Truth, Lies and Foreign Policy

war_roomHere’s a thought:

America’s foreign policy should be a democratic expression of our shared right as citizens to govern all aspects of our nation’s affairs.

All too often, however, the formulation of our nation’s international policies – the very stands that define each of us on the world stage – takes place far outside the American civic arena, inside a largely opaque and highly insulated process run by a relatively small circle of foreign policy experts.  Far too many of these officials closely covet their power and jealously guard against what they, rather self-servingly, call outside interference, but what we know is really just the free exercise by American citizens of our Constitutional rights.

That’s the theory.  Here is an example of its practical application.

Consider an issue close to all our hearts: U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide, a vital issue that speaks to American moral leadership and directly impacts the future security of Armenia.

American civil society has spoken loud and clear in support of this cause, yet our government continues – against all facts and morality – to remain complicit in Turkey’s denial of this crime.

The gap between what Americans believe and what the American government – under both Democratic and Republican leaders – actually does on this matter simply couldn’t be greater.

Look at the facts:

One president after another has sought the votes of American citizens (not, in the age of Darfur, just Armenians) by promising to recognize the Armenian Genocide, yet backed away once in office.

Clear bipartisan Congressional majorities support the Armenian Genocide Resolution, yet these elected officials are not given a chance to vote for this measure.

Forty-two U.S. states have recognized the Armenian Genocide, most recently President Obama’s home state of Hawaii, as have countless cities and towns, yet our Federal government remains silent.

The International Association of Genocide Scholars and every other credible academic association has called for U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and the history of this crime is taught in thousands of school districts across the United States, yet our national policy still reflects the thoroughly discredited “let the historians decide” approach to this issue.

The anti-Darfur Genocide movement, which encompasses millions of Americans, understands that fighting denial is a key to ending the cycle of genocide, and has made U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide a priority, yet this message has yet to make a difference in White House policy.

President Obama, at a moving April 23rd Holocaust remembrance in the U.S. Capital, condemned the denial of this horrific crime, calling on all Americans to prevent future atrocities by “fighting the silence that is evil’s greatest co-conspirator,” and yet, the very next day, he himself remained silent on the Armenian Genocide.

Just who is holding back this tide of civil society, public policy, grassroots, human rights, and academic support?

Who is really behind the twisted idea that U.S recognition will be bad for America, as if covering up for genocide can ever be an American value or that caving in to foreign pressure can represent a U.S. interest.

The easy answer is Turkey, but that would require accepting that the United States, the world’s lone superpower, is allowing itself to be bossed around by an important, but ultimately second-rate, country.

The more accurate answer may be that a critical mass of the career officials running our foreign policy, while certainly impacted by Turkey’s threats, have, at an even deeper level, themselves accepted a warped but deeply engrained worldview that somehow considers accepting the truth of the Armenian Genocide to be bad for the United States.

That’s an intellectual and moral failing on their part of really remarkable proportions.

It also represents, however, a political failing on our part.

As Americans citizens, we are the owners of U.S. foreign policy, when we get it right and equally when we get it wrong.  And it is our responsibility to fix it when it gets off course, even if that means wrestling the reins away from those with great power and influence.

No excuse frees us from this responsibility.  No level of opposition justifies a retreat from our obligation to change flawed policies – especially related to genocide – that undermine our nation’s standing internationally and present such a direct danger to the entire world.

The reality, sad but true, is that, despite all the progress we’ve seen, we have yet to generate the political power needed to overcome the entrenched, heavily fortified, institutional resistance to changing how America deals with the Armenian Genocide.

The paths to this level of power are not easy.

Clearly, the foreign policy process itself is, in large part by design, very hard to influence, whether through direct dialogue, civil society activism, the media, coalition building, electoral participation, or even pressure from Congress.

Just as clearly, the opposition we face, domestic and foreign, is tremendously powerful.  We have, aligned against us, an All-Star team of some of the most powerful forces in Washington.  And they play tough.

