The 111th Congress held its lame-duck session until Christmas to wrap up unfinished business before Democrats ceded control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans. But the business it failed to address is a most fundamental one.
Up until the last hours, there was hope that Reps. Adam Schiff, Brad Sherman, Howard Berman, Frank Pallone, Chris Van Hollen and other lawmakers were going to successfully bring House Resolution 252, the Armenian Genocide bill, to a floor vote.
There was bipartisan support, and had the bill been brought to a vote, it would have passed. While the resolution was non-binding, thus not having the force of law, it was a meaningful expression of Congress that America was drawing the line when it comes to our principles and values.
Some think this bill addressed a "historical" issue limited to the concerns of the Armenian American community, but such an assessment is shortsighted. The line Congress would have drawn with passage of House Resolution 252 was about our country's credibility on human rights and ending the cycle of genocide. We would have demonstrated our unwillingness to compromise our American values and principles to help the Turkish government's continued denial of a crime against humanity.
It would have also sent a strong signal that Turkey's support of Sudan's leadership that has committed genocide in Darfur is unacceptable.
This is the opportunity that the House Democratic leadership, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer missed when they betrayed their commitments to get this legislation passed. Instead, they willfully chose to continue making our country an accomplice to Turkey's genocide denial, which flies in the face of America's great history in helping victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide and other genocides around the world.
Failure to bring the legislation to a vote also has put many members of Congress in a precarious position with constituents, making it seem like they don't have the wherewithal to deliver on promises. Pelosi made a cold political decision to give the Obama Administration the cover it wanted with Turkey, but at a huge price.
This time, trust, which takes a long time to build, has been seriously undermined between many representatives and their constituents, naturally leading to calls for accountability at the ballot box. When elected leaders try to spin their way out of these situations, they underestimate the intelligence of voters and their ability to see through the rhetoric. In the end, voters want honesty and values-based decisions.
This is a tough reminder of an old lesson in politics: that there is no such thing as permanent "friends" or permanent "enemies," only permanent interests. The "permanent interest" I worry about most is our country's values and principles, the compromise of which is a very high price to pay for "friendship" with a country like Turkey.
If we don't draw the line when it comes to covering up a crime against humanity, then what is left? This eats away at our nation's very foundation.
At the same time that Pelosi made her Faustian bargain, President Obama held a press conference to discuss a variety of issues where he was asked about closing Guantanamo. He said: "But it is important for us, even as we're going aggressively after the bad guys, to make sure that we're also living up to our values and our ideals and our principles."
He said this in the context of rebuilding our country's credibility in the world.
What made watching the president make that statement especially painful is that on the same day he was talking about the importance of living up to our "values" and "ideals" and "principles," he was selling them out with the government of Turkey.
Values, ideals and principles aren't things you apply selectively when convenient. You either have them or you don't.
ZANKU ARMENIAN is a resident of Glendale and a corporate communications professional. He can be reached at email@example.com.