Says Congresswoman Anna Eshoo
By Khatchig Mouradian
The Armenian Weekly
October 6, 2007
WASHINGTON (A.W.)—The following interview with Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) was conducted on Sept. 28 in her office in Washington.
The video of the interview can be viewed on www.haireniktv.com.
Khatchig Mouradian—Congresswoman, now that we have 226 co-sponsors of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, what’s next?
Anna Eshoo—A few very important things need to be done. First, we want to keep getting co-sponsors, so this is not something that has ended. Every week I talk to members on the floor of the House to invite them to come on to the resolution, answer questions, etc. Very importantly, Congressman Tom Lantos from Northern California, who is the chairman of the House International Relations Committee, needs to schedule the bill for mark-up—that means that you write up the bill, it’s accepted by the committee, there’s a vote in the committee, and then it qualifies to come to the floor of the house for action. Now why is 226—and counting—important? Because the majority of the House is 218. We have to keep members on the legislation, not allow people to stray, not allow the Turkish lobby to affect members and peel them off of the legislation.
K.M.—The expectations are high, and it’s up to Speaker Nancy Pelosi to put the resolution to vote. Yet, she’s under a lot of pressure from lobby groups, the Tukish government and the State Department. How do you see this issue developing in the next few weeks?
A.E.—Well, the Armenian-American community should retain their confidence in Speaker Pelosi. She has always been on the resolution since she came to Congress, she’s been committed to the community and what needs to be done. She has spoken every year on it on the floor of the House, and now we are so proud that she is our Speaker. So she hasn’t changed her mind about the issue. It’s up to us to be able to pass it. The Speaker doesn’t tell people how to vote. … And then she likes to win. So we’re going to have to demonstrate that we have the votes on the floor in order to win. And we have all known from the very beginning—no one knows it better than the Armenian-American community—that this has always been tough. The opposition understands our position of strength now and they keep ratcheting up every day.
K.M.—Do you see any difference between the way the opposition operated previously and the way it’s operating now?
A.E.—There’s more money, and there’s more pressure.
K.M.—And what are your thoughts on the letter, signed by eight former Secretaries of State, which urges Speaker Pelosi to keep the resolution off the House floor?
A.E.—I have to tell you I’m not surprised. And the reason I’m not surprised is that each of those Secretaries of State are defending the policy that they implemented. We haven’t had one administration that was with us. This is how high the climb is. So while I would like to have had it be different, it’s not a surprise to me because every single administration has sided the other way. They have not been with us. That’s why we know that it’s up to us to launch this and to move it, and I think their sending this letter shows the power of the [Turkish] lobby. I mean there’s a lot of money in this. There’s a ton of money in this in plain English. So, yes, we’ve always known we have a tough fight. They’ve been successful for 25 years in the Congress, but I believe that we can change it and I believe that we will change it, and the reason for that is because it’s the right thing to do.
K.M.—Why is it important for the United States Congress to recognize a crime against humanity that took place 92 years ago in a different part of the world?
A.E.—The greatest strength that America has is her moral standing in the world. That has been and continues to be the most eloquent statement about who and what we are as a nation. And we have moved away from some of those values—very sadly, I must say—and that has chipped away at the credibility of the United States of America. Make no mistake about it, we are the mightiest in terms of military, we certainly are the most powerful economic force in the world, but without moral standing, you have a house that is essentially built on sand. So this is about who we are and what we stand for. And our human rights record and our recognition to correct not only history around the world, but our very own history. We had to fight to acknowledge that slavery was wrong in our country. So we have a very, very long record on this. And that’s why it is important. What did Hitler say? “Who will remember the Armenians?” We will!
K.M.—Congresswoman, this is a very important human rights issue, but it’s also a very personal issue for you. Can you talk about that?
A.E.—Well, as you know, I’m half Hye (Armenian) and half Assori (Assyrian). That’s a very powerful mixture for me because both sides of my family were persecuted and fled the region. When I saw that full-page ad in the New York Times taken out by the Turkish lobby saying, “Let’s settle this once and for all as to whether there was or was not a genocide, and have a commission...” Excuse me? Did my grandmother lie? I mean, I sat at her knee and she described the slaughter of her own family.
We’re not asking anyone for money. We’re simply stating that this be a fact that is set down and recognized by the American people. And I think the American people are way ahead of us. There isn’t any argument in my Congressional district or across the country as to whether this is something that took place. In fact, constituents are stunned that this is even a battle. And the battle is being waged against denial. I think that it would be a gift for the Turkish people and the Turkish government to get this behind them. This isn’t the present-day Turkey that did it, this was the Ottoman Empire, so yes, this is very, very close to me. It’s my family, it’s who I am, and it’s where I come from.
But this is also very important for our nation to recognize. And when you move from denial to truth, you’re free.