by Tatevik Shahunyan
For the first time in nearly a quarter century, a U.S. Senate committee today adopted an Armenian Genocide Resolution, calling upon the Senate to commemorate this crime and encouraging the President to ensure that America's foreign policy reflects and reinforces the lessons, documented in the U.S. record, of this still-unpunished genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
"Today's vote affirms America's commitment to truth, deals a serious setback to Turkey's campaign of genocide denial, and sends a clear message to President Obama that he must end his Administration's complicity in Ankara's cover-up of this crime," said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. "We thank Chairman Menendez for his powerful leadership and express our thanks to each of the Senators who cast their votes for this human rights measure."
With a vote of 12 to 5, the Committee voted to condemn and commemorate the Armenian Genocide. Those who joined Senator Menendez in supporting the measure were Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ed Markey (D-MA), John McCain (R-AZ), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Tom Udall (D-NM). Those opposing the measure were Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Bob Corker (R-TN), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Jim Risch (R-ID). Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) did not vote.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) spearheaded the effort to have this influential foreign policy panel take a strong stand regarding the Ottoman Turkish Government's centrally planned and systematically carried out campaign of genocide from 1915-1923, which resulted in the deaths of over 1.5 million men, women and children, and the exile of a nation from its historic homeland.
Senator Menendez announced the vote at the Armenian Genocide Observance on Capitol Hill yesterday evening, where he told his colleagues and attendees, "To me, to all men and women of good will, I would think there is a simple statement - genocide is genocide, and you cannot call it anything else but that and you need to have a recognition of that. Next year when we mark a century - a hundred years ago that the Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turkey, it seems to me that with most of the survivors gone - but with a few left - it is incredibly important for us to lead globally at this time."
During Committee discussion of the measure, Chairman Menendez told his committee colleagues, "I think the Armenian Genocide is a horrifying factual reality that can never be denied. I just don't think you can pick and choose your genocides. Genocide is genocide." Commenting on U.S. complicity in Turkey's genocide denial, Chairman Menendez explained, "I am chagrined when I hear that some country will act in a certain way and therefore we here in the United States Senate, the Congress of the United States, that we should refrain from acting simply because someone will be upset."
Though Ranking Republican Corker voted against the measure, arguing that "I don't think it's a good time to bring this type of resolution up," he did affirm that, "I agree with scholars that a genocide took place. It's a terrible tragedy."
Chairman Menendez was joined by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) in introducing S.Res.410, the underlying Armenian Genocide legislation which was amended and adopted today. Joining Chairman Menendez and Senator Kirk as cosponsors of S.Res.410 are Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senate Assistant Majority Leader Durbin, Senate Environment Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Senators Ed Markey, Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).