Sassounian: Resolute Response to Pelosi’s Failure on Genocide Resolution

Armenians worldwide are justifiably outraged by the refusal of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic leadership to bring the Armenian Genocide Resolution to a vote.

Pelosi had “the majority, the authority, and the opportunity” to schedule a vote on the Armenian Genocide Resolution, but failed to do so, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) announced last week. Why didn’t she bring the resolution to a vote? It is important to note that contrary to their previous practice, neither the president nor the secretary of state made any public statements against the resolution. They did not have to; they had made a behind the scenes deal with Pelosi not to schedule a vote on the resolution before Congress adjourned for the year, according to a knowledgeable Washington source. Under these circumstances, the self-serving claims of Turkey’s ambassador and Turkish-American organizations that their belated actions blocked the vote were complete exaggerations, if not outright falsehoods, and inconsequential!

The Armenian Genocide Resolution is neither the beginning nor the end of Armenian political demands. Here is why: This is a commemorative resolution with no force of law; similar genocide resolutions were adopted by the House of Representatives twice, in 1975 and 1984, and such resolutions are only a means to an end.

What is the real objective of the Armenian Cause? Obtaining justice for Armenians from the descendants of those who not only butchered them, but occupied their homeland and confiscated their properties.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stated last week that the resolution was like “the sword of Damocles hanging above our heads.” He expressed the hope that such initiatives would not be brought up again in Congress as they wasted Turkey’s energy and time. The threat felt by Turkish leaders a century after their ancestors’ heinous crimes and the waste of their valuable resources to counter the resolution are reason enough for Armenians to bring such initiatives to every legislative body in the world year after year. Moreover, each time Turkish leaders demand that a U.S. president block such a resolution, in return they are obligated to make costly political concessions to the American side.

Armenian American organizations, led by the ANCA, must now make a dispassionate strategic assessment to consider their next moves:

  • File lawsuits against Turkey and Turkish firms in U.S. federal courts, the European Court of Human Rights, and the World Court.
  • Increase the number of “hanging swords” on Turkish leaders’ heads by submitting multiple Congressional resolutions that go beyond genocide acknowledgment. Among other things, these could include restitution of confiscated Armenian properties and return of churches to the jurisdiction of the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey.
  • Capitalize on Turkish leaders’ anti-Western policies and statements to generate support for Armenian issues among the new Republican majority in the House.

Here are some preliminary thoughts on specific actions that could be considered by Armenian American leaders in the coming weeks:

  • Steps to be taken against Minority Leader Pelosi and House Democratic leaders as political payback for their obstructionism. It is now up to them to woo their disappointed Armenian supporters with a series of concrete actions, not promises, to undo the damage they have caused to their own credibility.
  • Start planning for the 2012 elections to ensure that no Armenian American casts a vote or contributes a single dollar for Obama or any other Member of Congress, Democrat or Republican, opposed to Armenian issues.
  • Assess the inaction of leaders in Armenia and the diaspora who did not lift a finger nor utter a word in support of the genocide resolution, while Turkey’s president, prime minister, and foreign minister were pressuring Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to block the vote.
  • Capitalize on the activism of the newly energized Armenian American community, especially the youth and celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Serj Tankian, to engage them in creative ways of pursuing the Armenian Cause.
  • Support Senators who have an interest in placing a new “hold” against Francis Ricciardone or his replacement as nominee for U.S. ambassador to Turkey. There has been no U.S. Ambassador in Ankara for more than six months. Similarly, Azeri-American efforts in support of the Turkish campaign of genocide denial must be countered by placing a new “hold” on Matt Bryza or his replacement as nominee for U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan. There has been no U.S. ambassador in Baku for more than 18 months.

Instead of getting dejected by last week’s temporary setback, Armenians should strengthen their political resolve and escalate their demands from Turkey, using all legitimate means of redress to advance their just cause!

Harut Sassounian

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 one billion dollars 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. 44 states out of 50 recognized the genocide

    44 states out of 50 recognized the genocide

    44 states out of 50 recognized the genocide

    44 states out of 50 recognized the genocide

  2. Above Shows
    Our new Armenian-American Flag
    44/50 States recognized our genocide
    You can pass any exams
    But they failed us deliberately.
    This is their Democracy—
    Slay the minorities
    Let criminals kill…vanish
    and suck minorities blood…
    But let us live!

