Let’s Kick Genocide Denialist Bill Shuster out of Congress

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By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
www.TheCaliforniaCourier.com

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!

Los Angeles Cancels $845,000 Contract With Turkey’s Lobbyist Gephardt Group

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By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
www.TheCaliforniaCourier.com

I wrote a column last August warning that the Armenian-American community and all people of good will would boycott the products and services of Anheuser-Busch, Boeing, Chevron, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, General Electric, Goldman Sachs, Google, Los Angeles Airport, National Football League, Port of Oakland, and United Airlines, unless these companies cancelled their contracts with the Gephardt Group, one of Turkey’s notorious lobbying firms.

Ironically, former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt had championed recognition of the Armenian Genocide during his long years in Congress. Yet, soon-after his retirement, Gephardt became a staunch opponent of Armenian issues by peddling Turkish denials of the Armenian Genocide. The latest contract on file with the U.S. Justice Department reveals that the Gephardt Group is paid $1.4 million a year to lobby for Turkey in Washington.

Documents filed by the Gephardt Group with the Justice Department under the ‘Foreign Agent Registration Act’ indicate that Gephardt and his colleagues contacted dozens of House and Senate Members last year to lobby against: 1) congressional resolutions on the Armenian Genocide and return of Christian Churches by Turkey, and 2) revelations that Turkey supported Islamic Jihadists during their invasion of the Armenian-inhabited town of Kessab in Syria.

More ominously, Justice Department records show that just before April 24, 2014, Janice O’Connell, Gephardt’s colleague, contacted Brian McKeon, Chief of Staff of the National Security Council at the White House and Chad Kreikemeier, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs, to modify Pres. Obama’s annual statement on the Armenian Genocide, following Prime Minister Erdogan’s deceptive and disingenuous apology for all victims of World War I in Ottoman Turkey.

Justice Department’s records also reveal that Gephardt and O’Connell traveled to Istanbul and Ankara on Turkish Airlines on March 3, 2014 to meet Turkey’s National Security Advisor. Gephardt flew from Paris to Istanbul and Ankara at a round trip cost of $1,513, while O’Connell flew from Washington, DC to Istanbul and Ankara at a round trip cost of $6,986. The two lobbyists stayed at the Conrad Hotel in Istanbul for three nights at the cost of $710 each. While in Turkey, they spent $600 on limousine service.

Last month, the Armenian National Committee of America, Armenian Assembly of America, and Armenian Youth Federation (Eastern and Western U.S.) sent over 200 letters to businesses, universities, and NGOs that are clients of the Gephardt Group and four other lobbying firms for Turkey: Dickstein Shapiro, LLC; Greenberg Traurig; Alpaytac; and LB International. One such letter asked the United Airlines to demand the lobbying firm to end its contract with the Turkish government, if not, the airline should then terminate its own contract with the lobbying firm. If neither action is taken by Feb. 28, Armenian-Americans would carry out a protest campaign against both the lobbying firm and United Airlines.

The efforts to counter Turkey’s lobbying firms already bore its first fruits. On February 23, ANCA-WR announced that Los Angeles World Airports [LAWA], a wholly-owned entity of the City of Los Angeles, has decided to terminate its contract worth over $845,000 with the Gephardt Group, after ANCA called upon Mayor Eric Garcetti last December, “to end any ties between the City of Los Angeles and Dick Gephardt.”

ANCA-WR Chair Nora Hovsepian applauded “LAWA and City of Los Angeles officials for their principled stand enforcing a zero-tolerance policy against deniers of genocide. LAWA’s action reflects the highest standards of good governance and reinforces the proud standing of Los Angeles as a leader — nationally and internationally — on issues of genocide prevention and human rights. As a genocide denier, Gephardt does not deserve a single dollar from the citizens of Los Angeles, and should have no association with our city.”

According to U.S. Government documents obtained by ANCA-WR, the Gephardt Group “had a contract worth over $845,000 with LAWA, which was agreed to in 2012 during the term of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Since the approval of the contract with LAWA, the Gephardt Group has been drawing over $23,000 a month for its work for the airport, while simultaneously representing the interests of the Turkish Government against the interests of the Armenian-American community.”

