WASHINGTON—During testimony before two key U.S. House Committees Wednesday, Secretary Clinton was pressed on a range of concerns to Armenian Americans, including, most prominently, her recent remarks misrepresenting the Armenian Genocide, as well as calls for Turkey’s return of confiscated Christian churches, the Administration’s proposed 19% reduction in aid to Armenia, and efforts to focus U.S. assistance to the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
House Democrats Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Jesse Jackson (D-IL) and Steve Rothman (D-NJ) each used a portion of their limited questioning time to focus Clinton’s attention on key issues, with some responses offered during the hearing and others to be submitted in written form at a later date. Additional House Members may be submitting written questions on community concerns in the upcoming days.
“We would like to thank Representative Schiff for pressing the Secretary to explain her recent remarks on the Armenian Genocide, and to express our appreciation to Congressmen Sherman, Cicilline, Jackson and Rothman for taking the lead in raising key community concerns with Secretary Clinton today,” stated ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “Greater clarity on the Obama Administration’s policy of the Armenian Genocide, Turkey’s return of churches, and foreign aid policies toward the Caucusus are all very meaningful for Armenian American voters, as we prepare to go to the polls this November.”
Rep. Schiff Gives Clinton Opportunity to Correct Misrepresentation of Genocide; Clinton Dodges Question
In a forceful series of questions offered during the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations hearing with Secretary Clinton, Rep. Schiff referenced the U.S. record of affirming the Armenian Genocide, citing a document submitted to the International Court of Justice in 1951 clearly referencing the Armenian Genocide, President Ronald Reagan’s affirmation of the Armenian Genocide in 1981 and Secretary Clinton’s own statements as Senator properly characterizing those crimes.
The California Congressman then juxtaposed this record with recent statements made by the Secretary in January, in which she referred to the Armenian Genocide as a “historical debate,” and asked “is there any question that you have that the facts of that tragic period between 1915 and 1923 constitute genocide? Do you have any different view on the subject now than you did as a state – as a U.S. senator?”
Once again, Secretary Clinton was evasive, resorting to euphemisms such as “terrible events,” and “one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century,” but stopping short of her clear statements as Senator in 2008, when she affirmed that “the horrible events perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against Armenians constitute a clear case of genocide.” She noted President Obama’s annual April 24th statement, in which he has argued that “a full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts of what happened is in everyone’s interest,” then put the onus on the Turkish and Armenian people, and their respective governments, to resolve the issue.
“The Armenian Genocide is a major crime against all humanity, requiring international justice, not a simple bilateral conflict between nations needing mediation,” stated ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “According to her morally and factually flawed logic, America and the international community should have remained silent in the face of the Holocaust and other genocides in Rwanda and elsewhere, leaving it to the perpetrators and victims of these crimes to come to a common understanding of their past. It’s truly a sad spectacle to see our nation’s top diplomat pressured by Turkey to dance around the truth and play word games with genocide.”
Both Representatives Jesse Jackson (D-IL) and Steve Rothman (D-NJ) associated themselves with Rep. Schiff’s statement and inquiry during the hearing. Rep. Jackson went on to express concern about President Obama’s proposed 19% cut in assistance to Armenia.
Earlier this week, over 60 Members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Secretary Clinton, asking her to renounce her recent public mischaracterization of the Armenian Genocide. In that letter, Members stated that the “historically inaccurate description of the Armenian Genocide as an open question, in addition to the offense it represents to Armenian Americans and other victims of genocide, provides American encouragement to the Republic of Turkey in its shameful campaign of denial.”
Rep. Sherman Advocates U.S. Assistance to Samtskhe-Javakheti; Rep. Cicilline inquires about Turkey’s Return of Churches
During the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing with Secretary Clinton, Rep. Sherman focused the first of his questions on U.S. assistance to the largely Armenian populated region of Samtskhe-Javakheti in the southern part of Georgia. “We have been very generous with the country of Georgia,” explained Rep. Sherman, who went on to note that assistance to Javakheti would “help bind Javakhk to the Republic of Georgia, would help achieve our goals in the Caucasus.”
Last September, during a Congressional event celebrating Armenia’s independence, Rep. Sherman had first discussed the importance of addressing the extreme poverty in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region as part of the broader U.S. commitment to strengthening Georgia and the Caucaus region overall.
Later in the hearing, Rep. Cicilline allotted a portion of his question time to inquire about “our efforts to ensure that Turkey respect the Christians, the Churches and religious freedom in that country.” Last June, Rep. Cicilline joined House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Democrat Howard Berman (D-CA) in offering an amendment to the State Department Authorization bill which called on Turkey to return confiscated Christian Churches. The amendment was passed 43 – 1, with similar legislation (H.Res.306) adopted later by the full House in December.