BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
With all guns blazing, the Washington Post in an editorial on Friday condemned senators Barbara Boxer and Robert Menendez for placing a hold on Matt Bryza’s confirmation as the next US ambassador to Baku, saying the “two Democrats risk US interests by blocking” what the paper calls “a top-notch State Department diplomat.”
Entitled “A Toxic Hold: Two Democratic Senators Block an Ambassador—At the Expense of US Interests,” the editorial also goes out of its way to discredit and tarnish the work of the Armenian National Committee of America, and in a bizarre leap, it is essentially blaming the ANCA for instability in the Caucasus.
The Post accuses Boxer and Menendez of “pandering” presumably to the Armenian electorate. Yet the noxious tenor of the editorial clearly signals that the Post is doing the “Most Craven” pandering to the State Department.
Despite wide-spread support by the Armenian community during the 2008 elections, the Obama Administration, especially the State Department, has stepped up its fruitless efforts to marginalize the ANCA. The Washington Post editorial echoes the State Department’s anger and frustration at the grass-roots power of the Armenian-American community and by parroting the State Department’s skewed representation of Bryza, the venerable newspaper is diminishing its credibility as an influential and objective member of the Fourth Estate and it is disgracing its own status in its feeble attempt to push the ANCA out of the civic national discourse.
A regular and advanced search of the Washington Post archives of the past 60 days shows only one reference to Bryza and that is Friday’s scathing and unbalanced editorial. If Bryza’s nomination was such an important factor in advancing US interests, why then did the Post remain silent during the entire confirmation process?
The Post uses adjectives such as “top-notch” and “competent” to describe Bryza and without any effort to substantiate its claims the newspaper paints Bryza as “the American most likely to prevent more aggression.” Clearly the Post missed the episode where Bryza was quickly recalled to Washington after allegedly running a woman over in Moscow; or when the editor and writer of an article claiming that high-ranking Azeri government officials paid for Bryza’s wedding were brutally beaten and jailed by Azerbaijan without even a peep out of the esteemed US Ambassador nominee. And, what of his role as peace broker? It is common knowledge that Bryza’s not-so-diplomatic double-speak during his tenure as the US co-chair not only created confusion around the fragile peace process, but also angered government officials in the Caucasus and forced his fellow co-chairs to issue regular clarifications.
In defending Bryza’s wife Zeyno Baran as “an outspoken critic of the current Turkish government,” the Post neglects to highlight Baran serves on the editorial board of the Azeri Government funded “Azerbaijan Focus,” a journal published by the Center for Strategic Studies founded by Azeri President Ilham Aliyev. She joined on that board by Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, among other high-level Azeri officials. During the confirmation vote, Sen. Menendez was concerned about the potential conflict of interest that Baran’s position might pose due to her ties to the Azeri government, but the Washington Post chose not to address this matter.
The actions of Boxer and Menendez are praiseworthy because they extensively pursued clarifications from Bryza and when his position on issues of importance in the region did not satisfy the veteran legislators they took due action, instead of rubber-stamping the nomination. Boxer was one of the first senators to question US reaction after the Azeri military destroyed the Armenian cemetery in Djulfa. She was one of the first US legislators to travel to Armenia to assess its post-independence situation, so when she returned to the US she could make informed choices and decisions that not only were based on human rights considerations but also bolstered American interests in the region.
When I was a journalism student at Northeastern University in the late 80s, the Washington Post’s esteemed editor Ben Bradley addressed our class. His sage advice was that as journalists we should always seek out the facts before reporting them. It is shameful that today’s Washington Post has stooped so low that its editorial reeks of blatant collusion with the government—a sad reflection on the paper’s honored legacy.