Sassounian: Documents Reveal Bush’s Duplicity on Genocide

In a highly informative book, Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and Century-long Struggle for Justice, Michael Bobelian has exposed important but little known facts about the long history of attempts to get the Armenian Genocide recognized by the United States.

One of Bobelian’s more notable revelations is the apparent contradiction between then-Vice President George H.W. Bush’s promise to the Armenian American community to acknowledge the genocide after he is elected president and his administration’s agreement with Turkey to block such an acknowledgment.

While running for president in 1988, Bush issued the following statement: “The United States must acknowledge the attempted genocide of the Armenian people in the last years of the Ottoman Empire, based on the testimony of survivors, scholars, and indeed our own representatives at the time, if we are to ensure that such horrors are not repeated.” Bush is the only vice president to have made such a pledge on the Armenian Genocide.

After assuming the presidency in January 1989, however, Bush ignored his commitment on the Armenian Genocide and actively tried to persuade the U.S. Congress not to recognize it. Within months of his election, Bush wrote to Senators Bob Dole and George Mitchell, and Congressmen Tom Foley, Richard Michel, Richard Gephardt, Janet Mullins, and Richard Lehman, informing them of his opposition to the pending Congressional resolution on the genocide.

On April 20, 1990, Bush issued his only Presidential Message on the occasion of Armenian Remembrance Day—without, however, using the term “Armenian Genocide.” He spoke about “…the terrible massacres suffered in 1915-1923 at the hands of the rulers of the Ottoman Empire. The United States responded to the victims of the crime against humanity by leading international diplomatic and private relief efforts… On this 75th anniversary of the massacres, I wish to join with Armenians and all peoples in observing April 24, 1990 as a day of remembrance for the more than a million Armenian people who were victims. I call upon all peoples to work to prevent future acts of inhumanity against mankind, and my comments of June 1988 represent the depth of my feeling for the Armenian people and the sufferings they have endured.”

Over the years, analysts have offered different explanations as to why recent U.S. presidents (except for Ronald Reagan) have not kept their promises to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Bobelian revealed that in 1987, a year before Bush made his promise to the Armenian American community, the United States and Turkey had signed an extensive military and economic agreement, according to which the American government pledged to oppose any “inappropriate actions,” such as the pending Congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide.

During the official signing ceremony held at the State Department on March 16, 1987, Secretary of State George Shultz and Turkish Foreign Minister Vahit Halefoglu exchanged letters extending through December 1990 the bilateral Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreement that had been in effect since March 29, 1980. According to this agreement, the United States made a commitment to provide high levels of military and economic support for Turkey. More significantly, Washington agreed to “vigorously oppose inappropriate actions which would be harmful to healthy U.S.-Turkish relations, to U.S.-Turkish military cooperation or to our efforts to provide security assistance to Turkey based on the needs of the Turkish Armed Forces.”

When the 1980 agreement expired in 1985, the Turkish government cleverly dragged out the negotiations for its extension, while escalating its demands from the United States. After a series of diplomatic exchanges that lasted two full years, the Turkish side succeeded in extracting more and more concessions from the U.S., including the commitment to block Congressional resolutions on the Armenian Genocide.

Vice President Bush must have known in 1988, when he made his deceptive promise on the Armenian Genocide, that the United States government had already signed an agreement with Turkey in 1987, pledging to “vigorously oppose inappropriate actions” that would damage U.S.-Turkish relations.

After Reagan’s Proclamation of April 22, 1981 and the two House resolutions adopted in 1975 and 1984 acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish government had good reason to insist on language in the 1987 agreement to block any further acknowledgments of the Armenian Genocide.

The Turkish scheme worked! Breaking his pledge to the Armenian community, Bush successfully lobbied the Senate in 1990 to prevent the passage of a resolution on the Armenian Genocide.


Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh $917 million of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


  1. This is what I still need to understand.  Why do we still need to pass a resolution when such was passed in 75 and 84?  A resolution is only good for one year or what?  I hope someone has an answer.

  2. We “need to pass a resolution” to poke a finger in the eyes of the turkish denialist regime hoping the passage of time without constant reminders will lead to the world to forget and forgive . This is primarily directed combating their plans.

