WASHINGTON–DC–The 2004 Armenian American Presidential Report Card–issued on Tuesday by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA)–gave the George W. Bush Administration low marks for its record of broken promises–neglect–and opposition to more than a dozen issues concerning Armenian American voters.
The ANCA Report Card covers fifteen broad policy areas–beginning with the President’s broken campaign pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide–and extending through more than three years of policy toward Armenia–the Caucasus–and the surrounding region. While highlighting certain positive steps by the Bush Administration–the Report Card–nevertheless–reveals an Administration that has fallen far short of the Armenian American community’s expectations.
"Armenian Americans were profoundly disappointed by President Bush’s decision–only three months after taking office–to abandon his campaign pledge to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide," said ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian. "Since then–sadly–the record shows that the President has broken other commitmen’s to our community–most notably to maintain parity in US military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan–and has actively opposed key issues of concern to Armenian Americans."
ANCA PRESIDENTIAL REPORT CARD:
BROKEN CAMPAIGN PLEDGE TO RECOGNIZE THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
Almost immediately after taking office–President Bush abandoned his campaign pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Made in February of 2000 as Texas Governor–the promise was widely distributed among Armenian Americans prior to the hotly contested Michigan primary. It read–in part:
"The twentieth century was marred by wars of unimaginable brutality–mass murder and genocide. History records that the Armenia’s were the first people of the last century to have endured these cruelties. The Armenia’s were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies comprehension and comman’s all decent people to remember and acknowledge the facts and lessons of an awful crime in a century of bloody crimes against humanity. If elected President–I would ensure that our nation properly recognizes the tragic suffering of the Armenian people."
Rather than honor this promise–the President–in his annual April 24th statemen’s–has consistently used evasive and euphemistic terminology to avoid describing Ottoman Turkey’s systematic and deliberate destruction of the Armenian people by its proper name–the Armenian Genocide.
OPPOSITION TO THE CONGRESSIONAL GENOCIDE RESOLUTION
The Bush Administration is actively blocking the adoption of the Genocide Resolution in both the House and Senate. This legislation (S.Res.164 and H.Res.193) specifically cites the Armenian Genocide and formally commemorates the 15th anniversary of United States implementation of the UN Genocide Convention. The Genocide Resolution is supported by a broad based coalition of over one hundred organizations–including American Values–the NAACP–National Council of Churches–Sons of Italy–International Campaign for Tibet–National Council of La Raza–and the Union of Orthodox Rabbis.
FAILURE TO CONDEMN TURKEY’S DENIAL OF THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
The Bush Administration has failed to condemn Turkey’s recent escalation of its campaign to deny the Armenian Genocide. Notably–the Administration has remained silent in the face of the decree issued in April of 2003 by Turkey’s Education Minister–Huseyin Celik–requiring that all students in Turkey’s schools be instructed in the denial of the Armenian Genocide.
The State Department’s 2003 human rights report on Turkey uses the historically inaccurate and highly offensive phrase "alleged genocide" to mischaracterize the Armenian Genocide. In addition–despite repeated protests–the Bush Administration’s State Department continues to host a website on Armenian history that fails to make even a single mention of the Genocide. (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5275.htm)
THE WAIVER OF SECTION 907 OF THE FREEDOM SUPPORT ACT
The Bush Administration–in 2001–aggressively pressured Congress into granting the President the authority to waive Section 907–a provision of law that bars aid to the government of Azerbaijan until it lifts its blockades of Armenia and Karabagh. President Bush has subsequently used this authority to provide direct aid–including military assistance–to the government of Azerbaijan–despite their continued violation of the provisions of this law.
REDUCTION IN AID TO ARMENIA
In the face of the devastating–multi-billion dollar impact of the Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades on the Armenian economy–President Bush has–in each of the past three years–proposed to Congress that humanitarian and developmental aid to Armenia be reduced.
