ANCA Chairman Urges Obama to Reverse Course

hachikianWASHINGTON–The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Chairman Ken Hachikian urged President Barack Obama on Monday to “act quickly” to correct a “disturbing” course his administration has chosen to take on Armenian American issues.

In a May 18th letter to the White House, Hachikian addressed both the President’s decision not to honor his repeated promises to recognize the Armenian Genocide, as well as his recent proposal to cut aid to Armenia by 38% even as he increases overall foreign aid spending and the level of assistance he seeks to the regions of Europe, Eurasia, and South/Central Asia.

“You failed to honor your commitment to lift our nation’s response to genocide to the level of our shared American values, choosing, instead, to allow America’s willingness to respond forcefully to this horrific crime to remain hostage to Turkish threats and intimidation,” Hachikian said in the letter.

Hachikian called on the President to “act quickly” to correct the “disturbing” stand by “immediately condemning and commemorating” the Armenian Genocide and by “working publicly toward the adoption of the Armenian Genocide Resolution before the U.S. Congress.”

Obama’s failure to keep his promise continues the “morally flawed policy of allowing Turkey to veto our stand on human rights,” Hachikian said, adding that Obama’s decision effectively allowed Turkey to continue imposing a “gag” rule on U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

“Your broken pledge represents both a grave offense to Armenian Americans and a disservice to all Americans who understand that our nation’s leadership in confronting genocide should never be reduced to a political issue that can be traded away, retreated from under pressure, or used to advance a political agenda, of any kind,” Hachikian said.

Turkey had made no secret of its hopes to use its current rapprochement with Armenia to deter an official US recognition of the Armenian Genocide. But according to Hachikian, the ongoing dialogue between Armenia and Turkey should have no bearing on the President’s willingness to speak the truth about the Armenian Genocide. “Our stand against all instances of genocide should be unconditional,” he said in the letter.

Hachikian also relayed the Armenian-American community’s disappointment at the administration’s recent cut in aid to Armenia. “The Armenian American community is also troubled that, despite your pledge to maintain aid to Armenia and to foster her growth and development, you have called for a 38% cut in economic aid to Armenia,” Hachikian said.

The President’s request represents “the sharpest cut, by a significant margin, among all the recipient nations of Europe, Eurasia, and South and Central Asia,” Hachikian added, noting that the cut comes as the administration seeks an overall 9 percent escalation in international affairs spending.

Obama’s budget request for foreign aid also included a request to increase military aid to Azerbaijan, a move that will breach military aid parity between in favor of Baku and tilt the regional military balance and send a dangerous signal to Azerbaijani leaders “who have made no secret of their intent to use force of arms to settle the Nagorno Karabakh issue,” Hachikian said.

A PDF version of Hachikian’s letter can be found at:
http://www.anca.org/assets/pdf/misc/Hachikian_Obama_0509.pdf

The full text of the ANCA letter is provided below:

May 18, 2009

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing on behalf of the Armenian National Committee of America to voice the Armenian American community’s profound disappointment with your decision not to honor your pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

In breaking your clearly stated and unambiguous commitment, you bitterly disappointed all those who believed in your solemn word to change a flawed U.S. policy on the Armenian Genocide, a policy that you yourself, in a letter you sent to your constituents last year, sharply criticized as “inexcusable.” More broadly, you failed to honor your commitment to lift our nation’s response to genocide to the level of our shared American values, choosing, instead, to allow America’s willingness to respond forcefully to this horrific crime to remain hostage to Turkish threats and intimidation. This failure continues the morally flawed policy of allowing Turkey to veto our stand on human rights by effectively imposing a “gag” rule on U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

Your broken pledge represents both a grave offense to Armenian Americans and a disservice to all Americans who understand that our nation’s leadership in confronting genocide should never be reduced to a political issue that can be traded away, retreated from under pressure, or used to advance a political agenda, of any kind. The ongoing dialogue between Armenia and Turkey should have no bearing on your willingness to speak the truth about the Armenian Genocide; our stand against all instances of genocide should be unconditional.

What is so particularly disturbing about your reversal is that, in the course of your service in the United States Senate and your candidacy for the Presidency, you articulated a thorough knowledge of the facts of the Armenian Genocide, a firm grasp of the practical geo-political implications of proper American recognition of this atrocity, a comprehensive view of the value of Turkey’s relationship to the United States, and a clear understanding of the profound moral issues at stake in the condemnation and commemoration of this crime against humanity. Nothing has changed since you gave your word except your failure to uphold it.

I respectfully call upon you to act quickly to correct your stand on the Armenian Genocide by properly and immediately condemning and commemorating this crime, and by working publicly toward the adoption of the Armenian Genocide Resolution before the U.S. Congress.

