So, did you realize you can’t recognize one historical crime against humanity unless you recognize all of them?
I didn’t know this, either.
I thought that genocide, slavery and horrors of recent and not-so-recent vintage were discrete from one another. They may share certain aspects in common, sure, but it wasn’t like chewing gum in class: You couldn’t just bring recognition for one crime against humanity, you had to bring recognition for every single one.
That’s not just common sense, it’s pretty much tautological. Don’t tell that to Rep. Ilhan Omar.
Omar, the first term Minnesota Democrat and human controversy magnet, is catching flak (again) for her decision to vote “present” on a resolution condemning the Armenian genocide because, according to her, it doesn’t recognize other atrocities throughout history.
The bill, which passed the House on Wednesday, stated that American policy should “(1) commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance; (2) reject efforts to enlist, engage, or otherwise associate the United States Government with denial of the Armenian Genocide or any other genocide; and (3) encourage education and public understanding of the facts of the Armenian Genocide, including the United States role in the humanitarian relief effort, and the relevance of the Armenian Genocide to modern-day crimes against humanity.”
If you think this was just a pro forma bill, the answer is no.
Turkey, a putative ally and member of NATO, has long lobbied against American recognition of the Armenian genocide — a period between 1915 and 1923 in which the Ottoman Turks killed 1.5 Armenians, as the Washington Examiner notes — because it remains a politically touchy subject in that part of the world.
If you think this made it controversial in the House of Representatives, no again. The resolution passed by a 405-11 vote. It was introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat with whom the Republican caucus can’t agree with on almost anything — other than this, of course.
“Many American politicians, diplomats and institutions have rightly recognized these atrocities as a genocide, including America’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire at the time, Henry Morgenthau, and Ronald Reagan,” Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said before the vote,” according to The Hill.
“Only by shining a light on the darkest parts of our history can we learn not to repeat them and properly acknowledging what occurred is a necessary step in achieving some measure of justice for the victims.”
“Genocides, whenever and wherever they occur, cannot be ignored, whether they took place in the 20th century by the Ottoman Turks or mid-20th century by the Third Reich and in Darfur,” Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Florida Republican who led the GOP caucus’ efforts to get the resolution passed, said in a vote.
Omar apparently didn’t agree with that part, deciding to vote “present.” No, she wasn’t the only one who voted against the resolution or decided not to vote on it at all, and yes, none of the reasons given — when they were given at all — for those votes were particularly fantastic.
Omar’s was clearly the worst, and not by an insignificant margin.
“I believe accountability for human rights violations — especially ethnic cleansing and genocide — is paramount,” Omar said in a statement to CNN. “But accountability and recognition of genocide should not be used as a cudgel in a political fight.
“It should be done based on academic consensus outside the push and pull of geopolitics,” she continued. “A true acknowledgment of historical crimes against humanity must include both the heinous genocides of the 20th century, along with earlier mass slaughters like the transatlantic slave trade and Native American genocide, which took the lives of hundreds of millions of indigenous people in this country.
“For this reason, I voted ‘present’ on final passage of H.Res. 296, the resolution Affirming the United States record on the Armenian Genocide.”
Omar’s office has sent this statement to CNN explaining her present vote: pic.twitter.com/Gpj198jx0p
— Haley Byrd (@byrdinator) October 29, 2019
There are several curious parts of this, including where she says that recognition of the Armenian genocide “should be done based on academic consensus;” I don’t want to accuse Ilhan Omar of anything in particular but this sounds like the preface to a line of thought Democrats are infinitely grateful CNN didn’t pursue.
That part was vague, though. What wasn’t vague was the excuse that Armenian genocide can’t be acknowledged unless every genocide gets mentioned, too — and particularly those genocides and crimes against humanity that might involve the United States. Those have to be mentioned especially prominently.
Nobody is saying we shouldn’t condemn those atrocities, mind you. None of that is mutually exclusive from the resolution the House passed on Tuesday.
And even if it was, it turns out we’ve already done that.
“There’s nothing wrong with asking that the [U.S. government acknowledge human rights abuses here before we acknowledge them overseas,” political analyst Zaid Jilani wrote. “The issue is, the [U.S. government] already did acknowledge the ones Omar is asking it to acknowledge. Didn’t acknowledge the Armenian genocide at behest of Turkey.”
“Congress has passed many resolutions condemning abuses against Native Americans and slavery. It has never passed a resolution condemning the Armenian genocide. That’s why Ilhan [Omar’s] explanation here rings hollow.”
There’s nothing wrong with asking that the US govt acknowledge human rights abuses here before we acknowledge them overseas. The issue is, the US govt already did acknowledge the ones Omar is asking it to acknowledge. Didn’t acknowledge the Armenian genocide at behest of Turkey.
— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) October 29, 2019
Congress has passed many resolutions condemning abuses against Native Americans and slavery. It has never passed a resolution condemning the Armenian genocide. That’s why Ilhan Omars explanation here rings hollow https://t.co/HztWDR8zGf
— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) October 29, 2019
To foist this claim upon the American public as an excuse for a controversial vote would be laughable in any other context. It’s laughable here, but the media seems to have mostly given it a big shrug emoji. Perhaps because bringing it up takes the focus off impeachmentfest. Perhaps it’s because our standards for Ilhan Omar are already profoundly low.
Whatever the case, this is a statement that would be silly if it weren’t so serious.
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