It is the time of year when Diaspora Armenians — especially in the US and Europe — go through the motions, intensify lob- bying activities, raise expectations and on April 24, suffer the anticlimactic results of their fervor and political activism.
Lately, a few countries have discovered a convenient method of dangling the issue of genocide recognition before their adver- saries. After gaining some political mileage, they relegate the case into oblivion, until the next opportune period.
The US has been among those countries; Israel is another one. For many years, the Israeli government had flatly denied that the Armenian massacres amounted to genocide. That shameful statement was made emphatically by then-President Shimon Peres during a trip to Ankara, when relations between Israel and Turkey were rock-solid. Recently, however, the Israeli Knesset has held hearings about recognizing the Armenian Genocide, as a response to Turkey’s belligerence against that country. Also, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in the US and other lobbying groups — which march lockstep with the Israeli government — had indicated publicly that they would stop their campaign against the passage of the Armenian Genocide by the US Congress. Those quarters have raised hopes throughout the Armenian world only to resort to their traditional oppositionist tactics to justify their inaction. The excuse for some political pundits is that “it is not the prop- er time to recognize the Genocide.” If relations are tense with Turkey, the voices of wisdom in Washington and Tel Aviv say “we do not wish to further aggravate relations with Turkey.” On the other hand, when relations are smooth, there is all the rea- son “not to jeopardize our relations with a trusted ally.” Therefore, this continuous mantra always generates excuses that “it is not the right time to recognize the Genocide.” One wonders when that elusive “right time” for the recognition of the Genocide would be.
No one pinned too much hope on President George Bush when it came to the issue of human rights but Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had gained tremendous political mileage on sounding moralistic issues, only to fail miserably. Bill Clinton’s belated apology in Kigali to the Rwandans for his inaction dur- ing that country’s genocide, a decade after his tenure in the White House, sounds hollow, disingenuous and insulting. The UN headquarters, the White House and all the capitals of the world had ample warning about the impending genocide in Rwanda, but no action was taken, because someone somewhere had a vested interest in the murder of 800,000 Tutsis in less than 100 days.
Even the head of the UN military mission there had warned the headquarters. He defied his superiors to take action, but was removed from his post to facilitate the grisly task of the Hutus.
In the case of the Armenians, Bill Clinton demonstrated the same kind of insensitivity by ordering the Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert not to bring the resolution to the floor, realizing that enough votes were there for its passage. Mr. Hastert was later rewarded generously by the Turks for his “ser- vices” in the US Congress.
Today, Hillary Clinton’s dilly-dallying on Genocide recognition seems to be the continuing echo of her husband’s policy. It is no wonder that Obama’s human rights advisor had labeled her as a “monster.”
However, that advisor, Samantha Power, is not without bag- gage herself. Power rose to prominence through the publication of a masterful book, A Problem from Hell, which delved into the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust.
In time, she gained the reputation of a principled human rights missionary, until she joined President Obama’s National Security Council as the senior director of multilateral affairs. She was the front person of Obama’s election team who con- vinced Armenians that the Messiah’s second coming was around the corner and that upon election, Obama would recognize the Armenian Genocide. After President Obama powerlessly surren-
dered to the unelected functionaries of the State Department dancing around the “G” word, the White House once again resorted to the creative inventions of Power who crafted the president’s Martyr’s Day statement by substituting the word “genocide” with the Armenian phrase “medz yeghern,” borrow- ing that ruse from the late Pope John Paul II. The pope had sub- stituted the Armenian term in a sermon in Armenia, when nobody expected him to politicize the issue by playing with words.
Ever since her credibility was damaged, Power has kept a low profile. However, unbelievably, she has played a hawkish role in Obama’s Libya policy by advocating the invasion of a sovereign country on the “human rights” principle.
We may conclude without much hesitation that the Armenian Genocide, Libya’s murderous invasion and human rights are all marketing tools for Ms. Power to promote her political career.
France is another country which has used, on and off, the Armenian Genocide issue to block Turkey’s accession to the European Union. Recently, both candidates for president, the incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and his Socialist rival, Francois Hollande, found a useful political tool in the issue. France has at least recognized the Armenian Genocide, but it has so far failed in the criminalization of its denial.
This column was not party to the jubilation and the hype when the French Senate passed the resolution to criminalize the Genocide denial. Instead, we qualified it as a partial restitu- tion of France’s betrayal of Armenians in Cilicia.
When the Constitutional Court judged the resolution to be unconstitutional, without touching the Gaysot Law which has the same legal framework for the Holocaust, the entire process was shown to be a charade. When the French arms industry was threatened by Turkey — similar to the US counterpart — it react- ed. And all those who know Sarkozy were sure that he would pull a trick out of his sleeve — as he has always done in his polit- ical career — and save face. And he did by refusing to pre-empt the action of the Constitutional Court, which he knew was com- ing.
He did not sign the resolution into law, allowing time for Turkey and its lobbyists to garner enough votes to take the case to the Constitutional Court, where it was doomed. Even Sarkozy’s UMP party members acted against his will with impunity. No one to this day from Sarkozy’s office and his inner circle has come up with a plausible explanation as to why he did not act when action was imperative.
Today, Sarkozy promises to draft a new resolution, after the May elections, when he will be off the hook whether he wins or loses his bid for a second term.
The Socialist Presidential candidate has offered the same deal to the Armenians, which may start the game all over if he wins the Elysee Palace.
Once geared into the political process, we are not supposed to relent. We have a new opportunity here in the US legislature as Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) intro- duced a new resolution to the Senate.
We cannot disappoint them by our inaction, because they have never disappointed their Armenian constituents. Menendez’s blocking of Matthew Bryza’s appointment to the embassy in Baku was an act of defiance of historic magnitude.
The Senate Resolution is similar to the House Resolution.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed bringing the resolution to the floor arguing that there were not enough votes to pass the resolution.
Her delaying tactics offered ample time to the special interest groups and the administration to twist arms until it really deci- mated the number of the supporters.
We are not sure yet if the resolution has enough support in the Senate and the House. We have to be thankful to its champions and supporters and work on the remaining legis- lature to act. Win or lose, we are already accustomed to dis- appointment. We can start the game all over next year until the centennial of the Genocide. There are no promising signs yet of meaningful action in Armenia and in the diaspora while Turkey has already taken pre-emptive strikes to render our centennial drive irrelevant.