The Armenian American community is also troubled that, despite your pledge to maintain aid to Armenia and to foster her growth and development, you have called for a 38% cut in economic aid to Armenia. This represents the sharpest cut, by a significant margin, among all the recipient nations of Europe, Eurasia, and South and Central Asia, and takes place with the context of substantial proposed increases to each of these three regions and a roughly 9% overall escalation in international affairs spending.

The singling out of Armenia, which has sent troops to Iraq and Kosovo, appears set to contribute to our operations in Afghanistan, and hosted the first NATO exercise in the region following the Russia-Georgia war, for such a dramatic cut, even as it endures dual Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades and an acute economic crisis, is profoundly troubling to our community. Compounding this disappointment was your decision to breach the Armenia-Azerbaijan military aid parity agreement in favor of Baku, a move that tilts the regional military balance and sends a dangerous signal to Azerbaijani leaders who have made no secret of their intent to use force of arms to settle the Nagorno Karabagh issue.

I appreciate your attention to the concerns of the Armenian American community and remain hopeful that you will, consistent with your campaign commitments, revise the course your Administration has chosen on issues of special concern to Armenia Americans. We would, of course, welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss these matters personally and in greater detail.

Sincerely,
Kenneth V. Hachikian
Chairman

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3 Comments

  1. Richard said:

    Ken:
    Our community leaders have to start showing more teeth. We can’t afford to be perceived as pushovers. Instead of reading and hearing any more whining from depressed and disappointed Armenian-Americans about what Obama did or did not do, our leaders need show more grit and a callous stubbornness for OUR RIGHTS. Enough of the mellow drama violin playing. It’s time to start playing HARD BALL, DC style. They need to hear us loud and clear. Our cause is legitimate and our goals are clear. We seek justice. Justice with or without freeloaders.

    I’m sick and tired of pandering to these low life political hacks in congress and elsewhere who merely relish in the limelight at our expense with petty promises and nothing to show for. Yes we have come a long way, granted but the bare minimum of statements acknowledging irrefutable facts of the Armenian Genocide cannot be deemed good enough any longer. Of course it happened. But Justice is the key.

    WHERE ARE THE ARMENIAN LEADERS IN CONGRESS? Where are the Armenian American youth studying law, IR, economics and how many of them are aspiring to lead with a righteous conscious and a goal of real change. This is where the ANCA can be most effective. More effort, more time and more money needs to be invested in youth mentorship. Our youth must understand the value of power to be empowered.

  2. Armanen said:

    I agree with you 100% Richard. More Armenians need to get involved in politics so that our issues are clearly understood and represented.

    As for Obama, much of his foreign policy follows from the Bush administration. He has not made any major breaks in foreign policy beyond rhetoric. For example his policies on Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Russia, Europe and the South Caucasus are essentially extensions of pre-existing State Dept. policy. We shouldn’t expect more from his administration than what we got under Bush Jr.

  3. Katia said:

    Dear Ken,

    First of all, I commend the terrific work that you are putting forth on behalf of the Armenian community. Yourself and the ANCA have taken our cause where nothing and noone had succeeded to take it before. Having said that, the devastating disappointment we experienced from the Obama administration back in April needs to be treated as a serious wake up call by our community. In the arena of dirty and aggressive politics, our civility and dependability upon others is sending the signal that we are weak, and we can be held at bay and cajoled and used with fake hopes.

    Our ancestors were massacred, our lands and properties were taken away from us, our identity was seriously damaged and our people has been traumatized forever. We had a criminal case at hand that we unfortunately failed to take to the courts for reparations at a time when records were still fresh, property deeds were still around, and survivors with testimonials were aplenty. We should stop delegating the duty of defending our rights to countries and politicians who have made it very clear that they have nothing to gain by doing so.

    We need to crank up the noise about the injustice dealt to us to a point where noone can avoid it. Along with holding more government positions, and working on getting the Armenian Genocide recognized, we need to start investing serious time, effort and money to have countries, especially those that have acknowledged the Armenian Genocide, to release THEIR OLD ARCHIVED HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS REGARDING THE ATROCITIES OF 1915. The United States government possesses some of the most damning historical documents. These need to be handed over to us. They belong to us as a people, and we need them to make our case. They need to be published, made into documentaries etc. Documents such as Talat Pasha’s 1916 Census which had a count of 1 million less Armenians than the prior year of 1915 need to published and repeated everywhere. Actual facts and evidence, and bold and persistant lawsuits, even ones that fail, will help us wake Turkey and the U.S. from the amnesia that they are feigning.

    We need to do a better job educating the American people. I think building an Armenian Genocide Museum in Glendale, California can be a good start. As the Armenian saying goes, “the baby who doesn’t cry, does not get milk”. It is time we cry louder and clearer.

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