The White House moments ago issued President Obama’s annual statement to mark Friday’s Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, and as promised there is no genocide to be found.
In fact, the White House press release just called it “Armenian Remembrance Day.”
“This year we mark the centennial of the Meds Yeghern, the first mass atrocity of the 20th Century. Beginning in 1915, the Armenian people of the Ottoman Empire were deported, massacred, and marched to their deaths. Their culture and heritage in their ancient homeland were erased. Amid horrific violence that saw suffering on all sides, one and a half million Armenians perished,” Obama said.
“As the horrors of 1915 unfolded, U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr. sounded the alarm inside the U.S. government and confronted Ottoman leaders. Because of efforts like his, the truth of the Meds Yeghern emerged and came to influence the later work of human rights champions like Raphael Lemkin, who helped bring about the first United Nations human rights treaty,” he continued.
Armenian activists argue that the truth has not emerged from Obama’s lips: He promised on the campaign trail in 2008 that, as president, he would recognize the Armenian Genocide.
“Against this backdrop of terrible carnage, the American and Armenian peoples came together in a bond of common humanity,” Obama’s statement continues. “Ordinary American citizens raised millions of dollars to support suffering Armenian children, and the U.S. Congress chartered the Near East Relief organization, a pioneer in the field of international humanitarian relief. Thousands of Armenian refugees began new lives in the United States, where they formed a strong and vibrant community and became pillars of American society. Rising to great distinction as businesspeople, doctors, scholars, artists, and athletes, they made immeasurable contributions to their new home.”
“This centennial is a solemn moment. It calls on us to reflect on the importance of historical remembrance, and the difficult but necessary work of reckoning with the past. I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed. A full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all our interests. Peoples and nations grow stronger, and build a foundation for a more just and tolerant future, by acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past. We welcome the expression of views by Pope Francis, Turkish and Armenian historians, and the many others who have sought to shed light on this dark chapter of history.”
The pope’s condemnation of the genocide — using the word — led an angry Turkey to pull its ambassador from Vatican City.
“On this solemn centennial, we stand with the Armenian people in remembering that which was lost. We pledge that those who suffered will not be forgotten,” Obama said. “And we commit ourselves to learn from this painful legacy, so that future generations may not repeat it.”
Earlier this week, White House officials told Armenian leaders that Obama would, again, not be recognizing the genocide as genocide.
Turkey has paid D.C. lobbyists handsomely over the years to work against the Armenian Genocide resolutions that surface each Congress. Turkey has recalled its ambassador in a huff whenever the bill has made it out of committee. A large Turkey caucus in Congress — the Caucus on U.S.-Turkey Relations & Turkish Americans — also helps derail genocide legislation.
Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Chairman Ken Hachikian argued in testimony to the Helsinki Commission this week that “we must elevate America’s and all the world’s response to genocide from a political calculation to a moral imperative.”
“Very simply, Armenia cannot be safe as long as it is bordered by an over-armed and unrepentant perpetrator of genocide,” Hachikian said.
He noted that Ottoman Turkey’s “campaign of genocide against its Armenian and other Christian subjects, in addition to murdering over 2,000,000 Christians and exiling of hundreds of thousands of others from their homelands of thousands of years, also involved the systematic destruction of churches and religious sites, illegal expropriation of properties, discriminatory policies, restrictions on worship, and other efforts to suppress and ultimately erase the Christian heritage of these lands.”
“As a result of these crimes – and Ankara’s continued obstruction of justice – only a small fraction of the historic Christian presence in Anatolia remains today in modern Turkey,” Hachikian said. “Estimates are that of the well over 2,000 Armenian churches, which existed in the early 1900s, far fewer than 50 are functioning today. Perhaps as few as 200 even remain standing today. The rest have been ground into dust with the properties illegally confiscated by the government. And, only a small fraction of the historic Christian population that once populated Anatolia remains today in modern Turkey to care for their cultural heritage.”
“…Ending Turkey’s denials can contribute to the reversal of this destruction, the return of churches, the restoration of Christian heritage, and the re-emergence of the Christian faithful upon these sacred lands. It is time for the United States and the rest of the world to stand up to Turkey’s shameless blackmail and demand justice not just for the Armenians, but for all of civilized mankind.”
Many lawmakers, Republican and Democrat, gathered last night on Capitol Hill to mark the Armenian Genocide Centennial.
“As the world’s greatest advocate for freedom, the United States has an obligation to fully acknowledge one of humanity’s most horrific crimes,” Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.) said.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who represents a district with a large Armenian constituency, spent an hour on the House floor Wednesday reading 1,000 names of Armenian Genocide victims.
“To read all of the names of the more than 1.5 million people murdered at the time, would take many weeks, and I hope that the recitation of the victims will help call attention to the magnitude of the crime,” Schiff said. “A name, unlike a number, is no abstraction – each was a son or daughter, a mother or father, a grandparent, an aunt or an uncle; each was a precious life.”
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) said he’s “disappointed” that Obama “will not give the Armenian Genocide appropriate recognition as a sitting president, as he did while serving in the Senate.”
“Genocide denial is the last act of a genocide and the first step in the next genocide – just as the Armenian Genocide, in part, prepared the world for the Holocaust,” Sherman said. “When Adolf Hitler sought the destruction of the Jewish people, those around him wondered how he could get away with it. Hitler pointed out that the Ottoman Empire had gotten away with it because no one remembered the genocide of the Armenians. That is why I have repeatedly asked my colleagues in the House and Senate to formally recognize the genocide – we cannot afford to wait another century.”
Turkey lashed out at Austria on Wednesday after the country’s parliament recognized the Armenian Genocide, calling the measure a “massacre of law.”
“It seems that Austria, with whom we fought on the same side during World War I, and which should be in the best position to recognize that this great tragedy cannot be defined as ‘genocide’, has also fallen prey to the efforts of some circles bent on manipulating perceptions, in complete insistence in ignoring the humanitarian and concrete initiatives of Turkey,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“The fact that the joint declaration does not even care to mention the Muslims who lost their lives during that same period all the while sharing the suffering of all Christian groups, is a sad and clear indication of discrimination on religious grounds by the very persons who claim to base their actions on humanitarian foundations.”