Colorado’s Armenian Genocide: Lessons Learned and Senate Politics 2010

DENVER (California Courier)—The Armenian Genocide made its first mark at the federal level in Colorado’s 2008 General Election.  Every currently sitting member of the Colorado Delegation pledged to support the Armenian Genocide.  Colorado set a nationwide record of accomplishment.

From that heroic beginning, Colorado activists learned an important lesson:  politics and finance persist in derailing an adoption of a moral statement on the Armenian Genocide.

In April 2009, three distinguished Colorado delegation members – Representatives DeGette [D/1]; Polis [D/2]; and Salazar [D/3] — honored their pledge and co-sponsored the Armenian Genocide resolution [H.Res.252].  The four remaining Colorado Armenian Genocide House Members 2008 pledge of support remains, to this day, unfulfilled.

In October 2009, the Senate Armenian Genocide resolution was introduced [S.Res.316].

Several months later, in February 2010, Colorado’s Armenian community suffered a mortal blow. Colorado’s senior Senator, Mark Udall [D], with but one year in office, stepped away from his longstanding record of House Armenian genocide co-sponsorships telling the statewide advocacy group, Rocky Mountain Hye Advocates (RMHA), that he would not co-sponsor nor vote for an Armenian Genocide resolution.

Pamela Barsam Brown, founder of RMHA, explained her reaction to this stunning outcome: “Senator Udall broke his 2008 Senate campaign pledge and his word of honor when he retracted his support for the Armenian genocide.” The outcome was even more provocative, Barsam Brown explained, when one views the overwhelming support for an Armenian genocide resolution:  “Udall dismissed the collective legislative judgment of senior Senate co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle; he rejected the judgment of his own Armed Services Chair; he discounted overwhelming Colorado affirmation evidenced through official proclamations and General Assembly resolutions annually enacted in the first state in the nation to proclaim a ‘Genocide Awareness Day;’ he ignored Colorado Senate tradition established by his immediate predecessors Senators Allard [R] and Salazar [D]; he turned his back on Colorado’s Armenian community; he disregarded Colorado’s esteemed statewide genocide awareness advocacy organization; and he discounted the longstanding editorial board position of the ‘Intermountain Jewish News.’”

Senator Udall’s response was Colorado’s wake-up call to the back story of the Congressional process euphemistically known as “consultation.”
Barsam Brown suggested: “We have a clearer view of the moral clouding of public policy which may occur when the best interests of the public conflict with the objectives of our industrial sectors. This conflict is amplified by the constant revolving door which shifts personnel back and forth between national public service and what Eisenhower termed the military industrial complex.”

In the case of the Armenian genocide resolution, we find the former chief lobbyist for Raytheon, William Lynn, presently serving as Deputy Secretary of Defense. Raytheon is the most prominent of several American military contract firms publicly identified as a lobbying on Turkey’s behalf against the adoption of the Armenian genocide resolution.  Raytheon is the same company that signed a March 2010 letter, distributed to every Member of Congress, urging a rejection of the Armenian Genocide resolution.

William Lynn’s association with Raytheon raises questions about the behind-closed-doors consultation process that takes place with Congressional members. “Whether it’s an official government consultation with an appointee or a paid Turkish lobbyist, industry and its financial interests appear to have a front row seat in Washington politics through this revolving door.” Barsam Brown concluded: “RMHA believes this explains the failure of Congress to adopt an Armenian Genocide resolution. This untoward relationship cries out for government reform.”

And in June 2008, Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen wisely addressed this conflict advising all of those in uniform to stay out of
politics and remain “apolitical at all times and in all ways.” This was possibly in response to the action of a high level General who, during the 110th Congress, personally contacted a Colorado Member of Congress. RMHA was directly informed that the general urged this Member to withdraw from co-sponsoring the Armenian Genocide resolution [H.Res.106].

Colorado’s Aspen Daily News reported an account of Senator Udall’s 2010 defection from the Armenian genocide resolution in May.  It rekindled community discussion on the state’s current slate of U.S. Senate candidates and their Armenian Genocide co-sponsorship pledge positions.  Barsam Brown remarked: “RMHA is exceedingly proud we can offer our community and the general public the personal pledges of every Senate candidate.  We believe campaign pledges matter — it offers a candidate’s oath as seek the highest of honors our democracy offers — public service.”

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