Statement by Armenian Caucus Co Chairman Frank Pallone (D NJ)

Mr. Speaker–I want to express my intense disappointment with the decision by the Republican leadership to pull the Armenian Genocide Resolution from consideration by the House of Representatives for the remainder of this Congressional session.

The Speaker promised to bring this resolution to the floor. His stated reason for not doing so is a request by President Clinton that it not be considered.

Mr. Speaker–the State Department and President Clinton have opposed recognition of the Armenian Genocide from day one. We all know that the State Department repeatedly uses national security as the reason to oppose most things Armenian.

What’s really going on here is that the Speaker and the President–and therefore the government of these United States both executive and legislative have succumbed to the threats of the Turkish government–threats by that government against American soldiers.

This is shameful. Turkey is a bully. We have America–the most powerful country in the world–being told by the Republic of Turkey what we can talk about and what we can think. Not only with regard to human rights violations–but with regard to the most heinous crime against humanity – genocide.

I’d like to know what kind of ally threatens American lives if it doesn’t get its way. With friends like that–as the saying goes–who needs enemies.

It’s not as if Turkey’s membership in NATO and assistance as part of the NATO Alliance only helps the US Turkey allows NATO to use its bases against Iraq because of Iraq’s threat to Turkey–not Iraq’s threat to the United States. Turkey allows NATO to use its bases out of self-interest.

Is Turkey going to abrogate all its bilateral and multilateral agreemen’s over the Armenian Genocide Resolution? I think not! These agreemen’s exist because they’re in Turkey’s self interest.

What happened today on the House floor sets a terrible precedent. It means that Turkey can threaten us in other areas. For example–they can threaten not to negotiate a settlement with Cyprus–and continue to occupy that nation. They can threaten the European Union if that organization does not allow them to become a member despite continued human rights violations against the Kurds and other minorities.

We have heard these same threats before. In 1996–for example–this body voted overwhelmingly–268 to 153–to adopt an amendment to reduce US assistance to Turkey until it recognized the Armenian Genocide. The doomsday scenarios that opponents of the resolution predicted did not occur in 1996–and I do not believe that they will occur today.

The relationship between the United States and Turkey is mutually beneficial. It is simply not in Turkey’s national interest to sever relations with the United States over a House resolution.

Which brings me back to the resolution and the importance I believe it plays in our overall foreign policy. If America is going to live up to the standards we set for ourselves–and continue to lead the world in affirming human rights everywhere–we need to stand up and recognize the Armenian catastrophe for what it was – the systematic elimination of a people.

The fact of the Armenian Genocide is not in dispute. The fact of the American record on the US response to the Armenian Genocide is not in dispute and House Resolution 596 affirms these facts. The only step left is to reject the deniers of the genocide.

As members of Congress–we should not ignore our nation’s history at the insistence of an ally–out of geopolitical convenience.

Congress should not be forced by a foreign government to deny or ignore the US record and response to the events that took place in the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923.

If the House of Representatives cannot speak to our historical experience because of threats from a foreign government–then what message do we send to our friends and enemies alike?

Therefore–Mr. Speaker–I urge you to reconsider your decision and allow the resolution to be voted on here on the House floor. I assure you it would pass overwhelmingly. To do anything else would establish a dangerous precedent for how history will be recorded with regard to current and future actions of Congress and the Administration in response to man’s inhumanity to man.

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