McCain McCan’t?: Senator’s address to Armenian Americans steers clear of “genocide”

The letter by the US presidential nominee John McCain’s campaign to the American Armenian community on September 29 expressed the Republican senator’s gratitude “for all of the contributions” that the Armenian Americans have made to the country, however refraining from qualifying the mass killings of Armenians in Western Armenia organized and perpetrated by the Ottoman authorities in 1915-1923 as genocide.

The letter particularly stated: “It is fair to say that one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century, the brutal murder of as many as one and a half million Armenians under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, has also been one of the most neglected. The suffering endured by the Armenian people during that period represented the prologue to what has come to be known as humanity’s bloodiest century.”

The Senator’s comments drew response from at least one Armenian-American lobbying group.

Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA, said:

“We had hoped that, during the course of the campaign, Senator McCain’s outreach to Armenian American voters would have evolved beyond the respectful but substantially non-policy oriented letter he sent to us earlier this year, by outlining his positions on our community’s core issues,” he said. “Armenian Americans are issue voters, and look to the candidates seeking their support to be clear about their views and values – particularly on issues related to the Armenian Genocide, Nagorno Karabagh, the strengthening of Armenia, and the growth of U.S.-Armenia relations.”

The ANCA press release issued on the occasion of the letter to the Armenian community stated also:

“Senator McCain has, throughout his tenure in the Congress, largely opposed or was passively indifferent to a broad array of Armenian American issues. As recently as October of last year, Senator McCain publicly opposed Congressional recognition of the Armenian Genocide. In 1999, he voted against restricting U.S. aid to Azerbaijan over its blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh. He voted against [Republican] Senator Bob Dole’s Armenian Genocide Resolution in 1990.”

In this latest bid, the Democrat candidate Senator Barack Obama has taken the lead of pleasing his voters concerned with the Armenian issues by stating as early as in January 2008 his support for Congressional passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 & S.Res.106), and pledging that, as president, he would recognize the Armenian Genocide, an ANCA press release reported.

The Obama-Biden ticket is seen by many Armenian-Americans as more promising to be supportive of Armenian issues.

Late this summer, supporters of the Democratic ticket formed Armenian-Americans for Obama (

“Senators Obama and Biden have proven records on Armenian Genocide recognition, regional integration, and recognizing the important contributions of Armenian-Americans. As president and vice president, this team will advocate for strong US-Armenia relations in the next administration,” said Obama campaigner Anthony J. Barsamian of Boston.

The Democratic Party, though, has also fallen short of steering the legislative initiatives on Armenian Genocide recognition to their final adoption, so far. As a latest example, the further promotion of House Resolution 106 last October, despite its non-binding effect, was suspended after the adoption in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, 27 to 21, succumbing to the Bush Administration’s and Turkey’s pressures over the possibility to endanger the US national security interests in the Middle East, implying particularly on the US-Turkey military cooperation.

Democrat supporters of the resolution – Adam Schiff (D-CA), Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Representatives Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) – had then sent a letter to the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi urging to adopt a revised schedule for the consideration of the instrument, stating they “believe that a large majority of our colleagues want to support a resolution recognizing the genocide on the House floor and that they will do so, provided the timing is more favorable.”

Sources:, press releases October 25, 2007, January 20, September 29, 2008, and October 1, 2008, as well as H. Res. 106--110th Congress (2007): Affirmation of the United States Record on the Armenian Genocide Resolution, (database of federal legislation) (accessed Oct 4, 2008).