LETTER: Obama Recognizes the Armenian Genocide
In a situation where we are insisting on semantic precision from the president, Asbarez Post’s article title “Obama refuses to recognize the Armenian Genocide” is at best erroneous, and quite honestly, hypocritical.
The president stated “we pause to recall that ninety-five years ago one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century began. In that dark moment of history, 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire,” and added “I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view of that history has not changed. It is in all of our interest to see the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts. The Meds Yeghern is a devastating chapter in the history of the Armenian people, and we must keep its memory alive in honor of those who were murdered and so that we do not repeat the grave mistakes of the past.”
Upon reading the above it’s only natural to wonder what is the president’s own view that he has not changed? Well, candidate Obama on January 19th, 2008 had articulated his view as follows: “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, and as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
I find it difficult that any fair minded person, reading the president’s statement will reach Asbarez’s conclusion that the president refused to recognize the genocide. He certainly recognized the Armenian Genocide even if he failed to use the word “Genocide.” It does not take much sophistication to appreciate the difference between “fail” and “refuse,” and “fail” he did, but “refuse” he did not.
This is not to deny, that I along with Asbarez have every reason to be angry with the presidents convoluted way of stating the facts. We have every reason to be angry when the leader of the free world allows the ersatz sensitivities of a foreign government compromise his articulation of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts.
Nevertheless, we should not let our anger to get in the way of having the necessary agility to draw the maximum benefit from this and other presidential statement. Unfortunately, Asbarez not only failed in this regard but also set the tone for other media outlets by providing an Armenian source to frame the statement as refusal to recognize the Genocide.
While Asbarez can go on and egg the president to its heart’s content, the misguided characterization does the recognition campaign no favors. Instead of taking the president’s statement as an actual recognition of the genocide and force the deniers to prove that it isn’t. Asbarez undermine the effort and aids the deniers by turning the statement on it head and announcing that the president “refuses to recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
I am hoping that in the future Asbarez will exercise greater precision in characterizing the president’s statements on the Armenian Genocide, especially when that is exactly what it is demanding of him.
Editor’s Note: In expressing his opinion on the matter, Mr. Jarchafjian speculates that Asbarez was not precise in its reporting or choosing of the headline that accompanied the said news report.
The use of the word Genocide has political and legal ramifications. Both Ankara and Washington know this. President Obama’s campaign pledge was to use the word “Genocide” in reference to the Armenian Genocide and he failed, once again, and thus refused to recognize the Genocide, as was characterized by the Asbarez headline.
By quoting Obama’s pledge in the aforementioned letter, Mr. Jarchafjian clearly demonstrates Obama’s campaign promise and his subsequent refusal to deliver.
The president’s continued use of the word “Medz Yeghern” as a means to dodge his promise is, at best, patronizing to Armenian-Americans, but more importantly it damages the Armenian Cause.
Here’s what Suat Kiniklioglu, a member of the Turkish parliament and spokesman of the Turkish Foreign Affairs Commission from the ruling Justice and Development party told Media Max in an interview after the release of the Obama statement: “I believe that ‘Medz Yeghern’ is an invaluable term for a positive language about the events of 1915. ‘Medz Yeghern’ is a term whose scope should be widened. World War I and the events leading to the war, namely the physical removal of Turks and Muslims from the Caucasus, the Balkans and the Middle East was a Great Catastrophe for us as well. Turks, Kurds and Armenians in the eastern front of the empire truly experienced a Great Catastrophe [...] The Armenians lost their homes and property and had to leave Anatolia. There were many deaths and it was an immensely sad chapter of this region’s history [...] I hope that when we establish diplomatic relations, open borders and when our peoples get the chance of direct communication with each other, we will be able to elaborate positive wordings.”