Pres. Obama continues to disappoint the Armenian-American community. After breaking two promises in a row on key Armenian issues — not acknowledging the Armenian Genocide and proposing reduced U.S. aid levels to Armenia — he appoints Philip Gordon Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.
Dr. Gordon, a former Director of the Brookings Institution — a think thank partially funded by Turkish sources — has written several pro-Turkish books and articles. He has been an opponent of congressional acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide and a critic of Greek Cypriot leaders rather than the occupying Turkish forces. Gordon served in the Clinton administration as Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council. During the last presidential campaign, he served as head of the Europe team in Obama’s group of foreign policy advisers.
During his confirmation hearing by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the end of March, Gordon was grilled by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on his views on Armenian and Cypriot issues. Several Senators pointed out that Gordon’s answers contradicted Pres. Obama’s campaign promises. Little did the Senators know that a few weeks later the President himself would not keep his word on these issues! Sen. Menendez submitted over two dozen questions which were to be answered by the nominee in writing after the hearing.
Sen. John Ensign (R-Nevada) wrote a scathing letter to Gordon on April 7, expressing his dismay that the nominee, during his confirmation hearing, had used the word “tragedy” to refer to the Armenian Genocide. Sen. Ensign demanded to know if Gordon’s position on the Armenian Genocide was consistent with those of Pres. Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State Clinton all of whom, as Senators and presidential candidates, had strongly acknowledged the Armenian Genocide. Furthermore, referring to the early termination of the career of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans for saying Armenian Genocide, Sen. Ensign asked if Gordon would “discourage Ambassadors or other Foreign Service personnel from using the term ‘Armenian Genocide.'”
Sen. Ensign, not satisfied with Gordon’s answers, surprised everyone by placing a hold on his nomination, temporarily blocking his approval by the full Senate. However, just as surprisingly, Sen. Ensign lifted his hold, paving the way for Gordon’s Senate confirmation.
In the meantime, Gordon answered in writing all 28 questions sent to him by Sen. Menendez, even though his responses were evasive and non-responsive. Regardless of the nature of the question, he mindlessly repeated the same answer over and over again, using just about every word in the dictionary, except “Armenian Genocide,” to describe the mass killings of Armenians.
Only one of Gordon’s answers was particularly revealing, as he put the blame for the Armenian Genocide on the “officials and soldiers of the Ottoman Empire,” thus inadvertently acknowledging that it was a state sponsored genocide. Here is the verbatim text of that particular exchange:
Sen. Menendez: “Who was responsible for the death of over 1.5 million Armenians during WWI?”
Philip Gordon: “This administration, like those before it, does not deny the facts — 1.5 million Armenians were murdered, starved, or deported by civilian officials and soldiers of the Ottoman Empire, some of whom were sentenced to death for committing these crimes. The United States mourns this terrible chapter of history and recognizes that it remains a source of pain for the people of Armenia and of Armenian descent, and all those who believe in the dignity and value of every human life.”
Gordon also disclosed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Brookings had received a total of $700,000 from the following Turkish sources 2006-2008:
— $200,000 from the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association;
— $190,000 from Sabanci University;
— $150,000 from the Eksiogullari Group (construction company);
— $100,000 from the Dogan Yayin Holding Company (media-entertainment conglomerate);
— $30,000 from Nurol Construction and Trading Company;
— $30,000 from Hedef-Alliance Holding (Pharmaceutical Company).
A large number of pro-Turkish officials, such as Philip Gordon, can be found throughout the American government. Some of these Turkophiles are leftovers from the cold war era. Others, motivated by personal gain, serve in the government for a while, and then go to work at Washington Think Tanks, some partially funded from Turkish sources, or end up as lobbyists for Turkey.
Armenian-Americans will continue to face great resistance in their lobbying efforts from pro-Turkish elements in Washington — regardless of which party is in power and who is president — unless they can expand their political influence beyond Congress into the Executive Branch, Think Tanks and the media.