WASHINGTON, DC – Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) pledged to continue his efforts to press Turkey to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, in a strongly worded statement submitted yesterday to the Congressional Record marking the 93rd Anniversary of this crime against humanity, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The statement by the Senator, who has been endorsed in the Democratic primaries by the ANCA, was one of 30 remarks by Senators and Representatives including those by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden (D-DE), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered remarks at the April 23rd Armenian Genocide observance on Capitol Hill.
“Armenian Americans value Senator Obama’s consistent and principled leadership in pressuring Turkey to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide and to end its shameful campaign to deny this crime against humanity,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “He remains clearly the best positioned to bring about real change, real action, and real hope for an end to the cycle of genocide.”
In a statement issued to the Armenian American community on January 19, 2008, Sen. Obama had noted “America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides. I intend to be that President.”
Sen. Obama’s complete April 28th remarks and excerpts from other Congressional statements commemorating the Armenian Genocide are provided below.
Statement by Sen. Barack Obama Commemorating the Armenian Genocide
April 28, 2008
Mr. President, last week, we paused in remembrance of the Armenian genocide , which was carried out by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923. Nearly 2 million Armenians were deported, and approximately 1.5 million of those deported were killed.
It is imperative that we recognize the horrific acts carried out against the Armenian people as genocide and I will continue to stand with the Armenian American community in calling for the Government of Turkey to acknowledge it as such. The occurrence of the Armenian genocide is a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming collection of historical evidence.
I was deeply disturbed 2 years ago when the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia was fired after he used the term “genocide” to describe the mass slaughter of Armenians. I called for Secretary Rice to closely examine what I believe is an untenable position taken by the U.S. Government.
I will continue to push for the acknowledgement of the Armenian genocide, and I offer the Armenian people my condolences.
Excerpts from Congressional Remarks Commemorating the 93rd Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV): I say to my friends in the Senate, given how our esteemed colleagues of the past reflected on this terrible tragedy, I cannot help but think that they would have surely labeled these atrocities as genocide if only the word had been coined. The United States has a rich history of defending human rights, standing up for the oppressed, and speaking the truth about genocide . However, in spite of support from Members of Congress and leaders in the Armenian community, the official policy of the executive branch of the United States still does not recognize the Armenian genocide .
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden (D-DE): It is depressing to think that human beings have not learned their lesson. The whole world is diminished, wounded, and made poorer by such tragedies and we must not forget them if we hope to prevent them. The commemoration of this act of brutality and systematic murder 93 years ago is important and relevant not only for the survivors and their descendents, but for humanity as a whole.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA): To that end, I am proud to be an original cosponsor of Senator RICHARD DURBIN’s S. Res. 106, calling on the President to accurately characterize the Armenian Genocide in his annual message around April 24 and to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD): Clearly, patterns repeat themselves. Which is all the more reason why, in commemorating the 20th century’s first genocide, one cannot help but feel compelled to redouble our efforts to resolve the 21st century’s first genocide –that of Darfur. . . .Today, burdened by the memory of those crimes, we remember and rededicate. Today we return to the origin of genocide , and we honor the dead. Let us find in their memory not only grief, but new resolution–to speedily end today’s atrocities, to prevent those of tomorrow, and to punish all those who would attempt or carry out evil on such a scale.
DCCC Chairman, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD): I am deeply disappointed that many of our current officials avoid characterizing what occurred as “genocide.” This avoidance does a disservice to the memory of the victims and their descendants, and hurts our moral standing in the world. I hope that one day soon, this legislative body and the U.S. Administration will properly characterize what happened to the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire.
Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ): We cannot let denial continue. By doing so, we show the international community that not only is genocide accepted, but that we are indifferent. Recognizing the Armenian genocide is crucial to helping end the cycle of genocide that has continued to plague civilization. If no one is held accountable, if America and the International community fail to act, then we allow these atrocities to continue. A large majority of our colleagues want to support this resolution. Members want to reaffirm the United States’ record on the Armenian genocide . Unfortunately, the strong Turkish lobby is making it difficult for this House to take a firm stance for the truth.
Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY): As each year passes the number of survivors of the Armenian genocide diminishes further. And while there is nothing that can be done to alter the past, we can and should ensure that generations to come know how the Armenian people suffered at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. It is also important that this day be marked to commemorate the survivors of the Armenian genocide so that their fight for survival is honored and revered rather than forgotten and ignored.
