Why Did Presidential Candidate Clark
Switch Sides on Armenian Genocide?
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
Democratic Presidential Candidate General Wesley Clark issued a statement on
December 15, 2003, recognizing the Armenian Genocide. "The Ottoman
authorities rounded up and executed Armenian leaders in Constantinople and
other towns, they desecrated Armenian churches, and they ordered the
deportation of the Armenian people, sending hundreds of thousands of men,
women and children, old and young, into the barren desert, where [they] were
murdered en route, or where they died of starvation and disease," Clark
said. "What happened in 1915 was genocide."
He concluded by saying: "We owe it to their memory, and to the memory of the
hundreds of thousands who perished, to never forget the Armenian Genocide,
and to strengthen our commitment to preventing such horrors in the future."
Armenian-Americans obviously welcome the statement of General Clark who
served as NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe. The recognition of the
Armenian Genocide by Clark is politically significant since he could be the
next President or Vice President of the United States. In fact, during a
talk show last Sunday, Clark said that Howard Dean, who is currently the
leading Democratic presidential contender, had asked him to be his running
Gen. Clark's position on the Armenian Genocide is also important because of
his Jewish background which makes him particularly sensitive to crimes
against humanity. Even though he was raised a Southern Baptist by his mother
(his father died when he was 4 and his mother remarried), Clark told the
Jewish magazine, the Forward last January that he descends from "generations
of rabbis" from Minsk. Clark cited his Jewish heritage for feeling "sick"
that in 1994 the "U.S. didn't encourage the U.N. to stop the genocide" in
While Armenian-Americans appreciate Gen. Clark's recognition of the Armenian
Genocide, they cannot forget the fact that three years earlier he signed a
statement along with several others, including notorious genocide denier
Richard Perle, the former Assistant Secretary of Defense, urging the House
International Relations Committee to reject the then pending congressional
resolution on the Armenian Genocide.
Here are brief excerpts from the lengthy letter signed by General Clark:
"The potential for damage to U.S. interests in a vital region dramatically
outweighs, in our judgment, any acknowledgment of past atrocities during
World War I and its aftermath.... Now is not the time to test the will of an
indispensable ally which, for over forty years, has proven its loyalty and
strategic importance.... Turkey's cooperation is essential to promote U.S.
strategic interests in the region. Yet with the adoption of this resolution,
no Turkish government will be able to be as forthcoming as in the past,
given its public's strong sensitivities to events clouded by history....
Passage of the resolution would strengthen the hand of those in Turkey who
oppose Turkey's further integration into the West and would deliver a severe
blow to U.S. interests in the region. We urge you to carefully weigh the
implications of this resolution and vote against wherever it may be
considered, either in committee or on the House floor."
This potentially damaging letter, signed by 13 former high-ranking military
and intelligence officials, arrived just before the Committee voted on the
Armenian Genocide resolution. The Committee, nevertheless, approved the
resolution by a vote of 24 in favor and 11 against.
Gen. Clark and his supporters can make the case that he is only now
recognizing the Armenian Genocide after learning more about this issue. He
certainly should not be faulted for deciding to side with the truth. But he
should know that some might question his sincerity co
nsidering that his
change of mind occurred in the midst of a presidential campaign.
In order to make his statement more convincing, Gen. Clark needs to provide
the following explanations to the Armenian-American community:
1) Why did he agree to sign that letter in October 2000, opposing the
Armenian Genocide resolution?
2) Does he still subscribe to the faulty notion that the Genocide resolution
would have damaged U.S. national interests?
3) Would he as President support a congressional resolution on the Armenian
Genocide? His Dec. 15, 2003 statement does not state if he would support
such a resolution.
4) Would he place his Dec. 15, 2003 statement as well as his answers to the
above four questions on his campaign web site (http://www.clark04.com/)?
Armenian-Americans have been taken for a ride before by many presidential
candidates -- George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald
Reagan -- who did not keep their campaign promises after the election.
Unless Gen. Clark addresses the above issues, his statement of Dec. 15, 2003
will not get him the level of support he seeks from the Armenian-American