Obama and the Denial of Genocide

Writer-activist David Boyajian’s investigative articles and commentaries have appeared in Armenian media outlets in the U.S., Europe, Middle East, and Armenia and the Newton Tab and USA Armenian Life newspapers named him among their “Top 10 Newsmakers of 2007.” So, when Barack Obama paid a visit to Turkey last month, it seemed like a good time to ask Boyajian for his take on the new president’s approach to the issue of the Armenian genocide.

Armenia

Armenia

Mickey Z: This April, President Barack Obama broke campaign promise #511, namely to explicitly acknowledge the Armenian genocide as U.S. President. What happened on his recent visit to Turkey? What are the ramifications of his breaking this promise?


David Boyajian
: President Obama visited Turkey from April 6 to 7, where he did not use the word “genocide” when referring to the 1.5 million murders committed by the Turkish Ottoman Empire against its Armenian citizens from 1915-1923. As a candidate, Obama had promised several times to do so. His statement in Turkey that he had “not changed his views”–implying he still believes it was genocide–was still a clear breach of his promise to use the “G word.” It was a case study in verbal gymnastics and political duplicity and should be studied in political science courses. Obama’s broken promise obviously eroded his credibility. The same holds true for Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who, as senators, supported the Armenian genocide resolution. They’ve since fallen disgracefully silent. Dr. Samantha Power should also be embarrassed. She’s the National Security Council’s genocide expert and a Pulitzer Prize winning author. As a campaign advisor to Obama, she made a video telling Armenian Americans that as president, Obama would definitely acknowledge their genocide. “Take my word for it,” she said.

Appeasement of a genocide-denying country such as Turkey is bad policy because its message is that genocides can be committed without consequence. Appeasement also erodes U.S. credibility on human rights and its stated desire to be a leader in genocide prevention. Unlike what lobbyists for Turkey would have us believe, Armenian genocide affirmation by America would not harm U.S. national interests. Turkey depends on the U.S. for weapons systems, support for billions in loans from the International Monetary Fund, security guarantees through NATO, advocacy for Turkish membership in the European Union, and more. Some 20 countries, including Canada, France, and Switzerland, as well as the parliaments of the EU and the Council of Europe, have acknowledged the Armenian genocide. None has ever experienced much more than a Turkish temper tantrum in retaliation.

MZ: Two days prior to Armenian Genocide Remembrance day — which annually falls on April 24 –Turkey and Armenia announced that they had agreed to a “roadmap” to normalize relations. What was the significance of this timing? What does the “roadmap” contain?

DB: Behind the scenes, the U.S. State Department had long been twisting Armenia’s arm to agree to a so-called “roadmap” with Turkey before President Obama issued what has become a customary “April 24 statement” by U.S. presidents marking Armenian genocide memorial day. The “roadmap,” announced on April 22, provided political cover for Obama to not use the “G word” on April 24. That is, since there was now supposedly a roadmap for normalization of relations — no matter how vague and hurriedly slapped together — Obama could say that he did not want to upset Turkey and the touted-as-highly-delicate Turkish-Armenian negotiations by using the “G word.” Notice that Obama did not consult with Armenian-Americans or Armenia about this. So much for promises and moral principles. It’s disgraceful that Obama, simply to help Turkey save face, not only broke his promise, but showed blatant disregard for the activists — not just Armenians — who labored so hard for many years for the cause of recognizing all genocides.

Armenia has always said that it was ready to normalize relations with Turkey — which would include Turkey’s re-opening its border with Armenia-without pre-conditions. Suddenly, however, Armenia has had pre-conditions imposed on it in this “roadmap.” According to the Turkish press, the “roadmap” allegedly contains pre-conditions such as: Armenia’s agreeing to a joint commission to examine the veracity of the Armenian genocide — yes, you heard right, Armenia’s formal recognition of current Turkish boundaries — which contain the Armenian homeland, and, possibly, Armenia’s accepting Turkish mediation in the conflict between Armenians and Azerbaijan over the disputed Armenian region of Karabagh — which is absurd since Azerbaijan and Turkey are allies. It appears that Armenia’s president, whose electoral legitimacy is in question, has been worn down in these negotiations by Turkey, the West, and possibly even Russia. And because the Armenian president is grappling with his legitimacy, he is not heeding the cautions being voiced by the people of his own nation about the “roadmap.”

MZ: The U.S. administration and mainstream media would have us believe that Turkey is seeking to “reconcile” with Armenia. Is “reconciliation” really a possibility, or have we misunderstood what’s going on?

DB: The word “reconciliation” in relation to Armenian-Turkish relations is largely an invention of U.S. policymakers, their emissaries, and the mainstream media who take their cues from them. What the U.S. and Europe would like to see is a more stable Caucasus — that is, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia — with open borders. Open borders, you see, would facilitate laying more oil and gas pipelines that would originate in the Caspian Sea region and proceed west to Turkey and then to energy-hungry Europe and Israel. The U.S. and Europe don’t want to put it quite that crudely — no pun intended — so they try to depict Armenia and Turkey as possibly “reconciling” and thus resolving all their differences. Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 out of sympathy with its ally Azerbaijan, which was in a war with the Armenians of Karabagh, a historically Armenian-populated autonomous area within Azerbaijan that Stalin handed to Azerbaijan. Turkey has also been infuriated that Armenia and Armenians worldwide have been demanding that Turkey acknowledge the genocide it committed against Armenians.

Turkey has to acknowledge the genocide or there will never be peace between it and Armenia. And although the Armenian government has not put forth any claims for reparations arising out of the genocide, or for territory, many Armenians do have these goals. They cite the Treaty of Sèvres of 1920, which provided for Armenian sovereignty over Armenian lands upon which Turkey committed the genocide, and which have since been incorporated into what is now eastern Turkey.

MZ: The countries of the Caucasus are Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. Most Americans, including the mainstream media, could not find these small countries on a map. Why are Russia and the U.S. — the latter being thousands of miles from the region — so interested in these three small countries?

DB: The Caucasus is truly Ground Zero in Cold War II, the ongoing conflict between the U.S. and Russia. The U.S. — along with Europe and the NATO military alliance — regard Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan as middlemen between the West and the gas and oil-rich regions around the Caspian Sea. The West has already laid gas and oil pipelines from Azerbaijan through Georgia and then on to Turkey and the west. The U.S. wanted those and future pipelines to bypass Russia and Iran because those two countries could shut such pipelines to pressure the U.S. and others. The only possible pipelines routes, therefore, are through Georgia or Armenia. But Turkey shut its border with Armenia in 1993, and Azerbaijan closed its border with Armenia even earlier due to the conflict between it and the de-facto Armenian region of Karabagh. That left Georgia as the only place for these Western pipelines. After the Russian-Georgian was last year, however, opening an alternative route has become more urgent. That largely explains the West’s renewed interest in Armenia. Conversely, Russia sees the Caucasus as within its traditional sphere of influence, and regards U.S. and European interest in the region as hostile acts.

Simultaneously, NATO has been pushing into the region. Georgia, Azerbaijan, and to some extent even the ex-Soviet republics on the other side of the Caspian Sea, are on the path to joining NATO. Russia was already upset that, following the Cold War, NATO had absorbed the former Warsaw Pact nations of Eastern Europe. NATO is now attempting, in effect, to do the same thing on Russia’s southern border. Russia fears that it will eventually be virtually surrounded by NATO. As a result, we have Cold War II: The U.S. and NATO are trying to push into the Caucasus and Central Asia, while Russia is trying to keep them out.

MZ: Why is Israel interested in the Caucasus, and what role is that country playing? Why are Israel and the pro-Israel lobby dead set against recognition of the Armenian genocide by the U.S. Congress?

DB: Israel is interested in getting some of the oil and gas that flow out of the Caspian Sea region. That is, from countries such as Azerbaijan, oil and gas flow west through Georgia, and then on to Turkey and other countries, possibly including Israel. After all, the U.S. and Turkey, which are important players in these pipelines, are obviously also very friendly with Israel. Israel also welcomes all non-Arab supplies of energy since they would make its Western allies less dependent on Arab oil and gas. And Israel has long had what it calls its Periphery Policy. Historically, Israel has not had good relations with its Arab neighbors. Therefore, to serve as counterweights, Israel befriends those countries further away, especially Muslim countries that aren’t necessarily sympathetic to Israel’s Arab neighbors or Palestinians. Azerbaijan, the only Muslim nation in the Caucasus, and some Muslim nations to the east, such as Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, are such countries. Fortuitously for Israel, they also possess significant deposits of gas and oil.

For decades, Israel and Turkey have had very good relations, mainly because they have a common ally, the U.S., and common adversaries, namely Arab nations. In the 1990’s, Israel and Turkey signed a number of military, economic, and political agreements that solidified their relationship. Even before that, but particularly after that, Turkey felt that it did not have sufficient lobbying muscle in Washington. So the Turks asked Israel to convince some of the pro-Israel lobby — the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee and others — to serve as advocates for Turkey. The Jewish lobby groups agreed. So these groups, as part of their deal with Turkey, deny or call into question the Armenian genocide and work to prevent U.S. acknowledgement of that genocide. These groups won’t tolerate anyone questioning of the Holocaust, and yet hypocritically work against acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide. Interestingly, for the last 2 years, Armenian Americans have exposed the ADL’s hypocrisy. In Massachusetts, for example, fourteen cities severed ties with an anti-bias program sponsored by the ADL because of the latter’s hypocritical and anti-Armenian stance (see NoPlaceForDenial.com). Armenians are determined to challenge genocide denial whenever it occurs.

MZ: Is there a problem with the way the mainstream media has been covering Armenian issues?

DB: Yes. The mainstream media have several problems. First, they know very little about the Caucasus or Armenians. Reporters tend, therefore, to copy each other and repeat clichés and falsehoods — such as that Armenia and Turkey are on the verge of a historic “reconciliation.” Media also tend to accept at face value the propaganda issued by Western governments whose interest in the Caucasus is — let’s be frank — not “reconciliation,” democracy, or human rights, but rather self-interested economic, political, and military political penetration of the Caucasus.

Turkey has about 30 times more people and territory, and 50 times more Gross Domestic Product, than Armenia. The power differential is enormous. Turkey has infinitely more allies in Western media, governments, think tanks, and multi-national corporations-and knows how to use them. Commentators who have a vested interest in touting Turkey for their own political and even financial reasons have particularly come out of the woodwork to deride legitimate Armenian demands. But we rarely hear commentators speak of how a small country that has been the victim of genocide, that has had most of its territory stripped from it, and that has been blockaded by the denier of that genocide — Turkey — is being threatened by that very same unrepentant denier. Mainstream media largely fail to appreciate the foregoing facts. Hopefully, Mickey, this interview will help the media and your readers understand the issues and the region a bit better.

  • David Boyajian can be reached at: moc.oohaYnull@naijayoB_divaD.
    Many of his articles are archived here.
  • Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook. Read other articles by Mickey.

    9 comments on this article so far ...

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    1. Phil said on May 15th, 2009 at 10:32am #

      I suspect Israel is also afraid. After all, another official recognition of a genocide from decades past might lead to further scrutiny of the one it’s still committing right now.

    2. rg the lg said on May 15th, 2009 at 6:11pm #

      The US acknowledge genocide?

      Hardy har har!

      Not likely … acknowledgment of a country that actively participates in genocidal acts? Vietnam, Iraq, Cambodia all suffered either directly or indirectly from US policy that tolerated, if not encouraged, genocide.

      RG the LG

    3. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 16th, 2009 at 3:51am #

      The actions of Zionist groups like the ADL in denying the Armenian genocide, while fanatically hounding all who do not subscribe to every tenet the ‘Holocaust’ religion leaves one struggling for words to express the depths of wickedness and duplicity involved. If even one tiny fragment of the Holocaust religion is questioned, all hell breaks loose, yet the guardians of this secular religion engage in a Holocaust denialism so broad that even David Irving would blush at the audacity of it. When one surveys this sordid scene, with Turkey’s continuing outright denial and refusal to make amends, or even give the impression of being willing to do so, the treachery and perfidy of Israel and various Zionists in their complicity with Turkish denialism, and the absolutely predictable role of the US, perhaps the most active genocidal force in history, with the trickster Obama, as one has already come to expect, to the fore, one’s heart sinks at the display of human malevolence. Surely any species that acts in this way, or perhaps one might say any species that has allowed its fate to fall into the hands of fiends who act in this manner, cannot much longer endure before it poisons itself with its own villainy.

