1688) Ed Erickson Responds To Vahakn Dadrian's Libel

Updated At 4 Nov 2011

Vahakn Dadrian served up his usual menu of offense in an effort to try and discredit a genuine scholar, in ( www.tallarmeniantale.com/dadrian-erickson.htm ) an article TAT has already explored. Dr. Erickson did not take the ugly attack lying down.

LTC Edward J. Erickson, USA (ret)

19 May 2006
Board of Editors
Journal of Political and Military Sociology
C/o Sociology Department
Northern Illinois University
Dekalb, Illinois 60155

Re: Review of Ordered to Die, A History of the Ottoman Army in the First World War
by Vahakn Dadrian (Winter 2003)

Dear Sirs,
I apologize for the lack of timeliness in responding to Vahakn Dadrian’s 2003 review of my work. I was at war in Tikrit, Iraq at the time and it was only recently that I became aware of its existence. I regard the Dadrian review as largely polemic and as a libelous personal attack on myself. Frankly, I am surprised that the editors of the JPMS published it.

Dr. Edward J. Erickson previously
served in the Gunner Battalion
during Operations Desert and Storm

I will not argue Dadrian’s critical points – he is entitled to his opinions about my work on the Ottoman Army. I would point out that the heart of his concern about my book (about 2/3 of his review) deals overwhelmingly with the nine pages (of 265 pages) that cover the Armenian massacres and deportations of 1915. More to the point, I am deeply troubled by the fact that he deliberately misquoted my words to build a broad circumstantial case about my qualifications to write the book. He then used this in a trail of guesswork, innuendo, and fraudulent dialogue to arrive at a damaging and slanderous conclusion in which he stated that I “allowed myself to be manipulated, wittingly or unwittingly, for the production of a considerably incomplete, biased, and, therefore, tainted volume.” I am also troubled that the editors of JPMS failed to verify or question such an inflammatory and .. derogatory review.

First, on the structure of the book, which Dadrian criticized as being written from “the Turkish side of the hill” and “reliant on Turkish sources” (leading to his conclusion of incompleteness). By design, the book was written to fill a void in the extant military historiography of World War I by informing the historical community of what the Turkish record said about the war (xv-xvi). By design, it focused at a high strategic level. And, by design, it intentionally deletes many areas of the conflict that are exhaustively and previously covered in English and German and I made the point that the book complements other existing histories (xviii). In the same paragraph of the review Dadrian continued by disparaging my personal relationship with the Chief of the Turkish General Staff on the basis that “the main animus in the entrenched Turkish culture of denial relative to the historical fact of the Armenian genocide comes from the Turkish military establishment, especially the Turkish General Staff, the omnipotent crux of that establishment.” In fact, in his foreword to my book, General Huseyin Kivrikoglu noted that he disagreed with some points in my book related to the Armenian Rebellion (xiii). .

Regarding my qualifications as an author, Dadrian stated that “nowhere in the book does he explicitly indicate, for example, that he knew either Ottoman or modern Turkish to a degree necessary to read and understand fully the contents of the myriad documents referenced in the book. Rather, the reader is informed that author Erickson had to rely on the help of a Turkish “translator and researcher.” Dadrian continued by saying “how badly an author must be eager to write a book on a subject matter the quintessential material of which is an account in a language one does not dominate?” These are insulting and libelous assumptions. In fact, I wrote “To the director of the Turkish General Staff’s Archive’s Division, Major Tufan Yorgancioglu, translator and researcher Ahmet Caliskan, and Librarian Gulumser Mutlu, my thanks for making my research easier and far more fun than it probably warranted”(xxi). The sentence speaks to identifying people who helped me in the archives rather than to signaling somehow that I relied on a translator. Moreover, I also wrote “All errors are my own as are any mistakes in the translation of Turkish documents” (xxii). Dadrian deliberately misquoted me to raise the question of my qualifications and credibility. This is not a small matter. I believe such accusations should have been checked by the JPMS editorial staff - if only because my book was published as an academic monograph by a reputable mainstream press that referees manuscripts. In fact, I am a graduate of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California and I qualified in the army as a Turkish and a German linguist (as well as residing in Turkey for five years and Germany for nine years).

