Rejects Turkish Caucus Efforts to Deny Armenian Genocide
WASHINGTON—Howard Berman, the chairman of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, today denounced efforts by his colleagues in the Turkish Caucus to question the historical truth of the Armenian Genocide, rejecting the flawed national security and economic arguments put forth by these legislators to block the adoption of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.252) by the full U.S. House of Representatives, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“Chairman Berman expertly takes apart each Turkish Caucus excuse to delay, derail, and ultimately defeat the Armenian Genocide Resolution,” said ANCA executive director Aram Hamparian. “We look to the House leadership, first and foremost Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and Majority Leader [Steny] Hoyer, to follow Chairman Berman’s lead in both scheduling this genocide-prevention measure for a vote and in working energetically with their colleagues to secure its adoption.”
In a strongly worded response to a Congressional Turkish Caucus letter urging Pelosi to block floor consideration of the measure, Berman took “strong exception” to their references to the “so-called Armenian Genocide Resolution,” stating that the assertion, “flies in the face of the overwhelming weight of unimpeachable historical evidence and the virtually unanimous opinion of genocide scholars.”
Berman also rejected the flawed national security arguments against the Armenian Genocide Resolution, stating, “I believe that U.S.-Turkish security relations are founded on mutual interests and that Turkey is not about to discard the immense benefits it derives from bilateral security relations for the sake of ‘punishing’ the U.S. for a non-binding resolution, however much it may resent that resolution.” He went on to argue that the Turkish response to the passage of previous genocide legislation has been “limited and short-lived, at most.”
The chairman also disputed the effect of Congressional genocide affirmation on Turkey-Armenia relations, arguing that the Turkey-Armenia protocols “have been gathering dust in the Turkish Parliament” due to Turkish preconditions on the process.
The chairman’s letter coincides with bilateral meetings held between President Barack Obama and Armenian President Serge Sakisian, and also between Sarkisian and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Both foreign leaders are in Washington this week as part of a major multilateral nuclear summit. At a presentation at George Mason University’s Center for Global Islamic Studies, Erdogan once again denied the Armenian Genocide and encouraged the U.S. Congress not to adopt Armenian Genocide legislation. Meanwhile, across town, at a ceremony honoring President Woodrow Wilson, celebrated for his commitment to ensuring that the core territorial and security elements of Armenia’s historic viability be restored, Sarkisian made reference to “Wilsonian Armenia” and stressed that the Turkey-Armenia protocols could not be used to question the historical truth of the Armenian Genocide.
The full text of Berman’s letter to his House colleagues is provided below.
April 13, 2010
As you may be aware, members of the Turkey Caucus are circulating a sign-on letter to Speaker Pelosi urging that the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.252), recently passed by the Foreign Affairs Committee, not be brought to the full House for a vote. The authors argue that passage of the bill by the House would do “irrevocable harm” to U.S. national security, “derail ongoing efforts” by Armenia and Turkey to normalize relations, and harm the U.S. economy by putting American exports to and investment in Turkey at risk.
I disagree with many points in the letter, but I take particularly strong exception to the use of the phrase “so-called ‘Armenian Genocide Resolution,” which casts doubt on the historicity of the Armenian Genocide. In doing so, it flies in the face of the overwhelming weight of unimpeachable historical evidence and the virtually unanimous opinion of genocide scholars. In fact, the man who coined the term “genocide,” Rafael Lemkin, considered the World War I-era massacres of the Armenians to constitute genocide, and he cited that genocide as the event that triggered his interest in genocide.
I also reject the various national-security arguments cited by opponents of the Armenian Genocide Resolution. I believe that U.S.-Turkish security relations are founded on mutual interests and that Turkey is not about to discard the immense benefits it derives from bilateral security relations for the sake of “punishing” the U.S. for a non-binding resolution, however much it may resent that resolution. For example, would Turkey risk losing real-time intelligence on PKK movements in northern Iraq? Highly doubtful. Moreover, the history of Turkish responses to acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide by other governments and parliaments suggests that negative fall-out would be limited and short-lived, at most.
In addition, I dispute the argument that passing H.Res.252 would derail the Turkish-Armenian protocols. The protocols have been gathering dust in the Turkish Parliament since they were signed in October, and particularly in light of the preconditions established by the Turkish leadership, there is little likelihood that they will be ratified any time soon.
Finally, I take issue with the assertion that passing the resolution would harm the U.S. economy. It strains credulity to believe that Turkey would reject U.S. investment and stop buying all U.S. products in the event that the House adopted H.Res.252. In a more general sense, I am deeply disturbed by this morally blind line of argument, as it could be used to justify inaction on any number of human rights issues around the world.
Although I don’t accept the arguments of those who anticipate potential harm to U.S. national security should the House pass the Armenian Genocide Resolution, I respect those arguments. What I can neither accept nor respect is any claim, direct or implied, that one of the greatest crimes of modern history did not happen.
Howard L. Berman
Chairman, Committee on Foreign Affairs