Woodrow Wilson, the 28th American president, is looking down
in horror at what the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (WWC;
WilsonCenter.org) is doing in his name.
Most Americans are not aware of the DC-based organization,
or that their taxes comprise one-third of its multi-million dollar annual
The WWC was created by Congress in 1968 through the Woodrow
Wilson Memorial Act to commemorate the late president�s �ideals and concerns� and memorialize �his accomplishments.�
The WWC has in several
ways, however, violated its congressional mandate.
The WWC itself claims that it �takes seriously his [Wilson�s] views.� In fact, it has knowingly
disregarded many of his views.
And while it professes �to take a historical perspective,� the WWC often closes its eyes to
Case in point: In mid-June of this year, the WWC plans to
travel to Turkey to bestow its coveted Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service
on Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Curiously, the WWC won�t provide this writer with a press
release about it. We know about the award only from the Turkish media and a
call to the WWC�s communications chief.
An undeserved award
The WWC�s director,
former Congressman Lee Hamilton, says that Davutoglu �personifies the
attributes we seek to honor at the Woodrow Wilson Center� and has �catalyzed� Turkish policy.
It is appalling that
the WWC would honor a top official of a country that in so many ways is a major
human rights violator. Moreover, Davutoglu�s own record -- including his much-
ballyhooed �zero problems with neighbors� policy -- is undistinguished.
But even more to the
point, Davutoglu�s policies are the very antithesis of Woodrow Wilson�s �ideals
Turkish temper tantrums
Let us start with Davutoglu�s
eruption against America due to a US House committee�s approval in March of a
resolution (Res. 252) that reaffirmed the factuality of, and historic US
interest in, the Armenian genocide of 1915-23 committed by Turkey.
Turkey immediately recalled its ambassador. Davutoglu then
announced that the House committee vote was an insult to his country�s
�honour,� as if Turkey�s continuing cover-up of genocide is somehow honorable. A
top official of Turkey�s ruling AK Party threatened the US with �consequences.�
Turkey�s relationship with America, he warned, �would be downgraded at every
level . . . from Afghanistan to Pakistan to Iraq to the Middle East process . .
. there would be a major disruption.�
These were not just nasty overreactions by Turkey. They were
also nonsensical. The US has, after all, reaffirmed the Armenian genocide as
�genocide� at least five times: three resolutions passed by the full House (1975,
1984, and 1996); an official proclamation (No. 4838) by President Reagan
(1981); and a US legal filing with the International Court of Justice (1951).
Davutoglu threw the same sort of tantrum a week later -- withdrawing
his ambassador and making threats -- when the Swedish Parliament recognized the
Turkey has thrown similar fits when some 20 other countries,
the European Parliament, a UN sub-commission, the Vatican, and others
recognized the Armenian genocide.
No other alleged �ally� threatens the US as frequently and
consistently as does Turkey.
Thus, far from �catalyzing� Turkey�s policies, the foreign
minister is carrying on his government�s tradition of threats and genocide
denial. If such behavior �personifies the
attributes� that the WWC �seeks to honor,� the Center�s standards must be low
Davutoglu�s double standards
�Turkey will not allow
anyone else to evaluate its history,� Davutoglu blustered after the House
committee and Swedish Parliament votes.
He seems unaware that
countries constantly evaluate other countries� histories. Davutoglu evidently
thinks that Turkey should be uniquely exempt from the judgments of others.
Davutoglu also seems
blissfully unaware that the United Nations, the US, and many other nations and
international organizations have condemned and continue to condemn various countries�
past (and present) crimes such as the Holocaust, genocides, bloody revolutions,
and crimes against humanity. These include the genocide now taking place in
Turkey and Davutoglu have a horrendous record regarding Sudan.
The turkey-sudan genocide axis
Omar al-Bashir was invited to visit Turkey two years ago while he was under
indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for �war crimes and crimes
Human rights groups,
such as Human Rights Watch, blasted Turkey for inviting the Sudanese dictator. Turkey
defiantly proceeded to welcome al-Bashir with a red carpet, an honor guard, and
a 21-gun salute.
True to Turkey�s
tradition of genocide denial, President Abdullah Gul downplayed the Sudanese
mass killings, attributing them solely to �politics . . . poverty and
Then last year, after
Davutoglu�s appointment, the Turkish government once again invited al-Bashir,
the target of an ICC international arrest warrant. Only after a huge
international outcry was the visit eventually canceled. Davutoglu, like his
country, has a blind spot when it comes to genocides.
