By Harut Sassounian
It was bad enough that President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had failed to keep their campaign pledge to reaffirm the facts of the Armenian Genocide. They sunk to a new low last week, when Mrs. Clinton announced that she and the President opposed adoption of the Armenian Genocide resolution by the full House, following its passage by the Foreign Affairs Committee.
When asked by journalists why she and the President have reversed course on this issue, Clinton unabashedly replied: “Well, I think circumstances have changed in a very significant way…. We do not believe that any action by the Congress is appropriate and we oppose it.” She added that the administration does not believe the full House “will or should” vote on the resolution. How can the facts of a genocide that took place 95 years ago change overnight? In reality, nothing has changed except Secretary Clinton’s moral compass, assuming she had one to begin with.
It is shameful that the Obama administration is caving in to threats from a third world country that needs the US more than the US needs it. As Aram Hamparian, the Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America said last week: “Turkey does not get a vote or a veto in the US Congress.” Neither does the US President nor the Secretary of State, on a non-binding congressional resolution.
A White House spokesman announced last week that the presidents of Turkey and the United States had spoken by phone on the eve of the Committee vote. Soon after, Mrs. Clinton warned Committee Chairman Howard Berman that “further congressional action could impede progress on normalization of relations” between Turkey and Armenia. Strangely, Mrs. Clinton seems to have appointed herself as supreme arbiter of what’s in Armenia’s best interest, while Armenian-Americans and Armenia’s leaders have repeatedly declared that they support the adoption of the genocide resolution. Indeed, Mrs. Clinton has put herself in the ridiculous position of knowing better than Armenians what’s good for them.
After claiming for months that the Armenia-Turkey Protocols have no preconditions and not linked to any other issue, Clinton now asserts that the Protocols pave the way for a commission that is supposed to study the facts of the Armenian Genocide. “I do not think it is for any other country to determine how two countries resolve matters between them,” she stated. This confirms the worst fears of Armenian opponents of the Protocols. Clearly, the Secretary believes that ratification of the Protocols would prevent consideration of the Armenian Genocide issue by third parties. This is precisely what the Turkish side had been stating, to the dismay of most Armenians. Interestingly, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu made a similar announcement last week, expressing his surprise that the Armenian Genocide resolution is once again on the agenda of the US Congress. All along, the intent of Turkish leaders has been to stop third parties from raising the Armenian Genocide issue, as they drag out the Armenia-Turkey reconciliation process.
It was no accident that almost all Congressmen, who spoke against the genocide resolution in the Foreign Affairs Committee, used the lame excuse that their opposition to this bill was prompted by a desire not to undermine the Protocols, which ostensibly would bring Armenian-Turkish reconciliation. Despite their sugar-coated rhetoric, those who opposed the resolution and supported the Protocols were in fact acting against Armenia’s best interests on both counts. The Protocols are now dead and buried anyway, thanks to Turkey’s refusal to ratify them, unless Armenia accepted extraneous preconditions.
While Armenian-American voters cannot settle their score with President Obama this year, since he is not on the ballot in November, 18 of 22 opponents of the resolution are. Armenian-Americans should do everything in their power to prevent the re-election of all those who voted against the genocide resolution on March 4: Russ Carnahan (D-MO), Gerald Connolly (D-VA), Michael McMahon (D-NY), Mike Ross (D-AR), Brad Miller (D-NC), David Scott (D-GA), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ron Paul (R-TX), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Mike Pence (R-IN), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Connie Mack (R-FL), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Ted Poe (R-TX), Bob Inglis (R-SC), and Dan Burton (R-IN). Bill Delahunt (D-MA) and John Tanner (D-TN) are retiring from Congress. Gresham Barrett (R-SC) is running for Governor, while John Boozman (R-AR) is a candidate for the US Senate. The latter two should be opposed in their new campaigns.
In addition, Armenian-Americans should campaign against the re-election of Steve Cohen (D-TN), Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Kay Granger (R-TX), for sending a joint letter to Foreign Affairs Committee members urging them to vote against the genocide Harut resolution. All three are members of the congressional Turkish Caucus.
The next culprits are CEO’s of five major American aerospace and defense companies: Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing Co., Raytheon Co., United Technologies Corp., and Northrop Grumman Corp. They sent a joint letter to the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee urging him to reject the Armenian Genocide resolution, in order not to jeopardize their sales to Turkey. These CEO’s have committed not only an immoral act by placing a higher premium on profits — blood money — over human rights, but also ignored the fact that Turkey cannot forego its purchases from their firms, because by doing so it would only weaken itself. Armenian-Americans should counter these firms by staging demonstrations in front of their headquarters and factories. Those employed by these firms should communicate their anger to the CEO’s of these firms. Stockholders should go to the next annual meeting of these companies to make their concerns known and seek removal of the CEO’s. Similar protest actions should be taken against the Aerospace Industries Association, which represents more than 270 member companies. The AIA sent a separate letter to Congress against the Armenian Genocide resolution.
The Congressmen and companies who opposed the resolution on March 4 should pay a heavy price for their immoral act. Ignoring their negative votes and letters would encourage them to oppose the resolution again, when it reaches the House floor. If Armenian-Americans could cause the defeat of just one of these scoundrels in November, the rest of them will get the message that voting against genocide recognition can cost them their political careers. They will then think twice before casting such a vote.
As far as President Obama and Secretary Clinton are concerned, Armenian-Americans should not allow them to dictate to the US Congress. Given the fact that most Americans are disillusioned with the failed policies and unfulfilled promises of the Obama administration, all elected officials nationwide are seriously worried about their re-election. This is the perfect time to demand action from politicians and punish those who do not cooperate. Armenian-Americans should contact their representatives in every congressional district throughout the country, even in remote areas, and tell them that unless they support the genocide resolution, they will not get their vote in November. Politicians would rather listen to the voices of their constituents than to President Obama who is the main cause for their seats being in jeopardy. Therefore, the fate of the resolution is ultimately in the hands of Armenian-Americans. If they work hard and get enough congressional supporters, Speaker Pelosi would have no choice but to bring the resolution to the House floor, regardless of what the administration tells her to do. Otherwise, voters who are angry on many other issues could toss out of office the incumbents, jeopardizing her own speakership.
Armenian-Americans should not forget to express their profound gratitude to Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) and 22 other Congressmen who voted for the resolution on March 4. They are: Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa), Donald Payne (D-NJ), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Diane Watson (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Gene Green (D-TX), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Jim Costa (D-CA), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Donald Manzullo (R-IL), and Edward Royce (R-CA), Elton Gallegly (R-CA), and Ron Klein (D-FL). The Armenian community should enthusiastically support their re-election.
Finally, some Turkish circles are consoling themselves simply because the resolution was adopted by a difference of one vote. Since House Committee members who opposed the resolution for unrelated reasons explicitly stated that they did not dispute the facts of the Armenian Genocide, the vote could have been 45 to 0, not 23-22, in terms of genocide acknowledgment — a great victory for the truth and a major defeat for Turkish denialists and their backers. No one should be surprised therefore, if in the coming days Turkish leaders cancel the multi-million dollar contracts of their failed lobbying firms.