A ‘Private’ Visit To A State Monument


Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

It was, indeed, a first for a US Secretary of State to visit
Dzidzernagapert Armenian Memorial Monument. What was, indeed, puzzling
about the visit was that it was dubbed a “private” visit by one of
the most visible-public-officials in the world.

While in Yerevan, Hillary Clinton visited Dzidzernagapert, laid a
wreath and paused for a moment of silence in what the US Embassy
officially described as “a sign of respect for the 1.5 million
Armenians who lost their lives in 1915.”

A curious and novel concept in diplomacy has emerged. A US secretary
of state makes a very public and official visit to a country and
opts to visit its most recognizable monument in “private.” I always
thought a private visit was exactly that-private. It did not accompany
photographs of her at the eternal flame, or videotape of her, in
which she is heard to be in awe of Mount Ararat.

Does this mean that Hillary Clinton “privately” recognizes the
Armenian Genocide but publicly-and officially-goes out of her way
to deny it? Or, did she think that the mere gesture of visiting
the monument would absolve the US from having to change course and
actually recognize the Genocide. Truly you jest Madame Secretary!

Let’s contrast her “private” visit to a very public tour of the
Schindler Factory Museum, which a news wire describes as capturing
“in stark images and artifacts the suffering of Jews at the hands of
Nazi Germany” two days before going to Armenia.

Her tour culminated in a very “public” announcement of a $15
million pledge by the US to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation to
help finance an endowment to preserve and safeguard the remains of
the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

The pledge “illustrates the significance of the Auschwitz-Birkenau
site, helps commemorate the 1.1 million victims who perished there,
and demonstrates America’s commitment to Holocaust education,
remembrance and research,” a State Department statement said.

“The preservation and continuation of Auschwitz-Birkenau is essential
so that future generations can visit and understand how the world can
never again allow a place of such hatred and persecution to exist. It
is also an important educational tool to show those who doubt that
the Holocaust ever existed that indeed, tragically, it did,” the
state department statement said.

Two different messages in one trip. And, who said the US was
inconsistent in its foreign policy?

Of course-and not surprisingly-the Armenian Assembly of America was
quick to thank Clinton for her visit and failed to point out that the
manner in which Clinton, the US Embassy and the State Department framed
this historic visit completely diminished its broader significance
to the specific issue of the Armenian Genocide and the broader issue
of US’s commitment to human rights.

This dual-messaging approach, which was articulated by President Obama
and is now being fostered by Secretary Clinton, creates dichotomies
in US policy. Clinton visits Dizidzernagapert “in private,” yet the
wreath she lays at the monument says that it is from “Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton.” In his April 24 message, President Obama is
quick to point out that his personal beliefs on the Genocide have
not changed, but falls short of setting the record straight.

This makes one wonder: Was Clinton’s Dzidzernagapert visit and her
comments about Turkey’s failure in fulfilling the Armenia-Turkey
protocols an effort to appease Armenia or an opportunity to articulate
the current US posturing on Turkey?

From: A. Papazian

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