George C. Parker, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Madrid Principles

BrooklynBridge_HamparianOpEd feature
The story of legendary 20th Century con man George C. Parker - who went to jail for repeatedly "selling" the Brooklyn Bridge - can tell us a lot about modern-day attempts to convince Armenians to buy the reckless Madrid Principles.

The story of legendary 20th Century con man George C. Parker – who went to jail for repeatedly “selling” the Brooklyn Bridge – can tell us a lot about modern-day attempts to convince Armenians to buy the reckless Madrid Principles.


In his day, George C. Parker, an enterprising early 20th Century New York City con man, taught the gullible some pretty painful lessons.

Parker was famous for repeatedly “selling” the Brooklyn Bridge to unsuspecting immigrants who, enticed by the prospect of owning a national landmark, handed over their hard-earned cash for a worthless piece of paper. He made his money banking on the great American showman P.T. Barnum’s dictum: “there’s a sucker born every minute.”

For some historical perspective, a New York Times article from 2005 noted that “The Brooklyn Bridge had several attributes that made it particularly well suited for this sort of endeavor [being sold by con men]. Its proximity to the port made it highly visible to newcomers who might be likely marks and its size provided opportunities to show it off while avoiding the law. But perhaps most critical was its considerable fame.”

Parker eventually came to the attention of the law, was found guilty multiple times, and lived out his last years as a convict in Sing Sing – a prison on the banks of the Hudson River, just north of New York.

It is because of Parker’s fame for repeatedly “selling” the Brooklyn Bridge to unwitting buyers that we have today the memorable American phrase: “and if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.” This term is basically the textbook definition of the adjective gullible: “one who is easily duped or cheated.”

Today, looking back, it seems unreal that anyone would be gullible enough to “buy” the Brooklyn Bridge.  But as Luc Sante, author of the book “Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York” wrote, “The oddity of the thing today is not that there might have been con artists ready to sell the bridge, but that there would have been suckers both gullible enough and sufficiently well-heeled to fall for it.”

But such cons are not just from some other time, or tricks only played on someone else.

We don’t need to look any further than ongoing attempts to con Armenians out of Artsakh – to take from us what has always been ours, ancient Armenian land defended with blood and guarded today by brave soldiers – often at the cost of their lives.

Today we see the spirit of George C. Parker in the U.S. Department of State’s attempts to “prepare” Armenians for peace by getting us to buy in to the reckless Madrid Principles – a dangerous set of proposals that demand upfront and irrevocable strategic concessions of territory and security from Artsakh, in return for vague and easily reversible paper promises from the war-mongering Aliyev regime.

The set-up starts with gas-lighting Armenians into believing that any other solution is simply impossible. That the movement toward democratic self-determination that drove the number of United Nations member states from less than 50 at its founding in 1948 to more than 190 members today can never apply to Artsakh.

To convince us that a patently pro-Baku deal – one that grants land to Azerbaijan and takes security from Artsakh – is actually good for Armenians, the State Department needs to keep Artsakh out of the equation. This is why the actual people who would bear the real-world risks of a deal are blocked from any formal role in decision-making regarding their own destiny. It’s no good to have doubters around when the mark is being set up. That’s also why the State Department actively discourages Members of Congress from visiting Artsakh, using public and private levers to keep a co-equal legislative branch of government in the dark as un-elected bureaucrats push their plans behind closed doors.

Finally, cut off any outside help to make the mark feel vulnerable. This would explain why the State Department has launched a major attack on a modest $1.5 million dollar a year humanitarian de-mining program in Artsakh, even as the Pentagon pours over $100 million in military aid into the Azerbaijani armed forces. They want Artsakh isolated and alone.

That’s the set-up.

It’s a swindle – start to finish.

A classic bait and switch.

The end game of the State Department’s “long con” is the Armenian nation watching – a worthless piece of paper in hand – as Azerbaijani troops and heavy arms move into territory and fortifications recently ceded by the Artsakh military. High ground from which they will set their sights on Zangezur.

That’s the type of influence that the corrupt, oil-rich Azerbaijani dictatorship of Ilham Aliyev and his wife Merhaba have in Washington, DC. But – thankfully – they don’t have any power over us.

