Let’s Not Falter as of Day One

Team Keghart Editorial, 8 May 2010
 
On several occasions Keghart.com has asserted its support to the proposed Western Armenian National Congress. This is based on the belief that the Congress will be capable to mobilize a competent legal team that will present the Armenian demands in national and international courts. That is our understanding of its main thrust.

Nonetheless, it is important to underline that such support does not necessarily mean total agreement with the historical positions and interpretations of the International Organizing Committee (IOC) of the proposed Congress, posted on its website.
 

Team Keghart Editorial, 8 May 2010
 
On several occasions Keghart.com has asserted its support to the proposed Western Armenian National Congress. This is based on the belief that the Congress will be capable to mobilize a competent legal team that will present the Armenian demands in national and international courts. That is our understanding of its main thrust.

Nonetheless, it is important to underline that such support does not necessarily mean total agreement with the historical positions and interpretations of the International Organizing Committee (IOC) of the proposed Congress, posted on its website.
 

The IOC maintains, "The thesis that the Armenians were doomed to Genocide and nothing was related to the strategy and tactics of the national liberation movement is a myth. A scientific objective analysis of political life of the Armenians for the last 150 years will inevitably show that more responsible, safe way of protection of national interests free from romanticism and adventurism existed. The latter was defended by Armenian conservative circles, Gabriel Ayvazyants, Malakiya Ormanyan, Spandar Spandaryan, etc. That’s what Loris-Melikov was telling about to the Armenians of Constantinople during his visit to the city in 1859."

The period under consideration is open to interpretations by Armenian and international scholarship, with a variety of conclusions. It is amazing to note such an extremely judgmental opinion in IOC’s statement. For one, it fails to mention the external non-Armenian factors that played a crucial role in what evolved during the aforementioned period, and more importantly lays the responsibility of the ensuing calamities on Armenians. The intent here is not to elaborate on the historical dimension of this issue but rather its relevance to what the IOC proposes to accomplish by creating the Congress.

Tactically, it makes no sense. Instead of bringing together as many people as possible with a variety of backgrounds and use that potential towards a common goal, it alienates individuals and indeed a whole sector of the Armenian Diaspora which strongly believe that the national liberation movement was in response to half-hearted reforms and reneged promises by the Ottoman authorities.

Secondly, it plays directly into the hands of the Turkish propaganda machine which asserts that Armenians brought upon themselves whatever calamities they endured because of their irresponsible activities as citizens of the empire.

It is fair to ask whether above opinion is what the IOC as a team believes in. If that’s the case, then it should be open to criticism at least on tactical grounds. Alternately, if it is the view of some historians who adhere to the mission of the proposed Congress then the website should have a page where a variety of opinions are posted and not only one historical interpretation is provided to the public.

The IOC statement goes on to state, "The first stage on the interrupted path of the formation of the Armenian Factor … was the treatment of wounds following deportations, the restoration and strengthening of forces of the Armenian Diaspora, conservation and development of Armenian life (culture, education, economics) in Soviet Armenia in spite of a criminal totalitarian anti-national regime destroying national, spiritual life..” (Bolded by Keghart.com).

Again, this view is open to criticism both on tactical and historical grounds. Has the IOC taken upon itself the task of educating the  public in Armenian history or is it trying to organize a political entity that will present the Armenian demands on the international scene? Which one is it? Yes, historical analysis is a must to forge a program for the future, but failing to see the shortcomings of such an analysis and propagating ideas such as above are counter-productive or serve no purpose in reaching the stated goal.

Despite all that happened during the Soviet period, the undeniable fact remains that within two generations Armenia’s population more than doubled. Furthermore, for the first time in more than six hundred years Armenia became the centre of Armenian culture, giving hope for further growth. Weren’t these factors that were celebrated as signs of “national” “spiritual” rebirth irrespective of what political views people held? Weren’t these the very reasons why Diaspora Armenians who were not necessarily in the pro-Soviet camp had started to warm up towards Armenia? The list goes on, but as mentioned earlier, the intent of this editorial is not to engage in historical evaluations but to consider practical implications.

As pointed out with respect to the IOC take on mid-nineteenth century, the analysis about Soviet Armenia has the distinct potential of alienating left-leaning intellectuals. Some of these intellectuals were or still are pro-Soviet Armenia. There is a host of capable and dedicated individuals among them who have advocated for legal international solutions of the various aspects of the Armenian cause for more than a quarter century–long before IOC came into play. Is IOC telling them that it does not need their participation or co-operation?

If above considerations are brought up because of tactical concerns, the ensuing matter is of a more bothersome nature at various levels.

Some members of the IOC have made statements equating the Kemalist Turkey with Bolshevik Russia. This is preposterous. It’s perfectly acceptable to enumerate the consequences of what each side did, but propagating the idea, whether explicitly or implicitly, that the result for Armenia and Armenians were the same or almost the same is unacceptable and contrary to reality. The Kemalist Turkey continued to perpetrate acts of genocide. Is it mplied that Bolshevik Russia did the same to Armenians?