Dadrian stated that “the author claims that he examined about ten volumes of the Turkish official histories…” and followed this with “The necessity to use non-Turkish sources becomes unavoidable.” Again, Dadrian misquoted me to cast doubt on the credibility and completeness of my work. In fact, I wrote “I first acknowledge these officers who in 1993 got me off to a good beginning by providing me with about ten volumes of the Turkish official histories…” (xxi). The sentence speaks to thanking people rather than to identifying the number of sources. A cursory check of my bibliography shows thirty-two official histories (which I acquired by the time I wrote the book).

"Dadrian deliberately misquoted me to raise the question of my qualifications and credibility."

Moreover, “Erickson likewise overlooks, or perhaps was induced to overlook, another aspect of the vital role of the army” in the Armenian genocide. Dadrian continued, “There is no way to know whether Colonel Erickson was afforded unfettered and complete access to all relevant files of the archives of the Turkish General Staff – assuming for a moment that he would have no appreciable trouble in fully comprehending the Ottoman and Turkish language contents of the respective documents.” In fact, I wrote “The vast bulk of these records, particularly those dealing with sensitive political and military issues, are unavailable to researchers” (214). In context, the sentence speaks to the existence of a mass of documentation that has only been partially mined by scholars – in no way does this imply that I overlooked, or was induced to overlook, relevant material. As a practicing historian I know of no archives in this country or any other, for that matter, where researchers have “unfettered” access to all files. Again, accusations such as these are no small matter.

Although I could continue with other deliberate obfuscations, misquotes, and slanderous comments in Dadrian’s review, I will conclude with these facts about myself. I have a doctorate in history; I am a retired regular army field grade officer and I am a graduate of the army’s Command and General Staff College; I am a qualified linguist in Turkish and German; I have never taken any money from the Turks nor have I ever published anything through subvention. Moreover, no Turkish officer or government official ever asked me to alter my findings. Neither did any Turk “manipulate” me or “induce” me to produce a “biased, and therefore, tainted volume.”

Finally, I resent the distortions and implications contained in the Dadrian review of Ordered To Die that the JPMS published. To make matters worse, Dadrian has copied the JPMS review and enlarged it into an essay (in which these lies are repeated) titled The Armenian Genocide: A New Brand of Denial by the Turkish General Staff – By Proxy, which is now widely circulated on web sites sympathetic to his beliefs. I believe that my reputation as a historian and a scholar has been demonstrably damaged by the Dadrian review and by the editors of the JPMS, who allowed the review to be published. I would, therefore, ask that this letter be published in a future issue of the JPMS and that an apology or retraction by the editorial board be issued. You may reach me at eerick@[withheld] for verification or comment.

Very Respectfully,

Edward J. Erickson, Ph.D.

JPMS cover

Holdwater: It does not seem that the Journal of Political and Military Sociology published this letter. The JPMS and Dadrian have a history together. One of the footnotes in his libelous article points to a Dadrian piece the JPMS had published ("The Role of the Turkish Military in the Destruction of Ottoman Armenians: A Study in Historical Continuities," Journal of Political and Military Sociology, vol. 20, no. 2, Winter 1992, p. 277), and in the JPMS's web site (their "Contents of Previous JPMS Journals" page), we can see that the JPMS published in their "Special Issue" (Volume 22, No. 1: Summer 1994; "Reprinted with corrections, Spring 1995") a collection of five Dadrian essays, edited by the Armenian Genocide Hound Dog, Dr. Roger Smith. Stephen Feinstein's hateful CHGS site has included this work as among their "Armenian Genocide Resources."

On their home page, the JPMS boasts that they have "set high standards of scholarship and excellence." How can they say such a thing, if they have permitted the highly unscrupulous and unscholarly Vahakn Dadrian to contribute articles?

Could their credibility-busting partisanship on the false Armenian genocide be because the founding and current editor is George A. Kourvetaris (a one-time officer in the military of his native country), assisted by Andrew G.Kourvetaris (Also from the Dept. of Sociology, University of Illinois; Dadrian is a non-historian sociologist, as well), and their associate editors include such potentially unbiased people as Stephens Constantinides, Constantine Danopoulos, and from Panteion University, Athens, Greece, Kleomenis S. Koutsoukis?

