Sunday, July 29, 2007

An Interview with Congressman Brad Sherman

An Interview with Brad Sherman
By Khatchig Mouradian
The Armenian Weekly
Volume 73, No. 30, July 28, 2007

WASHINGTON (A.W.)—Congressman Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) serves on the House Committee on International Relations. I talked to him on July 16 about the Armenian Genocide Resolution and the prospects of passing it in the Committee and later in the House of Representatives. To watch the video of the interview, visit

Khatchig Mouradian—Congressman, now that we have a majority in the House supporting the Armenian Genocide Resolution, where do we go from here?

Brad Sherman—Well, we got to go to Committee. There, my biggest fear is the weakening of the resolution. As you know, six of us introduced the resolution and I’m the only one who was on the relevant committee at the time. And my fear is some will say they would support the resolution but ask for amendments. There are some amendments we can support. I, for one, wouldn’t mind if this resolution, with all humility, pointed out that the United Stated has done some terrible things in its history, and that we’re not lecturing others without looking at ourselves. We’ve passed many other resolutions in this Congress talking about the terrible things the United States has done in its history. So [our next step is] getting it through the Committee, and having a Speaker who has the courage to deal with the president when they try to vilify her for bringing this bill up.

K.M.—And how is the situation in the Committee now?

B.S.—We have co-sponsors representing roughly half of the Committee. A number of people are not co-sponsors in the Committee but will vote for it. Timing is part of this. Do we get a chance to mark it up in July? Do we have to wait till September?

And the other part is: Can the other side come up with some sneaky amendment (and their goal would be to eliminate the word genocide)? I mean, this resolution has many words, but there’s one word that has to be in it. And I’ll be there fighting in Committee. We’ve gotten through the Committee before, and we have to do it again, because we have a speaker who has the courage to put it on the floor.

K.M.—You referred to the “other side.” Can you talk about this other side and how they’re mobilizing in recent years?

B.S.—The Turkish government has hired the most expensive lobbyists here in Washington. They are flying my colleagues to Turkey for trips and they are making a variety of claims as to how the resolution would affect U.S.-Turkish relations. They fail to talk about how Turkey reacted to the French Parliament when it passed a similar resolution. French exports to Turkey have almost tripled since then.

We’re up against two of the most powerful former members of Congress [Dick Gephardt and Bob Livingston] who have been hired for some of the largest fees.

K.M.—What are the chances of having the resolution put on the floor?

B.S.—Pelosi is dedicated, but the community has to remember that the attack will come to the White House, and that attack will be the questioning of the dedication of all of us to the national security of America.

They will say, “Aha! You are hurting our troops in Iraq.” They will go beyond that and will claim that this is somehow politically motivated and is simply catering to one particular community. The fact is that this resolution represents the truth, and we in our Committee just a few weeks ago voted to chastise Japan’s sexual enslavement of women during World War II. And if we can criticize Japan, we can criticize Turkey.

K.M.—Why is it important for the United States to stand up and recognize a genocide that took place 92 years ago in a different part of the world?

B.S.—First, recognition is important because of what it means to the Armenian community and to those who actually survived those terrible events. Secondly, genocide denial is the last step of genocide: You destroy the people, and then you destroy the memory. Genocide denial is also the first step of the next genocide. After the Rwandan genocide, others in Africa thought they could get away with genocide in Darfur.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

An Interview with Congressman Adam Schiff

An Interview with Congressman Adam Schiff
By Khatchig Mouradian
The Armenian Weekly
July 21, 2007

On July 16, I flew to Washington to interview Congressmen leading the charge for Armenian genocide recognition. Below is the first of these interviews, with Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), conducted on July 17.

Khatchig Mouradian—You’ve been at the forefront of the work for the recognition of the Armenian genocide in the U.S. We now have a majority in the House supporting the Genocide Resolution. Where do we go from here?

Adam Schiff—Well, we want to make sure that when we bring up the Genocide Resolution for a vote both in the House International Relations Committee and the Floor, we can win. We have almost the majority in the Committee and we have a bare majority in the House. We’d like to expand that. We’d like to get some measure of comfort both in the Committee and the House Floor. When the vote gets scheduled, you’re going to see the efforts of the Turkish lobby doubled, tripled, quadrupled, and what that will mean is that there will be a major push to get people to kill the resolution, to find some rationale for why they were co-sponsors but they don’t have to vote for it. In the committee, we have to anticipate attempts to amend the resolution in the way Turkey wants. So we have to make sure that the strength is going to persist in the wake of the onslaught that we can expect. Right now, we want to beef up those numbers even more, which also helps us make the case to the leadership and say, “We’re ready, let’s bring it up.”

