Thursday, March 19, 2009

Is Obama Backing away from Calling What Happened to the Armenians a Genocide?

The LA Times says Obama is wavering on his campaign pledge to declare what happened to the Armenians a genocide. Bloggers Matt Welch and Alex Massie react. Massie:
If you think you've heard this tune before it's because you have. It's become a ritual: all Presidential candidates decry the Armenian genocide on the campaign trail and the successful ones always welsh on calling it that once they are in power. George W Bush was no exception. Realpolitik you say? Just the usual campaign stuff you have to say? Well, perhaps. But if politicians want to be taken seriously perhaps they should cease being quite so cynical.

Walch has a video of Samantha Power taken during the campaign promising the Armenian community he wouldn't back away from this pledge. If he does, will Power resign? I would find it difficult to imagine how she wouldn't. Her entire credibility as a scholar and activist is bound up in this issue.

This matters. The Armenia issue is a test case in presidential character. Obama's decision on this issue will reveal a great deal about what we can expect of him on a host of other issues regarding ongoing genocides and mass killings.

Obama is to visit Turkey in early April. The Armenians want him to make a statement on April 26, their remembrance day. So we'll know soon enough where he stands.

[Update: Re-listening to Power's video statement, she doesn't explicitly promise that a President Obama will recognize the Armenian genocide. The closest she comes is when she says that "he's someone who can be trusted." The statement leaves room for a lawyerly, not to say Clintonian, backtracking on the issue. Whether it was her intention or not to leave that loophole I can't honestly say. Still, I find it hard to imagine how she could stay on if he does backtrack.]

(h/t: Sullivan)

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