Happy Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day! Or as I prefer to think of it, Barack Obama/Samantha Power Sanctimony Reversal Day.
Never forget: Here is the current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and then-adviser to candidate Barack Obama, delivering an emetic of a video plea to Armenian Americans in February 2008, assuring them that when it comes to the April 24 "National Day of Remembrance of Man's Inhumanity to Man"—in which U.S. presidents are (according to House Joint Resolution 247 from 1984) "authorized and requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe such day as a day of remembrance for all the victims of genocide, especially the one and one-half million people of Armenian ancestry who were the victims of the genocide perpetrated in Turkey between 1915 and 1923, and in whose memory this date is commemorated by all Armenians and their friends throughout the world"—Obama as president would at long last "call a spade a spade." Given Power's stature as a self-described "genocide chick," whose 2002 book A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide influenced a generation of liberal interventionists including Barack Obama, the G-word promise had weight:
Genocide Chick was not speaking off the cuff. Just weeks before, candidate Obama issued a statement that read in part:
[T]he 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.
Genocide, sadly, persists to this day, and threatens our common security and common humanity. […] America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides. I intend to be that President.
Fourteen months later, Obama decided instead to be like his four predecessors, and let America's official language be determined by its desperate need to use Turkey for staging and diplomatic purposes in Washington's never-ending military involvement in the Middle East. The charade was then repeated in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. Today's version looks like this:
"I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed," Mr. Obama said, calling the episode "one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century." […]
"A full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all of our interests," the president said. "Peoples and nations grow stronger, and build a foundation for a more just and tolerant future, by acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past. We continue to learn this lesson in the United States, as we strive to reconcile some of the darkest moments in our own history."
Minus some of the humanitarian-intervention sanctimony (and national self-criticism), the G-word switcheroo is a bipartisan tradition. Here's George W. Bush in 2000, getting Armenian-Americans' hopes up:
The twentieth century was marred by wars of unimaginable brutality, mass murder and genocide. History records that the Armenians were the first people of the last century to have endured these cruelties. The Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies comprehension and commands all decent people to remember and acknowledge the facts and lessons of an awful crime in a century of bloody crimes against humanity. If elected President, I would ensure that our nation properly recognizes the tragic suffering of the Armenian people.
Bush's old man, too, got in the act during his election year, saying as the sitting vice president that:
The United States must acknowledge the attempted genocide of the Armenian people in the last years of the Ottoman Empire based on the testimony of survivors, scholars, and indeed our own representatives at the time.
I join Armenian Americans and Armenians worldwide in mourning the victims of the Armenian Genocide and I call on governments and people everywhere to formally recognize this tragedy. Only by learning from this dark period of history and working to prevent future genocides can we truly honor the memories of those Armenians who suffered so unjustly…. [I call on President Bush to] refer to the mass slaughter of Armenians as genocide in your commemorative statement.
And here's John Kerry in 2013, when sitting in a position of diplomatic responsibility:
The U.S. government clearly acknowledges and mourns as historical fact that 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their deaths in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. These events resulted in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century, and the United States recognizes that they remain a great source of pain for the people of Armenia and of Armenian descent as they do for all of us who share basic universal values. The President honors the victims every April 24th on Remembrance Day, so that we never forget this dark chapter in history.
Seems to be a word missing there…. Kerry's predecessor, Hillary Clinton, experienced a similar conversion story when heading up U.S. foreign policy.
There's a lesson here, beyond the perennial reminder to never trust a politician who can smell the Oval Office: All U.S. foreign interventions, including those sold with the purest of humanitarian motives, require unseemly compromises that degrade the very morals that Washington claims to uphold. If it's possible to be a consisten truth-teller and committed interventionist at the same time, no recent resident of 1600 Pennsylvania has pulled off the trick.