By Harut Sassounian
The Centennial commemorations of the Armenian Genocide were marked with unprecedented, and sometimes, unexpected developments.
One such occasion was the full page ad placed in the New York Times on April 18 by well-known and controversial Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (Founder, The World Values Network) and the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee, Eastern U.S. (AGCC), harshly criticizing Pres. Obama for not keeping his campaign promise on the Armenian Genocide.
A knowledgeable source told The California Courier that the ad had upset some White House officials. The placing of the ad coincided with the efforts of the U.S. National Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide Centennial to convince reluctant administration officials to participate in the commemorative events in Washington, D.C., May 7-9.
Nonetheless, Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power attended the Ecumenical Prayer Service at the National Cathedral on May 7, in Washington, but neither delivered remarks nor was their presence acknowledged. Surprisingly, both officials wore the “forget me not” pin, the official logo of the Armenian Genocide Centennial. Also in attendance were Pres. Serzh Sargsyan, Catholicos Karekin II, and Catholicos Aram I.
The paid ad featured a young boy holding a placard stating, “Pres. Obama why did you lie to us?” This was followed by the title of the ad in large bold letters: “1.5 million Armenian victims cry out from their grave: How long will you deny our genocide just to appease the Turkish tyrant?”
The paid announcement strongly criticized both Pres. Obama, for not keeping his campaign promises, and Ambassador Power, for remaining silent after condemning U.S. indifference to Genocide in a book she wrote before assuming her government post (“A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide”). The ad also targeted Turkish President Erdogan, calling him a “bully” and “quasi-dictator who has dismantled Turkish democracy.”
Furthermore, the ad quoted from a news report by CNN’s Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper: “For the sixth year in a row President Barack Obama has broken his promise to the Armenian community, made when seeking their votes as a senator and a presidential candidate, to use the word ‘genocide’ to describe the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire a century ago. He did this in deference to the government of Turkey.”
The ad reminded readers that Tapper was referring to Sen. Obama’s 2008 statement: “The Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence. The facts are undeniable. …As President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
The authors of the ad went on to state: “Seldom has an American President misrepresented himself so brazenly on an issue of such profound moral importance. Pres. Obama’s willful moral blindness stands in stark contrast to the courageous statement by Pope Francis last week calling for the world’s recognition of ‘the first genocide of the twentieth century.’”
In the ad, the Rabbi and AGCC posed this question to Ambassador Power: “As a leading voice against genocide, will you stand by your principles or will you become yet another who, after entering office, silences her voice and becomes part of the ‘problem from hell?’”
A second newspaper announcement reminding Pres. Obama of his promise on the Armenian Genocide appeared in the Los Angeles Times on April 24. The three-quarter page ad, placed by Ed Muradliyan, a California businessman from Orange County, asserted: “It’s time for you to be the leader you promised to be. On this 100 year anniversary Mr. President, it’s time to fulfill the promise you made.” Muradliyan’s ad featured a picture of Pres. Obama, copy of Amb. Morgenthau’s cable to the State Dept., dated July 16, 1915, and the headline of a news report from The New York Times, dated December 15, 1915. The announcement ended with: “It’s Time to Recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
If one or both of these ads caused some discomfort to White House officials, it was well worth the money!
The ads should have included Pres. Obama’s own words from his book, “The Audacity of Hope”: “Say one thing during the campaign and do another thing once in office, and you’re a typical, two-faced politician.”
Although the commemorative events in Washington were organized with utmost professionalism, there was one major shortfall. When special honors were being awarded at the May 9 Centennial Banquet to prominent individuals, organizations and representatives of countries that had recognized the Armenian Genocide, it would have been only fitting to pay tribute to John Evans, the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia (2004-2006), whose diplomatic career came to an abrupt end when the Bush Administration recalled him for publicly acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. The organizers of the Banquet assured The California Courier that “no slight was intended,” and that it was simply “an oversight.”
Fortunately, this gross error was somewhat mitigated when the “oversight” was brought to the attention of the master of ceremonies, attorney Mark Geragos, who acknowledged from the podium the presence of Amb. Evans. The 2,000 guests at the Centennial Banquet gave the righteous Ambassador an enthusiastic standing ovation and thunderous applause! Needless to say, Amb. Evans deserves far more than mere applause for having sacrificed his career in defense of the Armenian Cause!