An Investigative Report: The Woodrow Wilson Center Violates its Congressional Mandate
Woodrow Wilson, the 28th American president, is looking down in horror at what the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (WWC; WilsonCenter.org) is doing in his name.
Most Americans are not aware of the DC-based organization, or that their taxes comprise one-third of its multi-million dollar annual budget.
The WWC was created by Congress in 1968 through the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Act to commemorate the late president’s “ideals and concerns” and memorialize “his accomplishments.”
The WWC has in several ways, however, violated its Congressional mandate.
The WWC itself claims that it “takes seriously his [Wilson’s] views.” In fact, it has knowingly disregarded many of his views. And while it professes “to take a historical perspective,” the WWC often closes its eyes to history.
Case in point: In mid-June of this year, the WWC plans to travel to Turkey to bestow its coveted Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service on Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Curiously, the WWC won’t provide this writer with a press release about it. We know about the award only from the Turkish media and a call to the WWC’s communications chief.
An Undeserved Award
The WWC’s President/Director, former Congressman Lee Hamilton (he recently announced he would be leaving the organization), says that Davutoglu “personifies the attributes we seek to honor at the Woodrow Wilson Center” and has “catalyzed” Turkish policy.
It is appalling that the WWC would honor a top official of a country that in so many ways is a major human rights violator. Moreover, Davutoglu’s own record — including his much- ballyhooed “zero problems with neighbors” policy — is undistinguished.
But even more to the point, Davutoglu’s policies are the very antithesis of Woodrow Wilson’s “ideals and concerns.”
Turkish Temper Tantrums
Let us start with Davutoglu’s eruption against America due to a US House committee’s approval in March of a resolution (Res. 252) that reaffirmed the factuality of, and historic US interest in, the Armenian genocide of 1915-23 committed by Turkey.
Turkey immediately recalled its ambassador. Davutoglu then announced that the House committee vote was an insult to his country’s “honour,” as if Turkey’s continuing cover-up of genocide is somehow honorable. A top official of Turkey’s ruling AK Party threatened the US with “consequences.” Turkey’s relationship with America, he warned, “would be downgraded at every level … from Afghanistan to Pakistan to Iraq to the Middle East process … there would be a major disruption.”
These were not just nasty overreactions by Turkey. They were also nonsensical. The US has, after all, reaffirmed the Armenian genocide as “genocide” at least five times:
three resolutions passed by the full House (1975, 1984, and 1996); an official proclamation (No. 4838) by President Reagan (1981); and a US legal filing with the International Court of Justice (1951).
Davutoglu threw the same sort of tantrum a week later — withdrawing his ambassador and making threats — when the Swedish Parliament recognized the Armenian, Assyrian, and Pontic Greek genocides.
Turkey has thrown similar fits when some 20 other countries, the European Parliament, a UN sub-commission, the Vatican, and others recognized the Armenian genocide.
No other alleged “ally” threatens the US as frequently and consistently as does Turkey.
Thus, far from “catalyzing” Turkey’s policies, the foreign minister is carrying on his government’s tradition of threats and genocide denial. If such behavior “personifies the attributes” that the WWC “seeks to honor,” the Center’s standards must be low indeed.
Davutoglu’s Double Standards
“Turkey will not allow anyone else to evaluate its history,” Davutoglu blustered after the House committee and Swedish Parliament votes.
He seems unaware that countries constantly evaluate other countries’ histories. Davutoglu evidently thinks that Turkey should be uniquely exempt from the judgments of others.
Davutoglu also seems blissfully unaware that the United Nations, the US, and many other nations and international organizations have condemned and continue to condemn various countries’ past (and present) crimes such as the Holocaust, genocides, bloody revolutions, and crimes against humanity. These include the genocide now taking place in Sudan.
Not surprisingly, Turkey and Davutoglu have a horrendous record regarding Sudan.
The Turkey-Sudan Genocide Axis
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was invited to visit Turkey two years ago while he was under indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for “war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Human rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, blasted Turkey for inviting the Sudanese dictator. Turkey defiantly proceeded to welcome al-Bashir with a red carpet, an honor guard, and a 21-gun salute.
True to Turkey’s tradition of genocide denial, President Abdullah Gul downplayed the Sudanese mass killings, attributing them solely to “politics … poverty and environmental conditions.”
Then last year, after Davutoglu’s appointment, the Turkish government once again invited al-Bashir, the target of an ICC international arrest warrant. Only after a huge international outcry was the visit eventually canceled. Davutoglu, like his country, has a blind spot when it comes to genocides.