In this highly challenging environment, heavily stacked as it is against change (particularly in confronting genocide), and facing highly influential adversaries, we must take our work to the next level.

We must fix a deeply flawed U.S. policy toward the Armenian Genocide, and all genocides, and set U.S.-Armenia relations on the right track.

This is an ambitious goal, but I know that with your help we are up to the test.

With your financial support during the May 31st ANCA Endowment Telethon, and your ongoing activism, we can continue the great and noble task of building the power to roll back the influence of those who have hijacked U.S. policy on the Armenian Genocide.  Together, we can deliver for all Americans a principled stand against genocide that we can all be proud to call our own.

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    First, I would like to tell you that you guys are doing a terriffic job. We have not failed yet, we just came across some road blocks. We fail when we give-up and stop trying. We just need to change our strategy, learn from our mistakes and press-on.

    For the past 94 years we have been doing the same thing and expecting different results. We should change our tactics/strategy. We need to have a LONG TERM PLAN. Get our youth involved in politics. Since my youth, my motto has been: “hachoghelou hamar vesdahil sepagan oujerout” this should be our national motto and stop trusting “odars”.

  2. John Bakalian said:

    Let’s all go to the White House for a citizen’s tour and sit on the floor in the great hall and not get up.
    We can have signs folded under our clothes that we can hold up. Let’s have an old fashioned Sit-In
    in the White House. President Obama can not be allowed to get away with his promising Armenians one thing when he needed our money and votes, and then do the opposite when he gets in office. Call the White House and demand President Obama to keep his promise and CALL IT A TURKISH GENOCIDE OF THE ARMENIAN PEOPLE and tell him to put back the 38% he cut from the Armenian relief monies from the new U.S. Budget (14,000,000, that’s all he cut, chump change). White House number: 202) 456-1111 Call today.

  3. Robert H. Ajamian said:

    Its time for all armenians to ask for our local,state,and federal taxes back from the united states government since 1915 with interest because we will not allow ourselves to be taxed for 94 years without representation.We need to get our message to the american people through tv,newspapers,and radio that our foreign policy is being manipulated by selfish special interests that don’t serve the interests of justice but for the profit of a few.Armenians should stop supporting odars, and keep our money among our people being self sufficient here in america to build wealth taking over government positions.We must own our own tv stations,and key industries to build fast wealth to take power to control our destiny.Armenians must stick together to over throw those who do our people harm.Armenians should be in every segment like food industry,military weapons,banking,auto factories,telecommunications,higher education,and all lucrative businesses to have enough money to buy our political seats.

  4. David Keoseyan said:

    Armenians are proud and generous people. We should stop asking financial help from American government for Armenia. Let Armenia reject any financial help from any government that does not recognize the Armenian Genocide.

    Asking financial help from United States for Armenia blurs The Armenian Genocide issue. Let us concentrate on The Armenian Genocide issue and reject any other type of help from United States government.

  5. Bruce Tasker said:

    Wonderful thinking Aram, on a host of central US recognition of Armenia’s Genocide issues;

    ‘We are owners of U.S. foreign policy'; … ‘our responsibility to fix it when it gets off course, even if that means wrestling the reins away from those with great power and influence'; …. ‘we have yet to generate the political power needed to overcome the entrenched, heavily fortified, institutional resistance to changing how America deals with the Armenian Genocide'; ….’We must fix a deeply flawed U.S. policy toward the Armenian Genocide’

    Your problem is you are addressing the wrong country and the wrong President. You are Armenian, and if I am not mistaken a senior figure in ANCA. You should know better than anybody that it was Armenia’s President Sargsyan and his MFA Nalbandian who ‘Sold Obama’s recognition of Armenia’s Genocide’, with assurances that they would resolve the problem with their Turkish counterparts, through their ‘Commission of Historians’.

