|Chicago - During a recent trip to Chicago to promote his tax-cut plan, President George W. Bush made statements to members of the Armenian National Committee (ANC) reaffirming his campaign pledge to "ensure that our nation properly recognizes the tragic suffering of the Armenian people."
Bush made the statement while visiting the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to promote his $1.3 trillion tax cut to the investment community. During a tour of the trading floor, Hagop Soulakian and Sevan Loughran of the ANC of Illinois approached the President to inquire about his position on issues of concern to Armenian-Americans.
In response to Soulakian's query, the President replied that "The Armenians are great people. You know I made a promise to you before I was elected," Bush stated. He then mentioned that he had sent a letter to the Armenian community during the presidential campaign, and concluded his comments by stating "We're going to take care of the Armenians."
In the letter, which was written in February of 2000, Bush stated that "The Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies comprehension ...", using the word genocide to describe the 1915 massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman government. The statement was important as Bush's democratic opponent, Al Gore, and his predecessor, Bill Clinton, took great care during their eight-year administration to avoid using the 'genocide' word in their public statements in order placate the Turkish government. In recent years Turkey has spent millions of dollars on a campaign to deny the occurrence the Armenian genocide and apply political pressure on Western governments.
"We were encouraged to hear that President Bush intends to honor the
campaign promise he made to the Armenian-American community," stated Rita Sarrafian of the ANC of Illinois. "The entire Armenian-American community will be anxiously waiting to hear the President clearly and unambiguously characterize the Armenian Genocide as a genocide," she concluded.
Currently, the ANC of Illinois is joining ANC's across the country in a post card campaign to urge Bush to honor his pledge. Thousands of individuals have already sent postcards to the President in the campaign, which is scheduled to conclude on April 24, 2001, the day that Armenians world-wide commemorate the Armenian Genocide. Bush is expected to release a statement on that day to mark the genocide.
A partial text of Bush's letter appears below.
"The twentieth century was marred by wars of unimaginable brutality, mass murder and genocide. History records that the Armenians were the first people of the last century to have endured these cruelties. The Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies comprehension and commands all decent people to remember and acknowledge the facts and lessons of an awful crime in a century of bloody crimes against humanity. If elected President, I would ensure that our nation properly recognizes the tragic suffering of the Armenian people." (George W. Bush 2-19-2000)