U.S. Documents Reveal Pres. Bush’s Duplicity on the Armenian Genocide

BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN

In a highly informative book, “Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and Century-long Struggle for Justice,” Michael Bobelian has exposed important, but little known facts about the long history of attempts to get the Armenian Genocide recognized by the United States.

One of Bobelian’s more notable revelations is the apparent contradiction between Vice President George H. W. Bush senior’s promise to the Armenian-American community to acknowledge the Genocide after he is elected President and his administration’s agreement with Turkey to block such an acknowledgment.

While running for President in 1988, Vice President George Bush issued the following statement: “The United States must acknowledge the attempted genocide of the Armenian people in the last years of the Ottoman Empire, based on the testimony of survivors, scholars, and indeed our own representatives at the time, if we are to ensure that such horrors are not repeated.” Bush is the only Vice President who has made such a pledge on the Armenian Genocide.

After assuming the presidency in January 1989, however, Pres. Bush ignored his commitment on the Armenian Genocide, and actively tried to persuade the U.S. Congress not to recognize it. Within months of his election, Bush wrote to Senators Bob Dole and George Mitchell, and Congressmen Tom Foley, Richard Michel, Richard Gephardt, Janet Mullins, and Richard Lehman, informing them of his opposition to the pending congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide.

On April 20, 1990, Pres. Bush issued his only “Presidential Message” on the occasion of “Armenian Remembrance Day,” without, however, using the term “Armenian Genocide.” He spoke about “…the terrible massacres suffered in 1915-1923 at the hands of the rulers of the Ottoman Empire. The United States responded to the victims of the crime against humanity by leading international diplomatic and private relief efforts…. On this 75th anniversary of the massacres, I wish to join with Armenians and all peoples in observing April 24, 1990 as a day of remembrance for the more than a million Armenian people who were victims. I call upon all peoples to work to prevent future acts of inhumanity against mankind, and my comments of June 1988 represent the depth of my feeling for the Armenian people and the sufferings they have endured.”

Over the years, analysts have offered different explanations as to why recent U.S. Presidents (except for Ronald Reagan) have not kept their promises to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Bobelian revealed that in 1987, a year before Vice President Bush made his promise to the Armenian-American community, the United States and Turkey had signed an extensive military and economic agreement, according to which the American government pledged to oppose any “inappropriate actions,” such as the pending congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide.

During the official signing ceremony held at the State Department on March 16, 1987, Secretary of State George Shultz and Turkish Foreign Minister Vahit Halefoglu exchanged letters extending through December 1990 the bilateral Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreement that had been in effect since March 29, 1980. According to this agreement, the United States made a commitment to provide high levels of military and economic support for Turkey. More significantly, Washington agreed to “vigorously oppose inappropriate actions which would be harmful to healthy U.S.-Turkish relations, to U.S.-Turkish military cooperation or to our efforts to provide security assistance to Turkey based on the needs of the Turkish Armed Forces.”
When the 1980 agreement expired in 1985, the Turkish government cleverly dragged out the negotiations for its extension, while escalating its demands from the United States. After a series of diplomatic exchanges that lasted two full years, the Turkish side succeeded in extracting more and more concessions from the U.S., including the commitment to block congressional resolutions on the Armenian Genocide.

Vice President Bush must have known in 1988, when he made his deceptive promise on the Armenian Genocide, that the United States government had already signed an agreement with Turkey in 1987, pledging to “vigorously oppose inappropriate actions” that would damage U.S.-Turkish relations.

After Pres. Reagan’s Proclamation of April 22, 1981 and the two House resolutions adopted in 1975 and 1984 acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish government had good reason to insist on language in the 1987 agreement to block any further acknowledgments of the Armenian Genocide.

The Turkish scheme worked! Breaking his pledge to the Armenian community, Pres. Bush successfully lobbied the Senate in 1990 to prevent the passage of a resolution on the Armenian Genocide.

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3 Comments

  1. Levon said:

    As mentioned in this article, the United States has already recognized the Armenian Genocide (three times).

    The U.S. congress recognized and then re-recognized the Armenian Genocide
    http://www.armenian-genocide.org/popup/affirmation_window.html?Affirmation=157
    http://www.armenian-genocide.org/popup/affirmation_window.html?Affirmation=158

    The U.S. executive branch (President) recognized the Armenian Genocide
    http://www.armenian-genocide.org/Affirmation.63/current_category.4/affirmation_detail.html

    So why are we still going after recognition? In fact, I think we are doing ourselves a disservice by going after genocide recognition and are indirectly invalidating the past recognition of the genocide.

    This should be a done deal. The United States recognized the Armenian Genocide over 30 years ago and anyone who says otherwise should be referred to the aforementioned resolutions and executive statements.

    Let’s assume for a moment that any one of the recent resolutions that passed subcommittee reached the house floor and passed. What would this really have accomplished? The State Department could still continue to go against the resolution and the President could still continue to evade using the word “Genocide” in his statements. More importantly, Turkey would still continue to deny the Genocide ever occurred and not one square inch of our lost lands or lira/dram/penny of our lost moneys would be returned by anyone.

    Yet, we continue to vote for and support politicians at all levels of government mostly because they state they are pro-recognition instead of electing them because they will help improve our standard of living or the standard of living in Armenia.

    We need to move on. The constant pursuit of Armenian Genocide Recognition at all costs is becoming a drain on our resources and keeps us from achieving real, tangible results.

  2. Katia K. said:

    I completely agree with Levon. If a victim knows exactly what happened to him, he does not go around convincing others to acknowledge what befell him… he goes after the perpetrator, puts the burden of proof on him, and works to get justice through the legal system. The three “big” countries that are still dragging their feet in recognizing our Genocide are the ALLIES of Turkey. They will keep on dragging their feet if that is what suits them politically. They do not care about justice for the Armenians; they only worry about their interests. We should forget about the idea of “big” countries doing the right thing and coming to our rescue; we know how that went in WWI. By not proceeding with our legal claims with Turkey, we are undermining and disrespecting 20 countries, more than 40 US states, and a large sector of renouned historians/scholars who have long ago acknowledged our Genocide. The world knows what happened to us. Everyone is probably intrigued as to why we are not officially going after Turkey. We should start pouring our resources into the preparation of a viable international case, supported by experts in the field. The recent UCLA convention is a great example of what we should be now engaged in with all our resources. Earlier this year, there was talk of a law suit against Turkey for lost property/possessions. Mark Guiragos was one of the lawyers. We did not hear again about how that attempt faired?….
    Our claims are legitimate. They have to do with a past crime that was not legally punished. The case for personal material loss has nothing to do with the relationship or normalization attempts between today’s Armenia and Turkey. However, it will only be taken seriously at the International level if it is officially presented by Armenia. We should be putting a “universal” Armenian committee together, with representatives of the Diaspora, Armenia and Artsakh working specifically on how best to proceed with our legal claims with one voice and within the Armenian legislature.

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