Armenian Genocide resolution introduced in Congress
Passage hinges on president’s position
by Emil Sanamyan
Published: Tuesday March 17, 2009
Rep. Adam Schiff (D.-Calif.) at microphone, with Rep. George Radanovich (R.-Calif.), left, and Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D.-N.J.), discussing the Armenian Genocide resolution in January 2007. Armenian Reporter
Washington, - A congressional resolution affirming the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide was been formally introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 17 by Reps. Adam Schiff (D.-Calif.), George Radanovich (R.-Calif.), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D.-N.J.), and Mark Kirk (R.-Ill.)
As in the past the Turkish government is fighting the resolution and warning it would retaliate against the interests of the United States and Armenia if it progresses through the House. President Barack Obama plans to travel to Turkey in early April; the trip points to Turkey's importance in the new administration's priorities.
In recent days, Turkish officials have also been dropping hints of an imminent breakthrough in relations with Armenia that could be "undermined" by the resolution. High-level meetings between Turkey and Armenia have regularly taken place since last September.
The Turkish daily Sabah reported on March 14 that senior members of parliament from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) told members of Congress that an "agreement" on relations with Armenia could be announced soon, and therefore the genocide resolution should be held up.
The introduction of the measure, which was given the number House Resolution 252, was preceded by a March 7 letter from International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) to President Obama. The association called on Mr. Obama to uphold a pre-election pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide if elected president.
IAGS president Gregory Stanton described the resolution as a "merely symbolic commemorative resolution" that nevertheless "would signal a new chapter in U.S. diplomacy."
"If we are to lead in the effort to stop the genocide in Darfur and prevent future atrocities, we must be willing to condemn genocide whenever and wherever it occurs," argued Mr. Schiff in a statement. "While there are still some survivors [of the Armenian Genocide] left, we have a compelling moral obligation to speak plainly about the past."
"As a nation we must hold ourselves to the utmost moral standards, which includes having the courage to appropriately recognize atrocities of the past to prevent future occurrences," Mr. Radanovich said in a statement.
The resolution gathered early support from 77 members of the House of Representatives. A similar measure, H. Res. 106, in the previous Congress was introduced in January 2007 with 100 co-sponsors. It eventually gathered the support of a majority of House members and won a vote in the House Foreign Affairs Committee the following October.
Progress of H. Res. 106 ultimately stalled as some supporters defected under strong pressure from the Bush administration. It was never brought to a vote by the full House.
White House position
The current resolution would likewise need to go through the Foreign Affairs Committee. Since both the administration and Congress are now controlled by the same party, progress in Congress is likely to depend even to a greater degree on the position of the White House.
President Obama has not spoken out on the issue since his election.
In policy language similar to the Bush administration's, President Obama's spokesperson Mike Hammer told The Associated Press on March 13 and the Los Angeles Times on March 17, "At this moment, our focus is on how, moving forward, the United States can help Armenia and Turkey work together to come to terms with the past."
Mr. Hammer added that the Obama administration was "encouraged" by recent Armenia-Turkey talks, saying it was "important that the countries have an open and honest dialogue about the past."
A strong proponent of the measure, Rep. Brad Sherman (D.-Calif.), predicted in an interview with the Armenian Reporter on March 2 that there would be no progress on the issue in the next two months, while the White House seeks to win Turkey's support for its Middle East priorities.
Mr. Radanovich, the measure's lead Republican co-sponsor said in his statement that he was "truly disheartened that President Obama might delay his presidential proclamation to the Armenian people on April 24."
The IAGS letter too expressed concern that "Turkey's lobbying efforts, which are now in full force, will lead to a repetition of the H. Res. 106 debacle of late 2007, when the President, as usual, got the resolution blocked from a House vote."
But the Armenian National Committee of America's Aram Hamparian was unfazed. He told the Los Angeles Times that President Obama "is a man of his word and has been crystal clear on the issue."
The text of the resolution appears below.
Affirmation of the United States Record on the Armenian Genocide
HOUSE RESOLUTION 252
Calling upon the President 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 , and for other purposes.
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This resolution may be cited as the `Affirmation of the United States Record on the Armenian Genocide Resolution'.
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
The House of Representatives finds the following:
(1) The Armenian Genocide was conceived and carried out by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923, resulting in the deportation of nearly 2,000,000 Armenians, of whom 1,500,000 men, women, and children were killed, 500,000 survivors were expelled from their homes, and which succeeded in the elimination of the over 2,500-year presence of Armenians in their historic homeland.
