COMMEMORATION OF ARMENIAN GENOCIDE -- (Extensions of Remarks - April 26, 2002)
HON. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH
OF NEW JERSEY
Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I rise again, as we do at this time every year, to commemorate those who lost their lives, their families, and their livelihood in the Armenian genocide . That terrible tragedy, perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and afterwards, marked the first of the 20th century's state-ordered genocides against a minority group.
Traditionally, Armenians everywhere have set apart April 24 to mark the genocide in solemn remembrance. For friends of Armenians , this is an occasion to express solidarity with the worldwide Armenian community. We mourn the dead and express our condolences to their living descendants. On this occasion, we reflect upon the meaning and lessons of their suffering and sacrifice.
Surely the most basic lesson we should have learned from Armenia's catastrophe is elementary courtesy towards the truth in the face of horror. It is always better to build the future on a foundation of transparency, honesty and reconciliation about the past. We should not, we must not, shrink from the correct term to characterize what happened. I appreciated very much Governor George W. Bush's statement in February 2000 when he said, ``The Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies comprehension and commands all decent people to remember and acknowledge the facts and lessons of an awful crime in a century of bloody crimes against humanity.'' In a letter to the President last year, I noted my support for his ``principled stand on the issue [which was] a welcome change from previous practice.''
Mr. Speaker, as we commemorate this appalling tragedy of last century resulting in the massacre of ``as many as 1.5 million Armenians through forced exile and murder'', let us not shy away from using the correct term: genocide .
I do agree with the President's statement yesterday ``recognizing that demonizing others lays the foundation for a dark cycle of hatred. Transcending this venomous pattern requires painful introspection about the past and wise determination to forge a new future based on truth and reconciliation. In this spirit, I look forward to Turkey restoring economic, political, and cultural links with Armenia .''
Mr. Speaker, next year, we will mark this somber anniversary once again. Let us hope that Armenians and their friends all over the world will take some solace in the vision of Armenia living in peace with her neighbors and in prosperity and impressing the world with the spiritual and material products of the unbreakable Armenian spirit.