Excerpts From The Press Conference Announcing The Genocide Preventio


AZG Armenian Daily #210

Armenian Genocide

How do you reconcile your work in trying to build a moral American
sentiment, an unconditional consensus against genocide, when just very
recently both of you signed letters urging America not to recognize
the Armenian Genocide?

[5 seconds pause]

A: Secretary Madeleine Albright

Well, first of all, I think that this commission is basically
about the future, as we both said. We want to look at ways to try
to prevent genocide and mass killings. That is the purpose of this
commission. And I also think that every former Secretary of State and
the [current] Secretary of State recognized terrible things happened
to the Armenians ^_ a tragedy. The letter was primarily about whether
this was an appropriate time to raise the issue.

A: Secretary William Cohen

First of all, it wasn’t a tough question, it was a good question
and it’s one that we should address head on. The fact is that all
the former Secretaries of State, former Secretaries of Defense were
concerned about the human suffering that took place between 1915
and 1923. It was also a very deliberate decision to say that we are
engaged in warfare at the moment. That we have our sons and daughters
who are at great risk and that we felt that to have the resolution
brought before the full floor might result in reactions on the part
of the Turkish government that could place our sons and daughters
in greater jeopardy. So it was a very practical decision that was
made. This is not to say that we overlooked what took place in the
past and, in any way, are absolving anyone from what took place in
the past. But, rather, to say that we can look back and have some
lessons learned but say from this point forward, what do we do? How
do we marshal public opinion? How do we marshal political action?

How do we generate the will to take action in a society that has been
reluctant to do so in the past?

. . . This is the way that will preclude things that have taken place
in the past from taking place in the future.

Q: Elizabeth Chouldjian (ANCA/Asbarez Armenian News Service):

If we’re saying that this isn’t the right time to acknowledge the
Armenian Genocide, does that mean that you’re essentially arguing
that for political expediency purposes we shouldn’t be taking action
on future genocides because of what it could mean to U.S. interests?

A: Secretary Cohen

We’re saying there are no absolutes in this. We are going to try
to set forth a set of principles that will serve as a guide and
hopefully that guide will allow political leadership in this country
and elsewhere. This is not something where the United States is
advocating unilateral action. What we’re talking about is the United
States taking a lead in helping shape public opinion, certainly
domestically but also internationally. That will involve multiple
considerations, multiple political factors that have to be taken
into account. What we’re saying is that this is an endeavor that’s
worthwhile, we intend to pursue it, and hopefully we’ll be successful
in preventing mass killings and genocides in the future as a result.

A: Secretary Albright

I also do think that it’s very important to recognize the fact that
even if terrible things happened in the past they do not need to
happen in the future. And that is what this is about. In no way does
it put a house keeping seal of approval on anybody’s behavior.

Q: Reporter [name unknown]

It sounds as if both of you are saying that ‘if our friends do it,
it’s not genocide, if our enemies do it, it is genocide,’ with
relation to the Armenian Genocide. So, for example, a professor at
the University of Haifa in Israel, Ivan says he believes a genocide is
ongoing in Gaza and ethnic cleansing in the West Bank. But you folks
wouldn’t agree with that because Israel is our friend and, therefore,
we couldn’t say that about Israel. And we can’t say that ^_ I just
heard you Secretary Cohen, if I could summarize, state ^_ we can’t
say that about Turkey and the Armenian Genocide because ‘our boys
and girls are in harm’s way.’ So if we’re going to define genocide by
who does and not by what it is, I think your commission is in trouble.

A: Secretary Cohen

Well I don’t think either one of us have made that statement. I don’t
know that the UN has declared that genocide occurred in the Armenian
situation. So, we’re trying to look forward rather than backwards and
the issue of whether genocide is taking place in the West Bank or in
Gaza certainly will be part of the task force looking at that as well.