After this first major victory, Armenian-Americans should continue urging the remaining 200 companies that are clients of the Gephardt Group and other lobbying firms hired by Turkey to terminate their contracts, because hiring genocide denialists is patently unethical and bad for business!

Who is Responsible for Turning Erdogan into a Fanatical Tyrant?

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By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
www.TheCaliforniaCourier.com

When the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, its founder, Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared like a devout Muslim seeking to eliminate corruption and improve the standard of living of Turkish citizens.

During the last 13 years, Erdogan gradually turned into a corrupt despot, assuming the airs of a modern-day Ottoman Sultan. Was he a wolf in sheep’s clothing to start with, or was he spoiled by the international community’s blind support and lavish praise? Notably, Pres. Obama had called Erdogan one of five world leaders with whom he felt especially close. Obama and other heads of state have finally realized that the monster they created is out of the bottle and out of control! The primary victim of misplaced trust in Erdogan was none other than Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

To show how arrogant Erdogan and Turkey’s top leaders have become, here are excerpts from their recent public pronouncements, as documented by The Middle East Media Research Institute:

In a speech on January 21 at the Parliamentary Union of Islamic Countries in Istanbul, Erdogan, sounding like an ISIS leader rather than President of a NATO member state, urged Muslim countries to “unite and defeat the successors of Lawrence of Arabia who seek to disrupt the Middle East.” He went on to accuse the West of plotting against the Islamic world and causing Muslims to kill one another.

During his recent visit to Djibouti, Erdogan boasted: “Turkey is a powerful country. If you [European Union] still see Turkey as a country that would beg at your [EU’s] door, Turkey is not a country to beg.” In response to earlier European criticism of media crackdowns in Turkey, Erdogan told EU leaders to “keep your insights to yourselves,” and added: “Take the trouble to come to Turkey, so that Turkey can teach you a lesson in democracy.”

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus, while accompanying Erdogan on his African trip, shamelessly played the race card, telling the locals: “For the first time since the Ottomans left, Africans are seeing a white hand that does not exploit, enslave or punch them in their heads; a white hand that does not exploit their mines, eliminate their values, assimilate them or see them as subhuman. They are seeing the white hand of Turkey, which sees them as equals and as brothers…. We are trying to help the rebirth of these black-skinned but warm-hearted people.” Kurtulmus was probably hoping that his African listeners would be unaware that Erdogan frequently uses the derogatory and racist term ‘zenci’(black) to describe lower class people!

Not to be outdone by Erdogan and Kurtulmus in arrogance or religious fanaticism, Prime Minister Davutoglu told a large Turkish gathering in Zurich last month: “Islam is Europe’s indigenous religion, and will continue to be so. Despite the roadblocks, prejudices and many provocations, Turkey will continue to walk on the road to EU membership…. With Allah’s grace, we will never bow our heads. We are the grandchildren of the heroes who fought at Gallipoli, who never bowed their heads. In 2002, when we came to power, they [EU] said that Turkey was too poor, too weak a country that would become a burden on Europe. Thank Allah, today Turkey is the rising power of the world…. We are not a burden for Europe. Turkey is the cure for Europe! Turkey is the cure for their disease of racism. We are the cure to their economic slowdown. We are the cure to their loss of power…. From Andalusia [Spain] to the Ottomans, and, half a century ago with the holy march of our people who came here from every corner of Anatolia, the sound of the azan [Muslim call to prayer] brought these heroes to Europe. The domes of the mosques with which they dotted this continent will be protected; we will continue to fight against the hands that reach out to harm them. I kiss the foreheads of my brothers who carried the Tekbir [the prayer call ‘Allahu Akbar’] to Zurich…. How holy those people were who came and sowed the seeds here which will, with Allah’s help, continue to grow into a huge tree of justice in the center of Europe. No one will be able to stop this!”

