Thursday, March 26, 2009

Department of Justice Responds to CREW Ethics Complaint Against ANCA

This letter was sent to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) by the Department of Justice.

For a PDF of this document please click here.

Prof. Bernard Lewis on the Armenian Allegations

Bernard Lewis, Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, addresses the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on the illegitimacy of the Armenian allegations of genocide during WWI in March of 2002.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Armenian genocide debate: Blood libel?


March 25, 2009

The perennial dispute over an Armenian genocide recognition is now taking place in multiple arenas.

President Barack Obama is weighing whether to antagonize Turkey by issuing a genocide commemorative statement; or, in the alternative, he could antagonize Armenian-American voters by breaking his apparent campaign pledge and avoiding use of the term.

Meanwhile, in U.S. District Court this week, the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund is battling it out with the Southern Poverty Law Center. Led by attorneys Bruce Fein and David Saltzman, the Turkish American group has filed a defamation suit on behalf of author Guenter Lewy. An 85-year-old emeritus professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Lewy says the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report libeled him when it wrote, in part:
“Lewy is one of the most active members of a network of American scholars, influence peddlers and website operators, financed by hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from the government of Turkey, who promote the denial of the Armenian genocide….”

The wrangling this week, before U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, is procedural. Some of the questions, in part, appear to deal with what kind of media the Intelligence Report is and whether the District of Columbia is the right place for this legal action. Stated the Southern Poverty Law Center:

"The 'act' complained of – publication of an allegedly libelous article – occurred in Alabama and Georgia. SPLC publishes the Intelligence Report in Alabama and Georgia."Beyond the Southern Poverty Law Center lawsuit, Fein said the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund is preparing for a potential defamation lawsuit against one-time Ohio congressional candidate David Krikorian. Krikorian evidently declared that his GOP opponent, Rep. Jean Schmdt "has taken $30,000 in blood money to deny the genocide." Stated Krikorian:
"Both sets of my grandparents are survivors of this first Holocaust of the 20th century...most of their family members at the time were murdered...The only deniers of this great tragedy which led to the Holocaust of the Jews by Nazi Germany are the Turkish government and certain members of the United States Congress like Jean Schmidt."

In preparation for the upcoming defamation suit, Fein has already filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission; in an interview, he said this complaint was designed to flesh out the facts that will be the underpinning of the defamation suit."We want to try to send a signal to Armenian-Americans that the time for bullying has come to an end," Fein said.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bruce Fein in the Fresno Bee "Question of Law"

As the world anticipates President Obama's upcoming trip to Turkey, the focus of his visit has turned to the Armenian Genocide Resolution in the House. Rep. Adam Schiff is spearheading a drive to adjudicate whether tragic events in the fog of World War I amounted to an Armenian genocide. Just this week, he reiterated hopes the resolution will be more successful under the new administration.

Schiff's resolution is not only a legislative frolic, it is factually misconceived. Many reputable and independent Middle East historians and scholars dispute the genocide characterization, though without minimizing the tragic nature of the mass civilian casualties suffered in the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Genocide, like torture or murder, is a question of law to be decided by independent and impartial judges. It should not be a political football exploited by members of Congress to appease special foreign interest constituencies who make handsome campaign contributions.

Rep. Schiff would do history, justice and his constituents a service and relieve himself of a most unnecessary labor by adding his voice to theirs, and ask for the opening of Armenian archives for independent examination, as the Turkish government has done for the Ottoman archives.

Bruce Fein, Resident scholar, Turkish Coalition of America, Washington, D.C.


Monday, March 16, 2009

US President Obama to address Parliament

Hurriyet Daily News

ANKARA - The Turkish Parliament will convene a special session on April 6 and 7 to coincide with a landmark visit by U.S. President Barack Obama, who is expected on a Monday, when the legislative body usually does not meet.

The office of the Parliament Speaker has taken the initiative to plan this extraordinary parliamentary session and is talking with the deputies of all parties to pave the way for the U.S. president to address the Turkish legislature.

Visiting presidents in Turkey traditionally address Parliament. Among former U.S. presidents, Bill Clinton made a speech there in November 1999, but his successor, George W. Bush, who came to Turkey to participate in a NATO summit, was unable to do so because of other obligations. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev was the most recent foreign head of state to address the Turkish legislature, during his November 2008 visit.

Baring any last-minute changes, Obama will address the General Assembly on April 6. The U.S. president is also expected to attend an Istanbul summit of the U.N.-sponsored Alliance of Civilizations. Daily Milliyet reported Friday that Obama would meet with Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartolomeos on April 7 before returning home.

While visiting Ankara last weekend, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington did not consider Turkey a "moderate Islamic country," an expression often used by the Bush administration.

In a televised interview with private channel CNNTürk, Matthew Bryza, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, reiterated Friday that Turkey should not be described as an Islamic country. Commenting on the presidential visit, Bryza said Obama was coming to Turkey for talks on bilateral ties, adding that Turkey’s passing through a long process of modernization and reforms made it an important country for the entire region.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

TCA, University of Utah announce new Turkish program

Today’s Zaman

The Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) and the University of Utah have announced a new academic program, "The Origins of Modern Ethnic Cleansing: Collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the Emergence of Nation States in the Balkans and Caucasus." The program has been established with the financial support of the TCA.

