ANCA: Obama ‘Once Again’ Retreats From His Promise to Recognize Armenian Genocide

By Michael W. Chapman | April 28, 2014 | 5:44 PM EDT

President Barack Obama. (AP)

( – President Barack Obama has “once again” broken his promise and retreated from officially recognizing the genocide of 1.4 million Armenians by the Turkish government in 1915-18 on this year’s April 24 “Armenian Remembrance Day,” said the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

"While we do note that the president chose to join in today's national remembrance, we remain profoundly disappointed that he has, once again, retreated from his own promises and fallen short of the principled stand taken by previous presidents,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian in an April 24 press release.

"It's a sad spectacle to see our president, who came into office having promised to recognize the Armenian Genocide, reduced to enforcing a foreign government's gag-rule on what our country can say about a genocide so very thoroughly documented in our own nation's archives,” said Hamparian.

He continued, "President Obama continues to outsource his policy on the Armenian Genocide, effectively granting Turkey a veto over America's response to this crime against humanity."

Armenian children in queue, circa 1915-17.

Although Turkish officials reject the word “genocide” to describe what happened almost 100 years ago, most historians who have studied the documents, cables, diplomatic correspondence, photographs, eyewitness accounts, and related materials conclude that the Turkish government between 1915 and 1918 engaged in massive deportations and a deliberate policy of extermination against the Armenian people, most of whom were Christians.

In July 1915, U.S. Counsel Leslie Davies, in a letter to U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, wrote: “Any doubt that may have been expressed in previous reports as to the government’s intentions in sending away the Armenians have been removed. … It has been no secret that the plan was to destroy the Armenian race as a race.”

In the 1985 report by the United Nations' special rapporteur Benjamin Whitaker to the U.N. Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, it states, “The Nazi aberration has unfortunately not been the only case of genocide in the twentieth century. Among other examples which can be cited as qualifying are the German massacre of Hereros in 1904, (12) the Ottoman massacre of Armenians in 1915-1916, (13) the Ukrainian pogrom of Jews in 1919, [and] (14) the Tutsi massacre of Hutu in Burundi in 1965 and 1972 ….”

Victims in the Armenian genocide.

In a statement released last Thursday, the American Jewish Committee said: “In a month of solemn remembrance of the atrocities of the last century – from the 20th anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide to the annual commemoration in Israel and the United States of the Holocaust – we pause in mournful tribute to the memories of the estimated 1.5 million victims of the Meds Yeghern, the Genocide of Armenians, committed in the final years of the Ottoman Empire.”

When he was running for president in 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) promised that, if elected president of the United States, he would “recognize the Armenian Genocide.” In a Jan. 19, 2008 statement, Obama said, “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,” said Obama.  “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.”

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Obama continued, “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 made essentially the same statement again on Oct. 31, 2008.  “The Armenian Genocide, carried out by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923, resulted in the deportation of nearly 2 million Armenians, and approximately 1.5 million of those deported were killed,” he said in a campaign statement. “Barack Obama shares with Armenian Americans a principled commitment to ending genocide. That starts with acknowledging the tragic instances of genocide in world history.”

Since being elected president, however, Obama has not recognized the Armenian genocide.

Like other official pronouncements on this issue, Obama, in his Apr. 24, 2014 statement for “Armenian Remembrance Day, said, “Today we commemorate the Meds Yeghern and honor those who perished in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. We recall the horror of what happened ninety-nine years ago, when 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their deaths in the final days of the Ottoman Empire, and we grieve for the lives lost and the suffering endured by those men, women, and children.”

Obama does not use the word genocide or the words Armenian genocide in the statement from the White House.

ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. (AP)

He ends, “Today, our thoughts and prayers are with Armenians everywhere, as we recall the horror of the Meds Yeghern, honor the memory of those lost, and reaffirm our enduring commitment to the people of Armenia and to the principle that such atrocities must always be remembered if we are to prevent them from occurring ever again.”

For Armenian and Turkish relations to continue to improve, the Turkish government must “accept its moral and material responsibilities, and agree to a truthful and just international resolution of this still unpunished crime against all humanity,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.

“For our part, we remain committed to aligning U.S. policy on the Armenian Genocide -- and all genocides -- with the core values and humanitarian spirit of the American people,” he said.

Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman

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