Sassounian: McCain Offends Visiting Syrian Church Leaders

Senator John McCain is a prime example of how U.S. officials so often misjudge overseas crises, believing that the best way to bring democracy to a country is through massive U.S. bombing and invasion.

The Arizona Senator has been highly critical of President Obama’s “arm the rebels strategy,” urging more direct U.S. military intervention in Syria. McCain does not seem to understand that toppling President Bashar Al-Assad would result in more deaths and destruction, and turn Syria into a major hub of international terrorism. Over 30,000 Islamic jihadists from dozens of countries are currently fighting the Syrian government and each another—surely, not to bring democracy to Syria!

The former Republican presidential candidate is so obsessed with beating the drums of war that he reportedly behaved in an ill-tempered and discourteous manner with a group of high-ranking Christian Syrian leaders, just because they were not advocating violent regime change. The church delegation had come to Washington last month seeking a peaceful resolution to the Syrian conflict and protection for Christians who number around 2 million, or 10 percent of the country’s population.

The visiting church leaders included Bishop Armash Nalbandian, Primate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Damascus, and representatives of the Presbyterian, Evangelical, Syrian Orthodox, and Greek Orthodox churches of Syria. The delegation met with members of Congress, State Department officials, NGO’s, academics, religious leaders, and members of the media.

The Syrian clergymen were gratified with their Washington visit, except for their unpleasant encounter with McCain, as described by Judicial Watch: “Hell-bent on arming opposition forces in Syria—despite strong evidence that they’re run by Islamic terrorists—John McCain displayed behavior unbecoming of a United States Senator during a recent meeting with Syrian Christian leaders touring Capitol Hill. … Senator McCain, an Arizona Republican, evidently doesn’t want to hear negative stories about the rebels he’s working to arm. So he stormed out of a closed-door meeting with the Syrian clergy officials last week. … McCain marched into the committee room yelling, according to a high-level source that attended the meeting, and quickly stormed out. ‘He was incredibly rude,’ the source told Judicial Watch. … Following the shameful tantrum, McCain reentered the room and sat briefly, but refused to make eye contact with the participants, instead ignoring them by looking down at what appeared to be random papers.”

During their meetings in Washington, the Syrian Christian leaders informed U.S. officials about the unfolding massive human tragedy in their country and the precarious situation of the Christian communities; the kidnapping of Christian Bishops, priests, nuns, and parishioners; the attacks on Christian villages; the desecration of churches and holy sites; and the violations of religious freedom by armed Islamists.

Given the escalating bloodshed in Syria, the church leaders asked the United States to:

– end all military and financial aid to the armed rebels;

– demand from U.S allies (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey) not to support the terrorists;

– ask that all sides of the conflict stop the violence, including bombings and terrorism;

– resolve the conflict through dialogue, not military action;

– ensure the Syrian people’s security;

– protect the Christian minorities;

– protect the churches and mosques;

– protect the religious, historical, and cultural monuments; and

– assist in the distribution of humanitarian aid in Syria.

The website of the Syrian Armenian Committee for Urgent Relief and Rehabilitation (SACURR; reported that as of Sept. 30, 2013, the war has caused serious harm to the Armenian community: 64 civilians murdered, 172 injured, 110 kidnapped, and 15 soldiers killed in action. Moreover, various Armenian institutions have been damaged: 7 Apostolic and 3 Catholic churches, 13 schools, and 10 community centers. Close to half of Syria’s 65,000 Armenians have fled to Armenia, Lebanon, or elsewhere.

SACURR, which is comprised of nine major Armenian social, religious, and political organizations in Syria, reported that by the end of September it had received $1.7 million from overseas Armenian entities. Even though this is a small fraction of the amount needed, SACURR has been able to provide food, shelter, security, and medical and educational assistance to Syrian Armenians, including $500,000 in tuition aid to 6,436 students in 38 schools.

McCain and other foolhardy U.S. officials would do well to heed the wise counsel of the visiting Syrian-Christian leaders. Dispatching more weapons to Syria would only exacerbate the fighting, resulting in endless bloodshed.