In the meantime, of
course, Davutoglu�s Turkey has been busy accusing other countries -- notably
China and Israel -- of genocide. The hypocrisy is incredible. Should not Turkey
first acknowledge its own genocides
against not only Armenians but also Assyrians, Greeks, and Kurds?
Now we know why some
have dubbed Turkey and Sudan the �axis of genocide.�
But Davutoglu and
Turkey�s failures involve much more than tantrums, threats, genocide, and
Davutoglu�s other failures
so-called �zero problems with neighbors� policy, Davutoglu has largely
continued, not �catalyzed,� his country�s failed policies.
For example, there is
no end in sight to Turkey�s 36-year long military occupation of northern
Cyprus. �Zero problems with neighbors�?
rapprochement last year with Armenia, which Turkey has blockaded since 1993,
also disproves the WWC�s assertions about Davutoglu. When he negotiated and
signed a set of controversial protocols with Armenia last year, Turkey said
that these would open a new chapter with its eastern neighbor.
parliaments were then supposed to quickly ratify the protocols.
Though many Armenians
believe that parts of the protocols are contrary to Armenia�s interests, the
Armenian Parliament has been ready to ratify them.
quickly reverted to his government�s old precondition: Turkey would neither
ratify the protocols nor open its border with Armenia unless Armenians
concluded an agreement with Azerbaijan regarding Karabagh, the Armenian
region that Stalin handed to Soviet
Azerbaijan and which declared independence from Azerbaijan in 1991.
was condemned by the parties that mediated the protocols -- the US, Russia, and
Switzerland -- as well as the European Union. Due to Davutoglu�s duplicity, the
protocols have stalled and may die. �Zero problems with neighbors�?
And regardless of
one�s views on American policy towards Iran and Israel, it is known that
Turkey�s overheated, undiplomatic rhetoric is designed primarily to please a
Muslim audience at home and in the Middle East. Turkey�s intemperate language
has simply poured oil on fires and complicated American efforts in the region.
problems, both within the country and across the border in Iraq, remain
unsolved. Raids into northern Iraq by Turkish troops are not a solution.
Even Turkey�s offers
to �mediate� regional disputes look rather contrived given that Turkey has not
faced many of its own problems with neighbors.
�Zero problems with
neighbors� is a hollow catchphrase. A more accurate name would be Turkey�s
longstanding �zero Armenians as neighbors� policy.
Aside, perhaps, from
improved Turkish relations with Syria, and a lot of braggadocio and spin,
Davutoglu has �catalyzed� essentially nothing for the better. He is surely
grateful, though, to Lee Hamilton and the WWC for implying otherwise.
Let us now examine
President Woodrow Wilson�s record to see how the WWC has besmirched his name
and violated its congressional mandate.
Desecrating Wilson�s ideals and concerns
advocated the right to self-determination of all the nations, particularly Armenia,
that suffered under Turkey�s corrupt, violent yoke.
His and America�s support for Armenians -- politically,
financially, and verbally -- was immense and is well-documented. Yet the WWC chooses to desecrate that record by
honoring a Turkish official who denies the Armenian genocide, threatens the
American people, plays games with the protocols it signed with Armenia, and
continues to blockade Armenia.
Wilson enunciated his famous Fourteen Points, based on a
just peace, in 1918, before the end of WW I. Point Twelve left no room for
doubt: The non-Turkish �nationalities
which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of
life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development.� He
was referring to Armenians, Arabs, Assyrians, Greeks, Kurds, and others.
Unlike the proposed
award to Davutoglu, Wilson�s was well-deserved: He received the Nobel Peace
Prize of 1919 because of his Fourteen Points and his advocacy of the League of
Reporting to Wilson
during the genocide was his good friend and ambassador to Turkey, Henry
Morgenthau, Sr. The ambassador cabled Washington in 1915 that Turkey was
engaged in a �campaign of race extermination� against Armenians. The American
Embassy served as a channel for Armenian massacre reports arriving from various
parts of the Turkish empire. US Consul Leslie A. Davis, who actually witnessed
the genocide in the interior, wrote, �I do not believe there has ever been a
massacre in the history of the world so general and thorough.�
At Wilson�s direction,
Morgenthau gave to Turkish leaders the British-French-Russian declaration of
1915 that dealt specifically with the Armenian mass murders. �All members of
the Ottoman Government and those of its agents who are implicated in such
massacres,� read the declaration, will be held �personally responsible� for
�the new crimes of Turkey.�
By proposing to honor
a genocide denier, the WWC�s Lee Hamilton is implying that Ambassador
Morgenthau and American consuls were liars.
