Members of Congress Mark 92nd Anniversary of Armenian Genocide in Floor Speeches

WASHINGTON–Senators and Representatives joined Armenia’s around the world this week in commemorating the 92nd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, making statemen’s on the floor of their respective chambers of Congress, reported the Armenian National Committee of America. In their statemen’s, many Senators and Representatives spoke forcefully about the importance of ending US complicity in Turkey’s continued campaign of Genocide denial, pledging their support for passage of Armenian Genocide legislation (S.Res.106 and H.Res.106). Several called for immediate US and international action to end the genocide currently taking place in Darfur, noting that Turkey’s ability to commit genocide with impunity has set a dangerous precedent for worldwide genocide prevention efforts. Excerpts from the Senate and House floor speeches follow. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)"In order for democracy and human rights to flourish, we must not support efforts to rewrite and deny history. In the United States, we strive to make human rights a fundamental component of our democracy. It is long overdue for our nation to demand that the truth be told. We must recognize the Armenian genocide in the name of democracy, fairness and human rights … It is important that we recognize the Armenian genocide while its survivors are still with us to tell their stories. We must recognize the genocide for the survivors. We must recognize the genocide because it is the right thing to do. We must recognize the Armenian genocide to help shed light on the darkness and move toward a more humane world." Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)"California is home to many of the descendants of the genocide’s survivors, who immigrated to the United States and, over the course of a few decades, built strong and vibrant communities. Working closely with the Armenian -American community over my many years in public service, I know how alive and painful this issue continues to be for many Armenian Americans. . . Let there be no mistake. The ongoing genocide in Darfur, carried out by the Government of Sudan and its Janjaweed militias, traces its roots to the silence and quiescence of the international community during previous episodes of genocide and ethnic cleansing, including the Armenian genocide." Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) "Because I believe we cannot prevent future genocide unless we recognize past genocide, I am a sponsor of Senate Resolution 106, which calls upon the President to ensure that this Nation’s foreign policy reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the US record relating to the Armenian genocide. . . As many as one and a half million Armenia’s lost their lives during this systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing conducted in Turkey while the world was preoccupied by the First World War and its aftermath. That the major powers, including the United States, did not prevent or intervene at any point to stop this killing represents one of twentieth century’s ugliest stains on humanity." Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI)"Today, as a proud supporter of S. Res 106, legislation officially recognizing the Armenian genocide , I urge the President to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the US record relating to the Armenian genocide . Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stated over 50 years after the Armenian genocide that: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere . . . Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” The time has come to officially recognize the Armenian genocide. . .Menk panav chenk mornar. We will never forget." Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ): Mr. Speaker, 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 finally stand up and recognize the tragic events that began in 1915 for what they were: the systematic elimination of a people….. And the fact of the matter is that when some of my colleagues say to me, “Well, why do you need to bring up something that occurred 92 years ago,” I say, “Because by denying this, the Turkish Government continues to perpetrate genocide or oppression of its minorities." Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) If Turkish relations with the US do suffer, it is far more likely that the genocide recognition will be a pretext; the Bush Administration has done such a poor job managing our relations with Turkey over the last six years that we have already seen the limits of the US Turkish alliance tested and found lacking. During the run-up to the war in Iraq, Turkey denied us permission to bring in ground forces from its soil, allowing the Saddam Fedeyeen to melt away and form the basis of a now persistent insurgency. Oddly enough, critics of recognition decry it as pandering to the victims, but are only too happy to pander to the sensibilities of an inconstant ally, and one that has shown no qualms about accusing the US of genocide in Iraq. But the most pernicious argument against recognition is the claim that speaking the truth would harm relations with Turkey for no good reason. How can we claim the moral authority to decry the genocide in Darfur, as we must, if we are unwilling to deplore other genocides when it would inconvenience an ally? Elie Wiesel has described the denial of genocide as the final stage of genocide–a double killing. Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA): "On April 24, 1915, 300 Armenian leaders were rounded up and deported and killed under the orders from the young Turk Government. And so began the genocide that lasted for seven years, resulting in an estimated over 1.5 million Armenian deaths. To this day, unfortunately, the Turkish Government denies that this occurred…Ladies and gentlemen, Members of the House, I just returned from Darfur with a group of our colleagues 2 weeks ago. Over 450,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in Darfur; yet government officials claim there in Darfur and Sudan that there is no genocide, that the situation is overblown. Yesterday Rwanda, today Darfur. And we can remember the Holocaust. Clearly, silence is genocide’s best ally. It is time that the Congress end this silence and pass the Armenian genocide resolution." Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD): "As the first genocide of the 21st century–this time in Darfur–began to take shape, the world again hesitated, this time to debate for months the definition of genocide, as thousands died and thousands more were displaced. Today, 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur and 2.5 million driven from their homes. And so, I rise Mr. Speaker not only to acknowledge and remember the horrific events that befell the Armenian people at the dawn of the last century, but also to highlight the horrific events occurring one hundred years later in Darfur at the dawn of this century…. For the past few years, as the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide approached, I hoped that year would be the year a solution to the crisis would come. But, this year, instead of speaking of how the lessons of the Armenian Genocide helped unite the world around a solution for Darfur, I can only report of ongoing suffering and continued killings." Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) "Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term `genocide’ in 1944, and who was the earliest proponent of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, invoked the Armenian case as a definitive example of genocide in the 20th century. The time is now for the Administration to describe what occurred as genocide. There is no option for continued denial… Now more than ever, as the world is gripped by unrest and terrorism, the memory of the Armenian Genocide underscores our responsibility to help convey our cherished traditions of respect for fundamental human rights and opposition to mass slaughter." Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) "I have always supported the Armenian community. In 2003, I had the opportunity to visit Armenia and to plant a tree at the Genocide memorial. We must never forget the horrors that took place 92 years ago. Let us never forget the 1.5 minion Armenia’s who perished in 1915 and 1916. We know such mass murder is not a tragedy from a distant past, but a continuation of the failing to recognize these barbaric acts before they are executed." Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) "The writer Milan Kundera once wrote that “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” There are those that would deny the Armenian Genocide… In commemorating the Armenian Genocide we collectively engage in that struggle of memory against forgetting…. to reaffirm our commitment to prevent such things from ever happening again, and to strive towards making a better future for the Armenian people." Rep. James R. Langevin (D-RI) "Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate the 92nd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Our voices, as well as those of Armenian -Americans across the Nation, are essential in the effort to bring needed attention to such a historic tragedy. The Armenian -American community has made tremendous contributions to our country, and their efforts and passion will help ensure that those who lost their lives will not be forgotten… I will keep fighting to ensure that the Armenian Genocide is appropriately recognized." Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D-CA) "Once the genocide ended, many survivors rose above their anguish and terrible experiences to rebuild their lives. Armenian communities began to flourish as numerous immigrants found a new home here in the United States, as well as in my home state of California. Even though their communities discovered solace and success in America, the scars of genocide remain deeply embedded in their history and in our conscience…. Together we can educate, commemorate, remember, and stand united in promoting a clear message that the United States does not condone, nor does it tolerate acts of genocide." Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) "I join with the chorus of voices that grows louder with each passing year. We simply will not allow ice planned elimination of an entire people to remain in the shadows of history. The Armenian Genocide must be acknowledged, studied, and never, ever allowed to happen again… American tax dollars should not be used to support efforts to isolate Armenia, and these provisions would prevent that by ensuring that US funds are not used to support the construction of a new railway that bypasses Armenia. A railway already exists that connects the nations of Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, but because it crosses Armenia, an expensive and unnecessary new railway had been proposed. Allowing the exclusion of Armenia from important transportation routes would stymie the emergence of this region as an important East-West trade corridor. It is in our economic and security interests to ensure that the aggression against Armenia comes to an end." Rep. Michael R. McNulty (D-NY): "… From these ashes arose hope and promise in 1991–and I was blessed to see it. I was one of the four international observers from the United States Congress to monitor Armenia’s independence referendum. I went to the communities in the northern part of Armenia , and I watched in awe as 95 percent of the people over the age of 18 went out and voted…. What a great thrill it was to join them the next day in the streets of Yerevan when they were celebrating their great victory. Ninety-eight percent of the people who voted cast their ballots in favor of independence. It was a wonderful experience to be there with them when they danced and sang and shouted, `Ketse azat ankakh Hayastan’– long live free and independent Armenia ! That should be the cry of freedom-loving people everywhere." Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-CA): "On April 24, 1915, the Turkish government began to arrest Armenian community and political leaders. Many were executed without ever being charged with crimes. Then the government deported most Armenia’s from Turkish Armenia, ordering that they resettle in what is now Syria. Many deportees never reached that destination…. We also remember this day because it is a time for us to celebrate the contribution of the Armenian community in America–including hundreds of thousands in California–to the richness of our character and culture. The strength they have displayed in overcoming tragedy to flourish in this country is an example for all of us. Their success is moving testimony to the truth that tyranny and evil cannot extinguish the vitality of the human spirit." Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA): "This should be a day reserved for honoring the memory of those who were killed and paying tribute to the strength of those who survived. It should be a time to reflect on the personal narratives of those who were exiled, the historical evidence of villages and communities that were destroyed, and diplomatic cables from US officials that described the atrocities. It should be an opportunity to resolve ourselves to fight crimes against humanity in all forms and all places. Instead, year after year, April 24 unleashes a battle of semantics…. Those who acknowledge what happened in Armenia as a “tragedy,” a “catastrophe,” or a “massacre” are correct. But nothing other than the term “genocide” can wholly characterize the systematic deportation of nearly 2 million Armenia’s and the deliberate annihilation of 1.5 million men, women and children. Anything short of that is unfair to those who perished and unhelpful to our plight against future acts of genocide." Rep. Jerry F. Costello (D-IL): "In spite of overwhelming evidence, particularly American diplomatic records from the time, some continue to deny the occurrence of this brutal tragedy in human history. As a member of Congress, I represent a significant population of Armenian survivors who have proudly preserved their culture, traditions, and religion and have told the horrors of the genocide to an often indifferent world…. Mr. Speaker, it is time to fully recognize the Armenian Genocide in order to right the historical record….so we pay tribute to the memory of all the individuals who suffered, their family members that remain, and vow to never forget their sacrifices." Rep. Michael E. Capuano (D-MA): "Many of our companions in the international community have already taken this final step…The European Parliament and the United Nations have recognized and reaffirmed the Armenian Genocide as historical fact, as have the Russian and Greek parliamen’s, the Canadian House of Commons, the Lebanese Chamber of Deputies and the French National Assembly. It is time for America to join the chorus and acknowledge the Armenia’s who suffered at the hands of the Ottoman Empire."

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