By Emil Danielyan
The two main Armenian advocacy groups in the United States have issued differing assessments of President George W. Bush’s annual April 24 statement in which he avoided using the word genocide, while describing the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as “an appalling tragedy of the 20th century.”
The Armenian Assembly of America said it is “disappointed” with Bush’s failure to explicitly term the mass killings “genocide” but believes that he “clearly increased pressure on Turkey” to do so. It also praised Bush for calling on Ankara to normalize its relations with Yerevan.
The more hard-line Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), for its part, accused Bush of “again breaking his pledge to properly recognize” the tragedy.
In a long awaited message to the influential Armenian-American community, Bush said: “Today, we commemorate an appalling tragedy of the 20th century, the massacre of as many as 1.5 million Armenians through forced exile and murder at the end of the Ottoman Empire. These horrific killings left wounds that remain painful for people in Armenia, in Turkey, and around the world.”
"Today is an occasion for the world to reflect upon and draw lessons from these terrible events. It is a day for recognizing that demonizing others lays the foundation for a dark cycle of hatred," said Bush. "Transcending this venomous pattern requires painful introspection about the past and wise determination to forge a new future based on truth and reconciliation.”
In June 2000, during his White House run, then-candidate Bush wrote to the Armenians to affirm that the embattled Ottoman Empire had conducted “a genocidal campaign that defies comprehension” from 1915 onwards. But he has avoided using the word since then, mindful of U.S. ally Turkey’s vehement objections.
The Armenian Assembly said despite that, Bush’s latest statement was still a step forward for the Armenians because it sent “a clear signal to Turkey to come to terms with its past.” "President Bush has obviously rejected Turkey's efforts to deny the Genocide and equate Armenian and Turkish suffering at the beginning of the last century,” Assembly chairman Peter Vosbikian said in a statement on Wednesday.
The ANCA, however, claimed that Bush’s remarks testify to Washington’s continuing “complicity in the Turkish Government's denial the Armenian Genocide." "We were particularly disappointed by the President's use of terms such as 'venomous patterns' and 'the dark cycle of hatred' - which cloud the clear-cut moral issues at stake in Turkey's genocide denials," Aram Hamparian, the ANCA executive director, said in a statement.
The Assembly, on the other hand, stressed Bush’s call for “Turkey's restoring economic, political, and cultural links with Armenia” and his gratitude for Yerevan's support of the U.S.-led war on terrorism in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
"Just as the United States reached out to the Armenian people to provide shelter and freedom early in the last century, so did Armenia extend a supportive hand to the American people in the immediate aftermath of September 11th,” Bush said. “Our two peoples stand together in this fight in support of values that define civilization itself.”
The Assembly also commended Bush for pledging to “increase [America’s] security cooperation with Armenia.”