May 042010
 
 May 4, 2010  Add comments
Monte Melkonian

Monte Melkonian

By Ara Manoogian

“Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute,” Josh Billings, a 19th century popular American humorist, once famously said. But no matter how hard it appears to be, I have no other choice but to start a dialogue with a wall of silence, behind which Ted Bogosian the Truth Seeker has opted to hide. One circumstance, however, plays in my favor: the more garrulous your interlocutor has been preceding his avowed silence, the more vulnerable the latter becomes. This point was brilliantly proven by Ted Bogosian himself just a few days ago in what appeared to be a desperate attempt to stand corrected… by silencing the truth.

It’s been roughly a month since Radio Open Source host Christopher Lydon’s infamous interview with Ted Bogosian, an award-winning Armenian-American director, documentarian and journalist, was aired online and reposted throughout the web. The dissemination of the radio interview served the noble agenda of spreading the word about the heart of the Armenian cause – the Armenian Genocide and the Turkish denialism. However, his headlong pursuit of big truths was regrettably marred with loads of misinformation dishonoring Armenian national hero Monte Melkonian, one of the most revered martyrs of modern Armenian history who put his life at stake for the defense of fellow Armenians and their victory in an unequal war. Mr. Bogosian spoke from the viewpoint of a Truth Hound as he was presented at the onset of the interview. He made a number of serious unsupported claims that Monte Melkonian started a terrorist movement, selling arms and drugs, masterminding the Orly Airport attack of July 15, 1983 in Paris, as well as Turkish embassies in Europe and other businesses.

When the dead cannot stand up for their own defense, someone alive has to. Having spent over a decade researching the life and death of Monte Melkonian but never once coming across evidence that would support any such claim, I wrote Ted Bogosian an email on April 13, 2010. In my heartfelt message, I kindly asked him to share the supporting evidence I assumed he would have for the claims regarding Monte Melkonian he made in the interview. In expectation of never-before-seen evidence I refrained from repudiating any of his claims based on my own research.

Four days of Ted Bogosian’s absolute silence and/or complete indifference – thus, lack of supporting evidence for his claims – compelled me to set the record straight based on existing evidence. I wrote an article and submitted it to Hetq, a leading newspaper of investigative journalism in Armenia. At the same time, I wrote Mr. Bogosian another email as a reminder for a response to my previous letter. But no reply followed. As a next step, I posted the whole article as a comment under his interview at Radio Open Source website and Huffington post to make sure he receives my message. Then I embarked on a mission to make sure my refutation of Ted Bogosian’s untruths catches up with the speed at which his interview with dubious truths was spreading online.

Although a couple of people had already voiced their discontent with Bogosian’s inaccurate claims about Monte Melkonian’s pre-Artsakh past prior to the posting of my article, it is a bitter truth that the presentation of someone as a Truth Hound is for the majority of people sufficient evidence of the veracity of any statement uttered by him or her. For many people these “truths” become facts, and thus history is unjustly rewritten.

I contacted Markar Melkonian, Monte Melkonian’s brother, the co-author of My Brother’s Road, a biography of Monte Melkonian, to get his commentary regarding Ted Bogosian’s latest interview. He had this to say: “By far the most scurrilous of Bogosian’s claims is his contention that Monte masterminded attacks such as Orly. Not only was Monte not involved in this attack in any way, but as you [Ara Manoogian – A.M.] quite correctly noted, Orly and similar attacks drove Monte into desperate plans to kill Hagopian [Hagop Hagopian, founder of ASALA – A.M.] and any of his henchmen who got in the way, in order to stop such operations. With each outrage Monte became more desperate, until he resolved to take steps against Hagopian, with the full expectation that he would be killed  in the process. Monte abhorred Orly, the Istanbul bazaar attack and the Ankara Airport attack, both because they took innocent lives, and because he believed such attacks harmed the cause to which he had pledged his life.”

As Ted Bogosian’s silence grew more deafening, and I received no confirmation that he had, in fact, received my emails, I implemented a tactic I was certain would repudiate an old Italian proverb: “Silence was never written down.” It was, in fact, on April 20, 2010. The tactic was to register tedbogosian.com and tedbogosian.blogspot.com, then upload my article debunking Ted Bogosian’s untruths about Monte Melkonian. Immediately after that I sent an email to the address I still believed belonged to Ted Bogosian, notifying him of the registration of tedbogosian.com for exposing his lies about Monte Melkonian. Silence was finally and immediately written down, as mentioned above, on April 20, 2010, as frugal as it was. Ted Bogosian wrote: “I will respond tomorrow, Ara.”

