White House Files Politically-Motivated, Anti-Armenian Brief to US Supreme Court

Harut Sassounian


The U.S. Supreme Court asked the Obama Administration last October if it should review a Federal Appeals Court decision that had struck down a California law (Section 354.4) extending the statute of limitations on Armenian Genocide-era life insurance claims.

The U.S. Solicitor General, the lawyer representing the United States government before the Supreme Court, filed a response last week. He urged the Supreme Court not to hear the appeal, and let stand the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the California law “impermissibly” intruded into the federal government’s foreign relations powers.

Given Pres. Obama’s disappointing record of kowtowing to Turkey, particularly on Armenian Genocide issues, it is not surprising that the Administration’s brief went far beyond the question whether the Supreme Court should hear the appeal.

The U.S. Solicitor General erroneously claimed that:

— Contrary to the assertion of Armenian litigants, “California was not acting within an area of its traditional competence,” i.e., insurance regulation.

— The California law “intrudes upon substantial foreign affairs powers” of the federal government and leads to judgments “based on politically contentious events that occurred in the Ottoman Empire nearly a century ago”;

— Beyond simply intruding, this law would “disturb foreign relations” with Turkey. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had opposed congressional resolutions on the Armenian Genocide, alleging that such measures would “undermine efforts to encourage improved relations between Armenia and Turkey”;

— Section 354.4 “would impermissibly intrude upon the federal foreign affairs power” in an area where the United States “acted in the post-World War I era to resolve certain claims by American citizens” through the Ankara Agreement (Oct. 25, 1934), American Treaty of Lausanne (August 6, 1923), and Treaty of Berlin and Claims Agreement (Aug. 10, 1922).

Several rebuttals are in order to the Solicitor’s General’s misguided and politically-motivated arguments:

— The California law does not intrude on the federal government’s foreign affairs powers as it simply attempts to regulate the obligations of insurance companies, an area of state competence and jurisdiction. This law provides an opportunity to right a historic wrong by forcing insurance companies to make long overdue payments to heirs of their deceased clients;

— German insurance companies are the defendants in this case, not Turkey, even though the latter filed a brief opposing the lawsuit. Remarkably, the Solicitor General’s brief mirrors some of the arguments advanced by Turkey.

— The Solicitor General selectively cites the opposition of Clinton and Bush administrations to congressional resolutions on the Armenian Genocide, ignoring the long-standing U.S. record on genocide recognition, including resolutions adopted by the House of Representatives in 1975 and 1984, Pres. Reagan’s Presidential Proclamation of 1981, and U.S. Government’s 1951 written statement to the International Court of Justice (World Court) acknowledging the Armenian Genocide.

— All three treaties/agreements cited by the Solicitor General are unrelated to the subject matter of this lawsuit. The Ankara Agreement and the American Treaty of Lausanne involve the Republic of Turkey, not German insurance companies. Also, the American Treaty of Lausanne lacks any legal standing as a non-ratified treaty. The Solicitor General undermines his own position by acknowledging that the California law “does not expressly conflict with the Ankara Agreement, the American Treaty of Lausanne, or the Treaty of Berlin and Claims Agreement,” which “addressed only the claims of those who were U.S. citizens at the time of World War I, not those who became U.S citizens after the war had concluded.”

The Solicitor General’s “legal opinion,” besides being flawed on all counts, is more of a political statement that deprives American citizens of their right to insurance claims.

One would hope that the Supreme Court will ignore the Solicitor General’s brief, and agree to hear the case, even though the chances are slim, because the Court accepts only a small percentage of cases submitted to it.

The Solicitor General’s overreaching arguments, if unchallenged, would have a chilling effect on all future genocide restitution efforts, particularly on the eve of the Armenian Genocide Centennial!

Armenian-American community leaders should take all possible measures to counter the Solicitor General’s politically-motivated arguments, by cutting all ties with the Obama Administration, organizing protests at presidential appearances, seeking congressional intervention to establish a federal commission for genocide restitution similar to that of the Holocaust, and amending Section 354.4 of the California law to circumvent the presented objections, no matter how flimsy. Moreover, the Armenian government should immediately withdraw its signature from the Armenia-Turkey Protocols which are repeatedly cited by the White House and U.S. courts as a pretext for opposing Armenian Genocide-related efforts, under the guise of wanting not to undermine Armenia-Turkey relations, which are non-existent!

