For Immediate Release ~ 2008-01-30
Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian ~ Tel: (202) 775-1918
“The Armenian National Committee of America is proud today to endorse Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States,” said ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian. “Based on his strong record in office, his bold statements as a candidate, and our judgment as to the policies he will pursue as President, we believe that, among a strong field of Democratic candidates, Senator Obama will best reflect the views and values of Armenian American voters.”
The official announcement came during a press conference held at the ANCA Western Region headquarters, featuring remarks by Obama supporters, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) and L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti as well as ANCA National Board Member Raffi Hamparian and Armenians for Obama Chairwoman Nora Hovsepian.
Barack Obama: The choice for change
In a powerful statement, issued on January 20th, Senator Obama voiced his strong support for passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 & S.Res.106) currently before Congress, and pledged that, as President, he will recognize the Armenian Genocide.
The Presidential hopeful also reaffirmed his support for a strong “U.S.-Armenian relationship that advances our common security and strengthens Armenian democracy.” Unlike other Democratic candidates, he also pledged to “promote Armenian security by seeking an end to the Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades, and by working for a lasting and durable settlement of the Nagorno Karabagh conflict that is agreeable to all parties, and based upon America’s founding commitment to the principles of democracy and self determination.”
The key elements of the Obama record that led to the ANCA endorsement include the following:
The Armenians for Obama site -- www.armeniansforobama.com -- will be up shortly. In the interim, individuals interested in volunteering or receiving more information, can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, the ANCA welcomes feedback on its service to the Armenian American community. Please forward your thoughts and suggestions about the 2008 Presidential election by email to email@example.com.
ANCA Outreach to Candidates:
In recent weeks, the ANCA has invited each of the candidates to share their views on Armenian Americans issues, and to comment on both the growing relationship between the U.S. and Armenian governments and the enduring bonds between the American and Armenian peoples. Questionnaires sent to the candidates have invited them to respond to a set of 19 questions, including those addressing: affirmation of the Armenian Genocide, U.S.-Armenia economic, political, and military relations, self-determination for Nagorno Karabagh, the Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades, and the genocide in Darfur.
The other two leading Democratic candidates, Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and former Senator John Edwards (D-NC), are friends of the Armenian American community, and have each reached out in substantive ways to Armenian American voters. Either one, if nominated, would represent candidacies offering a profound improvement over the policies of the current Administration.
On January 24th, four days after the Obama statement, Senator Hillary Clinton, who is a cosponsor of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (S.Res. 106), issued a forceful statement calling for Congressional passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution and pledging that, as President, she will recognize the Armenian Genocide. Her statement, welcomed by the ANCA, stressed that, “Our common morality and our nation’s credibility as a voice or human rights challenge us to ensure that the Armenian Genocide be recognized and remembered by the Congress and the President of the United States.” As a Senator, Hillary Clinton has, since 2002, cosponsored successive Armenian Genocide resolutions. She joined Senate colleagues in cosigning letters to President Bush in 2005 and 2006 urging him to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
In a January 24th letter to the ANCA, John Edwards voiced support for the passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, within the context of a diplomatic effort to assure the Turkish government that the legislation is not aimed at present day Turkey, but rather the atrocities committed by the Ottoman Empire. As a Senator, John Edwards cosponsored successive Armenian Genocide Resolutions beginning in 2002. He also supported Section 907 restrictions on U.S. aid to Azerbaijan due to its ongoing blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh.
The ANCA has been reaching out to each of the leading Republican candidates and hopes to issue a statement on the GOP primaries in the near future.
ANCA Presidential endorsements, in both the primary and general elections, are offered against the backdrop of several decades of disappointing experiences, during which Presidents, while running for office, have affirmed the Armenian Genocide to win hearts and minds among Armenian American voters, only to retreat from this recognition once in the White House and aggressively pressure the U.S. Congress from properly commemorating the very same crime against humanity they once condemned as candidates.
The Armenian American Vote:
Armenian Americans, in key primary states and throughout the country, represent a motivated and highly networked constituency of more than one and a half million citizens. The ANCA mobilizes Armenian American voters through a network of over 50 chapters and a diverse array of affiliates, civic advocates, and supporters nationwide. ANCA mailings reach over a quarter of a million homes, and, with the addition of internet outreach, updates and action alerts reach well over 350,000 households. The ANCA website, which features election coverage from an Armenian American point of view, attracts over 100,000 unique visits a month. The ANCA also has broad reach to Armenian American voters via a sophisticated media operation of newspapers, regional cable shows, satellite TV, blogs, and internet news sites.
Along with its Presidential endorsements, in both the Primary and General elections, the ANCA reminded Armenian Americans that their ability to impact policy-level decision-making depends, first and foremost, on the continued expansion of advocacy efforts at all levels of government. The ANCA's Congressional endorsements, which will be announced later this year, will represent an important element of this process by providing Armenian American voters with the information they need to solidify the strong, bipartisan support our community enjoys in Congress.