(2) On May 24, 1915, the Allied Powers, England, France, and Russia, jointly issued a statement explicitly charging for the first time ever another government of committing `a crime against humanity'.
(3) This joint statement stated `the Allied Governments announce publicly to the Sublime Porte that they will hold personally responsible for these crimes all members of the Ottoman Government, as well as those of their agents who are implicated in such massacres'.
(4) The post-World War I Turkish Government indicted the top leaders involved in the `organization and execution' of the Armenian Genocide and in the `massacre and destruction of the Armenians'.
(5) In a series of courts-martial, officials of the Young Turk Regime were tried and convicted, as charged, for organizing and executing massacres against the Armenian people.
(6) The chief organizers of the Armenian Genocide , Minister of War Enver, Minister of the Interior Talaat, and Minister of the Navy Jemal were all condemned to death for their crimes, however, the verdicts of the courts were not enforced.
(7) The Armenian Genocide and these domestic judicial failures are documented with overwhelming evidence in the national archives of Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, the United States, the Vatican and many other countries, and this vast body of evidence attests to the same facts, the same events, and the same consequences.
(8) The United States National Archives and Record Administration holds extensive and thorough documentation on the Armenian Genocide , especially in its holdings under Record Group 59 of the United States Department of State, files 867.00 and 867.40, which are open and widely available to the public and interested institutions.
(9) The Honorable Henry Morgenthau, United States Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1913 to 1916, organized and led protests by officials of many countries, among them the allies of the Ottoman Empire, against the Armenian Genocide .
(10) Ambassador Morgenthau explicitly described to the United States Department of State the policy of the Government of the Ottoman Empire as `a campaign of race extermination,' and was instructed on July 16, 1915, by United States Secretary of State Robert Lansing that the `Department approves your procedure . . . to stop Armenian persecution'.
(11) Senate Concurrent Resolution 12 of February 9, 1916, resolved that `the President of the United States be respectfully asked to designate a day on which the citizens of this country may give expression to their sympathy by contributing funds now being raised for the relief of the Armenians', who at the time were enduring `starvation, disease, and untold suffering'.
(12) President Woodrow Wilson concurred and also encouraged the formation of the organization known as Near East Relief, chartered by an Act of Congress, which contributed some $116,000,000 from 1915 to 1930 to aid Armenian Genocide survivors, including 132,000 orphans who became foster children of the American people.
(13) Senate Resolution 359, dated May 11, 1920, stated in part, `the testimony adduced at the hearings conducted by the sub-committee of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations have clearly established the truth of the reported massacres and other atrocities from which the Armenian people have suffered'.
(14) The resolution followed the April 13, 1920, report to the Senate of the American Military Mission to Armenia led by General James Harbord, that stated `[m]utilation, violation, torture, and death have left their haunting memories in a hundred beautiful Armenian valleys, and the traveler in that region is seldom free from the evidence of this most colossal crime of all the ages'.
(15) As displayed in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Adolf Hitler, on ordering his military commanders to attack Poland without provocation in 1939, dismissed objections by saying `[w]ho, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?' and thus set the stage for the Holocaust.
(16) Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term `genocide' in 1944, and who was the earliest proponent of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide , invoked the Armenian case as a definitive example of genocide in the 20th century.
(17) The first resolution on genocide adopted by the United Nations at Lemkin's urging, the December 11, 1946, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 96(1) and the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide itself recognized the Armenian Genocide as the type of crime the United Nations intended to prevent and punish by codifying existing standards.
(18) In 1948, the United Nations War Crimes Commission invoked the Armenian Genocide `precisely . . . one of the types of acts which the modern term `crimes against humanity' is intended to cover' as a precedent for the Nuremberg tribunals.
(19) The Commission stated that `[t]he provisions of Article 230 of the Peace Treaty of Sevres were obviously intended to cover, in conformity with the Allied note of 1915 . . ., offenses which had been committed on Turkish territory against persons of Turkish citizenship, though of Armenian or Greek race. This article constitutes therefore a precedent for Article 6c and 5c of the Nuremberg and Tokyo Charters, and offers an example of one of the categories of `crimes against humanity' as understood by these enactments'.
(20) House Joint Resolution 148, adopted on April 8, 1975, resolved: `[t]hat April 24, 1975, is hereby designated as `National Day of Remembrance of Man's Inhumanity to Man', and the President of the United States is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe such day as a day of remembrance for all the victims of genocide , especially those of Armenian ancestry . . .'.
