Won’t get fooled again: In pursuit of a new agenda for justice for the Armenian Nation

Guest post from my friend Bill Paparian on the betrayal of Armenians by the US Congress and Obama with their refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide occurred. He is a former Mayor of Pasadena CA, Green Party Congressional candidate in 2006, and lawyer.

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smilin’ free at the changes all around
Pick up my guitar and play, just like yesterday
When I get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again

Those are lyrics from Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who. It was an anthem of my generation, the generation of Woodstock, and Khe Sanh, and Kent State: Won’t Get Fooled Again. On the issue of recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the United States government, the Armenian-American community keeps getting fooled again, and again and again. We have been hood-winked, bamboozled, lied to, and betrayed. It’s time to pursue a new agenda for justice for the Armenian Nation.

I spent some of the best years of my life in pursuit of Hye Tad. In the early 1980’s, I served on the Board of Directors of the Armenian National Committee, Western Region, and helped to establish it as a Political Action Committee in my capacity as General Counsel. As Mayor of Pasadena, on April 24, 1996, when more than 7,000 watched as then Chairwoman of the American Red Cross and former Cabinet member Elizabeth Dole laid a wreath at the Armenian Martyrs Monument in Montebello, I was the keynote speaker. Throughout these years I have been witness to the leadership of the Democratic Party playing the Armenian-American community on recognition of the Armenian Genocide. During the most recent campaign for U.S. President, I watched as my youngest college age son Saro prepared to cast his first vote. I saw the idealism in his eyes and heard the hope in his voice as he expressed faith in the campaign promises of then Senator Barack Obama that he would be the President that would recognize the Armenian Genocide on April 24th. And I will always remember my son’s disillusionment and sense of betrayal when on April 24, 2009, President Obama, in the ultimate act of political cowardice, issued his infamous Meds Yeghern statement.

After 12 years of service as an elected public official and postilions on municipal, county, regional, and state governmental agencies, I have seen first hand the the prevarications with which public officials will profess one thing to the community and then deceitfully do another behind the scenes. One classic technique out of the parliamentary playbook is to announce support for a proposal, and then simply refer it to a committee where the proposal is never heard from again. That’s precisely what’s happened to the latest congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide. Introduced on March 17, 2009, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs where it has languished ever since. That committee is chaired by California Congressman Howard Berman who is also a co-sponsor of the bill. No hearing has been scheduled by Congressman Berman on the Genocide Resolution nor does he have any intention of ever doing so. The Speaker of the House, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi is also a co-sponsor of the bill. She has it within her power to bring the Genocide Resolution to the floor of the House of Representatives so it can be passed. She has no intention of doing so. She had the opportunity during the last session of Congress to bring a a similar bill, House Resolution 106 to the floor of the House of Representatives, but didn’t because she had cut a deal with former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt and paid Turkish government lobbyist not to do so.

Meanwhile, the precious political capital that has been marshaled by a dedicated cadre of bright, young Armenian-American political activists in Washington DC and across the country, has been squandered each and every time we are betrayed by those in whom we have placed our trust. Betrayal of Armenian-Americans by those in whom we place our trust is not a new phenomenon.

It happened during World War I, when 1200 Armenian-American Gamavors carried the U.S. Flag into battle when they seized the high ground and defeated the Turkish Army led by Kemal Attaturk on the heights of Arara and paved the way for General Allenby’s victory in Palestine and the surrender of the Turkish government to the Western Allies. These brave men had gallantly fought and died because

France, Britain and the United States had promised a Free and Independent Armenia. They were betrayed just like we were betrayed by President Obama last year and just like we are being betrayed now by the leadership of the Democratic Party on the current congressional resolution to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Enough is enough. It’s time to forge a new agenda for justice for the Armenian Nation, an agenda that is principled, and uncompromising. And an agenda that will no longer tolerate unfulfilled promises.

In 1973, an elderly Armenian Genocide survivor named Gourgen Yanikian lured 2 Turkish diplomats to the Santa Barbara Biltmore Hotel and executed them. He had already issued a proclamation declaring that this was the only means left with which to secure justice for the Armenian Nation. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. In the early 1980’s, I was part of the legal team that secured Yanikian’s release from prison. He died shortly thereafter having cheated the Turkish government of their efforts to see him die in prison. Was Yanikian right? Is political violence the only means left to secure justice for the Armenian Nation? I hope not and continue to be optimistic that we will make the legal and political system work for us and ultimately triumph. We must persevere with the same spirit of our heroic Gamavors. But we can no longer accept broken promises from Barack Obama or Howard Berman or Nancy Pelosi. We are not going to be fooled again!


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