In the program, scholarship will be conducted on historical fluctuations at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century in the region, the results of which are still felt today. The program will be directed by Hakan Yavuz, an assistant professor at the department of political science at the University of Utah.

In a statement released yesterday by the TCA, Yavuz said the period had an impact on the formation of the identity of modern Turkey and it will be explored in conferences and research. He also added that the focus will be on the significant land loss suffered as a result of the wars the Ottoman Empire waged in the Balkans and the Caucasus before the foundation of the Turkish Republic. This loss impacted all the lands of the former empire, influencing the formation of the new republic, the ethnic cleansing of Muslim populations and other traumatic incidents that were a result of forced migration.

The statement also noted that TCA President Lincoln McCurdy believes the program is important because it will train new researchers who will influence regional studies in and around Turkey.

The advisory board for the program includes Dr. Şükrü Elekdağ, former member of the Turkish Parliament; Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, head of the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB); Professor Norman Stone, historian and professor of international relations at Bilkent University; and Alev Alatlı, journalist and author.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Rep. Frank Pallone and the "Armenian Genocide Resolution"

New Jersey Star Ledger,
March 2, 2009

Recently, a letter seeking cosponsors for a renewed drive to secure the adoption of an "Armenian Genocide Resolution" was circulated on Capitol Hill. The lead authors of the proposed legislation included four members of congress from districts with sizable Armenian constituents. They included Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

Rep. Pallone has turned his office in the U.S. Congress, home also to tens of thousands of New Jerseyans of Turkish descent, into an anti-Turkey nerve center.

Incidentally, one of the Armenian groups that showers Pallone with praise and support, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), this week has been accused by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), an ethics watchdog, for violating campaign finance and lobbying laws.

Among other things, CREW argues that ANCA is closely related with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), which is part of the ruling coalition government in the Republic of Armenia, but fails to disclose this. A few years ago the then ANCA chairman, Mourad Topalian, was convicted on charges relating to Armenian terrorist attacks against Turkish diplomatic mission in the United States back in the 1970's and early '80s and served three years in federal prison.

None of this seems to bother Pallone. To roaring cheers at an ANCA rally in Times Square back in 2005, he pronounced that the United States should not only recognize an "Armenian Genocide" but that it should pressure modern Turkey to pay reparations for the near century-old alleged crime. This alone should lay to rest the claims that the perennial Armenian resolutions are pursued for emotional reasons by its lead proponents and the Armenian lobby.
In fact, a congressional recognition is but a first step in the Armenian lobby's irredentist agenda against Turkey and, if Pallone will have it his way, it will be advanced by U.S. Congressional fiat.

The so-called "Armenian Genocide Resolution" is a textbook example of ethnic lobby pandering at the expense of America's national interests. Once enough members sign on, with the all too well-known time and attention that lawmakers will be giving to sift through its history lesson, this "non-binding" resolution will gather such international storm that it required presidential interventions in the past to prevent a diplomatic fall-out with Turkey.

The latest resolution will certainly be no different and pose a significant stumbling block to President Obama's efforts to improve international cooperation on the many challenges he faces and foster better U.S. standing abroad. In his zeal to please his supporters, Pallone has and continues to undermine U.S. foreign policy, under either Democratic or Republican administrations, toward a balanced U.S. foreign policy in the Southern Caucasus and toward Turkey.

To add insult to injury, Pallone frequently admonishes opponents of this resolution by pointing to a "moral obligation" of the Congress to "pronounce" that the now-defunct Ottoman Empire, committed "genocide" against Armenians nearly 100 years ago. In doing so, he chooses to ignore the many well-regarded Ottoman historians who dispute the genocide claim.

Moreover, if Congress owes such moral obligation to America and the world, it ought to compile a list of all the crimes that appall us, beginning here at home, and start writing commemorative resolutions for all.

In fact, selective morality is no morality at all and Armenian resolutions persist year after year, not on moral grounds but on the efforts of an organized lobby that has turned hating Turkey into an existential cause and that keeps greasing the wheels of Washington.

Singling out Turkey and its history for political expediency and as payback for domestic election support is far from moral. Doing so at a time when Turkey's Prime Minister has invited Armenians and all interested parties to form an international commission of historians and experts to establish the facts and pave the way for reconciliation-- a proposal rejected by frontrunners of the "Armenian Genocide Resolution" in Congress and the Armenian lobby-- and when Turkey and Armenia are actively negotiating ways to overcome their differences, is outright hypocritical.

The U.S. faces a devastating economic crisis and two wars abroad. Members of Congress should be held accountable for spending time and resources on addressing a nearly century-old event with no foreseeable policy benefits for the United States, but the potential of a great public relations and foreign policy disaster involving our ally Turkey.

In reality, this will remain behind closed doors in Washington until too much damage has already been done. Members of Congress, like Pallone, will not answer to anyone unless the larger American public demands an answer. It is high time to demand an answer.

Lincoln McCurdy is the President of the Turkish Coalition of America.