By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
I reported last week on the Armenian-American community success in securing cancellation of Los Angeles City’s $845,000 contract with the Gephardt Group, for lobbying on behalf of Turkey against adoption of the Armenian Genocide resolution by Congress.
I expressed the hope that Armenians would continue their efforts to have the remaining 200 clients of the Gephardt Group terminate their contracts so that Mr. Gephardt would pay a steep price for his denialist lobbying.
Energized by their major victory in Los Angeles, Armenian-Americans should now expand their political activism to make an example of Cong. Bill Shuster (Republican-Pennsylvania) who has written an outrageous letter to members of Congress asking them not to support the pending Armenian Genocide resolution.
In a “Dear Colleague” letter sent by Cong. Shuster to all 435 House Members last month, he shamelessly urged them “to refrain from cosponsoring a resolution taking sides in a historical dispute concerning events which occurred a hundred years ago on the other side of the world.” I wonder how the Congressman feels about the Holocaust that also took place “on the other side of the world” more than 60 years ago!
In his brazen letter, Cong. Shuster casts doubt on the veracity of the Armenian Genocide, by alleging that there are “two competing narratives about what happened during the First World War to Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire.” In his twisted logic, the Congressman claims that “the events of 1915…did not constitute genocide,” because “over two million Ottoman Kurds, Arabs, and Muslims…also suffered in this conflict.” His reference to the suffering of “over two million Ottoman Kurds” during World War I is the latest lie scripted by one of the many lobbying firms working for the Turkish government.
The Pennsylvania Congressman also falsely claims that the Armenian Genocide resolution “would alienate one of our last allies in the region [Turkey] who is working hand in hand with US soldiers and our allies to combat ISIS.” Cong. Shuster must have been hiding in a cave for the last couple of years not to have known that this “important NATO ally” has orchestrated the infiltration of thousands of ISIS terrorists into Syria and supplied them with arms, ammunition and logistics. The Congressman ridiculously alleges that “adopting this [Armenian] resolution would be cataclysmic and undermine US interests.” If Turkey is such a good U.S. ally, why would it want to undermine America’s interests? Would passing a resolution condemning the Holocaust result in Germany -- our other NATO ally -- undermining US interests in Europe?
Cong. Shuster ends his letter by calling the mass murder of 1.5 million Armenians a mere “incident,” urging his colleagues “not [to] take sides in a battle to reinterpret history” and “to think twice before signing on to legislation that could cause significant damage to our relations in the region.” No wonder, the incongruously named ‘Turkish Institute for Progress’ immediately issued a statement applauding the Congressman’s letter denying the Armenian Genocide.
The Turkish Sabah newspaper reported on February 27 that two House members from New York, Democrat Yvette Clarke and Republican Lee Zeldin, have also announced their opposition to the Armenian Genocide resolution. It is noteworthy that the Armenian National Committee of America gave an F- grade to Cong. Shuster, and C- to Cong. Clark. Cong. Zeldin has not yet been graded by the ANCA as this is his first term in office.
Armenian-Americans have a year and a half until the next congressional elections to develop an effective plan to make an example of one or more of these three genocide deniers in Congress. If at least one of them is defeated, other members would think twice before playing the immoral game of genocide denialism.
Not surprisingly, Shuster, Clarke and Zeldin are three of the 130 members of the Congressional Turkey Caucus. In addition, Shuster is the Co-Chair of the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus. After one of these three unprincipled politicians is kicked out of Congress, the Armenian community should then devise a strategy to go after all 130 members of the Turkey Caucus, down from its peak of 157 members in 2012. Applying such pressure would cause more of them to leave the Turkey Caucus, and make others reluctant to join, once they realize that they too would be targeted for defeat.
Zero tolerance for genocide denialists in Congress!