There is an element of pragmatism. If someone else’s son or daughter
is in harm’s way, that’s a factor that I, as an American citizen,
and I, as a former Secretary of Defense, have to take into account,
and would. I think anyone serving in public office necessarily has
to have a set of balancing factors to take into account.

It’s not an absolute. This will not be a document that says, ‘this
is when the line is crossed and this is the action we will take.’

These are going to be guidelines. I think they, in themselves,
will serve a very valuable purpose because it will help to at
least raise the issue to a level of both domestic and international
concern. Hopefully stirring action that will prevent them from taking
place. That is our goal.

A: Secretary Albright

Let me just speak to this because I think that you have pointed out
why this is difficult. These are issues people have talked about a
long time and they may come out in statements and then, ultimately,
when you’re in the government (as we both have been) and you have to
make very tough decisions, you have to look at the overall picture. I
think we have to admit that. Otherwise, we’re not going to get off
the ground here. These are very, very hard issues.

I definitely would not accept your definition that if friends do it
it’s okay, if enemies do it it’s not. I find that just an unacceptable
premise. I do think that it is very important to keep in mind what this
task force is going to do. It is going to set forth guidelines for
practical action by, primarily, the United States government. Which
is why we want to present it by the end of next year. And the point
here is, and I’ve been in enough discussions where you can have all
kinds of emotional arguments about why something is wrong and then
you never get it off the ground, because you ultimately have to take
practical action. And that is what’s happening in the United States
about Darfur at the moment, where people need practical steps in
order to deal with that. And that is what this task force is going to
do. We’re not going to, I hope, get ourselves into emotional appeals
because that does not work.

Q: Nareg Seferian (Armenian Reporter)

As has been previously mentioned, the two of you have personally
worked towards ensuring that the United States government does not
take a stand recognizing the Armenian Genocide . . . How can you
provide credibility that your recommendation will be of practical
use to the United States in its foreign policy and will not be just
words on a piece of paper that will be acceptable, but which the US
will not follow up on because it’s simply not politically expedient?

A: Secretary Cohen

You talk about political expediency. As Secretary of Defense, I had
responsibility for every man and woman who is serving in our armed
forces. And, yes, I would have to take into account whether or not I
was placing them in greater jeopardy in order to go back and make a
declaration about something that happened back in 1915 and 1923. I
would have to weigh that. Frankly, I think the former Secretaries
of Defense, Republican and Democrat alike, all came to the same
conclusion: we would not put our men and women in greater danger
under these circumstances. Now, does that mean that we are not in
a position to look forward in saying, ‘here are some of the things
that have happened in the past, here are some of the things we did
not do in the past, here are some things we think need to be done
in the future.’ And future leaders will have to take into account
the same sort of moral considerations. There is no absolute right
or wrong. It’s not all black and white. We’re going to have to take
these into account.

You as a private citizen, will be in a position to say, ‘Here is a
document issued by this esteemed group. What do you Mr. President,
what do you Mr. Secretary intend to do about atrocities currently
taking place in x country?’

… So I think that we are certainly in a position, having dealt
with ethnic cleansing in the past, to take that experience as well
as what took place in Armenia, as well as what took place in Rwanda,
now in Darfur, and say, ‘this is how we have to move in the future.’

A: Secretary Albright

Let me also say, I think it’s important that you know what we actually
meant in the letter and I think that all the former Secretaries,
in fact, while we were Secretaries recognized that mass killings
and forced exile had taken place. And that we also said that the US
policy has been, all along, for reconciliation between Turkey and
Armenia on this particular issue. I do think that one of the things
this task force will ultimately recommend is that the parties to the
problem have to acknowledge what happened and I think that is part
of what the issue is. . . We are trying to put this within a context
that will make practical activity at the time something that the US
government can undertake. There is not one answer to it all. And that
is one of the things we are going to be looking at. I honestly think
that is essential that we make clear that this task force is about
the future, about preventing genocide and also looking at what the
circumstances are.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS