Rothman Criticizes US Denial of Genocide as an Obstacle to Peace in the Caucasus

WASHINGTON–Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ)–who has quickly emerged as one the most forceful voices in Congress on Armenian American issues–called upon President Clinton Tuesday to strengthen his efforts to bring peace to the Caucasus by playing "an active role in ending Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide."

In an April 21 letter to the President–Congressman Rothman wrote that–"In addition to the clear moral imperative to appropriately recognize and commemorate all instances of genocide–such a move would serve our own national interests by ensuring that the United States is viewed as an impartial and honest broker in the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.

As a nation we pay a great price for our government’s participation in Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide. As you would surely agree–complicity in the denial of genocide–for any reason–at any time–is simply unacceptable for the world’s leading defender of human rights."

The New Jersey Democrat stressed that–"The Administration’s assurances of security guarantees for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh are greatly weakened by our government’s unwillingness–after 83 years–to acknowledge that a crime of genocide was committed against the Armenian nation. This unwillingness seriously undermines the faith that the people of Karabakh have that the United States will stand up for their rights in the event of renewed Azerbaijani aggression."

Congressman Rothman concluded his letter by reminding President Clinton of his March 25 speech at the Kigali airport recognizing the Rwandan Genocide–in which the President said that–"We must never again be shy in the face of evidence" of genocide. Rep. Rothman closed by writing–"The evidence of the Armenian Genocide is clear. Now is the time to stand up for justice and help bring an end to Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide."

"We share the Congressman’s belief that the participation of the US in the denial of the Armenian Genocide seriously undermines our credibility as an impartial mediator in the Karabakh peace process," said Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "The Administration needs to deal honestly with the Armenian Genocide–both as a reaffirmation of our nation’s fundamental commitment to human rights–as well as a means of advancing US geopolitical interests in a region of great strategic significance."

The full text of Rep. Rothman’s letter to President Clinton follows.

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing to you–as a proponent of peace and stability in the Caucasus–to urge your Administration to play an active role in ending Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide.

In addition to the clear moral imperative to appropriately recognize and commemorate all instances of Genocide–such a move would serve our own national interests by ensuring that the United States is viewed as an impartial and honest broker in the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.

During your 1992 presidential campaign–you acknowledged the "Genocide of 1915." Your words were welcomed by Armenia’s and all people of good conscience as a principled stand by a leader committed to resisting the Turkish government’s shameful campaign to deny the Armenian Genocide. It is unfortunate that members of your Administration have failed to live up to your own words–issuing ambiguous statemen’s about the "Armenian massacres." I strongly encourage the Administration to use the correct term–Genocide–to describe the systematic and deliberate extermination of the Armenian people – a crime against humanity thoroughly documented in our own national archives.

As a nation–we pay a great price for our government’s participation in the Turkish government’s denial of the Armenian Genocide. As you would surely agree–complicity in the denial of genocide–for any reason–at any time–is simply unacceptable conduct for the world’s leading defender of human rights.

The United States’ long-standing acquiescence of Turkey’s denial was accurately characterized in 1995 by Stanley Cohen–a professor of criminology at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University–writing in Law and Social Inquiry–published by the American Bar Foundation:

"The nearest successful example [of collective denial] in the modern era is the 80 years of official denial by successive Turkish governmen’s of the 1915-17 genocide against the Armenia’s in which some 1.5 million people lost their lives."

"This denial has been sustained by deliberate propaganda–lying and cover-ups–forging documen’s–suppression of archives–and bribing scholars. The West–especially the United States–has colluded by not referring to the massacres in the United Nations–ignoring memorial ceremonies–and surrendering to Turkish pressures in NATO and other strategic arenas of cooperation."

As I noted–withholding the proper recognition of the Armenian Genocide also significantly hinders our nation’s ability to help resolve the ongoing conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. The Administration’s assurances of security guarantees for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh are greatly weakened by our government’s unwillingness–after 83 years–to acknowledge that a crime of genocide was committed against the Armenian nation. This unwillingness seriously undermines the faith that the people of Karabakh have that the United States will stand up for their rights in the event of renewed Azerbaijani aggression.

Mr. President–very appropriately–you have always stressed that the United States must lead on the question of fundamental freedoms around the world. Your statement on March 25th of this year in the Rwandan capital was in the proudest tradition of our nation’s commitment to human rights. At the Kigali airport–you stated that–"Genocide can occur anywhere. It is not an African phenomenon. We must have global vigilance. And never again must we be shy in the face of evidence.”

Mr. President–the evidence of the Armenian Genocide is clear. Now is the time to stand up for justice and help bring an end to Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide.

I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.

Sincerely,

Steven R. Rothman

Member of Congress

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