It's nearly April which means it's nearly Armenia time too. That is, we are approaching the latest edition of Washington's reluctance to call the Armenian genocide what it is and was: genocide. On the campaign trail, of course, everyone says how important this is; in power such concerns melt away. My friend Matt Welch points out that, unsurprisingly, the Obama administration is no different to any of its predecessors in discovering that the responsibilities of power require a degree of historical trimming.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the administration is "hesitating" about making any presidential statement affirming the genocide or, presumably, endorsing the annual effort to have Congress call a genocide, you know, genocide. Apparently...
If you think you've heard this tune before it's because you have. It's become a ritual: all Presidential candidates decry the Armenian genocide on the campaign trail and the successful ones always welsh on calling it that once they are in power. George W Bush was no exception. Realpolitik you say? Just the usual campaign stuff you have to say? Well, perhaps. But if politicians want to be taken seriously perhaps they should cease being quite so cynical.“
"At this moment, our focus is on how, moving forward, the United States can help Armenia and Turkey work together to come to terms with the past," said Michael Hammer, a spokesman for the National Security Council. He said the administration was "encouraged" by improvements in relations and believed it was "important that the countries have an open and honest dialogue about the past."
Here's what Obama said on the campaign trail:
I also share with Armenian Americans – so many of whom are descended from genocide survivors - a principled commitment to commemorating and ending genocide. That starts with acknowledging the tragic instances of genocide in world history. As a U.S. Senator, I have stood with the Armenian American community in calling for Turkey's acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide. Two years ago, I criticized the Secretary of State for the firing of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, after he properly used the term "genocide" to describe Turkey's slaughter of thousands of Armenians starting in 1915. I shared with Secretary Rice my 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. As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.
In a better world it would be tough to walk back from this.