The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) announced the release of an updated edition of its widely-used fact sheet on the Armenian Genocide and the U.S. Record. The 11-page fact sheet provides a summary of the extensive U.S. historic record on the Armenian Genocide from Ambassador Henry Morgenthau’s earliest condemnations to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan. As the world observes the start of President Obama and Vice President Biden’s second term, with John Kerry nominated for Secretary of State, the Assembly is making the updated fact sheet available.
When the Armenian Genocide was implemented in Ottoman Turkey, the United States responded swiftly with the largest overseas humanitarian assistance program organized during World War I. This proud chapter of American humanitarianism was supported by U.S. presidents who were fully aware of the atrocities committed during the years 1915 to 1923. The American diplomatic corps, through its many eyewitness reports submitted to the Department of State, created a voluminous record on the first mass genocide of the 20th century, and it was through the services of the U.S. State Department that the first crucial international condemnation of the Armenian Genocide as a crime against humanity was communicated to the Turkish authorities. That May 24, 1915, cable transmitted on behalf of the governments of Britain, France and Russia reads:
In view of those new crimes of Turkey against humanity and civilization, the Allied governments announce publicly to the Sublime-Porte that they will hold personally responsible [for] these crimes all members of the Ottoman government and those of their agents who are implicated in such massacres.
These developments formed the early background to the U.S. position on wartime atrocities against civilians, which, in the aftermath of World War II, propelled U.S. support for the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, a position the United States expressly stated in 1951 to the International Court of Justice when it listed “the Turkish massacres of Armenians” among “the outstanding examples of the crime of genocide,” and which President Ronald Reagan affirmed in a 1981 proclamation and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia further confirmed in 1993. The Armenian Genocide was also cited as a precedent at the Nuremberg trials. However, the passage of time and the growing influence of denial efforts promoted by the government of Turkey have worked to relegate this proud chapter in American foreign policy from public awareness.
President Barack Obama, like other U.S. Presidents and officials, has taken steps to rectify this problem. President Obama has defined the events using the dictionary definition that fits the term Genocide, he has used an Armenian term, Meds Yeghern, for the Armenian Genocide in his annual April 24 Remembrance Day statements and he has referred back to his prior views as a senator and presidential candidate when he explicitly referenced the Armenian Genocide. President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the Administration also made an historic effort to reconcile Turkey and Armenia. In the universal effort to join allies and other major countries in using the term Armenian Genocide, the United States record on its own history cannot be deleted or compromised.