BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
For eight years now, Pres. Obama has failed to keep his campaign promise to call the Armenian Genocide a genocide. Yet, for some incomprehensible reason, which can only be described as naiveté, many Armenians in the United States and around the world have kept up the vain hope ever since 2009 — Pres. Obama’s first year in office — that he will use the term Armenian Genocide in 2010 or 2011 or 2012.
When he did not utter those words at the end of his first term in office, these naive Armenians were convinced that Pres. Obama would pronounce them during his second and final term, starting in 2013. They wrongly reasoned that Pres. Obama would be more likely to say genocide then, as he would not run for reelection, and therefore not worry about criticism from either Turkey or his domestic political opponents.
When Pres. Obama continued his refusal to say Armenian Genocide, these same naive Armenians came up with a new reason to keep up their wishful thinking. They thought that since Pres. Obama had dared to reverse the long-standing restrictive U.S. policy on Cuba, he would act with similar boldness on the Armenian Genocide issue! This, of course, proved to be a baseless speculation.
Finally, when all else failed, the naive Armenians expected Pres. Obama to pronounce those two forbidden words on April 24, 2016; his last opportunity to do so. That prediction also did not materialize. In his latest statement, Pres. Obama used every euphemism in the dictionary to describe what happened to the Armenians in 1915, except for the word genocide! Here are the results of the latest verbal gymnastics practiced by Pres. Obama: “mass atrocity; deported; massacred; marched to their deaths; suffered; dark days; tragedy; violence; and horror.” Why is the leader of the most powerful country on earth torturing himself and his aides to come up with so many words, when a single word — genocide — would suffice?
Incredibly, some Armenians crossed all bounds of naiveté, by claiming that since Pres. Obama used ‘Meds Yeghern’ in his annual commemorative statements, that term should be viewed as a fulfillment of his campaign promise and an acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide. The problem is that Obama, as a presidential candidate, did not promise that if elected he would say ‘Meds Yeghern.’ On the contrary, he promised to say Armenian Genocide and even insisted that “America deserves a President who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide; I will be that President.” Furthermore, ‘Meds Yeghern’ is not a legal term and has no meaning for non-Armenians. If ‘Meds Yeghern’ is the equivalent of Armenian Genocide, why would Pres. Obama for eight years always use the former and never the latter? While Armenians may be naive, the same cannot be said about Pres. Obama and his aides who know what they are saying and why!
There are two culprits in this nonsensical situation: The first is Pres. Obama who gave a promise that he did not keep, thus misleading all those who trusted him and voted for him; some twice! If Pres. Obama does not mind leaving a legacy of not telling the truth to the American public, that is his problem and not that of the Armenian-American community!
The second culprit consists of all those who desperately, year after year, hoped that Pres. Obama would use the words Armenian Genocide, even though there was no need for such a statement. The Armenian Genocide has been repeatedly recognized by the United States: in a legal document submitted by the U.S. government to the World Court in 1951; two resolutions adopted by the House of Representatives in 1975 and 1984; and Pres. Reagan’s Presidential Proclamation of April 22, 1981. Why do Armenians seek the words Armenian Genocide, when it has already been stated by a previous president? Does every American President have to use that term before Armenians are satisfied that the Armenian Genocide is indeed recognized by the United States?
Unfortunately, most Armenians confuse the issue of genocide recognition with U.S. governmental policy on Turkey. None of the other countries that are considered to have recognized the Armenian Genocide have an antagonistic policy vis-à-vis Turkey. Nor does the U.S.! All of these countries balance genocide recognition with maintaining normal and even cordial relations with Turkey. The United States should not be construed as not having recognized the Armenian Genocide just because its leaders avoid using that term for misperceived political or economic reasons! One can condemn U.S. policy towards Turkey without questioning its recognition of the Armenian Genocide. In fact, accusing the U.S. government of not having recognized the Armenian Genocide, as many Armenians often do, casts doubt on the veracity of the Genocide and does a great disservice to the Armenian Cause!