Stuck Between a Turk and an Armenian, So to Speak
Posted on Apr 26, 2009
President Obama over the weekend commemorated the 1915 murder of over a million Armenians without using the word genocide, a term he had used during the presidential campaign in speaking of the slaughter. The word from the lips of the U.S. president would have angered Turkey at a time when relations between Washington and Ankara are going so well. In the end, Obama’s rhetorical gifts were not enough to keep outraged Armenian-Americans from taking to the streets.
Turkey is one of the United States’ few allies in the Muslim world, and post-9/11 relations, although now better than earlier, are just beginning to thaw.
In the weekend statement Obama went out of his way to avoid trouble. He said he still believed in what he said as a candidate when he promised to press the issue of the 1915 genocide by the Turks. The statement used the Armenian Meds Yeghern (the Atrocity), and Obama called the mass murder “one of the great atrocities of the 20th century.” What he didn’t do is use the word genocide, which is what one usually calls an attempt to wipe out a people.
Los Angeles Times:
His statement sparked furious protests in California as Armenians expressed outrage over his refusal to fulfill his campaign promise.
Obama said he still stands by the views he has expressed on the subject as a presidential candidate and a U.S. senator. Then, he called for Turkey to acknowledge the genocide—and promised to do so himself if elected president.
White House / Pete Souza
President Obama addresses the Turkish parliament earlier this month. On that occasion, too, he declined to use the word genocide.