Apr 25, 2019
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Pope Francis at the Canonization of Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II by he and the Catholic Church on April 27, 2014. This event, attended by millions is amongst the most important in current history. (Jeffrey Bruno • Aleteia)

Acknowledging the Armenian Genocide

Genocide. That was a word that Pope Francis used in a Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday to mark the 100th anniversary of the mass killing of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. The Pope called the Armenian Genocide the “first genocide of the 20th century.”

Genocide and Armenian are words that no U.S. president has had the guts to officially place together in a sentence.  They are only able to reflect on Armenian Remembrance Day without any mention of the word genocide.

The reason? They fear what happened diplomatically to the Holy See would happen with at a much larger scale to the United States. Turkey immediately recalled its ambassador to Vatican City in a form of protest to the Pope’s statements.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu took to Twitter to say, “The Pope’s statement, which is out of touch with both historical facts and legal basis, is simply unacceptable.”

What is really unacceptable is that the U.S. president doesn’t have the will to speak his mind on what’s a clear cut issue and stand for what’s right.

President Barack Obama said in a statement to mark the 99th anniversary of the genocide that “a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts is in all of our interests.”

Obama should take the initiative in light of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide to acknowledge the fact that it was not just a massacre, but call it what it really was: a genocide.

Even in Congress, bill after bill calling for the official recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the president and the U.S. government dies on arrival on the floor.

The main reason is direct lobbying by Turkey and the White House to thwart any passage of such a bill. Their logic is usually that any kind of official recognition by the president would “hurt relations” with Turkey.

They say that Turkey would force the U.S. to close its bases in the country and shut off access to its airspace forcing the United States to find other partners in the region to have airbases and flyover rights. In peacetime, this would be a plausible fear.

Yes, Ankara, the capital of Turkey, may withdraw its diplomats from Washington and force the U.S. to do the same with its counterparts. But it wouldn’t force the closure of the bases and airspace.

The Turks don’t want to alienate the international community by isolating itself from the U.S. and the rest of its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies.

Especially when Turkey is only a doorstep away from failed states like Iraq and Syria – which are both in the midst of a civil war and dominated by the Islamic State group.

Fighting has taken place in towns that are right along the border of Turkey – with men and women being smuggled back and forth between the countries – either to join the fight or to escape the horrors of war.

They need all the help they can get from its Western allies to keep the violence from spilling into their countryside.

The situation in the Middle East could allow the conversation to begin to officially recognize the genocide on the federal level. Which, sadly doesn’t really need to be discussed. Clearly genocide took place in the Caucasus region in the early 1900s and it was the hands of the Ottoman Turks.

While the Ottomans are no longer in power and Turkey is now a secular society in an otherwise autocratically run region, it needs to own up on the actions of its past leaders.

Just like how the U.S. government has owned up to its not-so-righteous actions like the Guatemala syphilis experiment and the conquest of the First Nations.

Politics shouldn’t be introduced into the conversation when it’s about genocide. When something happens that is clearly wrong, we as a society should be able to easily recognize it as such.

Twenty-one countries and 44 U.S. states as of February 2015 recognize the Armenian Genocide, according to the Armenian National Institute.

Maybe the current president – or whoever it may be with the 2016 presidential campaign beginning – will have the guts to add genocide and Armenian in the same sentence to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

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