Still waiting for resolution on genocide

The Macomb Daily
Editorial Page

Still waiting for resolution on genocide

By:Mitch Kehetian, Macomb Daily Editorial Page Editor May 02, 2004

For four years, President Bush has ignored calls to honor his campaign
pledge of properly recognizing the Armenian genocide, says Macomb
Daily Editorial Page Editor Mitch Kehetian.

When President Bush talks about his vision for America in Monday’s
speech at Freedom Hill, he’ll focus on his resolve in meeting the
tests of our time and, no doubt, on how the United States will solve
the conflict in Iraq.

We can also expect the president to inform the gathering in Sterling
Heights about the nation’s stronger economy and how he will improve
our communities and keep America safe.

The last time I talked with Bush was during the Michigan Republican
presidential primary. It was a telephone conversation arranged by
then-Gov. John Engler that proved to be enlightening for both of us,
as we shared equal concerns about the nation and its role in a safer,
more just world.

While Bush will certainly take his share of hard-line questions
following the Freedom Hill rally, there’s one I would ask if given the
opportunity. It’s a subject that members of the president’s press
corps know very little about, and, besides, Bush is faced with more
pressing issues than the Armenian genocide.

The growing division within the United States over the war in Iraq is
a genuine concern, and there are the problems of national security and
the steady loss of jobs to outsourcing, so one would have every right
to question why the 1915-23 genocide of the Armenian people by the
Ottoman Turkish Empire remains such an issue after 89 years?

There are several good reasons. Today’s Turkish regime denies the fact
that a genocide even took place, claiming the deaths of 1.5 million
Armenians were the result of a civil war in the closing days of the
collapsing Ottoman government.

During Bush’s campaign for the presidency, he sent signed letters to
prominent Armenian-Americans who were supporting his run against Al
Gore. In a Feb. 19, 2000, letter, he said that if he were elected
president, he “would ensure that our nation properly recognizes that
the Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies
comprehension and commands all decent people to remember and
acknowledge the facts of an awful crime in a century of bloody crimes
against humanity.”

For four years, Bush has ignored calls to honor his campaign pledge of
properly recognizing the Armenian genocide.

His 2004 statement about the carnage inflicted on the Armenian people
refers to the brutal slaughter as “one of the most horrible tragedies
of the 20th century,” but he doesn’t mention the word “genocide.”

The president refuses to acknowledge his pledge, forcing me to ask,
when will he uphold his commitment and stop Turkey from blackmailing
American presidents on the issue?

When the French parliament referred to the Armenian genocide in a
government directive last year, Turkey, in retaliation, threatened to
cancel lucrative contracts it had with French companies. The threats
turned out to be bluffs.

Last month, the Canadian parliament formally recognized the Armenian
genocide, and immediately its action was denounced by the Turkish
government with the same blackmailing threats.

I know there was a genocide. I don’t need the president to tell me
that. I grew up without grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins
because they died in the genocide of 1915-23. But the Turks still say
the genocide never happened.

While campaigning for president, Bush was adamant in declaring it was
a genocide. Now he can’t find the words to say it.

Mr. President, it’s time to summon truth as our ally.

Mitch Kehetian is Editorial Page editor of The Macomb Daily.

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