Armenian Genocide

The White House Did What?

The White House has affirmed its recognition of the Armenian Genocide for the second time under the Biden administration, marking an anniversary that has been controversial for a number of his predecessors. Despite longtime bipartisan support for recognition of the genocide, the United States only formally acknowledged the atrocity last year when President Joe Biden became the first president to use the term “genocide.”

Biden observes Armenian Genocide anniversary

Biden’s acknowledgment of the genocide last year on the 106th anniversary of the day generally recognized as its beginning marked the first time the White House had ever described it as such.

This year the Biden administration has once again issued a statement describing it as a genocide, cementing United States recognition of the atrocity as the first genocide of the 20th century.

April 24, 1915 is typically understood the be the day the Armenian Genocide began, with hundreds of Armenian intellectuals and leaders rounded up by authorities in Constantinople.

1.5 million Armenian Christians were ultimately killed, along with hundreds of thousands of Greeks and Assyrians.

These Christian minorities had lived in what is now Turkey for thousands of years, and the death marches and concentration camps they were sent to were designed to permanently remove them from the Ottoman Empire.

Eliminating the Armenians allowed Turkish leaders to save face following their failure to defeat Russia in World War I by blaming a scapegoat population whose removal would create an ethnically cohesive modern Turkey.

A controversial recognition

Despite the scale of the atrocity and the premeditated fashion in which it was carried out, much of the world has struggled to convert knowledge of the massacres into official condemnation of them as genocide.

Turkey still actively denies the accusation and, as a member of NATO, it has been able to stall international attempts at recognition.

Biden’s departure from precedence last year followed an almost unanimous agreement from Congress in 2019 that the United States should formally recognize the Armenian Genocide.

The Trump administration rejected the resolution, agreeing with previous administrations that the move would be detrimental to relations with Turkey.

Biden’s decision to formally recognize the genocide likely has much to do with the fact that Trump declined to do so; the Biden administration has done everything possible to distance itself from Trump’s policies.

Biden received criticism recently for accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of carrying out a genocide in Ukraine, an accusation widely seen as stretching the term. If “genocide” is to be thrown around loosely then it is important for the White House to stick to its recognition of the first modern genocide.

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