    Obama would have been foolish, to say the least, if with the assurance he received from Armenia’s Nalbandian in the middle of the night of the 23rd April, he had formally recognized Armenia’s Genocide this 24th April; he would have been accused of destroying efforts by Armenia’s President and his MFA. The enormous cost an Obama recognition would have been to the US is of course an influencing factor, but I and many others believe that this US President was truly ready to pay that price on behalf of the American people, for the sake of his beliefs and his commitment to the Armenian people.

    Aram, I have written to the ANCA on numerous occasions, as a part of my year-long campaign to expose this Armenian (not American) problem, advising how Armenia’s President and his MFA have been planning massive personal gains in return for Armenia’s Genocide (and soon Karabakh). You should stop criticizing Obama and start looking seriously at cleaning your dirty and already stinking laundry at home. If you succeed with that, you will have done the right thing for ‘Your Country’ and for Armenia’s Genocide.

  6. Alex Postallian said:

    Lets create a fund for the Armenian Genocide to pay off the politicians,Thats the only answer to legitimatcy.We tried the right way it didnt work. THAT is WHAT the turks do.I will donate $100.

  7. Papken Hartunian said:

    Let us organize 100,000 people march in Washington for next April 24th. I donate 1,000.00 for this cause. Let do something against this Obama’s slap to our faces. If we cannot react to this obvious injustice, then forget about Armenian Genocide. Turkey was able to use Armenian Authorities to achive its goal. Let us stand up and declare that Turkey cannot keep all Armenians shut up.

  8. Mary Aljian Hamparian said:

    From: Manooshag
    It gratifies me to know that so many Armenians, generations removed from the Genocide of the Armenian nation by the Ottoman Turks, today maintain our covenant with those we lost 1896, 1915-1923. We have advanced to this point in our pursuit of justice (now even to gain an end to the cycle of all Genocides) upon the shoulders and the efforts of those surviviors who before us believed, never deviated in their commitment for Hai Tad. I am from the generation which did not have the computers et al to connect. So many meetings, including men and women, all walks of life – so many mailings, so many fund raisings. Then, the first march through the streets of the cities in 1965 lead by the Dashnagtztiun….(my daughter, too, in her carriage) through the streets of New York. After 50 years, now with their firstborns, marched together to shout out against Genocide. (Turks thought we’d disappear). Today, sadly, ‘political’ interests seem to detour any leaders away from the path to end Genocides when, in truth, the only way for leaders to face the elimination of any and all Genocides, is for ‘Morality’ to be addresssed – which today has been lost. Sadly. Manooshag
    P.S. Where, when will the next unopposed Genocide be? M

  9. Robert (Moscow) said:

    I think that American Armenians have one of the strongest positions in the US political spectrum. But the fact is that comparison between our homeland Armenia and diaspora gives us the picture of devided armenian world. This means that the armenian world as foreigners (americans,french,russians and etc.) perceive it consists of quite different sides of a coin. The genocide will be recognized by USA if we get much stronger Armenia equal to armenian diaspora. There is a huge gap between diaspora and Armenia in the aspect of power. And this is the core of our problems.

  10. Dikran Abrahamian said:

    Mr. Hamparian’s description of “institutional resistance” is probably accurate to the dot; however, the elements that are part of that resistance are depicted in very general and vague terms, lacking specifity. Hence, the argument for “fixing a deeply flawed U.S. policy toward the Armenian Genocide” lacks a target(s).

    He mentions the “powerful forces” aligned “against us”; but leaves it to the reader to define those “forces” which might not correspond to what Mr. Hamparian has in mind, except mentioning those who have “hijacked” US policy, which presumably, at least partly are foreign interests.

    Might I suggest that the answer may lie exactly in the opposite direction, i.e. the foreign interests cementing the institutional pillars of America? Why don’t we have a look at that possibility and address crucial strategic issues of how Armenians should accordingly conduct their affairs?

    A war chest is only useful when the targets are clearly defined and achievable; otherwise, it is waste of talent, time, energy and financial resources.