It is now crystal clear that Pres. Obama’s deceptive use of ‘Meds Yeghern’ in his annual commemorative statements does not amount to an acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide, contrary to the gleeful pronouncements of some gullible souls.

Finally, the Armenian-American community should reconsider its strategy of seeking genocide acknowledgment through congressional resolutions which are not only unnecessary, but counter-productive, as these unsuccessful attempts undermine previously adopted resolutions and cast doubt on the long-established U.S. record of Armenian Genocide recognition.

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  1. Alex said:

    I have voted for President Obama on both occasions, and in my view I did the right thing. As for the situation with the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Turks, it is a shame for the United States government to look the other way, and I mean both parties, and all presidents in this new era.

    This tells me that our Presidents put their dignity aside just to serve the purpose as required by the political atmosphere because they have no alternative. We needed Iran and all was fine and dandy, now Iran is the big evil, same goes for many other countries. Wonder whether the tables will turn for Turkey, Azerbaijan, Israel etc.?

    The US does not need Armenia? then why did we build a fortress of an Embassy? Certainly it is not justto issue visas…………

  2. Satenik said:

    Thank you Mr. Sassounian. You have raised some interesting points.

  3. Josef said:

    Turkey needs to face it’s own history just like the US did with native indians just like the Germans did with the Jews and just like many other nations have done, by sweeping the dirt under the rug will not make things go away and If the US looks at Turkey as this great friend then the y need to educate there friend .
    We as American Armenian’s or any around the world will never stop our goal for justice let everyone know this .

    • kevork halablian said:

      we just motive ourself where million american armenians but truth ? usa already didnt agree usa cannot afford lost ally like as a turkey in me region armenia still pro-russian russian base there poor economy etc.sadly trues

  4. Tsayt said:

    Mr. Sassounian, something must change.First and foremost we should abandon putting hope on candidates for high offices to fulfill our demands. Instead, we should create conditions where they, the odar political elite, would choose to support our cause to fit their own national interests. What would really stand out in this regard is the true democratization of Armenia, with free judiciary and a true rule of the law.
    Since we cannot influence political decision making (because we simply don’t have the numbers to scare a politician to not to double cross us), the only other thing left is doing our own house-cleaning and work towards presenting Armenia as a beacon of democracy in the region. The latter is certainly within our capabilities. Anything else is pitiful wishful thinking, not to say self-deception.

    • Hratch said:

      Very well said!!

      Instead of putting our own house in order, we’re out trying to change the world. Let’s first do what is right for us before asking others for a handout. There is much we can do in Armenia to stop the exodus, corruption and all around mistrust of the government. But no, we choose to ignore our obvious defects and shortcomings and beg others for pity.

      Unofficially the world already recognizes the Armenian Genocide. Perhaps politically it is not correct, but no one really disputes the facts. Whether the US says it is or not, facts are facts. It’s time for us to gain respect by becoming an example of justice, democracy and stability in the region, instead of the backwards corrupt image we have created. When we elevate ourselves, we will attract all sorts of positive elimates….i.e. economical investments, political alliances, cooperation, respect, recognition……

    • Mir Ali said:

      Tsayt, I fully agree with your views. To be honest, Armenian vote hardly counts, for that matter I think white voters hardly make a difference anymore, the recent election was a watershed. Black and Hispanic voters made Obama win the election, the US is a hispanic (American ) nation anyway.

  5. Araratian said:

    The Armenian Genocide has been the biggest rubbery Human kind History has even known. The Armenians were untill 1915 the richest ethnic national group on this planet, they were reduced to starving animals like vagabonds in the Mesopotamian deserts. Who was behind all this? who had the benefits? and we are asking the same for justice! We are also responsible for all what we lost since we beleived in those who assassinated us a a nation and we still beleive in them that is the worst thing. If the Armenians used their gold in the way the worl like, bribing and corrupting, instead of hiding them and deposit them in banks, we would had today the biigest country in the area. We kept our gold to the thieves and lost gold and homeland.

  6. Alex Postallian said:

    What makes the Armenian,A TRUE GENOCIDE,is the turks preplanned it..They had house searches,removed all weapons previously,arrested all leaders,then ATTACKED, UNARMED,WOMEN,CHILDREN, OLD PEOPLE. Genocide is a COWARDS deployment,only COWARDS use these tactics, the turks have always been COWARDS,check history.They are waiting for a braver ally(if they got one) to do their fighting for them.Look at their teacher camel attaturkey,A REAL BUTCHER..