BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
It was, indeed, a first for a US Secretary of State to visit Dzidzernagapert Armenian Memorial Monument. What was, indeed, puzzling about the visit was that it was dubbed a “private” visit by one of the most visible—public—officials in the world.
While in Yerevan, Hillary Clinton visited Dzidzernagapert, laid a wreath and paused for a moment of silence in what the US Embassy officially described as “a sign of respect for the 1.5 million Armenians who lost their lives in 1915.”
A curious and novel concept in diplomacy has emerged. A US secretary of state makes a very public and official visit to a country and opts to visit its most recognizable monument in “private.” I always thought a private visit was exactly that—private. It did not accompany photographs of her at the eternal flame, or videotape of her, in which she is heard to be in awe of Mount Ararat.
Does this mean that Hillary Clinton “privately” recognizes the Armenian Genocide but publicly—and officially—goes out of her way to deny it? Or, did she think that the mere gesture of visiting the monument would absolve the US from having to change course and actually recognize the Genocide. Truly you jest Madame Secretary!
Let’s contrast her “private” visit to a very public tour of the Schindler Factory Museum, which a news wire describes as capturing “in stark images and artifacts the suffering of Jews at the hands of Nazi Germany” two days before going to Armenia.
Her tour culminated in a very “public” announcement of a $15 million pledge by the US to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation to help finance an endowment to preserve and safeguard the remains of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
The pledge “illustrates the significance of the Auschwitz-Birkenau site, helps commemorate the 1.1 million victims who perished there, and demonstrates America’s commitment to Holocaust education, remembrance and research,” a State Department statement said.
“The preservation and continuation of Auschwitz-Birkenau is essential so that future generations can visit and understand how the world can never again allow a place of such hatred and persecution to exist. It is also an important educational tool to show those who doubt that the Holocaust ever existed that indeed, tragically, it did,” the state department statement said.
Two different messages in one trip. And, who said the US was inconsistent in its foreign policy?
Of course—and not surprisingly—the Armenian Assembly of America was quick to thank Clinton for her visit and failed to point out that the manner in which Clinton, the US Embassy and the State Department framed this historic visit completely diminished its broader significance to the specific issue of the Armenian Genocide and the broader issue of US’s commitment to human rights.
This dual-messaging approach, which was articulated by President Obama and is now being fostered by Secretary Clinton, creates dichotomies in US policy. Clinton visits Dizidzernagapert “in private,” yet the wreath she lays at the monument says that it is from “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.” In his April 24 message, President Obama is quick to point out that his personal beliefs on the Genocide have not changed, but falls short of setting the record straight.
This makes one wonder: Was Clinton’s Dzidzernagapert visit and her comments about Turkey’s failure in fulfilling the Armenia-Turkey protocols an effort to appease Armenia or an opportunity to articulate the current US posturing on Turkey?