Passing Resolution 154 - Armenian Genocide Recognition

I grew up to two parents both of Armenian descent.  During the course of my life, I met many other Armenian people. I heard countless stories about how others just like myself, had grandparents that somehow escaped the Armenian genocide. All of our grandparents shared vivid memories of family members being burned, shot, hung, marched out to deserts to die of starvation and thirst, sexually abused and mutilated, all in front of their own eyes. This was happening from house-to-house, village-to-village, all through Armenia. They were of the few fortunate ones to have made their way out of Turkey and survive. By support of other surrounding countries, my own grandparents eventually made their way into the United States. They met other Armenian survivors, remarried and started a new life in this country. I was young but still remember some of these horrific stories as told right from my own grandparent’s lips. Their tears are just not something you easily forget when seeing it at such a young age.  

I learned how the Turkish government at that time, planned this genocide in the name of ethnic cleansing. This was Turkey’s way of ridding themselves of the Christian Armenians. The Turks tortured and killed hundreds of thousands of Armenians during the late 1890’s up until 1915. But on April 24, 1915, with the new Young Turkish government in power, the Turks started to carry out a systematic well-planned genocide to mercilessly exterminate all Armenian men, women and children, because of their location and religious faith. The massacres of these people went on for 8 years, up until 1923. It was the first genocide of the twentieth century.

During these years, ambassadors from other countries went to Turkey and witnessed these atrocities. They pleaded with the Turkish government to stop. One of the ambassadors, specifically from the United States was Henry Morgenthau, who stated: 

In 1915: “When the Turkish authorities gave the orders 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 the 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”. “My failure to stop the destruction of the Armenians, had made Turkey for me, a place of horror”.

 There were also 194 specific articles written in the New York Times between April 1915 and October 1922 devoting extensive coverage to the fate of the Armenian people during these Turkish atrocities (all are publicly available). In addition:

On May 13th, 1920 there was a U.S. Senate House Resolution (359) that stated that “the testimony adducted at the hearings conducted by the subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, have clearly established the truth of the reported massacres and other atrocities from which the Armenian people have suffered”.

Decades later on April 8th, 1975 there was a U.S. House House Resolution (148) that stated, “April 24th 1975 is hereby designated as “National Day of Remembrance of Man’s inhumanity to Man”, for all victims of genocide, especially the one and one half million people of Armenian ancestry who succumbed to the genocide perpetrated in 1915 by the Turkish government”.

The Turkish governments then and now, have a long history of denial regarding this genocide. They have stated many lies to bury the truth, such as “this was a time of chaos and many Turks were also killed”; “the Armenians were killed because they were rebelling”; “the Armenians were being killed because they sided with the Russians during WW1 I”. Historians and people who have read through the countless documents and who witnessed this genocide, of course know better: 

American Major General, James Harbord himself during WW1 I stated that “Mutilation, violation, torture and death have left the Armenians haunting memories in a hundred beatify valleys, and the traveler in that region is seldom free from the evidence of this most colossal crime of all the ages”. 

The Turkish government has taken steps to ensure that information on the genocide was not published in any of their own history books. Many modern-day Turks do not even know what happened. Those Turks that do know, and have spoken out about this truth over the years in modern-day Turkey, have been consistently either thrown in jail or more often killed.  The most recent victim was Hrant Dink, in 2007:

Why then do the Turks suppress this fact? Well, by admitting to this genocide to a world audience, their country would be held accountable for these past horrific war crimes and they fear reparations and possible partial territorial restitution. It is not so hard to understand why current-day Turkey wants to erase this genocide from the record books and why they have had a very well-funded public relations effort to claim that Armenians are lying and that Armenians have distorted the truth. The Turkish government however cannot rewrite history and most people throughout the world are already very aware of the genocide. 

Will House Resolution 154 change all of this? No, House Resolution 154 is asking for the United States of America to acknowledge that what the Ottoman Turkish Empire carried out during the years of 1915-1923 was an act of genocide. It is perhaps a first step towards looking at the bigger picture of reparations. But it is by itself, a House Resolution to acknowledge this historical fact. This House Resolution is an act of Human Rights. It is an act of moral standing. It is not to provoke or insight violence or hate. It is an acknowledgment that what a prior Turkish government carried out was more than  “mass killings”, it was genocide. 

