WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made a Unanimous Consent request today for the Senate to pass his legislation formally recognizing the Armenian genocide on behalf of the U.S. government. For the third time in less than a month, a Republican senator objected to the request, blocking the Senate from passing the Resolution recognizing the Ottoman Empire’s killing of 1,500,000 Armenians as a genocide, and memorializing its victims and survivors.
“History is watching and it will not look kindly on those who object to recognizing genocide. In recent speeches before the Senate, I have laid out the case for why we must move forward on this resolution,” said Menendez, calling up the Resolution. “The simple threshold question for this body comes to this – do we recognize a clear case of genocide when it happens? Or do we let a country like Turkey determine our own views, determine our own sense of history, determine our own moral obligation, and to determine the public record?”
Menendez also spoke after Senator Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) blocked the passage of the legislation, promising to keep calling up the Resolution every week until it passes. “I just want my colleagues to know that I intend to come once a week to the Senate floor, and all those who want to be listed on the wrong side of history, they have the option of doing so,” vowed Menendez. “I’m not going to cease until we do what is morally and principally right—and that is recognize the Armenian Genocide, as a host of other nations have, as well.”
A copy of the Senator’s Resolution can be found here.
Senator Menendez’s full remarks as delivered can be found below:
I come to the floor again to call for unanimous consent for a resolution that commemorates the Armenian genocide. In October, the House passed a version of this resolution by a vote of 405 to 11. 405 to 11. This vote was historic, and I applaud the bipartisan courage of those in the House to stand up for what is right. For those here in the Senate who would consider objecting to this request, I urge you to think long and hard about what that means for your reputation. What that means for history. What that means for the Senate as an institution. History is watching and it will not look kindly on those who object to recognizing genocide.
In recent speeches before the Senate, I have laid out the case for why we must move forward on this resolution. The simple threshold question for this body comes to this – do we recognize a clear case of genocide when it happens? Or do we let a country like Turkey determine our own views, determine our own sense of history, determine our own moral obligation, and to determine the public record? A Turkey that today is committing atrocities against the Kurds in Syria. A Turkey that has teamed up with Russia and the Kremlin in purchasing the S400 air defense system and just recently used it against an American F-16 to see if it works. A Turkey that works to block forward movement in NATO on key national security objectives of the United States. At what point, Mr. President, do we say enough is enough?
At what point do we simply move forward and acknowledge the truth? The truth is that the Armenian genocide happened. It is a fact. To deny that is to deny one of the monstrous acts of history. This denial is a stain on the Senate and our country. We have an opportunity today to right that wrong and to put the United States Senate on the right side of history. Let’s again review some of that history here today.
More than 104 years ago, the Ottoman Empire launched a systematic campaign to exterminate the Armenian population through killings, forced deportations, starvation, and other brutal matters. How do we know this? How do we know this? Because United States diplomats were there. They wrote it down and sent it back to the State Department in Washington.
Henry Morgenthau, the U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1913-16, wrote in his memoir that, “When the Turkish authorities gave the order for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and, in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal this fact. I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this. The great massacres and persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when compared to the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915.” End of the quote, by Henry Morgenthau.
On June 5, 1915, the U.S. Consul in Aleppo, Jesse Jackson, wrote to Ambassador Morgenthau saying, “There is a living stream of Armenians pouring into Aleppo from the surrounding towns and villages. The [Ottoman] Government has been appealed to by various prominent people and even by those in authority to put an end to these conditions, under the representations that it can only lead to the greatest blame and reproach, but all to no avail. It is without a doubt a carefully planned scheme to thoroughly extinguish the Armenian race.”
On July 24, 1915, in a report to Ambassador Morgenthau, the U.S. Consul in Harput, Leslie Davis, stated that, "Any doubt that may have been expressed in previous reports as to the Government’s intention in sending away the Armenians have been removed. It has been no secret that the plan was to destroy the Armenian race as a race. Everything was apparently planned months ago."
And there are continuing elements that I won’t read. I’ll ask unanimous consent that my full statement be included in the record. That continues to verify that these diplomats saw the truth with their own eyes and communicated it back to their superiors in Washington. They did their job and the historical record proves it. Now it’s up to individual United States Senators to do our job.
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. They will stop at nothing to bury the truth. And I hope that individual Senators will not once again fall for it.
Any apprehension, any trepidation on the part of Senators who believe this resolution will somehow do irreparable harm to our relationship with Turkey is simply unfounded. Twenty-seven countries have recognized the genocide in one form or another. Some saw trade increases in Turkey following their recognition. Twelve members of NATO have recognized the genocide. They still work with Turkey on defense issues. They still have embassies in Ankara. Their relationships were not irreparably harmed. Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, the Slovak Republic. They all did the right thing.
So I say to my friends and colleagues: genocide is genocide. Senators in this body should have the simple courage to say it plainly, say it clearly and say it without reservation.
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 work continues here today. If we are not successful this afternoon, I know we are not going to stop until we are. I’m not going to stop until I go through every single Senator who’s willing to come to the floor and issue an objection on behalf of the Administration. Because I think Armenian-Americans need to know who stands in support of recognizing the genocide, who opposes that.
I want to thank Senator Cruz for joining me in this effort. He has been a stalwart with me in this regard and this bipartisan resolution. I want the twenty-seven additional Senators who have been willing to stand up for a true, clear-eyed vision. Senators Van Hollen, Rubio, Stabenow, Gardner, Markey, Cornyn, Warren, Romney, Peters, Portman, Feinstein, Wyden, Duckworth, Reed, Schumer, Udall, Harris, Whitehouse, Sanders, Klobuchar, Cardin, Booker, Casey, Bennet, Rosen, Brown, and Cortez Masto. I want to thank them all. And before I ask for a unanimous consent I yield to my colleague from Texas.