Los Angeles Daily News
April 22 2015

Dear Mr. President:

Last week, the Pope caused an international incident by speaking
the truth.

At a Mass at Saint Peter's Basilica celebrated for Christians of
Armenian heritage, Pope Francis spoke plainly about the Armenian
Genocide, the extermination of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman
Empire 100 years ago. When Pope Francis said that "concealing
or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without
bandaging it," it set off a sad but predictable reaction by a Turkish
government that has made the denial of the Armenian Genocide one of
its defining national characteristics.

Within hours of the Pope's remarks, Turkey recalled its ambassador to
the Vatican and its minister for European Relations was so incensed
that he did not limit his criticism to the Pope, but lashed out at
the entire nation of Argentina as well, the Pope's place of birth.

The Pope's remarks were moving and courageous, and they were in the
best tradition of his faith's commitment to peace and justice. And,
as you understand from your own experience on this issue, his remarks
were also undeniably accurate.

One hundred years ago, as the Ottoman Empire was in its dying throes,
it began a systematic effort to exterminate the Armenian, Assyrian and
Christian people during World War I. They did so through a campaign
of mass killing and displacement that saw 1.5 million Armenians killed
and millions more forced to flee from their ancestral homes. There is
no serious historical debate that the Turkish government set out on
a campaign to kill and displace its minority Armenian population, and
that its actions amounted to the crime we now call "genocide." In fact,
the coiner of the word "genocide," Holocaust survivor Raphael Lemkin,
specifically cited the campaign of murder against the Armenians as
an example of why he created the term.

Your administration has now said that you will again refrain from
using the word "genocide" to describe the campaign to exterminate
the Armenian people. I urge you to reconsider.

As a senator, you spoke eloquently of the Armenian Genocide, and
promised to be the type of president who speaks "truthfully about
the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides." Your
commitment was reflective of the reality that we cannot speak credibly
about human rights today -- whether it is the mass killings in South
Sudan or the campaign of brutality by the Islamic State against
religious minorities in Syria and Iraq -- if we pick and choose
which atrocities we are willing to recognize or allow ourselves to
be complicit in a campaign of genocide denial.

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America's silence on the first genocide of the last century is a
bitter irony, considering that American diplomats from the period,
including our ambassador Henry Morgenthau, were some of the chief
chroniclers of what the ambassador termed the "Destruction of the
Armenian race." Our country also did more than any other to alleviate
the suffering of the victims of the genocide.

Learning of the millions of Armenians who had fled into destitution
and despair, Americans reacted with a level of generosity never before
seen in the world. In response to the carnage, the Congress passed and
President Calvin Coolidge signed legislation establishing the Near
East Relief Foundation, a public-private humanitarian relief effort
that would go on to raise the modern equivalent of $2.7 billion in
funds to build orphanages, provide food and shelter, and ensure the
survival of the Armenian people.

I recognize, of course, that many will urge you to refrain from
anything that might antagonize an important ally in the fight against
Mideast extremism. They will argue that "now is just not the right
time." In fact, genocide deniers been making this argument long before
the world was plagued by the likes of the Islamic State. The reality is
that Turkey will do what it considers to be in its national interest
in the fight against terror, no more and no less and regardless of
whether we commemorate the genocide.

As we have already seen, and despite your best efforts, Turkey has
taken only modest steps to stem the flow of foreign fighters into
Syria, to halt revenues from the sale of Syrian oil from going back
to Islamic State fighters, or to assist Kurds and other minorities at
risk across the border. Our willingness to be complicit in Ankara's
campaign of silence will have little impact on Turkish actions against
the Islamic State, but will say a great deal about whether we are
willing to speak the truth about genocide to friend and foe alike.

Mr. President, you are a man of great principle and one who does not
make commitments lightly, and certainly not on a subject as weighty as
genocide. Our government's silence over the genocide is a continuing
wound to the Armenian people and all others who have suffered such
cruelty, an injury that cannot heal without recognition. As Pope
Francis implored, "it is necessary, and indeed a duty, to honor
their memory, for whenever memory fades, it means evil allows wounds
to fester."

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide,
and on behalf of the families of the millions who were lost, I ask
you to call the deliberate campaign to annihilate the Armenian people
what it was, genocide.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, is one of the primary sponsors of the
Armenian Genocide Truth and Justice Resolution.

From: Baghdasarian