Obama issued a statement Wednesday calling the Armenian genocide an atrocity, refusing to call it by its real name, which is “genocide.” The US government, in a craven and contemptible manner, has for decades refused to call it genocide, apparently for fear of upsetting Turkey.
Like other presidents before him, Obama had indicated while campaigning his intention to apply the term genocide. That played well among Armenian-American voters. Once in office, though, he shifted position.
Why am I not surprised?
1.5 million Armenian were exterminated by Turkey in 1915. I’d call that genocide, wouldn’t you?
There is one US politician who, for decades, has had the courage to call it genocide. As a US senator, he consistently entered resolutions to call it that. They were always voted down. The senator came back on a stretcher from WW II more dead than alive. An Armenian immigrant doctor, Hampar Kelikian, saved his arm and probably his life and never took a dime for his work. Kelikian survived the genocide. His sisters didn’t. He told the senator about it and the senator worked tirelessly to return the favor. And that is why Bob Dole is held in the highest esteem by Armenians.
Isn’t it a shame so many of Â politicians refuse to do the right thing?
PS An Armenian friend tells me in the aftermath of the genocide when Armenians were wandering the countryside homeless andÂ traumatized, Muslims opened the hearts and homes to them, and that this was a kindness Armenians will never forget.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee voted narrowly on Thursday to condemn as genocide the mass killings of Armenians early in the last century, defying a last-minute plea from the Obama administration to forgo a vote that seemed sure to offend Turkey and jeopardize delicate efforts at Turkish-Armenian reconciliation.
Because, of course “delicate efforts” are much more important that recognizing the historical fact of over one million murdered Armenians.
Twenty other countries have already recognized the Armenian genocide. According to an Armenian-American spokesperson I heard on NPR tonight, Turkey blustered there would be dire consequences if the resolutions passed then did nothing.
Between one and one-and-a-half million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Empire in a mass extermination in 1915, now called the Armenian Genocide, that included death marches and prison camps.
It is widely acknowledged to have been one of the first modern genocides, as many Western sources point to the systematic, organized manner in which the killings were carried out to eliminate the Armenians. Indeed, the word genocide was coined in order to describe these events.
As a response to the continuing denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish State, many activists among Armenian Diaspora communities have pushed for formal recognition of the Armenian genocide from various governments around the world. 21 countries and 42 U.S. states have adopted resolutions acknowledging the Armenian Genocide as a bona fide historical event.
“The United States do not recognize the fact of “Armenian genocide” as it does not meet their national interests. The strategy of the US external policy does not include worsening ties with Turkey”
It is both despicable and craven for the US to do this.
Former Senator Bob Dole, both while in Congress and afterward, has worked tirelessly for decades for the US to recognize the genocide.
Badly injured in WWII and severely incapacitated, Dole’s arm would have been amputated except for the brilliant work of an Armenian doctor, Dr. Hampar Kelikian, who had survived the genocide. (His three sisters didn’t.) He told Dole about the tragedy of the genocide. Dole never forget it.
PS Dr. Kelikian did seven surgeries on Dole and refused to accept payment.
He did more than operate on his patient; he gave him a fresh perspective: “We start by not thinking so much anymore about what you have lost,” he said. “You must think about what you have left . . . and what you can do with it.”
(Bill Paparian, former mayor of Pasadena CA, continues his guest posts on the continuing refusal of the US Congress to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide happened)
Adam Schiff, Howard Berman, and Nancy Pelosi are perpetrating a cruel hoax upon the Armenian-American community. And we have allowed them to get away with it. With a wink and a nod they solemnly profess their public support of an Armenian Genocide Resolution. Nevertheless, they have absolutely no intention of ever bringing the Armenian Genocide Resolution to the floor of the United States Congress for a vote, let alone bringing before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs where it was referred on March 17, 2009. It’s a fraud, plain and simple. And like a parlor magician who uses the device of misdirection, they seek to divert our attention away from their clever tricks as they tout their complicit colleagues announcements of support or when they denounce opposition to the resolution.
One example can be found most recently with Mr. Schiff when, on December 17, 2009, he attacked Turkish lobby opposition to a resolution which he knows will simply never be voted on. We have been deceived long enough by these shysters. Am I being too harsh? Then let Mr. Schiff, and Mr. Berman, and Ms. Pelosi prove me wrong. Stop the limp-wristed shenanigans and put the resolution on the agenda of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and then bring it to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. Otherwise it’s time to put an end to this charade and move on. It’s time for us to stop wallowing in this bottomless pit of false promises and broken dreams.
It’s an integral part of the DNA of Armenian-Americans to be respectful to our elected representatives, to be loyal and faithful citizens and hope that our government will be nice to us. One way in which this unfortunate pathology has manifested itself is in our perpetual hope that the United States government will become a champion of the Armenian cause with regard to relations with the Turkish government. And so we lobby candidates and office-holders in what has been, up to now, a perpetual merry-go-round. We give them our money. We give them our votes. They show up at community events with meaningless proclamations and issue empty statements of support. And ultimately we are betrayed. The cycle continues unabated and the agenda for justice for the Armenian nation never advances forward. What have we been waiting for? Why not simply proclaim “Mission Accomplished” and move on?
We have to convince ourselves that we cannot rely on anyone else to help us in our fight for justice. We have to be self-reliant. No one can do for us what we must do for ourselves! We must be uncompromising in dealings with our government. We can no longer remain quietly on the sidelines while cold-blooded bureaucrats sell off our children’s future. Speaking with a single voice, Armenian-Americans must reject any further attempt to water down our nation’s just demands on Turkey.
It’s time to declare that the record is abundantly clear: the Armenian Genocide has long been recognized by the government of the United States, from contemporaneous communications from the American Ambassador to Turkey to the Secretary of State in Washington, DC, up to President Ronald Reagan’s proclamation in 1981.
On July 16, 1915, at 1 PM, the American Ambassador in Constantinople sent the following message to the Secretary of State:
“Deportation of and excesses against peaceful Armenians is increasing and from harrowing reports of eye witnesses it appears that a campaign of race extermination is in progress under the pretext of reprisal against rebellion.”
On April 22, 1981, in Proclamation 4838, President Ronald Reagan said:
“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.”
There is the official record of the United States Department of State and the proclamation from the President of the United States that what happened to our nation was a Genocide. Ladies and Gentleman of the Jury we rest our case. Mission Accomplished. Now let us finally move on!
As a young Armenian-American activist one of my earliest lessons was to learn the three R’s of the Armenian Genocide: recognition; reparation; and return. It’s time to declare victory on the first “R”, recognition, and advance our struggle to the second and third “R’s,” reparation and return. Here’s one example. Passed down to me from my late maternal grandfather, Mihrtad Dickranian, is the deed to my family’s residence in Izmit, Turkey. On December 16, 2008, I wrote to the Turkish Consul General in Los Angeles a letter and enclosed a copy of the deed to my family’s house. I explained that during World War I, my family was deported from Izmit, that it was my understanding that there was a government accounting prepared of the property owned by the deportees, and that I wanted to know what happened with this asset of my family. The tone of my letter was tactful and straightforward. I made no accusations of criminal misconduct. Yet, more than a year later, the Consul General has not responded.
Why not? I’m sure the Consul General forwarded the letter to Ankara. And I’m equally sure that the Turkish Foreign Ministry made a most sober assessment of the implications presented by my simple inquiry. How many other property deeds like the late Mihrtad Dickranian’s are in the hands of the descendants of Genocide survivors? And what is the present day value of these property holdings that were stolen from citizens of Turkey like my grandfather by their own government? They are loosing sleep in Ankara over the calculations of the value of our collective claims! I will relentlessly pursue an accounting to what happened to my family’s home. Make no mistake, this is no Quixotic endeavor. But this is the individual pursuit of one determined person. I know that there must be countless other property deeds in the possession of others in the Armenian-American community. There must be other documentation of the losses suffered by our fallen nation. Why not make reparations and return part of the agenda when Armenian-American community leaders meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? Why not declare the opening of a new front in our campaign for justice?
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!