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The Armenian Weekly; Feb. 16, 2008; Features

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  • The Armenian Weekly; Feb. 16, 2008; Features

    The Armenian Weekly On-Line
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    The Armenian Weekly; Volume 74, No. 6; Feb. 16, 2008


    1. 'Complicity With Evil' Blasts Lack of UN Will to Stop Genocides
    By Andy Turpin

    2. Albert Bagian: An ARS Servant for 30 Years
    By Tom Vartabedian

    3. Sayonara Saccharin
    By Garen Yegparian

    4. Far-Away Sky
    By Knarik O. Meneshian

    5. Three Questions to Vahan Hovannesian


    1. 'Complicity With Evil' Blasts Lack of UN Will to Stop Genocides
    By Andy Turpin

    WATERTOWN, Mass. (A.W.)-One-stop shopping to understand what's wrong with
    the UN. That's the most concise summary and best compliment I can think to
    give London Times' Central Europe correspondent Adam Lebor's book,
    Complicity With Evil: The United Nations in the Age of Modern Genocide (Yale
    University Press, 2006).

    Lebor was on the ground for the entirety of the Bosnian war and its lead up
    in the early 1990s, but his book goes into an in-depth, play-by-play detail
    of the genocides that followed Bosnia in Rwanda, the Congo and Darfur.

    Yet, amid the pulp and firestorm blitzkrieg of books on the market about
    Darfur and current geo-politics, what makes Complicity with Evil hold its
    own-and indeed stand alone-is Lebor's way of making accessible and highly
    readable the mechanisms and major blind spots of the UN, especially
    regarding its practices when it comes to actually stopping genocide around
    the world as it's happening.

    On a short list of books that are essential reading on the topic of
    genocide-incuding Samantha Power's A Problem from Hell: America and the Age
    of Genocide and Canadian UN general Romeo Dallaire's Shake Hands with the
    Devil: Humanity's Failure in Rwanda-Lebor makes the grade.

    Much of the book's most heavy-handed indictments focus on the events during
    the UN's missions to Bosnia and Kosovo-events that are becoming all the more
    prominent in the news again as Kosovo inches closer to declaring its
    independence in the face of a newly elected pro-Western Serbian president.
    This aspect is not to be faulted though, as Lebor can only be accused of
    spending more time on the crisis zone he knows best firsthand.

    His personal mission clearly shines through to "scream" resoundingly about
    the causes and absurdly preventable bureaucratic Snafus in the UN that
    resulted in the Serb-perpetrated massacre of Bosnian civilians at Srebrenica
    in 1995, and the UN's passive allowance for it occur through non action and
    military impotence.

    As was the case with Dallaire and his force in Rwanda-and as is often the
    case in genocide-certain officers and isolated soldiers (usually going
    against or around their given orders) are shown to have individually taken
    stands against genocide.

    One such case is that of American NATO general Smith, who took advantage of
    a particular changing-of the-guard in the UN to selectively air strike the
    Dr. Mengele of the Bosnian War, Dr. Ratko Mladic. This was an action that,
    Lebor notes, had it been done by the UN and NATO in full force against the
    Serbs in the early days of the war, could have prevented genocide before it

    Lebor writes, "General Smith showed a streak of ruthlessness. He ordered
    repeated attacks on a military facility in the village where Mladic's
    parents were buried to show the Serbs that Mladic could not protect their
    graves, a great shame in Balkan culture. He also ensured that this news was
    leaked to the Bosnian press."

    All aspects of what constitutes, provokes and propagates genocide are
    addressed, however, including the roles new technologies and "the Internet
    Bubble" period played in genocide in recent years. Lebor notes, "The
    privatization of Serb Telecom bankrolled Milosevic's next war: the Serb
    assault on the Albanian-dominated Serb province of Kosovo in 1998."