Referring to Turkey�s crimes against humanity, Wilson spoke
these words in Salt Lake City a year after WW I: �Armenia is to be redeemed so
that at last this great people, struggling through this night of terror . . . are
now given a promise of safety, a promise of justice.�
America and Armenia
In the spring of 1920, under the terms of the Treaty of
S�vres, the European Allies asked Wilson to arbitrate the boundary between
Turkey and Armenia within the four Armenian provinces of �Erzerum, Trebizond,
Van, and Bitlis.� Wilson agreed. He had already sent 50 American researchers to survey the people and land.
In November, the president delivered the US decision:
Armenia would include more than 40,000 square miles within those four provinces
and a Black Sea coastline. Europe also asked America to accept a mandate over
Armenia -- that is, physical protection from Turkey while Armenians got back on
Though Congress, in a post-war isolationist mood, eventually
declined his appeal for the Armenian mandate, Wilson�s written request noted
that �the hearings conducted by the subcommittee of the Senate Committee on
Foreign Relations have clearly established the truth of the reported massacres
and other atrocities from which the Armenian people have suffered.�
The Senate report, Wilson went on, embodied his �own
convictions and feelings with regard to Armenia and its people.� Americans, he
said, �have made the cause of Armenia their own� and had responded with
�extraordinary spontaneity and sincerity.� These were understatements.
Turkey signed the Treaty of S�vres but later repudiated it.
Incidentally, had Turkey fulfilled its obligations under
S�vres and Wilson�s binding arbitration, much of the Kurdish issue would have
been resolved 90 years ago. The treaty stipulated an autonomous Kurdish zone --
just below the Armenian provinces -- in southeastern Turkey and, conditionally,
in northern Iraq that may eventually have become independent.
Under Turkish and
Soviet attack, in December of 1920 independent Armenia was forcibly Sovietized,
cut to a fraction of its size, and became landlocked. The Armenian
provinces remain under Turkish occupation to this day, while Turkey blockades
what remains of Armenia.
The WWC defies
The Woodrow Wilson Memorial Act of 1968 was unambiguous: The
WWC was meant to express the 28th president�s �ideals and concerns� and memorialize
If it proceeds with
its award to Davutoglu, the WWC will be reaffirming its disregard for Wilson�s
�ideals and concerns� regarding the genocide, America�s support for Armenians,
and liberating their land from Turkish rule. Similarly, Wilson�s
�accomplishments� -- securing aid for Armenian survivors,
US arbitration of
Armenia�s boundaries under the S�vres Treaty, and more -- are being ignored and
mocked by the WWC.
The WWC is insulting
Armenian Americans and all those who survived the Turkish nightmare.
If Lee Hamilton�s own claim that WWC takes �a historical perspective� were true, it
would not honor a man -- and by extension the Turkish government -- who
unashamedly negates the historical record.
Is the Wilson Center
seeking to discredit the Treaty of S�vres on its 90th anniversary by honoring
The WWC may try to claim that it has dealt substantially and
fairly with its namesake�s views and accomplishments regarding the Armenian
As near as can be determined from a search of the WWC�s
public records, however, that claim would be false. This writer has found very
little about the genocide, and most of that is from a Turkish revisionist
Two years ago, the WWC�s Southeast Europe division did host
a scholar who discussed Turkish policy and the Armenian genocide. And
twenty-four years ago, the WWC�s Wilson
Quarterly had a one-page piece about an article published elsewhere that
discussed the genocide.
In contrast, four years ago, the Wilson Quarterly published a sycophantic review praising a widely
criticized book by a notorious genocide denier. And two years back, a former US
State Department official who dealt with Turkey (and is presently an advisor
for the Turkish Policy Quarterly)
wrote a mere two sentences about the S�vres Treaty -- solely from the Turkish perspective -- in a WWC-sponsored paper
about Turkey. The Wilson Center�s website contains a nine-year old article
written by a former US Army officer who denies the genocide.
This is a disgraceful record.
A year ago, the editors of the journal Genocide Studies and Prevention initiated a symposium that
critiqued the report of the US-sponsored Genocide Prevention Task Force (GPTF).