In the meantime, of course, Davutoglu’s Turkey has been busy accusing other countries — notably China and Israel — of genocide. The hypocrisy is incredible. Should not Turkey first acknowledge its own genocides against not only Armenians but also Assyrians, Greeks, and Kurds?
Now we know why some have dubbed Turkey and Sudan the “axis of genocide.”
But Davutoglu and Turkey’s failures involve much more than tantrums, threats, genocide, and hypocrisy.
Davutoglu’s Other Failures
Despite Turkey’s so-called “zero problems with neighbors” policy, Davutoglu has largely continued, not “catalyzed,” his country’s failed policies.
For example, there is no end in sight to Turkey’s 36-year long military occupation of northern Cyprus. “Zero problems with neighbors”?
Turkey’s alleged rapprochement last year with Armenia, which Turkey has blockaded since 1993, also disproves the WWC’s assertions about Davutoglu. When he negotiated and signed a set of controversial protocols with Armenia last year, Turkey said that these would open a new chapter with its eastern neighbor.
Both countries’ parliaments were then supposed to quickly ratify the protocols.
Though many Armenians believe that parts of the protocols are contrary to Armenia’s interests, the Armenian Parliament has been ready to ratify them.
Davutoglu, however, quickly reverted to his government’s old precondition: Turkey would neither ratify the protocols nor open its border with Armenia unless Armenians concluded an agreement with Azerbaijan regarding Karabagh, the Armenian region that Stalin handed to Soviet Azerbaijan and which declared independence from Azerbaijan in 1991.
Turkey’s backpedaling was condemned by the parties that mediated the protocols — the US, Russia, and Switzerland — as well as the European Union. Due to Davutoglu’s duplicity, the protocols have stalled and may die. “Zero problems with neighbors”?
And regardless of one’s views on American policy towards Iran and Israel, it is known that Turkey’s overheated, undiplomatic rhetoric is designed primarily to please a Muslim audience at home and in the Middle East. Turkey’s intemperate language has simply poured oil on fires and complicated American efforts in the region.
Turkey’s Kurdish problems, both within the country and across the border in Iraq, remain unsolved. Raids into northern Iraq by Turkish troops are not a solution.
Even Turkey’s offers to “mediate” regional disputes look rather contrived given that Turkey has not faced many of its own problems with neighbors.
“Zero problems with neighbors” is a hollow catchphrase. A more accurate name would be Turkey’s longstanding “zero Armenians as neighbors” policy.
Aside, perhaps, from improved Turkish relations with Syria, and a lot of braggadocio and spin, Davutoglu has “catalyzed” essentially nothing for the better. He is surely grateful, though, to Lee Hamilton and the WWC for implying otherwise.
Let us now examine President Woodrow Wilson’s record to see how the WWC has besmirched his name and violated its Congressional mandate.
Desecrating Wilson’s Ideals and Concerns
President Wilson advocated the right to self-determination of all the nations, particularly Armenia, that suffered under Turkey’s corrupt, violent yoke.
His and America’s support for Armenians — politically, financially, and verbally — was immense and is well-documented. Yet the WWC chooses to desecrate that record by honoring a Turkish official who denies the Armenian genocide, threatens the American people, plays games with the protocols it signed with Armenia, and continues to blockade Armenia.
Wilson enunciated his famous Fourteen Points, based on a just peace, in 1918, before the end of WW I. Point Twelve left no room for doubt: The non-Turkish “nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development.” He was referring to Armenians, Arabs, Assyrians, Greeks, Kurds, and others.
Unlike the proposed award to Davutoglu, Wilson’s was well-deserved: He received the Nobel Peace Prize of 1919 because of his Fourteen Points and his advocacy of the League of Nations.
Reporting to Wilson during the genocide was his good friend and ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau, Sr. The ambassador cabled Washington in 1915 that Turkey was engaged in a “campaign of race extermination” against Armenians. The American Embassy served as a channel for Armenian massacre reports arriving from various parts of the Turkish empire. US Consul Leslie A. Davis, who actually witnessed the genocide in the interior, wrote, “I do not believe there has ever been a massacre in the history of the world so general and thorough.”
At Wilson’s direction, Morgenthau gave to Turkish leaders the British-French-Russian declaration of 1915 that dealt specifically with the Armenian mass murders. “All members of the Ottoman Government and those of its agents who are implicated in such massacres,” read the declaration, will be held “personally responsible” for “the new crimes of Turkey.”
By proposing to honor a genocide denier, the WWC’s Lee Hamilton is implying that Ambassador Morgenthau and American consuls were liars.
