Trump: A Coward on the Armenian Genocide

Pres. Donald Trump issued last week his third April 24 statement “on Armenian Remembrance Day.” And for three years in a row he did not muster the courage to use the correct term—genocide—to describe the annihilation of 1.5 million innocent Armenian men, women and children by the Ottoman Turkish government!

Pres. Trump basically repeated the same words that he used in the past two years, with very minor changes. Again he used the Armenian term “Meds Yeghern” (Great Crime) to avoid calling the mass killings a genocide! Meds Yeghern is simply a description that Armenians used before the word genocide was coined by Raphael Lemkin in the 1940s, whereas genocide is a term of international law and has legal consequences. Besides, if Pres. Trump insists on using an Armenian word, he should have said “Tseghasbanoutyoun” (genocide)!

Many Armenians had been hoping ever since his election that Pres. Trump would rely on his unpredictable impulses to describe the Armenian mass killings as genocide, ignoring the counsel of his advisors and the position of his predecessors. Unfortunately, Pres. Trump knows very little about Armenian-Americans and couldn’t care less about their interests. The only time Pres. Trump will pay attention to the genocide issue is when Armenian-Americans gain more political clout.

It should not take much courage for Pres. Trump to use the term Armenian Genocide since Pres. Ronald Reagan already used it in his Presidential Proclamation on April 22, 1981. In fact, Armenian-Americans do not need Pres. Trump to say anything on April 24, if he cannot call it genocide. The Armenian Genocide has been already recognized by the United States several times. In addition to Pres. Reagan’s statement, the US House of Representatives adopted two resolutions in 1975 and 1984 acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, and the US government sent an official document to the International Court of Justice (World Court) in 1951 recognizing the Armenian mass killings as a case of genocide.

Nevertheless, Pres. Trump’s inadequate statement has a couple of secondary benefits to the Armenian Cause.

It irritates the hell out of Turkish leaders who seem to be ashamed and outraged that the President of the United States is reminding the world of “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century,” and asserting that “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.” Both Turkish President Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reacted with indignation and denial to Pres. Trump’s April 24 statement.

Secondly, the statements of Pres. Trump and his predecessors cause each year a major political reaction around the world, generating mass publicity in the international media which is further fueled by the Turkish leaders’ denials.

On April 24, 2019, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan issued an important statement on the 104th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Surprisingly, his statement did not mention Turkey or the Ottoman Empire as the perpetrator of the Armenian Genocide! This must have been an unfortunate oversight on the part of the Prime Minister and his aides. I do not think it was done intentionally, particularly since the statement does include a strong reference to Armenians losing their homeland in addition to the human losses. In the past, Armenia’s leaders have refrained from raising the issue of Armenian territorial demands from Turkey.

Meanwhile, Pres. Erdogan issued a particularly disgraceful statement on April 24, speaking at a Symposium in Ankara: “The relocation of the Armenian gangs and their supporters, who massacred the Muslim people, including women and children, in eastern Anatolia, was the most reasonable action that could be taken in such a period.”

Erdogan is shamefully accusing the Armenian victims of committing a mass crime against the victimizing Turks. This is an outrageous lie which is the equivalent of accusing Jews of killing Germans during the Holocaust! Erdogan must be suffering from a serious mental illness!

In a surprising development, Prime Minister Pashinyan responded forcefully to Erdogan’s pathetic lies. Pashinyan described Erdogan’s statement as “hateful” and called on the international community to respond: “On the day when Armenians around the world mourned the innocent victims of the Ottoman Genocide, Turkey, this country’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated a statement denying the greatest crime of the 20th century, calling it only, ‘the deportation of Armenians.’ To call the extermination of the entire Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire, as well as the massive forced deportation of Armenians (death caravans) ‘Armenian bandits and their accomplices,’ and the massacre of 1.5 million indigenous people, ‘the most logical behavior’ is not only a new level of denial of the Armenian Genocide, but also an excuse for the destruction of an entire nation. Such a statement on April 24, on the day of the anniversary of the Genocide, is a deep insult to the Armenian people and all of humanity, and an expression of extreme hatred personally by Erdogan. The world should not be silent.”

We are heartened that Prime Minister Pashinyan raised the issue of the Armenian territorial demand from Turkey, a demand that the Armenian government should pursue officially at the International Court of Justice!

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Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the United Armenian Fund, a coalition of the seven largest Armenian-American organizations. He has been decorated by the president and prime minister of the Republic of Armenia, and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

7 Comments

  1. “In fact, Armenian-Americans do not need Pres. Trump to say anything on April 24, if he cannot call it genocide.”

    “Nevertheless, Pres. Trump’s inadequate statement has a couple of secondary benefits to the Armenian Cause.”

    Well, with these two statements, number two makes number one incorrect, so perhaps number one should have been worded better.

    To be fair, Trump’s statements were actually much better than the previous lying fool of a president who actually broke his promises while Trump made no such promises to the Armenian community, yet gave more effective statements.

    One of our Jewish-Israeli guests commenting in another article made the observation that this year Trump made mention of Raphael Lemkin (who helped bring the laws and awareness to the crime of genocide in the UN), and that this is significant. I agree with that sentiment because this is definitely in the right direction and could be a precedent for future statements to use the proper wording. I would say this is perhaps the closest we have gotten yet since Ronald Reagan’s statement.