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. McCain is the same senator who was caught playing poker on his smartphone during congressional hearings.The man either is terminally stupid or on the payroll of the funders of international terrorism.The thought that taxpayer money is endowing this moron’s senatorial seat is sobering.It is high time we the people demand some minimum qualifications for those aspiring to higher office in our country.After all,any job applicant in the real world has to meet some conditions to have any meaningful hope of landing a job.Likewise college entrants jump through so many academic hoops to be accepted to the institution of their choice.Evidently high political offices have no such encumbrances;any yahoo with an IQ of 10 is eligible to be elected to play computer games in the rarefied halls of Congress.

  2. Now that we are on this subject, I came across this video I thought might be suited well here.

    From his reaction, it is very easy to tell that he knows she is right and he is wrong, but for some reason, it still does not phase him. These neocons love acting dumb, but they actually know exactly what is going on, and as the liars they are, they have very specific objectives, and humanity means nothing to them.

    Ironically in this video as the woman spells it out for him, that the real problem is the terrorists and alqaeda who have infiltrated Syria… he promptly admits he met up with them.

    A couple of things did disturb me in the video… 1. She started out saying she has supported McCain for a long time… ouch. 2. He actually has some “supporters” who applauded his neocon, alqaeda supporting excuse at the end: “Assad is a butcher” – yeah sure McCain, and those alqaeda terrorists fighting against him are Benedictine Monks.

    In the “land of the free”, a couple of years ago, Obama, supposedly a “non-neocon” passed a law where any American citizen “suspected” of involvement with terrorists can be arrested and disappear into a concentration camp without trial. One wonders if this McCain character belongs in Gitmo under this law, since he invaded Syria, and met up with terrorists and gave them support, and in this video even incriminates himself by admitting it. And those terrorists him and his ilk call “activists” are the same ones who killed thousands of Americans in the past 10 years. One also wonders which country McCain is actually loyal to… it certainly does not seem to be the USA.

  3. Viken is completely right. McCain is a gung-ho moron that knows very little of the world beyond America’s borders. He stormed out because the fantasy-world narrative that he created about Syria was being challenged, by Christians at that, and he couldn’t bear to hear it.

  4. Sen. McCain hate Russians and communists, who was jailed and tortured in North Vietnamese communist regime, supported by USSR.

  5. I admired him for the suffering he took in the Vietnames jails and being a hero. Maybe his brains got messed up and instead feeling humane about other people suffering he wants this country to go to war for any reason. Look at the mess they have left in Iraq. It is about time he retired in a mentally unbalanced institution. He is a nut case.

  6. The article implies that Senator McCain is either stupid or an uncouth person. This is totally unacceptable as everybody knows who Senator McCain is. What is the real story ?

  7. The crux of the problem is not McCain. It is US policies, politics, politicians, diplomats, the US Dept of State and US Presidents.
    The US historically has not performed well in the Middle East. They lack knowledge, expertise and in depth understanding of the macro political realities in the region. Sadly they always screw up.
    – In 1956, they naivly and stupidly destroyed the relationship with Nasser and unintentionally created the new pro-Soviet regimes in the region with the wave of nationalizations.
    – In the 1980’s they badly mishandled the crisis and the civil war in Lebanon which resulted in a messy situation in Lebanon, and the country now divided.
    – They totally mismanaged and mishandled Libya, which resulted with the scandalous attack on the Consulate in Benghazi.
    – They forced the “socalled free elections” upon Palistinians but were unhappy and surprised with the results.
    – They totally miscalculated the “Arab Spring” in every country, and
    ended up with Morsi and the Islamic brotherhood in Egypt.
    And the list goes on and on. It is a sad situation,and indeed very disapponting, when even a Senator like McCain, who is supposed to be more knowledgeable and experienced in security matters, and is known to be honest and a straight talker, to say and do what he did.
    Vart Adjemian

  8. “Senator John McCain is a prime example of how U.S. officials so often misjudge overseas crises, believing that the best way to bring democracy to a country is through massive U.S. bombing and invasion.”

    And this, Mr. Sassounian, is a prime example of why the United States has no reason to recognize the Armenian Genocide. You take every chance to demonize the country where you live and which has given safe haven and citizenship to you and thousands of Armenians. You call their officials “foolhardy,” and you make sweeping generalizations about your country’s leaders. And you expect the United States to recognize the Armenian Genocide?

