I never thought I would write these words but — God bless Kim Kardashian. On her website, nestled beneath announcements of Belle Noel’s spring collection and “Jenny McCarthy’s fearless ShoeDazzle Shoe!” is a blog entry entitled, “Time to Recognize the Armenian Genocide.” In it, the reality show star reminds the world of one of the twentieth century’s earliest, and most ignored, massacres.
Kardashian, who is Armenian, reveals, “Every year, I honor the memory of the martyrs who were killed during the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Even though so many countries around the world recognize the Genocide, the government of Turkey still denies it.” And Ankara is not alone. Kardashian took the opportunity to “urge the United States government to recognize the Armenian Genocide.” Kardashian adds, “There’s going to be a National Day of Prayer in churches across America to celebrate Easter and commemorate the Genocide.”
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She is far from alone in asking the U.S. government to recognize historical reality. California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer said earlier this week the refusal to call the Muslim slaughter of 1.5 million Armenian Christians a genocide “is not only an affront to the memory of the victims and to their descendants, but it does a disservice to the United States as it seeks to stand up to those who are perpetrating violence today.”
Although Obama campaigned on a promise to acknowledge the full depth of the atrocities, he broke the promise last year. And he appears to be ready to do it again on Easter Sunday.
Eradicating the World’s First Christian Nation
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Armenia became the world’s first Christian nation, when King Tiridates III was converted by St. Gregory the Illuminator in 301 A.D. The Armenians found themselves increasingly estranged from the rest of the faithful following the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Following a series of Muslim and Persian dominations that sometimes scattered the Armenian faithful, Selim II brought the area under the Ottoman Empire in 1552, where the Armenians were accorded dhimmi status.
In 1913, the Committee for Union and Progress (CUP) came to power in the Ottoman government. Known as the “Young Turks,” their theoreticians such as Zia Gokalp espoused a racist Pan-Turkism that viewed ethnic outsiders as a threat. After quietly slaughtering the Armenian members of the armed forces, the government arrested all the Armenian leaders of Constantinople on April 24, 1915.
Over the next three years, the government killed, looted, or forcibly deported the region’s Armenian population. The Muslims force-marched the Christians into the Syrian desert without food or water, allowing them to die of thirst, starvation, or exhaustion. Often, they did not allow them to die natural deaths. Encampments were sometimes set afire, and refugees were sometimes deliberately drowned. Turkish doctors injected Armenians in Erzincan with typhoid. Dr. Vakhn Dadrian, a leading scholar of the genocide, has written, “Such systematic medical murder would today be naturally associated with Nazi doctors during the Holocaust.” All the while, the Turkish soldiers joined locals who raped and abused the Christians.
In 1916 the U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Abram Elkus, wrote that the Ottoman Muslims were perpetrating an “unchecked policy of extermination through starvation, exhaustion, and brutality of treatment hardly surpassed even in Turkish history.”
The Young Turks followed this policy from 1915-18, which was then renewed in 1920-23 by the Turkish Nationalists. In all, 1.5 million of the empire’s 2 million Armenians died.
Despite widespread knowledge of the facts, the Turks have always denied the genocide, saying the pogroms were merely an unfortunate byproduct of wartime. To this day, Turkish apologists insist the Armenians “benefited from the just, humane, tolerant and unifying traditions and beliefs of their new neighbors…In fact, the Armenians were by far the greatest beneficiaries of the opportunities offered by the Ottoman Empire to all industrious, capable, honest and straightforward citizens.” As more governments began condemning the mass atrocity, the passion of the Armenian people became a political hot potato.
“Only Reagan Didn’t Disappoint”
The Turkish government, long a secular ally of the United States, has threatened recriminations against politicians who call the period a “genocide,” so presidents of both parties have run for cover. Ronald Reagan was the last president to brand the slaughters a “genocide” in office. Reagan wrote in his in 1981 order establishing the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council that the Nazi genocide must never be forgotten, nor “the genocide of the Armenians before it, and the genocide of the Cambodians which followed it — and like too many other such persecutions of too many other peoples.” In 1988, California Governor George Deukmejian — whom Bush-41 famously said would “go down in my book as the great governor of the state of California” — passionately urged President-elect George H.W. Bush to act on his pledge to follow the Gipper. Yet both President Bushes broke campaign promises to call the slaughter a genocide. George W. Bush fought back a Congressional resolution on the issue after Turkey threatened to deny its assistance to U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq.
The issue has become a football for domestic constituencies, as well. Turkey was a rare Muslim country at peace with Israel. Pro-Israeli organizations have been loathe to acknowledge the tragedy as a “genocide” worthy of Congressional censure. In 2007, Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) fired New England regional director Andrew Tarsy for calling on the organization to recognize the Armenian genocide. Following criticism, Foxman personally did so but issued a statement this week opposing a Congressional declaration, instead calling on Armenia and Turkey to cozy up and settle their “profound differences” on the slaughter.
Reviewing presidential action and inaction, Kiro Manoyan, director of the Bureau for the Armenian Cause and Political Affairs, summed up the situation by saying, “only Reagan didn’t disappoint.”
Obama Will “Call a Spade a Spade”
Exploiting this less-than-valorous history, Barack Obama promised he would stand up to the Turks. While campaigning for Armenian support in 2008, Obama dispatched Samantha Power — the architect of our rationale for invading Libya — to record a video insisting the senator would “call a spade a spade” and acknowledge the genocide of more than 1.5 million Armenian Christians.
Candidate Obama personally vowed:
[T]he Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence. The facts are undeniable…As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Well, he lied.
As Armenians again brace themselves to remember the beginning of their families’ sorrow and dispossession on April 24 — by coincidence, Easter Sunday this year — Obama again weighs his options for his carefully worded proclamation. And Armenian Christians are betting he will again sell them out.
More than 1,000 Armenians held a protest in front of the Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California, on Thursday. Together, they shared painful family histories and asked their president to keep his promise at last.
Turks at both the highest and lowest levels are urging Obama to tow the Muslim nation’s line. But some have broken ranks. Turkish law professor Mithat Sancar has called on the government in Ankara to declare a day of mourning, blasting the nation for “refusing to address the issue.”
Will Obama have the courage of a Muslim law professor? The Turkish government is betting no. So are the Christians of the Armenian diaspora. They are probably right.
On the first Holy Week, the Apostle Peter denied Christ for fear he would suffer for his association with the Messiah. On this Good Friday, Barack Obama continues to deny the suffering of the Body of Christ out of fear and expedience.
1. Some believe this distinction belongs to Ethiopia.
2. This author is aware Dr. Dadrian has a troubled personal life.