  3. Thanks Sassounian for sending…
    Bush entered Kuwait because they have petrol
    A Cypriot guy said, “We have orange and not petrol to protect us.”
    A Healthy Criminal Relations between Gangs!

    There is No Democracy
    No equality on this unfair earth.
    There is only  benefit
    As money enters every gate.
    Humans blood are so cheep
    Can be sold by ugliest ways.
    If you don’t have power
    You can’t live and breed…
    Thus healthy relation between USA and Turkey
    Is essential to surge arms selling greed.
    It seems If you slay the minorities to say
    The earth will remain healthy.
    Word minorities should be removed
    From newspapers …dictionaries.
    Humans are humans
    If equality applied and breezed.
    Political jazz not always can last
    People live on Internets
    They no longer like to taste blood in bread!

  4. That’s absolutely right ! We do not need another and another and another aknowlegements of once decided and resoluted question . Based on those two precedents turks would build already a second empire if they were in our place . We can not use what we already have .
    RA should ratify Sevres protocols based on what we have since 1975  and 1984 resolutions . Of course denounciate Kars Treaty too , right before the ratification of Sevres Treaty .  I guess it is a little simpler than we all think , somebody makes extra obstacles for us to understand so much … I am not trying to blame anybody but ourselves … It should be clear – we are not ready yet fot this type of progress , somebody might be affraid of the results or something else …

  5. As Armenian Americans, we are failing dismally in summoning our rights as tax paying citizens of this great country, and confronting this country’s leadership for its long history of discriminating against our community by suing the US government for:interfering with constitutional and legislative law and procedure by allowing a foreign country impede our freedom of expression as US citizens by allowing the censorship of Genocide related stories and movies that are labeled “offensive” to Turkey and disrespecting the will of the American people by killing resolutions that were successfully passed by the people, for being an accomplice in obstruction of truth and justice by chosing not to officially acknowledge a particular Genocide for political gain, and for psychologically traumatizing its citizens of Armenian descent with this immoral, illegal and unethical stance. The US government is supposed to protect our rights as its citizens, and it should be held accountable for that responsibility.
    An official inquiry should be made concerning all the different instances, “agreements” and paying off/kick backs of congressmen that were made between Turkey and the US at the expense of our rights as citizens of this country and the blatant disregard of truth and justice.
    This idea has been around, and I strongly urge our leaders and representatives to consider putting a well documented and prepared case together and suing the US Government for politicizing the Armenian Genocide and seriously damaging the dignity of our community.
    On another note, waiting for the US or for that matter any other country to acknowledge our Genocide before proceeding to make official claims against Turkey is UNDERMINING the crime of the Armenian Genocide which has already been acknowledged by world renouned historians and human rights leaders as well as 20 countries. Armenia should make official claims against Turkey. It makes no sense for a victim of this kind of a crime to wait for “the right time” to proceed with legal claims. All our waiting and silence have done is give Turkey and the US the time and opportunity to strike all sorts of deals and unethical agreements and come to know us as complete “pushovers”.

  6. Dear Katia
    Don’t forget to mention that
    till today 44 USA states recognized Armenian genocide
    out of 5i… I think…So no need to count the rest.
    Even Bedouins they recognize Armenian Genocide.
    This is the reason that Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, Egypt
    ignore the Turkish politics… they know very well who are they…
    As they suffered… as we suffered.

  7. Boyajian, I am surprised by your comment.  Have you missed the level of Anti-Armenian propaganda that has been going on?  There is a concerted effort to make Armenians as villains and scare the politicians from supporting Armenian causes.  There is a game on the Face Book called Mafia Wars.  One of the Jobs is titled something about dealing with the Armenian Mafia.  There is no mention of any other nationality.  Turkish government is and has been doing a great job in creating an Anti-Armenian environment.  They have seeded the media and it is slowly and surely taking hold.  When the arrests were made of some of the Armenians associated with defrauding the Medicare, it was made out to be a big Armenian crime, while in reality there were larger crimes against the Medicaid/Medicare perpetrated by other nationalities.  The nationality was never mentioned!  I am not defending an illegal act, I am just pointing out that there is a wave of Anti-Armenian sentiment sweeping the United States and Turkish government is spending a lot of money to fan the flames.  We do need an equivalent of ADL and Abraham Aghvessian!  Joking aside, if we do not do anything about it, then we will lose all leverage in the government and the society.

