Balking again on genocide

April 24, 2010

Here we are again — nearly three years after the full House failed to pass a nonbinding resolution officially acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, and still, the political landscape appears stuck in some sort of time trap.

For years, American presidents have successfully derailed Congressional attempts at calling the massacre of about 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks between 1915 and 1918 what it was: genocide.

From presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to our current commander in chief, Barack Obama, the political implications of ticking off Turkey with an official acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide have proven to be a strong deterrent to doing what’s right.


How many genocide commemorations must we attend with the hope that one day, there will be an official declaration from the world’s last remaining superpower that what happened to ethnic Armenians nearly a century ago was more than “one of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century,” as Obama put it during his address last year on the April 24th remembrance day.

It’s a cruel fate for Armenians, on a seemingly un-ending cycle, to be whipped back and forth between House committee approvals that then get swiftly quashed under threats of Turkish ambassadors and jittery U.S. officials.

For anyone who thought President Obama might break that cycle, the disappointment has no doubt been frustrating. Turkey sits on the U.N. Security Council at a time when the U.S. is trying to hobble together support for sanctions against Iran.

And with air bases on Turkish land still a key part of the U.S. military’s Middle East strategy, the odds of any progress in breaking through the political ceiling don’t look good, at least in the near future.

And so, several years from now, we’ll likely be saying the same thing: Here we are again. The key for those who rightly demand official recognition is that their fortitude not diminish in the face of bleak odds, that year after year, the commemorations occur and that the political pressure is maintained.

Eventually, an opening in the global political landscape will occur, and the decades of pent-up pressure will push through.

Whether it’s from thawed relations between Armenia and Turkey, or a changed Middle East military situation, we will be able to say instead: There we were.

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