For the past three years, President Obama has recognized Armenian Remembrance Day by using words such as “horrific” to describe the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, breaking his promise to use the word “genocide.”
That does not sit well with many Armenian Americans, who say they feel betrayed.
“He has, in addition to betraying his own words and compromising America’s moral standing, gravely disappointed Armenians here in the United States, in Armenia, and around the world who had looked to him as an example of courage, conviction, and conscience,” the Armenian National Committee of America said in a statement.
As a candidate for president, Mr. Obama spoke at length about how he would, as president, describe the events which took place in 1915 as genocide. Obama said that “America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides.”
In 2006, Obama even criticized then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for firing a U.S. Ambassador who use the term “genocide” to describe the events nearly 100 years ago.
The important U.S. ally, Turkey, disputes what happened is in fact genocide, and as president, Obama has chosen his words very carefully.
In a statement released Saturday, Obama said “I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view of that history has not changed.”
Mr. Obama continued, “Contested history destabilizes the present and stains the memory of those whose lives were taken, while reckoning with the past lays a sturdy foundation for a peaceful and prosperous shared future.”
The Armenian National Committee of American called Obama’s use of the phrase contested history “deeply offensive” and “shameful.”
Last year, the Obama administration asked Congress to cancel a vote scheduled on a bill that would describe what happened as genocide. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that such a bill could impede progress on normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia.