WASHINGTON—In response to a question by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) regarding her recent statements misrepresenting the Armenian Genocide as a ‘historical debate,’ Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday avoided proper reference to the genocide, instead arguing that the “terrible events” should be a matter of discussion between Turkey and Armenia alone.
In his question at House Appropriations Sub-Committee on Foreign Operations, 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 Armenian Genocide is a crime against all humanity, requiring international justice, not a 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 Secretary Clinton 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.
Earlier this week, more than 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.”
Below are excerpts from the transcript of Schiff’s questions and Secretary Clinton’s responses from the hearing:
SCHIFF: And I want to join my colleagues in thanking you for your extraordinary service to the country at a time when the Middle East is in turmoil, we have the succession going on in North Korea, new challenges from Iran, rising leadership from China. Having your steady hand at the tiller of the ship of state is a great comfort to all of us. We were enormously proud of the very strong remarks you made on the Syrian crisis, and the well-deserved criticism you leveled at Russia and China for their complicity in the ongoing violence.
But set against this stellar record of achievement are some actions that were taken by you and the administration with regard to the Armenian genocide that are of great concern. I can’t begin to express in mere words how much anguish has been caused in the Armenian-American community and among human rights activists about recent statements at a State Department Town Hall that you made.
In 1951, while the experience of the Holocaust was still tragically fresh, the United States issued this statement at the International Court of Justice. It was the statement of the United States government on the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, and it said, ” … the Roman persecution of the Christians, the Turkish massacres of Armenians, the extermination of millions of Jews and Poles by the Nazis are outstanding examples of the crime of genocide.”
Again, in the 1980s President Reagan recognized the Armenian genocide, as did the Congress. And as recently as just a few years ago, both you as senator and our president as senator, spoke unequivocally of the Armenian genocide.
Your comments were very powerful. ” … the horrible events perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against Armenians constitute a clear case of genocide.” you said. “Our common morality and our nation’s credibility as a voice for human rights challenge us to ensure that the Armenian genocide be recognized and remembered by the Congress and the president of the United States.”
But last month you made some very different statements, and said, ” … I think it’s fair to say that this has always been viewed, and I think properly so, as a matter of historical debate and conclusions, rather than political. And I think that this is the right posture for the U.S. government to be in, because whatever the terrible event might be, or the high emotions that it represents, to try to use government power to resolve historical issues I think opens a door that is very dangerous to go through.
This is, tragically, very much the line of the Turkish government. And many in the Armenian community are wondering how we could go from such a powerful position in the state senate, such a powerful position that we took decades ago before the International Court of Justice, the powerful voice that President Reagan brought to this issue, to where we were last month.
And I want to ask you, 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?
CLINTON: Well, Congressman, you know, you quoted something that I said in response to a question about France trying to criminalize speech about this terrible event in history. And I do think criminalizing speech is a dangerous path to go down. And in fact, as I understand it, the French courts just declared that law unconstitutional under the French constitution.
So let me be very clear. The United States recognizes the events of 1915 as one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. And every April 24th the president honors the victims and expresses American solidarity with the Armenian people.
And the president has said in his Remembrance Day statements that the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts of what happened is in everyone’s interest.
He’s also said that the best way to advance that goal is for the Armenian and Turkish people to address the facts of the past as a part of their effort to move forward.
And President Obama, like presidents before him, strongly supports the efforts of Turkey and Armenia to normalize their bilateral relations.
So we believe that this is a position that fully reflects the terrible events of 1915 but also is aimed at trying to create a climate in which these two peoples and nations can move forward together.
SCHIFF: I — I’m sorry to interrupt but I — I’m gonna run out of time. And — and no one is quarreling with a position against criminalizing speech in this country. No one is advocating that.