Foreign Policy

Does Obama Know What 'Principled Commitment' Means?

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Yesterday the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a resolution that calls upon President Obama to recognize "the systematic and deliberate annihilation" of 1.5 million Armenians during and after World War I "as genocide." The New York Times notes that the resolution was approved despite "a last-minute plea from the Obama administration to forgo a vote that seemed sure to offend Turkey." The third-to-last paragraph of the story suggests that plea was somewhat inconsistent with Obama's record. "While still in the Senate," the Times says, "Mr. Obama had described the killings of Armenians at Ottoman hands as genocide." But as Matt Welch noted a year ago, Obama's turnaround on this issue is more dramatic and dishonorable than the Times indicates. Here is Obama's position when he was running for president (emphasis added):

I also share with Armenian Americans—so many of whom are descended from genocide survivors—a principled commitment to commemorating and ending genocide. That starts with acknowledging the tragic instances of genocide in world history. As a U.S. Senator, I have stood with the Armenian American community in calling for Turkey's acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide. Two years ago, I criticized the Secretary of State for the firing of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, after he properly used the term "genocide" to describe Turkey's slaughter of thousands of Armenians starting in 1915. I shared with Secretary Rice my firmly held conviction that the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence. The facts are undeniable. An official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy. As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Obama did not leave himself much wiggle room to suddenly decide, after becoming president, that calling genocide "genocide" was not such a good idea after all because it might offend the Turks. It's not as if that possibility never occurred to him until he took office and had access to secret intelligence on the Turkish government's attitude regarding official American recognition of the Armenian genocide.

More on Obama's broken promises here.