Writer-activist David Boyajian�s investigative articles and
commentaries have appeared in Armenian media outlets in the U.S., Europe,
Middle East, and Armenia and the Newton Tab and USA Armenian Life newspapers named him among their �Top 10
Newsmakers of 2007.� So, when Barack Obama paid a visit to Turkey last month,
it seemed like a good time to ask Boyajian for his take on the new president�s
approach to the issue of the Armenian genocide.
(Map of Armenia
and surrounding countries)
Mickey Z: This
April, President Barack Obama broke campaign promise #511, namely to explicitly
acknowledge the Armenian genocide as U.S. President. What happened on his
recent visit to Turkey? What are the ramifications of his breaking this
President Obama visited Turkey from April 6 to 7, where he did not use the word
�genocide� when referring to the 1.5 million murders committed by the Turkish
Ottoman Empire against its Armenian citizens from 1915-1923. As a candidate,
Obama had promised several times to do so. His statement in Turkey that he had
�not changed his views� -- implying he still believes it was genocide -- was
still a clear breach of his promise to use the �G word.� It was a case study in
verbal gymnastics and political duplicity and should be studied in political
science courses. Obama�s broken promise obviously eroded his credibility. The
same holds true for Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton who, as senators, supported the Armenian genocide resolution. They�ve
since fallen disgracefully silent. Dr. Samantha Power should also be
embarrassed. She�s the National Security Council�s genocide expert and a
Pulitzer Prize winning author. As a campaign advisor to Obama, she made a video
telling Armenian Americans that as president, Obama would definitely
acknowledge their genocide. �Take my word for it,� she said.
Appeasement of a genocide-denying country such as Turkey is
bad policy because its message is that genocides can be committed without
consequence. Appeasement also erodes U.S. credibility on human rights and its
stated desire to be a leader in genocide prevention. Unlike what lobbyists for
Turkey would have U.S. believe, Armenian genocide affirmation by America would
not harm U.S. national interests. Turkey depends on the U.S. for weapons
systems, support for billions in loans from the International Monetary Fund,
security guarantees through NATO, advocacy for Turkish membership in the
European Union, and more. Some 20 countries, including Canada, France, and
Switzerland, as well as the parliaments of the EU and the Council of Europe,
have acknowledged the Armenian genocide. None has ever experienced much more
than a Turkish temper tantrum in retaliation.
MZ: Two days
prior to Armenian Genocide Remembrance day -- which annually falls on April 24
-- Turkey and Armenia announced that they had agreed to a �roadmap� to
normalize relations. What was the significance of this timing? What does the
DB: Behind the
scenes, the U.S. State Department had long been twisting Armenia�s arm to agree
to a so-called �roadmap� with Turkey before President Obama issued what has
become a customary �April 24 statement� by U.S. presidents marking Armenian
genocide memorial day. The �roadmap,� announced on April 22, provided political
cover for Obama to not use the �G word� on April 24. That is, since there was
now supposedly a roadmap for normalization of relations -- no matter how vague
and hurriedly slapped together -- Obama could say that he did not want to upset
Turkey and the touted-as-highly-delicate Turkish-Armenian negotiations by using
the �G word.� Notice that Obama did not consult with Armenian-Americans or
Armenia about this. So much for promises and moral principles. It�s disgraceful
that Obama, simply to help Turkey save face, not only broke his promise, but
showed blatant disregard for the activists -- not just Armenians -- who labored
so hard for many years for the cause of recognizing all genocides.
