If The Resolution is a 'Democratic Ploy,' It Sure Was Clever to Have the GOP House Speaker Lead the Way!
ALSO: Recalling FBI Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds' Claim that Hastert Called Off Full House Vote After Possibly Receiving $500k from Turkish Interests, And Additional New Information on Her Gag-Ordered 'States Secrets' Case...
By Brad Friedman on 10/15/2007, 4:08pm PT  

We're anything but experts on the long and storied history of American-Turkish-Armenian relations. We're also not particularly partisan, or inclined to come to the defense of the Democrats. But we do have a thing about facts and fairness.

So with Rush Limbaugh, this morning, leading the charge of the Rightwing goon squad attempting to characterize an increase in saber rattling in Turkey as "Nancy Pelosi's War," it seems a bit of a fact-check reminder is necessary here.

The brouhaha, which Limbaugh hopes to turn into a Republican electoral advantage, surrounds a House resolution to declare the 1915 mass killing of more 1.5 million ethnic Armenians a "genocide." While the resolution passed out of the Foreign Affairs Committee last week on a bi-partisan 27 to 21 vote, the Bush Administration has suggested it will make life difficult for their efforts in Iraq, such that they are, which depend on Turkish support. Passage of the resolution could lead to inflamed ethnic violence on the Turkish/Kurdish border and lead to a widening of the war.

Limbaugh and the GOP opportunists have been declaring the resolution a Democratic ploy to ruin Turkish-American relations, embarrass George W. Bush, and help spread the war into a full-blown regional conflagration.

But what Limbaugh and friends seem to be avoiding is the fact that it was Republican Dennis Hastert who, as House Speaker back in 2000, last pushed for the same resolution, seeing it through the then-Republican-led International Relations Committee, where it passed by a large majority, and then scheduled it for a full vote on the House floor, only to pull the legislation just minutes before the vote --- supposedly at the urging of President Bill Clinton.

A similar resolution made it through the then-Republican-led House International Relations Committee by a lopsided vote of 40 to 7 just two years ago, even though Republican Minority Leader John Boehner now declares the measure to be "totally irresponsible."

When reporting on claims made by FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds in 2005, Vanity Fair's David Rose reported notable details on the 2000 Hastert-pushed version...

For many years, attempts had been made to get the house to pass a genocide resolution, but they never got anywhere until August 2000, when Hastert, as Speaker, announced that he would give it his backing and see that it received a full house vote. He had a clear political reason, as analysts noted at the time: a California Republican incumbent, locked in a tight congressional race, was looking to win over his district’s large Armenian community. Thanks to Hastert, the resolution, vehemently opposed by the Turks, passed the International Relations Committee by a large majority. Then, on October 19, minutes before the full House vote, Hastert withdrew it.

At the time, he explained his decision by saying that he had received a letter from President Clinton arguing that the genocide resolution, if passed, would harm U.S. interests.

Thus, to describe the long bi-partisan effort to declare the 1915 Ottoman Empire massacre a "genocide" as a Democratic ploy to cause trouble for Bush and the Iraq War is just ridiculous. But that, of course, has never stopped Limbaugh and the rest of his disingenuous Republicanist pals who count on their misinformed Fox "News" viewers and listeners to have forgotten --- or never known in the first place --- about anything that took place in American history beyond the last week or so.

If you're seeking a real simmering and still under-examined controversy here, we might recommend poking around into what former FBI translator turned whistleblower Sibel Edmonds claims she listened in on when reviewing pre-9/11 wiretaps, supposedly from Turkish interests in Hastert's home district.

She claims, as Rose reported in his exposé at the time, that "a senior official at the Turkish Consulate is said to have claimed in one recording that the price for Hastert to withdraw the resolution would have been at least $500,000." Rose went on to detail nearly $500,000 in unitemized small donations to Hastert, all in increments just under the $200 limit which would have triggered full public disclosure of the donor names.

Many months later, in February of 2006, Hastert's team finally offered a rebuttal of sorts, in the form of a short letter to the editor in VF, which The BRAD BLOG ran along with an Exclusive reply/rebuttal from Edmonds herself questioning the less-than-forthcoming denial of Team Hastert.

As Edmonds remains gag-ordered to this day by the Bush DoJ --- under an arcane and rarely-invoked "state secrets privilege" --- we still do not know the exact details of what was heard on those and the other tapes she listened to as a translator before being removed from her job after making claims of possible espionage within the bureau. That, despite pleas from both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee to allow Edmonds to tell her story, even to a closed-door, classified session of the committee, as well as a DoJ Inspector General's report which found her allegations to be "credible," "serious," and "warrant[ing] a thorough and careful review by the FBI."

In March of 2007, after Democrats took control of both houses of Congress, in another BRAD BLOG exclusive, we published a link to a petition calling on Congress to hold "joint public hearings by the Senate and House Judiciary Committees into confirmed reports by FBI Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds of wrongdoing, criminal activities, and cover-ups against the security and interests of the United States and its citizenry."

Edmonds told us then that some 15,000 signed the petitions were delivered to Congress before she then asked for folks to directly contact Henry Waxman's Government Reform and Oversight Committee and John Conyers' Judiciary Committee to demand public hearings for her case. Contact details for those committees are here.

We caught up with Edmonds this afternoon, and she told us that more than 30,000 have now signed the petition, and while Waxman's office had told her on several occassions it was Republicans who were holding up hearings on her allegations in the House Overisght Committee, and that hearings on her case would be "one of the first" they'd hold once Democrats became the majority, no such hearings have been forthcoming.

"They are going mum," she told us today, "they are not responding."

She says that she's given full details on the classified matters, "in the scif" (a sensitive compartmented information facility) to members of Waxman's staff. The briefings she offered included "details, not just allegations" of corruption on "two other well known Congressional members aside from Hastert" who were not named in the Vanity Fair article.

Edmonds told us the two were Republican House members and that "one of them is recently no longer there."

We've requested comment from Waxman's office on the status of Edmonds' case, but did not get an immediate reply.

A spokesman from Conyers' office told The BRAD BLOG today that, while they don't have any official statement on the possibility of hearings at this time, they have spoken with Edmonds on several occassions and "take her seriously."

She updated us today on the status of her case in some detail, along with her plans for moving forward. We hope to have more on that here at The BRAD BLOG in the coming days.

UPDATE 10/29/07: The promised update --- and a bit of a bombshell --- on the Sibel Edmonds story is now posted here...

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