While the symposium used the WWC�s facilities, the WWC was not a cosponsor, reportedly
took little or no part, and thus cannot claim credit for it.
In any case, nothing can justify the Wilson Center�s
proposed award for Davutoglu.
The question begs to be asked: Does the WWC have any
questionable links to Turkey or Armenian genocide deniers?
A look at WWC�s funding sources reveals that it is up to its
neck in corporate cash, including Turkish-tainted cash.
One major corporation -- Boeing -- that is a member of the
WWC�s so-called WilsonAlliances wrote
a letter to Congress asking it to defeat the Armenian Genocide Resolution (Res.
Two other WilsonAlliances
members -- BAE and Chevron -- have reportedly lobbied Congress to defeat the
members -- Alcoa, Boeing, Bombardier, and Honeywell -- are dues-paying members of the Aerospace
Industries Association (AIA), which has asked President Obama and Congress to
ensure that Res. 252 �doesn�t go to the House floor for a vote.� AIA refers to
the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians as merely �the events.�
members -- BAE, Bechtel, Boeing, Chevron, Coca Cola, and Exxon-Mobil -- are
also dues paying members of the American Turkish Council (ATC). The ATC calls
itself a �business association.� Its membership includes over 100 major Turkish
and American corporations. Among its leadership team of some 100 Turks and
Americans, it is nearly impossible to find even one person who is not a top
corporate executive, former military officer, or former government official. The
ATC has long lobbied against Armenian genocide resolutions. Former Lt. Gen.
Brent Scowcroft, chairman of its Executive Committee, once told Congress that
what happened to Armenians is �widely disputed.�
ATC member Lockheed-Martin Corp., which penned a letter
opposing the Armenian resolution, has also contributed money to the WWC.
DLA Piper and other
DLA Piper is a gigantic, worldwide legal and corporate
services firm that has registered with the US government as a foreign agent for
Turkey. The firm is well known for having lobbied against Armenian Americans
and is currently setting up an office in Istanbul.
Ignacio Sanchez is a lawyer employed by DLA Piper. He
�represents national and international clients on a broad range of issues . . .
before Congress� for his firm.
Sanchez also happens to sit on the Wilson Center�s Board of
DLA Piper�s contract with Turkey states that its �services
shall include . . . preventing the introduction, debate and passage of legislation
and other U.S. government action that harms Turkey�s interests and image.�
DLA Piper has partially subcontracted its Turkish role to
The Livingston Group. Headed by former disgraced House Speaker Robert
Livingston, who denies the Armenian genocide and lobbies against Armenian
genocide resolutions, it has been a registered agent of Turkey.
DLA Piper also has what it terms a �strategic alliance� with
The Cohen Group (TCG), headed by former Defense Secretary William Cohen. TCG
represents large corporations who do business with Turkey. It is an ATC member,
and two of its employees sit on the ATC Advisory Board.
TCG�s Vice President, Marc Grossman, was the US ambassador
to Turkey from 1994-97. Among former diplomats, he is probably Turkey�s biggest
He has opposed passage of Armenian genocide resolutions. A
few years ago, Grossman reportedly joined Ilhas Holding, a Turkish firm.
It is also known that whistleblower and former FBI
translator Sibel Edmonds has made very serious allegations about the ATC,
Grossman, and Turkey. These have not yet been adjudicated in a court of law.
And whom did the WWC recently select to be one of its
�Public Policy Scholars�? Marc Grossman.
The WWC seems to be quite fond of corporations (and their
money), lobbying firms, and people strongly affiliated with Turkey that in many
cases oppose acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide.
The above barely skims the surface of the Wilson Center�s
cozy financial relationships with huge corporations.
Playing with genocide
We must digress briefly for an example of how former
government officials work their way into genocide inquiries that are best left
to those more suitable.
Former Defense Secretary William Cohen (of the
Turkish-affiliated TCG) and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
chaired the Genocide Prevention Task Force mentioned above.
As private citizens, Cohen and Albright opposed the Armenian
Genocide Resolution. Their appointment to the GPTF was thus justifiably
criticized as incompatible with its very purpose.
The GPTF was jointly convened by the congressionally-funded,
so-called US Institute of Peace, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD).
The latter is composed
of former high-level US State Department officials. AAD�s chairman is retired
ambassador Thomas Pickering. He was formerly a VP of Boeing, the same company
that has beseeched Congress not to pass the Armenian Genocide Resolution.
