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A Belated Recognition of Genocide by the House

On Tuesday, by a vote of 405 to 11, the House of Representatives defied the Turkish government’s intimidation and, for the first time in 35 years, passed a resolution that recognized the Armenian genocide.

In acknowledging the Ottoman Empire’s killing of more than one million Armenians as “genocide,” the House follows more than two dozen countries and 49 of 50 states.

This resolution matters hugely to Armenian-Americans. But it is also a reminder of how important truth-telling is to American foreign policy, and how ultimately self-defeating it is for the United States to bend to autocratic pressure tactics, whether from Turkey or anywhere else.

The facts of the Ottoman campaign have long been established. At the time of the slaughter, which began in 1915, the American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau, cabled Washington that a “campaign of race extermination” was underway, while the American consul in Aleppo, in what is now Syria, described a “carefully planned scheme to thoroughly extinguish the Armenian race.”

The word “genocide” did not then exist, but in 1944, Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jewish lawyer galvanized by the slaughter of Armenians and by Hitler’s extermination of the Jews, coined the term.

Today about two million Armenian-Americans live in the United States, and most are descendants of genocide survivors or victims. Because I have written about the Armenian genocide and argued for recognition, including (unsuccessfully) as a member of the Obama administration, I have joined Armenian-Americans at numerous commemorative events.

Read entire article at NY Times