Taking Grassroots Activism to the Next Level

Turkey marks 60th anniversary of U.N. Genocide Convention – in its own special way

December 9th, 2008 by

Raphael LemkinOn December 9, 1948, after years of lobbying, haggling (and some serious arm-twisting), the U.N. adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. It was the brainchild and lifelong dream of Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew whose family was wiped out by the Nazis during WWII, but whose passion to stop genocide began with his study of the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923. There are 41 signatories to the Convention, including the United States and the Republic of Turkey, which, ironically, for the past 93 years, has spent millions around the world to deny its role in the centrally planned and systematically executed annihilation of over 1.5 million Armenian citizens.

So how is Turkey marking the U.N. Genocide Convention’s 60th anniversary?

Leaders of several major Turkish political parties have been busy lambasting a group of their fellow scholars and journalists for issuing an apology last week for the “great catastrophe” that befell the Armenian people in 1915. “My conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed to and the denial of the ‘Great Catastrophe’ that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected to in 1915. I reject this injustice and for my share, I empathise with the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers. I apologise to them,” said three scholars, Ahmet Insel, Baskin Oran and Cengiz Aktar, and a journalist, Ali Bayramoglu. And, even though these scholars still did not properly characterize the killings as genocide, their statements were met with derision from a wide range of Turkey’s political elite. Insel, Oran, Aktar and Bayramoglu were labeled as bafoons and traitors – and may be brought up on trial for “insulting Turkishness” under Turkey’s infamous Article 301 laws.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul is planning a visit to Israel next month, where, in meetings with President Shimon Peres, he is “expected to ask Israel to use its influence in Washington” to try to prevent passage of Armenian Genocide legislation. This is in addition to the $25,000 a month Turkey already pays former Bush and Clinton Adminstration staff members Noam Neusner and Jay Footlik to persuade Jewish American organizations to be party to their genocide denial agenda.

President Gul is cashing in all his chips with his allies – scared that President Obama will finally end U.S. complicity in genocide denial by properly commemorating the Armenian Genocide. As Senator, Obama has a long record of speaking the truth on the Armenian Genocide. In the months and days leading up to his election, Obama stated, “America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides. I intend to be that President.”

So on this 60th anniversary of the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment, Turkey’s President has reason to be worried, and the world may have reason to hope, that Turkey’s genocide denial days are numbered. Time will tell.

Category: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Scratching the Surface of Genocide Hyprocrisy

December 8th, 2008 by

Preventing Genocide: A Blueprint for U.S. PolicymakersIt is a little disturbing to see former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen teaming up to unveil a 109-page report offering U.S. policymakers advice on how to prevent future genocides. After all, just last October, this “dynamic duo” was busy encouraging Congress to perpetuate U.S. complicity in Armenian Genocide denial – cosigning letters to Speaker Nancy Pelosi arguing that it’s not the right time to honor the memory of 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children. And William Cohen’s “The Cohen Group” continues to have a strategic partnership with top lobby firm DLA/Piper – hired by Turkey to spread genocide denial in the Halls of Congress for a cool $1.8 million a year.

And yet, 14 months later, they claim to have written the blueprint to end genocide once and for all. I haven’t had a chance to read through the whole thing yet, but no doubt there are some sound ideas in the Genocide Prevention Task Force report. The question remains, however, how do you take a report seriously when the folks who wrote it pick and choose which genocides to speak truthfully about?

Look, even little Timmy can prevent genocide - and has more credibility doing it.It’s a slippery slope, as The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart alluded to last year. Once you start misrepresenting one genocide, what’s to stop you from misrepresenting other genocides for political expediency? As Senior Armeniologist Aasif Mandvi told Stewart, given the right circumstances, the Holocaust could be downgraded to a “half-a-caust”.

Cohen and Albright’s genocide prevention schtick involves fuzzy logic – kind of like the weird scribble they have for a logo on the report presented today (my boss’ 3 year old daughter could have come up with something better). Frankly, the report would have more credibility if they scratched out Cohen and Albright as its authors.