© Holdwater
The source site of this article gets revised often, as better information comes along. For the most up-to-date version, and the related photos, the reader may consider reviewing the direct link as follows:



Added At 4 Nov 2011

"The Armenian Genocide: A New Brand of Denial by the Turkish General Staff - by Proxy" (With Reference to Edward J. Erickson, Ordered to Die. A History of the Ottoman Army in the First World War, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2001, 265pp, $67.95)

Armenian News Network / Groong September 21, 2004

By Prof. Vahakn. Dadrian

Ottoman Turkey's significance in the overall picture of World War I and its outcome is underscored by three landmark events associated with that war. 1. The inordinate endurance of the Turkish army in the face of enormous handicaps, such as the scarcity of a host of indispensable resources, an antiquated system of roads, a wholly inadequate transportation set-up, and widespread epidemics among the recruits that nearly crippled the force structure of that army. Nevertheless, that army remarkably managed to maintain a modicum of stamina and fighting spirit for four years of gruelling warfare against the overwhelming armed forces of the Entente powers counter posed to them, i.e. Great Britain, Russia and France. 2. The direct and indirect role of that army in the organization and implementation of the wartime Armenian genocide. Noteworthy in this respect is the active involvement of its auxiliary units, in particular the irregular cavalry brigades and infantry regiments, and killer bands of the semi-autonomous Special Organization (Teskilat-i Mahsusa), which were almost entirely led by a select group of staff and reserve officers of that army. 3. The costly failure of that army at the very least to preserve the Ottoman Empire, whose war-related ultimate collapse through a twist of fate and a combination of fortuitous circumstances served to spawn in the aftermath of the war the modern Republic of Turkey.

Given these conditions, a comprehensive study of the performance of that army during World War I, theoretically speaking, has the potential to enrich our knowledge in such areas as military organization, strategy, detailed staff planning, methods of deployment of reserves, and combat doctrines and tactics. Equally significant, however, such a study could, beyond the scope of these domains, illuminate an ancillary phenomenon of that war, a phenomenon that Toynbee in his massive documentation called "a gigantic crime that devastated the Near East in 1915,"[i] and which American ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau, characterized as "the murder of a nation."[ii] At issue here are the underlying governmental motivations and the mechanics of subverting the standard functions of a regular standing army by way of using components of that army as a principal instrument of organized mass murder. In other words, what was the role of the Ottoman-Turkish army in the mass murder of a domestic minority, the members of which were all Ottoman citizens? The reference is, of course, to the Armenian genocide.

Naturally, the bulk of the book is devoted to the exploration of the issues that were central to the organization and execution of the general military campaign involved. The fate of the Armenians is discussed in this broad context. It is thus treated as a subsidiary matter. At first glance, the book appears to be a signal contribution, in terms of its foci, wealth of data, amplitude of sources, and a new framework of analysis, thus surpassing in scope and depth the two antecedent Western works dealing with the same subject matter, namely the work of Larcher,[iii]and that of Allen and Muratoff.[iv] These two volumes barely touch, however, the Armenian cataclysm which Erickson confronts head-on as he tries to come to grips with the major factors configuring in its incidence, outcome, and overall significance.

As in the case of any act of confrontation, the way one decides to proceed does often condition, if not precondition, the result one may be seeking. At the very start of his book he candidly, and one should add, with rare fortitude, admits that he has confronted the problem by proceeding from "the Turkish side of the hill," thereby relying, almost entirely, "on Turkish sources." In fact, the book is suffused, indeed saturated, with references drawn from "Turkish source material." And therein lies the Achilles' heel of this otherwise impressively invested product of labor and dedication, for it is predicated upon a type of reliance, by choice, which is inextricably entwined with seemingly pronounced affinities and a companion partisanship for Turkey and Turkish interests. As he describes it in the Acknowledgements section of the book, as an American officer on duty in NATO Headquarters in Turkey in the early 1990's, Erickson ended up cultivating many personal friendships, foremost among which was his friendship with then Chief of the Turkish General Staff, General Hüseyin Kivrikoglu, from whom he "received VIP treatment," and who, in return, expressed his pleasure and gratitude to the author for using Turkish source material and ultimately producing a book utilizing these sources. This act of high praise of and the attendant bestowing of acclamatory imprimatur upon Erickson's book is cast in relief when one bears in mind that the main animus in the entrenched Turkish culture of denial relative to the historical fact of the Armenian genocide comes from the Turkish military establishment, especially the Turkish General Staff, the omnipotent crux of that establishment. The values stemming from this culture of denial have permeated, and continue to dominate, the main trend in contemporary Turkish historiography.

