It is time the United States calls the systematic murder of Armenians from 1915-23 a genocide, Knox Thames, former State Department special advisor for religious minorities, writes in an opinion piece published by Newsweek.
According to him, doing so confirms the historical record and reaffirms the United States’ commitment to those suffering from mass atrocities.
April 24, the upcoming day remembering victims, provides President Joe Biden the right moment to set the historical record straight.
“There is no historical question of whether these atrocities happened. There is no legal question about what to call them. But there is a political question about what to say,” Thames writes.
Not since President Ronald Reagan has the White House referred to the events of 1915 as the Armenian genocide, although both houses of Congress did vote overwhelmingly to pass the Armenian Genocide Resolution in 2019. As a senator, Biden vigorously supported recognition throughout his more than three decades in office. As a presidential candidate, he pledged to recognize the Armenian genocide, stating that “failing to remember … only paves the way for future mass atrocities.”
“Regarding the Armenian genocide, President Biden is presented with a unique confluence of events allowing him to set the historical record straight. He leads a new administration while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan implements increasingly problematic policies. With this window of opportunity, now is the time to call a genocide a genocide. Waiting will only make things more complicated for the administration,” Knox Thames writes.
International politics aside, it is the right thing to do, he says.
“A genocide happened. Using the “G” word describes the facts. Sure, some Turks won’t like it and Erdogan will huff and puff, but many will agree it is true. The United States should not muzzle itself for short-term, ephemeral gains with an unsteady ally. We should prioritize enduring truth over worthless concessions. As then-candidate Biden said, “silence is complicity,” the former State Department official says.
“The Armenian genocide happened. Candidate Biden recognized this and I hope President Biden will say the same on April 24,” he concludes.
Knox Thames served as the State Department special advisor for religious minorities under both the Obama and Trump administrations. He is writing a book on 21st century strategies to combat religious persecution.