BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
It’s that time of the year again when Armenians across the world—but especially in the United States—await the annual White House statement on the Armenian Genocide, which, since 1981, has never actually used the word “Genocide.”
This will be President Obama’s sixth such statement, the last five of which clearly veered from his campaign promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide and used euphemisms to characterize what actually happened and played into the an almost century-long campaign by Turkey to deny the events of 1915. Essentially, the president who campaigned for “change” himself became complicit in the crime of Genocide by unabashedly denying it as an apologist for Turkey.
This year, however, two recent statements make us wonder whether Obama’s April 24 statement will be different—different bad or different good?
Earlier this week, US Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern said that the White House was planning to issue a statement that would signal a change in US policy regarding the Armenian Genocide. He did immediately add that he was unsure whether the word Genocide would be used or not, signaling that whatever the vernacular not much change was coming down the pipeline.
Then on Wednesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, issued a verbose and absurd statement, which in a nutshell was adeptly characterized by the ANCA as “repackaging denial.” Using the tried and true “shared suffering” argument articulated by Turkish officials for decades, Erdogan offered condolences to the descendents of Genocide survivors—almost a century too late.
In 2009, Obama chose Turkey as the destination of his first official visit and during public appearances urged the government and citizens of Turkey to come to terms with their past. Then in a defeatist move, the Obama administration took to pushing the State Department-crafted Turkey-Armenia protocols, which was inherited from the Bush Administration, but nevertheless was embraced by the then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Did Heffern preview a “change” in US policy based on his knowledge that Erdogan was about to issue an announcement? Does the Obama Administration view Erdogan’s feeble attempt at, once again, rewriting history as a sign that Turkey is heeding his call and coming to terms with its past?
One thing is clear: If any mention of Erdogan’s statement finds its way into Obama’s April 24 statement, then it cements the reality the US is unable to advocate for justice and human rights around the globe and is a victim of Turkey’s imposed gag rule on the Genocide, further perpetuating US’s complicity in the crime.
Will Obama hide behind Erdogan’s/Turkey’s hypocrisy? As Americans we hope that he will NOT!