  3. Thank you, Harut, for these excellent calls to action. May I please add one more to your list? Every April 24th, let us fly the flags of all those countries that have officially acknowledged the Armenian Genocide. Let us send letters of ongoing appreciation to the governments and embassies and politicians of each of them. Let us contact every politician in every single state in the United States who has supported us and tell them that we remain appreciative. Let us fill the media with our gratitude for the support we have already received. Let us not forget our friends, our allies, our supporters, in our concentration on those who have failed us. Let us personally thank friends and neighbours with ethnic roots in those countries that support us. Let us look carefully at the “made in…” labels of the things we buy and put our money only in their economies. For all those who baked paklava and held garage sales and dances and raised money to support Obama, put forth the same effort, and more, to defeat him and all others, who, like him, have betrayed our trust. Until the remains of my father’s humble little stone house is returned to me, and I can freely plant flowers in the fields my grandfather grew barley and grazed his sheep, justice has not been done. The day will come. Until then, let us not forget to continue to show our appreciation and gratitude to those who stand by us. When I went to Holland 40 years after WW11, the Dutch government came on our tour bus and gave each of us bouquets of flowers. Politicians and officials made speeches of welcoming thanks to the Canadians on the bus. A small band played a welcome. We were given symbolic keys to the city. Let us learn from Holland that we must continue to express our appreciation and not forget, or take for granted, those who have remained true. Our actions may shame those who have betrayed our trust.

  4. I am just as upset about this turn of events as all the rest of the angry Armenians. The question is what could be the gain for Nancy to sell out her Armenian constituency.  I submit to you that the deal was made when she was trying to remain in the leadership of the congress as the minority leader.  Following the disastrous loss of the Democratic Party in the elections, everyone was dumbfounded that why would they keep her after such a dismal performance during the two years since presidential elections.  Well my friends my speculation is that she played the “Genocide” card.  She told them that if they did not accept her bid for the Minority Leadership she will bring the “Genocide resolution to the floor.  This convinced both the democrats and stopped the Republican opposition.  She got the job at the expense of the Armenian Genocide bill.  Armenians bought her the position of the minority leader. At the end of the day, we are underestimating our worth.
    As far as the Armenian Assembly of America is concerned, I would suggest to totally ignore them and hopefully they will go away.  They behave as the extension of the State Department and pretend to be a lobbyist for the Armenians while no Armenian worth his/her salt will give them the time of the day.

  5. I agree with everything is said as a new direction and in time we should incorporate new ideas and thoughts. Now I say… we should post the picture of the statue of liberty with Turkish flag covering the mouth on billboards throwout Washington D.C.

  6. What is the true value of H. Res. 252?  Are we using our resources wisely?
    Our case is strong. Our cause is just.  All important entities have already acknowledged our Genocide as a historical fact: 44 US states, 20 countries, the United Nations and the International Association of Genocide Scholars…
    Our Genocide should not be undermined by campaigns for symbolic commemorative resolutions that have NO legal value.  Our Genocide is an International Crime that belongs at the Hague International Justice Courts.  It should have been taken there a long time ago, when most of our Genocide survivors still lived with their fresh memories and property deeds were not lost.  We have all but avoided that most fundamental step, to the delight of Turkey.  Through the years, our failure to take our Genocide to the International Justice Courts has offered Turkey the time and opportunity to destroy all incriminating archives, spread distortions and disseminate dementia among leading countries of the world by offering bribes and political and economic benefits.
    The US State Department has made it very clear to us that it is against H. Res. 252.  Does the murder of 1.5 million innocent civilians and the confiscation of their property and lands need to wait for the acknowledgement of a certain Hillary Clinton and a Barak Obama to be presented to the International courts?  How did the US adoption of the UN Genocide Resolution and Convention that acknowledge the Armenian Genocide and Ronald Reagan’s and George Bush Sr’s open affirmation of our Genocide fail to officially acknowledge our Genocide?  Can’t those together with the acknowledgement by 44 of the states be used as enough affirmation?  What is a commemorative affirmation now going to accomplish that past affirmations have not?  Why are we wasting our time?
    It seems that the only entity that we seriously need to work on is Armenia!  Our people should come together in the preparation of our legal case within the parameters set by international laws.  Our case will be meaningless without Armenia.  Armenia’s silence and the Armenian Assembly’s shenanigans should be addressed as the most damning hurdles in the progress of our cause! Our Genocide is a recorded historical fact.  The legal aspect should have been pursued first and foremost before pursuing meaningless resolutions.  The resolutions would  have followed naturally once the crime had been apprehended legally and reparations were made.  The jews went directly after Germany.  The activities that are most worrisome to Turkey are those similar to the recent scholarly conventions held at UCLA.  The resolution has no legal baring or risk for Turkey, and yet Turkey is making a huge fuss over it as if it wants to distract us from pursuing the more serious direction of international legal processes. 
    Why undermine our Genocide by begging for the US, Turkey’s ally, to officially acknowledge it?  Our cause needs no one’s affirmation.  Our cause belongs at the International Justice Courts.  Anything else will devalue it and hurt it.

