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On Anniversary for Armenians, Obama Avoids the Word Genocide

By Michael A. Fletcher
As a candidate for president, Barack Obama said 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."

But as president, he has avoided using the word "genocide" to describe the mass killings of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Armenians in Turkey during the fall of the Ottoman Empire. During his recent visit to Turkey, he refrained from using the term "genocide," and instead referred to the "terrible events of 1915." And he avoided using the explosive term again today in an official statement marking the 94th anniversary of the massacres.

"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," Obama said. He went on to say, "History, unresolved, can be a heavy weight," also without invoking the word "genocide."

Obama defended the change in rhetoric, saying it does not reflect any shift in his views, but rather his desire not to cool warming relations between Turkey and Armenia. "My view of that history has not changed," Obama said. "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 part of their efforts to move forward."

Earlier this week, Turkey and Armenia announced that they had agreed in principle to normalize relations, a possible breakthrough in a bitter dispute over century-old massacres. U.S. officials said the Obama administration had been quietly working to push the agreement forward, with the American president meeting privately with leaders of the two countries during his trip to Istanbul earlier this month, and Obama acknowledged the progress in his statement. Just yesterday, Vice President Biden called Armenian President Sargsian to applaud the progress and reiterate the administration's support for the process.

While President Ronald Reagan issued a statement recognizing genocide, Obama has followed the path of other presidents who promised to describe the killings as a genocide, only to abandon that pledge once elected.

The issue is sensitive for both Turks and Armenians. Turkey's position is that the number of killings have been overstated and that the Armenians who died were victims of a civil war.

"History is replete with examples of false narratives born from bigotries that advance a political agenda rather than the truth," read a letter sent to Obama by a coalition of 53 Turkish-American organizations. "The Armenian claim of passive victimhood stands on such shaky historical footing."

Armenians, meanwhile, say the killings were planned by Turks and they have long sought formal recognition of what they see as a genocide.

A resolution recognizing the killings as genocide is pending in Congress. Still, most American leaders have deferred to strategic interests, since Turkey is a key majority-Muslim ally.

"Political considerations -- whether Turkish threats, prospects for Turkey-Armenia dialogue, or in any other form -- should never stand in the way of America's willingness to condemn the Armenian Genocide, or any genocide, and to stand up for the truth," said Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America.

By contrast, Turkish American leaders were happy with Obama's statement.

"We applaud President Obama for deferring to historians to settle the long-standing debate over the events of 1915-1918. This tragic period in history led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Christians alike," said Lincoln McCurdy, president of the Turkish Coalition of America. "President Obama has sent a clear message to America and the world that his administration will not sacrifice long-term strategic allies for short-term political gains."

By Web Politics Editor  |  April 24, 2009; 2:31 PM ET
Categories:  Foggy Bottom  
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Next: Obama Relocated When Plane Strayed


Why doesn't Obama deny the Holocaust, too? It's in the past, after all, and he's a forward-looking guy. It would make Germany awfully happy!

And while we're at it, let's erase slavery from the American history books as well. The South would like that, and it's not as if there's anyone alive who was actually enslaved.

Since we're so busy denying all sorts of inconvenient truths, I guess we'd better eliminate one more thing from the record: on January 19, 2008, candidate Obama said " President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide."

It's so *gauche* of the record to point out that our President is a bare-faced liar!

By allying himself with the deniers of genocide, Obama shares their complicity. As he shares the guilt for warrantless wiretapping, extraordinary rendition, the denial of habeas corpus, and torture - all of which he promised to oppose, and is instead supporting and practicing with cosmetic changes.

Change? He's nothing more than a better-spoken and more telegenic version of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney wrapped up in a single package.

Posted by: PMaranci | April 26, 2009 10:57 PM | Report abuse

Just 24 hours after he made the following statement, Obama took a 360 degree detour, I suppose because Armenians aren't the "Chosen".

"Obama: Holocaust’s lesson is not to be silent

April 23, 2009

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- The lesson of the Holocaust is never to be silent in the face of inhumanity, President Obama said.

"How do we ensure that 'Never Again' isn't an empty slogan, or merely an aspiration, but also a call to action?" the president asked while speaking Thursday in the Capitol Rotunda at a commemoration organized by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. "I believe we start by doing what we are doing today -- by bearing witness, by fighting the silence that is evil's greatest co-conspirator."


