BY RAFFI HAMPARIAN
In his day, George C. Parker, an enterprising early 20th Century New York City con man, taught the gullible some pretty painful lessons.
Parker was famous for repeatedly “selling” the Brooklyn Bridge to unsuspecting immigrants who, enticed by the prospect of owning a national landmark, handed over their hard-earned cash for a worthless piece of paper. He made his money banking on the great American showman P.T. Barnum’s dictum: “there’s a sucker born every minute.”
For some historical perspective, a New York Times article from 2005 noted that “The Brooklyn Bridge had several attributes that made it particularly well suited for this sort of endeavor [being sold by con men]. Its proximity to the port made it highly visible to newcomers who might be likely marks and its size provided opportunities to show it off while avoiding the law. But perhaps most critical was its considerable fame.”
Parker eventually came to the attention of the law, was found guilty multiple times, and lived out his last years as a convict in Sing Sing – a prison on the banks of the Hudson River, just north of New York.
It is because of Parker’s fame for repeatedly “selling” the Brooklyn Bridge to unwitting buyers that we have today the memorable American phrase: “and if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.” This term is basically the textbook definition of the adjective gullible: “one who is easily duped or cheated.”
Today, looking back, it seems unreal that anyone would be gullible enough to “buy” the Brooklyn Bridge. But as Luc Sante, author of the book “Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York” wrote, “The oddity of the thing today is not that there might have been con artists ready to sell the bridge, but that there would have been suckers both gullible enough and sufficiently well-heeled to fall for it.”
But such cons are not just from some other time, or tricks only played on someone else.
We don’t need to look any further than ongoing attempts to con Armenians out of Artsakh – to take from us what has always been ours, ancient Armenian land defended with blood and guarded today by brave soldiers – often at the cost of their lives.
Today we see the spirit of George C. Parker in the U.S. Department of State’s attempts to “prepare” Armenians for peace by getting us to buy in to the reckless Madrid Principles – a dangerous set of proposals that demand upfront and irrevocable strategic concessions of territory and security from Artsakh, in return for vague and easily reversible paper promises from the war-mongering Aliyev regime.
The set-up starts with gas-lighting Armenians into believing that any other solution is simply impossible. That the movement toward democratic self-determination that drove the number of United Nations member states from less than 50 at its founding in 1948 to more than 190 members today can never apply to Artsakh.
To convince us that a patently pro-Baku deal – one that grants land to Azerbaijan and takes security from Artsakh – is actually good for Armenians, the State Department needs to keep Artsakh out of the equation. This is why the actual people who would bear the real-world risks of a deal are blocked from any formal role in decision-making regarding their own destiny. It’s no good to have doubters around when the mark is being set up. That’s also why the State Department actively discourages Members of Congress from visiting Artsakh, using public and private levers to keep a co-equal legislative branch of government in the dark as un-elected bureaucrats push their plans behind closed doors.
Finally, cut off any outside help to make the mark feel vulnerable. This would explain why the State Department has launched a major attack on a modest $1.5 million dollar a year humanitarian de-mining program in Artsakh, even as the Pentagon pours over $100 million in military aid into the Azerbaijani armed forces. They want Artsakh isolated and alone.
That’s the set-up.
It’s a swindle – start to finish.
A classic bait and switch.
The end game of the State Department’s “long con” is the Armenian nation watching – a worthless piece of paper in hand – as Azerbaijani troops and heavy arms move into territory and fortifications recently ceded by the Artsakh military. High ground from which they will set their sights on Zangezur.
That’s the type of influence that the corrupt, oil-rich Azerbaijani dictatorship of Ilham Aliyev and his wife Merhaba have in Washington, DC. But – thankfully – they don’t have any power over us.
Their con only works if we let it.
If we abandon Artsakh.
Forget our history.
Betray our future.
But we will not.
We will stand with Artsakh, always – as Americans, heirs to our own independence struggle – foursquare behind a peaceful, durable and democratic, self-determination based resolution of status and security issues between Artsakh and Azerbaijan.
That’s why the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) rejects the George C. Parker plan for Artsakh, and why we remain opposed to any recklessly asymmetrical Madrid-style deal that front-loads strategic risks on democratic Artsakh and lavishes generous territorial rewards on oil-rich Azerbaijan.
Raffi Hamparian is the Chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America.