DETROIT – When President George W. Bush slapped the Democratic controlled Congress at a nationally televised news conference for failing to send him legislation for his signature and enactment, he also slapped America’s Armenian community.
And it was a foul chilling slap at the slaughtered victims of the Armenian genocide, and the survivors who found refuge in the Diaspora.
For this American Armenian, Bush’s anti-Armenian attack was insulting – and an apology is in order to the Armenian people.
But don’t count on it. He’s embedded himself with Talaat Pasha’s ghost and present-day Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
At the news conference, Bush slammed the U.S. House for wasting its time by meddling in the affairs of the old Ottoman Empire, asserting they should be more cognizant of Turkey’s role as a NATO ally and as a friend of America in the war against terrorism.
In a phone conversation on Oct.5 he told the Turkish prime minister that he strongly opposed the genocide resolution in Congress.
That public announcement fueled the Turkish lobby with the ammunition it needed to ward off a House vote on the genocide resolution. While Bush’s blind Republican allies rallied in his support, some ranking liberal House Democrats also deserted U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi and her party’s leadership push for a floor vote.
Though now stalled by Bush’s ploy at playing the fear card, American Armenia’s should not back off in the resolution campaign. And retaliate by not supporting or contributing to any federal office candidate in the 2008 elections that agrees with Bush’s double-talk over the genocide question.
I would be the first to agree that Bush has the presidential power to rap Pelosi and the House majority Democrats over their anti-war position in Iraq and other positions that rile the president.
That’s politics, even though all national public polls on the war in Iraq support the Democrats in calling on Bush to get our troops out of that civil war ravaged country.
While Bush still ignores the call to get out of Iraq, Democrats also have every right to slam the Republican president for waging a war triggered by false intelligence that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction, and had sought uranium from Africa to build a nuclear bomb.
Whether one agrees with Bush or opponent Democrats is not an issue with me nor should it be with any American Armenian.
When Bush lambasted the Democratic-controled Congress that it was wasting time in the meddling of old Ottoman Empire issues, his foul message should have struck a nerve with Armenia’s across America, though it was cheered by the corrupt, nationalist government that dictates Turkish policies in its continuing denial that the murder of more than one million Armenia’s 1915-20 was an act of genocide.
I also recognize that some American Armenia’s, mostly those who embrace the right-wing policies of Bush, will disagree with me that Bush needs to apologize to the Armenian people.
First and foremost in a Feb. 19, 2000 letter to two leading Armenian political activists, in Detroit and New York, Bush said that "the Armenia’s were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies comprehension and comman’s all decent people to remember and acknowledge the facts and lessons of an awful crime."
In that same letter Bush stated it loud and clear: "If elected president, I would ensure that our nation properly recognizes the tragic suffering of the Armenian people."
Bush also made reference that the 20th century was marred by wars , mass murder and genocide. And that "the Armenia’s were the first" to endure those crimes against humanity.
The lengthy letter , with a George W. Bush for President heading, was promoted by the Bush campaign to get a large contingent of Detroit area Armenia’s to attend a Feb. 20 , 2000 Bush rally at Lawrence Tech University. The public annoucement appealed to Michigan Armenia’s to "show our appreciation" to Bush for publicly acknowledging and recognizing the Armenian genocide.
The "important announcement" was also promoted by the Bush people in the Florida presidential vote, primarily for the knowledge of the Florida Armenian community. And we know how close that election was to help Bush edge Vice President Al Gore to win that state’s electoral votes and the national election.
It’s equally true that Democratic President Bill Clinton also turned his back on the Armenia’s in 2000 when he called GOP House Leader Dennis Hastert of Illinois to remove a resolution on the genocide scheduled for a floor vote.
Republican Hastert seized that opportunity.
Passage of the genocide resolution was assured, but Clinton caved in to the blackmailing Turks and pro-Turkish corporates on Wall Street.
And sadly, Democrats failed to denounce Clinton’s shameful action.
But Bush’s lie to the Armenian people came in a signed letter used to win him the presidency. I must confess. I also voted for Bush because of his stand on the genocide issue.
If I appear outraged, I am. Not because he lied to the Armenian people. That seems to be the norm with Presidents Clinton and Bush.
My anger is that in a nationally televised news conference, President George W. Bush took Congress to task for meddling in the affairs of the old Ottoman Empire. His choice of using the expression that to seek justice over the forgotten genocide was "meddling" was a shameful play of words.
I wish Bush was with me when I journeyed through historical Turkish-occupied Armenia in 1969 to the once populated Armenian cities of Sepastia, Erzeroum, Van, Moush, Bitlis, Keghi, Kharpet and the villages along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. All we found were the ruins of a nation that suffered the first genocide of the 20th century.
While running for president, he said it was "genocide." Now he chastises Congress for meddling in the affairs of Talaat and Ottoman Turkey.
By that smear, the president was telling the world that for Congress to seek passage of a genocide resolution was an affront to present-day Turkey.
But Mr., President, in your letter of Feb. 19, 2000 you publicly pledged that if "elected president," you would ensure that our nation properly recognizes the genocide of the Armenian people.
Now we know the truth. You lied.
Mitch Kehetian is a columnist for the suburban Macomb Observer, and retired editor of the Macomb Daily. He was honored last year with a "lifetime achievement award" by Wayne State University.