What Armenian Americans Think about Obama

0504childobama1On May 12, I wrote an article titled “Obama Alienates Armenian Americans,” in which I presented the reaction of Armenian leaders and commentators to what the community views as the continuous stream of blows from the Obama Administration in recent weeks. In the two days following the posting of the article on the Armenian Weekly website, many readers posted their views on Obama’s “betrayals” and their suggestions about the road ahead.

The comments compelled me to write a second article, this time quoting the readers, some of whom were very insightful. After all, who are the leaders and commentators to listen to before formulating their policies and writing their commentaries if not the community itself?

At the end of the article, I suggest a way for the Obama Administration to begin remedying the situation.

‘I told you so’

Several readers said they had never trusted Obama in the first place and were surprised by the full support Obama had received from the Armenian community during his presidential campaign.

“Is anyone really surprised?” asked one reader. “I am continually surprised that people believed him. Obama wants everyone to think he’s different. But he isn’t. He’s just another politician who will say anything he has to get elected.”

Another reader agreed. “I was amazed how the Armenian community was supporting Obama and all my friends thought I was crazy every time I told them that Obama will change his views shortly after becoming president… Well, I am sad to say it happened…”

“I’m not one bit surprised that Obama has turned on the Armenians,” said a third reader. “I’m sorry to all of you fellow Armenians who actually voted for him, believing his empty promises of standing behind Armenians, among all of his other promises. The man is a good ‘campaigner’ and that’s it.”

After criticizing those who voted for Obama as well as the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) for endorsing him, one person said, “I just feel sorry for all of you that thought Barack Obama was a ‘friend’ to Armenians. I knew this was coming, and judging from some of the previous posts here, I’m not the only Armenian with some sense!”

“I guess there were a lot of Armenians who drank the Obama Kool-Aid. You have been scammed. He got what he wanted: votes,” said yet another reader.

‘Crushed’
Most Armenian Americans supported Obama during his campaign and are now deeply disappointed.

“I am embarrassed to say that I was one of Obama’s first supporters. I purchased books and t-shirts to support Obama the candidate… I no longer like Obama the president,” read one comment.

“President Obama, you systematically crushed our hopes,” read another. “I feel duped, foolish, broken-hearted, and disgusted, all at the same time. I think you missed your ‘calling’: you should have been an actor…”

“I have never been disappointed in anything more than President Obama’s not using the ‘g-word’ on April 24th,” wrote one reader. “On five occasions he pledged to recognize the Armenian Genocide but failed as a president on recognizing the truth.”

Yet another reader summarized the situation as follows: “President Obama, you lost the love and trust of 1.5 million American Armenians and 6 million Armenians worldwide.”

Commenting on those who said they were disappointed by Obama, one person wrote, “I am glad you saw the light on Obama. There may be hope for you yet.”


‘Barking up the wrong tree’

A sentiment that is widely felt in the Armenian American community (and the Armenian Diaspora in general) is that the real actor to blame is the Armenian government, which signed a memorandum of understanding with Turkey on the eve of April 24, the Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day.

“I blame all this entirely on the Armenian president Serge Sarkisian,” wrote one reader on the website. “It is entirely his fault that Obama is breaking all his promises. He signed that so-called ‘road map’ agreement two days before April 24. He is a spineless man who has caved in to foreign pressure. He is not acting on the interests of the Armenian people and thus, he is dangerous to have as our president.”

The reader added, “By jeopardizing our national security, he and our foreign affairs minister have committed treason against the Armenian state. What’s worse, he is going to stay as our president for at least another three years.”

“We American Armenians need to stop blaming Obama’s administration,” said another, “and shift our attention to Armenia and its government. To gain credibility, respect, and monetary help, change Armenia’s mafia government.”


‘Return the paraphernalia’

The suggestion Armenian Weekly readers made ranged from the sublime to the ridiculously extreme. Most of them seemed to agree, however, that there is a need to get even more active, and make the Obama Administration feel the heat.