  7. Katia K.:   I second your thoughts. In the course of 95 years Diaspora Armenians have invested billions of dollars to political activism, but with the new reality—the Republic of Armenia and independent Artsakh—this course needs to be adjusted. Political activism should not cease, rather, it needs to be re-directed on resolutions beyond genocide acknowledgment (which has already been acknowledged by two Houses and two U.S. presidents), legal demands in all countries where Diaspora is present, legal cases against Turkey in international courts, and, perhaps most importantly, on strengthening of Armenia and Artsakh by laying foundations for Diaspora’s direct participation in the decision-making process. Genocide resolution has become a lucrative business for the politicians in the U.S. and elsewhere. A friendly calf sucks two mothers, as they say, in that the American political establishment profiteers from both Armenian and Turkish communities. Well, then if so, why not withdraw support to the corrupted politicians and redirect it to the projects in Armenia and Artsakh that would help create a better-governed, stronger Armenia, as well as to the lawyers advancing the Cause in the legislatures of several important states and international courts? Armenia with the strong Diasporan presence in the country could have become a flourishing state by now had Dasporan support been focused on strengthening the Homeland, instead of pouring money in the drain of resources for politicians and advocacy groups. I know many people who invest directly in economic, humanitarian, and democracy-building projects in Armenia and Artsakh, instead of responding to never-ending calls to write to your representatives to demand resolution or to the White House to demand uttering the G-word in the Annual Address. Again, this shouldn’t and cannot be stopped, but Diasporan efforts need to become diversified. I’m with you, Katia.

  8. I am in agreement with you too MJM.
    Pushing for Armenian Genocide Resolutions has been one of ANCA’s major successes around the world, within its broader work of representing the needs and interests of Armenian communities. That work should continue, in parallel to the work of putting our legal case together.  I would love to find out which Armenian entity is working on the legal preparation of our claim for lands from Turkey, as well as our demands for reparations for lives/properties lost.  It seems as if there is no official body whose mission is to prepare our case against Turkey within the parameters of International/Local laws.  The efforts that have been made so far, cannot be described as “organized”, “cumulative” and “official”.  Ninety five years after the fact, and with all the work and effort we have invested in our cause, how is it that we are dragging our feet with the most basic and fundamental step that needed and needs to be taken: The legal aspect of the case.
    We cannot ask for other countries to respect our cause, when we have not respected it ourselves.
    An International Crime was committed, and the victim should have pursued all International/Local legal avenues to get justice. That is the step that we have so far failed to take, and Turkey has taken advantage of that.
    I think we all realize that a revision of course needs to be made as soon as possible.  We need to analyze the mission of getting Armenian Genocide Resolutions passed to see if it has indeed reached its pinnacle.  We need to come to terms with the fact that we might need to skip the countries who are friendly with Turkey, and move on to the Hague.  The highest international body, the UN, has already acknowledged our Genocide.  We will gain much respect, if we head to the  International Courts which  one would assume, should not have any political partialities, and should adhere to the historical and archived facts.  Which country would dare to boycott and stand against the International courts without risking at the very least, some damage to its reputation and integrity?  It pains me to say this, but in many ways WE have politicized our Genocide by making it dependant upon political currents, instead of taking it where it belongs: the International Justice Courts. 
    To do that we need: (not that I am an expert)
    1. An official body that represents the Diaspora.
    2. An official body that represents Armenia.
    3. An official committee comprised of representatives from both the Diasporan and Armenian bodies mentioned above that will work on the legal claims for return of lands.
    4. Ungoing research/preparation with leading experts in the world to formulate an effective legal case for both reparations and lands.
    5. Official sponsorship by world experts for the material that will be presented.
    6. High level cooperation between the government of Armenia and the committee that will work on our case.
    7. The legal case for Reparations needs to be backed by Armenia on behalf of the above committee.
    8. The legal claims for land that the committee will put together needs to be presented by Armenia.

    The only recent developments that gave hope were the conventions in UCLA and USC towards this effect.  Again, a crime does not need to be acknowledged by popular players to qualify for justice.  We should not diminish the gravity of our cause by making it vulnerable to political currents.

