US Ambassador to Armenia Provides Food for Thought

By Avedis Kevorkian, Philadelphia, PA USA, 5 October 2010

The Belgians will have to look to their laurels, because there is someone touring America (at this writing) who is a rival in the Art of The Waffle.

Her Excellency Marie L. Yovanovitch, America’s Ambassador to Armenia, is visiting some American cities to tell the Armenians how much America loves the Armenians and how much America’s leaders would like to chuck it all in and move there were it not necessary to stay in Washington to tend to such minor chores as trying to run the world, telling China how to behave itself, and not solving the problem of the drug invasion from Mexico.

By Avedis Kevorkian, Philadelphia, PA USA, 5 October 2010

The Belgians will have to look to their laurels, because there is someone touring America (at this writing) who is a rival in the Art of The Waffle.

Her Excellency Marie L. Yovanovitch, America’s Ambassador to Armenia, is visiting some American cities to tell the Armenians how much America loves the Armenians and how much America’s leaders would like to chuck it all in and move there were it not necessary to stay in Washington to tend to such minor chores as trying to run the world, telling China how to behave itself, and not solving the problem of the drug invasion from Mexico.

To be sure, the Ambassador does a good job. She tells her selected audiences–in Philadelphia she met privately with the clergy (one must presume all six of them), with the key leaders (how determined and number unknown), the youth (ages not defined), and the rest of the community–what the Americans are doing in Armenia, how they work closely with various non-governmental organizations, co-operate with the Armenian government on joint projects such as the Millennium Fund project(s), etc.

In short, America is a very concerned friend, and acts as such–but does not interfere.

She feels that the Diaspora has a vital role to play in the affairs of Armenia, and urges it to do so. Not only, she says, with money but also with skills and actual participation.

In a question about corruption in Armenia, she indicated that America was doing what it could–this side of direct interference, of course–but that this was another matter in which the Diaspora could get involved. She did see signs, however, of improvement in this area.

And, so it went, until the Ambassador violated a major rule of social intercourse–never bring up the subject of rope in the home of a man who has been hanged.

She mentioned the events of 1915. No, she did not use the words "Armenian Genocide"; no fool, she.

But she did tell her Armenian audience that President Medz Yeghern, in one of his April 24 messages indicated that the Armenians suffered a tragedy in 1915. There being no gasp of discovery in her audience, one must presume that her Armenian audience knew that something terrible happened to the Armenians in 1915, and the Armenians of 2010 didn’t need an American president to tell us what we knew. (During the question period when a member of the audience said as much and said that "We need a president to tell the world that the Armenians suffered a Genocide in 1915," she politely said "Your comment is noted," and turned to another questioner.)

While she was on the subject of the unspoken Genocide and the problems with Azerbaijan and Turkey, almost every statement that she made could have been refuted, had the meeting been a debate or a round-table discussion.

As the diplomat Sir Henry Wooton wrote, many years ago: "An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country," it is difficult, if not unfair, to expect this or any other ambassador to state any opinion contrary to–in this case–her country’s policies. If America decided that the sun rises in the west, the ambassadors would state as such.

But one cannot help but wonder why this–or any other American–ambassador would touch on the delicate subject of the Genocide and not refer to it as such. But, in so not doing, she more-or-less confirmed that Turkey dictates policy to America in matters-Armenian (and matters-Cypriot and matters-Greek, as well).

She said that it was America’s hope that the Armenian problem with Azerbaijan regarding Nagorno Karabakh (note not “Artsakh”) will be resolved peacefully, since it would be a benefit not only to the two countries (note, not Artsakh) but also to the region, and that the agreement should acknowledge the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Were the evening the debate referred to above, she would have been asked, "But, in the matter of Kosovo, wasn’t the principal of self-determination of peoples America’s argument as it rammed down the throat of Europe the Muslim state of Kosovo, in separating it from Christian Serbia?"

And, if it were a debate, she would have been asked if it is the principle of territorial integrity of a state that prevails, why is America not doing anything to get Turkey out of Cyprus, whose territorial integrity was violated in 1974 and is still being violated. In the question period, someone asked what would be America’s reaction if Turkey were to invade Armenia.

