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Los Angeles Times Editorial: President Biden, call it by its name: the Armenian genocide

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The Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Times is calling on US President Joe Biden to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide.

In an article, the Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Times says that the US President should do so by using “honest and accurate terminology” on the forthcoming Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day on April 24.

When the anniversary of the start of the massacre arrives, he can and should call it a genocide, a term that only one president — Ronald Reagan — has previously used in that context. And even then, Reagan made the reference as an aside in a proclamation about another atrocity, the Holocaust,” the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board writes, referring to the 40th President of the United States Ronald Reagan’s 1981 April 22 proclamation where he, in part, said: “”Like 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 — the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten.

Deniers of the Armenian genocide — led by the Turkish government — claim that while predominantly Christian Armenians did indeed die in Turkey through violence and starvation before, during and after World War I, so too did Jews and Muslims. But that false equivalency dances around the question of why they were killed. Victims of indiscriminate war differ from people targeted over their ethnicity,” the LA Times writes. 

It’s factually correct that Armenians weren’t the only ones who perished in the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, but that argument denies the truth. It’s like countering the grotesque reality of the Nazis’ systematic effort to eradicate Jews — the unforgivable crime against humanity that first earned the term “genocide” — by arguing that it wasn’t so bad because other people died, too. That’s offensively absurd.

The issue has proved to be particularly thorny for the United States. Turkey has long been a military ally (it’s a fellow member of NATO), and the U.S. maintains a significant military presence at the Incirlik Air Base. But relations have frayed in recent years, propelled by Turkey’s move toward better relations with Russia (which has been selling Turkey military equipment) and its attack on U.S.-backed forces in northern Syria. That broke the dam in Congress, which voted in 2019 to recognize the Armenian genocide.

But Congress is not the White House, which determines U.S. foreign policy. President Obama had a golden opportunity to fulfill a campaign promise and drop the pretense in 2015, the centenary of the start of the Armenian genocide, but stopped short despite using the Armenian term for it, meds yeghern, and stating that “beginning in 1915, the Armenian people of the Ottoman Empire were deported, massacred and marched to their deaths. Their culture and heritage in their ancient homeland were erased. Amid horrific violence that saw suffering on all sides, one and a half million Armenians perished.” The Trump administration stuck with that position, too.

That brings us to Biden, who arguably entered the Oval Office with the deepest and broadest understanding of U.S. foreign policy of any newly inaugurated president since George H.W. Bush. But he also has historically positioned himself as a moderate pragmatist. To be sure, foreign policy can be a multidimensional chess match in which the idea isn’t necessarily to win, but to make sure your opponents lose. But here, what’s important is the truth and an honest recognition of history. Biden needs to call the Armenian genocide by its name.”

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