Most European countries have already gone through this official acknowledgement. These countries, now in the European Union (as well as many other countries outside of Europe, i.e. Russia, Canada, etc.), are very well aware that this genocide occurred. In fact, until Turkey admits to this, they will perhaps never be accepted into the European Union. That, of course, “upsets’ the Turkish government, but has not stopped Turkey and the countries in the EU from still being allies and enjoying the financial benefits of economic trade. The economic trading between countries in the EU and Turkey has actually increased over the years since the EU’s position on genocide recognition. Turkey needs to continue to reap the benefits from continuing to be allies with the countries within the EU. They also, perhaps in a much bigger way, need to continue to ally with the United States for many reasons. As “upset” as the Turks may be with House Resolution 154 if it passes, they cannot turn their backs on the United States. We also supply almost all of Turkey’s military defense systems. 

I understand the importance of having an ally in that region of the Middle East. But let’s not forget that in 2003 Turkey blocked a northern front against Iraq, which, according to the Department of Defense, contributed to the strength of the insurgency. Is Turkey a country we can ultimately rely on? They have invaded the Kurds in Iraq, even though the US has pleaded with them to not do so.  

It is unfortunate that the U.S., in part, relies on such an “ally” for supplies into Iraq. My own nephew recently served in Iraq. My own 2 sons may also need one day to go to that region to fight and defend this country. I am very sensitive to the soldiers that are in harm’s way there today. But why are we confusing and blurring the lines here? House Resolution 154 still needs to happen.  The current United States government, now under President Obama, acknowledging this genocide, or even the current Turkish government confessing to their achieves, should have no negative impact on current relations. If anything, this is a first step towards peace in that region, which can only be positive for the U.S., as the U.S. sees both countries as allies.

Why should anyone care about this genocide??.... Today, if one person was murdered in your family, would you not expect acknowledgment that this crime occurred? If you witnessed a loved one or a child taken away by soldiers in the middle of the night, then in the street outside your home they were abused, then torched in flames, would you not expect acknowledgment and accountability over these acts? What if your family was forced to march into a desert until they dropped dead of starvation and thirst, and you as a parent saw your own children drop while crying out to you, but you were told to continue marching? Would it be a concern to you that those who committed these crimes to your family were “upset” that you expected them to admit to their crime, even if the crime occurred decades ago? How about if these crimes happened to your entire family and all your friends and relatives because of their religious belief? Would you not expect acknowledgment of those crimes and demand that those criminals be held accountable, even if you somehow relied on the criminals? Well, how about if it happened to over 1.5 million people around you? This is what happened 84 years (not centuries) ago and the acknowledgment of this being genocide has not even officially taken place yet in our own highly civilized country, in terms of law.  

House Resolution 154 starts the healing process for one of the greatest crimes ever committed to the human race. It would put in place in this country, as already in place in most other countries, official acknowledgment for this war crime. House Resolution 154 is about “resolving” the acknowledgment for this horrific historical event, it is not about how those that committed this atrocity, regardless of any dependencies we may have on them, are going to “feel”, or if we are going to “upset” or "insult" them, should this House Resolution be passed. 

Why then this is important now, it’s 2009 and the genocide happened between 1915 and1923? Actually there have been Armenian and many other human rights groups lobbying the congress over this for decades. This is nothing new. During the 1970’s and early 1980’s progress was made. During those years, United States Presidents did come forth on the issue of Armenian genocide recognition: 

·         On May 16, 1978 President Jimmy Carter said, “It is generally unknown to the world that in the years preceding 1916, there was a concerted effort made by the Turkish government to eliminate all the Armenian people, one of the greatest tragedies that ever befell any group. And there weren’t any Nuremburg trials”

·         On April 22nd, 1981 President Ronald Reagan said, “I humbly bow in memory of the Armenian martyrs, who died in the name of freedom at the hands of Turkish perpetrators of Genocide.” “Like the genocide of the Armenians before it, and the genocide of the Cambodians which followed it and like too many other such persecutions of too many other peoples the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten.”

