One hundred and eight years ago, my grandmother, uncle, aunt and my 13-year-old father – along with their entire village – were purged and exiled into the barren sands of the Syrian desert with only an armful of belongings. Along with the rest of Western Armenia, my father’s Christian village and family were among those whom the Turkish pashas determined to exterminate. Their ancestral homes were pillaged and destroyed, and churches rooted in centuries of history were torn down with their irreplaceable artifacts representing centuries of civilization. Their fate was left to starvation, thirst, the swords of merciless Turks and rampant disease as they trekked into an unknown destiny. A million and five hundred thousand did not survive, including my grandmother, uncle and aunt.
One hundred and eight years ago, the world stood silent. America waived its conscience, and history repeated itself in the past weeks as the entire indigenous Armenian Christian population of Artsakh (Karabagh) was murderously marched out in the genocidal purge of another ancestral homeland carved out of its statehood in Azerbaijan. The modern venal, murderous, amoral 21st century pasha is Ilham Aliyev, a corrupt, dictatorial oligarch who has enriched himself at the fossil fuel troughs of the Caucasus and, unbelievably, as he collaborates in the death and purges of Christians, is embraced and coddled by President Joseph Biden and his spineless Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his lickspittle NSC Adviser Jake Sullivan.
This triumvirate of moral cowardice has stood aside in the face of a tinhorn dictator in a backwater mountain region while he has soullessly set about the repeat of 1915’s systematic and calculated cleansing. Once again the population’s target is babies, its elderly, its women and its working men. And as Aliyev set his sights on expanding his empire into adjoining regions, Biden wrings his hands in confusion – issuing empty pronouncements through his low-level appointees of “sympathy and concern,” even as he continues military aid to Baku.
Now comes the further rub. The so-called passion and outrage from the Congress and Biden’s colleagues in the Democratic Party has been meaningless – including that coming from Armenian-Americans in the Congress. They wring their hands with letters and resolutions politely “urging” Biden to take action. They make “requests” to Biden for “proper actions.” Congressmen make themselves feel good by signing letters calling for sanctions and caterwauling about Aliyev’s mass violation of every conceivable standard of morality known to man. None of this helps.
What the Democrats in Congress – Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier – need to do is to quit their polite promenade with Biden, Blinken and Sullivan and call them out for their moral cowardice. What will make Biden act is if Pelosi goes into the Oval Office and tells him that anything less than action, intervention and immediate assistance is cowardice on Biden’s part – and to make public statements attacking Biden for his inaction. Does Schumer have the courage to say to Biden: “Mr. President, if you can be pushed around by a low-life like Aliyev, how can we expect you to stand up to thugs like Putin or strongmen like Xi Jinping?” Like I have proposed for Pelosi, Schumer needs to go public with such statements – to embarrass Biden to act.
There is a reason to hold public office, and that is to achieve a service that those of us without power cannot.
As for Eshoo and Speier, the two of them are on the high moral ground to ask Biden if he has any sense of how he is now being viewed in the Armenian-American community – as callous and disconnected from reality. They might ask him a simple question: How would he feel if he was forced to leave his home in Delaware with nothing but the clothes on his back and a handful of memories – and not even his precious Corvette? And, again, those statements should not be only made in private – but loudly in public, before cameras and in press conferences – to place a blanket of shame on the shoulders of their party’s leader.
Doesn’t the official Democratic Party understand that they have the political, moral and persuasive power to shame the President into action like others cannot? And when they don’t act as I have just proposed, then they, too should be viewed through the lens of moral condemnation. There is a reason to hold public office, and that is to achieve a service that those of us without power cannot. Letters written by eager staffers, full of empty words, are going into files to be lost in the archives. The real leaders of the Democratic Party – those I have named and many others who claim to stand by the side of the Armenian-American community – can show where they truly stand by using armaments of action, not cotton candy. This is one time they can portray themselves honestly and genuinely and not hide behind Capitol Hill fluff.
I speak only for myself and for no organization or cause. Only for the memory of my father and his village.