Armenia has always said that it was ready to normalize
relations with Turkey -- which would include Turkey�s re-opening its border
with Armenia -- without pre-conditions. Suddenly, however, Armenia has had
pre-conditions imposed on it in this �roadmap.� According to the Turkish press,
the �roadmap� allegedly contains pre-conditions such as: Armenia�s agreeing to
a joint commission to examine the veracity of the Armenian genocide -- yes, you heard right, Armenia�s formal
recognition of current Turkish boundaries -- which contain the Armenian homeland, and, possibly, Armenia�s
accepting Turkish mediation in the conflict between Armenians and Azerbaijan
over the disputed Armenian region of Karabagh -- which is absurd since Azerbaijan and Turkey are allies. It
appears that Armenia�s president, whose electoral legitimacy is in question,
has been worn down in these negotiations by Turkey, the West, and possibly even
Russia. And because the Armenian president is grappling with his legitimacy, he
is not heeding the cautions being voiced by the people of his own nation about
MZ: The U.S.
administration and mainstream media would have us believe that Turkey is
seeking to �reconcile� with Armenia. Is �reconciliation� really a possibility,
or have we misunderstood what�s going on?
DB: The word
�reconciliation� in relation to Armenian-Turkish relations is largely an
invention of U.S. policymakers, their emissaries, and the mainstream media who
take their cues from them. What the U.S. and Europe would like to see is a more
stable Caucasus -- that is, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia -- with open
borders. Open borders, you see, would facilitate laying more oil and gas
pipelines that would originate in the Caspian Sea region and proceed west to
Turkey and then to energy-hungry Europe and Israel. The U.S. and Europe don�t
want to put it quite that crudely --
no pun intended -- so they try to depict Armenia and Turkey as possibly
�reconciling� and thus resolving all their differences. Turkey closed its
border with Armenia in 1993 out of sympathy with its ally Azerbaijan, which was
in a war with the Armenians of Karabagh, a historically Armenian-populated
autonomous area within Azerbaijan that Stalin handed to Azerbaijan. Turkey has
also been infuriated that Armenia and Armenians worldwide have been demanding
that Turkey acknowledge the genocide it committed against Armenians.
Turkey has to acknowledge the genocide or there will never
be peace between it and Armenia. And although the Armenian government has not
put forth any claims for reparations arising out of the genocide, or for
territory, many Armenians do have these goals. They cite the Treaty of S�vres
of 1920, which provided for Armenian sovereignty over Armenian lands upon which
Turkey committed the genocide, and which have since been incorporated into what
is now eastern Turkey.
MZ: The countries
of the Caucasus are Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. Most Americans, including
the mainstream media, could not find these small countries on a map. Why are
Russia and the U.S. -- the latter being thousands of miles from the region --
so interested in these three small countries?
DB: The Caucasus
is truly Ground Zero in Cold War II, the ongoing conflict between the U.S. and
Russia. The U.S. -- along with Europe and the NATO military alliance -- regard
Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan as middlemen between the West and the gas and
oil-rich regions around the Caspian Sea. The West has already laid gas and oil
pipelines from Azerbaijan through Georgia and then on to Turkey and the west.
The U.S. wanted those and future pipelines to bypass Russia and Iran because
those two countries could shut such pipelines to pressure the U.S. and others.
The only possible pipelines routes, therefore, are through Georgia or Armenia.
But Turkey shut its border with Armenia in 1993, and Azerbaijan closed its
border with Armenia even earlier due to the conflict between it and the
de-facto Armenian region of Karabagh. That left Georgia as the only place for
these Western pipelines. After the Russian-Georgian was last year, however,
opening an alternative route has become more urgent. That largely explains the
West�s renewed interest in Armenia. Conversely, Russia sees the Caucasus as
within its traditional sphere of influence, and regards U.S. and European
interest in the region as hostile acts.
Simultaneously, NATO has been pushing into the region.
Georgia, Azerbaijan, and to some extent even the ex-Soviet republics on the
other side of the Caspian Sea, are on the path to joining NATO. Russia was
already upset that, following the Cold War, NATO had absorbed the former Warsaw
Pact nations of Eastern Europe. NATO is now attempting, in effect, to do the
same thing on Russia�s southern border. Russia fears that it will eventually be
virtually surrounded by NATO. As a result, we have Cold War II: The U.S. and
NATO are trying to push into the Caucasus and Central Asia, while Russia is
trying to keep them out.
