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91st Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide

Location: Washington, DC

91ST COMMEMORATION OF THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE -- (House of Representatives - April 26, 2006)

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

Mr. PALLONE. Madam Speaker, I rise this evening to commemorate the 91st anniversary of the Armenian genocide. As the first genocide of the 20th century, it is morally imperative that we remember this atrocity and collectively demand reaffirmation of this crime against humanity.

April 24th marked the beginning of the systematic and deliberate campaign of genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire in 1915. Over the following 8 years, 1.5 million Armenians were tortured and murdered, and more than half a million were forced from their homeland into exile.

Last week I was joined by my cochair of the Armenia Caucus and many of my colleagues in Congress on a bipartisan basis in sending yet another bipartisan congressional letter to President Bush urging him to use the word ``genocide'' in his April 24th commemorative statement. With over 178 signatures, the message in that letter is loud and clear: 90 years is too long to wait for justice to be served and proper recognition to be made.

The President should have used the 91st anniversary of the Armenian genocide to promote the U.S. foreign policy that reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. But, instead, President Bush once again failed to honor his pledge to properly characterize the Armenian genocide in his annual remarks. Despite pleas by Members of Congress and the Armenian American community, and recognition by much of the international community, he continues to avoid any clear reference to the Armenian genocide while consistently opposing legislation marking this crime against humanity.

The Bush administration continues to be influenced by the Government of Turkey by placing parts of our foreign policy in their hands. When it comes to facing the judgment of history about the Armenian genocide, Turkey, rather than acknowledging truth, has instead chosen to trample on the rights of its citizens to maintain its lies. The U.S. cannot continue to submit to Turkey's shameless threats and intimidation.

Madam Speaker, the U.S. 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 fact. 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. took the lead and proudly helped end these atrocities. In fact, Americans helped launch an unprecedented U.S. diplomatic, political, and humanitarian campaign to end the carnage and protect the survivors.

If America is going to live up to the standards we set for ourselves and continue to lead the world in affirming human rights everywhere, we need to stand up and recognize the tragic events that began in 1915 for what they were: The systematic elimination of a people. The fact of the Armenian genocide is not in dispute.

Madam Speaker, regardless of President Bush's inaction, I call on Speaker Hastert to bring the resolution to officially recognize the Armenian genocide to the House floor. The resolution that passed in committee last September, again on a bipartisan basis by an overwhelming majority, has over 148 cosponsors. Now is the time to allow Members to reaffirm the United States' record on the Armenian genocide.

The U.S. Government needs to stop playing politics with this tragic time in history and take a firm stance for the truth. Genocide must not be tolerated.

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