Friday, December 24, 2004

December 23, 2004

Dear Friends,

It would be nice to enjoy family, friends, and peace this holiday season. But while we in diasporan countries of the West are distracted with holiday preparations, members of Armenia’s National Assembly, under pressure from key ministers, are taking the final steps to paste a veneer of legitimacy over an unpopular, short-sighted, and potentially disastrous policy.

On Wednesday, December 22, Armenia’s Defense Minister, Serzh Sarkisian, met behind closed doors with the National Assembly's Committee on Defense and Security. Although the Defense Minister refused to divulge details of the discussion, it is clear that he succeeded in convincing members of the National Assembly to support the deployment of around fifty Armenian “non-combat” troops to Iraq.

The National Assembly’s committee is scheduled to “pass judgment” on the issue of deployment tomorrow, December 24. A few hours after that, the National Assembly will supposedly debate whether or not to authorize the deployment of Armenian troops to Iraq. In all probability, however, the National Assembly will simply put its stamp of approval on a decision that has already been made for it. Like the Constitutional Court, the Ministry of Defense, and the Office of the Presidency, the overriding concern of pro-deployment members of the National Assembly is to demonstrate abject obedience to Washington DC--and damn the consequences to Armenia, to Armenia’s neighbors, to Iraqi Armenians, and to the hundreds of thousands of Armenians who have lived in peace and friendship in the Arab countries.

When we take into account the time difference between Yerevan and diasporan Armenian communities in the West, it appears that the “decisions” and “debates” will take place on Western Christmas Eve and Christmas day. After December 25, we and our fellow Armenians in Yerevan and Baghdad might well be presented with a fait accompli: Washington’s minions in Yerevan might well have cleared the last procedural hurdle before sending Armenian troops to join Bush’s army of occupation in Iraq.

Armenia's Foreign Minister, Vartan Oskanian, was quoted on December 22 as saying that "the international community" expects Armenia "to make it's contribution to Iraq's reconstruction and democratization.” By “reconstruction and democratization,” of course, he is referring to the brutal foreign occupation that has destroyed tens of thousands of lives, reduced the city of Fallujah to rubble, created intercommunal hatred where none had existed before, and produced the spectacle of Abu Ghraib Prison.

But who or what was the Foreign Minister referring to by “the international community”? It certainly doesn’t include Russia, Iran, China, India, France, Germany, the Arab countries, Canada, Mexico, or most of the other member states of the United Nations. In fact, this “international community,” like the “Coalition of the Willing,” consists of several dozen weak, bribed, self-humiliating vassals huddling around one arrogant tyrant, George W. Bush.

The euphemisms and silly pronouncements have not convinced the overwhelming majority of Armenia’s citizens. On December 21, the independent Armenian Center for National and International Studies released results of a new poll of 2,002 Armenians, which found that 70.5 percent of respondents oppose the deployment of Armenian troops to Iraq, and only 15.6 percent approved of the deployment plan.

Although the Armenian public overwhelmingly rejects the deployment, it might be claimed that they are obliged to accept the decision of their elected representatives. This argument might have some weight if it were not for the fact that the Kocharian administration which has been pushing for the deployment took power under election conditions that international monitors found very questionable. By foisting this deployment--along with all of its foreseeable consequences--onto the Armenian people, leaders in Yerevan have further compromised their democratic credentials.

Many of you have already written to ministers, ambassadors, and members of the national assembly. I am asking you, once again, to take a moment to show that even in the midst of our holiday schedules, we have not lost sight of our compatriots in Armenia and the Middle East. An appeal in the eleventh hour might bolster the backbones of wavering members of the National Assembly. Please take a break from the rush to write a few lines to:

The National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia

On the “TO:” dropdown menu, click on “Foreign Relations.”

Put them on notice. Let them know that politicians who put obedience to foreign warmongers above the interests of their nation may hide behind closed doors, and the distractions of the holiday season, but they will not remain anonymous. One way or another, their names will be known. Let members of the National Assembly know that if they go through with the deployment, their compatriots will not allow them to blame the consequences of their actions on “terrorists” and “Islamic fanatics.” The responsibility for any resulting damage to the Armenian community of Iraq will fall where it belongs: squarely on the heads of pro-deployment officials in Yerevan.

If we don’t give it our best now, we may well regret it for a long time to come. Thank you again for your efforts.

Here’s wishing you and yours a more peaceful 2005.

Markar Melkonian
December 23, 2004

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