It's time for President Trump to recognize the Armenian genocide

April 20, 2018 (released April 20, 2018)
Source: Washington Examiner

By Andy Surabian

Last April, when I was serving in the White House, President Trump paid tribute to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust by giving one of the most moving speeches of his entire presidency. During this speech, he powerfully proclaimed that, “We must never, ever shrink away from telling the truth about evil in our time... evil can only thrive in darkness.”

However, there still exists one early 20th-century atrocity that lives in darkness after all these years. Trump now has an opportunity to shine a light on the massacre of over 1.5 million Christian Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.

Each April 24, the U.S. president issues a statement commemorating this massacre. Yet instead of calling it what it is — a genocide — every president since Ronald Reagan in 1981 has sought to placate Turkey through the use of euphemisms and refused to utter the word genocide.

Thankfully, this April 24, Trump can finally end this 37-year presidential charade.

During his time in office Trump has shown bold leadership and a constant willingness to buck the bipartisan foreign policy establishment of the Obama, Bush, and Clinton years. From recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, decertifying the Iran deal, cutting off aid to Pakistan, destroying the Islamic State, and pressuring North Korea, Trump has taken Washington's foreign policy swamp head on.

He has also repeatedly spoken about Christians being massacred in the Middle East. One hundred years later, the cycle of genocide is continuing in that part of the world. He can continue his bold leadership and reinforce his standing as a protector of Christians worldwide by speaking honestly about what was the first Christian genocide of the 20th century.

The Armenian genocide was committed by Ottoman Turkey between 1915 and 1923, resulting in the deaths of millions of Armenians, as well as the displacement of many more from their Bible-era homelands.

The vast majority of scholars and historians agree that what occurred to the Armenians constitutes a genocide. In fact, Raphael Lemkin, who was originally responsible for coining the term “genocide” in the 1940s, specifically mentioned the massacre of the Armenians as part of his inspiration for coming up with the term.

But despite all the evidence of what happened, every president since Reagan has failed to bring American leadership to this issue, essentially enforcing Ankara's gag rule.

The worst of all was former President Barack Obama, who after making grandiose promises to the Armenian-American community during his 2008 campaign, showed nothing but weakness as he buckled under pressure from Turkey in embarrassing fashion. It was so bad that in a recent interview, Obama's Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and his deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes both apologized for Obama's broken promise and readily admitted that it was a mistake for him not to have formally recognized the genocide.

While the Obama administration had the chance to lead when he was in office and failed, Trump now has an opportunity to reject the weakness of his predecessors and do the right thing.

The inside-the-Beltway crowd will tell the president it can't be done. Ankara will threaten the end of the world. Turkey's lobbyists will work the swamp to stop him. "Experts" will say that Turkey deserves a veto over his words because it is an “ally," even though Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is undermining American interests, jailing American citizens for practicing Christianity, threatening to destroy Israel, and even threatening U.S. forces in Syria.

Speaking honestly and fearlessly about the Armenian genocide this April 24 is the right thing to do. It will earn us respect around the world. Turkey will understand it can't push America around. Erdogan will throw a fit, but the president should remember that strongmen like Erdogan don't respect weakness, they respect strength.

The Armenian genocide is recognized by 48 U.S. states and more than a dozen NATO allies. No president since Reagan has been better positioned than Trump to join them in recognizing it. It's time to tell the truth. It's time for Trump to call the vicious slaughtering of over 1.5 million Armenians what it really was: genocide.

Andy Surabian is a Republican strategist and former special assistant to President Trump and deputy strategist in the White House.