Pallone Calls on House Republican Leaders to Allow Floor Vote on Armenian Genocide Legislation
"Mr. Speaker, last Sunday, I attended a ceremony to remember the victims of the Armenian genocide in Times Square in New York City, that was a very moving event. There were several genocide survivors in attendance, and I had a chance to talk briefly with maybe 10 or so.
"It was incredible to hear them tell the stories of the families and the atrocities that had occurred 89 years ago now. More and more countries and States, and even the media have now recognized the Armenian genocide. Just last week the Canadian House of Commons joined France, Italy, the Vatican and a number of other European countries and the European Parliament in acknowledging this atrocious crime against humanity as genocide. In addition, last week, The New York Times reversed decades of ambiguity by declaring in favor of using the term "genocide" to describe the Armenian cataclysm of 1915. The Boston Globe adopted a similar policy change last year.
"Mr. Speaker, the unfortunate thing is, although so many other countries and so many of our own States have recognized the Armenian genocide, we in the Congress continue not to recognize it. I think it is important that we do so. Currently the House Genocide Resolution, H. Res. 193, has 111 cosponsors. The House Committee on the Judiciary unanimously adopted this resolution on May 21, 2003, but it has not been brought to the floor for consideration.
"I would urge the Speaker and the leaders on the Republican side of the aisle to bring this resolution to the floor. It is an important step that the U.S. Congress needs to make.
This year, as we do every year, the members of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues initiated a letter to the President of the United States asking him to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. This year, 169 Members of the House signed this letter to the President, more than we have ever had in the past. This letter, in part states,
"Dear Mr. President: We are writing to urge you to join us in reaffirming the U.S. record on the Armenian genocide in your April 24 commemorative statement. By properly recognizing the atrocities committed against the Armenian people as genocide in your statement, you will honor the many Americans who helped launch our first international human rights campaign to end the carnage and protect the survivors. The official U.S. response mirrored the overwhelming reaction by the American public to this crime against humanity and, as such, constitutes a proud, irrefutable and groundbreaking chapter in U.S. diplomatic history.
"Now, more than ever, as your administration seeks to bring an end to global terrorism and to help establish democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq, the memory of the genocide underscores our responsibility to help convey our cherished tradition of respect for fundamental human rights and opposition to mass slaughters. The victims of the Armenian genocide deserve our remembrance and their rightful place in history. It 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 they are never repeated.''
"This is the essence of what we are trying to achieve here today in asking that the President and this Congress reaffirm the Armenian genocide. We feel strongly that affirmation of the Armenian genocide will help prevent another similar atrocious act from being repeated. History affirms the number of times in the 20th century that genocide occurred, and we must act in every way possible to send the strong and loud message that we will not support or allow such activities to occur again.
"House Resolution H.R. 193, and its Senate counterpart, Senate Resolution 164, which currently has 37 cosponsors, basically state that the purpose of the resolutions are to strengthen America's commitment to the value of the genocide convention that was implemented 15 years ago. This convention recognizes the genocides that occurred during the 20th century, not only the Armenian genocide, but that in Rwanda, Burundi, and, of course, the Nazi Holocaust genocide against the Jews.
"The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, that when we talk about the Armenian genocide, we are simply acknowledging the fact. We believe very strongly that if at the time the genocide occurred, that the world and the nations of the world had taken more notice and had tried to prevent it, it would have served as a lesson so that the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews and so many other atrocities that took place in the 20th century would not have occurred. If we want to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated, it is imperative that the United States acknowledges the Armenian genocide."