By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Political Editor
Today, President Donald J. Trump released his administration’s first statement on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, which is commemorated every April 24th by Armenians around the world. Using language invoked by presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush before him, President Trump did not use the term genocide to refer to the 1915 mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish government during World War I.
“Today, we remember and honor the memory of those who suffered during the Meds Yeghern, one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century. Beginning in 1915, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire,” the White House statement reads.
“At a time when Christians and minority communities continue to be in imminent danger and under constant attack, the President’s statement fails to stand up for human rights and is inconsistent with American values, and represents the same kind of capitulation to Turkish authoritarianism which will cost more lives,” stated Van Krikorian and Anthony Barsamian, co-chairs of the Armenian Assembly of America.
Earlier this month, 84 Members of Congress sent a letter to President Trump urging him to reaffirm the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide. “By commemorating the Armenian Genocide, we renew our commitment to prevent future atrocities,” the letter reads. Florida Representatives Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) were among the signatories.
“Asked why Trump decided not to use the term, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the statement is “consistent with statements that have been put out for at least several of the last administrations,”” The Hill reported.
Trumped employed the Armenian phrase “Meds Yeghern” to describe the genocide, essentially using the Armenian equivalent of the English phrase. However, unlike, Presidents Obama and George W., Trump did not make a campaign pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide as President.
Ronald Reagan was the last U.S. President to recognize the Armenian Genocide back in 1981.
Below is the full statement released by the White House:
Statement by President Donald J. Trump on Armenian Remembrance Day 2017
Today, we remember and honor the memory of those who suffered during the Meds Yeghern, one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century. Beginning in 1915, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire. I join the Armenian community in America and around the world in mourning the loss of innocent lives and the suffering endured by so many.
As we reflect on this dark chapter of human history, we also recognize the resilience of the Armenian people. Many built new lives in the United States and made indelible contributions to our country, while cherishing memories of the historic homeland in which their ancestors established one of the great civilizations of antiquity.
We must remember atrocities to prevent them from occurring again. We welcome the efforts of Turks and Armenians to acknowledge and reckon with painful history, which is a critical step toward building a foundation for a more just and tolerant future.
By Areg Galstyan
The American Thinker
Last month, a report on how Donald Trump’s administration should build a political dialogue with Turkey was published at the website of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The authors of this work are James F. Jeffrey, the former U.S. ambassador to Turkey during the presidency of George W. Bush (2008-2010), and Soner Cagaptay, the director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute. Recommendations of the authors cover a wide range of geopolitical issues that the United States and Turkey should solve by joining their efforts.
It is noteworthy that Mr. Jeffrey and Mr. Cagaptay mark the necessity for Trump’s administration to guarantee non-recognition of the Armenian Genocide as an important condition for restoration of trust between the U.S. and Turkey. In particular, the authors write: “Separately, the United States can quietly guarantee Turkey that the Armenian Genocide resolution in Congress will not pass. This has always been critical in the relationship and most Turks care deeply about the issue.” There is no doubt that the authors aim not only to influence on the development of the foreign policy of the new administration for Turkey, but also to remind that the Armenian question can have a negative impact on bilateral relations.
Certainly, the representatives of the pro-Turkish lobby groups can develop their own recommendations for the foreign relations between Washington and Ankara. This is a normal practice of lobbying. However, the authors, speaking about the need to block the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, make a number of serious mistakes. First, this question is an internal affair of the United States. We must not forget that the requirement to recognize the historical events of 1915-1923 in the Ottoman Empire comes from the millions of citizens of America and is purely humanitarian. American Armenians do not require official Washington to take any steps against Turkey.
On the other hand, the representatives of U.S.-Armenian relations have always stressed that the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the United States and Turkey will be a good signal and will allow the establishment of Armenian-Turkish dialogue in the future. Unfortunately, the Turkish authorities turned the Armenian issue into an instrument of political blackmail and intimidation.
Secondly, it is an incorrect recommendation to the U.S. president to influence Congress to prevent the passage of the resolution on the Genocide. This is not just interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign country, but also a call for the executive power to put pressure on the legislators, which cannot but arouse the indignation of American citizens.
Concerning the Armenian issue, I would like to give an alternative view to the next administration. During the Cold War, Turkey was considered one of the most important strategic allies in the bilateral format and in the framework of NATO. On the basis of pragmatic considerations, the White House and the leaders of both parties in Congress believed that an open discussion of the Armenian issue could cause a negative reaction from Turkey. The situation changed in 1974, when Turkey sent troops to the territory of Cyprus. In response to this act of aggression, Congress declared an arms embargo on Turkey. A series of further events led to a serious cooling of U.S.-Turkish relations. Then Washington did not prevent the adoption of Resolution No. 148 on the “Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Inhuman Crimes.” According to the adopted resolution, the 24th of April was officially proclaimed the day of remembrance of victims of the Armenian Genocide. Thus, the United States at that time became the only country in the world whose president officially addressed to the Armenian people on every 24th of April.
