24 April 2006

583) Turks are ready to confont their history. Are Armenians ready to confront the truth?

There are various reasons why the Armenian view of history has become the accepted wisdom in the world at large. No single issue moves the Armenian diaspora as much as what has come to be known as a genocide, and many Armenians, having attained positions of wealth and influence throughout the western world, have made the perpetuation of this issue their crusade. As a result, virtually all the information that we have concerning the tragic events of 1915 comes from Armenian sources, or of their sympathizers. What works to the pro-Armenians' advantage is that the western world has failed to regard the two peoples on an equal plane.. The much greater suffering endured by the Moslems of the period has been almost completely ignored.
The inherent prejudice that prevents most people from analyzing these events with an open mind presents as significant an obstacle today, as during the time of the events. It is unfortunate that the image of the "Terrible Turk" is still alive and well. Those who can overcome their ingrained bigotry and can objectively look at the genuine evidence soon become aware that what is known as "Turkish propaganda" stems mainly from sources without reason to be false. These are the very western sources that have often maintained their prejudices against the Turkish people, along with internal Ottoman documents never meant to be public relations exercises.

By contrast, the evidence for an "Armenian genocide" derives mainly from these very hostile and bigoted sources that had every reason to falsify the facts. Sources such as the British "Blue Book" (in particular, The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915- 1916," written by Arnold Toynbee; a "Wellington House" operative working for Britain's war propaganda division, a body with the purpose of demonizing the enemy), whose author is on record for revealing almost all of his sources were missionaries. Other biased sources referred to are the newspapers from the period, American diplomats who received their news almost entirely from their Armenian assistants, and even the Ottomans' German allies who often were largely affected by their Christian sympathies. Ottoman trials in 1919-20 were courts held under enemy occupation and cannot be deemed valid. Today's so-called genocide scholars overwhelmingly support the Armenian thesis, but there are very few historians among their ranks. Many conclude there was a genocide first, and then fit selective evidence to support their conclusion; in effect, working in reverse of what we would normally expect of true scholars.

After the wave of Armenian terrorism hit in the 1970s and 80s, this subject began to be studied seriously, and many specialists in Ottoman history came to reject the notion of genocide. For example, 69 Western academicians signed a 1985 statement to that effect. Targeted increasingly by ad hominem attacks, most were intimidated away from this debate. As a result, the pro-Armenians have succeeded in presenting the image that it is only the Turkish government that has come to "deny" this alleged genocide.

In the face of this malicious campaign to distort history, what stands out is that pro-Armenians rarely have expressed willingness to engage in honest debate. One must ask, if they are so certain of their facts, what would they have to be afraid of?

Why, for example, have they refused to take their case to the International Court of Justice in The Hague?

The truth is that during World War I, when the Ottoman forces were fighting on five fronts, they also faced an armed uprising of Armenians. At the instigation and with the support of Czarist Russia, Armenian insurgents sought to establish an Armenian state in an area which was predominantly Turkish. With the Russian invasion of eastern Anatolia, the degree of Armenian collaboration with the Russian enemy increased dramatically. The Ottoman army’s rear was gravely threatened when supply lines were cut by Armenian guerilla bands. Furthermore, Armenian revolutionary bands massacred the Turks of the province of Van, in anticipation of the expected arrival of the invading Russian armies. The Ottoman government’s response was to order the relocation of its Armenian subjects from the path of invading Russians and other areas where they might undermine the Ottoman war effort.

That the Ottoman State’s Armenian minority launched a bloody insurrection at the very time the country was fighting a World War goes a long way towards explaining the resultant suffering that was borne by Armenians and non- Armenians alike. Most of the casualties from both sides were victims of famine, disease and exposure, as well as inter-ethnic clashes and regular warfare. A favorite pro-Armenian source, Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, himself had written that thousands of Turks were dying daily from starvation, because few were left to till the fields; he estimated an entire quarter of the Turkish population had died of starvation alone. It is not correct to deem the great numbers of Armenians who died from the same causes as "genocide victims."

Ottoman archives which are now open to research without any restriction contain tens of thousands of documents shedding light on the relocation process. Among them are a great number of Ottoman Government directives ordering the governors, military commanders and other public officials, to implement the relocation in an orderly way, taking the necessary measures for the security of those who were being moved, with maximum care for the protection of their lives and possessions. (However, it is also a fact that orders from the central government were not always followed by local officials. As often happens with operations of great magnitude, particularly those undertaken at the last minute with limited resources and manpower, not everything went smoothly.)

