BY ARAM HAMPARIAN
So, what exactly are the rules governing the U.S. government’s gag rule prohibiting mention of the Armenian Genocide?
What precisely are the details and dictates of our own American version of Turkey’s Article 301?
President Obama, as a Senator, called President Bush’s refusal to recognize the Armenian Genocide “inexcusable,” and sharply criticized Secretary of State Rice for recalling Ambassador John Evans from Yerevan for speaking honestly about this genocidal atrocity. Yet President Obama today presides over a government that, by all accounts, would fire any of its diplomats who told the truth about this crime, by – for example, say – reading aloud the President’s own campaign statements promising to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Consider the rich and profoundly painful irony: President Obama came into office on a bold pledge of truth-telling, but once in the White House – having pocketed the votes of the Armenian American community in a series of tightly contested primary races – turned his back on his promise, effectively threatening to fire any diplomat or other government employee who actually lived up to his own campaign commitment.
Adding to the dramatic disconnect between this and past Administrations’ words and actions on the Armenian Genocide is the new revelation (via Wikileaks) that, despite all the hollow rhetoric about U.S. leaders pressing Turkey to genuinely accept the truth of its own history, behind closed doors, State Department officials are secretly sharing ideas with the Turkish government about how to most effectively prevent the elected representatives of the American people from speaking openly and honestly about this human rights issue. A recently released cable reveals that Matt Bryza – who was then the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, and has since been given a recess appointment as Ambassador to Azerbaijan – met with senior Turkish government official in March of 2007 and discussed the defeat of the Armenian Genocide Resolution. Read the story on this morally shocking, but – sadly – not very surprising revelation:
Which brings us back to the question: What exactly are the rules?
Who can get fired for mentioning the Armenian Genocide? An Ambassador, a lower level State Department employee, a top White House political or policy aide, or a simple entry-level administrative clerk? What about a contract employee?
What about an Armenian national who works for the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan? Would he or she be obliged to refrain from a truthful accounting of their own history?
Would a public reading by human rights advocate Samantha Power, who now works for the National Security Council, of her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Problem from Hell, be a firing offense?
Would it be cause for termination for an Administration official to acknowledge that the Armenian Genocide is a fact, during a private meeting with Armenian Americans (as dozens have done in meetings I’ve attended)?
What about officials writing honestly about the Armenian Genocide in internal government memos and cables? What happens if Wikileaks makes them public?
Would a Facebook or Twitter post of the term “Armenian Genocide” get an Administration official fired? What if it’s on their own time? What if they don’t work for the Department of State, but the Department of Agriculture?
The questions go on and on, getting more and more ridiculous, all pointing to the inevitable conclusion that – for our self-respect as Americans, as much as for anybody else – we must, at long last, reject Turkey’s shameful veto on U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide.