Armenian community is still waiting to hear from Congress

During the press briefing, the State Department made clear that they oppose the recognition. PJ Crowley announced: we’ve made clear our opposition to that resolution. “H Res 252 was neither the beginning of our struggle not the end. We will continue working,” Ken Hachikian, the chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America said.

Less known are other interesting facts about the history of the Armenian Genocide Recognition in U.S., showing that the H Res 252 was not really the start of the campaign. Twice, back in 1975 (HJ Resolution N 148) and 1984 (HJ-Res 287) the Congress confirmed similar resolutions describing the events of 1915 as Armenian genocide. On April 22, 1981, on the day of remembrance of the Holocaust, President Ronald Regan announced: “Like the genocide of the Armenians before it, and the genocide of the Cambodians, which followed it – and like too many other such persecutions of too many other people – the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten”. In 1988, the incumbent vice president George Bush, running as a candidate for the president elections – described the events of 1915 as genocide. Today, over 40 out of 50 states, which constitute over 80 percent of the US territory have also adopted similar documents.

The recent shift of the executive branch’s attitude, the fact that after Ronald Reagan all the following presidents avoided the “G” word, but referred to similar expressions (like “systematic killings”, “atrocities” etc), as well as the fact that in 2006 the ambassador to Armenia John Evans was called back from Yerevan for describing the events as “genocide”, demonstrate less favorable views on passing this kind of resolution.

However, the State department was not always siding with the Turkish side with regard to the Armenian genocide issue. In fact, back in 1915, the State department had had very active pro-Armenian attitude. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau wrote a book describing the events of 1915 as “extermination of the Armenian race”. Another State department employee, Leslie Davis (the US council to Ottoman Turkey), wrote a book entitled “The Slaughterhouse Province”.  John Marshal Evans’ statements in 2005 did not differ from those of Ambassador Morgenthau or Council Davis, nor did they differ from the position of Congress and President Reagan.

It’s noteworthy that President Barack Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actively supported the Armenian Genocide Resolution, when they were candidates for the presidency and vice-presidency in 2008. This expression of support led the US Armenian community to vote in favor of the democratic candidates on the Election Day. The webpage “armeniansforobama.com” still is functioning and includes recorded announcements of Barack Obama supporting Genocide recognition prior to the elections (the appropriate video segment is available in You Tube).

After the elections, the President did not use the word genocide, but instead referred to the events as “Medz Yeghern” which is the Armenian equivalent for “Armenian genocide”. The president also mentioned that the mass killings constituted one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. At the same time, during his first trip to Turkey in April of 2009, the President said in Ankara “Well, my views are on the record and I have not changed views,” skillfully avoiding the term, but marking his point. Practically no US President, or any other President except Armenian Presidents, has talked about the mass killings and deportations of Armenians in Turkey.

The Armenian community is still waiting for a clear statement either from Congress or from the President that the U.S will once again reaffirm America’s position and close this endless circle of debate once and for all.

Haykaram Nahapetyan is the Washington correspondent of the Public TV Company of Armenia and analyst for the “Noravank” scientific educational foundation (Armenia)