By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
Now that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have selected their vice presidential candidates, Armenian Democrats are claiming that Sen. Tim Kaine has the better record on recognition of the Armenian Genocide, while Republican Armenians are insisting that Gov. Mike Pence is the clear-cut favorite on this issue. The more important question is: does it really matter?
During his years as Mayor of Richmond and Governor of Virginia, Kaine was supportive of various Armenian issues, including Armenian Genocide recognition. As U.S. Senator, he did not cosponsor the Armenian Genocide Resolution, but voted for it in the Foreign Relations Committee in April 2014, only after demanding that all references to Turkey be removed from the Resolution. He wanted to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, without offending the Turkish government! Sen. Kaine has also not cosponsored the currently pending Armenian Genocide Resolution.
Sen. Kaine received a C+ grade from the Armenian National Committee of America in 2014 because he:
1) Insisted that the text of the Armenian Genocide Resolution be watered down before he voted for it;
2) Did not make remarks in remembrance of the Armenian Genocide in the Senate;
3) Did not participate in the Capitol Hill Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide;
4) Did not cosponsor the Haiti and Armenia Reforestation Act.
Gov. Pence of Indiana, Donald Trump’s vice presidential nominee, also has a checkered record on Armenian Genocide recognition, while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, 2001-13. As a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, he voted for the Armenian Genocide Resolution in 2005, but voted against it in 2007 and 2010 out of concern for its possible fallout on US-Turkey relations, while acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. In 2012, his last year in Congress, Pence received a C grade from the Armenian National Committee of America.
Below are excerpts from Cong. Pence’s remarks in the Committee on Foreign Affairs on March 4, 2010:
“…I believe a genocide was committed against the Armenian people in the early part of the last century and it should never be forgotten…. The fact that more than 1 million Christians were killed makes the loss even more personal to me.”
Cong. Pence continued: “While we should never forget this genocide and the lives that were lost and the lives that are still marred to this day, I sadly cannot support this Resolution…. Now is not the time for this Committee or the American Congress to take up the measure that is before us…. Turkey is a strategic partner in our ongoing efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. They share our interest in defeating international terrorism…. I rise today in respectful opposition to this Resolution, but I do so with deep respect for those on this Committee and those who would be looking on that would have the Armenian people be heard on this point. While I cannot support this Resolution, let them at least note that this American identifies with their loss, acknowledges those tragic events of so many years ago and offers my condolences to the families who still bear the burden of what was in fact a genocide. I urge my colleagues to oppose this Resolution….”
Having reviewed the records of both candidates on this issue, one should keep in mind that:
1) Vice Presidents do not decide policy; Presidents do!
2) There is no need to argue over which candidate would recognize the Armenian Genocide, since it has been repeatedly recognized by the U.S. government as follows:
a) Official document was submitted to the World Court in 1951;
b) Pres. Ronald Reagan issued a Presidential Proclamation in 1981;
c) House of Representatives adopted two Resolutions in 1975 and 1984.
Consequently, Armenians should no longer seek Genocide recognition, but justice! The candidates’ position on this issue matters only if they have either denied the Armenian Genocide in the past or promised to recognize it, but did not keep their word!
There are, however, several other important Armenian issues that should be discussed with political candidates, such as, supporting Artsakh (Karabagh), pressuring Turkey to restore confiscated Armenian properties, providing larger U.S. foreign aid to Armenia and Artsakh, hiring qualified Armenian-Americans, and improving trade and economic relations with the Republic of Armenia.
Unfortunately, regardless of what the issues are, one can never be sure that promises made by presidential candidates during the campaign will be remembered and kept, once the President is elected and comfortably installed in the White House!