FLASHBACK: In 2000, Candidate Bush Called Armenian Massacre A ‘Genocidal Campaign’

bushthumbs22.jpg Today, President Bush announced his opposition to a new congressional resolution labeling the Ottoman massacres of Armenians a “genocide.” Between 1915 and 1923, as many as 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Turks. From Bush’s press briefing today:

I urge members to oppose the Armenian genocide resolution now being considered by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. We all deeply regret the tragic suffering of the Armenian people that began in 1915. This resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings, and its passage would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in NATO and in the global war on terror.

But when Bush was running for president in 2000, he wrote a letter to the Armenian National Committee affirming that the Armenians were “subjected to a genocidal campaign.” He promised that if “elected president,” he would make sure that the United States “properly recognizes” the tragedy. From his letter:

The twentieth century was marred by wars of unimaginable brutality, mass murder and genocide. History records that the Armenians were the first people of the last century to have endured these cruelties. The Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies comprehension and commands all decent people to remember and acknowledge the facts and lessons of an awful crime in a century of bloody crimes against humanity. If elected President, I would ensure that our nation properly recognizes the tragic suffering of the Armenian people.

Iraq war politics may be part of the reason Bush is now opposing the resolution. In the White House briefing today, spokeswoman Dana Perino said, “[W]e have 160,000 of our troops in harm’s way in Iraq, and Turkey has been a very valuable ally, and their strong reaction — negative reaction about this resolution is what caused the president to come out today and ask members of Congress to oppose it.”

Turkey’s government is currently considering “a cross-border military operation to chase separatist Kurdish rebels who operate from bases in northern Iraq.” The Bush administration is pressuring Turkey’s parliament to oppose the move, which “could open a new war front in the most stable part of Iraq.”

Perino noted that Bush instead prefers to issue a “presidential message” each year to commemorate the tragedy.

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