K.M.—You mentioned the opposition, and we’ve been talking about the Turkish lobby and former Congressmen making millions of dollars campaigning against the resolution. What has been different in the way the Turkish lobby has operated this year?

A.S.—This year, their efforts are far more intense than ever before, and I think it’s because there’s a new leadership in the House. The old leadership, [former Speaker] Dennis Hastert, had promised to bring up the resolution, and then reneged on that promise. I think the Turkish lobby felt safe under his Speakership. They still lobbied against it. I had amendments that I could offer to committees and the House Floor that the Speaker couldn’t stop. So the Turkish lobby was still active and spending millions on Livingston and others. But now the campaign is far more intense because I think both sides realize that this is the key year. What gets done this year is likely to be repeated every year. If we succeed in recognizing the Armenian genocide this year, we’ll succeed next year and the year after. It will become matter-of-fact—every year it’s brought up and every year it passes. If we fail this year, then it’s going to be more difficult to succeed next year or the year after. Once a precedent is set, it’s very hard to change it. So I think all sides realize this is crunch time.

K.M.—The decision to move the resolution to a vote rests on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. How do you think the Armenian community can contribute to a positive decision by the Speaker?

A.S.—I’ve had a number of meetings with the Speaker on this—and I don’t speak for her, she speaks for herself—but she’s always been very supportive of the Genocide Resolution, and that support continues, so I’m optimistic. I don’t have a date to give you, and I can’t promise anything 100 percent, but I’m optimistic. We’re still working to show that the strength is there and that it will withstand the pressure when this is scheduled for a vote, but I think our leadership certainly recognizes the fact of the Armenian genocide. There is strong opposition from Turkey and from all the people that Turkey has hired. They are raining down on the leadership saying the world is going to come to an end if we recognize the murder of a million and a half people in the beginning of the last century. But I think the leadership can withstand that pressure. What can the community around the country do? You know, it can contact all the members of our leadership and thank them for their support of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, urge them to take it up for a vote soon. I think that kind of positive message is the best message because the leadership has always been supportive. And it’s important for them to hear from the proponents because they will certainly hear from the opponents.

K.M.—Why is it important for the United States to recognize a crime that took place in a different part of the world more than 90 years ago?

A.S.—I think there are two reasons. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel described it best when he said that denial is the final phase of genocide. And in that sense, the Armenian genocide continues. There is a victimization that continues to go on with the denial, and I think there’s a moral obligation to set the record straight and not deny the loss, the pain, the grief that tremendous numbers of people have suffered due to this tragedy.

Secondly, I think [failing to recognize it] undermines our credibility in America on some of the pivotal issues of the day, like the genocide going on in Darfur. How do we stand up and call the world’s attention to the genocide in Darfur and have the kind of moral leadership we need to bring that to an end? Some will argue, “Well, sure, you’ll recognize the genocide committed by the Sudanese government. They’re weak. But when it comes to the murder of the Armenians, because Turkey is strong, you won’t recognize the facts.” What does that say? I don’t think that’s a position of great morality. I don’t it’s a position of great leadership and I think it undermines our credibility.

K.M.—Tens of thousands watched the video of your debate with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on the Armenian genocide. Where do you think the administration really stands? Do you think there is the intention of finding some sort of resolution to this issue?

A.S.—At this point I’d have to say no. I think that the Administration has just sort of dug its heels to oppose the genocide recognition. And I thought Secretary Rice’s answers were deeply disappointing. I asked her a question about the facts, the historic facts, and she didn’t answer. She doesn’t have a question—no one can have a question about the historical facts. But the Administration has made a decision other administrations have made before: The expedient thing is not to offend an ally. And where they’re coming from is, we don’t have that many allies left, certainly not in the Muslim world. And I recognize that. I think it’s important that we maintain an alliance with Turkey, but that alliance should not be at the cost of not speaking the truth about one of the most savage crimes of the last century. And I don’t think it does much for our alliance, or our friendship, to stick our head in the sand.