Armenian National Committee - Western Region
Contact: Ardashes Kassakhian
Thursday, July 17
ANCA-WR Praises California State Treasurer Phil Angelides for Correcting
the Record on Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
LOS ANGELES, CA - Members of the Armenian National Committee of
America-Western Region Board of Directors (ANCA-WR) and staff recently
met with California State Treasurer Phil Angelides at his Los Angeles
office. Prominent among the issues that were discussed with the
Treasurer was his strong commitment for the implementation of an
expanded Armenian Genocide curriculum in California's public schools.
The Treasurer also signaled his support for the creation of a
California Trade Office in Armenia, which has been a top priority for
the ANCA-WR and its local chapters.
The ANCA-WR representatives brought to the attention of the Treasurer
a recent Newsweek article ("The Last Word," July 7, 2003) written by
syndicated columnist George Will, in which he proposed the need for a
leader similar to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to run California. Angelides
was outraged by such a reckless suggestion and assured the ANC that he
will respond to the article and expose Ataturk's bloody record of
slaughtering and exiling over one million Armenians and Greeks early
in the 20th century. A copy of the Treasurer's letter to George Will,
dated July 17, 2003, accompanies this press release.
Prior to and since his election to statewide office, Phil Angelides
has had an exemplary record on issues dealing with human rights and
the Armenian Genocide. Several years ago, as a member of the Board of
Directors for the California Public Employees Retirement System
(CalPERS), he led that institution to reject a $30,000 contract with a
private consulting firm that denied the Armenian Genocide in a
financial report analyzing the Republic of Turkey's economy. CalPERS,
is the nation's largest public pension fund, with over $150
billion in assets.
The Treasurer was also receptive to a number of initiatives suggested
by the ANCA-WR representatives, including encouraging qualified young
Armenian-American professionals to find employment opportunities
within the State Treasurers office and other State agencies.
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and
most influential Armenian American grassroots political
organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices,
chapters, and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated
organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the
concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of
July 17, 2003
Mr. George Will
c/o Washington Post Writers Group
1150 15th Street N.W.
Washington D.C. 20071
Re: "Californians Need an Ataturk"
Dear Mr. Will:
I am writing this letter to express my outrage regarding your recent
column in Newsweek ("The Last Word," July 7, 2003) about the potential
recall election in California.
In that column, you stated that "Californians need an Ataturk," -
referring to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish
nation, whose armies waged a brutal and murderous campaign of ethnic
cleansing against the Greeks and Armenians who inhabited the Anatolian
peninsula now home to the nation of Turkey. You owe an apology to the
people of California and, most importantly, to the families of the
innocent men, women, and children who were savagely murdered by
Ataturk's nationalist forces.
Ataturk's campaign of ethnic cleansing resulted in the mass expulsion
and massacre of a Greek community that had lived in Asia Minor for
centuries. It was also the final, tragic chapter of the genocide of
the Armenians by the Turkish state. With the burning of Smyrna in
1922 and the elimination of the Republic of Armenia, in concert with
the Soviet Union, the Turkish nationalist forces finished the ethnic
purging begun by the Young Turks. From 1915 to Ataturk's founding of
the Turkish Republic in 1923, over two million Armenians and Greeks
perished in this campaign of infamy.
I am deeply disappointed that you would glorify Ataturk or somehow
suggest that he would be a fit leader for a free and democratic state
of over 35 million Americans - given the genocide over which he
presided. (Attached are a few writings that speak to historical
record.) California does not need an Ataturk anymore than it needs a
Slobodan Milosevic or a Saddam Hussein.
I find it troubling that a learned man such as yourself would be
ignorant of or choose to ignore this history of brutality and
genocide. As you know, for the last eighty years, the Turkish
government has waged a deliberate and concerted campaign to bury the
truth of the genocide, and to this day, unlike Germany, steadfastly
refuses to admit the historical facts of the genocide or any
responsibility for it. Those of us privileged to live in the world's
greatest democracy have a special obligation to ensure that the truth
of history is told. We cannot allow any revisionism whether it is
related to the Jewish holocaust, the Armenian genocide, the killings
by the Khmer Rouge, or the Soviet mass murders.
Eighty-one years ago, my yia-yia and pa-pou (my grandmother and
grandfather) were among the lucky ones who were able to flee Smyrna,
escaping the horrible deaths suffered by so many others in that
community at the hands of Turkish nationalist forces. The fateful
journey that began then ultimately brought my family to this great
state and nation. I know that my grandparents would take great pride
in the fact that their grandson was elected by a free and democratic
people to responsibly serve the public interest and would expect me to
speak out against the injustice and inhumanity endured by their
community, their friends, and their loved ones. You exalt Ataturk's
saying, "Government for the people - despite the people." I know that
my yia-yia and pa-pou instead would embrace the words of a great
American, Abraham Lincoln, who called for a "government of the people,
by the people, for the people"
I hope that you will apologize for the pain your words have caused. I
look forward to hearing from you.