BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
It is a shame that the largest Armenian community in the Diaspora has failed to take advantage of Pres. Obama’s visits to California to protest his refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. Last October, when he traveled to Los Angeles and Glendale, not a single Armenian confronted him at his public appearances.
To make up for their negligence, Armenians in California have a golden opportunity to show that they are deeply troubled when the highest official of the land does not keep his pledge on the Armenian Genocide.
Pres. Obama will be in San Francisco on April 20 and in Los Angeles on April 21 – three days before the 96th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide – to launch his reelection campaign with major fundraisers publicized as “Obama Victory Fund 2012.”
During the next 18 months, Armenian-Americans should hold demonstrations at every one of the President’s campaign stops throughout the country until the November 2012 presidential election. This is an opportune moment to highlight the President’s lack of credibility, at a time when he is most vulnerable due to his low ratings, as he launches his reelection campaign.
Armenians do not need to beg the President to utter the words Armenian Genocide. A more popular head of state – Pres. Ronald Reagan – used those words on April 22, 1981, almost 30 years to the day of Pres. Obama’s visit to Los Angeles! The only reason to protest Obama’s visit would be to let him know that Armenians will no longer be duped when politicians make false campaign promises to gain their support, and ignore them after the election! The Armenian slogan for the 2012 presidential election should be: “Not one vote and not one penny for Obama!”
Here is the list of Pres. Obama’s multiple sins on Armenian issues:
1. He repeatedly pledged to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide during the 2008 presidential campaign and did not keep his word after the election.
2. To make matters worse, his administration actively opposed the adoption of the 2010 congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide.
3. He significantly cut the amount of foreign aid given to Armenia and Artsakh (Karabagh), contrary to his campaign promise. Moreover, his administration did not spend the full amount of aid Congress allocated to Artsakh.
4. He pressured Armenia in 2009 to sign the infamous “Protocols” with Turkey.
5. He made no attempts to press Turkey into lifting its blockade of Armenia.
6. He remained silent in the face of repeated saber-rattling by Azerbaijan’s President against Armenia and Artsakh, ignoring his campaign pledge to support Artsakh’s self-determination.
7. He and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not respond to repeated requests to meet with Armenian-American community leaders to hear their concerns.
8. Last Christmas, while the Senate was in recess, he circumvented the “hold” placed by U.S. Senators, and appointed Matt Bryza as Ambassador to Azerbaijan.
It is crucial that a large number of Armenian-Americans show up on April 20 and 21, not only to protest against the President, but also to publicize their demands through the media covering Pres. Obama’s visit. Should Armenians remain silent, they would be sending the wrong message to politicians that making empty promises to Armenians to get their money and votes, and ignoring them after the election would have no negative consequences to their political careers!
Armenians need to wake up from their lethargy. If they want elected officials to take them seriously, they must reward those who support their issues by helping to reelect them, and punish those who make false promises by working to defeat them.
A few days after his visit to California, Pres. Obama will issue his annual April 24 statement which will probably exclude once again the term Armenian Genocide. Armenian protesters must make it clear to the President that playing word games with genocide is offensive and that he will pay a political price for his unwillingness to tell the truth!
Pres. Obama will be in San Francisco on April 20, at 5 p.m., at the Nob Hill Masonic Center, 1111 California Street, and in Culver City on April 21, at 4:30 p.m., at the Sony Studios, 10202 W. Washington Blvd. Thousands of Armenians should show up at these two locations to protest Pres. Obama’s record of broken promises!
As a former Obama supporter, I will be standing outside the Sony Studios on April 21 to express my profound disappointment in his handling of Armenian issues and to let him know that Armenian-Americans will not support his reelection.