President Obama will once again avoid using the word “genocide” at a ceremony to designed to memorialize more than a million Armenians murdered by the Ottaman Turks 100 years ago. During his 2008 campaign, then-Senator Obama repeatedly promised he would label the massacre a genocide as president.
The LA Times reports the decision to avoid using the word genocide was revealed Tuesday after the White House held a meeting with Armenian groups. The ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the deaths of as many as 1.5 million people will be held this Friday.
In 2008, Senator Obama committed to recognition of the Armenian Genocide if elected president on his campaign website.
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. 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. 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.
President Obama’s reluctance to offend Turkey’s leaders by recognizing a genocide of Armenian Christians by Muslim Turks 100 years ago seems at odds with his willingness to confront Christians with the memory of the far more historically distant Crusades and Inquisition. At a National Prayer Breakfast in February, the president invoked the memory of these incidents to remind believers not to “get on our high horse.”
Rep. Adam Schiff of California has been the most outspoken U.S. lawmaker on this issue for years. Schiff has repeatedly called on President Obama to fulfill his promise to recognize the genocide as president. Today, Schiff issued a statement on the president’s decision saying, “I’m deeply disappointed that the President, once again, will fail to properly describe the extermination of 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1923 for what it was – genocide… If not after one hundred years, when.”
Earlier this month, Pope Francis commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, calling it the first genocide of the 20th century. “Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it,” Francis said.