ANCA condemns Sec. Clinton's comments on Armenian Genocide

Published: Tuesday January 31, 2012

Clinton made what was described as "private" visit to Armenian Genocide memorial in Yerevan in 2010. Photolure

Washington - The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) sharply criticized remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who on January 27 dismissed the murder of 1.5 million Armenians as a "historical debate," and argued that U.S. affirmation of this crime would open a "dangerous door."

"The Obama-Biden Administration - with Secretary Clinton's latest remarks - continues to dig itself deeper and deeper into a hole of complicity in Turkey's genocide denial," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.

"It's a sad spectacle to see Secretary Clinton hiding behind cynical appeals to scholars - the overwhelming majority of whom have already spoken forcefully against Turkey's denials of the Armenian Genocide - to divert attention from President Obama's, Vice President Biden's or her own promises to properly recognize this crime and, more broadly, to divert attention from the White House's failure to meet its moral obligation to stand up against a foreign government's veto of our defense of human rights," continued Hamparian.

Secretary Clinton's comments came in response to a question, posed at a January 26th "Town Hall Meeting on the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review," regarding U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide in the context of the recent French Senate adoption of anti-genocide denial legislation.

Secretary Clinton explained, "I think it's fair to say that this has always been viewed, and I think properly so, as a matter of historical debate and conclusions rather than political. And I think that is the right posture for the United States Government to be in, because whatever the terrible event might be or the high emotions that it represents, to try to use government power to resolve historical issues, I think, opens a door that is a very dangerous one to go through." Secretary Clinton argued that, "we need to encourage anyone on any side of any contentious historical debate to get out into the marketplace of ideas."

"The Secretary's unfounded and offensive reference to ‘historical debate' in regards to the Armenian Genocide only emboldens the denials of the Turkish Government - which, just today, again took steps toward deporting Armenians," continued Hamparian, referencing news emanating from Turkey of plans for a revisions to its immigration policy that would effectively target Armenian immigrants for expulsion from the country.

Senator Clinton: "As President, I will recognize the Armenian Genocide"

Secretary Clinton's remarks are diametrically opposed to her statement issued almost four years ago, to the day, as a Senator. In this statement, she boasted that she was "alone among the Presidential candidates" to have been a cosponsor of the Armenian Genocide Resolution and pledged "as President, I will recognize the Armenian Genocide."

The statement went on to stress that: "Our common morality and our nation's credibility as a voice for human rights challenge us to ensure that the Armenian Genocide be recognized and remembered by the Congress and the President of the United States."

President Obama and Vice-President Biden made equally clear and unequivocal statements regarding the U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide during their years in the Senate and as candidates for the White House. "America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides. I intend to be that President," said President Obama in a January 19, 2008, campaign statement.

Senator Biden explained his support for pending Armenian Genocide legislation to the LA Times Editorial Board in May 2007, as follows: "I support it, and the reason is simple: I have found in my experience that you cannot have a solid relationship with a country based on fiction. It occurred. It occurred."

Secretary Clinton a phone call away for the Turkish lobby

During her tenure as Secretary of State, public records show that she has discussed State Department policy on Turkey and specifically on the Armenian Genocide on several occasions with former Democratic House Minority Leader and current Turkish Government lobbyist Richard Gephardt.

According to the Department of Justice Foreign Agent Registration filings, Gephardt spoke to Secretary Clinton just days prior to a pending House vote on the Armenian Genocide Resolution on December 17, 2010, and had a series of calls with her as well as Vice-President Biden, Secretary of Defense Gates, and National Security Advisor James Jones on "U.S.-Turkey relations" and "Transcaucasus relations" on the days leading up to President Obama's trip to Turkey in 2009.

In September 2011, former Minority Leader Gephardt, who supported Armenian Genocide affirmation during his years in the House, renewed a lucrative $1.3 million contract for continued representation of the Government of Turkey through July, 2012. That sum includes payment to subcontracting lobby firms including Dickstein Shapiro, which has former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert on staff representing Turkey's concerns.

In December 2011, an additional $100,000 was added to the annual contract - the increase signed on the day of House approval of the "Return of Churches" resolution (H.Res.306), calling on Turkey to return thousands of confiscated Christian Churches to their rightful owners.

Secretary of State Clinton has not yet met with representatives of the Armenian American community, despite repeated calls by the ANCA and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for her to meet with a broad-based and representative leadership group to discuss a range of community concerns, including affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.

