Mouradian: What Armenian Americans Think about Obama

And what needs to be done

On May 12, I wrote an article titled “Obama Alienates Armenian Americans,” in which I presented the reaction of Armenian leaders and commentators to what the community views as the continuous stream of blows from the Obama Administration in recent weeks. In the two days following the posting of the article on the Armenian Weekly website, many readers posted their views on Obama’s “betrayals” and their suggestions about the road ahead.

The comments compelled me to write a second article, this time quoting the readers, some of whom were very insightful. After all, who are the leaders and commentators to listen to before formulating their policies and writing their commentaries if not the community itself?

At the end of the article, I suggest a way for the Obama Administration to begin remedying the situation.

‘I told you so’

Several readers said they had never trusted Obama in the first place and were surprised by the full support Obama had received from the Armenian community during his presidential campaign.

“Is anyone really surprised?” asked one reader. “I am continually surprised that people believed him. Obama wants everyone to think he’s different. But he isn’t. He’s just another politician who will say anything he has to get elected.”

Another reader agreed. “I was amazed how the Armenian community was supporting Obama and all my friends thought I was crazy every time I told them that Obama will change his views shortly after becoming president… Well, I am sad to say it happened…”

“I’m not one bit surprised that Obama has turned on the Armenians,” said a third reader. “I’m sorry to all of you fellow Armenians who actually voted for him, believing his empty promises of standing behind Armenians, among all of his other promises. The man is a good ‘campaigner’ and that’s it.”

After criticizing those who voted for Obama as well as the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) for endorsing him, one person said, “I just feel sorry for all of you that thought Barack Obama was a ‘friend’ to Armenians. I knew this was coming, and judging from some of the previous posts here, I’m not the only Armenian with some sense!”

 “I guess there were a lot of Armenians who drank the Obama Kool-Aid. You have been scammed. He got what he wanted: votes,” said yet another reader.

‘Crushed’

Most Armenian Americans supported Obama during his campaign and are now deeply disappointed.

“I am embarrassed to say that I was one of Obama’s first supporters. I purchased books and t-shirts to support Obama the candidate… I no longer like Obama the president,” read one comment.

“President Obama, you systematically crushed our hopes,” read another. “I feel duped, foolish, broken-hearted, and disgusted, all at the same time. I think you missed your ‘calling’: you should have been an actor…”

“I have never been disappointed in anything more than President Obama’s not using the ‘g-word’ on April 24th,” wrote one reader. “On five occasions he pledged to recognize the Armenian Genocide but failed as a president on recognizing the truth.”

Yet another reader summarized the situation as follows: “President Obama, you lost the love and trust of 1.5 million American Armenians and 6 million Armenians worldwide.”

Commenting on those who said they were disappointed by Obama, one person wrote, “I am glad you saw the light on Obama. There may be hope for you yet.”

‘Barking up the wrong tree’

A sentiment that is widely felt in the Armenian American community (and the Armenian Diaspora in general) is that the real actor to blame is the Armenian government, which signed a memorandum of understanding with Turkey on the eve of April 24, the Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day.

“I blame all this entirely on the Armenian president Serge Sarkisian,” wrote one reader on the website. “It is entirely his fault that Obama is breaking all his promises. He signed that so-called ‘road map’ agreement two days before April 24. He is a spineless man who has caved in to foreign pressure. He is not acting on the interests of the Armenian people and thus, he is dangerous to have as our president.”

The reader added, “By jeopardizing our national security, he and our foreign affairs minister have committed treason against the Armenian state. What’s worse, he is going to stay as our president for at least another three years.”

“We American Armenians need to stop blaming Obama’s administration,” said another, “and shift our attention to Armenia and its government. To gain credibility, respect, and monetary help, change Armenia’s mafia government.”

‘Return the paraphernalia’

The suggestion Armenian Weekly readers made ranged from the sublime to the ridiculously extreme. Most of them seemed to agree, however, that there is a need to get even more active, and make the Obama Administration feel the heat.

One person said, “It’s time to send all Democrats a message. Do not contribute to any Congressional races; get the word out about the other ways in which the president is systematically breaking his promises…”

Another asked his fellow Armenians to “wake up and change the way we do things,” calling for “a demonstration against the president and the State Department.”

