Schwarzenegger and Bush Embroiled in Armenian Genocide Debate

One angered the Turks and the other the Armenians. Here’s the Governor:

Turkish Group Protests Schwarzenegger over Armenian Genocide Statement (AP)

A Turkish group uniting hundreds of businesses and organizations demanded Tuesday that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movies be banned from Turkish television to protest the California governor’s use of the term genocide to describe the massacre of Armenians by Turks during World War I.

Schwarzenegger, a former actor best known for his role in “The Terminator,” declared April 24 a “Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.” California has one of the largest populations of diaspora Armenians.

An umbrella organization grouping some 300 Ankara-based associations, unions and businesses and led by the Ankara Chamber of Commerce said it launched a petition to have the governor’s films banned in Turkey.

“We condemn and protest movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger, who declared April 24 a day to commemorate the Armenian genocide and accused Turks of genocide by acting under the influence of the Armenian lobby, and without researching historical truths,” read a statement from Sinan Aygun, head of Ankara Chamber of Commerce.

Meanwhile, President Bush offended the other side by avoiding the politically sensitive word:

Bush Remembers Armenian “Great Calamity” (Armenia Liberty)

[The Armenian National Committee of America] was quick to deplore Bush’s statement. “Unfortunately, this statement is a fresh attempt to help the government of Turkey continue its shameful policy of denying the crime against humanity,” said the ANCA executive director, Aram Hamparian.

Actually, Bush finessed the issue much more than this group acknowledged. Note the following section of the article:

President George W. Bush again stopped short of calling the mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire a genocide on Sunday, using instead an Armenian equivalent of the politically sensitive term resented by modern-day Turkey. He also effectively endorsed an independent study that concluded that the massacres which began 90 years ago did constitute a genocide.

“On Armenian Remembrance Day, we remember the forced exile and mass killings of as many as 1.5 million Armenians during the last days of the Ottoman Empire,” Bush said in his annual April 24 message to Americans of Armenian descent. “This terrible event is what many Armenian people have come to call the ‘Great Calamity’.

“I join my fellow Americans and Armenian people around the world in expressing my deepest condolences for this horrible loss of life. Today, as we commemorate the 90th anniversary of this human tragedy and reflect on the suffering of the Armenian people, we also look toward a promising future for an independent Armenian state.”

The “Great Calamity” was translated as “Mets Yeghern” in the Armenian-language version of the message released by the U.S. embassy in Yerevan. The Armenians use this term only with regard to the 1915-1918 slaughter of their kinsmen.

Bush thus followed the example of the late Pope John Paul II who appealed to God to heed “the call of the dead from the depths of the Mets Yeghern” during a historic visit to Armenia in September 2001. The delicate wording was aimed at placating Turkey. But the pontiff set the record straight the next day by describing the mass killings as a genocide in a joint statement with the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Bush avoided using the term despite persistent calls by the influential Armenian-American community backed by more than 200 members of the U.S. Congress. But he did mention a study conducted by a New York-based human rights organization at the request of the U.S.-backed Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC) two years ago.

See also the full text of his statement.

We should remember that Bush has a different audience than Schwarzenegger. While the president must deal with Turkey on the international stage, the governor has the luxury of catering to an influential subgroup (Glendale, a suburb in Los Angeles County, has the largest Armenian population outside of Armenia). And, given that Bush is generally forcible about highlighting “the Great Calamity,” his verbal sidestep does not, from where I stand, rise to the level of being outrageous.

Substantively, though, I’m much closer to Schwarzenegger — and, as history buffs might recall, Ronald Reagan:

In a 1981 proclamation designating April 26 through May 3 annual Day of Remembrance, President Reagan was quoted, “Like the genocide of the Armenians before it, and the genocide of the Cambodians which followed it and like too many other such persecutions of too many other peoples the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten.”

FILED UNDER: US Politics
Robert Garcia Tagorda
About Robert Garcia Tagorda
Robert blogged prolifically at OTB from November 2004 to August 2005, when career demands took him in a different direction. He graduated summa cum laude from Claremont McKenna College with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and earned his Master in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Comments

  1. McGehee says:

    California’s Armenian population is significant indeed — although I knew nothing of them until one became governor.

  2. Scott Dillard says:

    I grew up in central California, which has a very large Armenian population. They settled there in the early 1920s as a result of the jihad against them by the Ottomans. Today they are affluent and politically connected.

  3. kappiy says:

    While I can see why Armenians might want to have Bush call the genocide a genocide, what does it really matter?

    To think that Bush even understands the human dimension of genocide is a joke.

    Bush clearly doesn’t care about systematic killing of innocent civilians by Islamic terrorists in Darfur–which he has even labeled a genocide. Estimates range from 70,000-340,000 people killed & 2 million people displaced.