ABANDONMENT OF THE MILITARY AID PARITY AGREEMENT
The Bush Administration abandoned its November 2001 agreement with Congress and the Armenian American community to maintain even levels of military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan. Instead–the Administration–in its fiscal year 2005 foreign aid bill–proposes sending four times more Foreign Military Financing to Azerbaijan ($8 million) than to Armenia ($2 million). This action tilts the military balance in favor of Azerbaijan–rewards Azerbaijan’s increasingly violent threats of renewed aggression–and undermines the role of the US as an impartial mediator of the Karabagh talks.
MISTAKEN LISTING OF ARMENIA AS A TERRORIST COUNTRY
The Bush Administration–through Attorney General John Ashcroft–sought–unsuccessfully–in December of 2002 to place Armenia on an Immigration and Naturalization Service watch list for terrorist countries. This obvious error was reversed only after a nation-wide protest campaign. Neither the White House nor the Department of Justice has apologized for the offense caused by this mistake.
NEGLECT OF US-ARMENIA RELATIONS
While the Bush Administration has maintained a formal dialogue with Armenia on economic issues through the bi-annual meetings of the US-Armenia Task Force–it has–as a matter of substance–failed to take any meaningful action to materially promote US-Armenia economic ties. Specifically–the Administration has not provided leadership on legislation–spearheaded by Congressional Republicans and currently before Congress–to grant Armenia permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status. Nor has the Administration initiated any steps toward the negotiation of a Tax Treaty–Social Security Agreement–Trade and Investment Framework Agreement–or other bilateral agreemen’s to foster increased US-Armenia commercial relations.
The President neither visited Armenia nor did he invite the President of Armenia to visit the United States.
FAILURE TO MAINTAIN A BALANCED POLICY ON MOUNTAINOUS KARABAGH
The Bush Administration–to its credit–took an early initiative to help resolve the Mountainous Karabagh issue in the form of the Key West summit meeting in 2001 between Secretary of State Powell and the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan. After Azerbaijan’s failure to honor its Key West commitmen’s–however–the Administration failed to hold Azerbaijan accountable for unilaterally stalling the Karabagh peace process.
INCREASED GRANTS–LOANS AND MILITARY TRANSFERS TO TURKEY
The Bush Administration has effectively abandoned America’s responsibility to link aid–loans–and arms transfers to Turkey’s adherence to basic standards for human rights and international conduct. The most notable example was the $8 billion loan package provided to Turkey in 2003 despite Turkey’s refusal to allow US forces to open a northern front during the war in Iraq.
TAXPAYER FINANCING OF THE BAKU-CEYHAN BYPASS OF ARMENIA
The Bush Administration is supporting American taxpayer subsidies for the politically motivated Baku-Ceyhan pipeline route that–at the insistence of Turkey and Azerbaijan–bypasses Armenia.
REFUSAL TO PRESSURE TURKEY AND AZERBAIJAN TO END THEIR BLOCKADES
The Bush Administration has not forcefully condemned the Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades as clear violations of international law–nor–outside of occasional public statemen’s–has it taken any meaningful steps to pressure the Turkish or Azerbaijani governmen’s to end their illegal border closures.
LOBBYING FOR TURKISH MEMBERSHIP IN THE EUROPEAN UNION
The Bush Administration has aggressively pressured European governmen’s to accept Turkey into the European Union–despite Turkey’s consistent failure to meet European conditions for membership–on issues ranging from the blockade of Armenia and the Armenian Genocide to the occupation of Cyprus and human rights.
DOWN-GRADING RELATIONS WITH THE ARMENIAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY
Breaking with the tradition of the last several Administrations–the Bush White House failed to reach out in any meaningful way to our nation’s one and a half million citizens of Armenian heritage. While the State Department–Pentagon and National Security Council maintained their long-standing policy-level dialogue with the Armenian American community leadership–the White House itself essentially neglected Armenian Americans as a political constituency. Perhaps the most telling example of this is that–during the course of the past three years–despite repeated requests–the President did not hold any community-wide meetings with the leadership of the Armenian American community–nor did his Secretary of State or National Security Advisor.
ARMENIAN AMERICAN APPOINTMENTS
The President appointed Joe Bogosian to an important Deputy Assistant Secretary position at the Commerce Department–John Jamian to a key maritime position in the Department of Transportation–and Samuel Der-Yeghiayan as a Federal Judge in the Northern District of Illinois.