(21) President Ronald Reagan in proclamation number 4838, dated April 22, 1981, stated in part `like the genocide of the Armenians before it, and the genocide of the Cambodians, which followed it - and like too many other persecutions of too many other people - the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten'.
(22) House Joint Resolution 247, adopted on September 10, 1984, resolved: `[t]hat April 24, 1985, is hereby designated as `National Day of Remembrance of Man's Inhumanity to Man', and the President of the United States is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe such day as a day of remembrance for all the victims of genocide , especially the one and one-half million people of Armenian ancestry . . .'.
(23) In August 1985, after extensive study and deliberation, the United Nations SubCommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities voted 14 to 1 to accept a report entitled `Study of the Question of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide ,' which stated `[t]he Nazi aberration has unfortunately not been the only case of genocide in the 20th century. Among other examples which can be cited as qualifying are . . . the Ottoman massacre of Armenians in 1915-1916'.
(24) This report also explained that `[a]t least 1,000,000, and possibly well over half of the Armenian population, are reliably estimated to have been killed or death marched by independent authorities and eye-witnesses. This is corroborated by reports in United States, German and British archives and of contemporary diplomats in the Ottoman Empire, including those of its ally Germany.'.
(25) The United States Holocaust Memorial Council, an independent Federal agency, unanimously resolved on April 30, 1981, that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum would include the Armenian Genocide in the Museum and has since done so.
(26) Reviewing an aberrant 1982 expression (later retracted) by the United States Department of State asserting that the facts of the Armenian Genocide may be ambiguous, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1993, after a review of documents pertaining to the policy record of the United States, noted that the assertion on ambiguity in the United States record about the Armenian Genocide `contradicted longstanding United States policy and was eventually retracted'.
(27) On June 5, 1996, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment to House Bill 3540 (the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 1997) to reduce aid to Turkey by $3,000,000 (an estimate of its payment of lobbying fees in the United States) until the Turkish Government acknowledged the Armenian Genocide and took steps to honor the memory of its victims.
(28) President William Jefferson Clinton, on April 24, 1998, stated: `This year, as in the past, we join with Armenian -Americans throughout the nation in commemorating one of the saddest chapters in the history of this century, the deportations and massacres of a million and a half Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in the years 1915-1923.'.
(29) President George W. Bush, on April 24, 2004, stated: `On this day, we pause in remembrance of one of the most horrible tragedies of the 20th century, the annihilation of as many as 1,500,000 Armenians through forced exile and murder at the end of the Ottoman Empire.'.
(30) Despite the international recognition and affirmation of the Armenian Genocide , the failure of the domestic and international authorities to punish those responsible for the Armenian Genocide is a reason why similar genocides have recurred and may recur in the future, and that a just resolution will help prevent future genocides.
SEC. 3. DECLARATION OF POLICY.
The House of Representatives-
(1) calls upon the President 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 and the consequences of the failure to realize a just resolution; and
(2) calls upon the President in the President's annual message commemorating the Armenian Genocide issued on or about April 24, to accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1,500,000 Armenians as genocide and to recall the proud history of United States intervention in opposition to the Armenian Genocide.
Resolution sponsors praise Obama’s record on Genocide
Letter comes ahead of president’s April trip to Turkey
by Emil Sanamyan
Published: Saturday March 14, 2009
Washington, - Key sponsors of the anticipated congressional resolution affirming the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide have written to President Barack Obama to recall his "courage" as a senator and a presidential candidate "in characterizing properly the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians from 1915-1923 as genocide" and stressing the importance of "formal American recognition."
The March 10 letter to Mr. Obama, co-signed by Reps. Adam Schiff (D.-Calif.), George Radanovich (R.-Calif.), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D.-N.J.), and Mark Kirk (R.-Ill.), noted that "no president in the postwar era has come into office with a stronger understanding of the historic facts of the genocide." (See full text below.)
The four members of Congress are currently seeking additional co-sponsors for a congressional resolution affirming the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide.
The letter comes a week after other congressional supporters of the resolution, particularly Rep. Brad Sherman (D.-Calif.), downplayed the likelihood that Mr. Obama would use the word "genocide" in the annual presidential message to Armenian-Americans delivered around April 24, the day of commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.
Additionally, President Obama plans to visit Turkey just weeks before April 24. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made public the president's intention during her own trip to Ankara on March 7. (See editorial.)
The president is expected to attend the April 6-8 Istanbul summit of the Alliance of Civilizations initiative launched recently by Spain and Turkey with the blessing of the United Nations. The visit is seen as part of Mr. Obama's policy to reach out to the Muslim world.