  8. Hye, with the support of some (even of the Congress of the United States of America) the turk is, via great sums of  monies, destroying  the morality of the USA… seems to be bringing USA morals to that as same as that of the turk leaderships purusue – still.
    Now, endeavoring to ‘eliminate’ the Woodrow Wilson memorial! via USA ex-Congressman who headed this memorial (recently conveniently  retired) and who shall have certainly known the turks’ obvious goals to invade this honorable memorial of our own President Wilson. Turks, via their usual mode of using huge sums of monies – are determined to destroy this memorial created by the citizens of the United States of America for our own President Woodrow Wilson – sadly,  today, being destroyed by Turks’ determination. Seems that the turk need to also ‘eliminate’ this memorium to Wilson for  HISTORICALLY . he was a president who spoke up for the Armenians  who suffered the Turkish Genocide of the Armenians -in early 20th century.  Today, all these nearly 100 years later,  turks were ‘getting back’ at Wilson – turkish style… And such a leadership in turkey will be leading their nation to join the civilized nations of the world?
    A turkey, still of the Ottoman mentality, using all PLOYs ongoing/unending seeks many such ‘moves’ IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – AGAINST A HIGHLY EDUCATED AND INTELLIGENT PRESIDENT OF THE USA… Compare his mentality to the Ottoman mentality existing today in a turkey…. NO COMPARISON!!  Since the presidency of the George Bush (the father)   the USA leaderships have chosen the wrong ‘ally’, gave the turks excessive advances and aid even into today… thinking the turk would join the civilized nations of the world…. Not yet, not today, as turkey is not an ally of the USA –
    actually the USA leaderships have been the GREATEST (mistakenly) ALLY OF A TURKEY.
    P.S. uSA, try and go into a turkey and attempt to destroy the images of those who led the turks to perpetrate the Turkish Genocide of the Armenians…. just try!! Manooshag

  9. Hye ,as all our 50 states of the USA have agencies protecting the historic and natural sites within their states so too the leadership of the USA, too, must have such an agency that protects the historic and natural sites of our capitol city, Washington DC. for all the citizens of the USA! Yet when other nationalities can invade and attempt to eliminate (for their own convoluted reasons) ANY historic sites which have been, over years, established by and for the citizens of te United States of America in Washington DC.  Today there are so many ‘departments’ which no longer serve the needs of our nation… instead the need appears to be for our historic American sites to be protected from ‘outsiders’ who choose to use their so-called ‘alliance’ with the USA to expend millions of dollars – against what citizens of the USA treasure.  Case in point:  the turk determination to ‘eliminate’ (at which turks excel) our American President Woodrow Wilson foundation… for all the wrong, deceitful and dishonest reasons… just because ‘they’ choose too!!  Having ‘gotten away’ (till now) with their Genocides of peoples to gain and steal their lands and properties via tortures, slaughters, rapes and worse… shall they also ‘get away’ further, by eliminating, from our own capitol city, our own memorium to a brilliant, highly educated President Woodrow Wilson today?  Whither goest thou our greatest republic the world has known… to allow such devious and vile elimination of our own history- even more boldly, in our own Washington DC –  destroyed by such as turk leaders today.  Have our leaderships lost their way, too, are our leaders to be led by ‘lessers’ – who have not their own history and yet seek historians to ‘justify’ their Genocides.  Appears so, doesn’t it?   Shall any nation, such as the USA,  so presume to eliminatie such sites in a turkey – to conduct such ‘eliminations’ of the turk who highly honor those who perpetrated Genocides… elliminate these turkish sites?
    Does it occur today to turkish leaders that they have ‘invaded’ our nation’s capitol, our
    Washington DC by all their presumptious actions – desecrated our American nations’ leaders, a student at Princeton University, the president of Princeton, and then to become the President of the United States of America – now  ‘deleted’ – turkish style.

  10. Dear my compatriots….

    it’s my duty and obligation to remind all and every single Armenian  “The might is allways right” No mater who is the president Bush or…??? the result will be the same and he is the Right, because he has the Might…

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