BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
Who can forget the gripping video plea President Obama’s National Security team member Samantha Power issued during the 2008 election calling on Armenian-Americans to vote for Obama, because, if elected president, he will recognize the Armenian Genocide.
We all know how that shaped up!
Fast forward two and a half years, and Power, who has been behind the curtains since the inauguration, has emerged as the Administration’s conscience on advancing human rights issues. In a recent profile in the New York Times, Power emerged as the architect of Obama’s nationally televised policy speech on the US/NATO involvement in Libya.
The New York Times piece by Sheryl Gay Stolberg painted her as the foremost authority on human rights in the Obama Administration. Rightfully so, since her book “A Problem from Hell,” which won her a Pulitzer Prize, focused on the consequences of world powers turning a blind eye—or a deaf ear—to atrocities around the world, including the Armenian Genocide.
Stolberg quoted Human Rights Watch executive director, Kenneth Roth as saying: “She is clearly the foremost voice for human rights within the White House, and she has Obama’s ear.”
For Powers to make the argument that if America did not intervene in Libya it would be a “stain on our collective conscience,” demonstrates her and President Obama’s willingness to avert a situation, which might become another full-blown Genocide.
We can all recall Power’s poignant role in Carla Garapedian’s searing documentary “Screamers,” in which Power sets the tone for the message that everyone should become a “screamer” for human justice.
So, where has that advocacy gone on the Armenian Genocide issue? Is it collecting dust along with her Pulitzer Prize that put her on the map?
As an observer—and a participant—in the 2008 Obama campaign, I was taken by his uncanny conviction for doing the right thing. After all, no other candidate in recent history had reiterated his commitment to Armenian Genocide recognition as late in the process as the Friday before the 2008 election.
What we’ve seen in the last two years is back-peddling by the president. All of a sudden, the campaign pledge that “As President, I will recognize the Armenian Genocide,” became Obama’s “personal belief,” and Secretary Clinton’s visit to Dzidzernagapert became a “personal visit” for the most high-ranking US official to visit Armenia since its independence in 1991.
What was most disappointing for the Armenian-American electorate was that not only did Obama renege on his campaign pledge he also enthusiastically championed the dangerous and now doomed Turkey-Armenia protocols, giving Turkey another lever by which it can delay the recognition of the Genocide.
This is the same president who stood in the Turkish Parliament, and alongside his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul, and called on the Turks to come to terms with their past, as the Americans have done with their atrocious human rights record.
“Now, from her perch on the National Security Council, she is in a position to make that case to the commander in chief — and to watch him translate her ideas into action,” wrote Stolberg in her New York Times piece.
Indeed, Power is—and has been—in a position to make that case to the president, not only on Libya, but also on his failure not just to honor a campaign pledge but to advocate justice and human rights by properly acknowledging the Armenian Genocide.
The question remains: does Samantha wield the power to set Obama on the right course?
In announcing his reelection bid last week, Obama posed the simple question “Are you in?” Well, Mr. President, the Armenian-American electorate is not “in” yet, but hopes you will honor your campaign pledge and do the right thing.