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Trump, Biden Issue Dueling Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day Statements

By Taniel Koushakjian

On April 24, 2020 President Donald J. Trump issued the official White House statement on Armenian Genocide remembrance day “memorializing the lives lost during the Meds Yeghern, one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century.  Beginning in 1915, 1 and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire.  On this day of remembrance, we pay respect to those who suffered and lost their lives, while also renewing our commitment to fostering a more humane and peaceful world,” the White House statement read.

Hours after President Trump’s statement, former Vice President Joe Biden issued his April 24 statement. Like Trump, and Obama before him, Biden invoked the phrase Meds Yeghern which what Armenians call the Armenian Genocide. However, Biden’s statement went all the way, using the Armenian and English versions.

“Today we remember the atrocities faced by the Armenian people in the Metz Yeghern — the Armenian Genocide,” Biden said. “From 1915 to 1923, almost 2 million Armenians were deported en mass, and 1.5 million men, women, and children were killed. Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans, Maronites, and other Christians were also targeted. We must never forget or remain silent about this horrific and systematic campaign of extermination. And we will forever respect the perseverance of the Armenian people in the wake of such tragedy,” the former Vice President said.

Biden served as Vice President to President Barack Obama from 2008-2016. Biden and Obama pledged to recognize the Armenian Genocide as President once they reached the White House in 2008. However, the Obama-Biden Administration broke it’s promise to the Armenian American community and stopped short of using the “g” word.

Biden’s statement today seems to be the only step left for the Democratic Party to win over Armenian American voters, in terms of a campaign pledge and an actual policy correction in the Executive Brach of the U.S. government.

Campaigning for President in 2016, Donald Trump did not issue a campaign statement to the Armenian American community. Since taking office, the Trump White House has continued to refer to the Ottoman Turkish murder of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 as “mass atrocities” but has stoped short of applying the proper legal name for what historians overwhelming acknowledge as the first genocide of the 20th century.

Samantha Power to Armenians: “I am very sorry”

By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Political Editor

Yesterday, Samantha Power became the first Obama administration official to apologize to Armenian Americans for not recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

“I am very sorry that, during our time in office, we in the Obama administration did not recognize the #Armenian Genocide,” Power posted on Twitter.

In a series a tweets on April 24th, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, Power also discussed “Turkish denial” and expressed empathy for the “slaughter that wd kill 1.5 m.”

Samantha Power served on President Obama’s National Security Council from 2009-2013, and as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 2013-2017.

She is the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, which focused on the U.S. response to 20th century genocides, including Armenia in 1915.

While the emphatic expression may be welcome to some, many Armenian Americans share the feeling of betrayal by Power, and President Obama, given the multiple statements and meetings they held with community members during the 2008 campaign.

“This is more insulting 2 our ppl than 8yrs of ignoring our requests.U sacrificed ur own conscience on the altar of geopolitical correctness,” FLArmenians Editor Arsine Kaloustian replied on Twitter.

The Obama administration’s moral laryngitis on the Armenian Genocide was compounded in 2015, the centennial anniversary, when Power and Vice President Joe Biden attended the international commemoration at the Washington National Cathedral.

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 07: President of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, and U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power attend the Armenian Genocide Centennial (NCAGC) Ecumenical Service at Washington National Cathedral on May 7, 2015 in Washington DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for NCAGC)

Power’s re-acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide came moments after President Trump’s first statement on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day was released yesterday morning.

President Trump’s statement on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day echoed President Obama’s use of the phrase “Meds Yeghern,” and invoked language similar to President George W. Bush.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about President Trump’s omission of the word genocide during the daily press briefing. “The statement that was put out is consistent with the statements that have been put out for at least several of the past administrations,” Spicer said.

President Trump Statement on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day

By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Political Editor

Today, President Donald J. Trump released his administration’s first statement on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, which is commemorated every April 24th by Armenians around the world. Using language invoked by presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush before him, President Trump did not use the term genocide to refer to the 1915 mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish government during World War I.

“Today, we remember and honor the memory of those who suffered during the Meds Yeghern, one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century.  Beginning in 1915, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire,” the White House statement reads.

[Click here for a complete list of U.S. Presidential Statements on the Armenian Genocide]

“At a time when Christians and minority communities continue to be in imminent danger and under constant attack, the President’s statement fails to stand up for human rights and is inconsistent with American values, and represents the same kind of capitulation to Turkish authoritarianism which will cost more lives,” stated Van Krikorian and Anthony Barsamian, co-chairs of the Armenian Assembly of America.

Earlier this month, 84 Members of Congress sent a letter to President Trump urging him to reaffirm the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide. “By commemorating the Armenian Genocide, we renew our commitment to prevent future atrocities,” the letter reads. Florida Representatives Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) were among the signatories.

“Asked why Trump decided not to use the term, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the statement is “consistent with statements that have been put out for at least several of the last administrations,”” The Hill reported.

Trumped employed the Armenian phrase “Meds Yeghern” to describe the genocide, essentially using the Armenian equivalent of the English phrase. However, unlike, Presidents Obama and George W., Trump did not make a campaign pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide as President.

Ronald Reagan was the last U.S. President to recognize the Armenian Genocide back in 1981.

Below is the full statement released by the White House:

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Statement by President Donald J. Trump on Armenian Remembrance Day 2017

Today, we remember and honor the memory of those who suffered during the Meds Yeghern, one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century.  Beginning in 1915, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire.  I join the Armenian community in America and around the world in mourning the loss of innocent lives and the suffering endured by so many.

As we reflect on this dark chapter of human history, we also recognize the resilience of the Armenian people.  Many built new lives in the United States and made indelible contributions to our country, while cherishing memories of the historic homeland in which their ancestors established one of the great civilizations of antiquity.

We must remember atrocities to prevent them from occurring again.  We welcome the efforts of Turks and Armenians to acknowledge and reckon with painful history, which is a critical step toward building a foundation for a more just and tolerant future.