President Bush Breaks Pledge to Recognize Armenian Genocide

WASHINGTON–DC–The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) reported President George W. Bush broke his promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

In a statement issued on April 24–the annual day of remembrance for the Armenian Genocide–the President resorted to the use of evasive and euphemistic terminology to obscure the reality of Turkey’s Genocide against the Armenian people. His position on this grave issue runs counter to the expectations of the American people and the bipartisan consensus of Congress – as expressed recently in a letter signed by over 100 US Representatives.

The President’s statement represents a continuation of the Clinton Administration’s policy of complicity in the Turkish Government’s policy to deny the Armenian Genocide.

Leading Armenia’s politicians on Wednesday–April 25 deplored the statement made by US President Bush which stopped short on describing the 1915 mass killings and deportations as "genocide," while condemning the "forced exile and annihilation of approximately 1.5 million Armenia’s in the closing years of the Ottoman Empire." Official Yerevan–however–would not comment on Bush’s written message–which drew criticism from Armenian-American groups.

"The United States is not the only country where–as we have just seen–pre-election promises and real life could be different things," said Tigran Torosian–deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament and a senior member of the governing Republican party (HHK).

Aghvan Vartanian–head of parliamentary faction of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation–said Bush’s statement was disappointing despite marking a "certain positive change" from the position held by previous White House administrations. "He affirmed that 1.5 million Armenia’s were deported and killed at the beginning of the century. But strangely enough–the president of the US failed to use the word genocide," Vartanian said.

Below is the statement issued by the ANCA and the full text of the President’s statement.

ANCA Statement:

The Armenian American community–while appreciative of the President’s sincere willingness to join with Armenia’s on this day–is profoundly disappointed that–despite his repeated campaign promises–he has chosen not to characterize Turkey’s Genocide against the Armenian people in clear and unambiguous terms.

The President–in using terminology that does not accurately identify the genocidal nature of Turkey’s crime against the Armenian people–has made the grave error of subordinating fundamental American principles to the deman’s of the Turkish Government. This broken promise undermines the credibility of the President on a broad range of issues–including the role the United States seeks to play in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks.

The Armenian American community cannot accept anything less from the President than actions consistent with the proud tradition of Ambassador Henry Morgenthau–President Woodrow Wilson–and the many other American statesmen in our nation’s history who have placed the cause of humanity above narrow political considerations.

Full text of the statement by President George W. Bush:

Today marks the commemoration of one of the great tragedies of history: the forced exile and annihilation of approximately 1.5 million Armenia’s in the closing years of the Ottoman Empire. These infamous killings darkened the 20th century and continue to haunt us to this day. Today–I join Armenian Americans and the Armenian community abroad to mourn the loss of so many innocent lives. I ask all Americans to reflect on these terrible events.

While we mourn the tragedy that scarred the history of the Armenian people–let us also celebrate their indomitable will which has allowed Armenian culture–religion–and identity to flourish through the ages. Let us mark this year the 1700th anniversary of the establishment of Christianity in Armenia. Let us celebrate the spirit that illuminated the pages of history in 451 when the Armenia’s refused to bow to Persian deman’s that they renounce their faith. The Armenian reply was both courageous and unequivocal: "From this faith none can shake us–neither angels–nor men–neither sword–fire or water–nor any bitter torturers." This is the spirit that survived again in the face of the bitter fate that befell so many Armenia’s at the end of the Ottoman Empire.

Today–that same spirit not only survives–but thrives in Armenian communities the world over. Many Armenian survivors and their descendants chose to live in the United States–where they found safety and built new lives. We are grateful for the countless ways in which Armenian Americans continue to enrich America’s science–culture–commerce and–indeed–all aspects of our national life.

One of the most important ways in which we can honor the memory of Armenian victims of the past is to help modern Armenia build a secure and prosperous future.

I am proud that the United States actively supports Armenia and its neighbors in finding a permanent and fair settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. I hope that this year we will see peace and reconciliation flourish in the south Caucasus region between Armenia and all its neighbors. The United States welcomes the opportunity to support the courageous efforts by the Armenian people to overcome years of hardship and Soviet repression to create a prospering–democratic–and sovereign Republic of Armenia. Let us remember the past and let its lessons guide us as we seek to build a better future. In the name of the American people–I extend my heartfelt best wishes to all Armenia’s as we observe this solemn day of remembrance.

