GLENDALE–The Armenian Revolutionary Federation marked its 119th anniversary during a celebration event organized by the Central Committee of the ARF-Western USA. More than 1,500 community members flocked to the Glendale High School auditorium to witness a resurgence of the ARF’s commitment to fight for justice and the rights of the Armenian nation.
The event’s keynote speaker, Armenian National Committee of America Chairman Ken Hachikian, outlined the threats facing the Armenian nation as a result of the Armenia-Turkey protocols and the imperative for Armenian unity in opposition of these dangerous documents.
Below are his remarks:
A few weeks ago, I spoke in Pasadena, at our Hai Tahd (Armenian Cause) banquet, about the stakes facing our nation.
Today, once again, gathered among friends to mark a milestone in the proud history of a great organization, I would like for us to take a moment to step back.
— To speak less in general terms, and more about concrete challenges.
— To pause for a moment to review the truly dramatic developments of the past year.
— To understand the dynamics that have brought us to this dangerous crossroads.
— And to draw intelligent lessons from this experience and, inspired by our principles and our enduring faith in our cause, to chart together the best path forward for our community and nation.
The need for a sober review – and thoughtful community dialogue – on the issues facing our nation is certainly in keeping with the best traditions of our organizational legacy, and reflects, in powerful ways, the remarkable spirit of service and sacrifice embodied by all of you.
And, so, let us turn to this examination:
Last year, toward the end of summer, Turkey’s leaders saw two potentially game-changing developments on the horizon.
First, they saw that decades of Armenian American investments in advocacy, elections, and education would, very likely, bear fruit in the election of Barack Obama – a new U.S. Senator with a strong record of support for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
They saw, as well, that he would – in his cabinet and in the leadership of Congress – very likely be joined by others who support our aims.
This was, it must be stressed, not due to good fortune, but rather a generation of planned, concerted, and coordinated Hai Tahd work on Capitol Hill, along hundreds of campaign trails, and in the political trenches across the United States.
These friendships were forged from hard work by our activists across the country.
Turkey and its allies here in America, seeing this, feared that President Obama would alter – at Ankara’s expense – the sensitive balancing act known as U.S.-Turkey relations.
They were nervous that an outside-the-beltway Chief Executive – someone who had not been worked over or bullied for years by the Turkish lobby – might have the audacity to reject the gag-rule they had long imposed on American leaders.
This fear, of course, was less about one candidate – or even one president – and more about Turkey’s concern that the Armenian American community would finally succeed in tipping the scales in Washington in favor of a truthful and just stand on the Armenian Genocide.
All the signs pointed in this direction: Senator Obama’s attacks on the Bush Administration’s denials, his ardent defense of Ambassador Evans, and his repeated campaign pledges – from before the California primary and leading right up until days before the general election.
As was reported widely in the American and Turkish media at the time, Turkey’s leaders were deeply worried that they might be unable to prevent an Obama White House from recognizing the Armenian Genocide – their #1 priority with the U.S. government.
And on this point, let there be no mistake. This is their #1 priority in Washington, as measured by any meaningful standard:
— Their allocation of lobbying dollars and political capital
— Their meetings, public statements, publications, websites, and diplomatic activity
By any measure, preventing the international isolation that would start with U.S. recognition represents Turkey’s raw nerve.
This is not my view, but rather the perception of Turkey’s governing elite – as demonstrated and reflected by its own conduct.
Why, some still ask – some even within our own community – would Turkey, a major NATO power, care so much about Armenia – a small republic – or, more importantly, fear her dispersed Diaspora?
Too often, these questions are posed by those among our community – who, for lack of confidence or vision – fail to appreciate our own power – the power of truth, the strength of our moral stand, and the influence of our organized advocacy.
The answer, very simply, is because Turkey’s leaders know that a truthful and just resolution of the Armenian Genocide threatens their grip on power and the very foundations of the Turkish Republic.
Truth and justice – and our energetic and sophisticated advocacy of these values – represent a clear and present danger for Turkey’s leaders:
— They threaten their perceived prerogative to remain perpetually belligerent toward Armenia and repressive toward their citizens of Armenian heritage.
