Chairman Menendez spearheads successful campaign for truth over strong opposition from White House; Turkish Government
WASHINGTON—For the first time in nearly a quarter century, a U.S. Senate committee on Thursday adopted an Armenian Genocide Resolution, calling upon the Senate to commemorate this crime and encouraging the President to ensure that America’s foreign policy reflects and reinforces the lessons, documented in the U.S. record, of this still-unpunished genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
“Today’s vote affirms America’s commitment to truth, deals a serious setback to Turkey’s campaign of genocide denial, and sends a clear message to President Obama that he must end his Administration’s complicity in Ankara’s cover-up of this crime,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. “We thank Chairman Menendez for his powerful leadership and express our thanks to each of the Senators who cast their votes for this human rights measure.”
With a vote of 12 to 5, the Committee voted to condemn and commemorate the Armenian Genocide. Those who joined Senator Menendez in supporting the measure were Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ed Markey (D-MA), John McCain (R-AZ), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Tom Udall (D-NM). Those opposing the measure were Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Bob Corker (R-TN), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Jim Risch (R-ID). Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) did not vote.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) spearheaded the effort to have this influential foreign policy panel take a strong stand regarding the Ottoman Turkish Government’s centrally planned and systematically carried out campaign of genocide from 1915-1923, which resulted in the deaths of over 1.5 million men, women and children, and the exile of a nation from its historic homeland.
Senator Menendez announced the vote at the Armenian Genocide Observance on Capitol Hill yesterday evening, where he told his colleagues and attendees, “To me, to all men and women of good will, I would think there is a simple statement – genocide is genocide, and you cannot call it anything else but that and you need to have a recognition of that. Next year when we mark a century – a hundred years ago that the Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turkey, it seems to me that with most of the survivors gone – but with a few left – it is incredibly important for us to lead globally at this time.”
During Committee discussion of the measure, Chairman Menendez told his committee colleagues, “I think the Armenian Genocide is a horrifying factual reality that can never be denied. I just don’t think you can pick and choose your genocides. Genocide is genocide.” Commenting on U.S. complicity in Turkey’s genocide denial, Chairman Menendez explained, “I am chagrined when I hear that some country will act in a certain way and therefore we here in the United States Senate, the Congress of the United States, that we should refrain from acting simply because someone will be upset.”
Though Ranking Republican Corker voted against the measure, arguing that “I don’t think it’s a good time to bring this type of resolution up,” he did affirm that, “I agree with scholars that a genocide took place. It’s a terrible tragedy.”
Chairman Menendez was joined by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) in introducing S.Res.410, the underlying Armenian Genocide legislation which was amended and adopted today. Joining Chairman Menendez and Senator Kirk as cosponsors of S.Res.410 are Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senate Assistant Majority Leader Durbin, Senate Environment Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Senators Ed Markey, Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
State Department Stops Short of Public Attack Against Armenian Genocide Resolution
Earlier in the day, journalists questioned State Department Press Spokesperson Jen Psaki regarding the Obama Administration’s position on the Senate Armenian Genocide Resolution and pending Committee consideration. Psaki explained, “Well, our position has long been that we acknowledge – clearly acknowledge as historical fact and mourn the loss of 1.5 million Armenians who were massacred or marched to their deaths in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. These horrific events resulted in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century, and the United States recognizes that they remain a great source of pain for the people of Armenia and of Armenian descent, as they do for all of us who share basic universal values. Beyond that, I don’t have any other comment for you.” Despite repeated queries, Psaki stopped short of the State Department’s traditional practice of openly arguing against the adoption of Armenian Genocide legislation.
According to news reports, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry the night before the Committee vote in opposition to the measure.
Senators and Representatives Welcome Committee Passage of Armenian Genocide Resolution
Following the successful passage of the resolution, Senator Markey, who chairs the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, explained, “It is long overdue for the United States to join the many other nations who have formally recognized the Armenian Genocide. That is why today’s passage by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of the genocide resolution in advance of the ninety-ninth anniversary is so historic. I was proud to vote for this important resolution today in Committee, and I will keep fighting to ensure its passage by the full Senate. I will continue to work with the Armenian-American community to build a prosperous and bright future for the Armenian people.”
Following the vote, House Armenian Genocide Resolution lead co-author, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) noted that, “Today’s vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to send the Armenian Genocide Resolution to the full Senate is a welcome milestone on the long journey towards official U.S. recognition of the first genocide of the 20th Century. It’s my hope that the full Senate will soon take up this resolution, and that my colleagues in the House will be inspired by their example. Next year will mark a century since the beginning of the killings and death marches that claimed 1.5 million Armenians and the centennial must not be allowed to pass without recognition by both Congress and the Administration.”
Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) concurred, stating, “Today’s vote by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is an important chapter in the effort for official recognition by the U.S. government of the Armenian Genocide. The leadership of Senator Menendez is evident in the strong support the resolution received and I commended him for his dedication to the pursuit of official recognition of the Armenian Genocide. It is now time for the House to act on H. Res. 227, calling on the President to acknowledge the facts and ongoing consequences of the Armenian Genocide.”
Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Vicar General of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, who had spent the day at the Capitol to engage legislators on this key human rights measure, shared his thoughts on Committee passage.