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA): By remembering the Armenians on this day, as well as the millions of other victims claimed by genocides worldwide, we can individually and collectively contribute to the prevention of future atrocities and the end of genocide once and for all. I’d like to thank the Armenian -American community and the millions of others who have worked to ensure the American people never forget the victims of the Armenian genocide .
Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA): As I have in the past, as a member of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, I will continue to work with my colleagues and with the Armenian -Americans in my district to promote investment and prosperity in Armenia. And, I sincerely hope that this year, the U.S. will have the opportunity and courage to speak in support of the millions of Armenians who suffered because of their heritage.
Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA): First, there is never a “right time” to recognize genocide . Ninety-three years have passed since the start events occurred, and we cannot wait around for a convenient moment to recognize this truly catastrophic historical event. Secondly, the scholars have spoken and the historical record is clear and thoroughly documented. And finally, we have seen over and over again that Turkey’s warning of disastrous consequences are dramatically overstated. In fact, in nearly every instance, Turkey’s bilateral trade has gone up with each of the countries that have recognized the Armenian genocide –including Canada, Italy, France, Russia, and Belgium.
Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL): We are here today to fully recognize the impact of this event. More than a dozen other countries including France, Canada, Austria, Sweden, and Greece have acknowledged genocide and passed resolutions similar to H. Res. 106, commemorating those who lost their lives in Armenia between 1915 and 1923. Yet, despite the great suffering of the Armenian people, they have overcome adversity and continue to preserve their culture, traditions, religion and history. The United States and Armenia have had a strong, long-lasting relationship, including U.S. humanitarian and technical assistance to Armenia totaling nearly $2 billion to date.
Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY): Today, as I stand for the 10th time in recognition of the Armenian genocide, I do so with one major distinction from years past. This year is different because the House Foreign Affairs Committee has formally recognized the Armenian genocide. Last October, under the leadership of the late Chairman Tom Lantos, the Committee passed House Resolution 106. As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I was proud to have been a part of this vote. And, as a strong supporter of the Armenian community, I will be proud when the full House of Representatives considers H.Res.106.
Rep. Lincoln Diaz Balart (R-FL): The Armenian genocide resolution is offensive to some simply because it characterizes that massacre as “genocide .” We do not use that term loosely, but violence on such a tremendous scale has earned that terrible title. These deaths were not caused by the inevitable hostility of war, but by systematic murder aimed at eliminating a people. We gain nothing by pretending it was anything less.
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI): It is important to both remember this event, and to acknowledge it as genocide . Not only does it allow us to pay proper respect to those who lost their lives in Armenia at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, but it also helps us to comprehend the malevolent and inhumane events that take place in our global community today. Ethnic conflict and sectarian fighting remain an urgent issue for both the U.S. and the international community to address. The historical lessons and the exchange of ideas that flow from an honest discussion about the genocide that took place in Armenia can help us take steps to prevent further atrocities from occurring in our time.
Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ): So, I urge my colleagues in the majority to bring House Resolution 106, which commemorates these atrocities that occurred only a few generations ago, to the House Floor for a vote. Now is the time for America to officially ensure that U.S. foreign policy reflects sensitivity concerning human rights issues.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY): I rise to mark the anniversary of the Armenian genocide which began on this date ninety-three years ago. From 1915-1923 the Ottoman Empire carried out the deportation of approximately 2 million Armenian men, women, and children from their homeland of which 1.5 million were killed. And to this day, neither the Ottoman nor Turkish governments have been held to account for their involvement.
Rep. James Langevin (D-RI): I am also very proud that my fellow Rhode Islanders have been actively involved in calling attention to this issue, and I urge them to continue to make their voices heard. As an ardent supporter of Rhode Island’s Armenian -American community throughout my public service career, I join my colleagues today in honoring the victims of the genocide by paying tribute to their memory, showing compassion for those who have suffered from such prejudice, and never forgetting the pain that they have endured.
