Obama vs Romney: Armenian American Community Pressures Candidates to Recognize 1915 Genocide by Ottoman Turkey

Ninety-seven years ago, when the wholesale massacre of Armenians was taking place in Ottoman Turkey, the United States turned to be the most active supporter of suffering Armenians. Over 130,000 Armenian orphans were sheltered in American orphanages that were established in Armenia, Greece, Cyprus and elsewhere. President Woodrow Wilson and the U.S. Ambassador to Ottoman Turkey Henry Morgenthau were personally involved in coordinating the aid activities.

The New York Times alone published 145 articles in 1915, describing the horrors Armenians went through.

Ninety-seven years later, the U.S. Armenian community supported by the Congressional Armenian Caucus, its friends in various states are still struggling to finalize the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the U.S. government. Contemporary Turkey is a NATO ally, although some annalists like Daniel Pipes of Middle East Forum or Ariel Cohen of Heritage Foundation would often claim Turkey is not truly the same ally anymore. Ankara skillfully uses its geopolitical importance and various connections in order to resist any attempt of Genocide recognition by America, Europe or elsewhere. However, 21 countries, including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, Sweden, and others have adopted resolutions labeling the events of 1915 as Genocide and calling on Turkey to do the same.

Interestingly, the United States, a country that was extremely active in helping Armenians almost a century ago, today is somehow uncertain. Ankara and its lobby groups have consequently placed an incredible pressure on the Administration.

The paradox is that countries like Slovakia, which did not even exist in 1915, or like Venezuela, widely seen as much less democratic nowadays, were able to stand up to Turkish pressures and adopt relevant resolutions about these horrible events and gross violation of human rights.

A lesser-known fact is that America has in fact recognized the Armenian Genocide. Forty-three out of 50 states of America at various times adopted commemorative resolutions on this subject. The House of Representatives twice (1975 and 1984) adopted genocide resolutions and President Ronald Reagan qualified the events as genocide in April 1981. However, later on, U.S. policy on this issue became more evasive resulting in calling back the U.S. ambassador John Evans from Yerevan for calling the events as genocide in May of 2006. This harsh action was taken by the administration of Bush junior (although, Bush himself had promised to recognize the genocide while he was a presidential candidate in 2000).

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), an Armenian lobby group in Washington, DC, issued a statement calling on presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to make their position clear on this and other issues.

Harut Sassounian, President of the United Armenian Fund and a newspaper publisher from California, a state which hosts the majority of over one million Armenian Americans, stated: "Pres. Obama has about 30 days to make good on his pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Otherwise, Armenian Americans will not vote for him for a second term."

President Obama, as a senator, qualified the events of 1915 as genocide. As president, he stated, “he hadn’t changed his views.” “My interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts”, Obama said. However, he did not use the G—-word while in the Oval room, but qualified the events of 1915 as "Medz Yeghern." The president has skillful advisers: "Meds Yeghern" is the Armenian equivalent of genocide, the same way Shoah in Hebrew stands for the Jewish Holocaust. Barack Obama got pretty close to doing what in fact already another U.S. president had done about three decades ago.

 However, the community is waiting for clarifications from the President. At the end of the day, "Meds Yeghern" is meaningless for most Americans, and does not have a judicial meaning.