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Rep. Ilhan Omar refused to recognize Armenian genocide in House vote. The reasons she gave are raising eyebrows.


The Democratic congresswoman said the resolution should have also acknowledged deaths of Native Americans and slaves


Freshman Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) was one of only a handful of members of the House of Representatives who turned up their noses at a resolution acknowledging the World War I genocide of the Armenian people, and a number of the reasons she gave for her decision are raising eyebrows.

What are the details?

In an overwhelming 405-11 vote on Tuesday, the lower chamber passed a resolution condemning "the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire [modern-day Turkey] from 1915 to 1923," in a clear swipe at Turkey for its recent actions in northeast Syria.

Nine Republicans voted "nay" on the measure, and a bipartisan mix of 13 representatives did not vote. Omar, along with one other Democrat and one Republican, voted, "present."

The Democrat from Minnesota later explained her decision in a statement to CNN's Haley Byrd, saying:

I believe accountability for human rights violations—especially ethnic cleansing and genocide—is paramount. But accountability and recognition of genocide should not be used as cudgel in a political fight. It should be done based on academic consensus outside the push and pull of geopolitics.

A true acknowledgment of historical crimes against humanity must include both the heinous genocides of the 20th century, along with earlier mass slaughters like the transatlantic slave trade and Native American genocide, which took the lives of hundreds of millions of indigenous people in this country. For this reason, I voted 'present on final passage of H.Res. 296, the resolution Affirming the United States record on the Armenian Genocide.

Despite the fact that the U.S. has a long history of condemning the slaughter of the Armenians, Omar does have a point when it comes to the timing of Tuesday's resolution.

The Daily Caller reported that "a similar vote has not been held since 1984, thanks in large part to Ankara's heavy lobbying campaign in the U.S.," and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) acknowledge to NPR, "I think some of us are a little bit annoyed with Turkey, and we want them to know how much annoyed we are."

But social media picked up on other details of Omar's statement, and lambasted the congresswoman for possibly suggesting in her explanation that there wasn't an "academic consensus" on the killings, and for complaining that the deaths of Native Americans and African slaves were not recognized in the measure.

Anything else?

Evidently, Omar felt the heat. She explained on Twitter later in the evening, "My issue was the timing and context. I think we should demand accountability for human rights abuses consistently, not simply when it suits our political goals. ... My focus has and will always be to make sure our foreign policy is consistent, coherent and my votes will as well."

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