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Congressman Steve Cohen, a Democrat whose district includes Memphis, is Tennessee's first Jewish congressman. With that in mind, does it seem a bit odd to anyone else that, according to a letter to the House Foreign Affairs Committee obtained by The Hill
, Cohen would join Texas' Kay Granger and Kentucky's Ed Whitfield in opposition to a House resolution that would recognize as genocide the killing of 1.5 million Armenians
by the Ottoman Turks during World War I?
To be fair, Pith isn't sure what to think about these kinds of resolutions. Do they really make a difference? Sure, a resolution recognizing the innumerable wrongs perpetrated against blacks in this country was deserved -- no, required. In fact, Cohen himself introduced legislation in the House that would apologize for slavery and Jim Crow laws.
So it seems out of character for a relatively progressive Jewish congressman to work to kill a resolution to recognize the wholesale slaughter of a people as what it is: genocide. Of course, there are a handful of arguable reasons why we shouldn't inflame our Turkish allies. For one, an attempt to forge a long-nonexistent relationship between Armenia and Turkey is under way, though some Armenian writers
question the motives underlying it -- possibly pipelines through the country to the oil- and gas-rich Caspian Sea.
Which leads us into a second reason why certain legislators might argue against the resolution: Billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic meters of natural gas reside in the Caspian Sea region, with nothing less than energy security and a pipeline through Turkey at stake.
Last, but almost certainly not least, most of our military shipments to Afghanistan and Iraq are funneled through an airbase in Turkey. They've threatened to cut our access before -- although it's been argued pretty persuasively, in terms of who needs who, that Turkey stands to lose more
with a souring of Turkish-American relations than we do.
Sure, there are some sensible arguments to be made for abandoning this resolution. But then there are men like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who denies the Holocaust ever took place. The question is, Congressman Cohen, does refusing to utter the "G" word unanimously when speaking of the Armenian genocide amount to the same thing?