Hopefully, the IOC will deliberate on the above enumerated concerns prior to calling a general convention where drafts of policy statements and strategic plans are expected to be provided. Meanwhile we propose that IOC:
 

1. Enunciate a revised mission statement with precisely defined goals, without the burden of convoluted analyses,

2. Delete references to above mentioned historical points and evaluations from the policy statement,

3. Devote a section of “opinions” on IOC’s website where a variety of views may be posted for public’s participation in  the ongoing discussions.

 
8 comments
  1. Western Armenian Supreme Council (not Congress)
    This in brief…

    I am in contact with them from day ONE, in Paris. I do not think it appropriate to have yet another Congress, which in N. America signifies Parliament . Initially that word was proposed to which I objected. Indeed very courteously, writing that we do not need more fragmentations.
     
    We have a Parliament in our Soverign Republic of Armenia and that should be cherised.
    Supreme Council  is  most suitable…since Armenians never take any "suggestions",  let alone a critique.

    PS

    Kurds do have a Parliament-in-exile in Brussels, but we do have our state, recognized by UN.

    Gaytzag  Palandjian

  2. Some suggestions

    My post "Western Armenian Supreme Council" did not include my statement that I accepted to join them on conditon that they alter "Parliament" to above. They have come close to it. Good.

    Allow me some suggestions:

    1) The said organization cannot properly make headway unless we get more members to join. This needs a Proclamation with a package of clear objectives
    to mobilize further our both human and economic resources, which we do have.  It resides within more than 100,000 Armenians working in some 16 fields of Proffessions. I suggest that these good people of PCA (Proffessional Colleagues Association) through an organization that already exists in Paris – "Groupement Interproffesionelle Armenien  – to which I was a member long ago – be invited to be part of it,  and "Haybachdban" be gracious and cooperative to merge with them.

    2) Through said PCA,  that hopefully will join up w/Haybachdban, aim at establishing a "National Investment Trust Fund".
     

  3. IOC

    I fully agree with Keghart that the IOC should not alienate the establishment. We need evewrybody in our efforts to organize and represent the Western armenian claims. Anti-establishment mentality has its merits in seeking truth amongst us; but IOC is not a historical commission tasked with seeking truth as its mandate.  
  4. Chances of people joining the proposed Congress

    The goals set by the organizing committee are well worth thinking about, and I have no doubts that their members are serious people. Some of them have had outstanding careers, and they have thought over matters for more than three years now.

    However, their goals appear to be a wish-list rather than corresponding to realities, except for the creation of a team of lawyers. I’ll limit myself only to the issue of membership. The IOC proposes to create a Congress that will speak on behalf of a perceived majority of the Diaspora. Where is that membership going to materialize from?

    The political climate in most of the Middle East is such that one has to be very daring or an idealist to join. Who in the right mind would risk being interrogated by the local secret services of respective countries upon return from say a conference or a seminar held by the proposed Congress? None of the countries will allow their citizens to get involved in activities that may run against their foreign policies, and the issue of Genocide has direct bearing with foreign policy.

    Think of Iran-Turkey raprochement, the moukhabarat in Syria, the Israeli secret services, to name a few. Even Lebanon, which was considered to be a "second Armenia" not too long ago is not a safe haven anymore. The recent censure of a song, and not commemorating the anniversary of the Genocide on the public radio and TV are symptomatic of major changes not only in Lebanon, but the whole region.

    Probably because of the infamous Protocols a sizeable portion of the Diaspora has become quite suspicious of any suggestions from citizens of Armenia or CIS countries in general. The top two positions in IOC are held by such people who are unknown personalities for the most part. It is a hard sell to ask Diasporans to warm up towards them. That too will curtail the number of people who would readily join.

    Related to above are the recent anti-Sargsyan demonstrations in various countries. They are not perfect barometers to gauge the mood in Western Europe and North America, but they are significant enough to shed light on where allegiances lie.

    Another factor is related directly to the interpretation of historical matters mentioned in the editorial. The "nationalists" amongst us and the so called pro-Soviet Armenia camp are being lectured. Will they join?
     

    Think of it.

  5. Position vs. Opinion

    The WAN-C IOC certainly has laudable goals, and in my view has gone further ahead than any other organization in terms of laying the foundation of what needs to be done.  That is to their credit.

    On the other hand, as the Keghart editorial rightfully points out, there are certainly many things at issue with their statements.

    The job of the IOC is to create a rallying opportunity for all Armenians around the narrow focus objective of legally pursuing our usurped righs.  In fact, it could arguably be a last opporunity and hope for the Diaspora(s) to organize and make themselves relevant. On that issue, the IOC must step up to the plate.  It has no choice.

    Along the same lines, passing judgement on points of our history can only be relevant in that context.  For example, a clear position about certain mistakes made related to specific treaties, whether signed or not signed by any Armenian government.  A clear argumentation about those mistakes and what their shortcomings were, within a specific historical and critical analysis, can only add value, as long as it contributes to the objective at hand. The purpose of such analysis not being to point fingers, but to advance the agenda at hand.

    This would be a position that the IOC can and in fact should articulate.

    Making public statements (and posting them) which are no more than personal opinions, is however not only destructive, but frankly outright dangerous.  For the simple reason that it points at a fundamental immaturity of the overall approach.  The first duty of people in leadership positions is to realize that they have to silence their own personal selves. Why? Because when they speak, they speak on behalf of the collective they represent.  They can have personal opinions, but they should certainly refrain from presenting them as the positions of the institutions and organizations they are leading.

    In fact, this is one of the fundamental tenets of democratic practice.  This inherent conflict of interest must be subjugated to the representational duty. Otherwise, any hard-gained legitimacy simply evaporates.

    The other important factor that seems to elude those who make such statements is that there is the concept of "guilt by association", the supporters (and wannabe supporters) certainly do NOT want to espouse many of the personal opinions articulated as positions.  Given a choice between supporting the objective and staying on the sidelines, I would guess that most honest people would choose to stay on the sidelines.

    Again, for the simple reason that no one would want to be an intellectual hostage.  Meaning that, because the cause is right, it must be supported at any cost.  That would be a ludicrous expectation.

    It is a recipe for failure, because, by doing so, the WAN-C IOC would be undermining the very principles it set out to implement.  It would be in a conflict with its own mission.

    The history of the Diaspora(s) is scrap yard of failed attempts. At a minimum, the WAN-C IOC would be well-advised not only to setup a special discussion space for opinions (including those of its members), as the Keghart editorial suggests, but also to create a strong editorial board made of seasoned professionals from around the globe that could craft a clear and coherent position message in any language.

    That’s what the pros would do.

    Paregamoren

    Viken L. Attarian
    Quebec, CANADA

  6. Team Keghart Editorial, 8 May 2010

    My overarching impression is that the IOC is totally confused in its mission. What the Armenians want stirs nobody’s interest unless the Diaspora Armenians come up with a representative body.  Any meeting among people of inexistent ideological convergence is bound to fail.  The Keghart team editorial scares me because it points, indirectly, to the futility of the gathering.

    Since it is against my principle to be critical without offering constructive suggestions, here are some thoughts you might wish to consider:

    1.  Define your mission laser sharp.

    2. Read Taner Akcam’s "Shameful Act" to discover for evidence of the  predetermined nature of the Armenian genocide.

    3. You might try to create unity behind your mission, but I am irredeemably skeptical for any success in that area.  Armenians hold meeting to argue, not to plan any action.  Can you change this psychology that has gripped Armenians for decades now?

    4. In Turkey, all Armenians wanted were reforms of the intolerable conditions in which they lived.  This is the natural right of every discriminated minority.  However, the Young Turks who passed themselves for super-patriotic  citizens of Turkey managed to steel power from the Sultan and carry out their design for genocide that they had worked out before they came to power.  If anything, I would study this part of the Turkish history to unearth any covert operations by the deunme moslem Young Turks to put the blame where it really belongs.  I say this with some reservation because I really have not studied the subject scientifically.

    5.  Leave the USSR in peace.  It saved Armenia and Armenians.  It fed and made a nation out of chaos.  And Russia is still being used by the Armenians as a shield for their adventurous activities. No Armenian would dare challenge Turkey on any platform without the Russians protecting them.

  7. ” NUESTRO PAPA “

    Indudablemente Siglo Han Pasado Casi sin Seguimos ruta y Una "Sino Equivocada, diria" interminable. El papá del Mundo la ONU, regidora de la UE El FMI La Corte Internacional de Justicia, etc etc TODAS y Las demas Siglas Que querramos Escribir; Va uno SUS Intereses manejar un antojo Su "Aunque El Mundo sí convierta en Genocidio de las Naciones Unidas" . La Globalización y Concentración de Intereses políticos y geopoliticos, Hacen Que las Ventas y la armenia y la causa, de la forma desorganizada y Equivocada Que utiliza Toda la diáspora; Vez En Positiva de servicio (NO PARA LA DISPORA, SINO PARA LA RCA DE ARMENIA), mar Totalmente negativa .- Gracias .- Miguel Angel Nalpatian (1942) .- Mar del Plata .- Buenos Aires .- Rca Argentina .-
          

  8. Are these people supposed to lead?

    Are these people supposed to lead the Armenian nation?  You can not lead by dividing.  A true leader would be a uniter and not a divider.  The "garbage" that they have in their mission statment should be deleted.  I am sure that these people are very smart, but I doubt whether they have been in leadership positions before.

    The mission statment could be one sentence and very general in nature. For example: "The mission of WAN-C is to represent the Armenian Nation in International Forums to pursue the Armenian Cause by demanding and obtaining Recognition, Reparations, and Restitution (RRR)."  Then you come up with a plan to achieve this goal.  PERIOD!

    None of that gubligook as we say in the military.

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