For years, the relatively powerful Christian Armenian
lobby has been trying to get the Armenian Genocide
recognized throughout the world, despite the ongoing, shameful denial
campaign by Turkey to trivialize the events of 1915 through 1923. Despite overwhelming evidence (eyewitness accounts, documents, pictures, etc.), Turkey (formerly the Ottoman Empire
, the empire under which the genocide
was perpetrated) spends millions of dollars each year (which comes from US foreign aid, of course) to spread their own revisionist
propoganda. Turkey fears having to pay monetary and land reparations to Armenia (especially the return of Western Armenia
, once a flourishing community of Armenians
, now devoid of any), in addition to having their "image tarnished", an image already marred by one of the worst human rights
records in the world, according to Amnesty International
The US would have recognized the Genocide decades ago, were it not for Turkey threatening economic and political consequences each time the issue came up. Why the most powerful country in the world allows itself to be bullied around by Turkey is beyond me, as Turkey needs the US more than the US needs Turkey.
When then-canditate Bush was running for president, new hope arrived for the Armenian people with the following letter, written to the Armenian National Committee of America:
George W. Bush for President
February 19, 2000
Mr. Edgar Hagopian
Mr. Vasken Setrakian
Dear Edgar and Vasken,
Thank you for your inquiry to my campaign regarding issues of concern to Armenian Americans.
The twentieth century was marred by wars of unimaginable brutality, mass murder and genocide. History records that the Armenians were the first people of the last century to have endured these cruelties. The Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies comprehension and commands all decent people to remember and acknowledge the facts and lessons of an awful crime in a century of bloody crimes against humanity. If elected President, I would ensure that our nation properly recognizes the tragic suffering of the Armenian people.
The Armenian diaspora and the emergence of an independent Republic of Armenia stand as a testament to the resiliency of the Armenian people. In this new century, the United States must actively support the independence of all the nations of the Caucasus by promising the peaceful settlement of regional disputes and the economic development of the region. American assistance to Armenia to encourage the development of democracy, the rule of law and a tolerant open society is vital. It has my full support.
I am encouraged by recent discussions between the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan. The United States should work actively to promote peace in the region and should be willing to serve as a mediator. But ultimately peace must be negotiated and sustained by the parties involved. Lasting peace can come only from agreements they judge to be in their best interests.
I appreciate the tremendous contribution of the Armenian community to the United States. The Armenian community has been and will continue to be a model of dedication to values of faith and family.
George W. Bush
Even after he was elected, he seemed to reaffirm his promise after brief dialogue with an ANCA executive, saying "remember, I made a promise to you before I was elected". However, when the official Armenian Rememberance Day came (April 24), President Bush conveniently avoided using the "g-word" (genocide) in his statement, heeding to what were likely the requests of Rumsfeld and Powell, who openly take the pro-Turkey stance on the issue. This was a major disappointment not only to Armenian-American organizations, but to all Armenian-Americans, especially the ones who voted for Bush, mostly due to his so-called stance on this issue alone.
Today marks the commemoration of one of the great tragedies of history: the forced exile and annihilation of approximately 1.5 million Armenians in the closing years of the Ottoman Empire. These infamous killings darkened the 20th century and continue to haunt us to this day. Today, I join Armenian Americans and the Armenian community abroad to mourn the loss of so many innocent lives. I ask all Americans to reflect on these terrible events.
While we mourn the tragedy that scarred the history of the Armenian people, let us also celebrate their indomitable will which has allowed Armenian culture, religion, and identity to flourish through the ages. Let us mark this year the 1700th anniversary of the establishment of Christianity in Armenia. Let us celebrate the spirit that illuminated the pages of history in 451 when the Armenians refused to bow to Persian demands that they renounce their faith. The Armenian reply was both courageous and unequivocal: "From this faith none can shake us, neither angels, nor men, neither sword, fire or water, nor any bitter torturers." This is the spirit that survived again in the face of the bitter fate that befell so many Armenians at the end of the Ottoman Empire.
Today, that same spirit not only survives, but thrives in Armenian communities the world over. Many Armenian survivors and their descendents chose to live in the United States, where they found safety and built new lives. We are grateful for the countless ways in which Armenian Americans continue to enrich America's science, culture, commerce and, indeed, all aspects of our national life.
One of the most important ways in which we can honor the memory of Armenian victims of the past is to help modern Armenia build a secure and prosperous future. I am proud that the United States actively supports Armenia and its neighbors in finding a permanent and fair settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. I hope that this year we will see peace and reconciliation flourish in the south Caucasus region between Armenia and all its neighbors. The United States welcomes the opportunity to support the courageous efforts by the Armenian people to overcome years of hardship and Soviet repression to create a prospering, democratic, and sovereign Republic of Armenia.
Let us remember the past and let its lessons guide us as we seek to build a better future. In the name of the American people, I extend my heartfelt best wishes to all Armenians as we observe this solemn day of remembrance.
- George W. Bush
Although President Bush didn't use the word "genocide," he did use a nearly textbook definition of the word and used the Armenian-accepted figure of 1.5 million perished victims. This is much more than pro-Turkey Bill Clinton did, referring to the event as simply a "tragedy". But does this necessarily mean there are good things to come regarding the US stance on this issue? I'm not holding my breath.