Following decades of obstruction, full Senate unanimously approved with unanimous consent a Menendez – Cruz bipartisan resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
Three previous attempts have been blocked by Senators Graham, Perdue and Cramer, forcing Menendez to say on December 5, that he is prepared to bring the issue on the floor every week. This time, no one objected and an emotional Menendez started his remarks by saying “we have just passed the Armenian genocide resolution … and it is fitting and appropriate that the Senate stands on the right side of history in doing so. It commemorates the truth of the Armenian genocide.”
This resolution’s passage comes a day after Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced a sanctions bill aimed at Turkey for its military offensive against Kurdish forces in Syria in October and its recent purchase of the S-400 missile system from Russia.
The resolution does not require President Trump’s signature, because it is nonbinding. It does, however, affirm that the United States will “commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance” formally acknowledging the killings of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923.
The Armenian Genocide Resolution (S.Res.150) establishes, as a matter of U.S. policy, 1) the rejection of Armenian Genocide denial, 2) ongoing official U.S. government recognition and remembrance of this crime, and 3) support for education about the Armenian Genocide in order to help prevent modern-day atrocities.
“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.”
President Erdogan was certain last month, while in Washington, that U.S. will not follow U.S. House of Representatives that voted 405 to 11 in favor of a similar resolution. On Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu posted on his Twitter account that “U.S. Senate Resolution is nothing more than a political show. It is not legally binding and it has no validity whatsoever. Those who want to exploit history for political ends are cowards unwilling to face the truth.”
In an October 25 missive, Turkey’s ambassador to the U.S. warned lawmakers that passing the genocide measure could jeopardize future economic cooperation and create a lasting hostility between the two NATO allies.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who worked closely with Menendez on the proposal, called its passage “an achievement for truth, an achievement for speaking the truth to darkness, for speaking the truth to evil.”
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.
“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.”
ARMENIANS AND GREEKS
HAIL THE PASSAGE
“The Senate today joined the House in rejecting Ankara’s gag-rule against honest American remembrance of the Armenian Genocide – overriding the largest, longest foreign veto over the U.S. Congress in American history,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “Today’s unanimous Senate action shines a spotlight on the President, who continues – against all reason – to enforce Erdogan’s veto against honest American remembrance of Turkey’s extermination and exile of millions of Christians. It’s time for the Executive Branch to join Congress in ending any and all American complicity in Ankara’s lies. Together, the President and Congress should put in place a sustained and pro-active policy that rejects Turkey’s lies, challenges Ankara’s obstruction of justice, and works with Armenian and Turkish stakeholders toward the international reparations and other remedies required of this crime.”
In a victory for human rights, AHEPA applauds the U.S. Senate’s passage by Unanimous Consent of S.Res.150, a resolution to affirm the United States record on the Armenian Genocide, announced Supreme President George G. Horiates.
“We commend and congratulate the Armenian American community for its decades of relentless hard work and persistent advocacy to attain the rightful recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the United States government,” Supreme President Horiates said. “Today, the U.S. Senate joined the U.S. House of Representatives to affirm a historic truth and a commitment to human rights and ended the United States’ denial of the first genocide of the 20th century. We also appreciate the resolution’s recognition of a genocide against Greeks by citing the United States’ history of providing relief to ‘the survivors of the campaign of genocide against Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans, Maronites, and other Christians.’
Horiates added, “We are grateful to the champions of the resolution in the U.S. Senate, Senators Robert Menendez and Ted Cruz, for their unwavering persistence and dedication to bring the resolution to the Senate Floor for a vote; and to the resolution’s 28 co-sponsors. Today, not one Senator objected.
“Finally, we thank community members who responded to all the action alerts issued and contacted their U.S. Senators. Your advocacy made a difference.”
“We congratulate the Armenian American community who has endeavored for decades to reach this landmark moment,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “The U.S. Senate’s action, together with October’s passage of a similar resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives, signifies an end to America’s foreign policy silence on the Armenian Genocide, a crime against humanity, and on Turkey’s denial of it.”
In the resolution’s “Whereas” clauses (background information or reasons and rationale for the resolution), it recognizes the United States’ proud history of “…providing relief to the survivors of the campaign of genocide against Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans, Maronites, and other Christians.”
AHI thanks the resolution’s sponsors, U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), and its 28 co-sponsors.
“Senators Menendez’s and Cruz’s determination to ask for a vote on the Senate floor paid off, and they are to be commended,” Larigakis said.
Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) Executive Director Endy Zemenides said “today Sen. Menendez and Senator Ted Cruz led the Senate in reversing over a century of genocide denial, of grief, of sacrificing values & truth to political expediency. The passage of S.Res.150 made us all emotional. Thank you for expressing what we are all feeling.”