Some weeks ago, when Sen. John Kerry’s name was first mentioned as a possible successor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, I cautioned Armenians not to get overly excited just because “a good friend” of the Armenian community could assume such an influential post.
Unfortunately, it did not take long to discover that my words of caution were fully justified. Despite his 30-year-record of support for Armenian issues, Kerry proved last week, right before assuming his new position, that even such a close “friend” could reverse his long-held views, disappointing the Armenian-American community.
Regrettably, Kerry turned out to be no different than President Obama, Vice President Biden, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. As U.S. senators and presidential candidates, they all made lavish promises in seeking the backing of Armenian-American voters, and completely ignored them after assuming office.
While some may argue that Armenians should only blame themselves for trusting dishonest politicians, I believe all voters have the right to expect elected officials to keep their promises. Otherwise, lying to the public becomes an acceptable practice with no prospect of replacing deceitful officials with honest ones.
Kerry experienced an overnight transformation last week, when for the first time in his political career, he shied away from using the term “Armenian Genocide.” In the past, Kerry had strongly criticized presidents and secretaries of state for not acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. Ironically, he now refuses to practice what he preached for so many years.
Kerry proved that he is not the man he used to be, when responding to written questions on Armenian issues submitted by Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), after his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
When asked for his views on the Armenian Genocide, Kerry shamefully repeated the euphemisms used by Obama in his annual April 24 statements. The nominee for secretary of state, after using the term “Armenian Genocide” throughout his long Senate career, all of a sudden shied away from that term and employed every other word in the English dictionary, except genocide. This is what he stated:
“The U.S. government clearly acknowledges and mourns as historical fact that 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their deaths in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. These events resulted in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century, and the United States recognizes that they remain a great source of pain for the people of Armenia and of Armenian descent as they do for all of us who share basic universal values. The president honors the victims every April 24th on Remembrance Day, so that we never forget this dark chapter in history.”
In a follow-up question reminding him of his own sponsorship for legislation to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, Kerry ducked the issue by insisting that he would “represent the policies of the president and administration faithfully.”
Kerry’s response to questions on the Armenian-Turkish protocols were just as disappointing. He insisted that he would continue to support the failed efforts of Obama and Clinton, pressuring Armenia and Turkey to ratify the protocols. Four years ago, in a private meeting, I explained to Kerry, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, why the Armenia-Turkey protocols were doomed to failure and were contrary to Armenia’s national interests. Back then, the senator seemed to find my arguments convincing. He has now reverted to supporting the Obama Administration’s position on the protocols, which Turkey, under pressure from Azerbaijan, has fortunately refused to ratify.
In response to another written question, Kerry indicated that he might be willing to meet with the leadership of Armenian-American organizations, something Clinton and Obama have refused to do in the last four years. Such a meeting would provide the opportunity to explain to Secretary Kerry why the Obama Administration is wasting its time trying to push Turkey to ratify the protocols. Turkish leaders have made it clear that they will not finalize the protocols unless Armenians make territorial concessions to Azerbaijan on Artsakh (Karabagh).
While Armenian-Americans may not be pleased with Kerry’s sudden change of heart on Armenian issues, regardless of the reasons, they have no choice but to meet and work with the secretary of state who is in office today. Armenians’ only wish is that periodically they will be able to interact with the real John Kerry, whom they knew and loved for the past 30 years!