November 14, 2019

Menendez Resolution to Recognize Armenian Genocide Blocked on Senate Floor

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following remarks on the Senate Floor, requesting the unanimous consent of the Senate to pass his Resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham objected to the request, blocking the Senate from passing the Resolution affirming the historical facts of the genocide 104 years after it occurred.

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“The United States’ foreign policy must reflect an honest accounting of human rights abuses, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. We cannot turn our backs on the Armenian victims of genocide, nor on any victims of genocide anywhere or anytime it occurs. If we do, we only empower those who seek to use genocide as a weapon of war for their own malevolent purposes,” said Menendez in calling up the Resolution. “The United States Congress cannot stand idly by and let the truth of genocide be silenced. We must commit ourselves to learning the painful history of the Armenians as we seek to build a better world for our own and future generations.”

In every Congress since 2006, Senator Menendez has co-authored a Resolution to recognize the Armenian genocide. The Senate’s adoption of the Resolution is especially timely, as its passage would have sent a powerful message to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan—whose government officially denies the historical facts of the Armenian Genocide—while he visits Washington. A copy of Senator’s Resolution can be found here.

Menendez also spoke after Senate passage of the Resolution was blocked, announcing he will continue to bring it up on the Senate Floor to expose those against recognizing the Armenian Genocide.  

“The simple recognition of a historical fact of then the Ottoman Empire… The cruel persecution of the Armenian people…[That] cannot be recognized by the U.S. Senate as the House of Representatives overwhelmingly did in a bipartisan vote? Are we so afraid to stand up for history and the truth? Are we so afraid about Turkey?  Who is the superpower? I am beginning to wonder. Because every time Turkey threatens to do something, we cower. Well, as far as I am concerned, they do not get to dictate the views of the Congress of the United States or of this Senate. This Senate should rise up and recognize this historical truth as documented by historians and as documented by our diplomats. I will not cease to continue coming to the Senate Floor to prick the conscience of this body, and to reveal who supports recognizing the Armenian genocide and who does not.  Otherwise, these words about ‘never again’ are just hollow,” concluded Menendez. 

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Senator Menendez’s full remarks are below:

“Over 104 years ago, the Ottoman Empire launched a systematic campaign to exterminate the Armenian population through killings, forced deportations, starvation, and other brutal means. Every year I join the Armenian community in honoring the memory of the victims, who made invaluable contributions to sustain the Armenian people and preserve Armenian history and culture before their cruel, inhuman deaths.

“At the time of the genocide U.S. diplomats who witnessed it knew that the tragedy they were seeing was an intentional choice. Henry Morgenthau, the then-U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, said that the Turkish government’s deportation order for the Armenians was “a death warrant to a whole race” and an aim which “they made no particular attempt to conceal” in their discussions with him. We know what to call such an intentional, highly organized effort to destroy a people on account of their identity alone: genocide. In other circumstances, no one questions this definition.

“The United States’ foreign policy must reflect an honest accounting of human rights abuses, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. We cannot turn our backs on the Armenian victims of genocide, nor on any victims of genocide anywhere or anytime it occurs. If we do, we only empower those who seek to use genocide as a weapon of war for their own malevolent purposes.

“The government of Turkey has funded lobbyists willing to trumpet lies and make excuses for these atrocities.  The Turkish government and its sympathizers have advocated for restrictive laws on expression and against legislation that recognizes the Armenian Genocide; initiated prosecutions and smear campaigns against those who study the Armenian community’s experiences at the hands of the Turks; and even resorted to violence and harassment of journalists and human rights activists who bravely speak the truth.

These actions are unacceptable—and they speak volumes about both the crime and its cover-up.

“Thankfully, there are also voices speaking up against Turkey’s efforts to silence the truth of the Armenian Genocide. I have long worked in the United States Senate to push for this honest accounting, and to ensure that anyone who represents the United States government does the same.  In every session of Congress since 2006, I have introduced or co-sponsored resolutions affirming the facts of the Armenian Genocide. When I was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I was proud to preside over the passage of an Armenian Genocide resolution out of the committee.

“The United States Congress cannot stand idly by and let the truth of genocide be silenced. We must commit ourselves to learning the painful history of the Armenians as we seek to build a better world for our own and future generations. We must stand up unequivocally for truth, justice, and peace. Only then -- with that hard work and advocacy and recognition of the truth – only then will we confidently be able to say – NEVER AGAIN.

“I am proud to work with Senator Cruz and 23 other Senators in leading a resolution recognizing the horror of this genocide.  I thank them for their efforts on this important resolution and appreciate their standing up for the truth.  I hope that the full Senate will join us and send a clear message to the world that the United States stands by the truth, stands by justice, and stands with victims of genocide wherever they may be.”

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