The next day I received an email from Jeffrey K. Techentin of Adler Pollock & Sheehan P.C. engaged to represent Ted Bogosian with respect to my registration and use of www.tedbogosian.com and www.tedbogosian.blogspot.com. The content of his email revealed utilization of a more traditional tactic: when you can’t answer the core question, you have to cloud the issue. To this effect Mr. Techentin had this to say: “Mr. Bogosian has forwarded me the communications received from you. Please refer any further communications directly to me. Additionally, please note that Mr. Bogosian takes your threats very seriously, and objects to your appropriation of his name for your own purposes.” The latter of the concerns is understandable and expected, however, I was baffled by the respectable Truth Hound’s perception of my pursuit of truth as a threat. I honestly expected his cooperation in finding the truth wherever it leads. I must have been misled by Mr. Bogosian’s bold statement in the same interview in question: “Every single truth that gets revealed leads to another and other and other, and we may never arrive at truth. But we’re obligated to try. That’s my view.”

Having had them serve their purpose – making Ted Bogosian speak out – I parked the domains. When it became clear that Bogosian was unwilling to address the issue as seriously as he had taken the non-existent threats his attorney had referred to, I decided to issue a press release uncovering Ted Bogosian’s untruths on April 22, 2010. As I had hoped, many media outlets responded to the cause by publishing it. I should also note that I received scores of emails encouraging my efforts. I’ll take advantage of this platform and say a big “thank you.”

Nonetheless, one thing that the launch of the press release revealed for me was the justification of my apprehension that there will never be a shortage of people falling short of transcending stereotypical judgment, such as this: if you are a terrorist, then you kill innocent people, sell drugs and arms. How many people will question this? With this stereotype, one will perhaps be right nine times out of ten. However, Monte Melkonian, an exceptionally gifted person who preferred standing up and dying for the rights of his nation at any cost over a brilliant academic career awaiting him at one of the most prestigious European universities, deserves to be more than just a negligible statistical error differing from the expected value. This is my chief concern that has been fueling my active stance on inhibiting public dissemination of Ted Bogosian’s inaccuracies purported to be facts.

Later that day, Ted Bogosian, as confirmed by Radio Open Source host Christopher Lydon, his friend of 35 years, posted a comment under the interview on Huffington Post: “I am pleased that my conversation with Christopher Lydon has inspired such informed comments. […] Finally, I pledge to correct any inadvertent errors and omissions I may have made at Brown, as always. That is a Truth Hound’s obligation. Thanks to everyone for listening.”

Ted Bogosian

Ted Bogosian

Mr. Bogosian fulfilled his promise the next day by posting “corrections and amplifications” in the form of a comment at the Radio Open Source and, with some minor difference, at Huffington Post, which reads as follows:

“CORRECTIONS & AMPLIFICATIONS: Everything I told Open Source about Monte Melkonian related to the period ending in April 1988, when “An Armenian Journey” premiered on PBS. I did not reference Monte’s exploits after he left prison. While I still consider Monte and myself to be the “same age”, he was, in fact, 6 years younger. Monte was an undergraduate at UC-Berkeley, not a graduate student there. I could have named the terrorist movement he started: ASALA-Revolutionary Movement. Finally, while Monte was convicted of illegal weapons possession, he was not charged with selling arms or illegal drugs. (I knew him to practice healthful living habits during his imprisonment.) I stand corrected and regret these errors and omissions.”

How can Ted Bogosian “stand corrected” if he has provided elusive responses to most of my questions and ignored the others. Isn’t there anything to correct in the following statement he made in the interview to Radio Open Source: “[Monte Melkonian] having masterminded several bombings in Europe, at Orly Airport”? I wrote as many as five paragraphs to tell the story behind this bombing as I know it in an attempt to set the record straight that Monte Melkonian not only was not involved in that attack but also did his utmost to prevent it (for more details read claim #5 in “Ted Bogosian And His Untruths About Armenian National Hero Monte Melkonian”). At the same time, I requested evidence from Mr. Bogosian to back up that claim. But instead of providing supporting evidence or retracting the false statement, he has shrouded the issue with silence. However, I’ll try to analyze each of Ted Bogosian’s responses pertaining to the matter.

“Monte was an undergraduate at UC-Berkeley, not a graduate student there.

What Mr. Bogosian had stated in the original interview was as follows: “And while I was at Duke, he was at Berkley, and when I went to graduate school, he went to graduate school in Beirut.” Monte never went to graduate school in Beirut, he was admitted to graduate school at Oxford but he never went there. Mr. Bogosian’s latest response is simply inadequate.

“I could have named the terrorist movement he started: ASALA-Revolutionary Movement.”

This correction refers to the following statement in the original interview: “[Monte Melkonian] started an Armenian terrorist movement.” I had identified this terrorist movement with ASALA, which was founded by Hagop Hagopian in 1975 and Monte Melkonian was recruited in 1980 (for more details read claim #4 in “Ted Bogosian And His Untruths About Armenian National Hero Monte Melkonian”). In his attempt to clarify this statement, Mr. Bogosian identified that terrorist movement as ASALA-Revolutionary Movement (ASALA-RM). I wonder what exactly made him conclude that ASALA-RM is a terrorist movement.