One would think that an author trained in the traditions of Western standards of research and scholarship would be more inclined to apply, or at least to try to apply, Max Weber's instructive guideline for research in history and social sciences. He declared, namely, that it is perfectly legitimate for a scholar to embrace certain values prior to embarking upon research, which he called a condition of "value-relatedness" (Wertbezogenheit). Conversely, he declared that it is rather counter-productive when that scholar fails to jar himself loose, i.e., to divest himself from the grip of these values the moment he embarks upon actual research, which condition he described as "freedom from values" (Wertfreiheit). Tackling almost the same problem, Gunnar Myrdal, the noted Swedish social scientist, went one step further when he advocated in his monumental An American Dilemma, a clear exposition of one's values at the very start of one's published work, insofar as it relates to the controversy of the topic the book deals with. Such an act of clearly baring of one's pertinent values, Myrdal believed, might afford the reader a basis upon which to determine whether the author has succeeded, to any degree, in exercising a modicum of the requisite detachment.

In the light of these observations, Erickson's volume might be compared to an edifice that has an impressive format with a solid structure. Yet, upon closer examination, that edifice reveals itself as a structure resting upon a tottering and faulty substructure. To be more specific, the book in several respects is methodologically contaminated. The source of that contamination is the bulk of his source material that bears the stamp of the Turkish military archives and the author's relationship to them. At issue here are such critical matters as the language in which the source material appears, the conditions of access to the archives containing that material, and the degree or level of independence through which he could select, amass and utilize that material. These problems find an expression in Erickson's own account addressing them. Nowhere in the book does he explicitly indicate, for example, that he knew either Ottoman or modern Turkish to a degree necessary to read and understand fully the contents of the myriad documents referenced in the book. Rather, the reader is informed that author Erickson had to rely on a Turkish "translator and researcher." Furthermore, he states that he benefited from the consultations and help offered to him by the director of the Turkish General Staff's Archives and several high-ranking Turkish officers in Ankara. The problem that poses itself here is this: how badly an author must be eager to write a book on a subject matter the quintessential material of which is in a language one does not dominate? The problem is further compounded when one takes into account the fact that for the study of a particular case of genocide, one has to depend in a substantial way upon people who in one way or another are identified with the perpetrator camp.

The author claims that he examined "about ten volumes of the Turkish official histories." (p. xxi). Thus, the training, ethos and competence of the cadres of officers of various ranks involved are matters that emerge here as concerns of paramount import for the critical evaluation of his dependence upon them. What avenues or channels are available to test this problem? The necessity to use non-Turkish sources becomes unavoidable. Certainly, none of the data provided by the archives of any of the Entente powers, the wartime enemies of the Ottoman Empire, can be viewed as entirely impeccable. It is, therefore, an irony that one has to fall back on the very military officers who throughout the war fought alongside the Turks. In other words, one has to depend upon sources with ties of strong alliance with the perpetrator camp, a camp that has generated this vast corpus of reports detailing the performance of the army of that camp. The reference is, of course, to the Germans. Indeed, under present circumstances German officers on duty in wartime Turkey may be deemed to be the most qualified observers in this respect. The irony of this procedure is exceeded only by the underlying paradox.

Without ignoring some of the stalwart qualities of many a Turkish officer, several high ranking German officers, members of the German Military Mission to Turkey, almost uniformly complained during and after the war, about the indolence and laxness with which the former went about preparing maps, compiling statistics, and, above all, preparing reports. The German chief of staff of the Ottoman Third Army, Colonel Felix Guse, for example, bitterly complained that "The Turks knew only poorly their country, on top of that the possibility of getting reliable statistical figures (zuverlässige statistische Zahlen) was out of the question."[v] Even some Turkish historians and chroniclers lamented this carelessness, a carelessness that bordered, they said, on a proneness to invent or fabricate (uydurma) details in the preparation of a report.[vi] In one particular case, for instance, elements of two divisions of the Xth Army Corps of the Third Army for four hours fought against each other because of "a faulty map," thereby inflicting upon each other some 2,000 casualties, dead and wounded. According to a Turkish historian this episode, significantly, is left out in the texts of the respective official reports covering the battle involved.[vii] There is no mention of the existence of these problems in Erickson's tome. On the contrary, he confidently proclaims in it that the claim that "the Turks kept poor records" is a "myth" (p. 214).

