Sen. Lindsey Graham

Sen. Graham Blasted for Blocking Armenian Genocide Resolution

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By David Brennan

WASHINGTON (Newsweek) — Sen. Lindsey Graham has come under fire for blocking a Senate resolution acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, nixing the House recognition of the 20th century Ottoman Empire-era massacres that passed last month by a 405-11 vote.

Graham made the move soon after meeting with President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was in Washington Wednesday, November 13, as the two leaders sought to mend bilateral relations damaged by recent Turkish foreign policy.

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez requested consent to pass the resolution, The Hill reported, seeking “official recognition and remembrance” of the anti-Armenian campaign that killed more than 1 million people from 1915 to 1923.

The Ottoman government forcibly relocated hundreds of thousands of Armenians to the deserts of Syria and elsewhere during this period. Victims were either killed or died from starvation and exhaustion.

Menendez said U.S. foreign policy must “reflect an honest accounting of human rights abuses, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and genocide. We cannot turn our backs on the Armenian victims of genocide.”

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But Graham objected, suggesting senators should not “sugarcoat history or try to rewrite it.”

The Turkish government still denies the genocide, which occurred during the final years of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey disputes the number of Armenians killed, and argues that those who died did so while fighting Ottoman forces.

But before the Ottoman Empire was abolished and replaced with the new Turkish Republic, the government executed several top officials for their role in the massacres of Armenian communities.

Even in a busy day of news on the Hill, Graham’s block made waves on social media, drawing condemnation from progressive Americans and praise from Turkish nationalists.

Author and activist Amy Siskind called the development “so deeply troubling, and happening in the light of day!” She added, “What is wrong with this man!”

Novelist Chris Bohjalian branded Graham’s action “utterly spineless and despicable.” He asked, “How can you be against a resolution acknowledging Genocide? Because you have no moral compass and put Turkey before the United States.”

Political satirist Jeremy Newberger quipped, “When is a genocide not a genocide? When @LindseyGrahamSC meets with Turkey.”

Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny said in a statement that no foreign nation “should dictate what the greatest deliberative body in the world can or cannot consider, and especially when it comes to genocide.”

“Let’s not put our heads in the sand, but rather take a page from the House of Representatives and the overwhelming and historic bipartisan vote standing up against genocide denial,” Ardouny added.

Graham is among Trump’s staunchest allies in the GOP establishment and one of the most prominent foreign policy voices in Congress. The combination has given him some influence over Trump’s foreign policy decisions, though at times Graham has also attacked the president’s more unpredictable and short-sighted moves.

He was vehemently opposed to Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from northeastern Syria last month, which allowed Erdogan to launch his long-planned invasion of the area—known as Rojava—controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

Having met with Trump and Erdogan, Graham said the conversation was “frank, candid, and I hope, over time, will prove to be productive.”

He added that he appreciated being involved in the discussion, which touched on Turkey’s controversial purchase of a Russian anti-aircraft system and Ankara’s latest Syrian incursion.

 

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