In August 1939, Hitler gave a military order to exterminate the Jews. They should be sent to their death “mercilessly and without compassion,” he stated. And then he added: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

Those chilling words are the only reason anyone needs for characterizing the slaughter of Armenians as genocide.

One, because that’s what it was. What else do you call the systematic murder of anywhere from 500,000 to 1.5 million people?

Two, because — as the quote from Hitler proves — every time genocide happens and we turn our heads the other way, some other ruthless leader is encouraged to commit the same atrocities, believing he too can get away with it.

We looked the other way in Rwanda, for example — and look what’s happening now in Darfur.

There’s only one reason for not declaring as genocide the mass murder of Armenians: because modern-day Turkey doesn’t want us to. They’re threatening to stop supporting our war in Iraq, unless we agree to remain silent. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice even warns that offending Turkey might “harm American troops in the field.”

How? How could standing up for what’s right — how could taking a stand against mass murder — harm our troops in the field?

If Turkey wants us to abandon our values and condone mass killing as the price for their cooperation in Iraq, that’s too high a price to pay for their support.

Better to lose the war than lose our soul.