That trip would cap a tour that includes three other stops. On April 2, Mr. Obama will be in London for the summit of the world's 20 leading economies (including Turkey); he will next go to the NATO summit held on April 3-4 in Strasbourg and the U.S.-European Union summit in Prague on April 5.
No "clarity" after Clinton trip
Speaking on March 2 at the Armenian Assembly of America conference in Washington Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said he spoke with Mrs. Clinton before her trip and that a "lot still remains unclear" about the Obama administration's intentions on the Armenian Genocide issue. The issue was not raised publicly during Mrs. Clinton's trip.
Instead Mrs. Clinton and Turkey's Foreign Minister Ali Babacan issued a joint statement that among other things stressed the need "to promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the south Caucasus, including through U.S. support for the efforts of Turkey and Armenia to normalize relations and joint support for the efforts of the Minsk Group to resolve the Nagorno Karabakh conflict."
A day after the visit, Mr. Babacan told Turkey's NTV station that "I still see a risk [of U.S. affirmation of the Genocide]. Mr. Obama made the promise five times in a row," Agence France Presse reported on March 8.
He added that "the new American administration understands Turkey's sensibilities better today," warning that "a bad step by the United States would only worsen the process" of reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey.
On March 10-13, Mr. Babacan's deputy undersecretary Unal Cevikoz arrived in Washington for follow-up meetings at the State Department and Capitol Hill.
Text of the letter
The following is the text of the letter from four members of Congress to President Barack Obama.
March 10, 2009
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President,
As we approach the upcoming 94th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide on April 24, we want to thank you for the courage you have always shown in characterizing properly the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians from 1915-1923 as genocide. No president in the postwar era has come into office with a stronger understanding of the historic facts of the genocide, or with a greater track record of speaking plainly on this terrible chapter in the past.
As a United States Senator, your record on the Armenian Genocide was clear and unequivocal. In 2005 and 2006 you joined many of your colleagues in asking President Bush to refer to the slaughter of Armenians as genocide, noting that "[i]t is in the best interests of our nation and the entire global community to remember the past and learn from these crimes against humanity to ensure that they are never repeated."
In 2006 you wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the wake of the recall from Yerevan of Ambassador John Evans for using the term "genocide" to describe the events of 1915-23. In your letter you described the official U.S. position on the genocide as "untenable" and reminded the Secretary that "the occurrence of the Armenian genocide in 1915 is not an ‘allegation,' a ‘personal opinion,' or a ‘point of view.' Supported by overwhelming evidence, it is a widely documented fact."
In questions submitted to Ambassador-designate Marie Yovanovitch last year, you pressed her on the issue of genocide recognition, specifically asking her what steps she would take to recognize the genocide and what actions the Department of State was undertaking to press for Turkish recognition of the crimes committed by their Ottoman forebears. Last April, in a statement printed in the Congressional Record, you pledged to "continue to push for the acknowledgement of the Armenian genocide."
As a presidential candidate, you were also forthright in discussing your support for genocide recognition, saying that "America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides." We agree with you completely.
During your upcoming trip to Turkey and in discussions with your advisors over how to commemorate the events of 1915-23, you will doubtless be counseled by some to continue the practice of avoiding the truth in favor of short-term political expediency. We do not minimize Ankara's threats of adverse action when you recognize the genocide, or when Congress takes action to formally recognize the genocide, but we believe that our alliance is strong enough to withstand the truth.
Elie Wiesel has described the denial of genocide as the final stage of genocide - a double killing. Sadly, our nation's foreign policy has, for too long, abetted this denial. As you told Secretary Rice in your letter about the sacking of Ambassador Evans, "when State Department instructions are such that an ambassador must engage in strained reasoning - or even outright falsehood - that defies a common sense interpretation of events in order to follow orders, then it is time to revisit the State Department's policy guidance on that issue."
Mr. President, you have demonstrated time and again your understanding of the importance to Armenian-Americans of formal American recognition of the crime that was committed against their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Their pain is not unlike that of American Jews, who live each day with the memory of the Holocaust, and African-Americans, whose view of themselves has been colored by the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. But, of course, the importance of speaking unequivocally about a matter as grave as genocide is a human rights imperative affecting us all. Whether it is today's Sudanese government or yesterday's Ottoman Empire, the perpetrators of genocide, as well as the victims, must know that the United States will not shrink from confronting the truth.
ADAM B. SCHIFF
Member of Congress
Member of Congress
FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Member of Congress
MARK STEVEN KIRK
Member of Congress