Politics

Obama Breaks Promise to Call the Armenian Genocide a 'Genocide' for 7th Year in a Row

Official language remains hostage to U.S.-Turkey relations

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So much in common. |||

On the 100th anniversary of the beginning of Turkey's genocide against an estimated 1.5 million Armenians, a handful of naïve and/or indefatigable Armenian-American activists had been hoping that somehow, despite a convincing track record to the contrary, President Barack Obama would use this April 24 National Day of Remembrance of Man's Inhumanity to Man (in which U.S. presidents are tasked with leading "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") to finally fulfill his very loud and insistent 2008 campaign promise to call the genocide by its proper name.

Yeah, no:

President Barack Obama will not use the word "genocide" to describe the massacre of up to 1.5 million Armenians in his annual statement commemorating the historic atrocity later this month.

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough and deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes informed an official from the Armenian National Congress of America of the decision in a meeting at the White House on Tuesday. […]

"This is a betrayal of the truth, a betrayal of trust, a disgraceful national surrender to a foreign gag order being imposed by the government of Turkey," said Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, who attended the White House meeting.

Turkey devotes a huge chunk of its diplomatic efforts to discourage the world from using the G-word, out of concern that doing so besmirches the memory of the country's founding hero, Kemal Ataturk. Senior Turkish officials have gone ballistic against the Pope and the European Parliament for their recent calls for Istanbul to come clean about the century-old massacre. Meanwhile, too many Europeans in particular have taken this historical criticism to absurd and illiberal ends by making denial of the genocide a crime (one which free-speech hero George Clooney's international-lawyer wife Amal Clooney is only too happy to help enforce).

We should not be surprised that a country that can't even produce a clean yes-or-no "state sponsor of terror" list without subjecting it to politics and diplomatic wheedling should find itself, year after year, letting its basic language be held hostage by its own anxious reliance on a strategic NATO ally to project power in the broader Middle East. But it should serve as a cautionary tale most of all to humanitarian interventionists such Ambassador to the United Nations Samanth Power—the diplomat formerly know as "genocide chick," whose plaintive 2008 promise to the Armenian-American community remains one of the great emetics in U.S. politics.

I've written a lot about this issue over the years; if you're interested, start from last year's post and work your way backward through the links.