WASHINGTON–DC–More than a dozen Senators and Representatives took to the floors of their respective chambers during the week of April 24 to mark the 91st anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian genocide and share with their colleagues the moral imperative to enact legislation condemning this crime against humanity–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
These remarks were in addition to the annual Capitol Hill Armenian Genocide Observance–held on April 26–which drew forty Senators and Representatives and featured the presentation of the ANCA’s Voice of Justice award to Serj Tankian and John Dolmayan of System Of A Down.
On the Senate side–speeches were delivered by Barbara Boxer (D-CA)–Maria Cantwell (D-WA)–Russ Feingold (D-WI)–Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)–Carl Levin (D-MI)–and Jack Reed (D-RI). The House initiative was organized by Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ)–Co-Chairman of the Armenian Caucus–and featured remarks by Chris Smith (R-NJ)–the Vice-Chairman of the International Relations Committee; Howard Berman (D-CA)–Jerry Costello (D-IL)–Mark Foley (R-FL)–Sander Levin (D-MI)–Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)–James McGovern (D-MA)–Michael McNulty (D-NY)–Jon C. Porter (R-NV)–John J.H. "Joe" Schwarz (R-MI)–Hilda Solis (D-CA)–and Henry Waxman (D-CA).
Among the most compelling Senate remarks were the following:
* Senator Russ Feingold: The international community has made the first steps–but it has a long way to go in punishing and–particularly–preventing genocide. As we move forward–we must learn the lessons of Armenia’s genocide. We cannot be misled by the rhetoric of scapegoating–denial–and obfuscation used by murderous leaders to disguise their agenda. And we cannot respond to evidence of methodical–brutal violence by wringing our hands and waiting for some definitive proof that these events qualify as genocide. Enforcing a collective–international commitment to prevent and stop genocides from occurring is imperative. We owe the victims of the Armenian genocide this commitment.
* Senator Barbara Boxer: The brutality of the genocide was atrocious. But the inhumanity continues today because the Turkish Government refuses to acknowledge the massacres as genocide. The wounds cannot heal until the Armenian people receive recognition.
* Senator Jack Reed: So as history does not repeat itself–we must study and remember the events of our past. In instances such as the Armenian genocide–all nations must educate their youth in the hatred–the wrongdoing–and the oppression to deter future atrocities against humanity. Not more that two decades after the Armenian genocide–Hitler said to his generals on the eve of sending his death squads into Poland–"Go–kill without mercy… who today remembers the annihilation of the Armenia’s." We remember the Armenia’s. "Menk panav chenk mornar." We will never forget.
* Senator Dianne Feinstein: The Armenian-American community knows this all too well and today–we stand with them in commemorating the start of the Armenian genocide. So let us renew our commitment to support those around the world who face persecution and even death simply because of who they are. We will never forget the Armenian genocide–and we look to the present and future with a newfound sense of hope and optimism so that we may have the strength to stand up and prevent such atrocities.
Among the more compelling excerpts from the speeches in the US House are provided below:
* Congressman Chris Smith: Unfortunately–President Bush–in his annual message about the Genocide–did not use the word. Once again–terms like "mass killings" and "forced exile" mask the depth of the horror that took place–carefully avoiding the plain truth. In fact–as has been described in numerous newspaper articles–Ambassador John Evans–who was posted in Yerevan–is being recalled for having the courage to say publicly that what happened to the Armenia’s of the Ottoman Empire was genocide. It saddens me that the US Government would go to such lengths to deny the undeniable. I would like to commend Ambassador Evans for his bravery–as a career Foreign Service Officer–he must have known what the consequences might be.
* Congressman Frank Pallone: Last week I was joined by my Co-Chair of the Armenia Caucus and many of my colleagues in Congress on a bipartisan basis in sending yet another bipartisan congressional letter to President Bush urging him to use the word "genocide" in his April 24th commemorative statement. With over 178 signatures–the message in that letter is loud and clear: 90 years is too long to wait for justice to be served and proper recognition to be made.
The US owes it to the Armenian American community–to the 1.5 million that were massacred in the Genocide–and to its own history to reaffirm what is fact. As we have seen time and time again–the United States has a proud history of action and response to the Armenian genocide. During a time when hundreds of thousands were left orphaned and starving–a time when a nation was on the verge of complete extermination–the US took the lead and proudly helped end these atrocities. In fact–Americans helped launch an unprecedented US diplomatic–political–and humanitarian campaign to end the carnage and protect the survivors.
Regardless of President Bush’s inaction–I call on Speaker Hastert to bring the resolution to officially recognize the Armenian genocide to the House floor. The resolution that passed in committee last September–again on a bipartisan basis by an overwhelming majority–has over 148 cosponsors. Now is the time to allow Members to reaffirm the United States’ record on the Armenian genocide. The US Government needs to stop playing politics with this tragic time in history and take a firm stance for the truth. Genocide must not be tolerated.
* Congressman James McGovern: Luckily–such leadership and courage is not lacking among the Armenian American community. Not only do they continue their historic work on the recognition and documentation of the Armenian genocide–but they are genuine leaders and partners in efforts to educate Americans about the other genocides of the 20th and 21st Centuries–the Holocaust of World War II–Cambodia–Rwanda and Bosnia–to note some of the most prominent.
* Congressman Howard Berman: The debate on this historical issue has been settled. The distinguished International Association of Genocide Scholars–among others–has concluded that it is undeniable. Others–including some who accept the historical facts–say Congress should not pass a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide because it will irreparably damage our relationship with Turkey. This is a phony argument.
* Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney: The tragic events that began on April 24–1915–which are well known to all of us–should be part of the history curriculum in every Turkish and American school. On that dark April day–more than 200 of Armenia’s religious–political and intellectual leaders were arrested in Constantinople and killed. Ultimately–more than 1.5 million Armenia’s were systematically murdered at the hands of the Young Turks–and more than 500,000 more were exiled from their native land.
* Congressman Jerry Costello: Despite the effort of some to minimize the scope and deny its occurrence–the Armenian genocide is a historical fact. In the years since–descendants of Armenian immigran’s have clung to their identity and have prospered across this nation and throughout the world. In my district–there is a significant population of Armenian survivors and their families that showed heroic bravery and a will to survive. With faith and courage–generations of Armenia’s have overcome great suffering and proudly preserved their culture–traditions–and religion by sharing their story of the Genocide. It is through their unforgettable tragedy that we are able to share in their history and strong heritage.
The full text of all the Senate and House remarks is available on the ANCA website at: www.anca.org/press_releases/press_releases.php?prid=942.