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Needlessly angering Turkey

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has really stepped in it this time.

No doubt worried about her own re-election in a liberal district with a large Armenian population, she let a committee pass a nonbinding resolution that declares the 1915 slaughter of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire a genocide. She appears ready to allow the full House to vote on this before Congress adjourns Nov. 16. And she appears unmoved by the enormous harm this already has done to U.S. relations with its most important Muslim ally, Turkey.

For the speaker, politics seems to trump national interests. Or perhaps she simply doesn't care that an unpopular war in Iraq would be made much more difficult without Turkey's support.

For the record, the slaughter of Armenians was indeed a vicious, horrible atrocity. By some estimates, 1.5 million Armenians were tracked down and mercilessly killed, regardless of age or gender. It was genocide.

The 20th century saw far too many examples of genocide. So why isn't Congress considering resolutions condemning Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Japan for its World War II atrocities or, for that matter, long-gone leaders of the Democratic Party who stood in the way of racial integration in this country?

The answers are obvious. The people responsible are dead. The governments in charge of those nations have changed. A resolution passed many years later would do nothing to change what happened. Historians are better qualified to sort out the villains and pass on the lessons.

And, in the case of modern Turkey, the consequences are too great.

Bloomberg News quoted the head of Turkey's armed forces as saying the United States has "shot itself in the foot." People have taken to the streets of Turkey in angry anti-American protests. Those protests are quickly turning into political pressure for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, whose military leaders would prefer to be tougher against Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq but who have thus far acquiesced to U.S. requests to tread lightly.

Turkey houses an air base that is a critical resupply point for U.S. forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even if the full House now rejects the resolution, it is unclear whether the United States can repair the political damage, or what the eventual fallout might be.

Turkish leaders may think the United States has shot itself in the foot, but Pelosi is the one whose footprints are all over this one.