward politics of Baltimore where her father was mayor and has shown that side of her nature throughout her congressional career, especially when she was Democratic leader before ascending to House Speaker. If ever there were a time to put that aside, it is now. She is a smart, capable politician who certainly knows the consequences of such an irresponsible action.

That is why it seems inconceivable that she would allow it to go forward. The only explanation seems to be that she is concerned about her own reelection in an extremely liberal district where there is a strong Armenian American presence. Her inability to change the direction of the war in Iraq has been criticized by liberals. Her San Francisco opponent is Cindy Sheehan, the antiwar activist whose son was killed in Iraq, and whose shrill campaigning has made some inroads on Pelosi’s popularity.

Even if that is her worry, it is time for her and those with similar concerns to dump this resolution in the Potomac and pray it is not too late to put things right with a much -needed ally. Hopefully, there are a few statesmen left in Congress.

(Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.)


  1. JoyfulC

    An inconvenient genocide?

    Let’s not forget that the very need to appease Turkey arose from our own ill-fated pre-emptive war on Iraq. Before the US went into Iraq, Turkey had a lot to say about the idea — not a lot of it good. Maybe that would have been a better time to appease them.

    The Armenian people deserve justice, whether it’s convenient just now or not. Until now, there has always been some excuse why it wasn’t convenient or we didn’t want to upset any delicate relationships — and for that reason, justice has been delayed far too long. Turkey will forever blackmail us with temper tantrums to avoid accountability for this black moment in history. Considering the flowery rhetoric of our current administration on matters of justice, what better time to go forward than now?

    Where were you when the Bush administration was stomping heavy footed and hamhanded into this whole debacle? That would have been a better time to think in terms of what we could have done to avoid stirring up a hornets’ nest. It would be preferable for us to avoid escalating tensions through curtailing our own bad behaviour than turning a blind eye to someone else’s of the past and denying a people justice in the bargain.

    Kudos to Ms. Pelosi for trying to do what’s right, even when it’s not the easiest path.

  2. trog69

    Just about any other time in history, I would back this resolution. As you accurately state, she couldn’t have picked a worse time to suck up to her constituents, and a small % at that. I won’t even go into her disgraceful back-hand to the majority of Americans who want an impeachment trial.

  3. John Farley

    I hope the resolution passes. It’s the right thing to do.
    But, you may say, what about the consequences? Suppose the Turkish government retaliates, and denies US use of the big US military base in Turkey for the US military occupation of Iraq. What about that? So much the better!

  4. erika morgan

    John, this was my thought too. Today there is talk of the Turks moving against the Kurds on both sides of their common boarder, I am wondering if they will swallow up the Iraqi Kurds? We all know their oil is an incredible motivator of really bad governmental behavior. Does this open up more war? Who joins in? If it just aggravates the US difficulties by cutting off a staging base, well then Pelosi may have a point, there is always more then one way to skin a cat.

    Generally this gesture on it own merits seems to me to be very lame. The folks who were adults in 1915 are all dead so they can’t be held to account, most of the victims are dead or so very old that they are not getting much satisfaction. A realistic, forward thinking people would never be so unjust as to visit sins of the fathers upon the sons, so what is the House wasting their time over this for? Could they be avoiding their real work, getting on with driving the Bushies out of office and reestablishing the rule of law before it’s to late.

  5. Steve Horn

    If we recognize this genocide, we’d better be prepared to recognize some others, both internationally and within our own borders.

    We’d better be prepared to break off relations with Russia, as they didn’t exactly treat Jews, intellectuals or those who didn’t think the party line with kid gloves during the Stalin era.

    We’e better be prepard to break off relations with China, as during the cultural revolution under Mao, once again, intellectuals and others were herded into camps and killed.

    How about Cambodia under Pol Pot – nope – we can’t have relations with them.

    Pinnochet, anyone? Guess we’d better break off relations with Chile

    And how about the systematic extermination of native Americans? Ooops – if there was ever a genocide that continues to go unrecognized by our government, that’s a biggie.

    I agree, there are no “inconvenient” genocides – all should be recognized for what they are and what they were – but in the world of global affairs and politics, of diplomacy, if you will, timing of recognitions can be significant.

    Can we afford to lose an ally in this mad cap world of ours? Personally, I don’t think so. This offering by Pelosi just demonstrates further her lack of understanding as to just how the world works. Truth be told, from a diplomatic perspective, I’d expect something like this to come from a neocon, not a (claimed) liberal.



