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Hrant Gadarigian

U.S. Ambassador Evans: Diaspora Lobbying and the “G” Word

Now in Armenia after a five year absence, former U.S. Ambassador John Evans participated  in two public discussions here in Yerevan.

What I want to pick up on is something he said during the “100 Questions” forum on September 29 at the Golden Tulip Hotel. It dealt with Armenian lobbying efforts to get President Obama to publicly describe the events of 1915 as genocide.

It was probably the most revealing point he made.

In essence, Evans stated that in the long run whether or not this U.S. president or any future president utters the “G” word would have little practical consequence for Armenians; especially in terms of reparations.

He was answering a question by an audience member seeking the diplomat’s evaluation of Armenian lobbying efforts in the United States.

And he gave what can best be described as a diplomatic answer. Sure, he said, American-Armenians could pursue such lobbying in Washington but what is of prime importance is for Ankara to officially recognize the Genocide.

He didn’t elaborate as to whether recognition by Washington would serve to pressure or prod Ankara to do the same. Elsewhere in his remarks, however, the former ambassador noted that he didn’t believe that Washington could dictate policy to Ankara despite the 50 year military and strategic alliance between the two.

Many in the audience were grilling Evans with questions the former diplomat would hardly touch with a ten foot pole.

“On a level of one to ten, how corrupt is Armenia?”

“Which elections in Armenia since independence were the most fraudulent?”

“Which Armenian president was the best, the worst?”

It’s as if those asking the questions wanted Evans to reaffirm or disprove convictions they already held.

Credit where credit is due. The former ambassador deftly navigated these loaded questions by pointing to the halt in Millennium Challenge Grant monies to Armenia as proof that Armenia is backsliding in terms of “ruling justly” and that democracy is “a work in progress.”

The whole approach by Armenians sadly parallels efforts in the diaspora, particularly the States, to get successive U.S. administrations to publicly acknowledge the historical fact of the 1915 Genocide.

It’s as if we need the acknowledgment of others in positions of authority, perceived or otherwise, to verify what we and the world already know.

We know corruption is rampant in Armenia, that successive governments rule by dictate with little if any democratic participation by the people, that an elite economic oligarchy has a stranglehold on true free market enterprise, etc, etc.

So why the strange need to hear it from a former ambassador?

And if Armenians have such a psychological need to hear such facts confirmed from an outsider, in this case Mr. Evans, will they heed his advice about lobbying for Genocide recognition from Washington?

I fear not.

At the time, numerous world leaders, including American officials and presidents, acknowledged the genocide, eviction and exile of Armenians in 1915.

Many promised to come to the aid of the Armenian people and right the wrong that befell them at the hand of the Ottoman Turks.

We all know what followed. Some call it betrayal, others real politik.

Out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire and atop the ruins of western Armenia, there arose the Republic of Turkey – a nation which the perceived friends “of our little Armenia ally” soon made peace with in return for lucrative economic and military deals

Decades later, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of 1915, we find ourselves back lobbying those same world powers who decided to place morality on the back-burner.

Am I the only one who views this approach as dysfunctional and dishonourable?


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