Cautiously Optimistic about Success of Biden/Harris in Presidential Elections

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By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

August 20, 2020

On November 3, 2020, the American public, including Armenian-Americans, will vote for the next President of the United States.

As to whom should we elect on Nov. 3 to be President and Vice President is a highly controversial subject. There are strong and passionate feelings for and against Biden or Trump, often expressed in rude and offensive terms.

Given Pres. Trump’s pro-Turkishness, non-existent position on Armenian issues, and his erratic behavior, I decided to vote for the Biden/Harris ticket. In doing so, I am motivated not just by the merits of their candidacies, but even more so by the failings of the Trump/Pence duo. Therefore a vote for Biden/Harris is necessarily a vote against Trump/Pence. Four years ago, I did not vote for either Trump or Hillary Clinton, given my total disappointment with both candidates. However, I cannot remain neutral this time around because four more years of Trump would be the death knoll of democracy in the United States and American relations with the world. The United States cannot continue to be held hostage by the minority of radical right-wing U.S. citizens who form Trump’s base. Trump was saved in 2016 by the Electoral College, despite getting three million less votes than Hillary Clinton.

As far as Armenian issues are concerned, given the Armenian community’s disappointment with previous U.S. Presidents’ lavish pre-election promises which they ignored afterwards, I am not optimistic that what Biden/Harris are promising now will be fulfilled, should they be elected. Nevertheless, we have repeatedly witnessed Trump’s love affair with Turkey’s dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan which is not about to end any time soon.

However, Turkish leaders are clever enough to woo Biden/Harris to their side after the election as they have done to Trump and many other previous presidents. This will be a critical battle between Turkish and Armenian lobbyists which regrettably has been won repeatedly by Turkey.

Presidential candidate Joe Biden and Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris have clearly expressed their strong support for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

In a letter to the Armenian National Committee of America on Sept. 16, 2019, Presidential candidate Biden stated: “The United States must reaffirm, once and for all, our record on the Armenian Genocide. We must never forget or remain silent about this horrific and systematic campaign of extermination that resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children and the mass deportation of 2 million Armenians from their homes. If we do not fully acknowledge, commemorate, and teach our children about genocide, the words ‘never again’ lose their meaning. The facts must be as clear and as powerful for future generations as for those whose memories are seared by tragedy. Failing to remember or acknowledge the fact of a genocide only paves the way for future mass atrocities.”

While this is a very supportive statement, Biden has left out from his text the name of the perpetrator of the Armenian Genocide: Ottoman Empire or Turkey.

Biden has a long record of supporting various Armenian genocide resolutions as a U.S. Senator, but when he was Vice President, President Barack Obama thwarted all efforts in Congress to recognize the Armenian Genocide, breaking his multiple campaign promises. Instead, Pres. Obama repeatedly used the term “Meds Yeghern” (Great Crime) to describe the Armenian Genocide, which was copied by Pres. Trump in the past four years. It is ironic that the two Presidents disagree on almost everything, except for their agreement to avoid the term Armenian Genocide.

Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris, as a U.S. Senator, sent a letter to the Armenian Assembly on Sept. 16, 2019, expressing her support for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Harris wrote: “I am proud to be an original cosponsor of Senate Resolution 150, which ensures that American foreign policy appropriately reflects and acknowledges the horrors of the Armenian genocide. When it comes to crimes against humanity, we can never be silent -- we must always speak uncomfortable truths about the past, lest we repeat it.”

Given the adoption of Armenian Genocide resolutions by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate last year, Armenian issues are no longer limited to the reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide. There are several other important issues such as providing a larger amount of foreign aid to Armenia and Artsakh, improving U.S.-Armenia relations, supporting the independence of the Republic of Artsakh, and pressuring Turkey to remove the blockade of Armenia. These are some of the key issues that Armenian-Americans should demand that Biden/Harris take a strong position on before they are endorsed for President/Vice President.

Ali Chinar, President of Turkish Heritage Organization, wrote in the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah on August 12, 2020, describing Biden’s negative views about Turkey:

  • He is against storing nuclear weapons at the Incirlik Air Base [in Turkey].
  • He is against Turkey’s military operations in Syria and stated that YPG/PKK was betrayed by the U.S.
  • He made statements relating to concerns about freedom of the press and human rights in Turkey.
  • He emphasizes that, in collaboration with its allies in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey must be isolated.
  • He sides with Turkey’s withdrawal of Russian S-400 missiles; otherwise, he demands sanctions.
  • He has not made any statements about the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) or the extradition of its members to Turkey, and nothing was done on the issue during his vice presidency.
  • He criticized the decision to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
  • He said that he would recognize the so-called Armenian genocide.

Between now and the Nov. 3, 2020 Presidential election, there is much more to be said in future articles about Biden and Trump and their positions on Armenian and Turkish issues.