WASHINGTON–With the Armenian National Committee of America and Genocide Intervention Network (GI-Net) two-day anti-genocide advocacy campaign as a backdrop, Members of Congress called for decisive action to end the cycle of genocide during a Capitol Hill Observance held on March 22nd. Ten Members of Congress, including House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa Chairman Donald Payne (D-NJ), Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Armenian Genocide Resolution author Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), David Dreier (R-CA), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), John Sarbanes (D-MD), and Jean Schmidt (R-OH), joined together in urging continued grassroots advocacy to secure proper acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide and targeted divestment of firms aiding and abetting the ongoing Genocide in Sudan. Rep. Payne: Calls for Vigilance to End Darfur Genocide Throughout the evening, Members of Congress cited vigilance as the key to stopping and preventing genocide. Rep. Payne, who led House action to properly characterize the killings in Darfur as genocide" the first time Congress has ever declared a genocide when it was actually taking place spoke to this point: "So we were very pleased and very proud, and elated by the 422 to zero vote, declaring genocide in Darfur. And you know, word went around, and the Senate passed it, and the President even mentioned it and [then Secretary of State] Colin Powell said it and people in Darfur heard it and they were elated. They really felt that their problem would be over because genocide had been declared. And I felt that – now we are going to see the whole world take action, because the 1948 Genocide Convention is supposed to compel countries to act. And so I feel almost ashamed that we failed because people are still dying even though genocide has been declared. What we thought was a victory is a failure." Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who will be traveling to Darfur in the near future, along with Rep. Costa, urged those in attendance to raise their voices against genocide. "You are involved in many issues, but this is the one for which the voice of silence is insufferable, and we cannot tolerate. So your song, your voice your resounding voice is one that gets things done," noted Rep. Jackson Lee. Rep. Costa: Speaking Truth to Power in Turkey In poignant remarks about his roots in Central Valley, California, growing up with families who had fled the Armenian Genocide, Rep. Costa outlined the need to call on Turkey to speak honestly of its past at every opportunity. He described a recent visit to Turkey, where he had the opportunity to meet with Foreign Minister Gul and Members of the Turkish Parliament. "[In 2006], we stopped in Turkey and we had a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Turkey and then later we had a luncheon the US Embassy hosted with members of the Turkish Parliament. And I thought this would be a great opportunity to bring up the Armenian Genocide. I told the Turkish Foreign Minister that there was something I had to say… I said, you know, all countries have histories of which we are proud of, and histories of which we are not proud… We had a Civil War that brought our country at odds on the issue, in large part because of slavery and slavery was wrong. And it took another hundred years in this country, after the Civil War ended, to have to go through a civil rights movement to finally acknowledge the injustice of slavery, which the Civil War was fought over but also the aftermath of the Jim Crow laws and the ‘separate but equal’ doctrines that existed in our country for so many decades. And even today, we are still making progress. But we acknowledged as a great country our wrongs. And therefore, I thought it was appropriate and important that in the 21st Century Turkey recognize that even countries with histories such as it, recognize mistakes that were made."Obviously, it will probably come as no surprise to you, that in the discussion I received a response that I can only state was in my view a bit of revisionist history a revisionist history that I don’t think holds up to the facts. But we went on with the lunch and we met with our counterparts in the parliament. Once again I brought up the issue. It was interesting because we had multi- factions there representing the various parties. And the Genocide was almost the one issue that I am hesitant to say brought some onsensus amongst the different delegations although there was one that did acknowledge there was an attempt to work on the issue. Obviously, every time Americans meet with our Turkish counterparts, we need to reiterate the issue and put it on the table and let them know that, to the Americans and the American Congress, this is an issue that will not go away." Rep. Schiff: Speaking Truth to Power in the US During remarks, Armenian Genocide Resolution author Adam Schiff (D-CA) described his recent exchange with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations hearing held on March 21st. Rep. Schiff questioned Secretary Rice regarding a recent letter, cosigned by the Secretaries of Defense and State, urging Congressional leaders not to adopt the Armenian Genocide resolution (H.Res.106/S.Res.106). "I thought that it was important to call her [Secretary Rice] to answer for the views that were stated in that letter and not simply to allow the Administration in the dead of night or otherwise to send a letter without having to defend it. And something really struck me during the course of this dialogue. I began by asking if she had any question, if she had any doubt, that the death of a million and a half Armenia’s constituted ‘genocide’ – did she have any personal doubt about that.’ Well she would not answer that question.’"And I said, ‘are you aware of any reputable historian outside of Turkey who has any question about the Armenian Genocide’ and she wouldn’t answer that."And I said ‘you come out of academia’ — because she said, ‘well, this is for the historians to decide and it’s not in Turkey’s interest to have us pushing them and we ought to pushing the parties together’, etc. — was she aware of any reputable historians. She came out of academia, she was the president’s advisor during his campaign when he said he would recognize the Armenian Genocide — was she aware of anyone on academia, and she said ‘I was in academia before, but now I am the secretary of State.’ So I guess that means to imply that you have a different standard of historical integrity when you are a diplomat than when you have academic freedom."But what really struck me in this little debate that we had was that what the Secretary was really asking of us is that we apply Turkish law in America — that we apply Article 301 right here at home. That it should be a violation of our policy, to insult Turkishness. The irony was so striking to me that here the Foreign Minister of Turkey is encouraging the repeal of Article 301, but let us make sure that we apply it here at home."I don’t know how we have the credibility to call on Turkey to come clean on is past, if we are not willing to. I don’t know how we can have the moral standing that we need to have on the genocide going in Darfur, if the Sudanese government can say ‘sure, you’re calling this genocide because we are not powerful, we are not your ally, – but when it comes to your allies, we won’t call the murder of a million and a half people genocide.’" Rep. Pallone: Ending the Cycle of Genocide Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone lamented the ongoing cycle of genocide and praised efforts to break the pattern. He explained that: "When the whole series of incidents began in Darfur a few years ago, it really pained me a great deal, because I thought to myself, ‘here we go again.’"I was born in 1951 and there have been several genocides that have occurred around the world since that time. And it is really sad to think that we had the Armenian Genocide, we had the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews, and yet these types of genocides continue. Once again the situation in Darfur is very classic because there wasn’t early intervention, there really isn’t any serious intervention now and the Western powers, the developed nations, if you will, really aren’t taking action to do something about it." Rep. Dreier noted that, "the poster out front says ‘end the cycle of genocide’ and that clearly is the message. I am so proud to be a cosponsor, along with my colleague, who really represents all of Glendale, Adam Schiff, who led the charge in this effort. I am convinced that we have a great opportunity for success this year." In speaking with some 200 New Jersey high school students earlier in the day, Rep. Rush Holt the top question posed to Congressman was: "What is it that you in Congress don’t understand about Genocide?" Rep. Holt explained: "We talked about Darfur, we talked about Genocides past and present with the strong message that you had to start by telling the truth acknowledging the truth and that goes for the United States and that also goes for Turkey. I had to say to these students that we don’t have a very good record. Actually we have a good record at recognizing genocide retrospectively but not good enough. Here in Congress, a majority now says that we recognize the Armenian Genocide but we have not taken it to heart. We haven’t applied the lesson more broadly to the world today. So we should listen to the students more and listen to you more." Rep. Sherman: Spotlight on Genocide Denial Highlighting the disturbing increase in Genocide denial starting with the Armenian Genocide and extending to recent Japanese denials of the Rape of Nanking Rep. Sherman explained the key relationship between genocide acknowledgment and genocide prevention: According to Rep. Sherman: "The last act of genocide is genocide denial. First a people is extinguished and then the memory of them and their extinguishment is extinguished. The first act of preventing genocides in the 21st century is to recognize the first genocide of the 20th Century. And that is why what we are doing today is relevant for tomorrow. We are told that we should deny history to improve our situation, our relationship with countries today. What if tomorrow Germany should have an unfortunate change in government and we get a note from Berlin saying ‘you want those Mercedes? Well you better tear down that Holocaust Museum down the street.’ How do you think America should respond to that? Whatever misguided government may or may not be from time to time in the capital of one of our allies, the truth remains unchanged no matter the attitude of this or that government. We would not tear down the Holocaust Museum in this city and we will not deny the Armenian Genocide any longer."It is only Turkey that demands, for reasons I do not understand, that we fail to acknowledge history. And they do so not only to the detriment of people in this room and the survivors of the genocide — who are now in their 90’s and who hope that Congress and ultimately Turkey will acknowledge the truth while they are still with us – but the real harm is to the Turkish soul."Where would America be if we said, ‘slavery – it didn’t really happen.’ Where would be if we said ‘there was no effort to destroy particular Native American tribes during the 1700 and 1800s.’ Where would America be if we failed to acknowledge our own history? Where would Germany be if it failed to acknowledge its history? Why does Turkey think it can reach the modern world if it still anchors itself to an Ottoman mentality? It cannot do that. The future of Turkey is in acknowledging the history of its own people." ANCA and GI-NET Call for Concrete Action Throughout the course of the evening, ANCA and GI-Net representatives called on the Congress and the Administration to end the double-talk and take concrete action to end complicity in Genocide denial whether it is lack of acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide or inaction in stopping the genocide in Darfur. Mark Hanis, GI-Net Executive Director noted: "So why, why do we continue to fail at preventing and stopping genocide? Samantha [Power] clearly shows it is because there is zero political cost for the action of our public officials."Unfortunately no public official will ever lose a vote or a campaign dollar if they do nothing in the face of genocide. And I am proud to see that today and tomorrow all of us are trying to change that cost-benefit analysis. We are trying to raise the political cost and raise the political benefit to create the political will needed to prevent and stop genocide. So I often tell people that they should be excited that they themselves can be an Oscar Schindler, they can be a Paul Rusesabagina, and have a hand in stopping genocide."We want to pass the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106/S.Res.106) and the Sudan Divestment Authorization Act (S.831). These are key critical bills that we need to help remember the genocides of the past and ensure that we stop the genocides of the present and prevent those of the future." Ken Hachikian, ANCA Chairman, noted: "In 1896, the former US minister to the Ottoman Empire, Oscar Strauss, convinced then President Grover Cleveland to ignore a House and Senate resolution, calling on the Ottoman Sultan to stop his killing of Armenia’s. Even then, in 1896, our State Department was making apologies for Turkey."Yet today, another genocide is taking place in the world in the Darfur region of Western Sudan. Since the campaign of state- sponsored violence began, hundreds of thousands have died and 2.5 million people have been displaced. An undermanned and under- resourced African Union peacekeeping force has faced immense challenges in Darfur, waiting for an already authorized UN force to deploy. When will the world learn? When will we stop making excuses? And when will we not come to the point where we are all standing here saying that the final act of genocide is in fact the denial?"I am going to be harsher on our country right now than many of the speakers before me have been. I believe that in failing to acknowledge and take action acknowledge in the case of the Armenian Genocide and take action in the case of Sudan that the US is complicit in genocide denial. In allowing Turkey to not face up to its history, and allowing the government of Sudan to go scott-free the US is not doing the right thing. And it is our obligation collectively to call our government on the carpet." Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee, served as master of ceremonies of the End the Cycle of Genocide Capitol Hill Observance, noted that: "Too often, when we talk about national interests, it has a very sterile definition. And it is counted in terms of dollars, or barrels of oil, or military bases. It’s not understood in terms of human lives, in terms of suffering alleviated, in terms of hope restored. Those things are also within our reach and they are closely tied to our national security as any calculation dealing with our military security."We can’t live securely in a world in which genocide persists. It is simply not possible. We need to push. We need to press. We need to work hard. It has been said many times, I will say it again, you may not get everything you work for, but you have to work for everything you get. And what we want to get is a world without genocide. It is going to take a lot of work. It is going to take a lot of work to get decisive action to stop the Darfur Genocide, ending the pre-eminent example of genocide denial in the world the Ottoman Turkish Government and now the Republic of Turkey’s over nine-decade long campaign to deny the genocide. The world will be a safer place after that denial has ended. The precedent that Turkey set in committing and then denying the genocide is that Genocide can be committed with impunity." Rev. Father Sarkis Aktavoukian of the Holy Cross Armenian Church in Bethesda, MD gave the invocation at the beginning of the Commemorative program. In his prayer, Aktavoukian noted: "Reveal your infinite spirit to the members of this august body so that they may be inspired to a greatness of purpose and be ennobled in the quest for justice, freedom and peace. We thank you in the name of the Armenian people for your eternal wisdom and divine mercy in providing them a safe refuge in the US from the ravage and inhumanity of their enemies in the Genocide of 1915. Today we beseech you to spare others from tyranny and persecution, especially in Darfur today, where death and suffering are prevalent through man’s inhumanity to man."


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