In the overall implementation of the relocation the inexistence of even a disguised intent to kill and destroy is obvious. This could also be deduced from the following indications:

• All along the war the Armenian population continued to exist in most of western Anatolia, and were not subjected to the relocation process.

• Some who travelled on foot -- for lack of proper transportation -- were attacked by lawless bands and other renegade forces. Those who travelled by rail, on the other hand, arrived at their destinations unmolested.

• All along the war high level Armenian bureaucrats continued to serve in the Ottoman government.

• Contrary to overriding belief, the great wave of immigration of Armenians came well after the war was over, and after many had returned to their homes in what was left in the Ottoman Empire. The Armenian Patriarch estimated some 645,000 remained as late as 1921. 500,000 had already mostly travelled, on their own accord, to Transcaucasia alone, according to a UCLA Armenian professor. Armenians today concede one million survived. The pre-war population according to most neutral Western sources of the period (such as the Encyclopedia Britannica) was around 1.5 million. Pro-Armenian claims that 1.5 million were killed are mathematically impossible.

• Often called the "foremost authority on the Armenian Genocide," Prof. Vahakn Dadrian himself had written (in Sept. 21, 2004) that "in 1916 ... the genocide had all but run its course." He was referring to the relocation policy, but it is obvious such a policy in itself cannot be termed a genocide. (Otherwise, the movement of W.W.II Japanese-Americans would be similarly defined.) The question must also be asked that if this process was the kind of Hitlerian "Final Solution" it is often compared to, why should it have come to a halt so soon?

• The 1948 U.N. Convention on Genocide requires "intent" to be proven. Aside from hearsay, there is absolutely no factual evidence proving any such thing. Similarly, the Armenians had been a “political group” aiming to ethnically cleanse the Turks in a sizeable part of eastern Anatolia, in an effort to establish their own independent state. “Political groups” are not among the groups protected under the Genocide Convention.

• A "Nuremberg" was held at the end of the war, in the form of the Malta Tribunal (1919-1921). The British desperately sought the evidence to convict accused Ottomans, numbering over 140 at one point. The U.S. State archives was their last resort (significantly, the very foundation of most "Armenian genocide evidence" today), and the British Embassy in Washington delivered the following message on July 13, 1921: "I regret to inform your Lordship that there was nothing therein which could be used as evidence against the Turks who are being detained for trial in Malta." Consequently, without going to trial, every single prisoner was freed.

• Some 1,600 Turks were, on the other hand, taken to tribunals and court martials during the war in their own country, for crimes against Armenians. Most were convicted, and over sixty were given the death penalty.

The truth is that the Armenians’ portrayal of themselves as the helpless victims of "The First Genocide of the 20th Century" is without any basis. Even that claim is inaccurate; there were systematic extermination campaigns earlier in the century preceding the Armenians, as in Albania, South West Africa, and the Philippines.

Often ignored, the Balkan Turks were victims of an enormous ethnic cleansing campaign, also preceding the Armenian experience. Once again, it is prejudice that prevents the world at large from recognizing the tremendous tragedies the Turks had suffered.

During 1918-1920, the newly formed Republic of Armenia had systematically exterminated their own Azeri Turks, constituting some 38% of their population. During and after World War I, the Armenians also killed over half a million Ottomans, mostly Turks but including other Muslims, as well as Jews, numbers that are documented in the Ottoman archives. Few Western sources will corroborate this very unknown tragedy, because Turkish lives were generally regarded as "less human." A British colonel by the name of Wooley, according to the U.S. Archives, estimated 300,000-400,000 Ottoman Muslims were killed by Armenians in three districts alone.

If Armenia adopts a realistic attitude and is not fearful of confronting its past, a mixed commission to investigate the issue could be established. In this context, first, the two parties should set up a mixed committee of Turkish and Armenian historians. Second, they should declare that they will open their respective archives without any restriction for research. Third, representatives from an international organization, for instance UNESCO, should be a part of this process, assuming the role of public notary.

If the Armenian side is truly certain about the righteousness of its claim, it should not hesitate to espouse this proposal and thus contribute to bringing clarity to this period of our mutual history.

On behalf of the joint 127 NGOs’ initiative
Prof. Dr. Aysel Eksi


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