By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
Pres. Donald Trump issued on April 24, 2020 another one of his denialist statements on the Armenian Genocide, calling it “Armenian Remembrance Day.” This is the fourth year in a row that as President he has issued the same evasive statement which uses every euphemism for genocide except the one word that truly characterizes the mass crime that Ottoman Turkey committed against Armenians 1915-1923. Hopefully, with the coming presidential elections on Nov. 3, 2020, this will be his last year as President and his last such statement!
Someone close to Pres. Trump has to tell him that his annual meaningless statements on April 24 are not winning him any points with the Armenian-American community. On the contrary, he is offending them by issuing the same denialist statement year after year. He should be told that if he cannot tell the truth, he should not say anything at all. He is in fact offending the Armenian-American community. Pres. Ronald Reagan, a much more popular president than Trump, issued a Presidential Proclamation on April 22, 1981, acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. So, we do not need Pres. Trump’s euphemistic words on the Armenian Genocide!
Instead of Genocide, here are the words that Pres. Trump used in this year’s April 24 statement: “Armenian Remembrance Day,” “the lives lost during the Meds Yeghern,” “one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century,” “1 and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire,” “those who suffered and lost their lives,” “tragedy,” “painful history,” and “those who suffered and perished.” Most troubling was Pres. Trump’s use of the Armenian term “Meds Yeghern,” which means “Great Crime,” but is meaningless for most Americans. Yet, there are politically naïve Armenians who are fooled by this term, thinking that Pres. Trump is acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. If that was the case, he would have used the term Armenian Genocide. The only reason he used Meds Yeghern is to avoid saying Armenian Genocide. Meds Yeghern was used by Armenians before Raphael Lemkin coined the term Armenian Genocide in the 1940’s. Meds Yeghern is merely a description of what happened to Armenians in 1915, while genocide is a term of international law that has legal consequences. The two are not the same at all.
Pres. Trump continued his four-year long evasive position on the Armenian Genocide despite the fact that last fall both the House and Senate overwhelmingly adopted a resolution acknowledging the Armenian Genocide against the wishes of the White House. Regrettably, Turkophile Trump is not about to go against the wishes of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump’s beloved friend and anti-American dictator.
Justifiably, both Armenian-American organizations in Washington, D.C., criticized Pres. Trump for his unwelcome April 24 statement. The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), in a statement titled, “President Trump Tightens Turkey’s Grip over White House Policy on the Armenian Genocide,” sharply condemned the President by calling him, “the last remaining American enforcer of Ankara’s gag-rule against honest U.S. remembrance of this crime.” ANCA’s Executive Director Aram Hamparian stated: “Armenian Genocide denial is a policy manufactured in Ankara, exported to America, and enforced in Washington by President Trump. Once again, President Trump copied and pasted the transparently euphemistic, patently offensive April 24th evasions issued by Barack Obama and his other predecessors -- essentially isolating his Administration as the last major American co-conspirator in Turkey’s obstruction of justice for the Armenian Genocide…. Having promised an America First presidency, President Trump has pursued a Turkey First policy on the Armenian Genocide.”
The Armenian Assembly of America also criticized Pres. Trump in a press release: “President Donald Trump’s April 24th statement on the 105th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide misses the mark, fosters denial, and does not reflect America’s proud record of genocide affirmation.... The Administration’s departure from the norms of human rights, established over a century ago, diminishes the standing of the U.S. government in the world community. It remains for the Administration to unequivocally affirm the Armenian Genocide.”
On the other hand, Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden issued a statement on April 24, titled: “Statement by Vice President Joe Biden on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.” Candidate Biden said all the right things in his statement, except for two key points:
1) He also used the Armenian term Meds Yeghern, following in the footsteps of Pres. Barack Obama. Fortunately, he also used the term Armenian Genocide which Pres. Trump did not do.
2) Amazingly, never once in his lengthy statement Mr. Biden mentions the name of the country that perpetrated the Genocide. He mentions neither the Ottoman Empire nor Turkey. This is a very serious issue that goes far beyond mere negligence. It must be an intentional avoidance for political purposes which raises the concern that if Biden is this sensitive about Turkey now as a candidate, how sensitive would he be if elected President?
Of course, many Armenian-Americans will not forget that as Pres. Obama’s Vice President, Biden did not try to convince the President to keep his multiple promises on the Armenian Genocide, unless he did it quietly behind closed doors. In his defense, Vice Presidents do not decide policy; Presidents do. I agree with all those who do not trust promises made during presidential campaigns which are forgotten soon after assuming the presidency, since the Armenian-American community was deceived many times during previous presidential campaigns by candidates from both parties. At least in the case of Pres. Trump he did not make any campaign promises on the Armenian Genocide, but he did not recognize it either.
In conclusion, Pres. Trump and his predecessors since Pres. Reagan have no valid reason to be concerned about Turkey’s negative reaction to US recognition of the Armenian Genocide. As we saw last fall, after the House and Senate adopted resolutions on the Armenian Genocide, there was hardly any reaction from the Turkish government, except for a brief and mild expression of its unhappiness which was soon forgotten. Therefore, the obsessive fear of a harsh reaction from Turkey is pure fantasy and not a valid concern!
Those who think I am criticizing Pres. Trump for partisan political reasons, I would like to remind everyone that I have written many articles harshly critical of Pres. Bill Clinton and Pres. Barack Obama, both Democrats.
Update on April 24 Virtual March
As a follow-up to my last week’s note urging everyone to join the April24.HyeID.org’s virtual march, I am pleased to report that over 340,000 Armenians and others from around the world clicked on the link demanding justice for Turkey’s Genocide of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915. This initiative was organized by the HyeID non-profit organization that will announce shortly its initiative of setting up a network that will enable Armenians worldwide to elect local Armenian representatives from throughout the Diaspora who will form the Diaspora Armenian Parliament.