April 24 2010
Obama on Armenian Remembrance Day: "One of worst atrocities in 20th century"
by Laura Rozen 11:44 AM
Calling it one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century, President
Barack Obama observed the 95th anniversary of Armenian Remembrance Day
in remarks Saturday, but avoided calling the Ottoman era killing of
1.5 million Armenians genocide.
However, Obama did refer to "Meds Yeghern" or "Great Catastrophe,"
which is the Armenian term for what befell their nation in 1915, the
same way "Shoah" is used by some Jewish people to refer to the
Holocaust, one scholar noted.
"On this solemn day of remembrance, we pause to recall that
ninety-five years ago one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century
began," Obama said in a statement. "In that dark moment of history,
1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their death in the
final days of the Ottoman Empire."
`I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and
my view of that history has not changed,’ he said. " It is in all of
our interest to see the achievement a full, frank and just
acknowledgment of the facts."
"The Meds Yeghern is a devastating chapter in the history of the
Armenian people, and we must keep its memory alive in honor of those
who were murdered and so that we do not repeat the grave mistakes of
the past," Obama said.
Obama’s use of Meds Yeghern "is an elegant dodge to avoid using the
‘g-word’ — but the substance of what he states about what happened
gives no comfort to those who cling to the Turkish official version,"
says Harvard University’s Andras Riedlmayer. "1.5 million Armenians
were rounded up and massacred or marched to their death. Despite the
passive construction, that assumes intentionality."
Nevertheless, such nuance was not appreciated by the Armenian American
lobby group, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), which
rapped Obama for "disgraceful capitulation to Turkey’s threats" and of
"offering euphemisms and evasive terminology to characterize this
crime against humanity," in a press release Saturday.
Obama met earlier this month in Washington with Armenian President
Serzh Sargsyan, as well as with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan, who also met together separately.
Last month, Turkey withdrew its ambasador to Washington after the
House Foreign Affairs Committee narrowly passed a non-binding
resolution calling the 1915 episode "genocide." Turkish Ambassador
Namik Tan returned to Washington earlier this month.
The U.S. is currently seeking to get a new United Nations Security
Council resolution on Iran passed. Turkey is currently a member of the
Security Council, but has said it opposes economic sanctions on Iran
and has offered itself as a diplomatic mediator with Tehran.