Senate Confirms Next U.S. Ambassador to Turkey; Vote on Nominees to Yerevan, Baku Expected in December
By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Managing Editor
This week, the House and Senate considered measures concerning the Armenian American community. Congress was expected to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to avoid a government shutdown on September 30th, when current funding is set to expire. However, after President Obama’s primetime address on September 10th calling for the arming of Syrian rebels, the House voted on a measure to do just that and attached it as an amendment to the CR, setting up a complex and very interesting pattern of voting.
In what Roll Call described as a vote “fractured along untraditional [party] lines,” the House approved the CR 319-108, and 273-156 on the amendment to arm Syrian rebels. 143 Democrats joined 176 Republicans in support of the CR, while 55 Democrats and 53 Republicans opposed. On the Syria amendment, 159 Republicans were joined by 114 Democrats in support of the measure, while 85 Republicans and 71 Democrats opposed.
According to several interviews with Armenian American community leaders across the United States, an overwhelming majority support US airstrikes against ISIL. However, they do not support President Obama’s call to train and arm Syrian rebel factions, especially in the wake of the Turkish-backed rebel assault on the Christian Armenian town of Kessab, Syria earlier this year.
An analysis by FLArmenians.com reveals that House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL), and Congressmen Alan Grayson (D-FL), and David Jolly (R-FL) voted against arming Syrian rebels, yet supported the CR.
Republican Congressmen Ted Yoho (R-FL), Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Bill Posey (R-FL), Richard Nugent (R-FL), Tom Rooney (R-FL), and Curt Clawson (R-FL) voted against both the amendment arming Syrian rebels and the CR. Interestingly, Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-FL), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), opposed President Obama on both the Syrian amendment and the CR.
Everyone else stood with President Obama in supporting the amendment to arm Syrian rebels and for the CR.
While it is clear that Armenian Americans support the President’s vow to “destroy and ultimately defeat ISIL,” they are wary of training and arming Islamic rebel factions with known ties to al-Qaeda and that have a record of attacking Christians just like ISIL.
Florida Armenians have an important role to play in this debate. Many Armenian American families in Florida emigrated from Syria, mostly descendants of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Some still have relatives there. They are uniquely familiar with the regional dynamics and can provide critical insight into what groups truly protect and respect religious minorities, be they Christian Armenian, Assyrian, or Yezidi.
Ambassador Nominees to Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 98-0 to confirm John R. Bass as the next U.S. ambassador to Turkey. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Mark Kirk (R-FL), and Ed Markey (D-MA) submitted to the nominee questions on the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s blockade of Armenia. “We commend Chairman Menendez, and Senators Barbara Boxer, Mark Kirk and Ed Markey for their stance on issues concerning Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish-Azerbaijani blockade of Armenia, and other critical issues affecting the region,” stated Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “Following in the footsteps of Henry Morgenthau, the U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire who in 1915 alerted the world to the Armenian Genocide, it is important that our Foreign Service officers execute a foreign policy that appropriately reflects America’s values,” he said.
Both Florida Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) supported Bass’ nomination without question.
Also on Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard testimony from President Obama’s nominees to be the next U.S. ambassador to Armenia and Azerbaijan, Richard M. Mills and Robert F. Cekuta, respectively. Both are expected to be confirmed by the full Senate sometime during the lame-duck session, which is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, November 12th.
By Douglas Kalajian
I felt certain of the title the moment I decided to write the book: Stories My Father Never Finished Telling Me.
It represents a dilemma that will be familiar to many Armenian-Americans born after the tumult that dislodged our parents and grandparents from their homeland.
My father, Nishan Kalajian, had the misfortune to be born in Diyarbakir, Turkey in 1912 at the core of the imploding Ottoman Empire. For him, the Armenian Genocide was not a distant, historic event but the defining reality of his life. He lost his mother, his home and everything familiar before being cast into the world alone.
I knew that much from an early age, but I desperately wanted to know more: How he survived, how he kept his wits and his faith, how he moved forward without being consumed by bitterness and hate. My father volunteered none of it. He dealt with his most painful memories in a most Armenian way, by pushing them aside.
My mother understood this better than anyone. She warned me never to ask him about such things and I never did, at least not directly. But every so often when an opportunity presented itself, I’d approach the topic obliquely and with great caution.
When he responded at all, my father often shared only a scrap or two before changing the subject or retreating to his books. It was left to me to figure out the importance of each scrap, and to connect it to whatever had come before or after. This is how my life-long conversation with my father continued, in fits and starts, yielding scattered pieces of a puzzle that I’m still trying to complete more than 20 years after his death.
As a writer, I felt compelled to tell as much of my father’s story as I could because I believe it holds important lessons. But I also wanted to tell my own story about growing up in the shadow of a great cataclysm with a father who would not talk about what he had experienced.
The book’s subtitle, Living With The Armenian Legacy of Loss and Silence, conveys my challenge in learning to appreciate a complex cultural inheritance that is rich and wondrous but also dark and painful to contemplate.
Most important, I wrote the book for my daughter and for her generation in hopes that they’ll figure out how to celebrate the best parts of that inheritance while finally vanquishing the pain.
Stories is my third book, and the first I’ve published independently. It’s available in print and as a Kindle e-book. You won’t find it at your local bookshop but they can order it for you—or you can order one yourself through Amazon or other online booksellers.
Or just click here.
Douglas Kalajian is a regular contributor for FLArmenians.com. Prior to his retirement he worked as an editor, reporter and feature writer for the Palm Beach Post and the Miami Herald. He currently lives in Boynton Beach with his wife Robyn, and together they operate www.TheArmenianKitchen.com.