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Obama On The Armenian Genocide

Touching on the the subject of my recent TRB column, and a major source of U.S.-Turkish relations, here's the relevant passage from Obama's Ankara speech:

Another issue that confronts all democracies as they move to the future is how we deal with the past. The United States is still working through some of our own darker periods in our history. Facing the Washington Monument that I spoke of is a memorial of Abraham Lincoln, the man who freed those who were enslaved even after Washington led our Revolution. Our country still struggles with the legacies of slavery and segregation, the past treatment of Native Americans.

Human endeavor is by its nature imperfect. History is often tragic, but unresolved, it can be a heavy weight. Each country must work through its past. And reckoning with the past can help us seize a better future. I know there's strong views in this chamber about the terrible events of 1915. And while there's been a good deal of commentary about my views, it's really about how the Turkish and Armenian people deal with the past. And the best way forward for the Turkish and Armenian people is a process that works through the past in a way that is honest, open and constructive.

We've already seen historic and courageous steps taken by Turkish and Armenian leaders. These contacts hold out the promise of a new day. An open border would return the Turkish and Armenian people to a peaceful and prosperous coexistence that would serve both of your nations. So I want you to know that the United States strongly supports the full normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia. It is a cause worth working towards.

To my ears this sounds like Obama is laying the groundwork to break his promise and disappoint the Armenians on April 24 by issuing a traditional proclamation (on the recognized day of genocide memorial) that does not include the magic g-word.

But in comments afterhis speech Obama was more forceful, adding: "[M]y views are on the record and I have not changed views." But the question is whether Obama reiterates those views in his official capacity. That's what the Armenians have been desperate to see him to. And while there are sound arguments against inflaming the Turkish public with such an act, that is what Obama, as a candidate, explicitly promised he would do.

--Michael Crowley