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90th Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide

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Location: Washington, DC


90TH COMMEMORATION OF THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE -- (House of Representatives - April 26, 2005)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, which actually took place on April 24, last Sunday. As the first genocide of the 20th Century, it is imperative that we remember this atrocity and collectively demand reaffirmation of this crime against humanity.

Just this week I was joined by my co-chair of the Armenian Caucus and 176 additional Members of Congress in sending yet another joint congressional letter to President Bush urging him to use the word "genocide" in his April 24 statement. With over 178 signatures, which is 9 more than last year, the message in this letter is loud and clear: that 90 years is too long to wait for justice to be served and proper recognition to be made.

Mr. Speaker, I received today a copy of President Bush's statement with regard to the April 24 commemoration, and, unfortunately, once again he did not use the term "genocide." And I think that is unfortunate because it has been consistently the case that this Congress and the United States in general over the last 90 years has referred to the Armenian genocide as a genocide, and it is unfortunate that the President continues not to use the term.

This past Wednesday the Caucus, with the cooperation of the Armenian American community, organized a commemorative event on Capitol Hill in the Cannon Caucus room. We were joined by over 350 members of the community as well as numerous Senators and Members of Congress who all spoke on one message: that the United States owes it to the Armenian American community, to the 1.5 million that were massacred in the genocide, and to its own history to reaffirm what is a fact.

As we saw on Wednesday night and as we have seen time and time again, the United States has a proud history of action and response to the Armenian genocide. During a time when hundreds of thousands were left orphaned and starving, a time when a nation was on the verge of complete extermination, the U.S. chose to step up. Individuals like Ambassador Morgenthau and Leslie Davis witnessed the atrocities firsthand, and their conscience did not allow them to simply look the other way. It is now time that the U.S. stops looking the other way, reaffirms what we all know to be fact, and properly recognizes the Armenian genocide.

I wanted to mention that I was very proud earlier this year when our Ambassador to Armenia, Ambassador Evans, referred to the Armenian genocide as a genocide, and it was unfortunate that he was essentially rebuked by the State Department because of the words he used. Because the fact of the matter is that when we talk about the Armenian genocide, we are simply acknowledging historical fact, and we feel very strongly that if at the time when the genocide occurred, the world and the United States, if we had taken more notice and had tried to prevent it, I think 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 are going to see a situation in the future in this 21st century when we do not repeat the mistakes of the past, we must acknowledge the Armenian genocide.

We know even now, history in the last 100 years has witnessed more horrible episodes since the Armenian genocide. As we speak, the Sudanese Government is taking a page out of the Turkish Government's denial playbook and continuing the vicious cycle of genocide denial in what is happening in Darfur. If we are ever to live in a world where crimes do not go unpunished and fundamental human rights are respected and preserved, we must come to recognize the Armenian genocide, thus allowing for proper reparations and restitutions to be made.

I was very upset, Mr. Speaker, on Saturday when I read in the New York Times that the Turkish envoy to the United States continued to say that the only reason why Armenians and Americans wanted the genocide recognized was because they wanted restitution or they wanted reparations. That is simply not true. But it is also true that restitution and reparations must be made. For those who commit a state-sponsored genocide or a state-sponsored massacre, it is important that the state, in this case, Turkey, acknowledge that it occurred and that restitution and reparations are made, just as in the case with Germany in the case of the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to introducing a genocide resolution with my colleagues in the 109th Congress, and as we did in the 108th Congress and the 106th. We will do everything in our power to get legislation passed and reaffirm the U.S. record on the Armenian genocide. Today the United States has the profound responsibility of carrying on the tradition and the work of our predecessors in continuing to combat genocide whenever and wherever it takes place. We must show the world that individuals such as Ambassador Morgenthau did not stay quiet 90 years ago, and we in Congress certainly owe it to them not to stay quiet today.

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