A powerful call to action came from a reader who wrote, “There is no question that we’ve been ditched by the Obama Administration which is following State Department policy. I’ve just finished two letters—one to the president and one to Speaker Pelosi on these issues. Exactly right as stated in the article—the genocide resolution must now be back on the table and Congress must not let parity between Azerbaijan and Armenia be ignored. Letters, phone calls—everything—we’ve got to get back to work.”

A clearly disappointed Obama supporter had another idea: “I suggest we pick a day where all Armenians that supported him send back their Obama paraphernalia, together with it a note stating, ‘I hope the Armenian issue doesn’t mark the beginning of a huge back-slide of compromised campaign promises.’”

Making sense of it all

The Obama Administration’s genocide denial, its failure to appoint any Armenian Americans to a decent position in the administration, and its proposal to break the military aid parity between Azerbaijan and Armenia and decrease foreign aid to Armenia, not only alienated most Armenian Americans but also placed the major Armenian American organizations—all of which had supported Obama—in a very difficult situation. After all, an entire community was mobilized to support what was touted as the most “Armenian-friendly administration” ever. And it was very difficult to challenge that label, with people like Joe Biden, Samantha Power—and Barack Obama himself—on the team.

With its actions, however, it seems that the administration is trying to become the administration that is the most unfriendly to Armenians.

Adding insult to injury, there has been no reaching out from the administration to the Armenian American community in any shape or form. Armenian Americans feel insulted and betrayed, and—regardless of what the president thinks about policy issues—they deserve some respect.

The administration has to reach out to the Armenian American community. That is the only smart way ahead.

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Khatchig Mouradian

Khatchig Mouradian is a lecturer in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS) at Columbia University, where he also heads the Armenian studies program. Mouradian’s first book, The Armenian Genocide and Resistance in Ottoman Syria during WWI, is forthcoming. Mouradian is also the author of articles on genocide, mass violence, unarmed resistance, and approaches to teaching history; the co-editor of a forthcoming book on late-Ottoman history; and the editor of the peer-reviewed journal The Armenian Review. His most recent publications include: “The Very Limit of our Endurance: Unarmed Resistance in Ottoman Syria during WWI,” in End of the Ottomans: The Genocide of 1915 and the Politics of Turkish Nationalism (London: I.B Tauris, 2019); and “Internment and Destruction: Concentration Camps during the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1916,” Internment during the First World War: A Mass Global Phenomenon (London: Routledge Studies in First World War History, 2018). Previously, Mouradian has taught courses on imperialism, mass violence, concentration camps, urban space and conflict in the Middle East, the aftermaths of war and mass violence, and human rights at Worcester State University, Clark University, Stockton University, Rutgers University, and California State University – Fresno.

9 Comments

  1. Am I the only one who received a letter from the White House about the great plans of the Adminstration on healthcare?  I guess this is because of other letters that I sent before the elections.

    Reaching out to the Armenian Community?

  2. i understand the Armenian American community feels deeply betrayed upon the current budget cuts of aid however I want to point out several considerations which the previous comments didn’t address. The fact of the situation is that obama has not been in office for that great of length of time and so the harsh judgments are made after soley one incident. In order to have an accurate description of obamas attitude and approach to Armenia one needs to consider far more factors over a an appropriate length of time. The second and more significant item to consider is that America as well most nations are in an economic crisis which naturally leads to cuts and reduction in foreign aid! Finally I would like to address all the critics that the obama administration did not declare the Armenian genocide just that a genocide officiallly. I agree with that statement entirely however feel the focus should be placed upon the current genocide in darfur and work to raise awareness at minimum all the while addressing the Armenian genocide!

  3. Sadly, American-Armenians, in blaming Obama for all this, are bashing the wrong pinata. They need to look behind the curtain and find exactly out who is putting pressure on him to ditch his prior support for Armenian issues, which I believe was sincere. As we all know, there are some very powerful, anti-Armenian forces working behind the scenes in the US.  The answer to this problem lies there, not with Obama himself. No man is an island, and that includes Obama. 

