Following decades of obstruction, full Senate unanimously approves Menendez effort recognizing the Armenian Genocide | Menendez: “To overlook human suffering is not who we are as a people. It is not what we stand for as a nation. We are better than that, and our foreign policy should always reflect this. I am beyond honored and humbled to be part of this important moment of our history.”
WASHINGTON – Today the Senate passed legislation by Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which formally recognizes the Armenian Genocide on behalf of the U.S. government. After three previous attempts in recent weeks, Menendez obtained the Unanimous Consent of his Senate colleagues to pass his Senate Resolution affirming the historical facts of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire, and honoring the memories of its 1,500,000 victims.
“By passing my Armenian Genocide resolution, the Senate finally stood up to confirm history: What happened from 1915 to 1923 was – most assuredly – genocide. There is no other word for it. There is no euphemism. There is no avoiding it,” said Menendez. “To overlook human suffering is not who we are as a people. It is not what we stand for as a nation. We are better than that, and our foreign policy should always reflect this. I am beyond honored and humbled to be part of this important moment of our history.”
Menendez has long been a passionate champion for the Armenian-American community in the United States, leading the push for a formal Senate Resolution to recognize the Armenian Genocide in every session of Congress since 2006, as well as co-authoring in years past during his time in the House of Representatives. Since November 14th of this year, Senator Menendez took to the Senate Floor every week to try to adopt the Resolution. After being blocked every time by a Senate Republican, the Senator vowed to keep returning every week until Armenian Genocide denialism was defeated.
“Today, the Senate finally took a stand and spoke the truth – spoke the truth to darkness, spoke truth to evil, spoke truth to murder, spoke truth to genocide – and finally honored the 1.5 million innocent lives lost,” added Senator Ted Cruz(R-Tex.), the lead Republican Senate sponsor of the Resolution. “Sen. Menendez has been fighting this fight a long time, and I’ve been proud to stand by his side. This is the third week in a row we have come to the Senate floor seeking to pass this resolution. And I'm grateful that today we have succeeded,”
A copy of the Senator’s Resolution can be found here. Below are his Floor remarks as delivered:
“Madam President, We have just passed the Armenian Genocide recognition resolution. And it is fitting and appropriate the Senate stands on the right side of history in doing so. It stands on the right side of history in doing so.
On Monday we commemorated the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime. The UN General Assembly established this day of remembrance to commemorate and honor the victims of genocide and to highlight efforts to combat and prevent genocide. Passing this resolution is a fitting tribute to this day of remembrance.
I have come to the floor on various occasions to talk about the history of the Armenian genocide. An Armenian priest, Krikoris Balakian, recorded some of the massacres of innocent Armenians. In Ankara and its surroundings, only a couple hundred miles east of Constantinople, the killing was done with “axes, cleavers, shovels, and pitchforks.” It was like a slaughterhouse; Armenians were hacked to pieces. Infants were dashed on rocks before the eyes of their mothers. It was indescribable horror.
Even when Armenians were supposedly deported, the conditions they were forced to live in made clear that Turkey’s ultimate goal was to eliminate the Armenian people.
A visitor to one Turkish city in October 1915 wrote that: “The 16,000 deported Armenians who were living in the tents have been sent to Konia in cattle-trucks. At night, while thousands of these unfortunate people, without food or shelter, shiver with cold, those brutes who are supposed to be their guardians attack them with clubs and push them towards the station. Women, children and old men are packed together in the trucks. The men have to climb on to the top of the trucks, in spite of the dreadful cold. Their cries are heart-breaking, but all is in vain. Hunger, cold and fatigue, together with the Government’s deeds of violence, will soon achieve the extermination of this last remnant of the Armenian people.”
Henry Morgenthau, the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey from 1913-16, understood full well what was transpiring. He left his post in early 1916 because, as he later recalled, “My failure to stop the destruction of the Armenians…had made Turkey for me a place of horror.”
M. President, American diplomats like Henry Morgenthau were on the ground in Turkey and they made heroic efforts to help the Armenian people. But here in Washington at the time, no one did nothing in the face of this heinous crime. As former UN Ambassador Samantha Power wrote in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book A Problem from Hell, “America’s nonresponse to the Turkish horrors established patterns that would be repeated.”
As my colleague from Texas, my co-sponsor who has been such a stalwart advocate with me, has very often noted, this was the first genocide to be recorded in that century.
We know all too well the horrors that would be repeated later in the 20th century with the Holocaust and other genocides around the world.
So here in the Senate today, we break those patterns. We join the House who voted to do so by passing a resolution affirming the facts of the Armenian Genocide 405-11. Today, the Senate shows the same resolve.
I am deeply grateful to Senator Cruz for his stalwart leadership on this issue, and to the 27 other Senators from both parties who have co-sponsored this resolution and demonstrated their commitment to the truth. And the truth will finally set us free.
I am thankful that this resolution has passed at a time when there are still survivors of the Genocide that will be able to see that the Senate acknowledges what they went through.”