— They threaten their ability to keep what they have stolen, to consolidate their crime, and erase forever even the memory of the genocide.
As we all saw at the time, the threat posed by the Armenian American community’s role in the 2008 elections came into increasingly sharp focus for Turkey’s leaders as the prospect grew stronger of an Obama victory.
They were faced with the possibility of a new President, who – along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – could loosen or even break Turkey’s choke hold on U.S. policy on the Armenian Genocide.
Now, let’s turn to the second danger on the horizon.
A very different kind of threat. One, in fact, of Turkey’s own making.
Over the past several years it became increasingly clear to leaders in Ankara that their new foreign policy direction – on Iraq, Iran, Israel and a host of other issues – would seriously limit their ability to employ their traditional methods – basically threats and blackmail – of coercing U.S. policymakers into silence on the Armenian Genocide.
We all have watched this pattern as it has developed:
— Warmer Turkish ties with regional U.S. rivals: Iran, Russia, and Syria.
— Increasing Turkish friction with Israel and the Jewish American community.
— Turkey’s refusal to cooperate on U.S. energy and other regional priorities.
All of these on top of the legacy of Turkey’s refusal, in 2003, to allow the U.S. to open a northern front in the Iraq war.
Tension in each of these areas limited Ankara’s ability to rely solely on bullying, its tactic of choice for the past several decades, in managing the U.S. position on the Armenian Genocide.
As we approached the 2008 elections, Turkey’s leaders saw the need to shift tactics. Not strategy and clearly not intentions, but rather tactics.
More than ever, Turkey’s interests remain in blocking recognition of the Armenian Genocide and preventing a truthful and just resolution of this still unpunished crime.
Calling on their diplomatic tradition, Turkey’s leaders adapted to changing times and responded intelligently (although certainly not morally) to these new circumstances.
They feared that, unless they took dramatic steps, the new terms of U.S.-Turkey ties under a President Obama might no longer allow them to exercise a veto on their #1 Washington, DC priority: Preventing U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
They saw that these two approaching dangers created a major window of vulnerability for its campaign of denial in the United States.
The window would open on Inauguration day, continue through the President’s first April 24th in office, and most likely close by April 24, 2010.
To compensate for this weakness, Turkey shifted, in late 2008, away from a strategy of outright threats toward one that relied upon creating the pretense of Turkish dialogue with Armenia.
— One that did not pressure the U.S. to avoid recognition with threats
— But rather one that counseled non-recog
nition in the name of “peace”
Which brings us to the key moment in this process.
The turning point that defines both the challenges we face and the opportunities we have missed.
Very simply, Turkey could not make this shift on its own.
Our advocacy and Turkey’s own actions had sufficiently undermined Ankara’s credibility on Armenian issues such that a unilateral declaration of dialogue on its part would appear like another cynical ploy.
To create their illusion, Turkey needed Armenia’s cooperation.
More specifically: In order to dodge the greatest threat of U.S. recognition in more than a generation in the months following President Obama’s inauguration, Ankara needed the public buy-in of Yerevan.
Yerevan’s assent represented a necessary ingredient of the illusion Turkey needed to create for the U.S., Europe, and the rest of the international community.
They needed Armenia essentially as little more than a “prop” in their play.
And this, sadly, is exactly what they got.
The Armenian government – on Turkey’s timeline and in accord with Ankara’s interests – went right along.
Rather than standing strong and, in so doing, standing to harvest the fruits of Diasporan efforts spanning generations, Armenia simply took Turkey’s bait.
They bought into soccer diplomacy, into the Roadmap signed in the dark of night, and the one-sided Turkey-Armenia Protocols, that are today before the Armenian and Turkish parliaments.
They jumped at Turkey’s first offer
An offer with the obvious aim of ensuring the continued success of Turkey’s campaign of Armenian Genocide denial in Washington, despite the serious vulnerabilities presented by the election of Barack Obama and Ankara’s increasing tension with the U.S. over foreign policy priorities.