  4. As an Armenian-American, I do not personally feel betrayed. I always took what Obama said with a grain of salt. I did support him and still do, but had the foresight to know that politics is politics and politicians will always promise things they cannot deliver on. It’s a fact of life. All the people who are now up in arms, if you could, would you go back in time and vote for McCain? Do you really think McCain would do any better in terms of addressing the Genocide issue? I don’t.  Yes I am disappointed, but not terribly surprised with what has happened. At the very least, President Obama did say that his views had not changed. That’s something.  As long as Armenia has a prime minister who refuses to stand up for his people, we will be continue to be considered a “small tribe of uninportant people.”

  5. Why is this such a grave disappointment for Armenians, as if such a thing has never happened before? Genocide recognition by the president of the US will not happen so long as Turkey remains an important ally in that region. It’s out of President Obama’s control–especially when he was running for office and promised to recognize the Genocide. It’s not Obama’s fault, it’s the fault of the system put into place long before him by State Department policies to serve US interests. What choice did Armenians have, John McCain? Would he have done anything different? Of course not. It’s not Obama’s fault, give it up.

    Let’s focus on the Armenian leadership and point the finger of blame at them. They are the ones who are putting Armenia’s long-term interests at risk and the Armenian cause in jeopardy of becoming irrelevant by building on the infamous “road map” that was signed on April 22. The Armenian leadership is working hard at opening the Turkish border–that will be detrimental to Armenia’s future, namely its self sustainability and indeed, its culture. Genocide recognition by Turkey would never happen after that, because in the spotlight Europe and the US will applaud the Turkish authorities for opening the border and paving a road for a new future in Armenian-Turkish relations. Do we really want that to happen without having our due justice? If we don’t, then let’s put pressure on the Armenian government to stop giving in to pressure from the US, not to mention Turkey. Why are Armenians not making noise about the “road map” agreement? This issue is far more important right now than Obama going back on his word. Let’s give Obama a break. He has three more chances to recognize the Genocide–who’s to say that he won’t?

  6. I’m not surprised but terribly disappointed. As a NON American Armenian i thought Obama was gonna be it but i blame that bloody turk Serge Sarkissian. i’m 99% sure he’s either azeri or turkish. he’s destroying everything every single Armenian in the world worked so hard for – recognition, understanding and explanation of why there are Armenians EVERYWHERE. He’s the biggest culprit – i spit in his face

  7. Obama’s diplomacy should be taken into consideration.  He confirmed that he had not changed his views.  So why don’t we, as Armenian-Americans,  respond similarly?!  We have not changed our views (Meaning that we still support him!) but we would pursue the path of pressuring the Congress to recognize the Armenian Genocide just like Canada, France, Switzerland and many other countries that have officially recognized it!   On the other hand, we should not go against the normalization of relations by the Armenian Government with neighbouring Turkey which,  I believe, is a well-studied political/diplomatic step forward and not a “Betrayal” as incorrectly interpreted by some!  Let’s take an attitude of leniency instead of displaying outright disappointment we shall never gain anything from!

  8. The arguement “Turkey is an important ally and therefore Obama is off the hook because we don’t want to offend an important ally” is extremely weak.  Throughout history, countries have openly offended others without.  Ronald Reagan, in the face of extreme dissent among his own party and countrie around the world, risked a far greater international crisis when he stood face to face with the Soviet Union Prime Minister and told him to “tear down that wall.” And actions following ultimately led to Armenia being free of Soviet rule, but I digress. 

    The point is, the acts of the Turks are too serious a matter for President Obama to go, “Well, I’m trying diplomacy.” Diplomacy and lying by our president don’t go well, together.   Obama is spineless and weak-willed.  In spite of being in charge of the most powerful country in the world, he is afraid of Turkey for some reason.  Previous leaders were not.

    I am ashamed of those Armenians posting here who are openly give Obama some leeway on this issue.  You are no different than the president of Armenia himself with his selling of his soul to the Turks.  Shame on you too!  Go do something useful and voice your extreme dissapointment and threaten his reelection prospects on these grounds.

  9. USUAL story in Democrat/Republican biz in USA. Democrats good for local (i.e. U.S.) economy BAD for foreign policy (e.g. Genocide recognition etc.); Republicans good on foreign policy BAD for U.S. economy. Nothing has changed. Personally, I don’t know if even an American of Armenian origin in the White House would do differently than Obama because of so-called Turkey’s geopolitical/military “importance” for NATO. 

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