For seventh year in a row, no mention of Armenian 'genocide'
By Louis Jacobson on Friday, April 24th, 2015 at 3:38 p.m.
On this promise, President Barack Obama is now batting zero for seven.
During his first presidential campaign in 2008, Obama said, "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. … As president I will recognize the Armenian Genocide."
We first rated this a Promise Broken six years ago, but after a reader noted that we hadn't updated our ruling since 2010 -- and that this year is the centennial of the mass killings -- we decided it was worth doing an update.
As we've noted before, the Armenian genocide was carried out by the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923, and resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million people. The Armenian-American community calls it a "genocide," as do other world leaders, including Pope Francis. Turkey is the primary successor nation to the Ottoman Empire.
But that term has long been controversial in Turkey, where leaders have resisted the label "genocide." Indeed, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told CNN on the eve of the centennial that "we cannot define what happened in 1915 as a genocide."
There's a widespread belief that presidents from both parties have avoided the use of the word because they don't want to upset Turkey -- a geopolitically significant ally of the United States and a key member of the NATO military alliance.
On April 23, 2015, Obama released a statement on Armenian Remembrance Day. And as he has in the past, he used phrases such as "mass atrocity" and "terrible carnage," but he did not use the word "genocide." Here are excerpts:
"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. ...
"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. …
"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. And we commit ourselves to learn from this painful legacy, so that future generations may not repeat it."
Armenian-American advocates expressed disappointment. "President Obama's surrender to Turkey represents a national disgrace. It is, very simply, a betrayal of truth, a betrayal of trust," said Ken Hachikian, the chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America, according to CNN.
CNN quoted an "administration official" saying, "We know and respect that there are some who are hoping to hear different language this year. We understand their perspective, even as we believe that the approach we have taken in previous years remains the right one -- both for acknowledging the past, and for our ability to work with regional partners to save lives in the present."
We rate this -- again -- a Promise Broken.