  9. The last time the Armenians Genocide Resolution came up the word from those we naively believed to be friends and others was ‘if you don’t agree with it, don’t say anything.’  Negative attention and noise the Turks make gets more notice than when the issue is ignored.

  10. marderos – it is nonsense to keep doing over and over and over, what has not worked in almost 100 years. To continue making meaningless noise is counter-productive. This is what turks, and those who are not for us, want us to do in order to divert us from those strategies that will lead to the legal return of our lands and to reparations. Noise does not equal results. Only legal action does. There is no question but that we need to change direction and immediately  face up to the challenge in Gary’s question. We need to stand up together and say that the time to act in the courts is right now. Gary’s is the question that has remained unanswered for too long. The correct response lies in Katia’s sensible, well-stated letter. It lies in Harut’s accurate analyses and action outline. We need to stop talking instead of acting. We need to withdraw all  support, financial and otherwise, from anything, and anyone, that does not directily address legal action. I look to leaders like Harut to tell us why, if this is not the time to stop worrying about the U.S. govt. and start pressuring the govt of Armenia for immediate legal action.

  11. Perouz: I fully agree with your comments but the Government of Armenia is very young and alone not strong enough nor has the political clout to accomplish such goals without Diaspora’s  help.  This is what I”m trying to impart, it’s the Jews outside Israel whose efforts bolster their successes.  Let’s not get lost on this but Henry Kissinger accomplished great strides for Israel when it was only 10-15 years old and it’s grown steadily, that doesn’t do anything for the Armenians but it’s a very good example to emulate and I think regrettably unlikely without Armenia having something to trade.

    When the matter of the Armenian Genocide gets little to no attention in the news and it’s primarily Armenians who are aware of it, then we’re not teaching the public anything and they can be sold any bill of goods Uncle Sam wants to put out i.e. Turkey is a good ally and it is, there’s lots of imports in the American marketplace that say ‘made in Turkey’ and seeing Dr. Oz is all positive imagery for Turkey that can be so good for the Armenians. 

    My parents survived the Massacres, my father would say (and it’s better said in Armenian) ‘one day they (people) will ask what’s Armenian, do you eat it or wear it?’  Turkey is making tremendous strides (I don’t think they’re doing on their own) than we are and I thoroughly agree greater support to make/bring Armenia more competitive in the modern economic world.  That’s where the diaspora is needed.

    One of the most crucial matters is to reinstate Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act to force Turkey to open the borders.   That’s the Armenians in the US, nobody else is going to do that.

    I reply most respectfully with Armenian interests paramount.

  12. mardehros:   Noone tries to belittle the role of the Diaspora. It goes without saying that Diaspora is crucial for the Republic and the Armenian Cause. But Diaspora’s course needs to be revised. A non-binding House resolution has no legislative implication. G-word in the president’s Annual Address cannot become a political directive to the executive branch to change the foreign policy priorities. Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act is dead and there’s no need to waste efforts to revive the corpse. There are new realities on the ground. Funneling money into the drain of resources: politicians and political activists, needs to be reduced. Redirect it to international lawyers who’ll be accountable to us for their every action in advancing the Cause in international courts. Put more emphasis on the media so it covers the Genocide-related issues objectively. Create possibilities for larger presence of the Diasporan Armenians in the Republic and their influence on the decision-making process. Invest in projects that’d help create a better-governed Armenia. After all, Diaspora cannot represent Armenians’ case in the courts, the Republic, as a subject of international law, can.

  13. mardehros: We cannot “wait until the Government of Armenia becomes strong.” We have waited almost 100 years. We cannot waste time, money, energy, emotion, on courting the United States. They have proven to be unworthy suitors. The Diaspora has made it clear; we will not tolerate any action that gives away our territorial rights. We rose united in justifiable fury over the unacceptable terms of the protocols. They were another diversionary tactic. “Making Armenia competitive in the modern economic world” is not the priority. Legal justice is the priority. Everything will follow that. “Opening borders” is not a priority. Restoring legal borders is a priority. Without it, we continue to spin our wheels. We will sit and wring our hands and bemoan our fate for another 100 years. The way to strengthen Armenia, the way to open its borders, begins in the international courts with the rightful restoration of our territory. We have to stop behaving like victims too wounded to act, stop licking the hand that promises crumbs. The answer lies in mjm’s suggestion to “Redirect it [money] to international lawyers who’ll be accountable to us for their every action in advancing the Cause in international courts” The answer lies within Katia’s and Gary’s and Harut’s calls for action. Everything else is just a waste of time, a diversion while turks gather strength.

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