BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
For some unknown reason, the President of the most powerful nation on earth feels compelled to put himself through a strange and unnecessary ritual every April 24. Weeks in advance of that date, Pres. Barack Obama orders his White House staff to scour the dictionary to come up with series of words other than genocide to describe the Armenian Genocide.
For the fourth year in a row, the President’s resourceful aides have not disappointed him. For this year’s “Armenian Remembrance Day,” they have come up with a dozen words that describe the Armenian Genocide without using that specific term. When they ran out of substitute English words for genocide, the President’s hardworking wordsmiths turned to an Armenian term, “Meds Yeghern,” without providing its English translation (Great Calamity), so no one other than Armenians would understand what Pres. Obama is speaking about!
Here are some of the words that the President’s men offered this year: “Atrocities,” “brutally massacred,” “marched to their deaths,” “unspeakable suffering,” “perished,” “dark chapters of history,” “what occurred in 1915,” “facts of the past,” “lives that were taken,” “senselessly suffered and died,” and finally, “the darkness of the Meds Yeghern.” Anything but genocide!
Engaging in verbal gymnastics on genocide is unacceptable and unbecoming of the office of the President of the United States. Could such deplorable efforts be explained as a feeble attempt by Obama to minimize his broken promises? As Presidential candidate, he repeatedly and solemnly pledged that he would recognize the Armenian Genocide. But when he became President, he hid behind insulting statements issued in his name year after year!
In his last four annual statements, Pres. Obama avoided carrying out his campaign promises by claiming: “I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915. My view of that history has not changed.” But, he never bothered to tell the American public what exactly were his views in the past, what his views are today, and what happened in 1915! He cleverly downplays the significance of the Armenian Genocide by calling it “my own view of what happened in 1915.” Yet, on January 19, 2008, then presidential candidate Obama, seeking the Armenian community’s campaign contributions and votes, had no qualms to call these events by their proper name. Back then, he confidently stated that “the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view,” and promised that “as President,” he would “recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
Sadly, Pres. Obama is not the only member of his administration who has not kept his campaign pledge on this issue. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, two of the highest officials of the country, had made similar promises to recognize the Armenian Genocide when they were Senators and presidential candidates. While Vice President Biden has remained eerily silent, Mrs. Clinton has gone from being a proponent of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide to its leading opponent. After becoming Secretary of State, she actively lobbied to defeat a proposed congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide!
After four years of this senseless charade by the White House, the Armenian American community has two good reasons for asking Pres. Obama not to make any more statements on the Armenian Genocide.
First, by breaking his word for four years in a row and playing verbal games with genocide, Obama has lost the moral standing to speak on this highly emotional and painful topic! How can the President of the United States lecture anyone around the world about human rights, democracy, and justice, when he himself has so crudely violated the trust of his own people and lost all credibility? He should stop torturing himself, his staff, and Armenians worldwide by not issuing insulting “Remembrance Day” statements. It makes no sense for Pres. Obama to issue an annual statement that Armenians don’t want, don’t like, and are offended by it!
Second, another U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, has already acknowledged the Armenian Genocide in a Presidential Proclamation in 1981. The Armenian Genocide was also recognized by the House of Representative in 1975 and 1984, by the Justice Department in an official filing with the World Court in 1951, and by 42 U.S. states. Therefore, the Armenian community has no need to beg Pres. Obama or any other political candidate to recognize that which is already and repeatedly recognized.
Genocide is too sacred to be a subject of crass political trading. Those who acknowledge the undeniable fact of the Armenian Genocide do so, not as a favor to the victims, but to restore their own credibility and moral integrity!