Davutoglu persisted in making absurd and arrogant statements last week, this time in Ankara, telling minority representatives: “We will teach a lesson to racists in Europe.”

Support the Victims of Police Brutality in Armenia

According to İndigogo Men beaten, women & children attacked, cars destroyed, cameras & phones seized ….in Armenia. Why?

 

Appeal for Financial Support to Compensate Armenian Victims of State-Sponsored Terror Committed on January 31, 2015

Dear Friends,

The regime in Armenia and its subordinates in Stepanakert committed a large-scale state-sponsored terrorist act on January 31, 2015.  The police, including Special Forces units armed with sniper rifles and automatic weapons, brutally attacked the motorcade of “The Centennial Without this Regime”.  The participants of the motorcade, which included entire families, were completely peaceful.  Their point was only to distribute information and yet, the police who were supposed to protect them attacked them.

The police blockaded the peaceful motorcade on the Syunik to Artsakh highway. Despite the fact that the participants obeyed the demand of the police that the motorcade should turn around, the police attacked them as they were trying to turn around and leave.  Several, among them Artsakh war heroes and an independent journalist, were brutally beaten and required hospitalization.  Others, including women and children, were assaulted; all the while the vehicles themselves were being attacked and severely damaged.

As a result of this violent attack, organized by the regime, 20 vehicles were damaged, 3 professional cameras were seized from the journalists, numerous smart phones, which were being used to record the mayhem, were violently taken from the participants.  The total amount of the damages is around $40,000.00.

Most of the individuals who have suffered monetary damages have modest economic means, which makes it very difficult for them to replace or repair their material losses.  We must help them compensate their damages.  We must do it not just because they need and deserve it, but because whatever our beliefs we must keep Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Movement safe in Armenia.  The way to do that is to lend a helping hand to the innocent people who suffered only because they exercised what should be their right in their own country.

In whatever way you can, take this small but incredibly valuable moment to help, and share this story with your friends and family!

For those who can not make a donation with a Credit Card or PayPal through Indiegogo, you may contribute directly to Founding Parliament by other means provided at http://himnadir.am/donate

Below is the full video, clearly showing the despicable nature of the attack.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbF33yx8jpo:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/support-the-victims-of-police-brutality-in-armenia

Letter to Harut Sassounian (California Courier)

Dear Mr. Sassounian!

Re: Prof. Auron Blasts Israel’s President For Calling ‘Armenian Genocide’ a Massacre, dtd. 10. February 2015

I really am sorry for you that you have to live through these rather frustrating times. Your terrorism (ASALA) didn’t work. Supporting the PKK lead to nothing.Your propaganda since 1958 seems to have failed miserably too. Depression is a fruit of frustration, and hopefully it doensn’t kill you.You might think that what doesn’t kill you, makes you strong! But don’t you worry, those who die early are dead longer.

Why do I think you must be frustrated? After the official refusal by the governments of Australia, Germany and the UK, you now have the State of Israel refusing to acknowledge your historical myth. Considering all your futile efforts in the so called centennial, it must not only be frustrating but hurtful and agonizing. Such bad luck! Yes, hard luck old chap.

If there was a grain of decency in you Sir, you would at least acknowledge and show sadnes about the indescriminate atrocities committed by Armenian armed forces in the 20th century
on innocent civilians in Kochali and other parts of Karabag.

You, Sir, have made a habit of labelling everyone who do not agree with your version of history as “Genocide Deniers”. Interesting also how you misuse the position of an Israeli academic who works for an Armenian University in Yerevan. I can imagine what could happen to him should he dare disagree with the Armenian version of the story! Even poor Hasan Cemal got his portion of Armenian fanaticism during a recent lecture in Armenia.

Mr. Sassounian; you are not the youngest anymore, do yourself a favour and get rid of your evil thoughts, because your thoughts become actions, your actions then become a habit, and your habits determine your character. What sort of heritage are you going to leave behind for future Armenian generations? At your age, I would think of that intensively and sincerely.

Kufi Seydali

Kufi Seydali