    Our Armenian activism should take this as an example and try to get the name of Lawyer Raphael Lemkin mentioned every time on the Genocide Commemoration Statement by the president, if the proper term of ‘genocide’ is not going to be used. Once this precedent is set, it would be much easier for any future president to make the correct statements.

    Also, let us please stop making statements and toying with ideas like “The US previously recognized the Armenian Genocide, thus we don’t need the current president or government”. Absolutely no true, and in fact downright dangerous to our cause and pursuit for justice. Statements and even the mentions of “recognition” are not enough. What we must work toward is for such statements of Genocide recognition, if they are ever made, to be concrete and lasting as a matter of an established principle within the United States government. Without such a permanence, “recognition” means nothing. That could just be filed under “here today, gone tomorrow”.

    • Baron Hagop,

      I insist that Armenians do not need Trump to say Genocide. We already had Pres. Reagan saying genocide in his Presidential Proclamation of 1981. Why do we need every US President to repeat the same thing? Once something is recognized, it is considered recognized. We don’t need it to be repeated over and over again to be convinced that it is recognized. Why do we need to question that the genocide is recognized? Here are some facts for your education: In addition to Pres. Reagan’s Proclamation, the US government first recognized the Armenian Genocide in 1951 in an official document it submitted to the World Court. We also have two House resolutions adopted in 1975 and 1984 recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
      You are also asking for permanent recognition, confusing recognition with a foreign policy decision. Almost all of the countries that we say have recognized the genocide, have in fact just passed a resolution by one of their two chambers of deputies, which neither decides foreign policy nor is a law. If you say that the US has not recognized the genocide, which has done much more than most other countries, then we can hardly say that any country has recognized the Armenian Genocide.
      Don’t fool yourself saying that Trump’s this year statement is better than last year’s. As long as he does not say Genocide, nothing else matters. It is just self-deception that Trump is closer to recognition and that in the future he may recognize the genocide. There were some other naive Armenians who kept saying for 8 years that Obama next year will recognize the Armenian Genocide. Trump did not recognize it in three years and he won’t recognize it neither next year nor in his second term, if he is re-elected. Don’t fool yourself!

  2. While I am upset too at president Trump not using the word genocide , At least president Trump never once discussed or promised the Armenian Genocide, and he seems to be not aware of the importance of calling it by its name, to us Armenians, to the general cause of preventing genocides, and justice for the victims.

    I don’t see to recall Mr. Sassounian calling Obama a coward with such angry tone.
    All I remember reading is “Obama skips/avoids/forgets mentioning the word genocide”, despite the fact that Obama was recorded on video on the campaign trail saying the Armenian Genocide is historic fact, and before that voting yes on one of the bills, promising to recognize it if elected.
    No such anger, no such tone was directed at him.
    Why the double standards, Mr. Sassounian?

    If a president never mentioned, or discussed our cause, the burden is on you, with your platform, and the leadership of the many Armenian groups, one of them I keep donating to, to get the message to him, and perhaps, a delegation of several leaders should request a meeting and then sit down with him or his advisers?
    That would sure get you and us more results rather than insults and name calling. That’s for sure.
    Go ahead, censor this response if you will, but feel free to point me where I am wrong.

    • Chris, I regret that you expressed a whole bunch of nonsense opinions based on zero facts. Then again, we live in a free country where you are free to say anything you want, except that you become the laughing stock of knowledgeable people. You twist all the facts desperately trying to defend Trump, a President who does not have the guts to tell the truth. In your extreme zeal to defend Trump at any cost, you fail to see that acknowledging the Armenian Genocide is not a partisan issue. Both Democrats and Republicans are cowards. And I have spent years severely criticizing Presidents of both parties. Yes, I did call Obama a liar. I also called for the Nobel Prize Committee to take back the Peace Prize from Obama for lying on the Armenian Genocide. I called Obama many names over eight years of his presidency. Stop seeing Democrats as devils and Republicans as angels. They are both the same.
      Also, who said that I and the ANCA have not tried to reach and educate Trump and his circle? You are completely wrong in making such a baseless assumption. We both have done exactly what you have suggested. But to no avail. Trump and his people don’t care about the Armenian Cause and have no interest in being educated. The ANCA met with Trump advisors, but again to no avail.

  3. To call Trump a “coward” is totally incorrect and unfair when compared to the statements that were made by Obama and Clinton prior to and after the elections as President and Secretary of State regarding the Genocide. It is dishonest and distorting the facts.
    We simply have to admit that we have to do additional more work with the President’s office and his administration to recognize, without mincing any words, the Genocide.
    The most effective vehicle for that is the ANCA, who needs to establish a line of communications with the White House.
    Vart Adjemian
    Vart Adjemian

  4. To Harut Sassounian,
    There is big huge difference between “liar” and ” coward” and the tone of the attacks.
    The reality is that Trump is ignorant about Armenian issues and the Genocide. During his campaign he never mentioned the Genocide and did not make any promises.
    The ANCA, though unsuccessful so far, should not give up and should continue its efforts with the White House. Perseverance and constructive dialogue is needed.
    ” Insults” do not help to continue the dialogue and the contacts. Diplomacy and respect can possibly yield better results. You are experienced enough to know that.

    Are you not fortunate that you live in the USA? Calling the President a “coward” would have serious negative consequences if you were in another country.
    Some decorum and respect is necessary.

    Vart Adjemian

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