In the recent vote in the House of Representatives for the United States to recognize the Armenian Genocide, Ilhan Omar abstained from voting. Her reason for abstaining: recognition should not happen for political purposes, and other genocides should be formally recognized before the Armenian genocide.
The logic of Omar’s first point is flawed. She states that “accountability and recognition of genocide should not be used as cudgel in a political fight.” Omar is referring to the United States’ new willingness to challenge Turkey in light of their invasion of Syria. Before, the US was less willing to anger Turkey by recognizing the genocide because they were an important Middle Eastern ally. However, Omar is wrong about the House’s motivations. Of the 50 states, only one does not publicly recognize the Armenian Genocide. Ultimately, the federal bill to recognize the Armenian Genocide is not to aggravate Turkey, but to officially and federally recognize what the states have believed individually for years.
In her second point, Omar states that “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.”
In a deeper analysis of this comment, Omar makes several historically inaccurate statements. First, she implies that the transatlantic slave trade was a genocide; while slavery was terrible and should be recognized as such, it was not a genocide. A genocide is defined as the systematic killing of a group of people, with the intention to destroy their national, ethnical, racial or religious group. The goal of slavery, in contrast, was not to kill but to extract free labor.
Therefore, to compare slavery with the systematic murder of 1.5 million Armenians is like comparing apples to oranges. In addition, her comment on Native Americans is also severely flawed. While there is no doubt that entire civilizations were wiped out by European influence in the Americas, we must again look for intentional and systematic destruction of a specific people group. Under this definition of genocide, the Indian Removal Act is the only event in which Native Americans were specifically exterminated, and even then, only 4,000 Native Americans died, not hundreds of millions, as Omar claims. To add to this, there were only around 54 million indigenous people in the Americas in 1492. To get the number Omar referenced, she would need to compile all deaths of native people from 1492 until the present, most of whom were not killed by genocide.
In this statement, she erroneously implies that this bill should not be passed until the other crimes she mentioned are formally recognized. To imply that specific crimes against humanity must be recognized before recognizing others is idiotic. By this logic, the House would need to first determine the worst acts in history, rank them, and then vote on them in order of horribleness.
Acknowledging one crime against humanity does not mean that all the other crimes are okay. The bill about the Armenian Genocide passed because it was relevent and already widely recognized. To imply that by passing this bill, the House believes people think that slavery and the crimes against Native Americans shouldn’t be formally recognized is laughable.
Ultimately, Ilhan Omar’s comments regarding the motives of the bill and the history of the Americas are false and her statements hinder the House’s attempt to recognize crimes against humanity. Her statements are unacceptable, reprehensible, and should not be tolerated from a representative of the United States of America.