Calling his statement a "disgraceful capitulation," an Armenian advocacy group scathingly rebuked President Barack Obama for again not using the word "genocide" to refer to the killings of 1.5 million Armernians by the Ottoman Empire in 1915.
Obama referred to "the inhumanity of 1915" and "the awful events of 1915" in his Saturday statement to mark Armenian Remembrance Day.
"President Obama faced a stark choice: to honor his conscience and commitment to recognize the Armenian Genocide or to remain an accomplice to Turkey's denial of truth and justice for this crime," Armenian National Committee of America Chairman Ken Hachikian said in a statement. "Sadly, for the U.S. and worldwide efforts to end the cycle of genocide, he made the wrong choice, allowing Turkey to tighten its gag-rule on American genocide policy."
The Turkish Coalition of America, however, responded to Obama's statement by wondering when he would mark the deaths of Ottoman Turks around the same time period.
"What is, however, forgotten and even denied, is the equally tragic loss of even more Muslim lives in this turbulent period of Ottoman history," TCA President G. Lincoln McCurdy said in a statement Saturday. "The suffering of one people does not justify or negate the suffering of others, and all who lost their lives deserve to be remembered on this day of remembrance. Where does the ethnic cleansing of Ottoman Turks from the Balkans, Eastern Turkey and the Caucuses with 5 million lost and 5.5 million refugees come on the President's list of ‘worst atrocities of the 20th century?’ Do they also deserve at least an annual presidential remembrance from him, as he dutifully makes on this occasion every year?"
McCurdy said that recognizing the Muslim deaths would not "dimish Armenian suffering," but "place the Armenian tragedy in its proper historical context."
McCurdy also urged the establishment of a joint historical commission "tasked with uncovering a complete historical narrative that could pave the way for reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian people."
ANCA referred to Obama's promise as a presidential candidate that he would call the killings genocide if elected. "The facts are undeniable," Obama said in a Jan. 19, 2008, statement. "An official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy. As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as president I will recognize the Armenian Genocide."
ANCA did note that Obama didn't use Saturday's statement to push protocols between Turkey and Armenia as he did in 2009. The group said it sent the president a letter on April 7, asking him to refrain from pushing policy on the remembrance day," stating an "explanation of U.S. priorities regarding Armenia-Turkey relations or other current foreign policy issues, while certainly entirely appropriate in other settings, clearly does not belong in a Presidential April 24th statement, just as a statement of U.S. policy on the Israel- Arab peace process would not be appropriate in Presidential remarks devoted to remembering the Holocaust."
The group stressed, though, that Obama gave "euphemisms and evasive terminology to characterize this crime against humanity."
This post was updated at 3 p.m.