April 24 Comment: The annual betrayal and the every day truth

April 24 Comment: The annual betrayal and the every day truth

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As expected, United States President Barrack Obama did not use the word “genocide” in his annual address April 23, a day before Armenians worldwide commemorate the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide which began April 24, 1915.


The president, who has steadfastly maintained “my personal view of history” that the events beginning on this date constitute genocide, instead invoked the more politically expedient rhetoric of his predecessors, borrowing the Armenian phrase “meds yeghern” (great calamity).


“Our hearts and prayers are with Armenians everywhere as we recall the horrors of the Meds Yeghern, honor the memories of those who suffered, and pledge our friendship and deep respect for the people of Armenia,” Obama’s statement said.

To Armenians around the globe Obama’s stature is diminished with each passing opportunity – this now his third – to fulfill a promise he made while campaigning for arguably the world’s most powerful seat. In 2008, then-Senator Obama had told American-Armenians that, if elected president, he would lead the drive to see the Armenian Genocide recognized by his government.

His Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and his Vice President Joe Biden also, as senators, signed resolutions and actively advanced the cause of Genocide recognition. Since reaching higher office each, however, has shrunk from the task and, in Clinton’s case, has even been pro-active in blocking congressional efforts to affirm the historic record.

Clinton said that she would personally campaign against a full Congress vote on House Resolution 252 (on acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, that narrowly passed a foreign relations committee vote last spring), reasoning that such a poll would damage US-led efforts to see Armenia and Turkey find rapprochement via diplomatic protocols agreed upon by both countries in October 2009. The much-debated and divisive protocols eventually were tabled, and, rather than serving as a common agreement, have become disappointing evidence of bone-deep enmity between the neighboring countries whose ill-will has been refreshed since 1993 when Turkey joined its Muslim brother Azerbaijan in a border blockade in support of Azerbaijan’s claim on the disputed territory of the historically-Armenian region of Nagorno Karabakh.

As recently as last December, Armenians’ hopes were stirred, as, encouraged by lobbying of the Armenian National Congress (ANCA), the potential existed for “Armenia friendly” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, to call a House vote on HR 252. Pelosi, however, to the scourge of ANCA who called her a coward, yielded to pressure beyond her chair, and did not introduce the resolution during the final session, before giving up her seat to a Republican-led majority.

With the best hope of recognition by the US effectively extinguished, the failure to bring HR 252 to the Floor was also occasion to stir from remission the diseased relations between ANCA and the Armenian Assembly of America. For the sake of greater good (recognition), the organizations had publicly put aside deep philosophical differences and repressed the personal acrimony of their leaderships. The tactical differences of the two groups had already been evidenced by their polarity on the issue of the protocols, and, while it rallied for Pelosi to “do the right thing,” ANCA also accused its counterpart, the Assembly, of betraying the movement, by quietly opposing a vote. (One news report had cited an Assembly source as saying that the Assembly feared that recognition efforts would be critically damaged should a vote be achieved but then have the resolution defeated.)

Absent a realistic chance of achieving a common aim as the House vote never happened, disappointment churned bitterness into outburst. ANCA lashed out at the Assembly’s “hypocrisy,” while the Assembly itself did little in its own defense when it, remarkably, considering that Pelosi crumbled to pressure, praised the Speaker for her “steadfast leadership”.

Losing an opportunity for international recognition, the Armenian-American community itself showed the world its capacity for divisiveness, with its most sacred cause becoming a catalyst for self-destruction.

America presently fights two wars in the general region, tenuously avoids conflict with Armenia’s neighbor Iran, and reshapes foreign policy under the shadow of a question mark drawn by the violently shifting Middle East and Northern Africa. It is reasonable to see that the superpower need not jeopardize its military opportunities with Turkey, as the latter’s political status strengthens with each toppled piece in the domino effect of historic regional revolution.

In that view, on this Easter Sunday and this Day of Remembrance, the hope of resurrection seems less real than the reminder of loss. If, that is, the lives of those lost are validated only because too much weight is given to a word that won’t be spoken for the sake of political preservation.

“A full, frank, and just acknowledgment of the facts is in all our interests,” Obama said on Saturday.

The full, frank facts have been abused by politicians and politicized by lobbyists. But just acknowledgement, today, is in a line of mourners that stretches to the Genocide Monument on a Yerevan hill. The line need not reach to Washington, D.C. for its message to be true.