    Without the United States, there would be no Armenia. The U.S. prevented the complete annihilation of Armenians by bringing an end to World War I. The United States sent massive aid to starving Armenia after the war. The United States has welcomed nearly a million Armenians on its land, where they enjoy rights that they cannot dream of in their homeland. Armenians like to draw parallels between them and the Jews. How many Jewish leaders attack the United States the way you do? It’s not America’s fault that Armenians to side with dictators.

    • It’s interesting that when a criminal-minded terrorist-supporting neocon (your hero?) is under scrutiny, you promptly show yourself like a poisonous snake crawling out of its den. Obviously you haven’t the slightest clue about what it means to be American. Who are you to be telling people what to say and not say? McCain is no “leader” much less “the representative of America” – and neither are you.

      You have also just revealed the way you think is more in-line with how a typical Turk/Azeri state-created drone thinks: “it is so dishonorable to criticize your country’s government” – than how an American thinks: “when the government steps out of line, the people must change it for the better.”

      The rest of your flawed and illogical post, full of ignorance of history, speaks for itself. There is a nice quote from Mark Twain which is appropriate for you here: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

    • Here he goes again, the Azerbaijani, who pretends that he is an Armenian.

      Criticizing a senator who fails at his job is a demonization of our country? Actually, it’s the duty of the citizens of the US to make sure that our elected officials perform their duties. It may be news to you but US officials, including the president himself, are criticized and made fun of by their own citizens, including Jewish citizens, on a daily basis. You must have been living under a rock all this time.

      Moreover, you take this one example and use it to demonize Armenians, in general, on these pages? What are your true motives? Shame on you. It seems like YOU are the one who is making generalizations here.

      “And this, Mr. Sassounian, is a prime example of why the United States has no reason to recognize the Armenian Genocide.”

      What a ridiculous statement! Every progressive, democratic country does have a reason, moreover, an obligation to recognize the historical truth and historical facts. The Armenian Genocide must be recognized because it happened, it is the truth, and not because Sassounian criticizes or praises a senator.

      “Without the United States, there would be no Armenia. The U.S. prevented the complete annihilation of Armenians by bringing an end to World War I. The United States sent massive aid to starving Armenia after the war. The United States has welcomed nearly a million Armenians on its land, where they enjoy rights that they cannot dream of in their homeland.”

      Armenians are very well aware of the US support during the darkest times of their history and have always expressed their deep gratitude in many different ways, including a beautiful rug woven by our poor orphans. So stop preaching, will you?

      In return for the rights and freedom enjoyed in this country we have contributed more than our fair share to its prosperity and improvement, which, in turn, has contributed to other ethnic groups being able to enjoy the same freedom and opportunities. Want examples? It’s not going to be too hard to provide them.

      McCain does not deserve any credit for US support to Armenians, even though he is a US senator. He is a pathetic war monger.

  9. Senator McCain did not lead Near East relief. This is also the man who thought Sarah Palin was a good choice to lead our nation. He agitates for the annihilation of Syrian Christians by his unquestioning support of Turk sponsored jihadis in Suria whose next target no doubt is Turkey. We owe him nothing. He is not America as Ibama voters might tell you.

  10. It seems that this very same Turkbaijani poster whom we all happen to know so well, is being used as a servant by senator McCain’s White supremacist cult. His obedient servant, was saying that Mr. Sassounian is a prime example of why the United States has no reason to recognize the Armenian Genocide. How’s that possible? The true reason why the United States hasn’t recognized this genocide, is because of its military partnership with the Turks, and therefore, it is frightened that recognizing the Armenian Genocide will cause Turkey to dismantle the U.S. military bases on its territory, and as a result, it would then have to go park its military aircraft in somebody else’s garage. Anyway, when it comes to human rights and genocide recognition, the United States has been rather poor in that department. The only genocide it has recognized up to now, has been the Jewish Holocaust. And, the reason for that, obviously, is that it desperately needs Israel to help it control the vital Middle East, and have access to all that oil. As a matter of fact, if we explore even further on the subject of genocide, the United States doesn’t even recognize the genocide it committed against the original Americans (Native American Indians). So, in that case, how can the United States possibly recognize the Armenian Genocide or any other genocide for that matter?