    There is no evidence that Bush intends to demonstrate US leadership during this current massive human tragedy.

    Freedom, apparently, is not going to be on the march in Darfur any time soon and a radical islamic regime is literally getting away with mass murder.

  4. spiff says:

    Genocide denial is a real sin. I am unaware of any serious historian that does not consider this act a genocide.

    I think we ought to no make assumptions about Arnold “catering to an influential subgroup.”

    The converse is actually the case. Bush is, unfortunately, more concerned with catering to Anakra, despite their proof of being a fair weather friend.

  5. Thomas says:

    One needs to read all sides to get a better picture. I’ve research this issue with my Turkish colleagues for 20 years and it’s sad to say the Armenians have no evidence that this can be called a Genocide.

    Facts:
    1) Armenians lived together and prospered in the Turkish empire for over 1,000 years until Russian and British empires sought to access Caspian and Bagdad oilfields. They trained, armed and directed Armenian mercenaries to attack and recruit Turkish Armenians. The Turks were fighting the British at Gallipoli, Greeks in the Aegean, French and Italians in the South and Russians in the North. The Armenians had an army of 100,000 raiding, killing and burning Turkish and Kurdish villages. This can never be considered a Genocide. It was an armed rebellion that can be labelled as treachery by Armenians.

    2. Turks lost 3 million people. The Armenians numbered 1.3 million and had 1.1 million after the war. The biggest lie is that 1.5 million died, where the numbers do not add up, considering 500,000 settled in modern Armenia, 300,000 were in Syria and Lebanon(former Ottoman
    colonies) and 300,000 were living prosperous in peace in Turkey.

    3. Some diaspora societies, built on trading in other nations, keep pride and ethnic solidarity by creating a hate machine. Armenians have done this since the 1960s. Prior to this period, there were no genocide issues. The death toll was first 300,000, then 600,000 in the 60s. Some got the idea that since the Turks are Muslims, they may be able to get “christian sympathy” by labelling a period of civil unrest and treachery against their Turkish nation, to ironically turn it into a Turkish massacre of them. You’ll note that no Armenian will ever mention WHY and HOW MANY TURKS THEY KILLED. Their lobbies are trying hard to present it as a holocaust which Israel is staunchly against.

    4. As for the late President Reagan’s Armenian comment. Few know that Reagan’s speech writer was of Armenian background. Just about all of Armenian support documents are either by Armenian Missionaries, or third party fabricated stories.

    I suggest visiting http://www.tallarmeniantale.com.

    Regards,

    Thomas

  6. George says:

    Thomas,

    I won’t even tell you what I think of your comments. It’s obvious to me that you have no clue about history. There are THOUSANDS of references to the Armenian Genocide in books dating back from the late 1890’s. Were THOSE fabricated? I suggest you read Henry Morganthau’s book as well as the Toynbee book. Oh and then there’s the NY times from 1915 April and on. Were those made up too?…

    Come on dude, get a grip. You’re peddling nonsense. The time will come and it will come soon, where this denial machine of the turks will be a moot point. Turkeys’ admission that it committed genocide against the Armenian people is merely the acceptance of history. Turkey must face it’s past, BEFORE it can build it’s future.

  7. Peter says:

    Armenians are on the wrong track. They cannot prove a genocide. Germany and Rwanda and other examples of such crimes have movements and writings by individuals that call for racism and for other races to be killed or removed. There is no one in Turkey who has ever called for Armenians or any other ethnic group to leave the country or be killed. Armenians live in Turkey today (up to 100,000) and they are doing a lot better living their culture than the ones who live in Glendale or Paris.

    What these Washington-beltway type lobbyist Armenian nationalists complain about is that their heroes tried to invade Turkey along with the Russian Army in 1915 and establish a separate country free of in Eastern Turkey that would ethnically cleanse TURKISH people away.

    They failed. Although in 1992 they were able to kill or expell Azeris out of Western Azerbaijan.. all the meanwhile taking joy in it by calling the Azeris “Turks”.

    Basically the progressives in the US are being hoodwinked by right-wing Armenian revanchists who want to create a greater Armenia. They are motivated by a mythical history that existed about 1500 years ago, and of course since they were there “first” they are “right” and other people are “bad”.

    This is not the logic of peace, this is the logic of aggression, bitterness and endless confrontation.

  8. AA says:

    ..And these Armenians who have such a great way of life in Turkey are disallowed to celebrate their ethnic heritage, speak their native toungue and address issues regarding the historic slaughter of their ancestors..

    …sounds just peachy….

    I’ve been seeing a lot of this reverse genocide tripe in a few of the more militant Turkish denial publications – All of the blame for Turkish shortcomings over the course of the last century (politically, economically and socially) are pinned on Cyprus, or Greece, or those nasty Armenians – It all seems a little bit contrived.

    I suppose the blind will continue to be led by the blind.