"The hope of a chosen people who have overcome oppression since the days of Exodus; of the nation of Israel rising from the destruction of the Holocaust; of the strong and enduring bonds between our nations," Obama said."

Posted by: dogsbestfriend | April 25, 2009 4:35 AM | Report abuse

TEAM OBAMA: How about the Bush-Cheney spawned HOMELAND TORTURE that's STILL HAPPENING?

Bush-Cheney- spawned torture is NOT just a foreign affair.

The "Extrajudicial Punishment Network" it created or expanded enables citizen vigilantes affiliated with federally-funded volunteer community policing and public safety groups to stalk, harass, terrorize -- and YES, torture.

With microwave radiation "directed energy weapons" -- apparently OK'ed for use on detainees AND U.S. citizens by still-secret Bush "torture memos."

This "American Gestapo" has co-opted and corrupted local law enforcement nationwide -- a grassroots-based authoritarian apparatus "hiding in plain sight."

Please, White House staff, read this. Your Bush holdovers already know all about it.

What have they told YOU?

OR (if links are corrupted / disabled):

Posted by: scrivener50 | April 24, 2009 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Historians of the Ottoman Empire refute the genocide charge.

Professor Bernard Lewis' summary rebuttal below of the Armenian genocide narrative is perhaps the shortest summary by a historian of why the President was RIGHT in not calling this a genocide, but wrong to imply that he still personally held that view.

Statement of Professor Bernard Lewis Princeton University on Book TV (also available on You Tube):

"What happened to the Armenians was the result of a massive Armenian armed rebellion against the Turks, which began even before war broke out, and continued on a larger scale. Great numbers of Armenians, including members of the armed forces, deserted, crossed the frontier and joined the Russian forces invading Turkey. Armenian rebels actually seized the city of Van and held it for a while intending to hand it over to the invaders. There was guerilla warfare all over Anatolia. And it is what we nowadays call the National Movement of Armenians Against Turkey. The Turks certainly resorted to very ferocious methods in repelling it. There is clear evidence of a decision by the Turkish Government, to deport the Armenian population from the sensitive areas. Which meant naturally the whole of Anatolia. Not including the Arab provinces which were then still part of the Ottoman Empire. There is no evidence of a decision to massacre. On the contrary, there is considerable evidence of attempt to prevent it, which were not very successful. Yes there were tremendous massacres, the numbers are very uncertain but a million nay may well be likely. The massacres were carried out by irregulars, by local villagers responding to what had been done to them and in number of other ways. But to make this, a parallel with the holocaust in Germany, you would have to assume the Jews of Germany had been engaged in an armed rebellion against the German state, collaborating with the allies against Germany. That in the deportation order the cities of Hamburg and Berlin were exempted, persons in the employment of state were exempted, and the deportation only applied to the Jews of Germany proper, so that when they got to Poland they were welcomed and sheltered by the Polish Jews. This seems to me a rather absurd parallel."

Posted by: JillK1 | April 24, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

It´s rare to read that someone could be happy with this lie. Obama just don´t name it as a genocide because u.s.a has economic, and military interests with turkey. So, don´t talk to me about peace, you don´t know what is it. I want to know why there is a huge military base aside the Ararat mount (ex armenia, stolen from them) if you want to live in peace. The best thing that the turkeys can do (if they want to have a good relationship with armenia is name it as it was. it´s curious that israel don´t recognize it too (u.s.a- turkey-israel are allies). Otherwise, there are many countries in this world who really want to live in peace and recognized it as genocide. Even Obama knows the truth. Its just a matter of time. Thanks. Real Peace.

Posted by: ravivanskn | April 24, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm Turkish.I'm very happy to hear that Obama didn't say that word.We want to give up rage and have good relations with Armenia.I hope they want this,too.

Posted by: erhanozturk5 | April 24, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm Turkish and I'm very happy to hear that Obama didn't use the word 'Genocide' that will affect Turkish - American relationships which is at the best level nowadays.As is said in the article,America will not sacrifice any partners for the short-term gains.We want to have and establish good relationships with our neighbour,Armenia.We do not want to come to the stage with such allegations every year.We want solidarity,fraternity and peace.I hope the Armenian people want these things,too.Till today,this moment,two countries haven't gained benefit but rage from this debate every year.We want to live in a world in which everbody lives peacefully.Thanks..

Posted by: erhanozturk5 | April 24, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

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