Thanks to Barack Obama for not Using the "Genocide" term
ASHINGTON — Barack Obama was unequivocal during the campaign: As president, he would recognize the nearly century-old massacre of Armenians in Turkey as genocide.
In breaking that promise Friday, the president did the same diplomatic tiptoeing he criticized the Bush administration for doing.
ike George W. Bush before him, Obama did not want to alienate vital ally Turkey by declaring the slaughter of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians to be genocide — especially with Turkey and Armenia now exploring reconciliation.
Instead, he said he had not changed his view from the campaign, even as he declined to state it, and added: "My interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts."
In a statement on the anniversary of the start of the killings in 1915 — a day when U.S. presidents typically honor the Armenian victims — Obama said: "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."
The statement was less than the full and frank acknowledgment he promised Jan. 19, 2008, when he vowed that as president, "I will recognize the Armenian Genocide," and repeatedly used the word.
An excerpt from that 2008 campaign statement, one of several he released on the subject:
"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 acknowledgment 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 (Condoleezza) 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."
Scholars widely consider the events of 1915 to be the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey contends the death toll was inflated and resulted from civil war and unrest, not genocide.
Ken Hachikian, chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America, said Obama's statement Friday "represents a retreat from his pledge and a setback to the vital change he promised to bring about in how America confronts the crime of genocide."