  6. JoyfulC

    Steve, we don’t have to break off relations with Turkey — after all, this isn’t even the same Turkey that was responsible for what happened to the Armenians.

    If they choose to break off relations, then that’s their choice.

    We can’t continue to be blackmailed into turning a blind eye and denying a people justice.

    Frankly, I think Turkey has a lot to be pissed off at the US over right now. Maybe they’re just looking for an excuse — ever think of that? But this issue is ridiculous and purely one of a culture that’s too arrogant and fragile to admit that it made a mistake. Kowtowing to that isn’t going to help anything, and only perpetuates the wrong done to the Armenians.

    I believe the US has left the Kurds out to dry with this ill-conceived war. But if Turkey chooses to go into Iraq, it won’t be over justice for Armenians.

    And I also wonder how much of this is about not establishing a precedent for us and the rest of the world to acknowledge what we’ve done to Iraq.


  7. DejaVuAllOver

    This strikes me as more of the same, old distraction and finger pointing tactics. Now that public opinion on Israel and the neocons is shifting, (i.e. America is waking up to what the world as a whole has known for years) the powers that be need a new villain. In other words, “If we can demonize everyone else, maybe people will forget that we’re the REAL problem.”

  8. Soldat

    One only has to look at the ethnicity of the people who slaughtered the Armenians to understand why there is such resistance to acknowledging genocide.

    Hint: “Inner Folds of the Ottoman Revolution”

  9. Helen Rainier

    I did some very preliminary research on this particular HR and found out, much to my surprise, that this is something that has been on a back burner in Congress for almost ten years already.

    What I don’t get is why, all of a sudden, is this such a big deal? And why now, after almost 100 years?

    I think there are more timely issues of more serious current concern that Congress should be spending our money and our time on.

    It seems like yet another straw man to me.

  10. SEAL

    I’m at a loss to understand why the USA should issue a proclamation about this or anything like it. Who are we to make this judgment and certify something that happened to another people in another nation? What right do we have to do this? Will what happened in Turkey 100 years ago not be “official” unless America says so?

    What collossal arogance for us to think we can even do this. It’s none of our damned business!

  11. Klaus Hergeschimmer

    Here is how I look at the situation:

    I heard on NPR that all the countries surrounding Iraq have pledged not to give the US access or staging grounds for an attack on Iran. Putin has outright told
    the Chimp not to attack Iran.

    The one thing that could furher work to hamper Bush is the house committee voting to condemn the killing of
    one million Armenians in Turkey in World War I, labling it genocide.

    This could cause the Turks to stop letting fuel and other supplies go through Turkey which could put a crimp on the Chimps occupation causing more indirect routes to get supplies in making it a more expensive proposition to keep his war tenable to lawmakers at home.

    I don’t believe Turkey denying us throughput to supplies and fuel will put our troops in danger any more than they are now -it will make it a much more expensive proposition to sustain this occupation, therefore bringing more pressure on ChimpCo…Hey Seal, from what you know about supply lines and so forth, would losing Turkey for throughput put our troops in danger?

    My initial thought is that ChimpCo uses that rationale constantly for any attempt for his private little war to be curtailed….I am conceding I’m not exactly sure about this having a detrimental effect on our troops safety because ChimpCo liberaly uses any excuse he can as a reason our troops would be put in danger.

    By Nancette sheparding this move it may be as a result of the pressure on her for being a Spineless Jellyfish but I’m certainly not going to give her any credit, but it could turn the screws down more on ChimpCo from pissed off lawmakers at home having to foot more money to make up for the higher expense of getting supplies in through a more roundabout way.

    I don’t believe that it compromises our troops safety but that is why I pose that question to you Seal.

    Turkey didn’t help the US with supply thorughput during the invasion and it didn’t hamper the mightiest country in the world. The other thing is Turkey wants desperately to be a fully accepted member of NATO and the European Union, and that is a bargaining chip.

    I’m just so sick of ChimpCo that if this makes the Neo-Con occupation harder for Chimp to keep viable then this might be a way.

    Anything that might contribute to getting our service people out of ChimpCo’s sicko occupation is the angle I’m looking at.

    What do you see on this scenario Seal with
    the military logistics knowledge your dialed into.

    Anyway, I’m just posing this idea to the Forum here.