In 1978, the U.S. president, Jimmy Carter, used the term “genocide” for the first time in his statement to describe the events of 1915-1923 in the Ottoman Empire. Carter noted that, while preparing for the meeting with the Armenian community, he spent a lot of time in Roosevelt’s room and carefully studied the documents related to the Armenians’ history. The president said he was impressed by the force of will and talent of Armenian people and that as the U.S. citizens, Armenians made an enormous contribution to the development of the country. Carter said that not many people knew that a few years prior to 1915, a deliberate effort was taken to destroy the Armenian people. At the end of his speech, he stated that the Armenian Genocide was one of the greatest tragedies that ever befell any group of people, and no trial similar to Nuremberg was conducted over the criminals.
In the very first year of his presidency, Ronald Reagan demonstrated support for the Armenian-American community in the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide. In his proclamation No. 4838 on April 22 in 1981, Reagan remarked that the United States was aware of the fact and understood that the criminal government that had committed inhuman acts of genocide had to acknowledge its past and repent for it. Reagan said there was an eternal debt of all mankind toward those who had experienced these horrors. He urged the international community to remember that the lessons of the Holocaust, as well as of the Armenian Genocide, the ensuing genocide of the Cambodians, and numerous persecutions against other nations, could never be forgotten.
On the 11th of April in 1985, the Republican majority leader – Senator Robert Dole – introduced Resolution No. 247 on the “Day of Memory of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire” to Congress. The hearing in the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives was successful, and Speaker Tip O’Neill put the resolution on a general vote. Turkey threatened that in case of adoption, it would refuse to buy eleven U.S. Boeing aircraft for the benefit of aircraft of the European consortium Airbus Industries. Moreover, Turkey claimed that it would cease to prolong the Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreement.
President Reagan assured Turkey’s Prime Minister Ozal that the administration was committed to maintaining a high level of appropriations for Turkey. The U.S. president was referring to the majority in Congress held by Democrats, whom he could not influence. Regardless of quite logical explanations given by the White House, the Turkish side did not conceal its irritation. Ankara stated again that it would prepare for the revision of the U.S.-Turkish agreement on military and economic cooperation. America, which at that time was going through a period of difficult relations with Greece, was close to losing access to its military bases in Turkey. It was for that reason that the U.S.’s Secretary of State Schulz arrived to the negotiations on the extension of the agreement in Ankara.
Trying to prevent the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, the pro-Turkish lobbies were interfering in the electoral process. Thus, Ankara and its lobbyists campaigned against Mike Dukakis – an ethnic Greek who was the candidate of the Democratic Party in the presidential elections of 1988. They also opposed George Deukmejian, an ethnic Armenian and the governor of California, who was considered by George Bush, Sr. for the post of the U.S. vice president. During their election campaigns, presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama talked about the need to tell the truth about the Armenian Genocide at the highest level. However, being in the Oval Office, they broke their promises for fear of spoiling relations with Turkey. These examples from history show that the Turkish authorities and the pro-Turkish lobbyists have always used intimidation tactics when it comes to the Armenian issue. Donald Trump poses himself as a leader who will protect the interests of America and Americans. In this case, the new president and his administration should not allow Turkey to interfere in the internal affairs of the United States.
Moreover, Turkey’s statements that adoption of a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide may harm relations with the U.S. are greatly exaggerated. Nowadays, the laws on the Armenian Genocide have been adopted in more than twenty countries around the world, including Russia, France, and Germany. Did Russia’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide have an impact on its bilateral relations with Turkey? No. Official Ankara has traditionally protested and threatened with deterioration in relations. However, in reality, we are witnessing active development of Russian-Turkish ties in the political, economic, trade, tourism, and energy sectors. There was a similar scenario regarding Turkish-French relations after Paris officially recognized the Armenian Genocide. By the way, France and Germany, being Turkey’s NATO allies, take their own domestic political decisions without fear of Ankara’s threats.
In this regard, the new administration should clearly express its position on the Armenian issue and should not be afraid of threats from Turkey and its lobbyists. Anyway, President Trump has two ways to solve this issue. He can continue the policy of denying the Armenian Genocide (as Bush and Obama did), or he can choose a different path and become the president who had enough courage to restore historical justice. I hope Trump will choose the path of Ronald Reagan instead of the one of Barack Obama.
This article originally appeared in The American Thinker.
Areg Galstyan, Ph.D., is a regular contributor to The National Interest, Forbes, and The Hill and the head of the “American Studies” Research Centre. You can follow him on Twitter @Galstran_Areg.