Their con only works if we let it.

If we abandon Artsakh.

Forget our history.

Betray our future.

But we will not.

We will stand with Artsakh, always – as Americans, heirs to our own independence struggle – foursquare behind a peaceful, durable and democratic, self-determination based resolution of status and security issues between Artsakh and Azerbaijan.

That’s why the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) rejects the George C. Parker plan for Artsakh, and why we remain opposed to any recklessly asymmetrical Madrid-style deal that front-loads strategic risks on democratic Artsakh and lavishes generous territorial rewards on oil-rich Azerbaijan.

Raffi Hamparian is the Chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America.


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  1. Raffi said:

    I agree:
    Their con only works if we let it.
    If we abandon Artsakh.
    Forget our history.
    Betray our future.

    But we will not.

  2. joe said:

    Who wins a war, liberates ancient lands and the very first thing they do is GIVE THE LOSING SIDE LIBERATED LANDS as a free gift? Its perfectly clear the inept Karbakh robbers of the past who controlled Armenia were political illiterates and actually entertained this nonsense all too happy to appease Zionist America and France, but what is most concerning is that its also recklessness for Russia because if Arstakh goes, so does Armenia and the underside belly of Russia becomes surrounded by Turks. So Russia and Armenia, will have no choice but to install PERMANENT RUSSIAN PEACE KEEPERS, which is what Russia wants, basically ultimate hegemony over Armenia which needs to be avoided at all cost..

    What needs to be said is: “The Madrid principles are a past reckless non starting idea that will unnecessarily create complexity where non needs to be. Also no agreement of any sort without the full understanding of of all parties of a free and independent Artsakh will no be entertained, as that is the very reason we are here today. And most important, democratically elected Artskh must be at the negotiating table from here on out as its their destiny at stake”.. NOTHING LESS..

    1. Start a clandestine nuclear program. Arm the Armenian /Artskh my to the teeth.
    2. Indoctrinate Diaspora military units. Create a massive supply of trained ready fighters in case of future hostilities..
    3. Talk of liberating more ancient Armenian lands in case of war. The Turks would kill every Armenian if they could so start thinking of the long term destruction and removal of anything Turkish with the eventual liberation of Western Armenia and ultimate justice for the AG as Armenian State policy.
    4. Talk of the illegitimate Azeri regime as the only constant in the stalemate that needs to be replaced in order to move forward.
    5. Have a unified approach to everything: ONE ARMENIA, ARTSAKH and Diaspora.

  3. starz said:

    i think the armenians in usa need to be watchful of the azeri lobbying aggression as well as the turkish lobbying aggression that seems to be multiplying. the propaganda games they play also.
    check twitter on turkish responses to armenian issues, it will shock you. stay alert.

  4. Krekor Mardirosian said:

    If Aliyev actually had control of Artsakh , would he move his troops in & start the killing again? Maybe yes, maybe no. It is an absolute no-brainer that we have to await the passing of this murderer for different government to take over & understand that Armenians will remain in place & in control. What chance is there that Aliyev can be made to understand that he can never be allowed to be in control? That thought must have occurred to him; so what is his actual goal? What arrangement makes sense from our side?

    • Krekor Mardirosian said:

      Is there any chance that a new American state department would understand our deep concern for survival and produce a more workable suggestion than to just go with Aliyev. I fear that president Jo Biden will continue the same dangerous policies of his predecessor presidents. He is not particularly intelligent. Bernie Sanders, a more fair minded man, may have been a better choice for the American populace. Of course, we do manage to pick bad candidates again & again.

      • Raffi said:

        Shameless US use the Armenian Genocide as a leverage against Turkey, Turks don’t understand that the US is subjugating and insulting their Turkishness by American presidents again and again and again, and that on the long run this issue by acomodating the US will not disappear

  5. Vatche said:

    I myself cannot think of even one comparable case in the world where the people whose security is at stake, in this case Artsakh Armenians, are not a direct party to the negotiations.

  6. D2 said:


    HAVE S A R D A R A B D – as your moto, symboled, as guiding principal and the Armenian
    Nation will be behind you.

  7. D2 said:



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