Sibel Edmonds and the Armenian-American fan-fest ’09

August 30, 2009 at 7:06 pm (diaspora, genocide recognition, media) (, , , , , )

Over the past month there has been a flurry of activity among US diasporan news sources centered on Sibel Edmonds.  And they always use this picture.

Sibel Edmonds

Sibel Edmonds

Edmonds has been whistle-blowing since 2002, so what is it about August 2009 that has diasporan communities abuzz?

To refresh your memory, Edmonds was hired by the FBI as a translator in 2001, but was fired less than a year later after accusing a fellow linguist of espionage and raising allegations of fraud and corruption within the bureau.  Even though a 2005 Inspector General’s report generally supported Edmonds claims, she has been gagged from presenting her claims in court.  Of particular interest to the Armenian-American community are Edmonds claims about the Turkish lobby, which she accused of paying off congress members to keep Armenian genocide recognition legislation off the floor.  While mainstream media has tread lightly on the story, Armenian American media has covered it intently.

Leave it to Ohio to keep the media pinwheel turning.  David Krikorian, the democratic candidate for Ohio’s 2nd congressional district in the 2010 elections, is following Edmond lead by whistle-blowing on his rival in the 2008 elections.  According to Krikorian, republican representative Jean Schmidt “took more money from the Turkish lobby than any other single Member of the U.S. Congress” to fund her 2008 election.  Schmidt filed nine complaints against Krikorian for disseminating these allegations, five of which are still on the table to be decided on by the Ohio Election Committee September 3rd.  Krikorian called on Edmonds to appear as a witness; however, it remains to be seen if she will be allowed to testify in person.

The nature of Sibel Edmonds allegations about the Turkish lobby secured her position as the darling of the US Armenian diaspora.  The Krikorian-Schmidt hearing could potentially give Edmonds her long awaited day in court.  (Her video deposition is already available online.)  All of this synergy explains the hubbub in diasporan news outlets – but perhaps the stakes are a bit higher…

Krikorian has really come out gun-blazing with these allegations, calling Schmidt’s funding “blood money to deny the genocide of Christian Armenians by Muslim Turks.”  Krikorian also invokes the diaspora’s strong feelings about US genocide recognition to fund his campaign:

I ask Armenian Americans to give as generously as they possible can. If they do that, we will certainly have the financial resources to beat one of our worst enemies in the U.S. Congress. If the community is not willing to embrace this campaign, with all that they can possibly do, then we should never complain when the U.S. government doesn’t recognize the genocide, because my Congressional race is ground zero of the Armenian Genocide battle. Ground zero!

Krikorian is attaching his hearing and campaign to the Armenian genocide to win Armenian hearts and wallets.

I can’t blame Krikorian for using the hearings and Edmonds’s status to publicize his campaign – or to raise money – because plenty of politicians have tapped that angle before.  The aspect of this unfurling saga that bothers me is the centrality of genocide recognition – and the US government’s repeated failure to do so – in the media’s coverage.  Here we are in the genocide recognition off-season (post-April 24th) and Edmonds, Krikorian, his hearing, and her testimony are all opportunities for diasporan media outlets to reinforce the centrality of genocide recognition on their readerships.  Through editorials and interviews, diasporan readers are fed yet more pleas for attention and money to be focused on genocide recognition.  I am sure this is not the conscious objective of editors and, as I have previously discussed, the diaspora by and large bases its identity on the genocide and generally wants it recognized by everyone – so they are a willing audience.  Nevertheless, the ongoing Edmonds-Krikorian saga is symptomatic of what I see as a narrowing spiral of Armenian American identity, coiling tighter and tighter around genocide recognition.  Edmonds complements, and Krikorian feeds, this monolithic Armenian-American identity as the media reports on it.

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2 Comments

  1. Sean said,

    I was ready to fish my credit card from my wallet until I read the longer quotation from Krikorian. He sounds like a prosperity preacher asking congregants to open up their wallets.

  2. pomexpress said,

    That’s exactly what he’s doing. And I didn’t even include this part:

    “We have a huge trial that I know many of your readers have been following, and people need to support it. We don’t need help writing things, we don’t need any help in policy, making phone calls. That is all done by professionals in the district. What we do need is the financial resources to ensure that we do all that and we do it well, and show the party in Washington that we can raise the money and that them backing us is a smart move, because we will win. Absent the money, we will not win. It’s as simple as that.”

    Basically – give me your money – because that’s all you are good for. Oh – and if you don’t cough up for my election – then it’s your fault when the US doesn’t recognize the genocide.

    This guy needs a better PR person. Don’t even get me started on the “Christian Armenians” killed by “Muslim Turks” part…

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