    According to Lebor, "The ethnic cleansing of the Bosnian war mirrored the
    Turkish genocide against the Armenians in 1915, or the massacres of the
    earlier Balkan Wars. The Ottomans had deployed the bashibozouks, wild and
    undisciplined irregulars, many of whom had been released from prison, who
    lived off plunder and looting. Milosevic opened Serbia's jails to provide
    recruits for the paramilitary units that committed many of the atrocities."

    He then follows it closely by contexting the fiend Dr. Mladic when he
    states, "'Atrocity by policy' meant that the Bosniaks were not human beings
    but 'Turks.' Mladic proclaimed, 'I return the city in the tradition of the
    Serbian struggle against the Turks as we have overcome the Dahije [Ottoman

    Lebor is also very clear in his analysis that solutions to genocide are
    available and straightforward. He states, "The lessons of Bosnia and Rwanda
    were clear: genocide is stopped by confronting and militarily engaging the
    perpetrators, by the robust use of airpower, and by deploying substantial
    numbers of armed peacekeepers on the ground."

    Lebor also debunks the fears, myths and excuses for UN troops not
    effectively engaging in anti-genocide operations (even those that this
    reporter held valid when thinking about the British Victorian expeditions to
    Darfur and their own ineffectiveness because of Sudan's geographic size).

    He iconoclasts the UN notion that "'Bosnia could not be saved because it was
    small and mountainous. Darfur cannot be saved because it is large and flat.'
    [However].the actual conflict zones are small, with very limited means of
    warfare from the Janjaweed [Sudanese death squads]."

    Lastly, Lebor shines light on the fact that often genocide warlords are
    protected by nations' intelligence services to ensure global security
    alliances. Such pacts cost not only turning a blind eye to arresting these
    warlords, but in fact ensuring their continued existence, as was the case
    with MI6 when "General Salah Abdallah, the head of the Sudanese Mukhabarat
    [the intelligence service that coordinates and runs the Janjaweed] . was
    certainly made welcome when he was given a British visa and visited London
    in early 2006 for medical treatment."

    It's all enough to make one violently ill, but not stupid or ill-informed.
    ------------------------------------ --------------------------------------------------

    2. Albert Bagian: An ARS Servant for 30 Years
    By Tom Vartabedian

    In what is primarily a woman's organization, Albert Bagian remained an
    infinite role model when it came to the Armenian Relief Society (ARS).

    Forget the gender or the politics, the social differences and other
    contrasts more suitable for men.

    Bagian spent 30 years as a consummate servant in promoting the ARS cause and
    ensuring its stability at a time when it needed a boost.

    As chairman of the ARF Central Committee in 1972, he appointed himself as a
    representative to the ARS. Little did he realize at the time that it would
    turn into a tenure that extended three decades and well into his 80s.

    And over that time, he never missed a meeting while commuting to meetings
    >From Philadelphia to Watertown, regardless of inclement weather, illness or
    any other family commitment. Never a plane, either. Always by car, leaving
    the house at 4 a.m. to arrive punctually by 9:30 a.m.

    He also attended every convention over that span. What he got in return was
    a good command of the Armenian language-something he never had when he

    "You might say the ARS developed into my passion," said the 90-year-old. "I
    believe in everything this organization does in terms of charity, education
    and public service. I'll be celebrating its centennial in 2010 with extreme

    It wasn't exactly a breeze for Bagian. At the time, he was developing his
    own machinery business for the textile industry and attending night school
    at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where he spent 12 years pursuing an
    engineering degree.

    Nobody supported him more than Takouhi, his wife of 62 years, a fervent
    ARSer since 1943 in Philadelphia, where she served several terns on the
    Central Committee and taught Armenian school over 60 years.

    Together, they donated $50,000 to the ARS Mother-Child Clinic in Yerevan and
    served as benefactors to several other charities.

    Bagian's mother (Satenig Zoolalian) was an ARS member in 1914. A photograph
    of her in a white Red Cross uniform serves as a family heirloom.

