In a White House statement, President Joe Biden remembered the Armenian genocide, honours those who suffered, and renews America’s pledge never to forget. The United States promises to stand up against hate, advocate for human rights, and ensure everyone can live with dignity and respect.

The Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Turks began on April 24, 1915. “In the days, months, and years that followed, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths – leaving families forever broken and generations forever changed,” Biden stated.

President Biden became the first American president to recognise the Armenian genocide on April 24, 2021, and debunked the Turkish myth that it never happened. Previous presidents did not acknowledge it because they did not want to anger Turkey, a Nato ally. They merely issued statements condemning the killings but never used the word “genocide”.

In 2005, the Bush administration compelled John Evans, the US ambassador to Armenia, to retire early because he publicly acknowledged the undeniable reality that the Armenian genocide marked the inaugural genocide of the twentieth century.

But even President Obama, who, as a presidential candidate, had promised the Armenian American community to recognise it and had criticised the Bush administration for its position, reneged on his promise when he became president.

For decades, Turkey’s paid lobbyists in Washington DC, and pseudo-scholars in many American colleges and universities perpetuated the lie that the Armenian genocide never took place.

The Turks were egregiously dishonest in their denial of the Armenian genocide, even propagating a myth that Turkey provided refuge for Jews fleeing the Holocaust. In Turkey, they alleged, the Turks accepted, tolerated and treated fairly the Jews, which was far from the truth.

Regrettably, recent US policies do not align with President Biden’s pronouncements and goals. In the fall of 2023, the American government did the minimum to prevent the Turks and the Azerbaijanis from their slayings and ethnic cleansing of 120,000 Armenians from their ancestral land, Nagorno-Karabakh. The Biden administration also endorsed the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey despite that country’s brutal human rights record, aggression towards its neighbours, and double game in the war in Ukraine.

“Playing Moscow’s comrade and friend is inconsistent with being a member of Nato,” wrote Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute.

“Turkey is buying Russian weapons, inhibiting allied naval operations in the Black Sea, and resisting allied sanctions against Moscow. Who in the alliance believes Ankara can be relied on if Nato ends up at war with Russia?”

Supplying weapons to a nation without considering the potential consequences of their future use against either America’s allies or the United States itself is a reckless decision. The case of Iran serves as a poignant reminder of this.

US arms and support sustain the Turkish occupation in north Cyprus, exacerbating the security concerns of Greek Cypriots. American weaponry enables Turkish occupation in significant swathes of Syria, where Kurdish and Yazidi populations face relentless attacks. The Netanyahu administration uses American arms to commit acts of violence in Gaza, as underscored by harrowing reports from the UN, revealing the existence of mass graves within the area.

Indeed, it is probable that the situation would have been more dire under Trump, whose primary concerns revolved around personal gain and wealth. However, this does not absolve the Biden administration of its obligations or shortcomings in developing a credible and consistent foreign policy.

For the United States to maintain credibility, it must consistently uphold the rule of law, regardless of whether dealing with allies or adversaries. Failing to confront aggression in the eastern Mediterranean undermines American and Western endeavours in Ukraine and diminishes America’s global reputation. It conveys that no one should believe the United States is pursuing an international rule-based order.

Upholding an international order founded on the rule of law is morally imperative and crucial for America’s top national interest. The United States must steadfastly maintain this principle, prioritising it over lesser concerns or immediate strategic gains. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, Turkey’s aggressive behaviour, and the war in Gaza underscore the peril of ignoring international law and human rights.

The Turks did not perpetrate one, but two genocides. The other one, which is lesser known to the world, is the genocide against the Ottoman Greeks and Assyrian Christians. (The Genocide of the Ottoman Greeks: Studies on the State-Sponsored Campaign of Extermination of the Christians of Asia Minor (1912-1922) and Its Aftermath: History, Law, Memory. 2012, by Tessa Hofmann, Matthias Bjornlund, Vasileios Meichanetsidis). The Turks committed both the Armenian and Greek and Assyrian genocides to cleanse Anatolia, present day Turkey, from all non-Muslims and to create their own homogeneous, Muslim, Turkish state.

They did not spare the Jewish community either. Through economic warfare and forcible expulsions from their homes, they forced thousands of Jews to leave Turkey (Corry Guttstadt, 2013). In Kemalist Turkey, the slogan was “Turkey for the Turks” and to be a Turk, one had to be a Muslim. There was no room for non-Muslims, Christians and Jews.

 

Antonis Antoniou

Queens, New York