Yesterday, more than a century after it happened, the United States finally acknowledged the Armenian genocide as a “genocide.” This momentous news didn’t even make the front page.
Soon after the House voted to acknowledge the genocide on Tuesday, I searched up Google News hoping to see something about the results. The home page spoke of the House impeachment inquiry and fires in California. Much like today’s front pages from the NYT and WashPost, among other newspapers, I couldn’t find a single mention of the House voting 405–11 in favor of the Armenian Genocide Resolution. And I couldn’t help but wonder — Why?
Acknowledging the Armenian genocide has been a long and tumultuous political debate in the United States. Turkey strongly opposes the U.S. acknowledging the atrocities that the then-Ottoman empire committed against the Armenians. Many American politicians are loathe to upset Turkey, because it’s an important NATO ally and strategic location for U.S. nuclear weapons.
Yesterday’s vote was therefore incredibly historic and controversial. It is also crucially important for making sure that genocides do not happen again. But following the vote, Turkish President Erdogan said that it was “worthless and we do not recognize it.” Yet, the U.S. media still remains strangely silent on a topic that was once considered popular fodder.
One reason for this silence has to do with all the other “big news” that’s happening this week. Like the first vote on impeachment proceedings tomorrow and fires in California shutting down power grids in 29 counties.
But perhaps another reason is more demonstrative of larger political themes: U.S. ties with Turkey are so punctured at this point that the Armenian genocide vote was literally irrelevant to them.
Yesterday, the House also voted to sanction Turkey, in part due to Turkey’s support for Russia in Syria. Although it’s unlikely that the sanctions actually go into effect (they’d need Senate and presidential approval first), it’s frightening that the U.S. would even attempt to sanction a country that’s currently hosting U.S. nuclear weapons.
This brings us to two conclusions. Either U.S.-Turkish relations are so fractured that news about it isn’t even relevant anymore. Or so many other things in the U.S. are on fire right now (both literally and figuratively) that what should have been big news about the Armenian genocide was relegated to Page Two instead.