Those of you who have been around the Internet long enough may have some familiarity with Usenet which was a collection of newsgroups that pre-dated the World Wide Web. I first started reading some newsgroups in 1994. Something strange I noticed was a persistent and vocal posting about the Armenian Genocide. This was apparently one of the first instances of spam bots posting. It was probably counter-productive inasmuch as the spam tried to minimize or deny that the genocide had happened. I hadn’t been aware of the history at all, so what the spam did was make me curious and caused me to become aware that, during the Armenian Genocide, the Ottoman Turks systematically expelled and exterminated 1.5 million ethnic Armenians. Per Wikipedia:
The genocide was carried out during and after World War I and implemented in two phases—the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjection of army conscripts to forced labour, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly, and the infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian Desert. Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and massacre.
On the recommendation of the Better-Late-Than-Never committee, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted Resolution 296 recognizing and condemning the Armenian Genocide. The resolution recounts some history and then resolves:
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.
There is nothing particularly controversial here. It passed the House 405-11. In these polarized times, it’s amazing to get that level of bipartisan support for anything. Sometimes it feels like apple pie would have trouble getting more than a 60% vote and mom might have trouble mustering a majority. But, here is the strange thing: of that 11, four of them were from Indiana. Representatives Baird, Brooks, Buschon, and Pence voted against. Fully one-third of the “nay” votes came from Indiana. Put another way, a resolution that passed with 97% nation-wide support garnered only 56% support in Indiana.
Why the particular opposition to genocide recognition among the Indiana delegation? This is not a particularly partisan thing. Republicans and Democrats alike overwhelmingly voted in favor of the resolution. This is an Indiana thing. (Representatives Baird and Pence were also on the wrong side of a 403 – 16 vote on H.R. 4695, “sanctions and various restrictions related to Turkey’s military invasion of northern Syria.”)
Update: Adam Wren is on the case: He reports sources telling him that Indy Eleven (soccer team) and Keystone Construction (lots of public construction projects) owner, Ersal Ozdemir, who is from Turkey lobbied the Indiana delegation hard to vote “no” on the resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide. When asked, Rep. Susan Brooks didn’t deny speaking with Ozdemir and Rep. Greg “Do You Know Who My Brother Is?” Pence, also doesn’t deny speaking with Ozdemir and asserts that this vote against recognizing the genocide is somehow reflective of his confidence in Trump’s Middle East strategy.
You say “There is nothing particularly controversial here.”, but that isn’t the whole story. It is hugely controversial in Turkey (for full disclosure, the company I work for does a lot of business in Turkey). In Turkey the official line is and has been for generations a complete denial that genocide ever happened. It’s like if Germany officially denied the holocaust.
I don’t know if there is some reason for Indiana politicians to follow the official Turkish government line, unless they are just following our president’s lead in that regard.
Doug Masson says
I probably should have said “nothing that should be particularly controversial for Americans.” And the question would be why the Indiana delegation is so far out of step from other state Congressional delegations.
Jay Hulbert says
I think that Joshua Keatings piece in Slate is worth reading on this: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/10/armenian-genocide-resolution-ilhan-omar-congress.html
Doug Masson says
Not a bad read. It would have been better if the author had explored the Indiana delegation’s explanations and motivations!
Carlito Brigante says
Representative Ilhan Omar, A Minnesota Democrat, voted “Present.” To support this absention, she submitted a statement in support.
Lrry Keho (@lrrykeho) says
Follow the money.