This was – as we warned at the time and as is painfully obvious today – a major error by Armenia.
The results are as clear as they are dangerous:
Ankara is using the Protocols’ “process” to manage the new Obama Administration and the growing tensions caused by its increasing independence from Washington in a way that both preserves its prerogatives to act against U.S. interests on Iran, Israel, Russia, and other issues while, at the same time, preventing the U.S. from recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
Turkey emerges as a clear winner.
It’s a win-win for Ankara and a lose-lose proposition for all Armenians.
Turkey dodges U.S. recognition, secures commitments from Armenia for a commission of historians and the confirmation of false borders, and, at the same time, generates new and powerful pressure on Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh for a pro-Azerbaijani settlement that threatens the security of all the Armenians of the region.
Armenia – a year into Soccer Diplomacy – has truly received nothing in return.
Nothing except a set of Protocols and a proposed Madrid settlement that would:
— Surrender the rights of the Armenian nation
— Silence the voice of Armenians worldwide
— Sacrifice the security of the Armenian state
— Cede vast areas of Nagorno Karabakh for empty Azeri promises
The lessons of this experience are twofold.
The first is that Armenia must develop a foreign policy that, rather then advancing the interests of elites and oligarchs, reflects the true interests of Armenia and embraces the national democratic aspirations of the Armenian people. Sadly, the current Foreign Ministry of Armenia has not demonstrated the ability to do so.
The second is that – in the international arena – the force of our advocacy has been the single greatest driver of the rights, interests, security, and future of the Armenian people.
Our advocacy effort – built over the course of generations – today empowers us to stand strong on the world stage.
— To stand up for truth and justice, and against Turkey’s “historical commission.”
— To stand up for freedom and liberty, and against the surrender of Nagorno Karabakh.
— To stand up for real peace, and against surrender to foreign pressure.
Our Hai Tahd movement engages and unifies our community around these shared values and the commonly held goals of the Armenian nation:
— A just resolution of the Armenian Genocide
— A strong, secure, democratic, and prosperous Armenia
— A free and independent Nagorno Karabakh
We are devoted to broadening our consensus around each of these issues and remain deeply devoted – as we have always been – to the cause of unity in the pursuit of our aims.
We recall – with a profound awareness of our generation’s historical mission – the powerful words of our great poet Yegishe Charents, who wrote that the true salvation of the Armenian people lies in our collective power – in our collective unity.
Charents wrote these words – at the cost of his own freedom – more than seven decades ago, but they ring just as true today as ever. His wisdom is reconfirmed by each trial and every challenge we face as a nation.
We must, in the weeks and months ahead, grow larger and stronger – bringing an ever-increasing circle of Armenians into our work and the sacred cause of our proud and ancient nation.
In our unity we will find strength.
We’ve seen this in our community’s broad rejection of the Protocols.
Just as we have, for so many years, seen the value of unity in our work in defense of Armenia’s rights and Nagorno Karabakh’s freedom.
For, let there be no mistake, we are, as a community and a nation, unified on the core issues facing our nation.
We have – despite the manipulations of foreign powers, or even the obstructionism that sadly still persists among a handful of misguided self-seekers within our community – a powerful consensus on our main challenges.
We seen this time and again – our community united behind a common purpose, yet still subject to foreign attacks – typically through proxies – aimed at undermining our unity and playing divide and conquer games at our expense.
We saw this in:
— Our defense of Section 907
— Our attack on the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission
— Our opposition to the Hoagland nomination
And, once again, today on the Protocols and the Madrid Principles.
It is our nation’s true unity that we must both strengthen and serve.
We must, with our full resolve, reject the forces that would divide us and – with equal vigor – resist the temptation to endlessly chase the false unity that would require us to seek the consent of every opportunist or that would provide the lapdogs of foreign interests veto power over Armenian interests.
We must, rather, seek the true unity of common purpose, of collective values, and of a common vision of our Armenian future.
It is into this unified effort that I invite you.
To join in our work – our struggle – as a unified nation. Only by working together, will we persevere and prevail. And make no mistake, we will do so.