Category: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Keeping the Eye on the Ball, not Emanuel

November 7th, 2008 by

By Khatchig Mouradian

Rahm EmanuelThe selection of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff—the first major appointment by President-elect Barack Obama—did not fare well with many Armenian-Americans who supported the Illinois Senator’s bid for presidency. While the Armenian-Americans who overwhelmingly voted for Obama showed signs of unease, those who supported the McCain-Palin ticket were quick to exclaim, I told you so!

The concerns of Armenian-Americans are understandable. Beginning with his days in the Clinton Administration through his years in Congress, Emanuel’s support has been mixed. It appears—if we are to take Robert Novak’s word for it—Emanuel opposed Clinton Administration affirmation of the Armenian Genocide. And yet, in his first term in Congress in 2003, he cosponsored Armenian Genocide legislation (H.Res.193) and urged President Bush in 2003, 2004 and 2005 to properly characterize the events from 1915-1923 as genocide.

Back then, Emanuel wasn’t afraid to question U.S. assistance to Turkey. In fact, in February 2003, when Congress was considering a $24 billion aid package to Turkey in return for allowing U.S. troops to open up a northern front to battle Iraqi insurgents, Emanuel was positively poetic in listing the myriad of domestic uses for those funds—from “no child left behind programs,” to college tuition assistance. Turkey eventually blocked U.S. troops from setting up the northern front.

Since 2006, it appears Emanuel has gone back to his Clinton-Administration days, counseling Speaker Pelosi not to place the Armenian Genocide resolution on the House agenda—advice that Pelosi and the House leadership did not heed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Category: Uncategorized | No Comments »

US Document Reveals Armenian Genocide Continued Into 1930s

October 15th, 2008 by

sd_1934_doc1.jpgA recently uncovered US State Department document reveals that, as late as 1934, the Turkish government was continuing its policy of genocide against its Armenian population.  In a letter sent from the US Embassy in Ankara, Ambassador Robert P. Skinner summarizes how the government coerced the remaining Armenians living in Anatolia to abandon their properties and forcibly exiled them from their homes.

As Skinner himself states, “It is likely, though, that their removal is simply one step in the government’s avowed policy of making Anatolia purely Turkish.” In other words, the US is once again on record documenting and openly describing the Turkish government’s systematic campaign to wipe out its indigenous Armenian population.

Furthermore, the date of this correspondence demonstrates that the crime committed against the Armenians is not something that can simply be relegated to the days of the Ottoman Empire.

As Harout Sassounian points out in his latest column, this document reinforces the fact that, “a key reason why today’s Turkish officials are not prepared to face their history honestly and blame their Ottoman ancestors is that the Republic of Turkey is actually the continuation of the Ottoman state.”

Sassounian goes on to write, “many of the early leaders of the Turkish Republic had been high-ranking Ottoman officials personally involved in the implementation of the Armenian Genocide.  Such an unbroken transition in leadership assured the continuity of the Ottomans’ anti-Armenian policies.” 

The reality is that the Armenian Genocide was a policy which extended beyond the confines of World War I.  It continued in equal veracity into the Kemalist era and, in effect, continues to this day with successive Turkish administrations pursuing their policy of aggressively denying and criminalizing discussion of the first genocide of the 20th century.

Category: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Defeating Foreign Influence

May 5th, 2008 by

k_street.jpgIn the 1930s, it was revealed that the Nazi government had hired the Ivy Lee public relations firm to do its bidding within the United States.  This revelation led to the adoption of the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (FARA), which required firms lobbying for foreign governments to register their activities with the Justice Department.

By making such activities public, FARA was expected to result in the reduction and near elimination of such foreign lobbying on U.S. soil.  However, the practice has only expanded and further developed over time.

Today, virtually any country willing to pay the right price can hire the infamous K Street lobby firms to push their agenda in the American political arena.  These firms are often comprised of former lawmakers, executive branch officials, academics and top public relations specialists.

Oppressive regimes and dictators ranging from Mobutu in Zaire, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the military junta in Burma, and the apartheid regime in South Africa, at one-time or another, have all employed such firms to curry favor in Washington and candy-coat their image.

Of course, Turkey is one of the most notorious foreign employers of Washington lobbyists.  For years, it has paid millions of dollars to such firms as International Advisors Inc., The Livingston Group, Fleishman-Hillard, and DLA Piper to suppress recognition of the Armenian Genocide in the U.S., just as it stifles discussion of the issue within its own borders.

This point highlights the fact that ending Turkey’s gag rule on the United States and passing H.Res.106 (the Armenian Genocide Resolution) is about more than reaffirming a historical truth; it’s about taking democracy out of the hands of K Street lobbyists and their foreign backers and putting it back in the hands of the citizenry.

There is an undeniable democratic deficit in the U.S. when the media and elected officials are pressured and persuaded to accept certain policies at the behest of foreign agents.  We must work to eliminate foreign influence over what happens in our country.

Recognition of the Armenian Genocide is an inseparable part of this larger struggle for democracy and ending lobbyist control over our government.

Category: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Pelosi Committed to Genocide Recognition

April 30th, 2008 by

“Our work is not finished–there is much more to be done,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  “It is long past time for the President and the Congress to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide.”

These remarks reaffirming Mrs. Pelosi’s commitment to passing the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106) were given on April 23, during the 2008 Capitol Hill Armenian Genocide Observance, organized by the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues.

Speaker Pelosi highlighted the importance of having the US House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) pass H.Res.106 in October but made it clear that more needed to be done to adequately put the US on record as recognizing the facts of the Armenian Genocide.

She also revealed that she carries around the front page of the October 11, 2007 New York Times in her brief case.  The page features a picture of Armenian Genocide survivors who were present during the HFAC’s consideration of the Armenian Genocide Resolution.

Category: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Turkey’s Truth Killing

April 22nd, 2008 by


Since 2005, Ragip Zarakolu has been facing an unending string of trials under the notorious Article 301 of Turkey’s penal code.

His most recent indictment is for publishing George Jerjian’s The Truth Will Set Us Free: Armenians and Turks Reconciled, a book that recounts the story of the author’s grandmother during the Armenian Genocide.  He faces a three-year jail sentence for this offense.

On April 9, a criminal court in Istanbul prologned Mr. Zarakolu’s persecution once agian by postponing his hearing until June 17, by which time Turkey is expected to apply some cosmetic reforms to Article 301.

Nevertheless, Zarakolu feels he will likely end up in jail despite the supposed reforms.  Cengiz Aktar, an EU expert at Bahcesehir University in Istanbul, shares this view, pointing out that there are at least 20 other articles in Turkey’s penal code which have “the same mentality of killing freedom of speech.”

And it is exactly this killing of free speech that has many European officials protesting against Turkey’s practices and blocking their accession into the EU.  It is also this killing of freedom of speech that led to the death of Hrant Dink, the exile of Orhan Pamuk, and the trial of over 1,700 people under Article 301.

We see that this government that claims it has nothing to hide and calls for a historical commission with Armenia is the same government spending night and day lobybing officials abroad, jailing writers at home, and preventing the publishing of books.

Ninety-three years after 1915, Turkey is more adamant than ever in its outrageous effort to bury the truth alongside the 1.5 million bodies it is responsible for exterminating. Ankara is obviously afraid of this truth and cannot dare to face its past.

Yet, despite being dragged to court and even having his publishing house firebombed, a lonely few like Zarakolu continue to call internally for Turkey to change its ways.  “We try to force our society to face its history,” says Zarakolu.  “Without this hardship we can’t change society. Somebody must pay the bill.”

The least we can do is stand up for the truth ourselves and demand a rightful acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide.