By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Political Contributor
Every four years, the campaign for the highest office of the land takes place. As candidates from the Republican Party navigated the choppy waters of the primary storm this election season, one man sailed to victory: former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Winning the party’s nomination was no easy feat and on several occasions, the media and members of his own party, were quick to write him off. However, Mitt Romney and his campaign rose to the challenge, and secured the 1,190 Republican Party Delegates necessary to clinch the nomination. No doubt, the battles he faced in the primary contest will come in handy when he goes head-to-head with President Obama.
Among these Republican Party Delegates, who are elected within their respective state party systems, were six Armenian-Americans. The States of Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan and Rhode Island were each represented by an official GOP Delegate of Armenian descent.
Harout Samra, an attorney in Miami said, “it was a privilege to attend the Republican National Convention as a delegate for Florida. Coming to the floor of the Convention hall for the first time was very exciting. Frankly, I did not expect to be as moved as I was. It was a great honor to have been selected to represent my fellow Floridians. That came home to me as I reached the floor. I genuinely enjoy interacting with people from different backgrounds. The United States is a remarkably diverse place, and I believe this diversity was represented not only in our delegation, but also in those of the other states. Florida’s delegation included first-generation Americans, such as myself, and longtime natives. It included Indian-Americans, Cuban-Americans, and even one Armenian-American.
“Governor Romney knows and understands the issues that are important to Armenian-Americans. Living in Belmont and serving as the Governor of Massachusetts, he’s had more important contacts and relationships with the Armenian-American community than any President since Ronald Reagan. He will not mislead us and pander to us to get Armenian-American votes like President Obama.
“Governor Romney is the right man for the moment. He understands how to turn around the economy at home and to ensure that America is respected abroad. Unlike President Obama, Governor Romney’s top priority will be to create an environment that leads to more jobs and spurs economic growth,” stated Samra.
Another Republican Party Delegate, Bob Semonian, State Chairman of Massachusetts Republican Party-Ethnic Outreach expressed that he was “thrilled to attend the Republican National Convention in Tampa this year. Americans want honesty in the White House and Mitt Romney is an honest man who will best represent all of America,” stated Semonian, who also serves as the Armenian-Americans for Mitt Romney Coalition Massachusetts State Chair.
From the Great Lakes State was Krista Haroutunian, who serves as the Republican Party Chair for the 13th Congressional District. She stated, “My time at the 2012 RNC was extremely important and made me proud to be American, an Armenian, and from Detroit, Michigan.” Haroutunian continued, “The first concern of an American, of whatever cultural or ethnic background, is the independence, freedom, and well-being of Americans. This allows us to be able to express concerns for Armenian issues and to assist appropriately.
“Mr. Romney knows that the founding fathers of America had great concerns about dictatorial attitudes and insisted upon a separation of powers – something Mr. Obama has side-stepped for the better part of four years. Mr. Romney wants to return to a Constitutional government through our elected Representatives. Mr. Obama wants all-pervasive government with the decision makers being unelected bureaucrats.
“The choice is clear – constitutional guarantees and responsibilities to preserve the rule of law versus arbitrary actions from a few with no guarantees of the rule of law. For all Armenians and all Americans, Mitt Romney is the best choice.”
Over the course of this year, several Armenian-Americans across the country, including the author, have been challenged on our position of supporting Governor Romney over President Obama. “What do you expect from Romney that will be different from Obama,” is the common intrigue. To put it plainly, like all Americans, we expect leadership, honesty and values from our elected officials. When it comes to Armenian issues, President Obama failed to fulfill his campaign pledge to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide as President. That calls into question his honesty. President Obama’s nomination and subsequent recess appointment of Matthew Bryza to serve as Ambassador to Azerbaijan was opposed by Senators of his own party, not to mention many Armenian-Americans. That calls into question his ability to lead. And the silence of the Obama administration on the destruction, confiscation and profiteering of Christian Armenian religious properties by the Turkish Government, as well as Azerbaijan’s completed destruction of centuries-old Armenian Khachkars at Julfa, call into question his values.
From Fresno to Philadelphia, from Manchester to Miami, from Detroit to Denver, from Waukesha to Washington, DC, Armenian-Americans have expressed their frustration with President Obama, and many former Armenian supporters of his are now backing Mitt Romney for President. In fact, one prominent Armenian-American who supported President Obama in 2008, and is now backing Governor Romney, expressed as much to the author. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, she shared her frustration: “Senator Obama chose to promise, in campaign speeches and written outreach, recognition of the 1915 genocide of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks. He fully understood the importance of that issue to the Armenian American community and indeed to all right thinking Americans. Americans deserve a President who knows his principles and makes his decisions in accordance with those principles. Americans deserve a President who has integrity. So why come November would I vote for a President who over the course of four years has delivered precious little and lied to us and other communities?”
Indeed, why would we? She then confessed, “I’ll take a chance on Romney.”
This article originally appeared in the October 13, Volume 13 Print Edition of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator.