President Obama commemorated on Thursday the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915, but he once again avoided using the word “genocide,” failing to keep a campaign pledge he made in 2008.
“I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed,” Mr. Obama said, calling the episode “one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.”
The president’s statement implied that Turkey, a NATO member that vehemently disputes the genocide charge, would benefit from acknowledging the atrocity that occurred at the end of the Ottoman Empire. And Mr. Obama said the U.S. has stains of its own on its history.
“A full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all of our interests,” the president said. “Peoples and nations grow stronger, and build a foundation for a more just and tolerant future, by acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past. We continue to learn this lesson in the United States, as we strive to reconcile some of the darkest moments in our own history.”
In 2008, Mr. Obama told of his “firmly held conviction that 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,” Mr. Obama said at the time. “As president, I will recognize the Armenian genocide.”
But as president he has yet to take that step.
Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian said the president “continues to outsource his policy on the Armenian genocide, effectively granting Turkey a veto over America’s response to this crime against humanity.”
“It’s a sad spectacle to see our president, who came into office having promised to recognize the Armenian genocide, reduced to enforcing a foreign government’s gag-rule on what our country can say about a genocide so very thoroughly documented in our own nation’s archives,” Mr. Hamparian said.