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA): While today is the day in which we solemnly remember the victims of the Armenian genocide , I believe it is also a day in which we can celebrate the extraordinary vitality and strength of the Armenian people, who have fought successfully to preserve their culture and identity for over a thousand years. The Armenian people withstood the horrors of genocide , two world wars, and several decades of Soviet dominance in order to establish modern Armenia. Armenia has defiantly rebuilt itself as a nation and a society–a triumph of human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY): The United States must join the parliaments of Canada, France, and Switzerland in passing a resolution affirming that the Armenian people were indeed subjected to genocide. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs took an important step last year in passing H. Res. 106, and I am hopeful that this resolution will make it to the Floor. An acknowledgment of the genocide is not our only objective. I remain committed to ensuring that the U.S. Government continues to provide direct financial assistance to Armenia.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA): There is no more important way to commit ourselves to preventing the genocides of the future than to commemorate and never forget the genocides of the past. As such, I would like to note my continuing support for House finally passage of H. Res. 106, the Affirmation of the United States Record on the Armenian Genocide Resolution. In my view, it is long past time for the United States to officially recognize the massacre of one and a half million Armenians in early in the 20th century for what it undeniably was: a genocide.
Rep. James McGovern (D-MA): I believe adopting the Armenian Genocide Resolution is the right thing to do: As a matter of morality–and in the name of humanity–the United States should recognize and condemn all genocides. In the name of historic truth–and in honor of the historic role so many American diplomatic personnel and humanitarian and relief workers played in saving lives and condemning the genocide as it was taking place–the U.S. especially should recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Rep. Michael McNulty (D-NY): From 1915 to 1923, the world witnessed the first genocide of the 20th Century. This was clearly one of the world’s greatest tragedies–the deliberate and systematic Ottoman annihilation of 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children. Furthermore, another 500,000 refugees fled and escaped to various points around the world–effectively eliminating the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire. From these ashes arose hope and promise in 1991–and I was blessed to see it.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA): The U.S. has long been a global leader in promoting human rights around the world. On the issue of the Armenian genocide , however, we lag behind. The French, Swiss, Swedish, Germans, and even the Russian governments recognize the Armenian genocide properly. As a global leader in human rights, it is imperative for the U.S. to stand on principle and recognize the annihilation of the Armenians. However, it is no less important today to recognize the Armenian genocide for what it is. The deafening silence that came in its wake set the stage for a century that saw genocides occur in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA): Out of this wretched episode of history, we have made a determined effort to move beyond hatred, to recognize mistakes, and to prevent similar events from occurring in the future. It is our obligation to learn from lapses in moral judgment and forge safeguards for all oppressed, vulnerable, and subjugated peoples. I would like to express my sympathy to the survivors and descendents of the Armenian Genocide. I hope we can all take time to reflect on this solemn day of remembrance.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA): We are told by some to forget the Armenian Genocide , to get over it. But to forget any incident like this is tantamount to allowing it to happen again. . . The facts before us are not in dispute. The reason we still debate this is not to determine if a genocide took place but rather, to determine if we have the political backbone to stand up for the truth.
Rep. Timothy Walberg (R-MI): The systematic, state-sponsored extermination of these good, decent people demonstrates the need for protection of individual liberties and from injustice. Years later, Adolf Hitler referenced the Armenian genocide , “the physical destruction of the enemy,” as an example of the rest of the world forgetting or ignoring. My hope is that we can recognize these stains from the past and learn an important lesson from history.
Rep. Timothy Walz (D-MN): It is important to commemorate those who lost their lives. And it is important to recognize the Armenian genocide for what it was. At the time, the United States government and its citizens acted with generosity and diplomatic support in response to the mass killing. Today’s observance is a continuation of that response. And only by recognizing and studying past cases of genocide will we have a chance of preventing them in the future.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA): I am pleased to be a cosponsor of H. Res. 106, a resolution affirming the United States record on the Armenian Genocide, which calls for our foreign policy to reflect the U.S. record relating to this painful chapter of history. As we mourn the victims of the Armenian genocide and pay tribute to the survivors, let us look forward to the opportunity for the House to consider H. Res. 106 and stand up to those who seek to deny the genocide that took place.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA): May we all take a moment to remember the victims of the Armenian Genocide, one of the most horrible tragedies of the 20th century. We remember, not so that we may dwell on the events of the past, but so that we may renew our personal commitments to never stand idly by and let such a tragedy happen again.