CNN anchor Jake Tapper yesterday highlighted the 99th anniversary of the Armenian genocide in light of President Obama’s broken campaign promise that the U.S. government would make a formal acknowledgment of the atrocities.
As a candidate running for president in 2008, Obama promised the Armenian community “that he would use the g-word – genocide – when talking about the slaughter of nearly 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire a century ago, even if U.S. ally Turkey objected,” Tapper reported.
Tapper, also CNN’s chief Washington correspondent, said:
For the sixth time in a row, President Obama deferred to Turkey and refused to use the word he promised to use. … President Obama called the Armenian genocide ‘undeniable’ in a 2008 letter to the Armenian-American community. Apparently, it is quite deniable.”
The nationalist Young Turks initiated the Armenian genocide of 1915, a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Armenians in the Ottoman Empire that included massacres and mass deportations. The government of Turkey, which emerged after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in 1922, has maintained a policy of denial, refusing to call the atrocities genocide.
Obama, wary of alienating Turkey on diplomatic and political fronts, has not made good on his campaign promise of six years ago. He has chosen instead to commemorate the anniversary with different terminology.
The White House yesterday released a statement marking “one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.” In it, Obama “reaffirm[ed] our enduring commitment to the people of Armenia and to the principle that such atrocities must always be remembered if we are to prevent them from occurring ever again.”
The president added:
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 of our interests.”
Earlier this month, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee adopted a “Sense of the Senate” resolution on the need “to remember and observe” the anniversary of the Armenian genocide.
A congressional delegation led by Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, this week traveled to Armenia to meet with government officials and visit a national memorial to the genocide.
The issue is not as black and white as it seems, Heritage Foundation foreign policy analysts wrote during the tenure of Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, when a similar House resolution was proposed in 2007.
“The historical evidence of the genocide is solid and documented by contemporary eyewitness accounts of foreign diplomats — which in fact at the time caused considerable international uproar,” Heritage’s Helle Dale wrote in a commentary, adding: “But the problem is that the Armenian genocide is the past — and this is the present.”
“With war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan in the balance, lawmakers should take care not to undermine vital and sensitive American foreign policy goals,” Ariel Cohen cautioned in a paper. ” … Those who have criticized the Bush administration for weakening America by alienating its allies should recognize that this resolution would do just that.”
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