April 26, 2021

Armenian Genocide

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“The systematic killing and deportation of more than a million Armenians by Ottoman Empire forces in the early 20th century was ‘genocide,’ the United States formally declared on Saturday… While previous presidents have offered somber reflections of the dark moment in history, they have studiously avoided using the term genocide out of concern that it would complicate relations with Turkey, a NATO ally and important power in the Middle East.” AP News

Both sides applaud Biden’s decision:

“There is no historical question of whether these atrocities happened… Based in present-day Turkey, the Ottoman Empire undertook a mass campaign of murder against Armenians, as well as Assyrians and Greeks, starting on April 24, 1915, running for eight years. Historians estimate 1.5 million Armenians died. It was no secret either. The New York Times wrote 145 articles in 1915 alone about the massacres…

The U.S. government knew as well. U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau documented the brutal violence he witnessed when traveling the Ottoman Empire's countryside. Morgenthau's memoirs described the plans of Turkish authorities as ‘giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact.’”
Knox Thames, Newsweek

“The massacre of an estimated 1.5 million ethnic Armenians by the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923 has been recognized by both houses of Congress and 30 countries as a genocide…

“Concerns that this American recognition would alienate Turkey, the modern successor state to the Ottoman Empire, which to this day has rejected the genocide label, are misguided. Recognizing history isn't an act of aggression, it's a witnessing of facts. Moreover, under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey is an authoritarian state that persecutes Kurds in Turkey and Syria, in addition to committing other human rights violations. This includes Turkey's inauspicious position as a world leader in jailing journalists.”
Jackson Richman, Washington Examiner

“The reason for our government’s longstanding reluctance to describe the Ottoman Turk regime’s actions as genocide (the word was literally invented to describe the Armenian Genocide) was the need to placate Turkey during the Cold War…

“The dissolution of the Soviet Union freed us from having to cater to them. But we persisted, seeking Turkey’s help in our expeditionary wars in the Middle East. Under President Erdogan, however, Turkey has become what can only be described as an enemy of the United States. Our ‘alliance’ with Turkey, based on the now-all-but-meaningless NATO Treaty of 1949, is a fiction, given Erdogan’s support for and employment of jihadists in Syria, Palestine, Azerbaijan, and Libya, among other reasons.”
Mark Krikorian, National Review

“Starting in 2001, non-governmental Turks and Armenians joined in a reconciliation effort to try to deal with the past and build a better future… the Turkish Foreign Ministry opened a confidential channel to Armenia, with Swiss help and quiet U.S. support, to pave the way for reconciliation, diplomatic relations, an open border, and a commission of historians to examine the past, including ‘The Great Calamity,’ as the Armenian Genocide is often called in the Armenian language…

“By 2008, the Turks and Armenian negotiators had reached agreement on a text; by 2009, thanks to the able efforts of the Obama administration, they had signed it. But in the end Turkey — by far the stronger country — could not bring itself to ratify the agreement or otherwise act to reconcile with Armenia… The Bush and Obama administrations showed what they thought was forbearance on [the] genocide question. But that forbearance was not permanent… The Biden team has made a tough, potentially costly, but correct decision.”
Daniel Fried, Politico

“Where Turkey was once a beacon of democracy among Muslim-majority nations, Erdogan’s clampdown on fair elections, freedom of speech and judicial independence have repulsed Americans. Where Turkey was once a pillar of hope for an open and modern Muslim-majority society, Erdogan’s social conservatism and nativist-populist tactics have shifted the country toward intolerance and societal polarization…

“Where Turkey was once so strategically aligned with the West that it became the easternmost member of NATO, under Erdogan it has routinely sparred with the organization and even thwarted it on occasion. And where Turkey was once close friends with important Middle East players like Israel, Erdogan’s reorientation toward political Islamist groups such as Hamas have burned important regional bridges…

“In the past, the Department of Defense considered Turkey a precious ally and frequently served as the key building block of the U.S. government dam, making a case that ties with Ankara superseded campaign promises about the Armenian genocide. Not anymore.”
Soner Cagaptay, NBC News Think

“Turkey is a powerful country in a critical region. It is part of NATO. Our relationship matters. But President Erdogan’s success in blackmailing & bullying the US (and other countries) not to recognize the Armenian Genocide likely emboldened him as he grew more repressive.”
Samantha Power, Twitter

“By naming the Armenian Genocide, Biden is affirming that America stands for moral order and historical truth; he is confirming the human dignity of the survivor culture; and his acknowledgment is a major step toward real justice — which is as necessary as air for those who have been violated, harmed and wronged. His words acknowledge that not only is genocide a scourge, but that failure to reckon with past wrongs endangers us all by emboldening would-be genocidaires. Indeed, just before invading Poland in 1939, Hitler said, ‘Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?’…

“In his landmark April 24 statement, Biden has confirmed the Armenian people’s tragic past, and has spoken to the necessity of human rights and justice for all people. His moral leadership reverberates around the world.”
Peter Balakian, Washington Post

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