*Unprecedented national grassroots drive urges five major presidential candidates to condemn Turkey’s Genocide denial.
WASHINGTON–As the one year countdown begins for the 2000 presidential elections–the Armenian National Committee of America Thursday launched a million postcard campaign–calling on the five leading presidential candidates to support official US recognition of the Armenian Genocide and to condemn Turkey’s shameful campaign to deny this crime against humanity.
The ANCA grassroots network of regional offices–local chapters–and activists has already begun distributing the five-postcard sets to Armenian Americans in more than forty states. ANCA chapters will begin collecting signatures beginning as early as the weekend of November 6th at churches–centers–community events–and through direct mail and the Internet. Each postcard set includes messages addressed to Vice President Al Gore (D)–Arizona Senator John McCain (R)–former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley (D)–Texas Governor George Bush (R)–and businessman Steve Forbes (R).
"We invite all Armenian Americans to be a part of our nationwide goal of sending a million postcards–calling on the leading presidential candidates to officially commemorate the Armenian Genocide and to bring an end – once and for all – to any complicity by the US government in Turkey’s shameful campaign of Genocide denial," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "This million postcard campaign is the first in a series of major initiatives designed to reach out to presidential and congressional candidates–educate Armenian American voters–and ensure that our community goes to the polls in record numbers throughout the primary season and on election day next November 7th."
Republican Candidates Largely Silent on Armenian Genocide
To date–none of the three leading Republican presidential candidates – George W. Bush–John McCain–or Steve Forbes – have either called for official US recognition of the Armenian Genocide or condemned Turkey’s efforts to erase from memory this century’s first genocide. Despite having received thousands of letters from Armenia’s across the country–Governor Bush has remained entirely silent on Armenian issues. This silence has fueled suspicion that his senior foreign policy advisors–many of whom have histories of working closely with the Turkish government and the Caspian oil industry–are steering him away from adopting a principled stand against Genocide denial.
Similarly–businessman Steve Forbes has failed to speak out on the Armenian Genocide and has yet to spell out his personal views on issues of special concern to Armenian American voters. He does–however–serve on the Board of Advisors of the Center for Security Policy–a Washington-based think tank which consistently attacks the political participation of Armenian Americans–while seeking to undermine US support for Armenia.
John McCain–by virtue of his service in the Senate–has a longer track record on Armenian issues than either Bush or Forbes. In 1990–Senator McCain voted and spoke out against Bob Dole’s Armenian Genocide resolution. More recently–in June of this year–he voted against the Section 907 restriction on direct US aid to the government of Azerbaijan. Apart from these two highly controversial votes–the Arizona senator has–at times–supported issues of concern to Armenian American voters.
The postcards to each of the three Republican candidates urge them to clearly and openly state their strong support for official US recognition of the Armenian Genocide and to forcefully condemn Turkey’s denials.
Bradley Calls for Turkish Recognition of the Armenian Genocide; Gore Remains Silent
The distinctions on the Democratic side are more pronounced than among the Republicans. Bill Bradley–in addition to his numerous statemen’s on the Senate floor during his eighteen years in office–explained in an April 24 statement this year that "We cannot alter the fact that 1.5 million Armenia’s died at the hands of a brutal enemy–and we cannot question that this tragedy can go by no name but Genocide." This July–during a nationally televised speech at the National Press Club–Bradley responded to a question from the ANCA on the Genocide–stating "I think–first of all–there was an Armenian Genocide–which has yet to be acknowledged by the Turkish Government. I think it is important that it be acknowledged. I think that facing one’s past is the only way that you get to a better future."
The postcards to Senator Bradley thank him for his principled stance–then urge him to "bring this same thoughtful and principled approach to defending Section 907; condemning the dual Turkish and Azeri blockades; advocating Nagorno Karabakh’s right to self-determination; and calling for increased US support for a secure–prosperous–and democratic Armenia."
In contrast–Vice President Gore has–during his seven years in the White House–consistently failed to appropriately recognize the Armenian Genocide or to condemn Turkey’s denials. Previously–as US senator from Tennessee–Gore voted in support of Bob Dole’s 1990 resolution to properly commemorate the Armenian Genocide. Since being elected vice president–however–Gore has retreated from this principled position. The postcards to Vice President Gore ask him directly–"Do you deny the facts of the Armenian Genocide? Are you afraid to speak the truth for political reasons? Or are there other reasons? One and a half million Armenian Americans deserve an answer." In 1998–the ANCA had organized a 100,000 postcard campaign to the vice president asking that he clarify his position on the Armenian Genocide.
Largest Ever Armenian American Grassroots Advocacy Drive
The unprecedented scope of the million postcard drive will engage hundreds of thousands of Armenian Americans – many not traditionally involved in political advocacy – in the cause of securing official US recognition and Turkish acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide.
The postcard campaign represents the first stage of the ANCA Vote 2000 campaign of voter education–candidate outreach–and get-out-the-vote efforts–which will extend through election day on November 7th of next year.
In addition to Genocide recognition–ANCA Vote 2000 will work toward increased US support for Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh–self-determination for Nagorno Karabakh–and the reduction of US weapons sales to Turkey.
Additional postcards may be obtained by contacting the Armenian National Committee chapter or Regional office in your area. You may also contact the ANCA office in Washington–DC by phone: (202) 775-1918 or by e-mail: [email protected]