It is a news story that deserves international attention.
Today President Biden recognized the mass killings of Armenians more than a century ago with the only word that applies. The only word that has the gravitas and the full meaning of what happened during the Ottoman Era years of horrific atrocities.
Let me place this barbaric series of events in the framework of history. The deaths of the Armenians were the first genocide of the 20th century. It needs to be reckoned with.
Why this does matter is two-fold. First, it clearly demonstrates moral clarity is being returned to our policy goals regarding international affairs. We can not simply mouth lofty works of our idealistic notions unless we are prepared to not only state them but have them also anchored with meaning.
Determining that a genocide was committed and stating it as such is most meaningful when pronounced by the President of the United States. Turkey may continue to deflect, deny, and disavow but the world works on facts and there is no way to discredit the record that exists about the mass killings.
This leads to the second reason this matters. The truth needs to be publicly stated even if it ruffles the current leadership in Turkey. If one can not be honest with a nation that resides within our orbit of friends, even though that nation at times acts recklessly on the world stage, then perhaps we need to redefine what constitutes a friendly partner. What can not be bargained away is honesty about historical events.
I simply reject the cowardly way, from both Democrats and Republicans, when failing to define what happened at the start of the 20th century regarding Armenians. It is way too high a price to pay to toss honesty aside just to have some assurance that Turkey would not endanger its cooperation in regional conflicts or diplomacy. How has that played out over the past 15 years when no utterance of the word genocide was used by Washington?
The killings of Armenians occurred at the end of World War I during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey. Worried that the Christian Armenian population would align with Russia, a primary enemy of the Ottoman Turks, officials ordered mass deportations in what many historians consider the first genocide of the 20th century: Nearly 1.5 million Armenians were killed, some in massacres by soldiers and the police, others in forced exoduses to the Syrian desert that left them starved to death.
What Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would desire, so to save his nation from international embarrassment, does not meet the needs of the call of history to precisely state what happened.
Words matter and that is why today is so very important. Especially those used by our president.
It was troubling how the lack of the most honest word about the deaths of Armenians allowed for the misrepresentation of facts to stand over the decades. The damage this causes our nation when words are not used so to erase facts, or to create a new version of events far removed from what actually occurred, must never be allowed to stand.
Today President Biden addressed the call of history. He stated the mass slaughter of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks more than a century ago as a “genocide”.
Because that is what happened.