Promises, promises: Obama, Armenians and genocide

Promises, promises: Obama, Armenians and genocide

Armenians for ObamaBy Calvin Woodward

WASHINGTON (AP.) ? Barack Obama was unequivocal during the campaign: As president, he would recognize the nearly century-old massacre of Armenians in Turkey as genocide.

In breaking that promise Friday, the president did the same diplomatic tiptoeing he criticized the Bush administration for doing.

Like George W. Bush before him, Obama did not want to alienate vital ally Turkey by declaring the slaughter of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians to be genocide ? especially with Turkey and Armenia now exploring reconciliation.

Instead, he said he had not changed his view from the campaign, even as he declined to state it, and added: “My interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts.”

In a statement on the anniversary of the start of the killings in 1915 ? a day when U.S. presidents typically honor the Armenian victims ? Obama said: “Each year, we pause to remember the 1.5 million Armenians who were subsequently massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire.”

The statement was less than the full and frank acknowledgment he promised Jan. 19, 2008, when he vowed that as president, “I will recognize the Armenian Genocide,” and repeatedly used the word.

An excerpt from that 2008 campaign statement, one of several he released on the subject:

“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 acknowledgment 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 (Condoleezza) 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.”

Scholars widely consider the events of 1915 to be the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey contends the death toll was inflated and resulted from civil war and unrest, not genocide.

Ken Hachikian, chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America, said Obama's statement Friday “represents a retreat from his pledge and a setback to the vital change he promised to bring about in how America confronts the crime of genocide.”

Source: “The Associated Press”, 24 April 2009

The following is President Obama's statement on Armenian Remembrance Day issued on 24 April 2009

Ninety four years ago, one of the great atrocities of the 20th century began. Each year, we pause to remember the 1.5 million Armenians who were subsequently massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. The Meds Yeghern must live on in our memories, just as it lives on in the hearts of the Armenian people.

History, unresolved, can be a heavy weight. Just as the terrible events of 1915 remind us of the dark prospect of man's inhumanity to man, reckoning with the past holds out the powerful promise of reconciliation. I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view of that history has not changed. My interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts.

The best way to advance that goal right now is for the Armenian and Turkish people to address the facts of the past as a part of their efforts to move forward. I strongly support efforts by the Turkish and Armenian people to work through this painful history in a way that is honest, open, and constructive. To that end, there has been courageous and important dialogue among Armenians and Turks, and within Turkey itself. I also strongly support the efforts by Turkey and Armenia to normalize their bilateral relations. Under Swiss auspices, the two governments have agreed on a framework and roadmap for normalization. I commend this progress, and urge them to fulfill its promise.

Together, Armenia and Turkey can forge a relationship that is peaceful, productive and prosperous. And together, the Armenian and Turkish people will be stronger as they acknowledge their common history and recognize their common humanity.

Nothing can bring back those who were lost in the Meds Yeghern. But the contributions that Armenians have made over the last ninety-four years stand as a testament to the talent, dynamism and resilience of the Armenian people, and as the ultimate rebuke to those who tried to destroy them. The United States of America is a far richer country because of the many Americans of Armenian descent who have contributed to our society, many of whom immigrated to this country in the aftermath of 1915. Today, I stand with them and with Armenians everywhere with a sense of friendship, solidarity, and deep respect.


  1. Did we really expect President Obama to mention the G word? We did have hopes, but when you looked at the relationship between USA and Turkey and the current state of world politics when USA needs Turkey more than ever before, you quickly realized that this would be another year of broken promises. It almost feels like USA is disrespecting the Armenian nation and history in playing a game with the Armenian hearts and minds each year on this crucial and painful for Armenians issue.


    We should not blame USA leaders for not mentioning or recognizing the Genocide, as this country does not understand what is to have a rich history, because it never had one itself hence it does not value nor appreciate the cost of rich history. It is using double standards to promote its national interests and turns a blind eye to Genocides which are taking place today such in Palestine and Darfour.


    What does USA have to get from Armenia (a close of ally of Russia) today and the answer is much less than what Turkey would have to offer and unfortunately it is this economic and military factors that determine how USA interprets ?Human Rights or Democracy?.


    President Obama still has few years left of his presidency remaining and much can change in that time, but do we really expect or want a nation that has lost its credibility across the world in the last 10 years, a country which waged illegitimate wars against many counties and became responsible for hundreds and thousands of deaths to recognize the Armenian Genocide, what are we going to get from it? We are a proud nation and have lived with the absence of American G world for 94 years and will continue to do so and fight for our cause without it.


    As our relations with Turkey seem to be improving (although announcement of this relation improvements was at a terrible time) and Turkey is at the doorstep to enter European Union all our efforts and lobbying should be concentrated on the leaders of the EU and changing the Turkish and Arab view of the historical facts. These are the most realistic ways today of achieving our aim rather than relentlessly lobbying a country whose national interests do not coincide with the interest of the Armenian nation.


    We constantly hear of America is not being frightened of anyone, any country or terrorists, but today proved that America is frightened of at least one thing – the Genocide word.

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