19 May 2006

683) Bias And Bigotry At The New York Times Editorial Board

Letters To The Editor
The New York Times

Bias And Bigotry At The New York Times Editorial Board

As a Turkish-American, I was stunned with the arrogant, disrespectful, and partisan stance the NYT Editorial Board took recently ("Turkey, Armenia and Denial", May 16, 2006). This ethocidal editorial almost matches the ignorant fanaticism displayed by the same board in 1915 when they published, without bothering to verify their accuracy, about 145 prejudiced stories designed to demonize Turks, with no rebuttals or refutations allowed for Turks. Such a poor standard in journalism and total lack of objectivity and balance would be unthinkable today. It would not be stretching the truth too far, therefore, to conclude that the NYT is one of the major reasons behind the U.S. entry into the World War I. It is unfair and un-American to attack a group of people with baseless accusations and then not give them a chance to respond. Whether one is right or wrong is not at issue here; one's freedom of speech and the reader's freedom of information are.

We know through sound historical research in British and American archives, for example, that most of those 1915 racist stories had been sent in by Armenian nationalists, protestant missionaries, allied diplomatic corps, and others who shared one common thread: they were all extremely hostile to Turks at the time and wanted nothing less than the total destruction of the Ottoman Empire for their own selfish interests. It helps to refresh minds that Turks did not fight in London, Paris, or Moscow during WWI; they were only defending their homelands in the face of brutal, lethal, multi-pronged, allied invasions. Britain, France, and Russia were not exactly invited to Turkish lands for a picnic in 1914 and the allies didn't go there bearing gifts and flowers. They rained death and destruction on Ottoman Empire's Turks, my predecessors.

What's equally evil of the allies during WWI was their no-holds-barred approach in stooping as low as pitting neighbor against neighbor, practically terminating a millennium of harmonious Turkish-Armenian cohabitation in Anatolia. The allies justified this brutality with a slick policy they dubbed "divide and conquer" and committed the atrocities on Muslims in the name of Christianity. As a result, 2.5 million Muslims, mostly Turks, were killed or perished during the WWI; 523,000 of these Muslim casualties were directly attributable to atrocities committed by the Armenian nationalists, trained, armed, and supported by Wilson's America, Gladstone's Britain, Clemenceau's France, Czar's Russia, and others. If you have never heard of these lines before, that's because the NYT editorial board would habitually censor them. How can a country be held so guilty by so many when that country was, in fact, attacked, invaded, massacred, and violently split down the middle through ethnic and/or religious lines by the invaders, and lost most of its sons and daughters, property, and possessions, as the Ottoman Empire? Isn't there something wrong with this picture? Isn't it about time to expose the fraud behind the unproven allegations of Armenian genocide?

I am one of the eight children of a victim of the much ignored Turkish massacres during the Balkan Wars of 1911-1913. My father, as a one year old baby, somehow escaped the horrors of the war but without any parents, relations, or even so much as acquaintances, all whom vanished from the face of this earth without leaving a trace. To this day, no one knows where my father's folks are buried, although we suspect somewhere near the village of KIRLIKOVA in northern Greece today (hence my last name). In 1912, he was thrown, along with thousands of other orphaned Turkish babies, into the train which was perhaps conducting its last scheduled run from Selanik (Thessaloniki today) to Istanbul, capital of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire cared for him until 1923 when the newly established Turkish Republic took over. He had graduated from the University of Istanbul in 1939 and served Turkey in a distinguished way as a Forestry engineer for 34 years before passing away in 1973. Though tragic, this story of mine is by no means unique. There are millions of Turks today who have similarly tragic stories which are equally ignored in the West. Those Turkish refugees who were lucky enough to survive the massacres perpetrated by the Christian in the Balkans, the Aegean Islands, the Crimea, the Caucasus, and elsewhere were met with yet another cycle of Christian violence in Anatolia: Ottoman-Greeks in the West and Ottoman-Armenians in the East. One might say, those Muslim refugees like my father jumped "from the frying pan right into the fire". When the U.S. aid, food, and medicine were pouring to Ottoman-Armenians, none would be given to equally starving and suffering Ottoman-Muslims, like my father's folks. And because of senseless, endless, fraudulent Armenian propaganda in the West since 1915, painting the ruthless Armenian aggressor who fired the first shot, as the innocent and helpless victim, stories like mine were never heard, our pain was never shared, our tears were never noticed. Each time I read another biased editorial, it stirs those deep emotions in me. And a sense of unfairness and re-victimization emanating from it aggravates that old wound.

Genocide is a precisely defined legal term that requires a “court decision” to assert. Not all suffering, temporary resettlements, killings, casualties, “my-grandma-told-me” stories, photographs, diplomatic reports can be slapped on with a casual genocide label. For an atrocity to be considered genocide, the plaintiff is burdened by the U.N. with the task of proving that the defendant had the "intention” to commit systematic extermination. Defendant cross examines the evidence alleged and rebuts, before a verdict is reached. Such a "due process", a la Nuremberg, has actually been attempted by the British in Malta during 1919-1921 but abandoned after two years of frantic search for evidence, due to lack of it. Considering that the British had access to all the material evidence listed above more 90 years ago and had to conclude that none could stand scrutiny of a court of law, should tell a fair-minded reader something about those wild Armenian accusations. In reality, Armenian claims of genocide are nothing more than a mass deception enjoying popular lay support but lacking legal and historical substantiation. It was a terrible war where there was incredible suffering for all, my Turkish grandparents included, not just for the Armenians. It was a civil war within a world war and could not be considered a Genocide; not even by a long shot.

Armenia's aggression into Azerbaijan in 1992 and conducting a campaign of ethnic cleansing there until 1994 which created one million Azeri refugees who continue to suffer to this day are the reasons why the Turkish-Armenian border is closed. That border should stay closed until Armenia returns the lands it occupied by military force. Consider this: the U.S. punished Serbia for ethnic cleansing, Iraq for aggression, and Afghanistan for terrorism, but the same U.S. rewarded Armenia which had committed all three of those heinous crimes since 1992 with generous US aid. Go figure. I find Turkey's stand against Armenia and its supporters like Canada and France, therefore, dignified, exemplary, and proper. Turkey is fighting a lynch mob who only allow one side of the story to be heard.

It is time that this lopsided coverage of the Turkish-Armenian conflict in the West, riddled with thinly veiled anti-Turkish bias and bigotry, gave way to sensible dialogue to properly evaluate a dark chapter in history where my Turkish predecessors paid the highest price in terms of loss of life and property, and 91 years later, it seems, dignity.

Peace,

Ergun KIRLIKOVALI
3029 South Harbor Blvd.,
Santa Ana, CA 92704
Phone: 714-434-0800


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The New York Times Editorial published on May 16, 2006
Turkey, Armenia and Denial

Turkey's self-destructive obsession with denying the Armenian genocide seems to have no limits. The Turks pulled out of a NATO exercise this week because the Canadian prime minister used the term "genocide" in reference to the mass killings of Armenians in Turkey during and after World War I. Before that, the Turkish ambassador to France was temporarily recalled to protest a French bill that would make it illegal to deny that the Armenian genocide occurred. And before that, a leading Turkish novelist, Orhan Pamuk, was charged with "insulting Turkish identity" for referring to the genocide (the charges were dropped after an international outcry).
Turkey's stance is hard to fathom. Each time the Turks lash out, new questions arise about Turkey's claim to a place in the European Union, and the Armenian diaspora becomes even more adamant in demanding a public reckoning over what happened.

Granted, genocide is a difficult crime for any nation to acknowledge. But it is absurd to treat any reference to the issue within Turkey as a crime and to scream "lie!" every time someone mentions genocide. By the same token, we do not see the point of the French law to ban genocide denial. Historical truths must be established through dispassionate research and debate, not legislation, even if some of those who question the evidence do so for insidious motives.

But the Turkish government considers even discussion of the issue to be a grave national insult, and reacts to it with hysteria. Five journalists who criticized a court's decision to shut down an Istanbul conference on the massacre of Armenians were arrested for insulting the courts. Charges against four were subsequently dropped, but a fifth remains on trial.

The preponderance of serious scholarship outside Turkey accepts that more than a million Armenians perished between 1914 and 1923 in a regime-sponsored campaign. Turkey's continued refusal to countenance even a discussion of the issue stands as a major obstacle to restoring relations with neighboring Armenia and to claiming Turkey's rightful place in Europe and the West. It is time for the Turks to realize that the greater danger to them is denying history.



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