WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), a longtime supporter of Armenian American issues who is expected to become Speaker if the Democrats win a majority in the House this November, pledged today to support Armenian Genocide legislation next year during in the 110th session of Congress.
In a statement released to Harut Sassounian, Publisher of the California Courier, Congresswoman Pelosi stated that:
“I have supported legislation, including H.Res.316, that would properly acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. It is imperative that the United States recognize this atrocity and move to renew our commitment to eliminate genocide whenever and wherever it exists. This effort enjoys strong bipartisan support in the House, and I will continue to support these efforts in the 110th Congress.”
Sassounian’s weekly column appears internationally in more than a dozen newspapers, as well as in the widely read Huffington Post.
“Nancy Pelosi’s powerful words and principled actions underscore the stark difference between her and Dennis Hastert, who, during his tenure as Speaker has consistently prevented a bipartisan majority from voting in favor of U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.
Congresswoman Pelosi’s statement is consistent with her past record of energetic and principled support for U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide, dating back nearly 20 years. Since her election to the House in 1986, she has worked closely with the Bay Area Armenian National Committee, enjoying warm relations with the Armenian American community in the greater Bay Area.
“The principled stand of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi comes as no surprise, and we’re proud that she confirmed it again today,” said Bay Area ANC Chairwoman Roxanne Makasdjian. “The Bay Area Armenian community has long known and respected Congresswoman Pelosi’s leadership on genocide prevention, from her advocacy of Armenian Genocide recognition, to ending the genocide taking place today in Darfur.”
Speaker Hastert (R-IL), despite his pledge in August of 2000 to schedule a vote on the Armenian Genocide Resolution, pulled the measure from the House floor in October of that year, only moments before it was set to be adopted by a broad, bipartisan majority. He has, in every year since, actively blocked legislation properly commemorating this crime against humanity.
In July of 2004, following Congressman Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) successful effort to secure the adoption by the U.S. House of an amendment recognizing the Armenian Genocide, Speaker Hastert joined with other members of the House leadership in vowing to block the final adoption of the measure. In remarks posted at the top of the Speaker’s website on the day after the amendment’s adoption, the Speaker stated that, “Turkey has been a reliable ally of the United States for decades, and the deep foundation upon which our mutual economic and security relationship rests should not be disrupted by this amendment.” He and his leadership colleagues also vowed to block any future consideration of the Armenian Genocide Resolution by the full House of Representatives.
Speaker Hastert has received an “F” rating from the ANCA, while Minority Leader Pelosi has consistently received “A” grades from the ANCA for her principled support for Armenian American issues.
Speaking at a Capitol Hill observance in April of 2005, the California Congresswoman countered those who have cited Turkey’s strategic position as reason to oppose Armenian Genocide legislation, stressing that:
“First at the time of the Iron Curtain, [they cited] the strategic location of Turkey, after that it was the Gulf War and Turkey’s strategic location . . . Turkey’s strategic location is not a license to kill.”
In May of 2001, during her remarks at the ANCA’s annual Capitol Hill Armenian Genocide observance, Congresswoman Pelosi noted that:
“The sad thing about that tragedy is that it is a tragedy twice. Once in the course of the Genocide and secondly in the fact that we cannot get the United States to pass a resolution memorializing and acknowledging the terrible things that happened then . . . This Armenian Genocide is a challenge to the conscience of our country and the conscience of the world. We will not rest until we have recognition of it.”
Speaking on the House floor in April of 2001, she reminded her colleagues that:
“Our alliance with Turkey should not deter us from learning the lessons of past mistakes. If we ignore the lessons of the Armenian Genocide, we are destined to repeat those same mistakes. The horrible conflicts in Sudan, Sierra Leone, and East Timor remind us that we must do more to prevent the systematic slaughter of innocent people. We must learn from the past and never forget the victims of the Armenian genocide.”
In April of 1999, in a statement on the House floor, the Congresswoman stressed:
“As we enter the Third Millennium of the Christian Era, it behooves us to remember. If we ignore the lessons of the Armenian Genocide, then we are destined to continue our stumblings through the long, dark tunnel of endless ethnic-cleansings, genocides, and holocausts. Let us, then, remember to remember.”
In remarks marking the Armenian Genocide on the House floor in April of 1998, she explained that:
“On April 24, 1915, the rulers of the Ottoman Empire set out to annihilate the Armenian minority. Over the course of the next eight years, the Turkish government systematically murdered 1.5 million Armenians and deported 500,000. By the end of 1923, the entire Armenian population of Anatolia and Western Armenia was either murdered or deported . . . While a growing number of Americans come to understand the horror of this episode in history, the perpetrators continue their denial.”
In her April 1997 remarks to her House colleagues, the San Francisco-based legislator reminded Members of Congress that:
“In 1944, noted jurist and scholar, Raphael Lemkin looked to a previous generation when he coined the word `genocide’ to describe the systematic annihilation of the Jewish people by the Nazis. Lemkin was thinking of the Turkish attempt in 1915 to extinguish from this earth the ancient community of Armenians living within the Ottoman Empire. Ironically, Hitler had also referred to the extermination of the Armenians when he spoke of his plans for the Jewish people in 1939: `Who, after all, speaks today of the Armenians,’ Hitler said.”
In June of 1996, speaking in support of a Congressional measure, authored by Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA) to cut aid to Turkey until it ended its denial of the Armenian Genocide, Congresswoman Pelosi argued that:
“Passage of this [Radanovich] amendment will serve to deter the Turkish government from pursuing their unconscionable cover-up of this internationally recognized crime against humanity.”
In his most recent column, Sassounian criticized the current Speaker as someone who “not only has broken his pledge repeatedly, but has actively blocked the Armenian Genocide resolution from being brought to a floor vote.” He stressed that, “On Nov. 7, members of the Armenian American community should vote for all those [House] candidates, regardless of their party affiliation, who are supportive of Armenian issues. In the case of equally supportive candidates in a particular race, the preference should be given to the one who is a Democrat in order to secure a Democratic majority in the House, helping make Congresswoman Pelosi the next Speaker, which will enable her to schedule a long overdue vote on the Armenian Genocide resolution.”