US Vice President Biden Gives Armenia The Cold Shoulder

US Vice President Biden Gives Armenia The Cold Shoulder –


The Haverhill Gazette – It wasn’t bad enough that President Obama again declined to properly acknowledge the Armenian Genocide in this centennial year.

He didn’t do what Pope Francis and other icons in the celebrity world like actor George Clooney and singer Beyonce did. They managed to call the 1915 atrocity a genocide and gave proper reference to the massacre of an entire nation, which left 1.5 million dead and another one million dispersed from their homeland.

Bad enough, too, that Obama skirted the national observance in Washington, D.C., May 7 to 9 and failed to acknowledge the visiting president of Armenia, Serge Sarkisian.

But when Vice President Joe Biden was sent as a courtesy gesture and said nothing — that was the ultimate breaking point.

A low profile is one thing. A consequential “no-show” is another. As one official carefully pointed out, “What a waste of a seat!”

Some 2,500 Armenians piled into Washington’s National Cathedral May 7. They included two pontiffs and an entire cadre of visiting priests representing various denominations from throughout the United States, along with dignitaries and community leaders. Biden sat next to the president of Armenia. 

In all, the turnout of 12,000 visitors was treated to a host of cultural events, religious services and presentations by well-known artists and historians.

It would have been a perfect opportunity to deliver a message of understanding, compassion and support — a perfect time to give Armenia some backing toward genocide recognition and human rights.

But nothing! The vice president didn’t move from his seat during the entire two-hour ecumenical service.

Biden attended under his own terms: No voice, no photographs from the floor, no formal introductions. Those were the stipulations which drew considerable resentment from this interfaith gathering. The only pictures taken of the VP were those done surreptitiously by cell phone.

Could be the State Department cautioned him against making any public statements after Obama once again failed to use the G-word and reneged on a promise he had made in 2008 when he first campaigned for the White House.

Biden made no hesitation in contacting the Armenian National Committee of America at that time, soliciting support from the Armenian community. He called its chairman (Ken Hachikian) asking for an endorsement of the Obama-Biden ticket.

For the record, the last president to recognize the Armenian Genocide was Ronald Reagan back in 1981. Twenty-four countries have added their recognition.

Unfortunately, the United States has persisted in balking at any such approval and continues to side with Turkey, an important ally due to its air bases and oil refineries.

“I remember the conversation I had with Biden at the time,” Hachikian said. “Promises were made from this administration and were not fulfilled. Efforts to meet with the president have been futile. All calls have gone unanswered.”

Obama was officially invited to the commemoration months ago, according to the Armenian National Committee. He responded that he had a conflict and couldn’t attend, according to the committee.

As for the vice president, he was exposed to an eclectic program that included a talk by His Holiness Aram 1 among other luminaries whose remarks about genocide recognition may have been a bit unsettling for Biden.

The religious leader made a valid point that drew resounding applause: “Silence is a continuation of genocide. If we don’t learn from our past, we are doomed to repeat it.”

Upon entering the National Cathedral, Sarkisian was met on the staircase by Biden. The two exchanged pleasantries for the first time — but nothing more. A White House meeting between the two dignitaries would have conformed to proper protocol and perhaps some resolve over legislative issues.

Biden certainly could have addressed the crowd had he wished. This was not a liturgical service, but an observance. The vice president chose not to speak. It was a policy decision to make an appearance and nothing more. He could have overruled that.

He could have given a statement to the press or TV media had he chosen, instead of an address from the pulpit. Biden showed up under heavy guard one minute prior to the start and left promptly after. Security had him tightly covered.

Those seated in the pews would never have known of his presence had they not been seated within close proximity.

It’s not the way you would want to see our political elite respond to an international tragedy that has been suppressed for 100 years. Silence in this case continues to bring a resounding message of nonchalance.


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