Next week (Monday, April 24) is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. April 24 is chosen for this day because on this day in 1915, the Young Turk government of the Ottoman Empire arrested over 200 Armenian leaders and deported them to Anatolia. This was the beginning of the Armenian Genocide, which had seen the deaths of approximately 1.5 million ethnic Armenians by 1923. The Armenian Genocide has been considered the first genocide of the 20th century, which has caused me to think about something.
As of this writing, only 28 countries have officially recognized the Armenian Genocide, and you may notice that among the many countries that haven’t, there is one notable example. That is the United States of America, despite having the second-largest Armenian community outside of Armenia itself.
If you think this sounds familiar, or if I have written about it, that’s because I have. Last year, I posted on my blog about then-President Obama’s failure to recognize the Armenian Genocide, despite promising to do so when he ran in 2008. The most commonly cited reason for the United States’ refusal to do so is because the Republic of Turkey – the legal successor of the Ottoman Empire – has maintained the position that the genocide was instead part of the overall violence of the concurrent World War I. In addition, Turkey is a member of NATO and a key geostrategic ally in the Middle East, and the United States government believes that we cannot afford to alienate such a major ally.
Because of this, Obama has been forced to work around this dilemma by repeatedly issuing a statement commemorating “Armenian Remembrance Day” well into 2016 – his last full year in office. Notice the lack of the word “genocide” in that phrase. However, this is hardly unprecedented, as both of Obama’s predecessors George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have also used similar language for the 90th and 80th anniversaries, respectively. Now that Obama is out of office, the task of recognizing the Armenian Genocide has fallen in the hands of one man. That man is the 45th President of the United States, Donald John Trump.
In last year’s reflection on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, I appealed to the winner of the 2016 election to recognize the events as Genocide. Since then, I have come to the conclusion that Trump will not do it. This has been rooted not only in the fact that the issue has not been brought up during Trump’s 2016 campaign or the traditionally cited realpolitik argument of maintaining positive Turco-American relations, but another, far worse reason. That reason is the long green.
No, I am not referring to the possibility of figures from the Turkish government possibly bribing Trump not to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Let me explain by (ironically) bringing up one of Trump’s most infamous acts as President: the Muslim travel ban. When Trump signed his ban on nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries, among the countries exempted were Turkey and Azerbaijan, both of whom have refused to recognize the Armenian Genocide. It has also been confirmed that Trump’s company has business interests in both Azerbaijan and Turkey. In Istanbul (the Turkish capital), Trump has licensed his name to two luxury hotels. Likewise, Trump had, before announcing his candidacy to the Presidency, entered talks to build a luxury hotel in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku. His business partner in the latter deal was part of the Mammadov family, which has long ties with the Azerbaijani government.
Now, back to the subject of the Armenian Genocide. Of course, you might be thinking: What do Trump’s business deals and travel ban have to do with his stance on the Armenian Genocide? The answer is everything. I believe that Trump will not recognize the Armenian Genocide because he has business ties in Turkey and Azerbaijan, both of whom have refused to recognize the Armenian Genocide, and he does not want to jeopardize those business deals. Just think about that: We have a President who apparently believes that his investments are more important than historical fact.
To the Armenian diaspora both in and outside of the United States, I sincerely apologize for Trump’s likely refusal to recognize the darkest chapter in your history purely out of lucre. I want you to recognize this: not all Americans agree with Trump on this issue, and there are millions of Americans (both of Armenian descent and not) who believe that the Armenian Genocide should be recognized.
God Bless the World,
The Centrist Voice