By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
In recent years, scores of ‘hired pens’ have written derogatory commentaries about Armenia and Armenian-Americans. Many of these anti-Armenians commentators are paid by the governments of Azerbaijan or Turkey.
It is sad that some countries resort to such cheap tricks to repair their damaged reputation and disparage others. These countries have serious domestic problems widely known throughout the world without anyone getting paid to publicize them. The governments of Azerbaijan and Turkey have paid millions of dollars to public relations and lobbying firms in the United States and Europe trying to whitewash their tarnished images. Political leaders in Washington, London, Paris, Berlin and Moscow are not fooled by these tricks. They know well the extent of miserable conditions and human rights violations in these two Turkic countries.
Today, I feel obligated to respond to a particularly deceitful article that appeared on Feb. 5, 2018 in The Daily Caller which is “a conservative American news and opinion website based in Washington, D.C. It was founded by political pundit Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel, former adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney,” according to Wikipedia. Carlson left the website to focus on his Fox News television program “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
The Daily Caller’s article, written by Raoul Contreras, is titled: “Armenian Influence Presents a Case Study on the Foreign Agents Registration Act.” The writer quotes from earlier article published by Forbes Magazine on Nov. 27, 2017 which falsely claims that “the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is purported to be a ‘non government organization’, but is widely believed to have deep ties to Russian influence. The Committee betrays Armenia’s post-Soviet nation’s longstanding tradition as a proxy to its former motherland.” This sentence is a complete lie as ANCA does not represent the policies of Russia or any other country. It solely represents the views of a large segment of the Armenian-American community. The writer of the Forbes article is Mfonobong Nsehe, an Africa specialist, who knows very little about Armenia or ANCA.
Based on the falsehood published by Forbes, The Daily Caller claims that “ANCA represents views of the government of Armenia and, by proxy, the Russian government. Without registration, that may violate FARA [Foreign Agents Registration Act] and lobbying laws.”
Contreras highlights the fact that Armenia has signed a military treaty with Russia, but, fails to understand that Armenia has no choice but to enter into such a defensive pact. Should Armenia recklessly risk its existence when someday Azerbaijan and Turkey put into practice their hostile and threatening warnings? Contreras ignores the fact that Armenia also enjoys close economic, political and military relations with Western Europe and the United States.
The Daily Caller’s Contreras concocts another lie in referring to contributions made by Armenian-Americans to U.S. political candidates. He falsely calls them “questionable campaign contributions.” A small amount of political donations are given by ANC PAC (Political Action Committee) which is a separate entity from ANCA and perfectly legal. Furthermore, Contreras does not seem to know that ANCA is a 501(c)(4) IRS (Internal Revenue Service) entity that has the right to make political endorsements. Contreras wrongly calls the ANCA’s endorsements “potentially illegal.” They are not illegal under American law!
Contreras then brings up a long-settled issue -- the 2009 complaint by CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics) in Washington with the Justice Department, the IRS and the Congress, alleging that ANCA violated FARA by not registering as a “foreign agent.” This complaint was thoroughly reviewed and dismissed nine years ago! Contreras does not have the honesty to report that CREW’s complaint had been dismissed by the IRS!
Contreras goes on to recount ANCA’s success in blocking the Senate confirmation of Matthew Bryza as Ambassador to Azerbaijan. This is a great accomplishment and ANCA is rightly proud of it.
Finally, Contreras quotes from a Washington Post editorial of 2010 which claims that ANCA’s “lobbying has made reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey, and between Armenia and Azerbaijan, more difficult -- thus helping perpetuate Armenia’s impoverishment and overdependence on Russia.” It is laughable when non-Armenians like Contreras, U.S. publications, and hostile nations like Azerbaijan and Turkey, tell Armenians what is in their best interest. Armenians know much better than anyone else what is in their interest. They don’t need a lecture from anyone!
Rather than suggesting that ANCA should register as a foreign agent, Contreras himself should do so for propagating the interests of Azerbaijan and Turkey in the United States!
ANCA and Armenian-Americans should consider suing Contreras, The Daily Caller and Forbes for anti-Armenian defamation. The Daily Caller noted at the end of its article that “the views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.” Forbes published a similar note at the end of its article. Publishing lies is defamatory and nothing to do with the writer’s opinion. These two publications must be held responsible for disseminating falsehoods.