One person said, “It’s time to send all Democrats a message. Do not contribute to any Congressional races; get the word out about the other ways in which the president is systematically breaking his promises…”

Another asked his fellow Armenians to “wake up and change the way we do things,” calling for “a demonstration against the president and the State Department.”

A powerful call to action came from a reader who wrote, “There is no question that we’ve been ditched by the Obama Administration which is following State Department policy. I’ve just finished two letters—one to the president and one to Speaker Pelosi on these issues. Exactly right as stated in the article—the genocide resolution must now be back on the table and Congress must not let parity between Azerbaijan and Armenia be ignored. Letters, phone calls—everything—we’ve got to get back to work.”

A clearly disappointed Obama supporter had another idea: “I suggest we pick a day where all Armenians that supported him send back their Obama paraphernalia, together with it a note stating, ‘I hope the Armenian issue doesn’t mark the beginning of a huge back-slide of compromised campaign promises.’”

Making sense of it all

The Obama Administration’s genocide denial, its failure to appoint any Armenian Americans to a decent position in the administration, and its proposal to break the military aid parity between Azerbaijan and Armenia and decrease foreign aid to Armenia, not only alienated most Armenian Americans but also placed the major Armenian American organizations—all of which had supported Obama—in a very difficult situation. After all, an entire community was mobilized to support what was touted as the most “Armenian-friendly administration” ever. And it was very difficult to challenge that label, with people like Joe Biden, Samantha Power—and Barack Obama himself—on the team.

With its actions, however, it seems that the administration is trying to become the administration that is the most unfriendly to Armenians.

Adding insult to injury, there has been no reaching out from the administration to the Armenian American community in any shape or form. Armenian Americans feel insulted and betrayed, and—regardless of what the president thinks about policy issues—they deserve some respect.

The administration has to reach out to the Armenian American community. That is the only smart way ahead.

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15 Comments

  1. Armenian Social Network said:

    Hello – thanks for publishing my comment in this article as well with the others :)

    Good post – we have to speak out against what Obama did and still doing to hurt the Armenians and the Armenian nation. Shame on Obama!

  2. RZ said:

    At the end of the day, Obama is still a politician. Yes, it’s nice we elected an African-American to the White House, and perhaps he might do nice things for this country. But take away his skin color, name, and whatever people perceive he stands for, he is still a politician. He is not a Martin Luther King Jr. type of visionary. Along with previous administrations Obama will go along with the political climate regardless of what he promised. He is not a savior!

  3. JR said:

    It’s was naive for anyone to have believed that any one mortal man can correct a wrong done to millions. An indication of the immature political state of our organizations.

  4. GG said:

    I would like to add a point on this issue that has not been talked about yet in your article as well as in the comments that you mentioned. After a brief disappointment with the Obama administration and long thoughts about the history of the US’ denial of the Genocide, not just the Obama Administrations’ denial, I came up with this.

    Let’s look at the situation from a different angle. Rather than asking why does the US government deny the Genocide, let’s ask, why does it acknowledge it at all? Why does the issue ever reach Congress in the first place and why is it important enough to discuss among politicians? When you think about it, we are not a large or powerful group of people that has any type of influence over Congress. Yet, every year every President, whether he be a Democrat or a Republican, talks about April 24th, 1915.

    On the other hand you have Turkey, a country that is not necessarily a loyal ally of the US. You have to remember that 90% of Turks were against the actions of the US in Iraq and that Turkey rebelled against the US on a few occasions. But the US needs Turkey, not only does it need Turkey, but it needs to control it as well. One way to do this is to wave the Genocide question over it’s head. The minute you do not do what we tell you, we will recognize the Genocide and cause lots of problems for you.

    Remember that a group of Jews wrote a letter to the president of Turkey stating that they would begin to question Turkey’s past if Turkey did not stop criticizing their actions in Gaza and the West Bank. It seems as though the US is not the only country that waves the Genocide issue over the head of Turkey.

