Did Pres. George W. Bush experience sudden pangs of conscience or a miraculous conversion on the Armenian Genocide during his visit to Holy Land last week? Don’t bet on it!
At a time and place that the President least expected, an Armenian clergyman reminded him of his unfulfilled eight-year-old campaign pledge to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.
While visiting the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem’s Manger Square, the birthplace of Jesus — jointly administered by the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic Churches — Archbishop Aris Shirvanian, the head of the ecumenical and foreign relations department of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, surprised Pres. Bush by reminding him of his unkept promise to the Armenian-American community.
Welcoming the U.S. President to this holy site, Archbishop Shirvanian informed him that Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its state religion in 301 AD. That was news to Pres. Bush. The Armenian clergyman then urged the President to support the passage of the pending congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide.
Ironically, the Archbishop was talking to a president who had not only violated his solemn campaign pledge, but had done everything in his power to subvert the will of the majority of the House of Representatives to pass a non-binding commemorative resolution acknowledging the first genocide of the 20th Century.
Arch. Shirvanian was quoted by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty as telling Pres. Bush that he should push for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide "before the end of his term in office." In other words, the Armenian clergyman was politely telling the President of the United States that this year was his last chance to redeem himself politically and morally by acting on his earlier pledge.
Indeed, during the seven years of his presidency, Pres. Bush has been issuing commemorative statemen’s every April 24, the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, using all kinds of euphemisms such as massacres and mass killings to describe the extermination of 1.5 million Armenia’s by Ottoman Turkey, while carefully avoiding the term "genocide."
Pres. Bush responded to Arch. Shirvanian’s suggestion with an interesting but vague answer. He told the Armenian cleric that he had talked about the Armenian Genocide to the President of Turkey Abdullah Gul during the latter’s visit to the White House last week. Pres. Bush also told the Archbishop that he has been thinking about this subject, without saying what was he actually contemplating.
Before leaving Bethlehem, Pres. Bush thanked the clergymen of the three denominations for the opportunity to visit the Church of Nativity. "It’s a moving moment for me and the delegation to be here at the Church of the Nativity," he said after the tour. "For those of us who practice the Christian faith, there’s really no more holy site than the place where our Savior was born." The President added: "It’s a fascinating history in this church, so not only was my soul uplifted, my knowledge of history was enriched."
Arch. Shirvanian should be highly commended for his bold initiative. He did the right thing by reminding the American President that he had an unpaid debt to Armenia’s, and no matter where he went, he would be confronted with his broken promise.
However, in my view, Armenia’s should stop begging Pres. Bush to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide in his final April 24 statement this year. After all, a former more prominent president, Ronald Reagan, did issue a Presidential Proclamation back in 1981 acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. Pres. Bush or any subsequent president who issues such an acknowledgment in the future would be simply reconfirming the well-known facts of the Armenian Genocide.
If it is true that Pres. Bush is rethinking this issue, as he said he was in Bethlehem, it is my belief that such reconsideration would be in his own best interest, assuming that he ends up acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. By doing so, he would be safeguarding his moral legacy and absolve himself from the sin of making a false promise to Armenian Americans in order to obtain their support for his election to the White House back in 2000.
It is up to Pres. Bush whether he wants to be remembered as a man who keeps his word or prefers to join the ran’s of other genocide/holocaust deniers, like Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It remains to be seen if a miraculous transformation did indeed take place in Bethlehem!