ASALA fell apart at Monte Melkonian’s initiative exactly because of the murderous deviation of Hagop Hagopian. The Orly Airport attack masterminded by Hagopian was the final blow to the unity of ASALA and the finishing touch to the split spearheaded by Monte Melkonian. ASALA-RM, the resulting splinter, in its early stage is best represented through the following collectively written statement: “We do not believe in benevolent friends, the inevitable triumph of justice, or covertly and cleverly manipulating the superpowers. If we are to achieve national self-determination, then we ourselves, the Armenian people, will have to fight for it. We believe in the power of organized masses and in the capacity of our people to determine their own future. We believe in revolution.” This movement that had no real members but quite a few sympathizers became the personification of Monte Melkonian who concentrated on raising awareness about the Armenian cause mainly through writing.

In the times when there’s no definitive international consensus on a legally binding definition of terrorism and terrorist organizations, Mr. Bogosian is making hasty conclusions. Personally, I am more inclined towards this viewpoint of a terrorist and counter-insurgency expert Bruce Hoffman: “Terrorism is a pejorative term. It is a word with intrinsically negative connotations that is generally applied to one’s enemies and opponents, or to those with whom one disagrees and would otherwise prefer to ignore.” Labeling a revolutionary movement as terrorist, while it seeks to unite the nation to struggle for self-determination, is usually the signature of governments targeted by such movements.

“Finally, while Monte was convicted of illegal weapons possession, he was not charged with selling arms or illegal drugs.”

This correction refers to my criticism targeting the following passage in his original interview: “…and [Monte Melkonian] started selling arms and started selling drugs…” None of the abundant evidence I have researched about Monte Melkonian maintains this claim. On the contrary, there are plenty of stories about Monte Melkonian being a fierce opponent to drug use or sale (for more details read claim #3 in “Ted Bogosian And His Untruths About Armenian National Hero Monte Melkonian”).

Ted Bogosian’s response to my question is a cunning way to steer away from the main point. His statement clearly implies that not being charged with selling arms or illegal drugs does not necessarily exclude the possibility of being involved in such activity. It is neither a retraction nor a clarification, but rather a fragile exit strategy due to lack of supporting evidence. I was not questioning only the validity of the charges Mr. Bogosian ascribed to Monte Melkonian’s case in the interview, but also his assertion that Monte Melkonian was involved in such activity. I’m still waiting for supporting evidence or unconditional retraction of these false statements.

Silence is a text easy to misread, as science-fiction writer Alfred Attanasio once said. Nevertheless, I want to believe that Mr. Bogosian had no malice in ascribing all of the aforementioned inaccuracies to Monte Melkonian, and I believe that his good will may well be manifested by a full-fledged direct response to each of the questions I singled out and any others he might be enthused to enlarge on. If Ted Bogosian is a man of his word and believes “we’re obligated to try” to “arrive at truth,” he must then fulfill his “pledge to correct any inadvertent errors and omissions” more elaborately with the following options as guidelines: a) present evidence to support his claims; b) retract the claims, for which he cannot provide supporting evidence; c) make corresponding arrangements to have the parts of radio interview that include the abovementioned misinformation about Monte Melkonian removed.

Ara Manoogian is a human rights activist representing the Shahan Natalie Family Foundation in Artsakh and Armenia, as well as a member of the Washington-based Policy Forum Armenia (PFA)

4 Responses to “Ted Bogosian Loyal To His Untruths About Monte Melkonian”

  1. Ara Manoogian Says:
    May 4th, 2010 at 11:50 For those who would like to help to get Ted Bogosian come clean and set things right, please sign an online petition addressed to Mr. Bogosian which can be found at: http://www.change.org/petitions/view/request_for_evidence_or_retraction_of_false_statements_by_ted_bogosian_about_monte_melkonian
  2. Norick Markosian Says:
    May 8th, 2010 at 14:49 Mr Bogosian,

    I am not sure what your motives were, when you called Monte Melkonian, a terrorist, drug dealer, etc. I am surprised that PBS allowed an uniformed person like you to get on the air and make comments about a person who you obviously don’t know any thing about. Mr. bogosian, if you have any self respect left, you should go and read about Monte, and when you are very well informed,then spend rest of your life apologizing for your mistake to every Armenian, and stand corrected (that’s the least you can do).

  3. Vahag Says:
    May 24th, 2010 at 14:09 Monte Melkonyani nman metsutyan@ zrpartelu hamar bogosyanin karelia anvanel bogosoxli
  4. Antranig Pasha Says:
    May 27th, 2010 at 06:35 PBS needed some official US policy input and Monte was patriotic enough during the cold war to challenge Turkish-NATO realities.

    Armenians (all over the world, including the US) need more global perspective on our situations and predicaments.