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An Open Letter to President Obama on the Armenian Genocide

04/21/2015 12:57 pm ET | Updated Jun 21, 2015

Dear Mr. President,

I have just one question: "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

You may recognize this quote. It is frequently cited by historians. This is what Adolph Hitler said in defense of his plans to wipe out the Jews. Hitler was referring to the Armenian Genocide.

As you well know, the Ottoman Turks kicked off their plans to wipe out the Armenians on April 24, 1915 by rounding up intellectuals and hanging them. Soon after, the mass killings began. The men were murdered and the women were raped before being forced to march through the desert with their children until they died of starvation and exposure. This was a systematic, well-organized effort with just one goal: to annihilate the Armenians. And it was largely successful -- 1.5 million Armenians were exterminated.

This is the truth. No credible historian disagrees. Neither do you. You said yourself during your 2008 presidential campaign:

Two years ago, I criticized the secretary of state for the firing of US Ambassador to Armenia John Evans, after he properly used the term 'genocide' to describe Turkey's slaughter of thousands of Armenians starting in 1915. I shared with secretary [Condoleezza] Rice my firmly held conviction that the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence. The facts are undeniable. An official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy. As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as president I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.

These words gave Armenians all over the world hope. You have been president for more than six years. Yet, since your election, you never again spoke of the Armenian Genocide. What are you waiting for? Where is the recognition? Was your intention simply to garner votes? If so, it worked. American citizens of Armenian descent contributed generously to your campaign, and they voted for you overwhelmingly. They have been let down.

You appointed Samantha Power as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. That gave Armenians even more hope. Ms. Power is the author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book largely focused on the Armenian Genocide. Yet as soon as she settled into her seat at the Security Council, she, too, lost her voice on the topic of the Armenian Genocide. Has your administration lost its moral compass? Don't fall for Hitler's line. "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

The Pope speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians. Recently, Pope Francis commemorated the centenary of the Armenian Genocide during a Mass in Rome. He knew in advance that it would upset Turkey. Yet he did not shy away from speaking the truth, and neither should you.

The Pope is not alone. The list of nations that formally recognize the Armenian Genocide is growing. It includes Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland, Russia, and 20 others. Many of these countries are intimately familiar with the facts because they welcomed survivors of the Genocide and gave them refuge.

At the time, the United States also welcomed Armenian refugees. In fact, Henry Morgenthau, U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, was among the first to extensively document the Turkish officials' plans to annihilate the Armenians.

The facts do not lie. Mr. President, you have very little time left in office. Very little time left to live up to your promises. Please don't let the Armenians down. It is time to call the Genocide by its name. It is time for you to speak. "[S]peak today of the annihilation of the Armenians."

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