The need for change: The Bush Administration’s record
The pressing need for fundamental change in how the United States addresses issues of special concern to Armenian Americans is highlighted by a review of the current Administration’s record in twelve key areas:
1) Broken campaign pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide
Almost immediately after taking office, President Bush abandoned his campaign pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Rather than honor this promise, the President has, in his annual April 24th statements, used evasive and euphemistic terminology to avoid describing Ottoman Turkey's systematic and deliberate destruction of the Armenian people by its proper name - the Armenian Genocide. Moreover, the Administration has echoed the Turkish government’s denial by claiming that the Armenian Genocide, one of the most studied genocides of the 20th century, “should be a matter of historical inquiry, not legislation.” On October 17, 2007, after the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the Armenian Genocide Resolution, President Bush argued that, “one thing Congress should not be doing is sorting out the historical record of the Ottoman Empire,” claiming there was “more important work to do.”
2) Opposition to the Congressional Genocide Resolution
The Bush Administration, throughout its tenure, has actively sought to block the adoption of the Genocide Resolution in both the House and Senate. As recently as October of last year, the President spoke to the national media from the White House, on more than one occasion, against the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and personally lobbied Members of Congress to prevent the commemoration of this crime.
3) The Evans firing and the Hoagland nominations
The Bush Administration fired U.S. Ambassador John Evans, a career Foreign Service officer with 35 years of experience, simply for speaking truthfully about the Armenian Genocide. Despite numerous Congressional inquiries, his Administration continuously attempted to cover up the true reasons for Evans’ removal and the Turkish government’s protests over his statements. When the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) awarded John Evans the Christian Herter prize for constructive dissent, Administration officials forced AFSA to rescind the award just days before Turkish President Erdogan came to Washington, DC to meet with President Bush.
The President’s nominee to replace Ambassador Evans, Dick Hoagland, denied the Armenian Genocide in response to Senate inquiries during his confirmation process. After being blocked by a Senatorial “hold” placed by Robert Menendez in the 109th Congress, the President again nominated Ambassador Hoagland, only to have this nomination blocked once again on the grounds that a diplomat who denies the Armenian Genocide cannot serve effectively as the U.S. representative to Armenia.
4) The Waiver of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act
The Bush Administration, in 2001, aggressively pressured Congress into granting the President the authority to waive Section 907, a provision of law that bars aid to the government of Azerbaijan until it lifts its blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh. President Bush has subsequently used this authority to provide direct aid, including military assistance, to the government of Azerbaijan, despite their continued violation of the provisions of this law.
5) Reduction in aid to Armenia
In the face of the devastating, multi-billion dollar impact of the Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades on the Armenian economy, President Bush has, in each of his years in office, proposed to Congress that Freedom Support Act humanitarian and developmental aid to Armenia be reduced.
6) Abandonment of the Military Aid Parity Agreement
The Bush Administration abandoned its November 2001 agreement with Congress and the Armenian American community to maintain even levels of military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan. In successive budgets submitted to Congress, the President effectively sought to tilt the regional military balance in favor of Azerbaijan, undermining the role of the U.S. as an impartial mediator, despite Azerbaijan's increasingly violent threats of renewed aggression.
7) Mistaken Listing of Armenia as a Terrorist Country
The Bush Administration sought, unsuccessfully, in December of 2002 to place Armenia on an Immigration and Naturalization Service watch list for terrorist countries. This obvious error was reversed only after a nation-wide protest campaign. Neither the White House nor the Department of Justice has apologized for the offense caused by this mistake.
8) Lack of U.S.-Armenia Presidential visitations
The President neither visited Armenia nor did he invite the President of Armenia to visit the United States, despite similar visits by the leaders of Georgia and Azerbaijan.
9) Failure to maintain a balanced policy on Nagorno Karabagh
The Bush Administration, to its credit, took an early initiative to help resolve the Nagorno Karabagh issue in the form of the Key West summit meeting in 2001 between Secretary of State Powell and the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan. After Azerbaijan's failure to honor its Key West commitments, however, the Administration failed to hold Azerbaijan accountable for unilaterally stalling the Nagorno Karabagh peace process.
10) Taxpayer financing of the Baku-Ceyhan bypass of Armenia
The Bush Administration supported American taxpayer subsidies for the politically motivated Baku-Ceyhan pipeline route that, at the insistence of Turkey and Azerbaijan, bypassed Armenia.
11) Refusal to pressure Turkey and Azerbaijan to end their blockades
The Bush Administration has not forcefully condemned the Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades as clear violations of international law, nor, outside of occasional public statements, has it taken any meaningful steps to pressure the Turkish or Azerbaijani governments to end their illegal border closures.
12) Neglect of relations with the Armenian American community
Breaking with the tradition of the last several Administrations, the
Bush White House failed to reach out in any meaningful way to our nation's
one and a half million citizens of Armenian heritage. While the State Department,
Pentagon and National Security Council maintained their long-standing,
policy-level dialogue with the Armenian American community leadership,
the White House itself essentially neglected Armenian Americans as a civic