My latest article in Counter Propa explains why President Trump must formally recognize the Armenian Genocide.
President Trump won the White House promising to change the culture in Washington and promote an “America first” policy. What happens, however, when U.S. acknowledgment of historical fact is dictated by the whims of other nations? Up until now, Turkey has pressured the United States to circumvent formally acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, although President Obama promised to do so while in office. In fact, President Obama stated “as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
Every year of his presidency, Obama managed to break his promise. In 2016, The New York Times published a piece titled Despite Campaign Vow, Obama Declines to Call Massacre of Armenians ‘Genocide’.
Fortunately, there’s hope under President Trump. This hope is illustrated in a Variety piece by Maane Khatchatourian titled ‘The Promise’ Star James Cromwell on Why the Armenian Genocide May Get Recognition Under Trump:
The premiere, held on Wednesday night at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre, also brought out stars Christian Bale, Charlotte Le Bon, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Angela Sarafyan, James Cromwell, and Marwan Kenzari. Oscar Isaac wasn’t in attendance as he was getting ready to welcome his first child with girlfriend Elvira Lind.
Cromwell said Hollywood has been hesitant to tackle the politically fraught subject for more than 100 years. Turkey continues to deny that 1.5 million Armenians were systematically exterminated in 1915 at the order of the Ottoman empire.
“There was an extraordinary man, Kirk Kerkorian, who knew this industry and who knew that a film about the Armenian Genocide would never be made,” he said. “Finally at the end of his life, he said, ‘I will pony up $100 million, we will make this film.’ And even with Terry as director, $100 million, and a script, they still could not sell this picture to Hollywood. Mike Medavoy stepped up, but for the rest of Hollywood, ‘no,’ because they didn’t want to be associated with something they thought was going to go in the toilet or cause a lot of ire with any other project they had that might go Turkey, might be denied the Turkish market.” The veteran actor also noted that the United States’ refusal to recognize the Armenian Genocide reflects a systematic problem.
“For whatever reason, this community flinched. This country flinches in its responsibility for the devastation of Syria and Yemen and Libya and Iraq and Afghanistan and Somalia and the Sudan and everywhere,” he added. “If we do not acknowledge our responsibility for events like this, our history, then we are doomed to repeat them, which is what we’re doing.”
…According to Cromwell, Americans will be moved to take to the streets to demand justice and picket the Turkish embassy until the genocide is recognized and restitutions are paid. “The Promise” has already been forced to surmount several obstacles. When the film world-premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last September, its IMDb page received a flood of negative ratings.
Thus, U.S. foreign has been negatively affected by an inability to cope with historical truth, and the consequences of this shortsightedness influence our interventions in Syria and elsewhere. Because Trump is so unconventional, there’s a chance he breaks with protocol and eventually recognizes the Armenian Genocide.
While previous U.S. administrations have refused to formally utilize the word “genocide,” the inventor of this word studied the slaughter of the Armenians. Here is Dr. Raphael Lemkin stating categorically that first “it happened to the Armenians.”
For anyone denying the planned and systematic annihilation of Armenians, there’s video evidence of Dr. Lemkin stating why he created the word “genocide.”
As for Lemkin’s thought process in defining the word, its definition is explained in a New York Times piece titled Armenian Genocide of 1915: An Overview:
On the eve of World War I, there were two million Armenians in the declining Ottoman Empire. By 1922, there were fewer than 400,000. The others — some 1.5 million — were killed in what historians consider a genocide.
As David Fromkin put it in his widely praised history of World War I and its aftermath, “A Peace to End All Peace”: “Rape and beating were commonplace. Those who were not killed at once were driven through mountains and deserts without food, drink or shelter. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians eventually succumbed or were killed.”
The man who invented the word “genocide”— Raphael Lemkin, a lawyer of Polish-Jewish origin — was moved to investigate the attempt to eliminate an entire people by accounts of the massacres of Armenians. He did not, however, coin the word until 1943, applying it to Nazi Germany and the Jews in a book published a year later, “Axis Rule in Occupied Europe.”
…Armenians mark the date April 24, 1915, when several hundred Armenian intellectuals were rounded up, arrested and later executed as the start of the Armenian genocide and it is generally said to have extended to 1917. However, there were also massacres of Armenians in 1894, 1895, 1896, 1909, and a reprise between 1920 and 1923.
The University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies has compiled figures by province and district that show there were 2,133,190 Armenians in the empire in 1914 and only about 387,800 by 1922.
…The New York Times covered the issue extensively — 145 articles in 1915 alone by one count — with headlines like “Appeal to Turkey to Stop Massacres.” The Times described the actions against the Armenians as “systematic,” “authorized, and “organized by the government.”
The American ambassador, Henry Morganthau Sr., was also outspoken. In his memoirs, the ambassador would write: “When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact.”
Thus, there is a mountain of evidence to support Dr. Lemkin’s belief that Armenians experienced genocide, and that this horrific crime was systematic and planned by the Ottoman Empire.
Recent evidence the Armenian Genocide was planned by the Ottoman Empire is highlighted in a New York Times piece titled ‘Sherlock Holmes of Armenian Genocide’ Uncovers Lost Evidence:
The Turkish narrative of denial has hinged on the argument that the original documents from postwar military tribunals that convicted the genocide’s planners were nowhere to be found.
Now, Taner Akcam, a Turkish historian at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., who has studied the genocide for decades by piecing together documents from around the world to establish state complicity in the killings, says he has unearthed an original telegram from the trials, in an archive held by the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
…But Mr. Akcam’s life’s work has been to puncture, fact by fact, document by document, the denials of Turkey.
“My firm belief as a Turk is that democracy and human rights in Turkey can only be established by facing history and acknowledging historic wrongdoings,” he said.
…Exactly where the telegram was all these years, and how Mr. Akcam found it, is a story in itself. With Turkish nationalists about to seize the country in 1922, the Armenian leadership in Istanbul shipped 24 boxes of court records to England for safekeeping.
…The telegram was written under Ottoman letterhead and coded in Arabic lettering; four-digit numbers denoted words. When Mr. Akcam compared it with the known Ottoman Interior Ministry codes from the time, found in an official archive in Istanbul, he found a match, raising the likelihood that many other telegrams used in the postwar trials could one day be verified in the same way.
For historians, the court cases were one piece of a mountain of evidence that emerged over the years — including reports in several languages from diplomats, missionaries and journalists who witnessed the events as they happened — that established the historical fact of the killings and qualified them as a genocide.
Therefore, yet another piece of evidence-this time an important link between Ottoman officials and their crimes—has been uncovered.
President Trump has the opportunity and potential to do something no other American administration had the courage, or autonomy to accomplish. President Trump should do something his predecessor lacked the courage to do and formally recognize the Armenian Genocide. Dr. Lemkin invented the word “genocide” after studying the slaughter of the Armenian people and it’s time America finally had a president that put history first, instead of shying away from our responsibility to honor the truth.
H. A. Goodman is the creator of Counter Propa and the thoughts above are inspired by his new publication. Follow Counter Propa on Twitter and Facebook. Follow H. A. Goodman on Twitter.