    Bagian recalls the early years when he was a charter member of the
    Philadelphia Sebouh AYF Chapter and recruited 55 new members by banging on
    doors. He became the very first AYFer to graduate into the ranks of the

    The ARS honored Bagian with its Agnouni Award for outstanding service and
    dedication, named after its founder.

    Bagian's role was invaluable. He guided the organization professionally and
    put it in a sound financial position through shrewd investments. A lot of
    reorganization was taking place in the 1970s and Bagian remained in the
    thick of it.

    "Evidently, the women liked what I did and appointed me to special
    committees," he said. "Most of them had to do with finances. Being the only
    guy in a roomful of women was a bit scary at times, but we all got along
    this fine with mutual respect."

    Bagian finally completed his tour of duty in 2002, the year he turned 85.
    Whether it was the travel that took its toll or simply the longevity factor,
    he left with a clear mind and a kind heart. The admiration continues.

    "The ARS is an organization that has distinguished itself on every
    continent," said Bagian. "Any organization that has survived a century must
    be doing something right. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into it.
    Without it, a lot of charitable causes would have been deprived."
    ---------------------------------- -------------------------------------------------- -----

    3. Sayonara Saccharin
    By Garen Yegparian

    Finally, we may be on the verge of getting rid of those disgusting tasting

    A study conducted at Purdue University in Indiana and funded by the school
    and the U.S. National Institutes of Health made an interesting discovery.
    Rats fed saccharin-sweetened madzoon before their regular meal gained more
    weight after five weeks than rats fed madzoon sweetened with glucose (the
    simplest form of sugar, what the body actually burns for fuel). The
    saccharin rats consumed more calories, too.

    So what does this mean for dieters? Nothing firm, yet. But if this kind of
    result is observed in studies with other sweeteners and in humans, then the
    notion that eating sugar-free foods helps to lose weight will be relegated
    to the dust-bin of dieting history.

    What the scientists observed was a smaller rise in body temperature after
    eating among the saccharin rats than among the glucose rats. Body
    temperature rises because energy is burned to digest food. This is
    significant because when the tongue conveys the message of "sweet," the body
    expects a rush of calories. But when this doesn't happen, as in the case of
    saccharin, the suspicion is that the body de-links the "sweet-taste" trigger
    >From the "calories-coming" reality. Thus, when calories eventually do come,
    the animal-rat or possibly human-is less prepared to burn them off. They're
    stored, as fat.

    Nobody really likes the taste of diet soda, heck diet anything. But we get
    used to it. Doing the Atkins Diet several years ago, I too developed a
    tolerance for diet soda. But muffins, and a whole host of foods, just don't
    taste right with aspartame. Did you ever think or say, "*****h, yummy! Here
    comes the pakhlava with stevia syrup!"

    These findings are in line with other observations of perverse dieting
    results. This may be a biological cause of much frustration. It's also the
    way that the multi-billion dollar diet foods industry keeps laughing all the
    way to the bank. Up to now, dieters' gaining weight was suspected to be the
    result of the dieters' own (mis-)behavior, i.e. midnight-snack-cheating.
    Now, we may be discovering otherwise.

    Couple these results with material I've occasionally seen attributing other
    health risks to some of these sweeteners, and I can only cheer and hope for
    the doom of these substances. Most importantly, from a gustatory
    perspective, this is happening before the preparation of our Armenian foods
    has been tainted significantly by these substances. As it is, the no/low fat
    craze has made inroads-think store-bought madzoon, or families' sometimes
    excessive avoidance of butter/animal fat these days.

    After all this, I should probably say to those with diabetic or other
    sugar/insulin issues that this news, sadly, doesn't get you off the hook.

    Let's keep eating normal foods, freshly prepared, organically grown,
    minimally processed, preservative-free, not bioengineered (no
    Franken-foods), maybe even un-cloned and tasty. That's what our bodies are
    designed to handle. Let's keep our national cuisine unadultered.
    ------------------------------------- -------------------------------------------------- --------

    4. Far-Away Sky
    By Knarik O. Meneshian

    We climbed the hill,
    My brother and I,
    We climbed until we reached the top.
    In the distance stood the mountains called Verdugo.

