Why doesn't the US recognize the Armenian genocide?

I learned about this from here several weeks ago, did a brief bit of research, and hadn’t really thought about it until I saw this article about an insurance company having to pay life insurance for those killed. It mentions that the Armenian deaths in 1915 are not recognized by Turkey or the US as genocide. Why?

Probably to avoid offending Turkey (same reason we don’t look too hard at how they treat the Kurds).

Turkey has obvious reasons not to do so. After the Holocaust, Germany went through a great period of introspection and prosecuting the perpetrators of the Holocaust. There was, and still is, a period of collective guilt over the populace’s complicitness in it, and it’s illegal to deny the Holocaust or spout Nazi propoganda in Germany today. Turkey has never done this, and they’ve never had a public moment of, “hey, this was shitty!” that other nations have had, so they have attempted to cover it up and generally dismiss the scope of the Armenian genocide. I remember a story on NPR from 2-3 years ago that was Armenian and tried to do a film on it in Turkey and ran into all sorts of trouble and harassment once the government discovered what was going on.

Because it didn’t “break” in the 1910’s or 1920’s, it’s never been noticed by history the way it ought to have been, and Americans tend to be ignorant of it in the same way they might not know about the Khmere Rouge, Stalin’s purges, the Great Leap forward, or even the Holocaust itself.

I’d agree that official US recognition hits the stumbling block of not wishing to strain relations with Turkey, a NATO member and a key player in any possible solution for stability in the Middle East. Turkey, both because of its strategic geographic position and status as a (more or less) friendly power with ties to the Muslim world, has a lot of bargaining room. Note that the UK and, ironically, Israel don’t recognize the Armenian genocide either, probably for similar reasons. Also note that recognition of the Armenian genocide is currently on the table as a condition for Turkey to be admitted to the EU. If they have to cave in to get into the EU, I would guess that official recognition by other countries would not be far behind.

Because it would be diplomatically awkward.

What do we mean by ‘recognizing’ this as ‘genocide?’ Some sort of Congressional resolution? Why bother? Are the Americans somehow the final arbiter of genocide?

For those interested in the plight of the Armenians during this period they may want to read “Forty Days of Musa Dagh”.

While a little long and slow in parts, I knew nothing about the Armenian Genocide before stumbing across this book. It is fiction, but gives you an idea of what Armenians faced. IIRC Armenians and scholars well versed in this period of history consider it to be one of the great works of fiction about this Genocide.

America does not “recognize” the Armenian genocide for the same reason we don’t mourn Julius Caeser hacking up the Britons. It happened some time ago, to people only dimly related to us, in which we had no interest, and about which we can and could have done nothing.

Ronald Reagan referred to it as a “genocide” back in the early 1980s, but no US President has since.

An interesting story is that of John Evans, the US Ambassador to Armenia, who just this year referred to it as a “genocide” in a public speech to an Armenian group. He subsequently retracted that statement, and in the process had an award for “Constructive Dissent” stripped from him by the State Department. You can read how it all went down in this article and elsewhere. Just google “John Evans” and “genocide.”

Following on the question of what it means to “recognize” a genocide, is there ANY national government that has formally recognized the Armenian genocide? I mean, besides Armenia?

From the Wikipedia article, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_genocide :

There are also many that don’t, probably to avoid straining their relations with Turkey. If the EU successfully arm-twists Turkey into recognizing it in order to join, perhaps some other countries will also.

Following on the question of what it means to “recognize” a genocide


In France, it has been “recognized” by a vote of the parliament (and it happened only quite recently, maybe ten years ago. Before that, it had been avoived for diplomatic reasons despite the active lobbying of a relatively large population of descendants of Armenian refugees).

Right. This is basically ancient history. And, it isn’t as if at this late date there are any war criminals around that could be brought to justice for this. Basically, the issue is moot.