    4. Tennessee-Chavizta said on May 16th, 2009 at 7:54am #

      GIVE ME 1000 GEORGE W. BUSH OVER 1 LIBERTARIAN FREE-STATER !!

      Give me 10000000 Adolf Hitlers, Caligulas and Attila the Hun over 1 Borders Book store and Starbucks Coffee Middle class bourgeoise libertarian, conspiracy theory lunatic !!

      Only socialism can save America, not the stupid, dumbfounded Ayn Rand ideology of drug-addicts and immoral libertarianism (which is criminal capitalist-anarchism)

      What’s with this far-right libertarian movement in the United States? Even Cindy Sheehan is embracing libertarianism. I was in the Cindy Sheehan site debating with some far-right wing conspiracy theory libertarian nut, and they said socialism is fascism because of USSR and Stalin. Why are so many people in the USA libertarian, who is brainwashing americans into choosing libertarianism and the anti-tax, militant terrorist group Te-Bag as a solution for America’s economic problems.

      I give up teaching the inane dumbfounded people of this country that socialism is the only viable alternative for America, because we have realist-scientific historical and present proofs that socialism can work at decreasing poverty-levels and preventing economic collapse (The best evidence is: Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, etc. etc.) those nations are not full-socialists yet but at least are moving further away from capitalist free market ideology.

      Libertarianism means more capitalism, and more capitalism can only lead to more concentration of wealth in the upper-classes, not democracy for the people and only socialism can provide a real democracy, not libertarianism.

      .

    5. Max Shields said on May 17th, 2009 at 8:03am #

      Obama has mastered posturing. He postures one way and either reverses before enacting, or reverses after that postured position.

      This is classic Dem/liberal modus operandi. It keeps partisans and even those on the quasi left off-guard as one day the MSM recites Obama’s closing Gitmo and than gradually, as he backs off; the same with torture, rendition, exiting Iraq, heavily relying on neocon/lib hawks and fiancial sector (ala Clinton/GW Bush). His has simply provided a different face to the same policies. In foreign matters, it is not so much PNAC as NSC 68 which is the foreign policy continuity from Truman forward to Obama. No break.

      Floated are notions of progressive moves such as “decriminalization” of drugs, ending the “war on drugs” but in action NOTHING changes. These are all floated to offer a faux sense of change with no substantive policy changes, in fact NO changes at all. He hires a new Czar on Drugs and the Czar indicates the need to end the war, he’s been hired to preside over. He will NOT end that war. US policies will not change regarding this very powerfully institutionalized War on Drugs, regardless the cost, regardless the pathology that it breeds.

      It is this “new” face that was warned here and else where as the ultimate power elite move to put the very face of a “progressive” on the super-hawkish polices that preceded him.

      The issue then is, can this political, power move endure? Will there be real chickens that come home with the economy and climate that will not be tolerated? Will there be a stirring where today there is silence among the populous?

      These are the real questions. Otherwise it will be yet another imperialism led by the Dems, a repeat of the early 60s, and again in the 90s. It is hard to understand how this imperial empire can in fact continue. And yet….

    6. Jake Threefeathers said on May 17th, 2009 at 10:27am #

      It takes chutzpah the size of Cherylin Sarkissian’s pre-surgery nose and the size of Kim Kardashian’s post-surgery derriere for these Armenians to gripe about lost Armenian “historic lands” even as they sit on the lost historic lands of the Native Americans who were the victims of the mother of all genocides. Sitting in Glendale, Fresno, Providence, Pawtucket, Hohokus, Towaco and Totowa – all stolen lands of the Native Americans – these Armenian slicks have the unmitigated gall to play the “eternal victim”. NUTS!

      If they want to pontificate, these Armenian slick operators must first pack up and return my lands. As these shameless people leave my lands, they might also pony up that 40 acres and a mule that were promised but never delivered to the freed slaves.