UPDATE: Members of Congress prepare letter to Sec. Clinton

Members of Congress and the Armenian Assembly expressed strong concerns regarding Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's remarks on the Armenian Genocide at a town hall meeting last week, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly).

In a dear colleague letter circulated February 3, Congressmen Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Robert Dold (R-IL), sponsors of the Armenian Genocide resolution, urged Members to join them in sending a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling on the Secretary to "disavow her ill-considered statement." The letter also urges the Obama Administration to unequivocally affirm the Armenian Genocide this April 24th and firmly recognize "genocide wherever and whenever it occurs."

Expressing surprise and dismay, the Assembly sent a letter to President Barack Obama requesting swift action. "Secretary Clinton's response is untenable and requires immediate remedy. Mr. President now is the time to fulfill your campaign promise and unequivocally affirm the Armenian Genocide," the Assembly wrote in its letter.

The full text of the letter has been distributed by the Armenian National Committee of America:

TEXT OF DEAR COLLEAGUE LETTER

TELL SECRETARY OF STATE CLINTON: THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE IS NOT A MATTER FOR HISTORICAL DEBATE

Dear Colleague:

At a recent department-wide Town Hall meeting, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mischaracterized the Armenian Genocide as a "historical debate," despite the fact that the murder of 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children by the Ottoman Empire is one of history's most thoroughly documented crimes - chronicled in detail by American diplomats stationed throughout the crumbling Ottoman Empire from 1915-23, and reported widely in the pages of the New York Times and other newspapers the world over.

In fact, the "historical debate" argument has long been a talking point pushed by the Government of Turkey and other genocide deniers, who seek to muddy the waters by claiming that we in Congress must stay our hand in order to avoid undermining history's settling of the truth. This is an intellectually unsupportable argument. There is no historical debate about the nature of the slaughter of the Armenian people - in fact Raphael Lemkin, who coined the word "genocide," was thinking of the Armenians when he created the term - and our own National Archives contain all the documentary evidence that Secretary Clinton could ever need.

By embracing the idea of an historical debate, the Secretary has taken a position at odds with her past positions and the positions of President Obama and Vice-President Biden. It is a position much closer to that of the Turkish government than that of any other senior U.S. diplomat in recent memory and it undermines our efforts to focus attention on genocides and other mass human rights violations elsewhere.

Please join us in asking Secretary Clinton to disavow her remarks and to stand with the ever-dwindling number of survivors of the genocide, as well as the children and grandchildren of those no longer with us. To sign the attached letter (text below), please contact Tim Bergreen in Rep. Schiff's office or David Stern in Rep. Dold's office.

Sincerely,

Adam B. Schiff
MEMBER OF CONGRESS

Robert J. Dold
MEMBER OF CONGRESS

================================

TEXT OF CONGRESSIONAL LETTER TO SECRETARY CLINTON

Dear Secretary Clinton:

We are writing to share with you our deeply held concerns regarding your recent public statement on January 26, 2012, mischaracterizing the Armenian Genocide as a "historical debate," despite the fact that this thoroughly documented crime is a matter of settled history that President Obama, Vice-President Biden, and you have previously condemned and commemorated on numerous occasions, and rightly so.

The historically inaccurate description of the Armenian Genocide as an open question, in addition to the offense it represents to Armenian Americans and other victims of genocide, provides American encouragement to the Republic of Turkey in its shameful campaign of denial. More broadly, the Administration's failure to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide falls far short of our common expectation as Americans that our government will always speak honestly on issues of human rights and genocide prevention.

As you and President Obama noted in an appeal by Senators to then President Bush in 2006, the Armenian Genocide was a "systematic and deliberate campaign of genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire in 1915. . . The victims of the Genocide deserve our remembrance and their rightful place in history. . . .It is in the best interests of our nation and the entire global community to remember the past and learn from these crimes against humanity to ensure that they are never repeated."

America should never be complicit in genocide denial, which, as we know from painful historical experience, represents the last stage of this horrific crime. We share the principled view you expressed in 2008, when you said that "[T]he horrible events perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against Armenians constitute a clear case of genocide," and that "[o]ur common morality and our nation's credibility as a voice for human rights challenge us to ensure that the Armenian Genocide be recognized and remembered by the Congress and the President of the United States."

We urge you to disavow the ill-considered statement you made during the Town Hall, and to reaffirm your commitment to recognition of the Armenian Genocide. We also hope that the Obama Administration will seize the opportunity to make a statement of clear, unequivocal recognition this April 24th - putting America firmly behind a policy of recognizing genocide wherever and whenever it occurs.

Thank you for your consideration of our concerns.

Sincerely,

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