    So, in the end, Obama is only part of the system that uses the Genocide issue to gain control over Turkey. I don’t see the Genocide being recognized until the US finds it convenient for itself to do so.

    We should put our efforts into more local governments and individual states, many of which have already recognized the Genocide. We also need to concentrate on schools and make sure they are teaching the history as well as keep our eyes on the history departments of universities. Relying on the government will only lead us to further disappointment as governments rarely act in the name of morality.

  5. grigor said:

    armenia and turky were forced to deliver ,,rodmap”. 2 days befour april 24…just to save Obama…

  6. Haro said:

    How about all these Armenian Americans that contributed to Obama campaign, we sent donations to make him a president. Let us call for a legal action and ask for our donation back.
    Also, why the Hay Dad is not focusing on civilian legal actions against congresmen or statesmen that are lobbying for foreign criminal regimes, On political or international courts there is no proper UN structure to deal with genocides, but there is more valid civilian court structure for criminal actions. For example, we can raise legal actions against people who are paid for genocide denial. The court action fine may be imposed on such people to be at least double the amount of what they are getting paid. In this way, Turkey will have no alternative but to pay or compensate the genocide victims, and therefore choosing to hire denialist will imply fines that will go to the Genocide Victim Reparation Fund. Diaspora has so far put all efforts to make Turkey accept the Genocide, but this is becoming a joke now that Armenia is an independent country. There is no point in this struggle especially when by waiting for an acceptance of a criminal of its crime, we are a priori assuming that this historic fact is waiting to be decided to be a fact. The problem is that this method is precisely the foreign policy of Kemal Ataturk, and we, Armenians are applying it. This was a trap and we are still in the trap. To get out of the trap we need to get beyond recognition game, and concentrate on REPARATION, meaning: lands must be returned and victims compensated on a global and temporal level. It’s because of Armenian Genocide that the Armenian population is not 60- 80 millions today, instead we are 6-8 million, while Turks are 60-70 millions. Five generation level of the Armenian growth has been cut down by the Turks. That’s approximately 60-80 million population. That is the true cost of the Genocide, and not just recognizing it.

  7. Jim Bates said:

    I am not an Armenian American, although I am a ferequent visior to Armenia and speak the language well. I have been shocked, embarassed and disappointed by the President’s deliberate decision to abandon his campaign promises to Armenians. I have to assume that he has been listening to voices in the foriegn establishment. Too bad because as a group their track record is hardly anything to be proud of. If anyone from Congress reads this, please help the president with his “moral fiber” problem and restore the cut funds.

  8. Guido said:

    It is too early too judge or blame Obama. He is a subtle politician and in the end he may well come through with his campaign promise. Right now he’s got everyone confused. He may still be president on April 24, 2015, the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, Holocaust, Calamity, Völkermord, Mass Murder & Deportation or whatever anyone wants to call it. He maybe quietly biding his time until then, letting the Armenians get all worked up and letting the Turks think they are slowly but surely getting away with murder. After 94 years one cannot say that Armenians are demanding instant gratification on the issue of genocide recognition, but Obama, for all his craftiness, may have a different sense of timing. He is not one to turn his back on the issue of Genocide.

  9. Rafa said:

    Our problem is not Obama our problem is SS. Now im not some opponent of SS, but lets look at the issue. SS cavedin to the demands of a roadmap just days before April 24, THUS pressuring Obama not to say genocide. Yes SS pressured Obama not to say it, he put Obama in a situation (remember Obama is the president of the US now and he speaks for the nation) where if Obama did say genocide, Turkey would pull back from the roadmap cite the Obama Administration as the reason for doing so and the US (through the Obama Admin) would look foolish for breaking up a peace plan between century-old foes. At the end of the day Obama is an American and his first agenda is to serve the interests of the US, and as of today US’s interest of a peaceful relationship between Armenia-Turkey exceeds the Armenian genocide issue.