MZ: Why is Israel
interested in the Caucasus, and what role is that country playing? Why are
Israel and the pro-Israel lobby dead set against recognition of the Armenian
genocide by the U.S. Congress?
DB: Israel is
interested in getting some of the oil and gas that flow out of the Caspian Sea
region. That is, from countries such as Azerbaijan, oil and gas flow west
through Georgia, and then on to Turkey and other countries, possibly including
Israel. After all, the U.S. and Turkey, which are important players in these
pipelines, are obviously also very friendly with Israel. Israel also welcomes
all non-Arab supplies of energy since they would make its Western allies less
dependent on Arab oil and gas. And Israel has long had what it calls its
Periphery Policy. Historically, Israel has not had good relations with its Arab
neighbors. Therefore, to serve as counterweights, Israel befriends those
countries farther away, especially Muslim countries that aren�t necessarily
sympathetic to Israel�s Arab neighbors or Palestinians. Azerbaijan, the only
Muslim nation in the Caucasus, and some Muslim nations to the east, such as
Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, are such countries. Fortuitously for Israel, they
also possess significant deposits of gas and oil.
For decades, Israel and Turkey have had very good relations,
mainly because they have a common ally, the U.S., and common adversaries,
namely Arab nations. In the 1990s, Israel and Turkey signed a number of
military, economic, and political agreements that solidified their
relationship. Even before that, but particularly after that, Turkey felt that
it did not have sufficient lobbying muscle in Washington. So the Turks asked
Israel to convince some of the pro-Israel lobby -- the Anti-Defamation League,
American Jewish Committee and others -- to serve as advocates for Turkey. The
Jewish lobby groups agreed. So these groups, as part of their deal with Turkey,
deny or call into question the Armenian genocide and work to prevent U.S.
acknowledgement of that genocide. These groups won�t tolerate anyone
questioning the Holocaust, and yet hypocritically work against acknowledgment
of the Armenian genocide. Interestingly, for the last two years, Armenian
Americans have exposed the ADL�s hypocrisy. In Massachusetts, for example, 14
cities severed ties with an anti-bias program sponsored by the ADL because of
the latter�s hypocritical and anti-Armenian stance (see NoPlaceForDenial.com).
Armenians are determined to challenge genocide denial whenever it occurs.
MZ: Is there a
problem with the way the mainstream media has been covering Armenian issues?
DB: Yes. The
mainstream media have several problems. First, they know very little about the
Caucasus or Armenians. Reporters tend, therefore, to copy each other and repeat
clich�s and falsehoods -- such as that Armenia and Turkey are on the verge of a
historic �reconciliation.� Media also tend to accept at face value the
propaganda issued by Western governments whose interest in the Caucasus is --
let�s be frank -- not �reconciliation,� democracy, or human rights, but rather
self-interested economic, political, and military political penetration of the
Turkey has about 30 times more people and territory, and 50
times more Gross Domestic Product, than Armenia. The power differential is
enormous. Turkey has infinitely more allies in Western media, governments,
think tanks, and multi-national corporations -- and knows how to use them.
Commentators who have a vested interest in touting Turkey for their own
political and even financial reasons have particularly come out of the woodwork
to deride legitimate Armenian demands. But we rarely hear commentators speak of
how a small country that has been the victim of genocide, that has had most of its
territory stripped from it, and that has been blockaded by the denier of that
genocide -- Turkey -- is being threatened by that very same unrepentant denier.
Mainstream media largely fail to appreciate the foregoing facts. Hopefully,
Mickey, this interview will help the media and your readers understand the
issues and the region a bit better.
David Boyajian can be reached at David_Boyajian@Yahoo.com
Until the laws are changed or the power runs
out, Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at www.mickeyz.net.