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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Genocide-denial bill a free-speech assault

- The Washington Times - Friday, February 17, 2012

Armenian-American special-interest groups recently launched a campaign, led by Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat, and Rep. Robert J. Dold Jr., Illinois Republican, to pressure Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton into retracting her statement on the recent French legislative bill criminalizing denial of the "Armenian genocide."

Commenting on this legislation, withheld for review by France's Constitutional Council after clearing both chambers of the French Parliament, Mrs. Clinton accurately indicated that the law compromised free speech and said the issue was a matter of historical debate by scholars.

The World War I-era atrocities in the Ottoman Empire were never tried under a competent tribunal. The intent to exterminate Armenians was not established or proved, and no court verdict was issued characterizing these events in terms of the nonretroactive 1948 United Nations Convention on Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Thus, the French lawmakers sought to charge Turks with a grave crime in circumvention of a well-established legal process to cater to the ethnic interests ahead of elections.

Furthermore, according to a renowned expert on Ottoman history, professor Bernard Lewis of Princeton University, there was no "deliberate preconceived decision of the Ottoman government" to eliminate Armenians, and the claim that the inter-communal warfare atrocities were genocide constitutes only "the Armenian version of the history."

More than 518,000 Turkish civilians were massacred during World War I by the paramilitaries of Armenian Revolutionary Federation, supported by invading Russian forces in Eastern Anatolia. So Mrs. Clinton's assertion that this issue is a matter of historical debate by scholars is correct.

Encouraged by the assault on free speech in France, ethnic special-interest groups now seek to do the same in America by attempting to censure U.S. officials. Therefore, I join members of the Pax Turcica Institute and all Turkic-Americans to oppose the Schiff-Dold letter and attempts to legislate history.

CANAN SOMAY

Chevy Chase

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