The Bush Administration’s persistent courtship of Turkey during recent months give the impression that President Bush and the Republican leadership are treating the Republic of Turkey as the 51st state of the Union. In the political markets of the Middle East–the Transcaucasus and Europe–our President and his envoys–discarding all traditional norms of international diplomacy–have embarked on special missions in defense of Turkish interests. What’s worse–they are employing similar conduct in our country as well. Against the will of the American people–and sometimes even at the cost of discarding the law of the land–they are using the governmental apparatus in defense of purely Turkish objectives.
This pro-Turkish campaign manifested a dangerous aspect last week–when the State Department and the Congressional Republican leadership had the temerity to question a legislative initiative proposing the implementation of law. At issue here is an amendment to the fiscal year 2005 Foreign Aid Bill HR 4818 that was introduced on the House floor by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). The Representatives passed the amendment by a voice vote and added it to HR 4818. Soon after–the House passed the entire Foreign Aid Bill by a vote of 365 to 41–with 27 non-voting.
The Schiff Amendment provides that funds made available under the Foreign Aid Bill cannot be used by the Government of Turkey in contravention of Section 1913 of Title 18 of the United States Code (18 USC Sec 1913)–for purposes of lobbying against H Res 193 that reaffirms support for the Genocide Convention.
In essence–the amendment is a reiteration of a law of the land–namely 18 USC Sec. 1913–that makes it a crime and prohibits lobbying with appropriated moneys. It provides that no part of the money appropriated by Congress shall be used to influence in any manner a Member of Congress–to favor or oppose–by vote or otherwise–any legislation or appropriation by Congress. This law applies to all involved in lobbying and to all circumstances involving lobbying. Thus–the Schiff Amendment is simply an expression of this law that should also be applicable to all moneys appropriated for Turkey.
Instead of respecting the law–the Republican leadership of the legislative body entrusted with the enactment of our laws–showed its fiercest reaction to the Schiff Amendment.
A few hours after Foreign Aid Bill passed–House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL)–Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) and Majority whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) posted a joint statement on the front-page of Speaker Hastert’s website–declaring they are "strongly opposed" to the Schiff Amendment. The statement also avers that the Bush Administration has expressed its "strong opposition to the amendment," as well. (A few hours earlier–however–the very same Messers. DeLay and Blunt–instead of opposing HR 4818–voted favorably for its passage; as for Mr. Hastert–he was apparently absent at the time of the vote).
In their joint statement–the Republican leadership trio also reaffirmed they "have no intention of scheduling H Res 193. . . during the remainder of this Congress." As for their position–they base their opposition to the Schiff Amendment on two points: first–that for decades Turkey has been a reliable ally of the United States; second–that the amendment is meaningless–because current US law already prohibits foreign governmen’s from using American foreign aid for lobbying purposes.
The next day–on July 16–the State Department joined the Bush Administration’s anti-amendment onslaught. State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher announced in a press statement that the "Administration strongly opposes this amendment which seeks to restrict US assistance to Turkey." Indicating that Turkey is "our key NATO ally–and Armenia–our close friend," Mr. Boucher stated that the amendment is "detrimental to the cause" of "reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia." He further underscored–"Our goal is to bolster cooperation between these two countries rather than to separate them."
However–we should not be misled by the Administration’s double-talk. No one is naive enough to believe that the Schiff Amendment will disrupt the State Department’s illusory concept of cooperation between Turkey and Armenia. No one is ignorant enough to accept that Turkey is really a reliable ally. The objective of the Bush Administration is blatantly transparent. It is merely attempting to politicize a legislative enactment that is based on the fundamental laws of the United States. The argumen’s forwarded by the State Department and the House Republican leadership have no bearing on Title 18–Section 1913–of the US Code. The Schiff Amendment does not question the Bush Administration’s policy in defense of Turkey. Nor does it attempt to curtail appropriated funds earmarked for Turkey. In fact–Turkey is entitled and should receive all the funds made available under the Act. In compliance with US law–however–Turkey cannot use such funds in our country for lobbying purposes. And that’s the law.
Beyond the legal attributes of the Schiff Amendment–the Bush Administration’s argumen’s and positions raise serious questions involving our national concepts of legality and moral values.
First–over the past months–the damaging effects of our experience with the Turkish Government cast serious doubts about Turkey’s reliability as an ally. Last year–Turkey refused to allow US forces to open a northern front during the war in Iraq; as a result–our armed forces suffered added casualties. More often than not–the use of US bases in Turkey is denied or restricted. Nearly two thirds of Turkey’s population holds an unfavorable view of Americans.
Second–the Schiff Amendment cannot be viewed as meaningless merely because a current US law already exists for that purpose. Such a simplistic argument–coming from the Speaker of the legislative branch of our government–is neither acceptable nor tolerable. According to adopted procedures–a legislative enactment often includes provisions of procedural and substantive laws in order to ensure the acts proper and lawful implementation.
Third–the Schiff Amendment does not seek to restrict US assistance to Turkey. It merely ensures that US funds made available to Turkey are used in a manner prescribed by US laws. As such–the amendment cannot and should not disrupt State Department efforts at bolstering relations between Turkey and Armenia.
No matter how hard the Bush Administration tries to paint Turkey as a reliable ally–the stubborn facts will always refute such illusory claims. At best–Turkey may be viewed as a precarious ally. And precarious allies are necessarily unreliable partners.
No matter how resourceful the Bush Administration may be at its attempts to politicize the law–18 USC Sec. 1913 will not cease being the law of the land. And in our country no one can be above the law–not even President George W. Bush or his protg Turkey.