Referring to Turkey’s crimes against humanity, Wilson spoke these words in Salt Lake City a year after WW I: “Armenia is to be redeemed so that at last this great people, struggling through this night of terror ... are now given a promise of safety, a promise of justice.”
America and Armenia
In the spring of 1920, under the terms of the Treaty of Sèvres, the European Allies asked Wilson to arbitrate the boundary between Turkey and Armenia within the four Armenian provinces of “Erzerum, Trebizond, Van, and Bitlis.” Wilson agreed. He had already sent 50 American researchers to survey the people and land.
In November, the president delivered the US decision: Armenia would include more than 40,000 square miles within those four provinces and a Black Sea coastline. Europe also asked America to accept a mandate over Armenia — that is, physical protection from Turkey while Armenians got back on their feet.
Though Congress, in a post-war isolationist mood, eventually declined his appeal for the Armenian mandate, Wilson’s written request noted that “the hearings conducted by the subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations have clearly established the truth of the reported massacres and other atrocities from which the Armenian people have suffered.”
The Senate report, Wilson went on, embodied his “own convictions and feelings with regard to Armenia and its people.” Americans, he said, “have made the cause of Armenia their own” and had responded with “extraordinary spontaneity and sincerity.” These were nderstatements.
Turkey signed the Treaty of Sèvres but later repudiated it.
Incidentally, had Turkey fulfilled its obligations under Sèvres and Wilson’s binding arbitration, much of the Kurdish issue would have been resolved 90 years ago. The treaty stipulated an autonomous Kurdish zone — just below the Armenian provinces — in southeastern Turkey and, conditionally, in northern Iraq that may eventually have become independent.
Under Turkish and Soviet attack, in December of 1920 independent Armenia was forcibly Sovietized, cut to a fraction of its size, and became landlocked. The Armenian provinces remain under Turkish occupation to this day, while Turkey blockades what remains of Armenia.
The WWC Defies Congress
The Woodrow Wilson Memorial Act of 1968 was unambiguous: The WWC was meant to express the 28th president’s “ideals and concerns” and memorialize “his accomplishments.”
If it proceeds with its award to Davutoglu, the WWC will be reaffirming its disregard for Wilson’s “ideals and concerns” regarding the genocide, America’s support for Armenians, and liberating their land from Turkish rule. Similarly, Wilson’s “accomplishments” — securing aid for Armenian survivors, US arbitration of Armenia’s boundaries under the Sèvres Treaty, and more — are being ignored and mocked by the WWC.
The WWC is insulting Armenian Americans and all those who survived the Turkish nightmare.
If Lee Hamilton’s own claim that WWC takes “a historical perspective” were true, it would not honor a man — and by extension the Turkish government — who unashamedly negate the historical record.
Is the Wilson Center seeking to discredit the Treaty of Sèvres on its 90th anniversary by honoring Davutoglu?
The WWC may try to claim that it has dealt substantially and fairly with its namesake’s views and accomplishments regarding the Armenian genocide.
As near as can be determined from a search of the WWC’s public records, however, that claim would be false. This writer has found very little about the genocide, and most of that is from a Turkish revisionist perspective.
Two years ago, the WWC’s Southeast Europe division did host a scholar who discussed Turkish policy and the Armenian genocide. And twenty-four years ago, the WWC’s Wilson Quarterly had a one-page piece about an article published elsewhere that discussed the genocide.
In contrast, four years ago, the Wilson Quarterly published a sycophantic review praising a widely criticized book by a notorious genocide denier. And two years back, a former US State Department official who dealt with Turkey (and is presently an advisor for the Turkish Policy Quarterly) wrote a mere two sentences about the Sèvres Treaty — solely from the Turkish perspective — in a WWC-sponsored paper about Turkey. The Wilson Center’s website contains a nine-year old article written by a former US Army officer who denies the genocide.
This is a disgraceful record.
A year ago, the editors of the journal Genocide Studies and Prevention initiated a symposium that critiqued the report of the US-sponsored Genocide Prevention Task Force (GPTF). While the symposium used the WWC’s facilities, the WWC was not a cosponsor, reportedly took little or no part, and thus cannot claim credit for it.
In any case, nothing can justify the Wilson Center’s proposed award for Davutoglu.
The question begs to be asked: Does the WWC have any questionable links to Turkey or Armenian genocide deniers?
Turkish-Tainted Corporate Cash
A look at WWC’s funding sources reveals that it is up to its neck in corporate cash, including Turkish-tainted cash.
One major corporation — Boeing — that is a member of the WWC’s so-called WilsonAlliances wrote a letter to Congress asking it to defeat the Armenian Genocide Resolution (Res. 252).