      If the oily, pushy, arrogant Armenian lobby wants to keep profiting from the lucrative “Armenian genocide” cottage industry, it might first push their cohorts, the French Armenians, to apologize and make amends for their participation in the Algerian genocide 1954-1962. Some of the Algerian victims are still alive today – albeit torture-mutilated and disabled for life.

      How about the Armenians apologizing and paying reparations for the massacres committed by the Armenian Dashnak and Hunchak gangs and goon squads who were responsible for slaughtering half million other citizens of the Ottoman Empire – Turks, Kurds, Jews, Muslims and anyone who was non-Armenian – all in the name of carving out an ethnically-pure Armenian state from Ottoman provinces where the Armenians did not constitute more than 17% of the population of those provinces. These Armenian cutthroats were so ruthless and so vicious, they would make today’s Osama bin Laden and his hoodlums look like rank amateurs.

      How about the Armenian slicks apologizing and paying for the crimes of the notorious WWII- era, the twenty thousand-strong ARMENIAN BRIGADE. These Armenian killers were tasked by the NAZIS to hunt down and exterminate Jews in German-occupied lands and they performed their grizzly task to the admiration of their Nazi bosses.

      Let’s come to our day. In the 1990s, Armenia launched a sneak attack on its neighbor Azerbaijan. Armenia’s goons killed thousands of Azeri civilians, took and occupied 20% of Azeri land, displacing one million Azeris who are still homeless today.

      Mulga Mumblebrain, how about expending your considerable talent and energies in getting your Armenian compatriots to fess up to Armenian crimes against humanity and making amends?

    7. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 17th, 2009 at 8:53pm #

      Jake, take it from me, I see the genocide of the indigenous peoples of the world by the European predators as the greatest crime in history. Where certain Armenians were involved, they were evil bastards. I absolve no-one from guilt for crimes committed against others in the name of racial or civilizational supremacism. But I am sure that in all communities that commit atrocities against others, it is a group of psychopaths who are responsible and not the communities as a whole., even if cowardice, indifference and self-interest prevents any cocerted resistance to evil. Just as the Germans were not all Nazis, the Israelis are not all Judeofascists and not all Americans are ‘Manifest Destiny’ zealots. We must, I believe, condemn all atrocities and their perpetrators, exculpate none solely due to their religion or citizenhip, as the Zionists do, and work to promote understanding and amity between all people, otherwise we have no hope of facing the various apocalypses that stare humanity in the face. The greatest enemy of that process is, in my opinion, market capitalism, and the psychopathic fraction of humanity that benefits from it, not any particular religious , ethnic or national group.

    8. bozh said on May 18th, 2009 at 6:17am #

      mm,
      yes, u are right!
      every folk or, rather, its genetic pool, produces so many rapists, violent robbers, lovers of power, liars, deceivers, wife beaters, gays, pedophiles, et al.
      the greater the lust for power or violence, the greater the chance for these people to become spies, police people, judges, pols, generals!

      long ago, our genetic pool may have produced only a few or an odd violent/maladapted person.
      such people were quickly spotted and stopped in their aims to usurp a millennial way of life for adaptation to one and only reality for survival.
      but with rise of shamanism and later cultish thinking about coming saviors of human race, finally the adaptation for survival and progress had been possibly forever usurped.

      muslims, christians, and judiasts all have their respective ‘saviors’. This means, that the priestly class of life is teaching that it is OK to commit any crime because ‘savior’ is coming and IT will wash you clean.

      as issaiah says {not god, of course} Come, let us reason together: tho ur sins be like crimson, they will be like wool….

      even today, deviants may comprise only 5% of pop in any folk. I say this because i do not think that the nature of genetic pool has changed for worse.
      of course, i cld be wrong. Possibly genetics makes us but we also might be making/changing it. This is a frightful notion; i hope that is not the case.

      so, it wld take unity of 95% of people in any folk to reestablish our adaptation for survival, wellbeing; being interdependent, caring, sharing, talking to each other instead of barking as is now the case in msm; by clero-politico-educational people.

      so, there is hope! tnx

    9. bob said on May 18th, 2009 at 1:50pm #

      algeria