On April 24th, the Biden administration released a statement recognizing the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Empire. To this day, Turkey, the successor of the Ottoman Empire, has refused to entertain the idea that genocide ever took place. The United States has followed suit with Turkey up until now even though this recognition has been made by other countries for years.
During the First World War, the Ottoman Empire, the precursor to modern Turkey, massacred and deported over one million Armenians and other ethnic groups in a massive ethnic cleansing campaign. These genocidal polices led to the creation of the modern Turkish nation.
What does it really matter if there is “recognition” for the atrocities of the past? This can be partially answered by a quote from Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazis during the invasion of Poland and before the genocidal policies against the Jews, when he said in 1939, “who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” Erasing and forgetting the crimes of the past creates a culture of impunity that make future crimes easier to commit.
On the surface, of course the US recognition of this genocide is a positive and necessary step forward. But on a more fundamental level, how can America declare its recognition of the Armenian genocide when America has never reckoned with the American genocide of indigenous peoples on this continent? This hypocrisy was not lost on Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has since threatened to recognize the United States’ genocidal policies towards the Native Americans. Regardless of Erdoğan’s intentions for raising this question, what has the United States government ever done to recognize the crimes against North America’s indigenous peoples or offer any meaningful restitution?
Unfortunately, the horrors don’t stop there.
How about the US’s genocidal policies in Vietnam that killed as many as two million civilians, and poisoned countless others with Agent Orange, which is still causing birth defects this many years later? How about the US’s support for Guatemala’s military junta that killed or “disappeared” more than 200,000 Mayan indigenous people? How about the US’s unwavering support for Israel’s violence and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people? How about the US’s massive support for Saudi Arabia’s campaign in Yemen that has created the worst humanitarian disaster on the planet?
The United States knows how to recognize genocide… it’s the pot calling the kettle black!