Two other WilsonAlliances members — BAE and Chevron — have reportedly lobbied Congress to defeat the Armenian resolution.
Four WilsonAlliances members — Alcoa, Boeing, Bombardier, and Honeywell — are dues-paying members of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), which has asked President Obama and Congress to ensure that Res. 252 “doesn’t go to the House floor for a vote.” AIA refers to the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians as merely “the events.”
Six WilsonAlliances members — BAE, Bechtel, Boeing, Chevron, Coca Cola, and Exxon-Mobil — are also dues paying members of the American Turkish Council (ATC). The ATC calls itself a “business association.” Its membership includes over 100 major Turkish and American corporations. Among its leadership team of some 100 Turks and Americans, it is nearly impossible to find even one person who is not a top corporate executive, former military officer, or former government official. The ATC has long lobbied against Armenian genocide resolutions. Former Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, chairman of its Executive Committee, once told Congress that what happened to Armenians is “widely disputed.”
ATC member Lockheed-Martin Corp., which penned a letter opposing the Armenian resolution, has also contributed money to the WWC.
DLA Piper and Other Turkish Lobbyists
DLA Piper is a gigantic, worldwide legal and corporate services firm that has registered with the US government as a foreign agent for Turkey. The firm is well-known for having lobbied against Armenian Americans and is currently setting up an office in Istanbul.
Ignacio Sanchez is a lawyer employed by DLA Piper. He “represents national and international clients on a broad range of issues … before Congress” for his firm.
Sanchez also happens to sit on the Wilson Center’s Board of Trustees.
DLA Piper’s contract with Turkey states that its “services shall include … preventing the introduction, debate and passage of legislation and other U.S. government action that harms Turkey’s interests and image.”
DLA Piper has partially subcontracted its Turkish role to The Livingston Group. Headed by former disgraced House Speaker Robert Livingston, who denies the Armenian genocide and lobbies against Armenian genocide resolutions, it has been a registered agent of Turkey.
DLA Piper also has what it terms a “strategic alliance” with The Cohen Group (TCG), headed by former Defense Secretary William Cohen. TCG represents large corporations who do business with Turkey. It is an ATC member, and two of its employees sit on the ATC Advisory Board.
TCG’s Vice President, Marc Grossman, was the US ambassador to Turkey from 1994-97. Among former diplomats, he is probably Turkey’s biggest defender.
He has opposed passage of Armenian genocide resolutions. A few years ago, Grossman reportedly joined Ilhas Holding, a Turkish firm.
It is also known that whistleblower and former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds has made very serious allegations about the ATC, Grossman, and Turkey. These have not yet been adjudicated in a court of law.
And whom did the WWC recently select to be one of its “Public Policy Scholars”? Marc Grossman.
The WWC seems to be quite fond of corporations (and their money), lobbying firms, and people strongly affiliated with Turkey that in many cases oppose acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide.
The above barely skims the surface of the Wilson Center’s cozy financial relationships with huge corporations.
Playing with Genocide Inquiries
We must digress briefly for an example of how former government officials work their way into genocide inquiries that are best left to those more suitable.
Former Defense Secretary William Cohen (of the Turkish-affiliated TCG) and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright chaired the Genocide Prevention Task Force mentioned above.
As private citizens, Cohen and Albright opposed the Armenian Genocide Resolution. Their appointment to the GPTF was thus justifiably criticized as incompatible with its very purpose.
The GPTF was jointly convened by the Congressionally-funded, so-called US Institute of Peace, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD).
The latter is composed of former high-level US State Department officials. AAD’s chairman is retired ambassador Thomas Pickering. He was formerly a VP of Boeing, the same company that has beseeched Congress not to pass the Armenian Genocide Resolution.
The GPTF’s final 147-page report (Preventing Genocide: a Blueprint for US Policymakers) contained just two miniscule references to the Armenian genocide. Sure enough, they used the terms “forced exile” and “atrocities”, not genocide. The report was also widely criticized by scholars.
Incidentally, who sits on the AAD’s Board? If you guessed the ubiquitous Marc Grossman of the Wilson Center and pro-Turkish TCG, you’d be correct.
The WWC provides many benefits to corporations that contribute money to its WilsonAlliances. For example, they receive “complimentary use” of the WWC’s facilities, the Reagan Federal Building, blocks from the White House. They also get “private customized meetings with [WWC] staff and scholars to discuss policy issues that are specific to your business interests.”
Did WWC/Turkish-affiliated corporations use “private customized meetings” to urge the WWC to honor Davutoglu, perhaps in expectation that it would enhance their “business interests” with Turkey?