[End of statement by President Bush]

In February of last year–prior to the hotly contested Michigan primary–then Governor Bush affirmed–in a letter to Armenian Americans–that:

"The twentieth century was marred by wars of unimaginable brutality–mass murder and genocide. History records that the Armenia’s were the first people of the last century to have endured these cruelties. The Armenia’s were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies comprehension and comman’s all decent people to remember and acknowledge the facts and lessons of an awful crime in a century of bloody crimes against humanity. If elected President–I would ensure that our nation properly recognizes the tragic suffering of the Armenian people."

Since his election–over 100 Members of Congress co-signed a letter urging the President to honor his pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide as a genocide. In addition–Armenian Americans from all fifty states sent over a hundred thousand postcards to the President asking him to keep faith with his promise. Just two weeks ago–Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura–by signing a Minnesota Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day proclamation–brought the number of US states officially commemorating the Armenian Genocide to thirty.

In recent decades–US presidents have refrained from properly characterizing the Armenian Genocide under pressure from the Turkish Government–which–in an abuse of its status as a member of NATO–has regularly issued threats against the United States should it take such a step. Despite a long-standing Congressional consensus in support of Armenian Genocide recognition–successive Presidents – and their senior advisors–have exaggerated these threats and prevailed upon Congress to obstruct legislative efforts to commemorate this crime against humanity. Most recently–last October–responding to threats by the Turkish government–the Clinton Administration pressured the US House Speaker Dennis Hastert–who had himself previously pledged to support Armenian Genocide Resolution–to withdraw it–only moments before it was to have come to a vote. As a candidate in 1992–then Governor Clinton had properly characterized the Armenian Genocide in campaign statements. US Representatives Call For Congressional Recognition Of The Armenian Genocide During Special Order Speeches On House Floor A bipartisan group of US Representatives commemorated the 86th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide during "Special Order" remarks on the House floor earlier this evening–reported the Washington Hai Tahd office of the ARF-Dashnaktsoutiun (ANCA).

Congressional Armenian Caucus co-chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) organized the House commemoration–which is expected to continue throughout the week as Representatives submit additional statements for the Congressional Record. Congressmen David Bonior (D-MI) and George Radanovich (R-CA)–co-sponsors of the Armenian Genocide resolution during the previous Congress–began the series of five-minute speeches–stressing the importance of official Congressional affirmation of this crime against humanity.

"We want to thank Congressmen Pallone and Knollenberg for their leadership in organizing this Special Order and for all their efforts to help bring an end to the Turkish Government’s shameful campaign to deny the Armenian Genocide," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "We appreciate–as well–all the efforts of Armenian American organizations and individuals throughout the United States who encouraged their elected representatives to join with our community during this time of solemn remembrance."

Excerpts from these remarks are presented below:

Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA): "I say we must affirm history–not bury it. We must learn from history–not reshape it according to the geostrategic needs of the moment–and we must refuse to be intimidated–or other states with troubled pasts will ask that the American record on their dark chapter be expunged."

Congressman–Adam Schiff (D-CA)–who was in Montebello–California on April 24 at a community-wide Armenian Genocide commemoration–said the following: "It is high time we honored the memory of the 1.5 million men–women–and children with affirmation as well as prayer–and recognize their loss and ours for what it truly was–genocide. Just as we cannot condone denial–we cannot remain passive in the face of euphemistic–watered-down terminology used by apologists for the deniers."

Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI): "The images of human’suffering from the Armenian Genocide are as graphic and as haunting as the pictures of the Holocaust. Why then–it must be asked–are so many people unaware of the Armenian Genocide. I believe the answer is found in the international community’s response to this disturbing event. Or–I should say–lack of response."

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ): "President Bush had a golden opportunity to recognize the Genocide today in annual statements made by the President. From statements that candidate Bush made–one would have believed that–as president–he would use the word ‘genocide’ today. But sadly–today–the president chose not to use the word genocide thus minimizing the events from 1915 to 1923 that we commemorate this evening. Now I know that many Armenian Americans will feel betrayed because of President Bush’s inaction today."

Rep. James McGovern (D-MA): "Sadly–Mr. Speaker–France has achieved the moral leadership that the United States Congress and the White House have failed to fulfill."

For comments and reactions from the Armenian American community to Pres. Bush’s impending statement on the Armenian Genocide–please contact: Mr. Aram Hamparian–Executive Director–Armenian National Committee of America at (202) 775-1918.

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