The GPTF�s final 147-page report (Preventing Genocide: a Blueprint for US Policymakers) contained
just two miniscule references to the Armenian genocide. Sure enough, they used
the terms �forced exile� and �atrocities,� not genocide. The report was also
widely criticized by scholars.
Incidentally, who sits
on the AAD�s Board? If you guessed the ubiquitous Marc Grossman of the Wilson
Center and pro-Turkish TCG, you�d be correct.
The WWC provides many benefits to corporations that
contribute money to its WilsonAlliances. For
example, they receive �complimentary use� of the WWC�s facilities, the Reagan
Federal Building, blocks from the White House. They also get �private
customized meetings with [WWC] staff and scholars to discuss policy issues that
are specific to your business interests.�
Did WWC/Turkish-affiliated corporations use �private
customized meetings� to urge the WWC to honor Davutoglu, perhaps in expectation
that it would enhance their �business interests� with Turkey?
Did any WWC/Turkish-affiliated lobbying firm or person ask
the WWC to give Davutoglu an award?
We don�t know the answers to these questions. Only those
corporations, lobbyists, and other figures, together with Lee Hamilton and WWC
personnel, can answer them, preferably under oath.
In a phone message,
Sharon Coleman McCarter, WWC Communications Director, said that the center is
honoring the Turkish Foreign Minister because of �public service to his country
and the world.� Turkey, or some Turks, may like its foreign minister, but, as this
writer has shown, he has certainly done nothing to benefit �the world.�
McCarter also claimed
that Davutoglu �is in the Wilsonian tradition� because, like Wilson, he has
been in academia and government. If you teach and then enter government
service, you�re automatically �Wilsonian� and thus a candidate for the WWC
award? This is preposterous.
Who have the nearly 150 previous WWC awardees been? Mostly
Americans: philanthropists, doctors, members of Congress, former diplomats,
architects, actors, and the like.
They range from James
Baker, Dr. Denton Cooley, Betty Ford, Frank Gehry, John Glenn, and Amb. Howard
Leach to Janet Napolitano, Dolly Parton, Gen. Colin Powell (and his wife),
Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Andrew Young.
There are also some
foreign political honorees, such as former Indian President A. P. J.
Abdul Kalam, and some relatively
non-controversial figures from Brazil and South Korea.
blustering, genocide-denying Davutoglu, from a country with a wretched human
rights record, would stand out in the Wilson Center�s Public Service roster
like a sore thumb.
It would be an insult to previous awardees.
For its Public Service
Award, the WWC had its pick of thousands of principled individuals from the US
or elsewhere doing vital humanitarian work, including the recognition
and prevention of genocide. Instead, the WWC has engaged in the worst kind of
political pandering by selecting Davutoglu.
The Smithsonian and
The rot may go even higher, up to the WWC�s parent, the
famed Smithsonian Institution, three-quarters of whose annual $1 billion budget
comes from taxpayers. It, too, is a member of the genocide-denying American
The Smithsonian is supposed to be respectful of America�s
multi-ethnic heritage and pay homage to our country�s history, part of which is
Wilson�s support of Armenians and condemnation of Turkey for committing
genocide. There is no good reason for the Smithsonian to be a member of the
ATC, which is primarily a lobby for Turkish-affiliated corporations. It should
withdraw from the ATC.
And what must the WWC do to return to its Wilsonian roots?
Reforming the WWC
The WWC must abandon its plans to honor Davutoglu. Those who
care about Wilson�s legacy -- members of Congress, ordinary Americans, and
those whose relatives were lost to Turkish genocidal acts -- must contact the
WWC and insist on this.
Congress and the attorney general must launch investigations
into possible conflicts of interest at the WWC, particularly regarding its
corporate and Turkish connections. The WWC director and staff must testify
Wilson Center personnel, and those affiliated with it,
particularly scholars, must speak out publicly against pandering to
corporations and lobbying organizations.
Those whose business or personal interests may conflict with
their WWC role should resign.
The WWC must reject all tainted corporate cash.
Recognized genocide scholars should be invited to speak at
the Wilson Center and write in its Wilson
Quarterly. The WWC should create a principled program on genocide.
The WWC must establish a meaningful, ongoing dialogue with
those persons and their descendants who have been victimized by Turkey�s
The WWC must return to its congressional mandate by truly
rededicating itself to Wilson�s �ideals, concerns, and accomplishments� and by
advocating against genocide and for the human rights and dignity of all people.
David Boyajian is an Armenian American freelance