Did any WWC/Turkish-affiliated lobbying firm or person ask the WWC to give Davutoglu an award?
We don’t know the answers to these questions. Only those corporations, lobbyists, and other figures, together with Lee Hamilton and WWC personnel, can answer them, preferably under oath.
In a phone message, Sharon Coleman McCarter, WWC Communications Director, said that the Center is honoring the Turkish Foreign Minister because of “public service to his country and the world.” Turkey, or some Turks, may like its foreign minister, but, as this writer has shown, he has certainly done nothing to benefit “the world.”
McCarter also claimed that Davutoglu “is in the Wilsonian tradition” because, like Wilson, he has been in academia and government. If you teach and then enter government service, you’re automatically “Wilsonian” and thus a candidate for the WWC award? This is preposterous.
Insulting Previous Awardees
Who have the nearly 150 previous WWC awardees been? Mostly Americans: philanthropists, doctors, members of Congress, former diplomats, architects, actors, and the like.
They range from James Baker, Dr. Denton Cooley, Betty Ford, Frank Gehry, John Glenn, and Amb. Howard Leach to Janet Napolitano, Dolly Parton, Gen. Colin Powell (and his wife), Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Andrew Young.
There are also some foreign political honorees, such as former Indian President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, and some relatively non-controversial figures from Brazil and South Korea.
The threatening, blustering, genocide-denying Davutoglu, from a country with a wretched human rights record, would stand out in the Wilson Center’s Public Service roster like a sore thumb.
It would be an insult to previous awardees.
For its Public Service Award, the WWC had its pick of thousands of principled individuals from the US or elsewhere doing vital humanitarian work, including the recognition and prevention of genocide. Instead, the WWC has engaged in the worst kind of political pandering by selecting Davutoglu.
The Smithsonian and the ATC
The rot may go even higher, up to the WWC‘s parent, the famed Smithsonian Institution, three-quarters of whose annual $1 billion budget comes from taxpayers. It, too, is a member of the genocide-denying American Turkish Council.
The Smithsonian is supposed to be respectful of America’s multi-ethnic heritage and pay homage to our country’s history, part of which is Wilson’s support of Armenians and condemnation of Turkey for committing genocide. There is no good reason for the Smithsonian to be a member of the ATC, which is primarily a lobby for Turkish-affiliated corporations. It should withdraw from the ATC.
And what must the WWC do to return to its Wilsonian roots?
Reforming the WWC
The WWC must abandon its plans to honor Davutoglu. Those who care about Wilson’s legacy — members of Congress, ordinary Americans, and those whose relatives were lost to Turkish genocidal acts — must contact the WWC and insist on this.
Congress and the Attorney General must launch investigations into possible conflicts of interest at the WWC, particularly regarding its corporate and Turkish connections.
The WWC director and staff must testify under oath.
Wilson Center personnel, and those affiliated with it, particularly scholars, must speak out publicly against pandering to corporations and lobbying organizations.
Those whose business or personal interests may conflict with their WWC role should resign.
The WWC must reject all tainted corporate cash.
Recognized genocide scholars should be invited to speak at the Wilson Center and write in its Wilson Quarterly. The WWC should create a principled program on genocide.
The WWC must establish a meaningful, ongoing dialogue with those persons and their descendants who have been victimized by Turkey’s genocides.
The WWC must return to its Congressional mandate by truly rededicating itself to Wilson’s “ideals, concerns, and accomplishments” and by advocating against genocide and for the human rights and dignity of all people.
David Boyajian, The author is an Armenian American freelance journalist. He recommends that readers contact the following to protest the WWC’s proposed award to Davutoglu, and the WWC’s overly close relationships with Turkish-affiliated corporations, lobbying organizations, and individuals:
Woodrow Wilson Center:
- President/Director: Lee.Hamilton@WilsonCenter.org
- Executive VP: Mike.VanDusen@WilsonCenter.org
- Outreach VP: Sharon.McCarter@WilsonCenter.org
- Public Affairs: Vicki.Dodson@WilsonCenter.org
- Asst. to the Director: Ken.Nelson@WilsonCenter.org
- Special Asst. to the Director: Sean.Singer@WilsonCenter.org
- Linda St.Thomas, Spokesperson, Smithsonian Institution: StThomasL@si.edu
Seyfo , Assyrian Genocide and Research Center
- President: Sabri Atman: email@example.com
- Your US Senator: senate.gov/pagelayout/general/one_item_and_teasers/contacting.htm
- Your US Congressman: writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml