Sassounian: Why Does Obama Torture Himself and Armenians Every April 24?

For some unknown reason, the president of the most powerful nation on earth feels compelled to put himself through a strange and unnecessary ritual every April 24. Weeks in advance of that date, President Barack Obama orders his White House staff to scour the dictionary to come up with a series of words other than genocide to describe the Armenian Genocide.

For the fourth year in a row, the president’s resourceful aides have not disappointed him. For this year’s “Armenian Remembrance Day,” they have come up with a dozen words that describe the Armenian Genocide without using that specific term. When they ran out of substitute English words for genocide, the president’s hardworking wordsmiths turned to an Armenian term, “Meds Yeghern,” without providing its English translation (Great Calamity), so no one other than Armenians would understand what Obama is speaking about.

Here are some of the words that the president’s men offered this year: “atrocities,” “brutally massacred,” “marched to their deaths,” “unspeakable suffering,” “perished,” “dark chapters of history,” “what occurred in 1915,” “facts of the past,” “lives that were taken,” “senselessly suffered and died,” and finally, “the darkness of the Meds Yeghern.”

Anything but “genocide”!

Engaging in verbal gymnastics on genocide is unacceptable and unbecoming of the office of the President of the United States. Could such deplorable efforts be explained as a feeble attempt by Obama to minimize his broken promises? As presidential candidate, he repeatedly and solemnly pledged that he would recognize the Armenian Genocide. But when he became president, he hid behind insulting statements issued in his name year after year.

In his last four annual statements, Obama has avoided carrying out his campaign promises by claiming: “I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915. My view of that history has not changed.” Yet, he has never bothered to tell the American public what his views in the past were, what his views are today, and what happened in 1915! He cleverly downplays the significance of the Armenian Genocide by calling it “my own view of what happened in 1915.” On Jan. 19, 2008, however, then-presidential candidate Obama, seeking the Armenian community’s campaign contributions and votes, had no qualms calling these events by their proper name. Back then, he confidently stated, “the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view,” and promised that “as president,” he would “recognize the Armenian Genocide.”

Sadly, Obama is not the only member of his administration who has failed to keep his campaign pledge on this issue. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, two of the highest officials of the country, had made similar promises to recognize the Armenian Genocide when they were Senators and presidential candidates. While Biden has remained eerily silent, Clinton has gone from being a proponent of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide to its leading opponent. After becoming Secretary of State, she actively lobbied to defeat a proposed Congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide!

After four years of this senseless charade by the White House, the Armenian American community has two good reasons for asking Obama to not make any more statements on the Armenian Genocide: First, by breaking his word for four years in a row and playing verbal games with genocide, Obama has lost the moral standing to speak on this highly emotional and painful topic! How can the president of the United States lecture anyone around the world about human rights, democracy, and justice, when he himself has so crudely violated the trust of his own people and lost all credibility? He should stop torturing himself, his staff, and Armenians worldwide by refraining from issuing insulting “Remembrance Day” statements. It makes no sense for Obama to issue an annual statement that Armenians don’t want, don’t like, and are offended by.

Second, another U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, already acknowledged the Armenian Genocide in a Presidential Proclamation in 1981. The Armenian Genocide was also recognized by the House of Representative in 1975 and 1984, by the Justice Department in an official filing with the World Court in 1951, and by 42 U.S. states. Therefore, the Armenian community has no need to beg Obama or any other political candidate to recognize that which is already and repeatedly recognized.

Genocide is too sacred to be a subject of crass political trading. Those who acknowledge the undeniable fact of the Armenian Genocide do so not as a favor to the victims, but to restore their own credibility and moral integrity.

21 Comments on Sassounian: Why Does Obama Torture Himself and Armenians Every April 24?

  1. avatar Hairenakitz on YouTube // May 2, 2012 at 2:00 am // Reply

    Right on spot Mr Sassounian.
    Who after all needs Obama’s degrading speeches year after year?
    But, don’t you thing that his silence would suit Turkey even more?
    He knows that very well, and knows that we are hostage to his dirthy tricks we like or not.

    May be it’s wise to note that here in Australia, our prime minister didn’t even bother to send a sympathy note to Armenian genocide remembrance day, while as usual on 25th April (ANZAC’s remembrance day for their soldiers killed by Turks) is held in Gallipoli-Turkey. As you can see, even if Australia prime minister was an Armenian, he wouldn’t dare to utter the word ‘genocide’ for the sake of Gallipoli graves and ANZAC cerimony.

    For matter of fact, years ago when we had an Armenian minister (Joe Hockey now a shadow-minister) in the government he was prohibited to visit Tsitsernakaberd on his trip to Armenia. These days in opposition he advocates recognition of Armenian genocide if he becomes a minister again!!!

    The same goes to US poliyicians!
    Even if Obama was Armenian didn’t matter, he would still hesitate to do anything.
    Not many presidents have had the guts and courage of ‘Woodrow Wilson’ and ‘Ronald Reagan’. Unfortunately we did not mark any victory when those brave presidents stood on our side!

  2. I am concerned about the message we are giving third parties in the “recognition” campaign. The vast majority of those on the receiving end of this effort view “recognition” as an acknowledgement or affirmation of the historic fact of the genocide and perhaps advocating an “apology” from Turkey. Is this justice?
    Justice is linked to reparations. How many of us would feel that justice has been accomplished with an admission by Turkey that the Ottomans committed genocide that is accompanied by an “apology”?
    Of course, the response to my concern is that any admission or affirmation will evolve into a reparation discussion. The argument is supported by the supposition that fear of reparations is the biggest concern in Turkey on the genocide.
    My concern is the third parties. They are tired of this issue and frankly would probably like it to go away. if we don’t couple the message of reparations with recognition, we may risk there support when the inevitable day come when the Turks come clean with their history. The reparations conference at Antelias in February was a good start in conditioning and preparing both the Armenian community and supporters of the Armenians of our important message.

  3. I agree wholeheatedly with Stepan. Virtually any of the the references in the Obama statement referred to by Mr. Sassounian are grounds for real action. We have placed “genocide” as the issue before the jury rather than justice.

  4. For some unknown reason, we continue to publicize the wrong translation of Մեծ Եղեռն (Medz Yeghern) once made by no other than Turkish sources a few years ago. Please check your English-Armenian dictionaries. It is NOT “Great Calamity, it IS “Great Crime.”
    On a related note, whoever thinks that President Obama is just doing a charade should start advising all Armenian newspapers in the Armenian language to ban the expression Մեծ Եղեռն, used countless times until this day as SYNONYM of ցեղասպանութիւն, from their pages. Is is not possible that, beyond “euphemistic language” and “verbal gymnastics,” the U.S. president is just saying with our Armenian word with we are asking from him to say with his English word? Why on earth he would keep saying a phrase to the effect of “I have consistently stated my own view of what happened in 1915. My view of that history has not changed” if he had completely “forgotten” what he had said as U.S. Senator?

  5. avatar Jack Kalpakian // May 2, 2012 at 6:22 pm // Reply

    Would you prefer the George Bush Jr. and Sr. approach to this? How about the blatantly anti-Armenian statements of the Clinton years that were more insulting than anything. The truth is that Obama’s mental and verbal gymnastics are a lot better than anything since Reagan — and the right people, the Turkish Foreign Ministry, have condemned them. They are stepping stones to a lot more. We attach an unnecessary finality to every April 24th, not realizing that with each “defeat” we get another round of cost-attachment, political pressure, and even existential angst to administer to our opponents. President Obama should be supported and not attacked by our community.

  6. avatar gaytzag palandjian // May 2, 2012 at 8:16 pm // Reply

    Both Hairenagitz´s and Stepan´s arguments are correct, as to Mr. Sassounian´s.I shall try to expand further on the question of Admittance to crime(recognition) apolagy and reparations.
    Few (I hope many) understand the complex intricacies of ottoman turkish and/or present day Republic of Turkey diplomacy.
    Main point to remember is THEY DO IT IN THEIR VERY SLOW, yavash yavash,by adn by fashion.Lest the may slip and with an error commit themselves to restitutions/reparations. This IS THE MAIN ISSUE.Otherwise, I be my right arm they will come and kneel at Tsizernakapert( fact is a few so called intellectusl have ALREADY COME.LATEST ONE PERSON homage was by Jemal Pasha´s grandson(alone).He came and paid his dues at the Monument. These are done and will continue(oh near forgot ) the other quite recent one stioll on THIS PAGE,the Parliamentarian offering his solaces etc., in a round about manner…but again he did so.
    Just shiut your eyes and go back a few yrs..Who would hav e thoiught that great Turkey would utter the word ERMENI (Armenian).they did after(may he rest in peace) Hrant Dink´s martyrdom. That was the last straw, so to say,that turned the page.Plus many other such that arfe to come….
    But DO NOT ASK FOR ´pARA¨TOIKISH , MEANS MONEY ,DAMAGES TO BE PAID FOR,OR ..Land to be handed back to Armenians.
    Even 30 yrs ago when Armenian angry young men had started their ¨CORRECTIONAL ACTS OF VIOLENCE¨.Thjis is the correct denomination as to their acts BTW.. their general ENAN KEVREN retorted and I quote¨Armenians want land,come and get it<¨…
    My response to aboe 2 Demands(main ones that we can formulate)
    1. As to land .Western armenia is at presented populated mainly by k u r d s .They are there to stay, you cannot(or any forcce)remove them 15 is not a question of one tenth that many(ref. to us)So we have to begin negotiating with them overseas.They have parliament in exile in Brussels.
    2. Monetary compensation:_ My suggestion is for BLOOD MONEY.This has precedent the jews from germany received according to one compatriot right here 60 billion dollars(that beginnin 1950´or 60´s (when dollar was worh at least TWICE WHAT IT IS NOW. Do you expect Turks to part with PARA for Ermenis,money to us.they would rather declare themselves BANKRUPT AND WILL DO SO. bUT THIS SERVANT OF the armenian people has near solved that problem.
    3. MY final suggestion: At present -i.e. for past few yrs great Turkey receives 1.6 billion dolalrs Transit Duties for the OIL BEING pumped through Turkey.We all know that is AIR MONEY EASY MONEY. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, the Oil Companies BP and ESSo mobil I believe B Y PASSED ARMENIAN THE SHORTEST ROUTE TO jEYHAN PORT ON question is Why?….was not Armenia trustworthy Armenians (who fought alongside the British and Americans in both WW s unfaifull(like truks say).Come on now…We should ,when time comes and above Companies Govt.s have admitted to our Genocide(actually they have again ina round about way) ask them to pay AT LEAST HALF OF THOSE TRANSIT DUTIES TO ARMENIAN GENOCIDE HEIRS,WHETHER IN ARMENIA OR Diaspora(AGBU) …
    To end my suggestions, I believe some will accept that above manner is what is actuality,RATHER THAN HYPOTHETIC CONJECTURES…
    best Hasgcoghin

  7. I wish to echo Vartan Matiossian’s complaint about the mistranslation of Մեծ Եղեռն (Medz Yeghern),
    which has by now become an unfortunate habit with some opinion leaders in the Armenian community as well as the world press at large.

    If Եղեռն (yeghern) had been translated correctly all along as “crime”, President Obama would not have taken the unprecedented step of bringing the term into the annual presidential statement in order to give the impression that he was not breaking his famous promise. Unfortunately and to the contrary, he was assured a few years ago that the word merely meant “calamity”.

    The solution is not to scuttle the tradition of the annual Commemoration statement entirely or ban the use of the term within the Armenian press, but rather to inform the White House and the world at large of the true meaning of the term and stop promoting its false translation.

    • avatar David-california // May 3, 2012 at 5:37 pm //

      I agree, in American usage, Calamity means “a natural and unavoidable catastrophe that interrupts the expected course of events”, we even named a folk hero after the word, “Calamity Jane”, there is no “Genocide Jane” for good reason.
      If you suffer as a victim of a “Calamity”, your only recourse is to call your insurance agent to pay for your losses or issue angry prayers-there is no legal recourse against the perpetrator.
      What the Turks did was not “natural” and their despicable behaviour
      was avoidable.
      It’s either “Genocide” or “mass-murder”, both have legal definitions and no statute of limitations for prosecution. Everyone (except the Turkish Govt.) understands what those words mean. There’s no need for “re-branding” and it’s too late for semantic lessons.


  8. I agree. Why successive US and Turkish governments torture themselves with this topic every year is beyond me.

    I am hoping and praying that US Congress passes such a resolution maybe next year, so it is put behind us all and the diplomats and statesmen can focus on things that really matter now.

    This would give all a chance also to see that world would not come to an end with one more or less resolution, history and facts will not be changed or re-written, and they would all see the futility of spending so much time, money and political capital on a non-issue.

    In fact, it would help the reconciliation process between Armenia and Turkey in the long-term, which they both need.

    • You know what’s about to come….. denialist accusations and such. Power to you brother.

    • avatar Hairenakitz on YouTube // May 3, 2012 at 10:36 pm //

      @ Murat,

      Well said about US congress.

      But why wouldn’t you wish that Turkey herself to put an end to its 97 years of shameful denial tactics instead of being forced by other countries to look back its own history and act humanely?

      As you said, it would not be the end of the world when Turkey acknowledges the past and start a positive reconciles with Armenians in general.

      Till that day, it would be more fruitful that Turks like you; who hope in reconciliation between these two neighbouring countries; to actively pressing Turkish government to end its “denial, repudiation and falsification of history” policy.

    • US Congress passing another AG Resolution will be the first act of a long opera: it will not end until the fat lady sings.
      After we have trained US Executive branch officials to say “Armenian Genocide” without having a heart attack, we will work on US officially recognizing the AG.
      Long process, but we are patient, determined people.

      And all the talk of “reconciliation” coming from Denialist Turks means only this: Armenians, give up your demands, all your demands, then we’ll be friends.

      Finally, let’s ask RVDV if the following written by his “brother” Murat makes him a Denialist or not:

      {“One can not credibly argue against “fake” shamful acts, or manufactured history such as favored here on this site,…”} (referring to the AG)
      {“This morning I woke up and saw that facts are still facts and myths still remain as myths.”} (referring to AG)

      I say labeling the AG “manufactured history” and “myth” makes Murat a Denialist: what say you, “brother” ?

    • Avery:

      Perhaps people can change. Maybe the “educate denialists” objective is paying off. Or maybe he’s a good liar. Equally possible. But as Murat says, “facts are still facts and myths still remain as myths.” No? Are the facts still not the facts? And are the myths still not the myths? And I believe “reconciliation” means compromise- and you can imagine what that entails.

  9. In the last sentence of my previous post I said that it was necessary to inform the White House and the world at large of the true meaning of “yeghern” and to stop promoting its false translation. The basic goal of this recommendation is not simply to censor the statement but rather to keep the focus on the fact that the name “Medz Yeghern” denotes the Armenian Genocide and continue urging the White House to use that well understood English term as the only proper way to communicate its solemn moral assessment of this horrendous crime against humanity.

  10. Turkey pours a lot of money into the pockets of US politicians to keep the US in Turkey’s pocket.

  11. I’d rephrase the title: “Why Do Armenians Torture Themselves Every April 24 Anticipating the G-word From Each and Every US President?” Why not redirect out efforts on lost property lawsuits, insurance indemnities compensation lawsuits, cultural and architectural demolition compensation lawsuits, assets confiscation lawsuits? While I agree with other posters here that we attach an unnecessary finality to every April 24th, I should add that neither George Bush Jr. nor George Bush Sr. nor Bill Clinton has publically made the following promise: “[…]as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide”, like Obama did. That’s why he’s being attacked by the community. The verbal gymnastics of the president who unambiguously pledged to recognize genocide are unbecoming to his political status. Obama may be not re-elected this November, so what is essentially the difference between George Bush Jr./George Bush Sr./Bill Clinton not admitting to the AG recognition issue and Obama’s verbal gymnastics with it? What did the community get in either of these cases?

  12. avatar gaytzag palandjian // May 3, 2012 at 8:02 pm // Reply

    “And the diplomats and statesmen can focus on things that REALLY MATTER NOW” quote from Murat ,above.
    I wish it was the way you figure it. The diplomats prefer to focus on such paltry issues as the meaning of this that word-indeed in the case of this particular case- rather than get down to business. Fact of the matter is these are much more important for them to FOCUS on, thus evading the ISSUEs that matter.
    In short, the main issue*s are thus avoided to discuss and /or dispute,leaving the arena for a bunch of words to play with…

  13. Since Mr. Obama is so ”fond” of using Armenian words to describe the Armenian Genocide we may as well introduce a new Armenian term to his dictionary, i.e. «Ցեղասպանություն». :-)

    • That’s not a bad idea, but I’m afraid neither Mr. Obama nor his message-writers at the Department of State will accept the word: they will argue they’re Americans and «ցեղասպանութիւն» is a five-syllable word . . . :)

  14. It has come time on this issue to remind ourselves of the basic purpose of the annual presidential statement on April 24th. it is for the president to recognize and commemorate the Armenian Genocide on behalf of the entire nation (the U.S.) and to communicate that recognition and commemoration to the world at large. It is not supposed to be narrowly addressed only to Armenians as an expression of sympathy. It is supposed to be a statement of principle which reflects the moral stance of the United States on the history being addressed.

    Therefore, it makes no difference which Armenian word the president might choose to use–even «ցեղասպանութիւն» [tseghaspanutyoun–literallly “genocide” in Armenian]– since it would not communicate what needs to be communicated to the American people and the world at large. Imagine if the entire statement was presented in Armenian to English transliteration! Would that serve? No, it would not. The point is, English is the official language of government and the only language fully understood by everyone. Plugging in Armenian expressions is no substitute for a genuine commemorative statement that addresses The Armenian Genocide.

    One other point: the annual April 24th statement should not place anyone in the spot of trying to read the president’s mind, of figuring out what is in his mind but not in his statement and so on. The statement should be complete in itself. Using an Armenian term that is completely obscure to most Americans (and some Armenians) does not help in the least.

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