American Hellenic Institute


Facebook Image
AHI Letter To Washington Post About Armenian Genocide
October 12 2000 No. 49/00 (202) 785-8430

AHI Letter To Washington Post About Armenian Genocide

On October 11, 2000 Eugene T Rossides sent the following letter to the Washington Post about the Armenian genocide. The letter congratulates Armenian Americans for their initiative as being in the best traditions of American democracy. The letter criticizes Turkey and the lobbyists in its pay for their threats and efforts to subvert the democratic process.

"I write with regard to Steven Mufson's interesting article "Local Politics is Global as Hill Turns to Armenia" (Washington Post October 9, 2000). His thesis that local politics is somehow interfering with pursuit of the "broader national interest" is certainly one that will find favor with parts of the foreign policy community, especially among those with close ties to the defense industry. But for those of interested in democratic governance, there is a strong case that Mr. Mufson has got the argument the wrong way around.

A better interpretation of activism in international issues by domestic interest groups is that, far from distorting the foreign policy process, this ensures that the national interest is not captured by foreign interests or by lobbyists in the pay of foreign governments. This is clearly born out by the details in Mr. Mufson's article.

On the one hand, the Armenian Assembly of America, a group of American citizens, is using the normal American democratic process to have a terrible episode in history recognized by the Congress as "genocide." Opposed to this group are the Turkish government, a bevy of lobbyists in its pay, and a group of officials with close connections to the defense industry.

My guess is that if ordinary Americans were asked whether they preferred American citizens to influence American foreign policy or highly-paid lobbyists for foreign governments, they would opt for the former every time. This would be particularly the case if these foreign lobbyists were trying to subvert our national values on behalf of a multi-billion dollar arms contract.

And they would be right to do so. Americans do not accept that the "broader national interest" means sacrificing American values on the altar of defense contractor profits.

The true distortion here has been introduced by Turkey. The Armenian Genocide resolution is not aimed at Turkey. It is barely a foreign policy issue at all. The House resolution is about Armenian suffering and about American values in recognizing it as such. That Turkey should have chosen to react by issuing crude threats of retaliation is indicative of something rotten in the Turkish psychology. Representative Chris Smith got is exactly right when, in Mr. Mufson's article, he calls this "denial." Perhaps we should not be surprised given the genocidal treatment that present-day Turkey metes out to its Kurdish minority.

On September 27-28, 2000 the Library of Congress and the Armenian National Institute in cooperation with the U.S. Holocaust Museum presented a conference on the "The American Response to the Armenian Genocide." In his keynote address "Genocide in the 20th Century" to the conference Sir Martin Gilbert, the distinguished historian, described the massacres of the Armenians as the first genocide of that century. There is no real debate in the academic community about this issue.

Those who have lobbied so actively on Turkey's behalf also need to examine their consciences. It does not make a pretty sight to see high officials and military commanders making common cause with foreign governments who are issuing threats against our own government. If they regard themselves as friends of Turkey, a more suitable role for them would be to inform their Turkish contacts that the United States does not react well to threats.

In conclusion, my thanks to Mr. Mufson for this illuminating article. I hope he will be encouraged to undertake further investigative work into the role of foreign lobbyists and defense contractors. They are the true entities who are subverting our foreign policy decision making, not the domestic groups. Turkey is an excellent example of the manipulation of the public debate by foreign lobbyists to portray Turkey as a "staunch" ally and "bulwark" against Islamic fundamentalism when the real facts are otherwise--as Turkey's present anti-American actions are showing."