It was late in the afternoon on Friday, October 31, 2008. We were forced to stop the presses on our November 3 issue and publish a statement we had just received entitled “Barack Obama: Supporting U.S.-Armenia Relations,” issued four days before the now-historic elections of last year.
“The Armenian Genocide, carried out by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923, resulted in the deportation of nearly 2 million Armenians, and approximately 1.5 million of those deported were killed. Barack Obama believes we must recognize this tragic reality and strongly supports a U.S.-Armenian relationship that advances our common security and strengthens Armenian democracy.” The statement went on to note “Barack Obama strongly supports passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106) and will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
The “Hope for Change” which guided me and millions of Americans to the polls on November 4, 2008 began to fade in April, when President Obama failed to recognize the Genocide and instead perpetuated a series of events that currently endanger Armenia’s national security but also cast a shadow on the Armenian Genocide.
Fast forward to October 2009 and President Obama, in outlining his administration’s policy on Sudan said: “Our conscience and our interests in peace and security call upon the United States and the international community to act with a sense of urgency and purpose. First, we must seek a definitive end to conflict, gross human rights abuses and genocide in Darfur. Second, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the North and South in Sudan must be implemented to create the possibility of long-term peace. These two goals must both be pursued simultaneously with urgency. Achieving them requires the commitment of the United States, as well as the active participation of international partners. Concurrently, we will work aggressively to ensure that Sudan does not provide a safe-haven for international terrorists.”
In discussing the same initiative, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of the “Genocide that’s taking place in Darfur” and the US commitment to addressing this gross violation of human rights.
If by “international partners,” Obama was referring to Turkey, then how would he explain the announcement Wednesday—a year after his historic election—that Turkey has no intention of arresting Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir despite an international arrest warrant for him by the International Criminal Court, when he visits Turkey next week.
The glaring double-standard in the Obama administration’s treatment of Genocide and its policies toward Genocide deniers signals that the aforementioned policy either might not go anywhere, or, if it does, it would contradict the president’s earlier refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.
Enough ink has been given to Obama distancing himself from his campaign pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Had he stopped at that, we, as a community, would have been upset and critical of a president who did not honor his campaign pledge. But this administration had other plans that are even worse than reneging on a campaign promise, and can be considered collusion in and complicity to deny the Genocide by casting doubt on its veracity.
The White House and the State Department can claim, until they are blue in the face, that the US role in the dangerous Armenia-Turkey protocols was that of a mere supporter. It was not. This was apparent in statements made from the beginning of this process, all the way to the now-infamous delay of the Zurich signing of the protocols.
In fact, this process began long before the Obama administration took office and its blueprint was created by the Bush Administration. However, as adeptly as Obama has been able to reverse some of his predecessor’s policies, he not only chose to not touch this one, but he increased his and his administration’s hand in the machinations of the deal. This has resulted in him not just contradicting himself about his campaign promise to recognize the Genocide but has made him a central figure in Turkey’s campaign to deny it. Whatever happened to Obama’s daring message to the Turkish people last March, when he urged them to come to terms with their own history?
Another contradiction of this administration is how quickly Turkey became a cause- celebre for Obama’s foreign policy priorities, while the same president and his administration continue to condemn nations that deny the Holocaust, carry out Genocide and, on the domestic front, forces who he accuses of human rights violations.
If Iran’s Mahmoud Ahamadinejad is painted as a pariah—rightfully—for calling the Holocaust a lie, then what sets him apart from Turkey’s Abdullah Gul for denying the Armenian Genocide? This denial is more unacceptable for Gul, because he is perpetuating a crime organized and committed by his ancestors.
By backing—if not authoring—the protocols, the Obama administration casts doubt on any other effort it undertakes to rid the world of injustice and Genocide as he so eloquently set out to do during his campaign and when he became president.
Obama’s campaign promises of hope and change, which propelled many of us to go to the polls last year, are fading. Next month, when he meets with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House, President Obama can address these issues, including setting his record straight on the Armenian Genocide and asking his “international partner” about Turkey’s refusal to adhere to international norms.