Category: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Turkey Lets Livingston Go

April 4th, 2008 by

livingston1.jpgThe longstanding service of former Congressman Bob Livingston and his Livingston Group lobbying firm to the Republic of Turkey has finally come to an end.

Livingston, who served in Congress from 1977-1999 before resigning amid an extramarital affair scandal, has been one of Turkey’s most well-payed and loyal agents in the United States.  Over the years he has received millions of dollars from the Turkish government in return for his work to deny the Armenian Genocide in the halls of Congress.

“We have enjoyed a wonderful relationship for eight years, we’ve had a lot of legislative victories together, and we wish the Turkish people lots of continued success and happiness in the future,” Livingston said in a statement to The Hill.

It seems that Turkey’s “Super Lobbyist” simply no longer met the mark for Ankara’s expectations when it comes to preventing American officials from recognizing a clear historical fact.  Instead, Turkey is now enlisting the services of former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO) and former Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX), both of whom are lobbyists for Turkey with DLA Piper. 

Although anti-genocide activists surely welcome Livingston’s departure from the Turkish payroll, the problem of former public officials selling themselves to the highest bidder continues to hamper American democracy.  In this sense, the struggle to recognize the Armenian Genocide is part and parcel of the effort to loosen the grip of K Street lobbyists over our political process.

Category: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Denial Sends Wrong Message to Sudan

March 17th, 2008 by

During a Capitol Hill reception for the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and Genocide Intervention Network’s (GI-Net) anti-genocide advocacy campaign this past week, Mark Hanis, Founder and Executive Director of GI-Net, highlighted the importance of recognizing the Armenian Genocide as it relates to stopping current and future genocides.

He pointed out that denial of the Armenian Genocide sends the wrong message to the perpetrators of the current genocide in Darfur by convincing them that mass murder can be committed with impunity. This is made even more evident by the cordial relations Sudan and Turkey are steadily building–to the point that they even seem to be swapping their denialist discourse.

Indeed, both countries have repeatedly expressed their admiration for one another, with Turkey’s President stating, “Although we are from from each other geographically, our people are not far to each other,” and Sudan’s ambassador to Turkey recently quoted as saying that Turkey “is a model for Sudan” in the Middle East.

This adds further proof that reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide is not a historical issue but, rather, a very current and modern one.

As long as Turkey does not own up to the crimes it has committed (and is aided in this process by officials in the US), it will continue to serve as a model for governments such as that of Khartoum who seek to slaughter entire groups of people without facing any consequences.

Category: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Analyst Equates Armenian Genocide to Britney Spears

March 6th, 2008 by

John C.K. Daly
is an analyst for the Jamestown Foundation, a right-wing think tank created during the Cold War era. He is also an arrogant denier of the Armenian Genocide.

In a recent talk given in Washington, DC, Daly attempted to present the Armenian Genocide as a “disputed” issue with a questionable basis of support. As evidence of this, he cited an obscure website which presents an 1871 Russian painting as proof of the 1915 Genocide. Not only does using such random internet sites to back an argument (while ignoring the vast documentary and scholarly record) go against elementary academic principles, but it is patently ridiculous to suggest that such anecdotes somehow challenge the overwhelming academic consensus on the murder of 1.5 million innocent human beings.

Daly’s talk contained many other distortions and insulting statements, such as his suggestion that the Armenian Genocide is “the historical equivalent of Britney Spears.” Other innacuracies include his claim that Armenia did not respond to Turkey’s offer to form a historical commission to study the Genocide (Yerevan actually offered to discuss the matter in a bilateral context of normalized relations) or the assertion that Armenian genocide legislation has never passed in Congress (for the facts, see Sec. 2, article 20 and 22 of H.Res.106).

For more on Daly’s junk scholarship and apologetics for Turkey, you can view his report, U.S.-Turkish Relations: A Strategic Relationship Under Stress. For his support of Pan-Turkism as a worthy goal, see his article, “The Rebirth of Pan-Turkism,” in the Eurasia Daily Monitor.

Category: Uncategorized | 6 Comments »