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Obama’s Broken Promise: The Diplomacy Behind the Armenian Genocide

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

By Ross Krasner

Photograph of President Obama courtesy of WND

Friday marked the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and the seventh time in Barack Obama’s term as President that he has avoided using the word “genocide” to describe the 1915 massacre of 1.5 million Armenians.

This is in stark contrast to his 2007 statement on the campaign trail:

“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.”

While the Turkish government continues to refuse using the term genocide, there is little to no mainstream scholarly dispute on whether the term genocide applies, even though no U.S. President has yet to use the word.

“There is a near consensus that the Armenian genocide was a genocide, and that genocide is the right word,” said Yale University political science professor and co-director of the Genocide Studies Program David Simon in a report by Newsweek.

In Turkey, the politics surrounding the word genocide are abysmal. Ninety-one percent of Turks do not believe that the events of 1915 constituted genocide, according to a recent poll, probably due to the school system whitewashing historical facts pertaining to its country’s founders. With President Erdogan in full campaign mode, his position is highly unlikely to change anytime soon.

The Vatican was the latest example of Turkey flexing its diplomatic muscles due to the G-word. Just last week in response to the pope’s use of the word genocide, Turkey recalled its ambassador to the Vatican in a highly publicized move.

Similarly, Turkey recalled its ambassador to the United States in response to a House of Representatives resolution describing the massacre as genocide. That resolution has still not been brought to the full house for a vote.

From the Obama 2008 campaign website: “As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution and as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”

So what has changed? In short, the diplomatic realities of the unstable Middle East make Turkey a key ally, which Obama has prioritized over his campaign promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Turkey has the second largest military in NATO and is the only member to be a Muslim majority country. With thousands of militants joining ISIS through the Turkish border and with important battles nearby, Turkey is a vital player in the fight against ISIS.

Samantha Power, the Obama administration’s U.S. ambassador to the United Nations wrote extensively in her book, “A Problem from Hell”, about the Armenian Genocide,

“No U.S. president has ever made genocide prevention a priority, and no U.S. president has ever suffered politically for his indifference to its occurrence. It is thus no coincidence that genocide rages on.”

Her stance, like Obama’s, is currently not to use the word genocide.

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