Commentary: Anger Is No Policy


By Edmond Y. Azadian

The expectations were raised too high for the passage of H.Res.252 about the Armenian Genocide during the last days of 111th Congress, therefore the failure of its passage proved to be equally anticlimactic, certainly disappointing large segments of the American-Armenian community.

When we say “large segments” of the community, we need to qualify the statement because, in reality, the majority of our community is indifferent and it seems that no issue can rise high enough to mobilize large masses of Armenians into action.

Our problem is that the community is too divided to be able to speak with one voice. Every time a resolution is brought to the committee or to the floor the same people are energized while the majority is either indifferent or ineffective. Our enemies, as well as the interested parties can count our voting power better than we can. The legislative and the executive branches of our government would pay more attention to our vital issues if we could politicize larger segments of our community and they in turn could generate more voting and funding power during the elections.

We have two major lobbying groups that sensitize the community about its major issues and rights and send messages to our friends and foes in the Congress; those groups are the Armenian Assembly and the Armenian National Committee (ANC). In addition the clout of certain individuals should not be dismissed either.

This time around the ANC certainly did a fine job in mobilizing the grassroots, and perhaps for that reason has become more vocal in airing the community’s disappointment, frustration and rightful anger. But misguided anger is no policy.

Following the debacle on the Hill, both groups issued their statements about what had transpired in the halls of power. On the surface many observers were surprised for the credit accorded to the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the Assembly statement. While the ANC statement directed its anger at the speaker, there was also a side swipe aimed at the Assembly. One could almost see the foxy grin on Ahmet Davutoglu’s face witnessing the two lobbying groups at each other’s throats. The worst scenario is to demonstrate a crack on our lobbying front, not only vis-à-vis Turkey, but also vis-à-vis our friends and opponents in the Congress.

We have to realize that our defeat is the function of our political power — or lack thereof — in this country. That should be factored into our statements and policy planning. Once again, the military industrial complex and Turkey’s status as a regional power outweighed the blood of 1.5 million Armenian martyrs, the lost homeland and all the righteous rhetoric on human rights. We were also made painfully aware that the country is almost on autopilot, set up by vested interests and Bush-Cheney world view while President Barack Obama’s humane face serves only as a fig leaf imitating the values of the nation’s founding fathers. Guantanamo, still an open wound, is the salient example and symbol of that phenomenon.

Armenians certainly put up a valiant battle and if the stars were properly aligned we would have scored a major legislative victory. Turkey brought in its big guns, blackmail and threats of canceling large military contracts to bear. In the end, there was a Pyrrhic victory on both sides, because the resolution was not brought to the floor for a vote. The Turkish side would get what they wanted had the resolution been defeated on the floor. For the Armenians, whatever happened was a face-saving opportunity laying the ground for further battles.

Had the resolution been defeated, our chances for future success would have been remarkably diminished.

Now we have a semi-defeat at our hands and a great challenge ahead. But rather than pulling our resources together, we are engaged in an unproductive blame game, which can lead us nowhere.

The ANC statement says, in part, that “Speaker Pelosi clearly had the majority, the authority and the opportunity to pass the Armenian Genocide Resolution, yet refused to allow a vote on this human-rights measure.”

The speaker certainly had the opportunity and the authority to bring the resolution to a vote, but what is questionable is whether she had the necessary votes to score a victory.

Among all observers, Hagop Chakerian, an authority on Turkish issues, writing in the daily Azg in Yerevan, has come up with the most plausible explanation analyzing the Turkish news media.

It seems that he has a better reading of the tea leaves in Washington than many observers living on this continent. Chakerian writes: “Indeed Mrs. Pelosi has made individual calls to Democratic Congressmen to be able to bring the resolution to the floor and also assure its passage.”

Therefore, it is obvious that the votes fell short and the passage of the Resolution was in question.

Chakerian further comments: “It is preferable not to bring the Armenian Genocide Resolution for a vote, without a prior assurance of its passage, because a defeat would block its chances for the future. Additionally the opponents of the resolution will be given a chance to remove the resolution  completely from the Congress’ agenda, turning into eventual victory Turkey’s current cautious satisfaction.”

Foreign Minister Davutoglu has stated that the resolution hangs over Turkey’s head like a sword of Damocles.

Well, the destruction of an entire nation and the confiscation of its historic homeland must weigh heavier than that sword for centuries to come.

Chakerian also quotes the statement made by Turkey’s ambassador to Washington, Namik Tan, who has stated: “The fact that the resolution was not put for a vote is not the end. We need to continue the efforts to block all future attempts.”

Our resourceful columnist, Harut Sassounian, who has taken an identical view as the ANC, has outlined the challenges ahead and suggested some concrete steps to remedy the situation.

However his statement that “Armenian-American organizations, led by the ANC, must now make a dispassionate strategic assessment to consider their next moves,” does not   sound like vintage Sassounian who has always stood in the past for more unified action. To single out the ANC seems more divisive, rather than pleading to bring all parties to a common denomination and speak with one voice.

Additionally, with all the laudable work, ANC’s diatribe against Speaker Pelosi tends to burn bridges, when we will be seeking her assistance and her vote, the next time around.

Whether we like it or not, the ANC is perceived as a radical movement by the powers to be and now that the country is veering to the right, it is not the wisest move to bring all our political action under the ANC banner. Plus, it is no time to push a partisan agenda.

The tax break bill compromise and many similar compromises along the way have turned President Obama’s pre-election promises and lofty rhetoric into a charade.

The fact that the White House was quiet throughout the Genocide Resolution battle does not mean that President Obama failed to pay his dues to Prime Minister Erdogan.

Armenians put up a valiant battle; that is why the outcome is so sour, but that bitter taste must not poison inter-Armenian relations.

Anger and a blame game do not constitute policy. Only if we can get our act together and continue our Sisyphusian struggle, can we see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the sponsor of the resolution, has indicated his intention to re-introduce the bill in the next Congress. That is the next opportunity to challenge.

We certainly have still an uphill battle and all we need is to pull our ranks and resources together.