Secretary of State Dismisses Genocide as ‘Historical Debate’ in Public Comments to State Department Staff
WASHINGTON, DC–The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) sharply criticized remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who on Jan. 26 dismissed the murder of 1.5 million Armenians as a “historical debate,” and argued that U.S. affirmation of this crime would open a “dangerous door.”
“The Obama-Biden Administration–with Secretary Clinton’s latest remarks–continues to dig itself deeper and deeper into a hole of complicity in Turkey’s genocide denial,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.
“It’s a sad spectacle to see Secretary Clinton hiding behind cynical appeals to scholars–the overwhelming majority of whom have already spoken forcefully against Turkey’s denials of the Armenian Genocide–to divert attention from President Obama’s, Vice President Biden’s, or her own promises to properly recognize this crime and, more broadly, to divert attention from the White House’s failure to meet its moral obligation to stand up against a foreign government’s veto of our defense of human rights,” Hamparian said.
Clinton’s comments came in response to a question, posed at a Jan. 26 “Town Hall Meeting on the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review,” regarding U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide in the context of the recent French Senate adoption of anti-genocide denial legislation.
Clinton explained, “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 is the right posture for the United States 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 a very dangerous one to go through.” Clinton argued, “we need to encourage anyone on any side of any contentious historical debate to get out into the marketplace of ideas.”
“The Secretary’s unfounded and offensive reference to ‘historical debate’ in regards to the Armenian Genocide only emboldens the denials of the Turkish government–which, just today, again took steps toward deporting Armenians,” said Hamparian, referencing news emanating from Turkey of plans for a revisions to its immigration policy that would effectively target Armenian immigrants for expulsion from the country.
Clinton: ‘As president, I will recognize the Armenian Genocide’
Clinton’s remarks are diametrically opposed to her statement issued almost four years ago, to the day, as a Senator. In this statement, she boasted that she was “alone among the presidential candidates” to have been a co-sponsor of the Armenian Genocide Resolution and pledged “as president, I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.” The statement went on to stress, “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.”
Obama and Biden made equally clear and unequivocal statements regarding the U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide during their years in the Senate and as candidates for the White House. “America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides. I intend to be that president,” said Obama in a Jan. 19, 2008 campaign statement. Biden explained his support for pending Armenian Genocide legislation to the LA Times Editorial Board in May 2007, as follows: “I support it, and the reason is simple: I have found in my experience that you cannot have a solid relationship with a country based on fiction. It occurred. It occurred.”
Clinton a phone call away for Turkish lobby
During her tenure as secretary of state, public records show that Clinton has discussed State Department policy on Turkey and specifically on the Armenian Genocide on several occasions with former Democratic House Minority Leader and current Turkish government lobbyist Richard Gephardt. According to the Department of Justice Foreign Agent Registration filings, Gephardt spoke to Clinton just days prior to a pending House vote on the Armenian Genocide Resolution on Dec. 17, 2010, and had a series of calls with her as well as Biden, Secretary of Defense Gates, and National Security Advisor James Jones on “U.S.-Turkey relations” and “Transcaucasus relations” on the days leading up Obama’s trip to Turkey in 2009.
In September 2011, Gephardt, who supported Armenian Genocide affirmation during his years in the House, renewed a lucrative $1.3 million contract for continued representation of the government of Turkey through July, 2012. That sum includes payment to subcontracting lobby firms including Dickstein Shapiro, which has former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert on staff representing Turkey’s concerns. In December 2011, an additional $100,000 was added to the annual contract–the increase signed on the day of House approval of the “Return of Churches” resolution (H.Res.306), calling on Turkey to return thousands of confiscated Christian Churches to their rightful owners.
Clinton has not yet met with representatives of the Armenian American community, despite repeated calls by the ANCA and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for her to meet with a broad-based and representative leadership group to discuss a range of community concerns, including affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.