By Harut Sassounian
After both Houses of Congress, one overwhelmingly and the other unanimously, adopted two Resolutions in recent weeks recognizing the Armenian Genocide, many were hoping that this would lead Pres. Trump to also recognize it in his upcoming April 24, 2020 statement, even though he is not obligated to do. After all, a total of 505 members of both Houses of Congress had supported both Resolutions with only 11 opposing them, which placed over 94% of the US Congress in favor.
However, Pres. Trump disappointed the vast majority of the world, except for Turkish and Azerbaijani denialists, by having the State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus announce last week that “the position of the administration has not changed. Our views are reflected in the president’s definitive statement on this issue from last April.”
The State Department’s announcement snubbing the two Resolutions was made after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to expel US troops from two airbases in Turkey and to ask the Turkish Parliament to adopt a Resolution recognizing the killings of Native Americans as genocide.
In the last three years, Pres. Trump has not used the term “Armenian Genocide” to refer to the intentional mass killings of Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. Pres. Trump has thus followed the precedent of Presidents Obama, Bush Junior, Bill Clinton, and Bush Senior, all of whom had refrained from describing the Armenian mass killings as genocide. The only exception was Pres. Ronald Reagan who had issued a Presidential Proclamation on April 22, 1981, referring to the Armenian murders by the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
In his April 24, 2019 statement, Pres. Trump used various euphemisms to refer to the “Armenian Genocide” without using that term: “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.” Pres. Trump added, “We welcome the efforts of Armenians and Turks to acknowledge and reckon with their painful history.” Furthermore, Pres. Trump used the Armenian term “Meds Yeghern” (Great Crime) to avoid using the words “Armenian Genocide.” Pres. Trump simply copied the same term used by Pres. Obama. Regrettably, Pres. Trump, who regularly rejects most of Pres. Obama’s policies, has decided to follow his predecessor’s rejection of using the term “Armenian Genocide.”
Some of Pres. Trump’s supporters were irritated that a few newspapers had referred to Pres. Trump by name as rejecting the term “Armenian Genocide.” Even though Pres. Trump had not made a personal announcement on this issue, the State Department, as part of the Trump administration, would not have made such a statement without the approval of its “Big Boss!” Besides, the State Department’s spokeswoman herself referred to Pres. Trump’s statement of last April. The only point in favor of Pres. Trump is that he had not made a campaign promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide, as opposed to his four predecessors. While he does not have the obligation to keep a campaign promise he had not made, he should not have been gagged by the dictator of Ankara and pursue his personal financial interests as John Bolton, the former National Security Advisor, has indicated.
Even though April 24, 2020 is still ahead of us, and given the unpredictable nature of Pres. Trump, one cannot be sure if he would use the term “Armenian Genocide” at that time, I for one have no expectation of him facing the truth and abandoning his private interests.
Last week, there was a major development that may weigh heavily on the prospects of Pres. Trump’s reelection. On December 19, 2019, Mark Galli, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, an influential evangelical magazine, wrote an editorial titled: “Trump Should Be Removed from Office.” Christianity Today was founded by Rev. Billy Graham. This is an important editorial given the fact that the overwhelming majority of white evangelicals support Pres. Trump.
Here is how the editorial justifies the removal of Pres. Trump from office:
1) Pres. Trump’s attempt to coerce the Ukrainian leader to investigate his political opponent (Joe Biden) is “not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.”
2) “This president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone — with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders — is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.”
3) “We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath. The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see. This damages the institution of the presidency, damages the reputation of our country, and damages both the spirit and the future of our people. None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.”
4) “Whether Mr. Trump should be removed from office by the Senate or by popular vote next election — that is a matter of prudential judgment. That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.”
5) “To use an old cliché, it’s time to call a spade a spade, to say that no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence. And just when we think it’s time to push all our chips to the center of the table, that’s when the whole game will come crashing down. It will crash down on the reputation of evangelical religion and on the world’s understanding of the gospel. And it will come crashing down on a nation of men and women whose welfare is also our concern.”
Armenian Americans and their supporters should continue to shame anyone who does not recognize the Armenian Genocide, starting from Pres. Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the 11 Republican members of the House of Representatives who voted against the Armenian Genocide Resolution on Oct. 29, 2019. They are: Greg Pence, Larry Bucshon, James Baird, and Susan Brooks of Indiana, Mike Rogers of Alabama, Andy Harris of Maryland, Virginia Fox and Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Tom Cole of Oklahoma, and Mac Thornberry and Kevin Brady of Texas.
No Armenian-American should vote for Pres. Trump in next year’s Presidential election nor for the 11 Republican members of Congress who voted against the Armenian Genocide Resolution!