·         On April 24th, 1998 President Bill Clinton stated: “This year, as in the past, we join with Armenian-Americans throughout the nation in commemorating one of the saddest chapters in the history of this century, the deportations and massacres of a million and a half Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in the years 1915–1923.’’

·         On April 24th, 2004 even President George Bush (senior) himself stated:  “ On this day, we pause in remembrance of one of the most horrible tragedies of the 20th century, the annihilation of as many as 1,500,000 Armenians through forced exile and murder at the end of the Ottoman Empire.’’  

Since late 1980’s till current day Turkey has put extreme political pressure on our American leaders, to not use the word “genocide”, or acknowledge that this event even happened. Armenians and many human rights groups have however, continued to persevere over the years to have the truth be known. There are currently more U.S. congress people that have investigated this topic and are since willing to push for this House Resolution. This is not a political question or debate. The Armenian genocide was a fact. Many Democrat and Republican representatives have already voted to have this House Resolution passed.  

Shame on some of our political leaders that have put political pressures in front of human morality. It is unfortunate that many in our current government that we look to represent those that have little or no voice, are so misguided on basic human rights and moral issues, because of political pressures. The good news is that despite intense pressure by our last President Bush, his entire administrative staff, generals in the military being influenced by this administration and, of course, the Turkish Government and their lobbyists and who knows whom else behind the scenes, the previous House Resolution 106 (same as now, 154) still passed the committee by a vote of 27-21 on October 10, 2007. Now the new House Resolution 154 must be brought and passed in the full House, before it will be hopefully signed. 

Armenia has already proven itself time and time again to be a big friend to the United States in fighting terrorism. Armenia is already an important ally to the U.S. Supporting this House Resolution will continue to strengthen existing positive American-Armenian relations. If there was ever a nation of people that understand the results of extreme Islamic militant fundamentalism terror better than the U.S. (and perhaps all other countries combined) it is Armenia! 

There is much media frenzy in the news surrounding this topic. It is unfortunate there is so much negative press slanted towards how Turkey would be “upset”, rather than the actual content of House Resolution 154. Some news commentators also distorted some basic facts, which I believe confuse the public, such as saying:

·        “This is an act of the far left”. In reality the 27 to 21 vote for past House Resolution 106 was bipartisan.

·        “The vote was 27 to 21 in favor of those that agree the Turkish Ottoman Empire did commit genocide of 1.5 million Armenians” This is not true. Most (if not all) of the 21 agree that the genocide did happen, but did not agree on voting for the House Resolution because of political pressures. That’s a big difference.

·       “This is like holding modern day Germany accountable for what the Nazi’s did.”  Modern day Germany acknowledges what their predecessors did. They were held accountable. A healing process was allowed to take place. Again, big difference.

·       “What good will it do to acknowledge this now?"  History not acknowledged and condemned will and has repeated itself. The obvious holocaust of 6 million Jews is, of course, a prime example. Hitler himself was quoted before invading Poland, “who speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians”. And if one thinks genocide is a thing of the past and could not happen in the year of 2009, take a look at what is going on today in Darfur! PLUS, for those that are not close to this topic and come across the lies and propaganda coming out of the modern day Turkish government, they may believe the lies to be true. And that is exactly what that government is hoping for. They wish to rewrite history!

President Obama, of course, knows about the Armenian genocide (he says so in plain English -, but recently fell back on his promise to acknowledge it, during his recent trip to Turkey. He did say "his views about the tragic events during 1915 have not changed", which is somewhat encouraging but does not fulfill his promise!!

Passing House Resolution 154 is simply a must-take step towards any form of reconciliation for not just Armenian Americans that have grown up knowing this horror, but for all other nations that have suffered from religious persecution or genocide.

Please contact your local Congress representative and ask they vote for House Resolution 154.


Thank You and God Bless,

Greg S.