  10. Haro said:

    On comment of Rafa, yes obviously SS has some problems, but they were pressured by EU, Russia, NATO, US and finally Turkey. But, SS administration is not foolish, they cave in on an empty issue, devised long time ago by Kemal Ataturk, and foolishly being used by Diaspora organizations for more than 70 years now. This empty issue is the so called “Genocide Recognition”. In around 1918 -1922, Ataturk was running a foreign policy, in which the main strategy was to accept all the European pressure about Turkey committed genocide, so that under the cover they can pursue the grand Panturism plan, ethnically cleansing and occupying the rest of the Armenian lands. Eventually, this was halted in the famous Sartarabad war. Nevertheless, the remains of the Ataturk’s foreign policy were somehow forced on Europe and USA, and the Hay Dad fell into this same infrastructure trap, and even to this day Diaspora is under this trap.
    I believe, it is time to change the Genocide Resolution plan, it should no longer pursue just RECOGNITION, but beyond that, namely REPARATION. The simple reason for this is that there is no question about recognition. Everyone knows it by now. Just putting all our efforts for the goal of a President saying the word G is a “jailamy” diplomacy. and really ridiculous, and we the victims deserve more than that.
    Now, there are some that will say that REPARATION is an unrealistic demand and we will never get it materialized. Well, the counter answer to that is “…as if we accomplished anything by demanding RECOGNITION for more than 90 years now”. If we are going to pursue a goal that seems to be un-materialize-able, why not pursue the full maximum goal. Such a foreign policy have been used by many successful politicians, I quote a few: Gandi, King Faysal, Golda Mayor, even Ataturk. But we Armenians seem to miss the point. We are spending millions to pass a genocide recognition (i.e. a word G), and so far there are no tangible results. It seems that we are hitting our heads to a solid wall. My point is that if we have so strong a head that we are able to hit it so often, why not hit our heads to the same wall for the sake of REPARATION and not just RECOGNITION.
    The only difference is that since in REPARATION, there is tangible goal (i.e. and not simply saying the G word), more people will be involved. After all what would the victim of the Genocide want, her/his life, assets, home, etc.. Yes, material things, and not simply an empty “G word”.
    I believe, we should stop blaming SS, Obama, or any other people, but work on a complete overhaul of the Hay Dad goals. Yes, the new strategy should be not that we are asking Turkey to recognize and apologize, never mind that, we are now actually asking that Turkey returns all occupied lands, and arrange a financial plan of repayment of generations of damage caused, and excuse me, I am not finished yet, they should put a confidence regime under UN jurisdiction, so that no future damage may occur to Armenians in their land and outside their land. Such a structure should have a confidante in the highest parliament of the new Turkey government that monitors any issue that may have a potential future damage on any Armenian element. It is only after all this that we can announce that Turkey and Turks are indeed our neighbors.

  11. sahak said:

    Off course Obama was not going to recognize the Genocide, any Armenian who thought that this president was gonna be any different im sorry to say is very naive. The reality is Obama is just another politician, i had no doubt in my mind that he was going to break his promise. All those Armenians who helped in his campaign, i feel bad for them because they believed him and worked hard for his campaign, because once he won the election he just basically slapped all in the face. Everytime we have a new presidential election is the same story, we always endorse someone and the candidate always breaks his promise to the Armenian People, so why bother even endorsing anyone, its always gonna have the same result unfortunately. As long as the US and turkey are allies, the US is not going to recognize the Genocide. As sad as it is, but is true. The other thing is Armenia really has nothing of interest for the US, theres no oil or any other source of interest for the US, if Armenia had something that the US needed than things might be different, but what does Armenia have that would make the US have an interest.

