Genocide Resolution Has Precedents Democrats say the U.S. should acknowledge the deaths of Armenians a century ago in what is today Turkey. The White House says lawmakers should stop worrying about the Ottoman Empire and start passing legislation. This type of Congressional resolution follows a great tradition.
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Genocide Resolution Has Precedents

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Genocide Resolution Has Precedents

Genocide Resolution Has Precedents

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DANIEL SCHORR: The resolution was in a great tradition of congressional actions that displeased some foreign country but pleased domestic constituents.

JAMES HATTORI, host:

NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: The resolution denounced the mass killing of Armenians by the Turks as genocide. When did that happen? In 1915, in the last days of the Ottoman Empire. And what does the resolution do? Well, nothing specifically. The Turks are furious anyway. They've withdrawn their ambassador from Washington for consultations. But there are a half a million Armenian-Americans in California. It's the largest Armenian population outside of Armenia. And California is where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi comes from.

So the Foreign Affairs Committee disregarded the appeals of President Bush and sent a resolution to the full House for action.

That kind of congressional meddling in foreign situations has a history. President Eisenhower designated the last week of July as Captive Nations Week. That was meant to make an issue of Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. The Soviets were furious. They charged it was a conspiracy to destabilize Moscow satellite states. Captive Nations Week may have done little for captive nations, but it was a forthright declaration of American policy.

Then, there was the famous Jackson-Vanik amendment to the 1974 Trade Act. The legislation sponsored by the late Senator Henry Jackson and the late Representative Charles Vanik denied most favored nation treatment to countries that kept their citizens from emigrating. This was an example of congressional so-called meddling in foreign affairs that produced results.

Since Jackson-Vanik, more than a half million refugees, many of them Jews, evangelical Christians and Catholics, have resettled in the United States. And more than a million Soviet Jews have immigrated to Israel. Jackson-Vanik may seem like a relic of the Cold War but it remains enforced today, a testament through its impact.

Unlike Jackson-Vanik and the captive nations' resolution, there's nothing concrete to be accomplished by labeling the killing of Armenians in 1915 as genocide. President Bush has warned of great harm to American relations with Turkey, a vital ally. But there is no sign that Speaker Pelosi will withdraw the bill that pleases Armenian Americans and infuriates the Turks.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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