    The California sky was bright,
    And the air was crisp
    As the March winds stirred
    On this first day of spring.

    Despite the wind,
    It was peaceful here,
    Among the rows and rows
    Of old and new
    Level-with-the-ground headstones.
    In the distance,
    Lay red flowers-another headstone to be placed.

    We walked, my brother and I,
    Until we came to the place
    Father and Mother were laid to rest.
    We looked up at the sky-their far-away sky,
    The rambling green vastness, flowers and trees,
    Down at their embossed names
    And the words describing
    Who they were-

    Husband, Father, Grandfather.
    Wife, Mother, Grandmother.
    But they were so much more.
    He, the man from the Mountains of Armenia,
    the Land of Ararat,
    She, the woman from the Alps of Austria,
    the Land of Edelweiss,
    Both surviving horrors...

    We kneeled, my brother and I,
    And lit a dish of frankincense.
    As the smoke rose,
    Filling the air with its ancient, sweet scent,
    In the language of our father,
    We began-"Hayr Mer.Our Father."

    Here they were-
    Together, resting forever
    Under the California sky,
    Among countless others
    Who too had come to make these mountains-
    Mountains of America-
    Their home.
    -------------------------------------------- -------------------

    5. Three Questions to Vahan Hovannesian

    On Feb. 12, The Hairenik and Armenian Weekly asked presidential candidate
    Vahan Hovannesian about his views on Armenia's relations with the Diaspora,
    Turkey and Georgia. Below are his answers:

    Armenia-Diaspora Relations

    It is imperative to form a state committee dealing with issues of the
    Diaspora, and only after that can we talk about the content and details of
    these relations. Regarding the financial aspect, it so happens that Armenia
    is in difficult economic state and expects assistance from the Diaspora. But
    I also think that now, the country has an opportunity to stand on its feet.
    If the right choice is made [during the presidential elections], that
    opportunity would be seized and changes would take place at a faster pace
    and Armenia would be in a position to help the Diaspora in a meaningful way,
    >From providing textbooks to economic, political, legal and other kinds of
    support. In this issue, a greater role would also be ascribed to the
    structures working on dual citizenship.

    Armenia-Turkey Relations

    In effect, there are no relations with Turkey today. There are only verbal
    attacks-like the recent extremely aggressive response of [Turkish President]
    Erdogan to our Foreign Minister [Vartan Oskanian]. We can talk about the
    existence of relations only when Turkey establishes diplomatic relations
    with Armenia. The interests of Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora are the
    priorities of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. The ARF will not allow
    any adventurous venture that can harm those interests. We must structure our
    relations with Turkey with great patience, simultaneously working with both
    Turkish statesmen and the country's civil society, in order to make our
    opinions known to Turkey. The ARF, unlike many newborn organizations, is a
    patience political party and this will be a great advantage in our relations
    with Turkey, as well as Azerbaijan.

    Armenia-Georgia Relations

    Georgia should always be regarded as a good neighbor-never an enemy or
    adversary. We should propose to Georgian authorities the formation of a
    small union-similar to Europe-with Armenia. This union could start with the
    creation of a common market, the building of new highways and the gradual
    removal of custom restrictions and duties between Armenia and Georgia. This
    is beneficial for both countries. In this context, the politically and
    ethnically charged atmosphere in Javakhk also becomes relieved. Javakhk is
    the only place where Armenians and Georgians are living together. In other
    areas across the border, the Turks and Azeries have come between the
    Armenian and the Georgians-a separation created by the Turkish and Azeri
    governments. We should be able to being Georgia out of the political
    influence of Azerbaijan and Turkey by presenting alternatives-and the link
    between us and the Georgians should be Javakhk.