One of the largest Armenian diaspora groups in the US, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), has lashed out against US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for her recent remarks that using government power to pass judgment on history would open a very dangerous door, accusing her of complicity in Turkey’s denial of the alleged Armenian genocide.
“The Obama-Biden Administration -- with Secretary Clinton’s latest remarks -- continues to dig itself deeper and deeper into a hole of complicity in Turkey’s genocide denial,” ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian was quoted as saying in a piece released last week by the Armenian Weekly. The ANCA director accused Clinton of dismissing the murder of more than a million Armenians in 1915, since she said the issue was a historical debate.
Last Friday, Clinton expressed caution regarding legislation that might take a legal stance on the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915, in response to a question as to why the US has not matched a move by France, which very recently approved a bill in its Senate to make it a crime to deny the alleged Armenian genocide. Clinton stated that the US was wary of compromising free speech, and the issue should better be left for scholars to handle, AP reported.
Sidestepping the crisis between Turkey and France, both strong US allies, Clinton suggested that using “government power to resolve historical issues … opens a door that is a very dangerous one to go through,” stirring harsh reactions from the Armenian diaspora, who felt Clinton was dismissing “factual history” in exchange for good relations with Turkey.
“It’s a sad spectacle to see Secretary Clinton hiding behind cynical appeals to scholars, the overwhelming majority of whom have already spoken forcefully against Turkey’s denials of the Armenian Genocide,” Hamparian was quoted as saying by the Armenian weekly, signaling that the “Armenian genocide” has already been conclusively recognized by majority of historians, and attempts at questioning what happened back in 1915 were political. Hamparian also suggested that Clinton was remaining on the fence “to divert attention from President [Barack] Obama’s, Vice President [Joe] Biden’s, or her own promises to properly recognize this crime and, more broadly, to divert attention from the White House’s failure to meet its moral obligation to stand up against a foreign government’s veto of our defense of human rights.”
When the French Parliament put the bill on its agenda, determined to punish anyone who refused to term the killings of Armenian as “genocide” by up to one year in prison and a 45,000 euro fine, relations between Turkey and France soured with Turkey considering to cut all bilateral ties with the country in response.
Turkey views the French genocide bill as a threat to the freedom of expression, a use of legal force to take away Turkey’s right to defend its ancestors who are accused to have systematically carried out the killing of the Armenian minority in what is today’s eastern Anatolia a century ago. Turkey says the deaths were casualties of a civil war that saw deaths on both sides, with Ottomans being cornered on many fronts at the onset of World War I, and Armenians taking up arms to fight against the empire. The killings coincided with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, which held trials for the perpetrators of the Armenian killings, sentencing those responsible to death sentences in absentia, but apart from only one of them -- who was duly executed -- all fled the country for Europe.
US presidents for decades have unofficially recognized the killings as a great tragedy, but no US presidents so far have pronounced the “Armenian genocide” in the traditional yearly speeches they deliver in memory of the slain Armenians in April, the time when Armenians commemorate their ancestors. The Armenian Weekly also recalled promises from President Obama and former President Bill Clinton from the time they were running for office, saying they would recognize “genocide” once they assumed power.
Füle says illuminating history is work of historians, not politicians
Meanwhile, reactions against the French bill are still being voiced on the international stage, with recent criticism from EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle, who claimed that it was up to the historians to illuminate history, rather than politicians.
Füle opposed issuing “political declarations” with matters regarding history, saying that “such important and delicate issues should better be handled by historians within the scope of dialogue,” and by laying down facts on the table, the Anka news agency reported. Füle also noted that the controversy between Turkey and France was not something the European Commission would want to interfere with.
Although the “Armenian genocide” has gained official recognition from some 30 countries, some of them European, punishment for the refusal to term the deaths “genocide” has been introduced only in a few of them as most countries believe such criminal laws do not contribute to a dialogue between Armenians and Turks to solve the issue.