April 24 was the 100th anniversary of the Ottoman Turkish genocide against Christian Armenians in which as many as one and a half million Armenians were murdered. This has left an unbearably painful traumatic wound in the psyche of the Armenian community and a devastating blow to their national self-esteem. They demand that Turkey accept responsibility and guilt for this atrocity. Turkish President Erdogan contemptuously mocks such pressure from Armenians and others as "misguided," calling Pope Francis's statement, "nonsense," that this was "widely considered the first genocide of the 20th century." He defends the slaughter as a regrettable but justifiable result of civil war. With President Obama and his advisors refusing to name this atrocity, genocide, as he had promised Armenians in his 2008 presidential campaign based on incontrovertible historical proof, he chose to appease President Erdogan for fear of losing his military support in the Middle East. Sadly, Obama joins an inglorious pantheon of holocaust deniers, including all American presidents since 1915. This has had the effect of pouring more salt in the Armenian community's post-traumatic wound. The most poignant analogy would be the impact on Jews of denying Hitler's genocide against them. Even Germany, an ally of the Ottoman Turks at the time of this massacre, the European Union and most American and European newspapers use the term genocide to describe this tragedy.
From a psychoanalytic perspective, naming something identifies its reality. Refusing to name it implicitly denies its existence. The most salient psychological issue is whether appeasing Turkish President Erdogan to ensure his military backing was worth compromising America's moral integrity? Appeasing a dictator has a morally repugnant connotation, since Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Adolph Hitler. The question is whether America can afford to risk losing Turkey as an ally? I believe, the answer is, yes! America is the most powerful country in the world, militarily. Although Middle Eastern terrorism poses a threat to our country, it is far from endangering our survival at this time. Moreover, we have numerous allies in the region, including Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The loss of Turkish bases would undoubtedly make it difficult for us, but we would be more than able to adequately compensate in our fight against terrorism. The weakening of America's moral integrity was not worth this appeasement. President Obama, as America's chief representative, appeared hypocritical, not only to the Armenian community and America at large, but also in the eyes of the world.
The vast majority of Americans would have been proud of him and our country if he had the courage to honor his promise and stand up to the political blackmail of a dictator by recognizing and using the term, genocide, instead of further tearing the scab off the intergenerational wound in the Armenian psyche. President Obama still has the opportunity to repair the damage. I would strongly encourage him to revisit this challenge and honor his promise.