BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Sorry if this article offends some people, but… tough! You say it, suggest it, speak it in any way, and you own it, with all its attendant ignominy!
Perhaps the first salvo of this fusillade of folly came from the former U.S. ambassador to Armenia, Richard Mills. In his farewell interview, he made a number of observations. Some were quite reasonable, yet others, such as his referring to ceding land for peace in Artzakh and attributing the oligarchic-monopolistic economic system that came into existence in Armenia to the Turco-Azeri blockade were off-the-charts ridiculous. But there were others too, some were overt – such as his endorsement of the Amoolsar (Amulsar) gold mine being developed by Lydian (an overseas investment company that has never mined before). He blithely ignored the projection that its toxic wastes will leach through the ground and end up in Lake Sevan in about a century, poisoning the most important body of water in the country!
But others were more subtle silly-stupid-suspicious statements: Mills said that “the U.S. government sees Armenia as a friend in the region”, with a “strong relationship” while understanding the “special relationship” with Russia, but also stating that the U.S. is “not expecting or pressing that Armenia veer away from” that relationship. Hmmm, sounds like a “the lady doth protest too much, methinks” kind of statement. Mills also credited civil society in the Republic of Armenia for successfully carrying out the uprising of last Spring, yet he also observes that assistance by the U.S. Embassy, the U.S. government, the EU and all of Armenia’s friends “who helped support and nurture civil society over the last 20 years did lay the groundwork and create the dialogue and discussion that ultimately led to the events of April-May.” Sound like he’s taking credit for the movement.
“Ultimately, what we want for Armenia is that it follow its own foreign policy” based on its being “a sovereign nation” and adding, “We just want to make sure that Armenia remains a sovereign country, free to make its own decisions” – all of this makes it sounds like he’s making these points to cover up that the reality is quite the opposite.
But Mills may have known what was coming and was trying to soften the blow of U.S. national security adviser John Bolton’s presumptuous, intrusive, and disruptive comments. In an interview with Radio Liberty, Bolton offered to sell U.S. arms to Armenia, intimated that Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act (which has largely prevented U.S. arms sales to Azerbaijan) might be dumped, all in the name of “preventing” regional instability through over-reliance on one major power (i.e. Russia). Plus, he was very strongly urged a quick resolution to the Artzakh issue and said he told Pashinian that “the Trump administration will enforce U.S. sanctions against Tehran “very vigorously” and that that the Armenian-Iranian border is “going to be a significant issue”. The thread tying all this together is Bolton’s decades-long desire to start a war with Iran, or at least cause another “regime change” there. He figures if the Republic of Armenia’s reliance on the lifeline provided by its border with Iran is reduced/minimized, then Washington can squeeze Yerevan to go along with whatever is being cooked up against Iran. It’s also worth observing that a few days after Bolton’s arms sales offer, Sweden offered to sell 10 fighter jets to the RoA. Coincidence or coordination?
Bolton is a howling war-monger, and something of an embarrassment to the U.S., both now and during his service in the second Bush administration. His comments, proposals, and (not-so-subtle) suggestions in and to Yerevan fit his confrontational, brusque, and arrogant style. He must think Pashinian mad if he believes the acting Prime Minster would take steps that would antagonize Russia.
Before moving to the U.S. for silly-stupid-suspicious statements (other than the obvious Trump ones which appear almost daily), there’s one more matter that is stirring things up in Yerevan, leading to much foolishness. There’s some kind of international LGBTQ conference planned for November, with rumors going around that it’s funded by Elton John as payback for his allegedly being disrespected during his visit to Yerevan last year. This has some people in a tizzy and calling for actions to counter such “anti-Armenian-national-values” and “anti-family-values” activities.
Spare me! What part of hating LGBTQ folks is a “national”, specifically Armenian, value? What kind of family values include domestic violence against wives and children? When will people learn that it’s no one ELSE’S business what anyone does with their private parts. The only time these types of issues do, and rightly should, spill into the public realm is when the state intrudes into this otherwise private realm, requiring political action to remedy such intrusions. Stop this divisive and human/civil rights violating foolishness, Armenians and our homeland don’t need it. Just live and let live, enshrined in law.
It seems the RoA’s Culture Ministry has invited everyone to participate in a public discussion of the idea to rename Zvartnotz Airport after Charles Aznavour. Stop! The guy just died. Let his legacy be digested and then let’s start naming things in his honor. Separately, it seems tacky to me that in a country as small as Armenia, where pretty much everyone entering goes through the airport, should have its point of entry be named after a person. It just seems off, tacky. This is reminiscent of the renaming of National Airport in Washington, DC after Ronald Reagan, while he was still alive. I’ll also point to what happened to Burbank Airport, renamed after Bob Hope, and subsequently changed to “Hollywood Burbank Airport” in what strikes me as a bit of an insult to the noted actor. But might not the same happen to Aznavour?
Now, on to the U.S. It’s unfortunate that an Armenian running for congress feels the need to stoop to making ridiculous accusations against Armenians and Armenian organizations, just to draw some attention to his failing and flailing candidacy. This is done either directly by him or supporters, largely on Facebook. It’s degrading for him and embarrassing for our community since he is not a viable candidate and his incumbent opponent is Adam Schiff who has been extremely supportive of Armenian issues. While it’s laudable that he chose to run as a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic district keeping alive at least a semblance of a race and campaign of opposing ideas, at this point, Johnny Nalbandian is doing a disservice to himself, his congressional district, and the Armenian community at large.
The last silly-stupid-suspicious statement I’ll address appeared in the LA Times in a letter to the editor from an Armenian who lives just a little north of the 28th Congressional District discussed in the previous paragraph. In it, he belittles the plight of those in the caravan of Central American migrants wending their way to the U.S.-Mexico border. He “challenges” them to demonstrate their conditions are as woeful as those of our ancestors during the Genocide, as if suffering is a competition. Luckily, he received a fitting response from another reader a few days later. What that response did not include is a reference to the poem “American Colossus” (of which a friend reminded) by Emma Lazarus now mounted inside the Stature of Liberty’s pedestal which reads in part, “”Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.”
Please help end this season of silly-stupid-suspicious statements by pushing back against them in all forms and forums. Speak up and denounce such damaging blather.