White House Refuses to Display 88-Year-Old Rug Made by Armenian Genocide Orphans, Probably Because Turkey Might Get Mad


Over there is the underground warehouse we will store it in 70 years from now on the odd chance that Turkey joins NATO and we need to fly over their air space in order to maintain military hegemony over the Middle East and North Africa. |||

Whether in refusing to call a coup a "coup," or declining to call a genocide a "genocide" (despite multiple promises to the contrary) the willingness of the American government to torture the English language and evade basic truths in order to lessen some short-term diplomatic hassle is indicative of a deeper and more consequential moral rot, one that enables questionable foreign policy while invariably screwing over the little guy.

Or, if the White House's largely Democratic critics are to be believed, the little orphan. Or more accurately still, the great-grandchildren of genocide-orphans. I wish I was kidding. Here's Foreign Policy:

In 1926, Vartoohi Galezian—a 15-year-old refugee from the genocide in Armenia—arrived at the White House to pay a visit to President Calvin Coolidge. She had come to view the rug she and 1,400 other orphans living in Ghazir—then part of mandate Syria, now in Lebanon—had woven as a gift to the United States in thanks for the humanitarian assistance provided to the refugees of the ethnic cleansing of Armenians during World War I. In June 1995, the Ghazir rug, a huge, beautiful work exemplary of the Middle East's legendary weaving traditions, was shown once more to Galezian and her family, but it's now been more than 17 years since the White House has displayed what has come to be known as the Armenian orphan rug. Now it is unclear when the rug will ever be shown again.

The rug is now caught in a tug-of-war with historians and Armenian advocates on one side pulling for the rug to be displayed and the White House on the other, which seems reticent to release the rug for an exhibit. […]

We regret to inform you that whatever we said about "the problem from hell" was just a way to get back into power, PSYCH! |||

"We regret that it was not possible to loan it out for this event," Laura Lucas Magnuson, assistant press secretary for the National Security Council, told Foreign Policy. "Displaying the rug for only half a day in connection with a private book launch event, as proposed, would have been an inappropriate use of U.S. government property, would have required the White House to undertake the risk of transporting the rug for limited public exposure, and was not viewed as commensurate with the rug's historical significance."

Huh. So what was this not-appropriate-enough exhibit? A Dec. 16 event at the nearby Smithsonian to mark the release of A BOOK ABOUT THE RUG IN THE QUESTION. Swear to God. It is called President Calvin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug, by Dr. Hagop Martin Deranian, who the L.A. Times describes as "a 91-year-old Massachusetts dentist." And yes, the same administration that is blocking this utterly sensical request is one that originally came to power by making pious promises like this:

More from the L.A. Times after the jump:

You should see all the stuff swept under it! |||

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who helped gather the signatures of 30 other lawmakers on a letter to the White House, called the White House decision "as inexplicable as it is hurtful to the Armenian community."

"It is difficult to express in words how deeply troubling it is that a historical and cultural treasure accepted by President Coolidge on behalf of the people of the United States may be being kept behind closed doors because of Turkish desire to keep discussion of certain historical facts out of the public discussion," Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J), co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, wrote the White House in a separate letter.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) also wrote the White House urging that the rug be put on permanent display at the Smithsonian: "We must acknowledge and learn from the tragic crimes against humanity that orphaned the weavers of this rug to ensure that they are never repeated."

The White House's first public statement in response to this criticism was as dismissive as it was terse:

The Ghazir rug is a reminder of the close relationship between the peoples of Armenia and the United States. We regret that it is not possible to loan it out at this time.

I am sure the historically significant artifact is safely being studied by Top Men.