The Ambassador smiled (she does have a lovely smile) and said that such a thing would never happen. However, when Turkey invaded Cyprus using NATO-provided arms, not only did America support the action but also America made it clear that no other country should come to the aid of tiny Cyprus. What she did not say, also, was that the reason Turkey does not invade Armenia (and finally resolve "The Armenian Question") is not because it fears what America would (not) do but she fears what Russia would do. Which also explains Turkey’s increased flirtation with Russia. But, that is the color of another horse.

She said that America supported the Protocols signed last year and felt that their implementation would benefit not only the two countries but also the entire area. But here, too, she showed how much Turkey dictates American policy that she did not lay any blame on Turkey for the hold-up. Had she done so, she could have cited the many instances where Turkey signs an agreement and then adds post-agreement conditions. There are scores of such examples, but the most recent is Turkey’s signing of the Ankara Protocols (to get into the European Union) and then saying, in effect, "However, we will not recognize the Republic of Cyprus" (a member of the EU), thus enabling it to violate one of the provisions of the Protocol that would permit Cypriot-flagged vessels to enter Turkish ports, and Cypriot commercial aircraft to over-fly Turkey.

Had the ambassador stayed with the "America loves Armenia" theme and stayed away from the contentious issues, her talk would have been accepted as the "Report to the People" it was alleged to be. But, having ventured into the areas so close to the Armenian soul, she may have showed that she is an honorable person but she also must have known that she was insulting the Armenians by stopping just short of satisfying them with truth.

To this member of the audience, she confirmed that Ankara dictates to Washington.

According to my notes, there were two places which I indicated with "blah," the second of which must have really been high-grade waffle because I had added two exclamation points. I did not bother recording her comments, for which I apologize.

By the time this appears, the Ambassador’s tour may be over. However, if it isn’t and if she is to bring her dog-and-pony show to your city, please go. It will be informative.

On second thought, however, Belgium has nothing to fear. Its waffles are for the mouth; the Ambassador’s are for the ear.

  1. US Ambassador to Armenia

    You are expecting the US to solve Armenia’s issues with Turkey? The US is broke and will be more broke soon, just read the economic news and you know what I am talking about. Turn East and look at China. Pretty soon we will be all chatting in this forum in Mandarin and Cantonese. Wake up and smell the coffee.
  2. Holocaust=Shoah=Yeghern

    Instead of fighting the President, or anyone else who uses the descriptive term – Metz Yeghern – it’s time we thank them for publicly using the Armenian word for calamity instead of the English word, holocaust or the Hebrew word for calamity, shoah.

    Raffi K. Hovannisian, the American born and raised present ROA;s first minister of foreign affairs, sums it best. I quote him " Worse than genocide, as incredible as that sounds, is the premeditated deprivation of a people of its ancestral heartland. And that’s precisely what happened. In what amounted to the Great Armenian Dispossession, a nation living for more than three millennia upon its historic patrimony– at times amid its own sovereign Kingdoms and more frequently as a subject of occupying empires– was in a matter of months brutally, literally, and completely eradicated from its land. Unprecedented in human history, this expropriation of homes and lands, churches and monasteries, schools and colleges, libraries and hospitals, properties and infrastructures constitutes to this day a murder, not only of a people, but also of a civilization, a culture, a time-earned way of life. This is where the debate about calling it genocide or not becomes absurd, trivial, and tertiary"

    It was indeed the Armenian Holocaust or HaShoah, and yes- Thank your Mrs. Ambassador for acknowledging it.

    1. Acknowledging what?

      I enjoy reading Vahe’s informative articles and comments. This, however, I was neither expecting nor do approve of.

      Thanking the ambassador for acknowledging what? A hollow utterance that has neither political nor legal weight. Does Vahe not realize the difference between the term Genocide and any other word by which the Armenian experience is characterized by?

      There is another subtle point too. I don’t know where from Vahe got equating Holocaust=Shoah=Yeghern? They may be so for him, but for non-Armenians that’s not the case at all. Even Turks admit to Medz Yeghern, the Great Calamity as a term, but not Genocide, and  Shoah or Holocaust means Genocide to the majority of people at least in North America.

      The quotation from Hovannisian here is misused. "Worse than genocide" says the diplomat. It leads me to believe that he is telling Genocide plus something else, and that is "Dispossession". So he is talking about two different matters and he is not telling to forget about the term Genocide or change the word when addressing non-Armenians in whose perception there is no equating between Medz Yeghern and Genocide.

      Kevorkian is right on; we don’t need somebody to tell us what happened. The non-Armenians need to know through a term which characterizes properly the Great Calamity that befell the Armenians and that is Genocide, nothing more and nothing less.

      Somethig else also has avoided Vahe’s attention. Isn’t the American diplomat telling us to forget about an independent Artsakh? What is she advocating? Of course the administration’s policy of protecting Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. Should we be thankful for that too?

      1. Yeghern

        Thank you Nareg for your comment. For one thing, it  gives me a chance to elaborate.

        According to one prestigious dictionary, holocaust is:
        1: A sacrifice consumed by fire
        2: A thorough destruction involving extensive loss of life, especially through fire <a nuclear holocaust>
        3 : A often capitalized: the mass slaughter of European civilians and especially Jews by the Nazis during World War II. b : a mass slaughter of people; especially : genocide

        Here’s from Wikipedia a chronology of the use of the word holocaust:

        “For hundreds of years, the word holocaust was used in English to denote massive sacrifices and great slaughters or massacres.”

        “The word holocaust has been used since the 18th century to refer to the violent deaths of a large number of people. For example, Winston Churchill and other contemporaneous writers used it before World War II to describe the  Armenian Genocide of  World War I.

        “During World War II, the word was used to describe Nazi atrocities regardless of whether the victims were Jews or non-Jews”.

        “Since the 1950s its use has increasingly been restricted, with its usage now mainly used as a proper noun to describe the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany.”

        My summation: For over half a century, a one-time common English word was introduced to the public in its capitalized form and the education of the public started to take place and continues to this day on its specific definition. Many may not have known what holocaust meant then; but we all know what Holocaust means now and what the Holocaust Museum in Washington is for.

        I am of the generation that was brought up with the term Metz Yeghern or simply Yeghern. Nareg, I trust that I will not be viewed as evading the use of the Armenian Genocide or tseghaspanoutiun,  if in my correspondence in Armenian to you, I lament the Yeghern. Yeghern is amply used in the Armenian literature. In fact, I believe that more sentiments are ascribed to Yeghern in the Armenian literature than to the word tseghaspanoutiun. I find tseghaspanoutiun void of the sentiments that Metz Yeghern (The Big Calamity) that befell on us evokes. That is why I quoted Raffi Hovannissian.

        The President and the Ambassador are using a term we have used; we thus cannot fault them. Obviously however, they are banking on the language barrier and the cultural significance  and implication of the term knowing that the word Yeghern will imply whatever it implies to non-Armenians but they cannot be held accountable for using the word Genocide. Unless and until we somehow educate the public that Yeghern is our Holocaust in capital letter, i.e. the Armenian Genocide, the term–Metz Yeghern–may very well continue on being used as with impunity, if you will, as an evasive term. We, on the other hand, will continue on discussing, not to say, bickering, among ourselves that so-and-so used the term Yeghern instead of Genocide, while the greater public, to which the term is addressed to begin with, will continue to remain oblivious. May be we should start introducing the very Armenian term, Metz Yeghern to the public and associate it firmly with the Armenian Genocide. Using the term on the letters of anything that states Armenian Genocide, such as the Armenian Genocide (Metz Yeghern) Museum, may be a place to start.

  3. The Ambassador’s Waffle response
    When the President used the words "Meds Yeghern," he was speaking to the Armenians.  If he had used the words "Armenian Genocide," he would have been speaking to the world.

    It’s as simple as that.

    Hands up, all you Armenians whose non-Armenian friends remarked to you about the Armenian Genocide after the President used the words "Meds Yeghern."  Turn up the lights, I don’t seem to be able to see any hands.

    If the President had used the words "Armenian Genocide," the Turks would have raised all kinds of howls of protest, and the world would have learned that there was, indeed, a Genocide of the Armenians beginning in 1915.

    It’s as simple as that.

    By avoiding the use of "Armenian Genocide," the President was not only bowing to the demands of the Turks  but also was spitting in the faces of the Armenians by saying, "Hey, look, all you stupid Armenians, I know two Armenian words."

    It’s as simple as that.

    That the Turks said nothing about the President’s use of the two Armenian words says volumes.

    It’s as simple as that.

    Avedis Kevorkian
    Philadelphia, PA  USA
    14 october 10

    1. Yeghern Second and Last Attempt

      Avedis, there is no point for discussion of course if the President or the Ambassador uses the word Genocide. The President will use the term Genocide if he deems it of interest to the United States of America and naturally it is his prerogative to assess and do so and chose a term he deems appropriate. I state this as a matter of fact as I understand politics and abstain from moralizing it or whether it should be that way.

      As far as I am concerned a new term is coming into the English language, Metz Yeghern. This term is being introduced to the public at the highest level, from the White House. The meaning of the term is well understood by the Armenian Americans but not by the general public. Instead of fighting the President or the Ambassador for using a term we use and have used extensively, it is time to somehow definitively associate the term with the Armenian Genocide so that its use for the general public does not become elusive. We should make sure that there are no elusive or ambiguous terms when referring to the Armenian Genocide.

      Maybe our legal minds should study the possibility of trade marking the meaning of the term Metz Yeghern,so that it is ceases to be an ambiguous term.

  4. My essay and the responses

    Unlike most Armenians, I was born with a sponge in my skull, and I have spent my life absorbing as much learning as I can. Thus I am grateful to Vahe for telling me that it is the duty of the President of the United States to act in what he perceives is the best interest of the United States. Golly, gee willikers, I woulda never thunk that. Thanks Vahe.

    As far as I know, it is Genocide–g e n o c i d e– that is condemned in the UN Resolution of 1948. Not Medz Yeghern. It is for that reason that the Turks fight so hard–and well–to pressure successive American Presidents and Secretaries of State not to use the words "Armenian Genocide." It is the word "genocide" that the world knows as the ultimate evil that states can commit to their minorities. Not Meds Yeghern. If it gives simple-minded Armenians a great deal of pleasure that the world some day may learn two Armenian words, "Meds Yeghern," there is nothing better the Turks would want. But, getting back to learning.

    Tell me, Vahe, how it is in the best interest of the United States to have a President who lies, who breaks his promises, and who denies history? I don’t respect a President who tells me the Turks didn’t kill my father’s entire family. If he had any integrity, he would have told the world that the Turks killed my father’s entire family–along with the other 10,000 Armenians of Chunkoush and 1.5-million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. So, please don’t wave the American flag in my face and tell me about the responsibility of the American President. By denying history, the President may gain Turkey’s respect–and yours, of course–but it brings no honor to America.–Avedis Kevorkian

    1. Unintended Sentiments

      Avedis, my response to you has evoked sentiments I did not intend to.

      As to the term Metz Yeghern, President George W. Bush used the term. I am not sure if President Clinton did before him as well. The term – Meds Yeghern – has the potential of staying around for the long haul. Obviously it is serving the purposes of both Republican and Democratic administrations and there is no assurance that it will not continue to be used. If our response is simply asking Presidents not to use a term we have used, then I rest my case. However, I believe we need somehow to clarify the vocabulary that when used, Metz Yeghern is Armenian Genocide.

      Expecting a President to acknowledge Genocide is a given of course. As for using the word Genocide by a president, on April 22, 1981 President Reagan stated the following: "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. That was at a different time and in an altogether different era and the term Metz Yeghern had not made the transition onto the world stage.

  5. Another response to my response to the other response

    Whether or not the idiot George W. Bush and the pervert William J. Clinton used the term "Meds Yeghern" is irrelevant.  Both were liars, in any case.

    What is important is that as long as the Armenians in America insist on introducing Genocide-recognition bills in  successive Congresses, it is important that Presidents (when candidates) keep their promises to "recognize" the historic fact of the Armenian Genocide.  And, that if they really want to show how sincere they are, they would actively promote their passages through the relative committees of the House and the Senate and encourage their being placed on the floor of the two houses for a vote and further encourage their passages there, instead of actively fighting against their every step.

    If it is more important that Turkey’s dictates be obeyed (in "America’s national interest") then the Armenians should cease-and-desist all further talk of the Genocide recognition by the United States, should be happy that one (or more?) presidents know two Armenian words, and should continue to vote for and support liars.  

    If you want to encourage your children and grand-children to emulate recent American presidents, please do so with passion.  But, if your children and grand-children turn out to be liars, be careful where you point your finger seeking blame.

    Avedis Kevorkian, 16 october 10

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