While liberals are busy celebrating Earth Day today, another occasion is coming up on Sunday which generally draws far less attention. April 24th is Armenian Remembrance Day, marking 100 years since the Ottoman Turks carried out the genocidal purging of native Armenians resulting in the deaths of anywhere from 500,000 to more than a million residents. (Records are a bit sketchy on the final death toll.) When he was initially running for the presidency, then-Senator Barack Obama made quite the issue out of this fact and called on the world to recognize and remember the slaughter. But in his final year in office, President Obama will once again fail to label the purge for what it was and people have taken notice. (Yahoo News)
For the eighth and final time, President Obama this year will break his unambiguous 2008 campaign promise to declare that the mass killings of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks in 1915 and 1916 amounted to “genocide,” a leading Armenian-American activist told Yahoo News on Thursday.
According to the U.S. Holocaust Museum, at least 664,000 and perhaps as many as 1.2 million Armenians “died in massacres, in individual killings, or as a consequence of systematic ill-treatment, exposure, starvation and disease.”
But officially designating the Ottoman Turks’ actions as “genocide” would have deeply angered Turkey, a NATO ally and a pivotal player in the coalition Obama has assembled to wage war on the Islamic State in neighboring Syria. Turkish governments have sharply disputed the figures of Armenian dead and categorically rejected the “genocide” label.
Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, told Yahoo News shortly after a briefing from Obama aides at the White House that the president would once again stop short of using the term “genocide” in his annual statement about the tragedy.
This seems to be part of a pattern of late. Earlier this week I looked at the decisions being made in the White House over Saudi Arabia and their potential ties to terrorism. The President has found strange bedfellows when it comes to Saudi Arabia and they are clearly walking on eggshells in the interest of going along to get along. It seems awfully convenient to whitewash some of the sins of the Saudi royal family in the interest of maintaining a good working relationship with an ally in the war on terror. (Not to mention one which sits on an ocean of oil.)
We’re in a similar situation with Turkey these days. Ever since Recep Erdoğan took power in 2014 he’s proven to be a difficult and irascible ally at best. He’s no fan of Israel (or the Jews in general) and more recently has been thwarting freedom of the press in Germany through the power Turkey holds in the immigrant crisis. In terms of fighting ISIS, he’s been far more interested in fighting the Kurds than the actual bad guys and has proven to be a thorn in the side of western allies in that effort. But Turkey remains one of the main military powerhouses in the region and they are nominally on the “right” side of things in most confrontations, so we apparently can’t afford to tick them off too much.
It’s fun to be a candidate for President and go around making bold, principled proclamations when you don’t have to own the results of your words and deeds. Once you get into office the real test begins, however, and the temptation toward compromise can be overwhelming for some. This should be a humbling moment for the President and Armenians around the world have good reason to hold him to account.