Two recent developments have created momentum. First, the Democratic Party, which has historically been more sympathetic to the resolution, now controls Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) in particular has taken a keen interest in bringing the matter to a vote. Second, a 17-year-old gunman last month executed in cold blood the respected Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink on a crowded Istanbul street.
The slaying of Dink, who had been prosecuted for acknowledging the genocide, has sent a collective shiver down Turkey's spine, triggering street demonstrations and renewed calls for the government to change its policy. It is still a crime in Turkey to speak the truth about a period of history whose accepted worldwide interpretation Ankara still denies.
Schiff's resolution merely calls on the president to ensure that U.S. foreign policy "reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity" regarding the genocide and that he use the G-word during his annual message commemorating the National Day of Remembrance of Man's Inhumanity to Man on April 24, the date in 1915 when Turkey rounded up 250 Armenian intellectuals to be slaughtered. That the resolution is so mild makes the White House's opposition all the more vexing.
Even though President Bush made a campaign promise in 2000 to use the word "genocide," his flip-flop is neither surprising nor mysterious — Ankara has considerable diplomatic influence, and Turkey is too valuable an ally to alienate with congressional resolutions. Yet the U.S. is at its best when it chooses truth over expedience, especially in matters as grave as genocide. It's hard to say "never again" convincingly if you're too afraid to speak bluntly about what you aim to prevent.