WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators and Representatives recently called for increased vigilance and activism against genocide and genocide denial in floor statements commemorating the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The major themes of their remarks were the need for passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.252), which currently has 116 co-sponsors, and the goal of ensuring that the proper recognition of past genocides be used to prevent future genocides.
Excerpts from the Senate and House floor speeches follow (listed in alphabetical order).
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.): On this solemn anniversary, we remember those who were lost in the Armenian Genocide, while honoring the survivors and their descendants who have done so much to make America and the world a better place. I am personally grateful that so many of those individuals have chosen to call California home. We also take pause to acknowledge that such crimes are continuing today. There is perhaps no more fitting example than the genocide that is raging in the Darfur region of Sudan. Since 2002, the Sudanese government has attempted to exterminate the African Muslim population of Darfur with horrific acts of brutality. Villages have been burned to the ground, innocent women and children slaughtered by helicopter gunships, and rape has been used as a tool of genocide. What happened to the Armenians is genocide. What is happening today in Darfur is genocide, even though the government of Sudan denies this. Genocide is only possible when people avert their eyes. Any effort to deal with genocide—in the past, present, or future—must begin with the truth. By acknowledging the truth of the Armenian Genocide, we can end the phony debates and strengthen our ability to stand up against mass killing today.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.): The Armenian Genocide demonstrated the evils humans are capable of, and unfortunately, it was only the first of several 20th century tragedies. As we reflect and recall this tragic time, let us call for our own country to recognize the Armenian Genocide, just as my own state of Rhode Island has done, along with many other states and governments. Menk pnav chenk mornar (We will never forget).
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.): On April 24, 1915, the Ottoman Empire began a campaign of forced deportation against the Armenians. Around 2 million Armenian men, women, and children were driven from their homeland, 1.5 million of whom were killed. Hundreds of thousands were massacred outright, while others perished from forced marches, deliberate starvation, and epidemics that ravaged through concentration camps.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.): On April 24, 1915, the then-Ottoman Empire began the systematic execution of Armenians, an event now known as the Armenian Genocide. While a large number of Armenians were killed outright, many others suffered and died of starvation and diseases which spread through their concentration camps. By 1923, the entire Armenian population previously inhabiting the landmass of Asia Minor and west Armenia had been eliminated… Madam Speaker, the United States serves as an example to the world of what can be achieved when basic human rights are protected and nurtured. It is in this role that we must recognize this methodic extermination of over one million Armenians during World War I.
Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.): From 1915-18, more than a million Armenians died of starvation or disease on long marches, or were massacred outright by Turkish forces. From 1918-23, Armenians continued to suffer at the hands of the Turkish military, which eventually removed nearly all remaining Armenians from Turkey… We hope the day will soon come when it is not just the survivors who honor the dead but also when those whose ancestors perpetrated the horrors acknowledge their terrible responsibility and commemorate as well the memory of genocide’s victims.
Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.): I understand that this topic evokes painful memories and raises difficult issues of national identity for persons of both Armenian and Turkish ancestry. Nonetheless, I believe that we must call genocide by its proper name and acknowledge it when it has occurred so that we may better learn to recognize and resist its horrors in the future. That includes recognizing the policies of the Ottoman Empire during World War I and its aftermath as genocidal.
Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.): This year, our nation has the opportunity to finally recognize the Armenian Genocide as such in the annual commemoration from the White House. Year after year, we have seen the same standard letter from the White House which offers sympathy and apology for the “mass killings,” yet refuses to label these events as genocide. However, President Obama made promises during his campaign that he would right this wrong, and recognize the Armenian Genocide. I am hopeful Madam Speaker, we finally escape from being under Turkey’s thumb on this issue. It is vital our nation has a foreign policy that accurately reflects history. In closing, Madam Speaker, I will say again, genocide is not something that can simply be swept under the rug and forgotten. We need leaders around the world to not only recognize it, but to condemn it so the world can truly say “Never Again.” The United States cannot continue its policy of denial regarding the Armenian Genocide, and I encourage passage of H.Res.252 to recognize the Armenian Genocide in our nation.
Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.): Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide and ask my colleagues to support H.Res.252, a bill to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. Over 94 years ago this week, Ottoman Empire authorities arrested some 250 Armenian community and political leaders in Constantinople. This event signaled the beginning of the deliberate and systematic mass murder of 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children.
Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.): During World War I, the Turkish government began an assault on the Armenian people by arresting and killing religious, political, and intellectual leaders in Istanbul. Then, groups of Armenian men, women, and children were rounded up and forced to march through the desert. Along the way, the victims were tortured, raped, and starved… Hitler declared “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” I, for one, am still speaking about the annihilation of Armenians. I am also speaking about the annihilation of Jews. I encourage my colleagues to join me in speaking out against genocide.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.): Today we declare once again that the Turkish and American governments must finally acknowledge what we have long understood: That the unimaginable horror committed on Turkish soil in the aftermath of World War I was an act of genocide. The tragic events began on April 24, 1915, when more than 200 of Armenia’s religious, political, and intellectual leaders were arrested in Constantinople and killed. Ultimately, more than 1.5 million Armenians were systematically murdered at the hands of the Young Turks, and more than 500,000 more were exiled from their native land… We simply will not allow the planned elimination of an entire people to remain in the shadows of history. The Armenian Genocide must be acknowledged, studied, and never, ever allowed to happen again.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.): Madam Speaker, I rise to commemorate the 94th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, and to call, once again, for the immediate passage of the Affirmation of the United States Record on the Armenian Genocide Resolution… While the target of this genocide was the Armenian people, it was indeed a crime against all of humanity… Madam Speaker, I call upon this House once again to pass H.Res.252, the Affirmation of the United States Record on the Armenian Genocide Resolution.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.): We have stood by for too long as the Turkish government manipulates the issue of the Armenian Genocide. We have watched them pay millions of dollars to Turkish lobbyists to mislead and even threaten Members of Congress. We have watched the Turkish government bring scholars and writers to court for insulting Turkishness just for writing the words Armenian Genocide. And two years ago we watched in profound disbelief when Hrant Dink was assassinated in Istanbul. It is enough. Armenian Genocide recognition is not only important for Armenians, it is important for us as Americans. If we are going to live up to the standards we set for ourselves and continue to lead the world in affirming human rights everywhere, we need to stand up and recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.): On April 24, 1915, the Ottoman Empire arrested Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople, marking the beginning of an eight-year campaign against Armenian civilians. By the genocide’s end in 1923, roughly one and a half million unarmed men, women, and children were rounded up, stripped of all their possessions and means of support, and sent on death marches or to concentration camps.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.): We welcome steps today by the governments of Turkey and Armenia—as the official inheritors of these fateful policies of the Ottoman government—to normalize relations and begin working through this history. Indeed, reconciliation of painful history is an important means of preventing future tragedies of this scope. We believe this process will be strengthened if the president—in his annual message commemorating the April 24, 1915 declaration by Allied Powers—to accurately characterize the mindless massacre of Armenians as genocide and to recall the proud record of U.S. opposition to this persecution.
Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.): I remain committed to the public recognition of the fact of the Armenian genocide. It is the only way to make sure we are forever vigilant to prevent genocide in the future. I have hope that we can all move forward, not in an exercise in collective guilt, but in the simple recognition of what happened, that a genocide was perpetrated upon the Armenian people, and that such a thing, quite simply, never should have happened and must never happen again.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.): Madam Speaker, today marks the 94th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide. This devastating event is a reminder that we cannot allow for such atrocities to happen again. It is unacceptable to witness thousands of innocent victims suffer and die without taking any action. Ninety-four years ago, the Ottoman Turks began their attempts to exterminate the Armenian people. From 1915 until 1923, 1.5 million Armenians were tortured and killed. Men were separated from their families and murdered; women and children were forced to march across the Syrian desert without water, food, or possessions; many died of hunger or thirst or were killed when they lagged behind during the forced marches into the desert. These acts of intolerance cannot be termed anything but genocide.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.): The Armenian Genocide, in which 1.5 million perished, is widely recognized as the 20th century’s first genocide. Raphael Lemkin, the Jewish legal scholar who coined the word “genocide” and tirelessly advocated for international law defining it and preventing it, was driven largely by what happened to the Armenians. Adolph Hitler, in describing his murderous plans and seeking to silence those with reservations, famously said, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians” There is power in speaking the truth, even about atrocities that occurred nearly a century ago, so that other men with evil aims might not be empowered by our silence.