The U.S. House of Representatives passed H. Res. 296, a resolution affirming the United States’ record on the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire, by a 405 to 11 vote.

Between 1915 and 1923, the Ottoman Empire, now modern day Turkey, killed up to 1.5 million ethic Armenians who resided within the Ottoman Empire. Turkey to this day still denies the use of the word genocide as an accurate description of the crimes committed in the early 20th century.

The resolution notes that Raphael Lemkin, who coined the word “genocide,” pointed to the Ottoman Empire’s action against Armenians as an example of genocide.

The resolution affirmed past action taken by the United States and the resolution provided guidance for future U.S. policy as it concerns this historical event:

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that it is the policy of the United States to—
(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.

Eleven Republicans voted no on the measure. Two Democrats and one Republican voted “present.”

The Republicans who voted no are:

  • U.S. Rep. Jim Baird (IN-04)
  • U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (TX-08)
  • U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks (IN-05)
  • U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon (IN-08)
  • U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (OK-04)
  • U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC-05)
  • U.S. Rep. Andy Harris (MD-01)
  • U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows (NC-11)
  • U.S. Rep. Greg Pence (IN-06)
  • U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (AL-03)
  • U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry (TX-13)

The Republican who voted “present.”

  • U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ-04)

The Democrats who voted “present.”

  • U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30)
  • U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN-05)

Only Gosar and Omar issued statements explaining their vote.

Gosar said the resolution was a pretext for attacking President Trump over his actions in Syria:

I voted present on Adam Schiff’s poorly worded, inflammatory and false Armenian Genocide Resolution, H.Res. 296. Make no mistake—the Democrats do not care about the Armenian Christians from 1915. In fact, most Democrats today don’t care about U.S. Christians, much less Armenian Christians from a century ago. This resolution is a pretext to attack Donald Trump. 

Contrary to the Dear Colleague statement that accompanies this resolution, there is no credible evidence that Turkey has engaged in a genocide, or war crimes, or atrocities, against the Kurds in 2019. There was a completely fabricated story and video by ABC news of a “slaughter” of Kurds by Turkey, but ABC News was caught in its false flag propaganda efforts. Make no mistake—ABC News got caught, but there is likely other misinformation that the mainstream media is passing off that is just as false. There is plenty of evidence that the Turks have, for decades, suffered thousands of dead at the hands of Kurdish communist terrorists, under the umbrella of the Kurdish Workers Party, the PKK, and its new name, the SDF. As I have explained previously, the PKK/SDF is not our ally. They were fighting a common enemy (ISIS) with us, but they are not allied with our values, our system of capitalism, and our tolerance and our foreign policy objectives in the region. 

If we want to acknowledge the conflict with the Ottoman Empire, an entity that has not existed for a century, and Armenian Christians that were removed in a brutal campaign, then let’s have that discussion.  The Turks today say the Ottoman’s were engaged in a war with the Armenians and thus the deaths were legitimate war casualties.   Most historians disagree with that assessment as spin and apologia.  Today’s Armenians have a legitimate issue with the forcible removal, ethnic cleansing, and catastrophic deaths of their people.  Armenia, the first Christian nation in the world, has a proud history and an incredible story.   One need not be a “denialist” to correctly, factually and somberly recognize the illegitimacy of the Ottoman Empire’s brutal campaign that killed over a million Armenian Christians while simultaneously trying to paint today’s Turkish government with that brush and falsely claim the same thing is now occurring to the Kurds. That is false, it is deceiving and it is war propaganda.  

Nor is it balanced, thus it is unfair. President Wilson sent a U.S. Army expedition to Turkey and Armenia in 1919 to investigate the situation on the ground. Maj. Gen. James G. Harbord issued a detailed report that confirmed Turkish, as well as Armenian, hostilities directed at civilians. This is to say that the events of over a century ago are not to be pinned to the Turkish government today, or the Turkish people today. So too we should not forget the Armenians, their struggles, and the gross atrocity inflicted upon them for the mere crime of being Christian. As a Christian I stand with the Armenians, but I will not vote for a lie, for something that is propaganda and inflammatory. Nor will I allow Democrats to broadly paint the Turkish government today as a genocidal regime based on events from a century ago. 

I will have no part of supporting false comparisons, war-mongering, and agit-prop from the Democrat congress. I voted present, instead of NO, because I want it to be clear I fully recognize the historic record of the brutality in the Ottoman Empire campaign against Armenian Christians. I reject any effort to conflate that tragedy, over a century old, with what is happening in Turkey today.

Omar explained why she voted present on this resolution and why she voted against H.R. 4695, the Protect Against Conflict by Turkey (PACT) Act.

As I recently outlined, accountability for the invasion of northern Syria is essential. Turkey’s incursion and the ensuing fallout is a humanitarian catastrophe—especially for the Kurdish people. But too often our sanctions policies are ill-considered, inhumane and hurt the very people we claim to be helping. That is exactly the case here, where overbroad sanctions on the Turkish economy would hurt civilians rather than political leaders. There are positive policies we could pursue—like banning or limiting weapons sales or creating a buffer zone—but pursuing sanctions that have no chance of being signed into law is the wrong response at the wrong time.

I also believe accountability for human rights violations—especially ethnic cleansing and genocide—is paramount. But accountability and recognition of genocide should not be used as cudgel in a political fight. It should be done based on academic consensus outside the push and pull of geopolitics. 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.

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