Lindsey Graham Blocked Armenian Genocide Resolution At White House Request

Earlier this month, Senator Lindsey Graham blocked a bipartisan resolution condemning the Armenian Genocide, Now we know why.

Earlier this month, on the eve of the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the White House in the wake of President Trump’s decision to give Turkey a free hand in northern Syria, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham single-handily blocked a bipartisan resolution that would have recognized the Armenian Genocide that preceded World War One and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Now, it’s being reported Graham did this under the direction of the White House:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) blocked a Senate resolution that would have officially recognized the Armenian genocide following a request from White House officials, he told Axios on Sunday.

Graham said he blocked a resolution previously passed by the House because Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was in town to meet with President Trump at the time. Turkey vehemently opposes recognition of the genocide, which was committed by the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1917.

“After the meeting, we kind of huddled up and talked about what happened,” Graham told Axios on Saturday, referring to senior White House officials, who he said asked him to “please object” to the Senate resolution.

“I said sure,” Graham told Axios, adding, “The only reason I did it is because he [Erdoğan] was still in town.”

“That would’ve been poor timing. I’m trying to salvage the relationship [between the U.S. and Turkey] if possible,” he continued.

U.S.-Turkey relations have been tested by Turkey’s military invasion of Kurdish-held territories in northern Syria, which was widely condemned by lawmakers in both parties in the U.S.

“I did think with the president of Turkey in town that was probably more than the market would bear,” the senator told Axios, adding, “I’m not going to object next time.”

Another resolution to recognize the genocide was blocked last week. A spokesperson for Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) told Axios that Perdue had objected to the second attempt to pass the resolution due to his concern for U.S.-Turkey relations.

“Senator Perdue objected due to concerns that passage of the resolution would jeopardize the sensitive negotiations going on in the region with Turkey and other allies,” the spokesperson said.

The measure previously passed the House on a 405-11 vote, with three lawmakers voting present.

The issue of recognition of the Armenian Genocide, in which it is estimated that some 1.5 million Armenian residents of territory that was, at the time, controlled by the Ottoman Empire were expelled and exterminated by Ottoman forces in a systematic program that began before World War One and continued until the fall of the empire in 1923, has always been an unfortunate source of controversy in American politics. In no small part due to the fact that Turkey is a purported ally, American Presidents and most Congresses have refrained from a strong condemnation of the Armenian Genocide largely because the Turks have made clear that they would find such statements offensive and injurious to its relationship with the United States.

On some level, of course, this may seem confusing given the fact that the genocide was committed by an entity that no longer exists and which was overthrown by the founders of Turkey in the wake of World War One. Despite that fact, though, and likely due in no small part to the fact that anti-Armenian sentiment remains strong in Turkey, the Turks continue to fail to acknowledge the history of an event that historians have said served as an inspiration for both the ethnic pogroms that the Soviets pursued against Ukrainians and other ethnic groups and the Holocaust that led to the murder of six million Eastern European Jews and an estimated six million members of other ethnic and minority groups.

It’s politically understandable, I suppose, why the White House would want to block the passage of this particular Congressional resolution while the President of Turkey was in town. Notwithstanding the President’s recent obsequiousness toward Turkey, which resulted in the moral outrage of an American President stabbing people who had helped us through ten years of war in the back, Turkey remains a member of NATO and remains a putative ally. Additionally, the Trump Administration isn’t the first to whitewash the Armenian Genocide for the sake of U.S.-Turkish relations. President Obama did the same thing notwithstanding a campaign promise during the 2008 campaign that, as President, he would issue a strong condemnation of the event Nearly all of Trump’s predecessors have done the same. Nonetheless, it’s frustrating that international politics is preventing the United States government from acknowledging a historical fact.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Donald Trump, National Security, Politicians, Turkey, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. mattbernius says:

    Additionally, the Trump Administration isn’t the first to whitewash the Armenian Genocide for the sake of U.S.-Turkish relations. President Obama did the same thing notwithstanding a campaign promise during the 2008 campaign that, as President, he would issue a strong condemnation of the event Nearly all of Trump’s predecessors have done the same.

    This is why I can’t get too upset about this. Or honestly the Settlements decision. While I object to both actions, the reality remains that while their action are much more unsubtle, the Trump administration is more or less in keeping with the effective policies of previous administrations.

  2. Kathy says:

    This just shows what a great negotiator Trump is: in exchange for betraying allies and giving Turkey a free hand in Syria, he gets to kowtow to the Turks.

  3. CSK says:

    @mattbernius: True. But it still doesn’t sit well with me.

  4. mattbernius says:

    @CSK:
    The fact that we are not prepared to acknowledge the genocide should NOT sit well.

    But this is honestly a case where bothsiderism (at least in the executive branch) is well deserved.

  5. Kathy says:

    I do have a question: when did Dennison became concerned about the sensibilities of NATO allies?

    My guess, when Putin is playing footsie with them.

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  6. CSK says:

    @mattbernius: I know.

  7. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Whatever Graham did that the Russians have video of, it’s got to involve underage same-sex farm animals. With enhanced editing. And Surround-Sound.

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  8. mattbernius says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    Whatever Graham did that the Russians have video of, it’s got to involve underage same-sex farm animals.

    I know this is tounge-in-cheek, but I think the real answer is far more simple:

    Graham has been a politician for most of his adult life. He likes being called “Senator Graham.” Couple that with the fact his external conscience literally died and the fact that ultimately he’s wants both himself and the Republicans to stay in power and you get a scenario where he will do almost anything to maintain the status quo.

    I am sure he also feels that by doing that he’s helping prevent Trump from doing what he considers lasting damage to the country and, in particular, his preferred version of Foreign Policy. Someone pointed out that Graham most likely especially feared Rand Paul becoming a trusted resource for the President on that topic.

    Either way, I think the simplest explanation is that Graham is doing exactly what he want’s to be doing with absolutely no external coercion. It’s also one that I think a lot of people don’t want to hear because it means that he’s always had the capacity for this (or potentially worse).

  9. Radu says:

    While I am in agreement with the general point of the post, I would like to correct this part:
    “an event that historians have said served as an inspiration for both the ethnic pogroms that the Soviets pursued against Ukrainians and other ethnic groups”

    Both deplorable acts, but the forced starvation (holodomor) was more like the democide in Cambodia than the genocides and ethnic cleansing that followed in the 20th century. The Soviets also did other things, like deported entire ethnic groups to Siberia (Crimean Tatars, Germans, Chechens any anyone else they viewed as German collaborators around WWII), worked them to death or caused them to die in large numbers due to malnourishment or exposure to Siberian winters, but that didn’t quite rise to the level of genocide. They were also forced population transfers (no Germans left in East Prussia, few Tatars returned to Crimea to re-establish a majority there), so that could be called ethnic cleansing, and should be owned up by Russia today. It sort of is owned up, at least they didn’t deport the Tatars again after they annexed Crimea 5 years ago. Whereas Turkey’s annexation of Northern Syria did result in more ethnic cleansing just a month ago, of the very same minorities (Arab Christians) that suffered from genocide a century ago.

  10. Liberal Capitalist says:

    To paraphrase Trump:

    “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and let other countries commit genocide and not be opposed at all to any of it… and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?”

    “It’s, like, incredible.”

  11. An Interested Party says:

    I am sure he also feels that by doing that he’s helping prevent Trump from doing what he considers lasting damage to the country and, in particular, his preferred version of Foreign Policy.

    That just shows how delusional he is…as if he could stop Trump from making stupid foreign policy choices…if there is an afterlife, John McCain is sitting somewhere weeping…