    Senator McCain’s obedient servant, was also saying that without the United States, there would be no Armenia. How’s that possible? Before there was ever a place called the United States, the Armenian nation had already been in existence for over four thousand years.

    Senator McCain’s obedient servant, also states that the United States prevented the annihilation of Armenians. How can that be possible when during the entire course of World War One, as well as afterward, the United States never once sent any of its troops into Turkey? It was Russia, which prevented the complete annihilation of Armenians by persuading Armenia to join the former Soviet Union.

  11. For the few “Armenians” commenting above: free speech goes both ways. Sure, Sassounian has the right to criticize the U.S. government, but then again the U.S. officials have the right to ignore mentioning the Genocide, in line with the country’s foreign policy interests. If our community leaders wish the U.S. government do Armenians a favor and use the word “Genocide,” they better use more tact and appreciation for the United States. And Sassounian didn’t attack just McCain, but the entire government and policy of the United States.

    As to how America stopped the complete extermination of Armenians, some education for those in need is in order: Turkey massacred Baku Armenians just a month before the end of the war, in the fall of 1918 (the Azeris joined them in revenge for the massacre of Azeris by Dashnaks sixth months earlier). Had the war continued any longer, nothing would stop Turks from returning and finishing off the rest of Armenians. The war ended at the time it did because America joined the war on the side of the Allies. Russia was not even a factor at that point, after being utterly defeated by Germany.

  12. Regarding McCain and whether we Armenians owe to him or not. Shortly before the collapse of USSR, McCain introduced a Senate bill supporting the plight of Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh. For those who are not aware of it, Armenia’s ultra-nationalist author Armen Aivazyan mentions it in his widely known 2004 book about Armenian-American historiography. I am sure Armenian community leaders would glorify McCain for it. Now, when he wants to help another oppressed people (the Syrians) from a mass murderer like Assad, Armenians all of a sudden are against him? And they are surprised that McCain had no patience for them?

    During the Genocide, Armenians were begging the United States to intervene militarily in Turkey. In fact, they are still accusing the U.S. for not doing it. Now, Armenian leaders are demonizing the U.S. for its very limited military intervention against another mass murderer? Assad’s poison gas attack alone last year killed over a thousand civilians. Over 100,000 Syrians have been killed in the civil war. And the local Armenian priests want Assad to remain in power because, why, 64 Armenians have been killed? Are you kidding me? Our forefathers in 1915 would dream of having these odds. When you support U.S. military intervention only when it suits you, don’t be surprised when you get ignored.

  13. Senator McCain’s obedient servant, really seems desperate in defending the crookedness and foolhardiness exhibited by so many of the U.S. government’s politicians. He/she even suggests that by recognizing the Armenian Genocide, the United States would be doing a favor to the Armenian people. Actually, by not recognizing the Armenian Genocide, or the Greek Genocide, or the Assyrian Genocide, or the genocide it committed against the original Americans (Native American Indians), or any other genocide for that matter, it once again comes to show that the United States has no commitment whatsoever to human rights.

    Senator McCain’s Turkbaijani servant, also attempts to give false information by stating that the Turks and Azeris massacred Baku Armenians in revenge for the massacre of Azeris by Dashnaks. What truly happened is the Turk/Azeri massacre of thirty thousand Baku Armenians in 1918, had to do with their attempt to force the Karabagh Armenians to accept Azerbaijani rule.

    As to how Russia stopped the complete annihilation of Armenians, let’s provide some further education to senator McCain’s uneducated servant. The extermination of Armenians by the Turks, did not end at the end of World War One. It continued until 1922, with further extermination on the land of present-day Turkey. In terms of Armenia, following Armenia’s entry into the former Soviet Union on November 29, 1920, there was no possible way for Turkey to conquer Eastern Armenia and finish off the rest of the Armenian population. Therefore, it is Russia, who saved the remaining part of Armenia, and as a result, prevented the complete annihilation of the Armenian people.

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