Turkey is a vital and, in most respects, a loyal ally of the United States in a volatile region. We have also been a loyal ally to Turkey, and should continue to be so. Be that as it may, nothing justifies Turkey’s turning a blind eye to the reality of the Armenian Genocide. It is regrettable, for example, that Turkey’s Nobel-Prize-winning novelist, Orhan Pamuk, was essentially hounded out of his native country for speaking out on this subject. Now I don’t pretend to be a professional historian. I haven’t scoured the archives in Istanbul looking for original documents.
But the vast majority of experts – the vast majority – academics, authorities in international law, and others who have looked at this issue for years, agree that the tragic massacres of the Armenians constitute genocide.
In a letter to members of congress two years ago, the International Association of Genocide Scholars stated the following, and I quote:
“The historical record on the Armenian Genocide is unambiguous and documented by overwhelming evidence. It is proven by foreign office records of the United States, France, Great Britain, Russia, and perhaps most importantly, of Turkey’s World War I allies, Germany and Austria-Hungary, as well as by the records of the Ottoman Courts-Martial of 1918-1920, and by decades of scholarship.”
“As crimes of genocide continue to plague the world, Turkey’s policy of denying the Armenian Genocide gives license to those who perpetrate genocide everywhere.”
The Genocide Scholars urged the House to pass a resolution acknowledging the Armenian Genocide because, they said, it would constitute – and I quote again — “recognition of a historical turning point in the twentieth century, the event that inaugurated the era of modern genocide. In spite of its importance, the Armenian Genocide has gone unrecognized until recently, and warrants a symbolic act of moral commemoration.”
Professor Yehuda Bauer, a highly respected scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has written that the Armenian Genocide is, in his words, “the closest parallel to the Holocaust.”
In a 1985 report, a subcommission of the UN Commission on Human Rights found that the massacres of the Armenians qualified as genocide.
And Raphael Lemkin, the Polish lawyer who coined the word “genocide” and drafted the international genocide convention, told an interviewer that, quote “I became interested in genocide because it happened to the Armenians.”
Nearly two dozen other countries – including France, Canada, Russia, Switzerland and Chile – have formally recognized the Armenian Genocide. So has the European Parliament.
As the world leader in promoting human rights, the United States has a moral responsibility to join them.
The Turks say passing this resolution could have terrible consequences for our bilateral relationship, and indeed perhaps there will be some consequences. But I believe that Turkey values its relations with the United States at least as much as we value our relations with Turkey.
And I believe the Turks, however deep their dismay today, fundamentally agree that the U.S.-Turkish alliance is simply too important to get sidetracked by a non-binding resolution passed by the House of Representatives.
At some point, every nation must come to terms with its own history. And that is all we ask of Turkey.
Germany has accepted responsibility for the Holocaust. South Africa set up a Truth Commission to look at Apartheid. And here at home, we continue to grapple with the legacies of slavery and our horrendous treatment of Native Americans.
It is now time for Turkey to accept the reality of the Armenian Genocide.
This will most likely be a difficult and painful process for the Turkish people, but at the end of the day, it will strengthen Turkish democracy and put the U.S.-Turkey relationship on a better footing.
I urge my colleagues to support this important resolution.