  12. Haro said:

    Sahak is quite right, but the arguments that he makes is what have been fed to us by most western propaganda. For example, the question of “What Armenia has that interests US” can be counter answered by “What Israel has that interests US”, or “What Turkey has that interests US”. They are questions that depend on variable word, namely “US interest”. To make US interested in Armenia, we have sizable and vocal population of Armenian Americans that can make US administration’s “interest” change. The only problem is that Russia has now the upper hand on the Armenian issue. For example, during a point in the history of Russia, when there were two waves of revolutions one after the other in Moscow, and Russia was at its weakest point. USA momentarily got the upper hand, and we had the Wilsonian plan of Armenia. But this never got materialized, because the West downplayed and destroyed this plan, while the Soviet got strong and Armenians had no option but to join the Soviets.
    History changes, the situation now is much different, but unfortunately, we Armenians are playing with the same old cards. We need a new strategy both in Diaspora and the mainland. We have strong infrastructure and potential to do a lot of things, but sadly we are not culturally and politically active, specially the youth and the intellectuals. WE ARE ASLEEP IN A PROPAGANDA MATRIX…

  13. Katia said:

    Haro, I am truly enjoying your commentary! I share your thought that we have been pursuing a “loser” approach to all this. We needed to delve into getting REPARATIONS for everything that the Genocide has cost us. Why are we obsessed by having countries and politicians recognize a “truth”, when recognizing that truth obviously does not suit them. It almost makes it look as if we ourselves are not very sure about what happened to us, and we need confimation by foreigners. This is the mentality of a very weak and insecure people. They massacred 1.5 million of us, they took our lands and properties from us ;THEY NEED TO PAY! We do not need to wait for anyone to pursue legal action, and our responsibilty to get justice for our ancestors cannot and should not be deferred to foreigners. We have wasted precious years, let fresh evidence cool, property deeds get lost because we were busy begging the world to recognize what had happened to us. THEY ALL KNOW VERY WELL WHAT HAPPENED TO US! The U.S. and Europe have the best archives about the Armenian Genocide. Let us not waste a minute more, and start accumulating every tid bit of evidence, starting by demanding that all countries release these archived documents to us. They belong to our people. It is high time we face this with strength and dignity, and pursue a REPARATION campaign and not a RECOGNITION campaign. We don’t need no Obama to recognize what has happened to us. We are a civilization that dates back further than the Roman Empire. Where is our dignity? where is our pride? Shame on us for begging for justice! You go after justice, you don’t wait for it to fall from the sky!

  14. JOHN KEUSEYAN, LT. COL USAF (RET.) said:

    Few weeks ago President of Iran said some nasty things about the Holocost at a UN meeting and members of the European Union walked out from the meeting, including the representatives of the Republic of Armenia. Yes even the Armenians walked out, because we Armenians respect and honor the victims of all Genocides unlike some other people who want to be unique and have a monopoly on victimhood.
    Turkey has been denying the Armenian Genocide for 94 years and IT’S TIME WE WALKED OUT ON TURKEY. We can only make this happen is by changing our strategy. Lets go to International Court of Justice. We don’t need politicians to go to court; we have ample evidence to prove our case and ask for what is rightfully ours “REPARATIONS”. REMENBER a crime was committed and the murderer is still scot free. There is no statute of limitation on murder. President Reagan once said that “politics is the second oldest profession in the world”. Aba Eban (president of Israel) once said (when people accused him of renegging on his promise): “Yes, I promised, but I never promised to keep my promise”. Thats what politicians do; they lie and cheat just to get elected. Let us stop trusting politicians. Lets get our youth involved in politics. Let us get Government positions so we can influence the decision making process from within.

  15. Hye4Life said:

    John, I totally agree with you. We have enough evidence and facts to place Turkey in international courts. Time to take legal actions, none of these recognition stuff. Many countries have recognized it, it is plenty, now it is time for PUNISHMENT and we need to punish Turks, in every arena and in every aspect. Constantly remind them that their country can’t get away with murder. No one should get away with murder.
    As far as the gov. of Armenia, they need to wake up that they can’t under estimate the dirty tricks of Turks and not fall for the trap. Gov. Armenia needs to consult with Diaspora on key issues like border opening, Artsagh, Javaghk, etc.

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