Donald Trump won an election by positioning himself as a truth teller — the man who would demolish political correctness and the status quo. When it comes to the Armenian genocide, however, Trump has decided to follow in Barack Obama’s lead by using politically correct language to commemorate it. In an official statement from the White House, Trump never mentions the G-word, although he does call it “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century”:
“Today, we remember and honor the memory of those who suffered during the Meds Yeghern, one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century,” Trump said in a statement. “I join the Armenian community in America and around the world in mourning the loss of innocent lives and the suffering endured by so many.”
Previous presidents, including former President Obama, also refused to call the mass killings a genocide. Obama, however, had promised during his election campaign to use the term, while Trump never made such a pledge.
Trump’s statement is an important gesture to Turkey, a NATO ally and key partner in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Are there strategic considerations in play? Certainly, but that didn’t stop conservatives from criticizing Obama repeatedly for refusing to use the term “genocide” for the systematic attempt to wipe out the Armenian population from the collapsing Ottoman Empire. That includes Hot Air contributors, who have repeatedly criticized Obama and Turkey for their positions on reality. Some of that criticism springs from Obama’s hypocrisy on his specific pledge to use the word “genocide,” but some of it also came from the mind-bending refusal to acknowledge reality. On the other hand, Trump offered a more realpolitik approach during the campaign — and this is consistent with George Bush’s policy too — but the avoidance in this statement is still unmistakable.
The Armenian community is not happy with the continuing political correctness, either. The executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) accused Trump of “enforcing Ankara’s gag-rule”:
“President Trump has chosen to enforce Ankara’s gag-rule against American condemnation and commemoration of the Armenian Genocide,” stated ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “In failing to properly mark April 24th, President Trump is effectively outsourcing U.S. genocide-prevention policy to Recep Erdogan, an arrogant and authoritarian dictator who clearly enjoys the public spectacle of arm-twisting American presidents into silence on Turkey’s mass murder of millions of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, and other Christians.”
It’s worth noting that Erdogan didn’t succeed at this mission with Pope Francis, and threatened diplomatic relations between Ankara and the Vatican in 2015. In the end, though, Turkey backed down, even though Francis used the term again last year; they complained that Francis had “the mentality of the Crusades.”
One has to wonder just how much more mileage we’re getting from this refusal. Turkey has become much more autocratic and Islamist over the last decade or more of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule, and the latest referendum just handed him even more power. The rise of ISIS came in part by Erdogan’s boosting of the anti-Assad rebellion in Syria, allowing thousands of foreign jihadists to transit through Turkey to the battlefield. Turkey may remain more cosmopolitan than not for now (especially in Istanbul, where Erdogan’s popularity is much lower), but the country is moving away from its modern Kemalist roots and back toward an Ottomanesque reliance on Islamism and personal power. Erdogan seems a lot more interested in suppressing Kurdish allies who have fought effectively against ISIS than against the terrorist group itself.
And it’s telling that Turkey complained about Pope Francis but didn’t cut off diplomatic relations. How much would telling the truth really cost us? If it’s just a strongly worded memo and a butt-chewing for our ambassador, then it’s costing us more now to appease Erdogan’s historical sensitivity. Might this also be a good way to let Turkey know just how much we are displeased with the direction in which they’re heading? That’s a question that a White House as disgusted with political correctness as the current administration would be particularly good at answering, one would think.