Another high ranking German officer who started as a lieutenant commander of the navy first in charge of the Turkish cruiser Mecidiye, 1914-1915, and subsequently was promoted to the rank of commander of the navy, has prepared a forty-page memorandum for his superiors. In it he provides a detailed evaluation of the Turkish officers he came to know not only as a navy commander but also as a departmental chief in the Turkish Ministry of the Navy. While granting that there were a number of smart and capable Turkish officers, he nevertheless stated that "the number of the inept ones who are careerists is considerably higher" (erheblich grosser). There are people, he went on to say, who often are "given to fantasies, ever ready to exaggerate and at the same time overestimate their own capacities. They are prone to fabricating upbeat fairy tales with a resoluteness that ultimately causes them to think these tales are actually real facts. When opportune to do so, they will lie and indulge in spreading the meanest calumnies." Admiral Büchsel's most pungent decrial pertains to the issue that is of central relevance in this review. He stated that Ottoman-Turkish culture does allow an ethos through which "an official communication (eine dienstliche Meldung) may be so framed that it may not entirely correspond to the truth and the framer of it may not consider it unethical. The dictum corriger la fortune is commonly practiced in the official transactions of the Turks."[viii] In other words, the practice to amend or embellish, or to use contemporary parlance, to "spin," in the framing of official reports is a practice that is almost taken for granted.

At the end of his detailed examination of the wartime performance of the Ottoman-Turkish Third Army, of which as noted above, he was chief of staff, Colonel Felix Guse, a pronounced Turkophile German military officer, offers some comments depicting some of the troublesome aspects of what he calls Turkish culture that he believed impinged adversely upon the conduct of the Turkish military. Here are some excerpts: The Turks unabashedly admit that they lie a lot but resent being told about it by others. They fail to appreciate the theoretical value Europe places upon truth.this peculiarity of attitude makes it very difficult to work with them in tandem. The issuing of a false communication (falsche Meldung) is by and large considered to be no offense or violation of ethics (vergehen)." [ix]

The chapter on the Armenians is dotted with numerous citations from the documents taken from the repositories of the Turkish General Staff Archives. With hardly any exercise of a modicum of caution, Erickson rather mechanically picks up and relays to the reader a whole array of allegations and accusations against the Armenians that are very general and that lack any slightest specificity. He writes, for example, that the Armenians were "actively hostile.were heavily armed, were belligerent.and were actively engaged in open rebellion" and which word rebellion he capitalized by referring to in as the "Armenian Rebellion" (pp. 80, 90, 101, 103). If one disregards the four insurrections that were highly local, last minute defensive improvisations by desperate people facing imminent destruction, there was no general rebellion at all. Four German ambassadors on duty in wartime Turkey in their numerous reports to Berlin denied any such rebellion.[x] Nor were the insurgents "belligerent" in the sense used by Erickson, or were they "heavily armed". In all four cases, the insurgents, totally surrounded and equipped only with the barest stocks of ammunition, weapons, and provisions, had chosen to wage a hopeless defense against a heavily armed professional army and die fighting rather than be deported to the slaughterhouse. When commenting on the Van uprising, for example, Vice Marshal Joseph Pomiankowski, the military plenipotentiary of allied Austria-Hungary, confirmed its desperately defensive nature by describing that uprising as "an act of despair" (Akt der Verzweiflung). The Armenians, he went on to say, "recognized that the general butchery (die allgemeine Schlächterei) was sweeping clean the province's Armenian population and that "they would be the next [target]."[xi]

Denial of a crime by those who one way or another are identified with that crime is by and large a function of the impunity accorded the perpetrators by the rest of the world. The modalities of such denial are often contingent upon the circumstances through which the perpetrators manage to escape prosecution and punishment. The more uncontested and abiding that condition of impunity, the more daring the apologists of the crime are likely to become in their choice of methods when denying the crime. The unrelenting assertion that Armenians are guilty of engaging in a long chain of empire-wide wartime acts of rebellion belongs to this category of methods. Given the long, sanguinary history of the Turkish-Armenian conflict, antedating World War I, and given the exigent and turbulent conditions of that war, such an assertion may carry some elements of plausibility as far as an unwitting and ill-informed outside public is concerned.

However, it is incumbent upon a researcher, intent on engaging in a historical interpretation or analysis of a complex topic not to be swayed by such elements of plausibility but apply instead a measure of critical scrutiny - unless such a researcher is hostage to certain restrictive prejudices or has some extraneous agendas of his own. The evident absence of such a mode of scrutiny apparently prompted the author to readily embrace from the Turkish archive holdings all these assertions with respect to which even some independent Turkish historians use the derisive epithet "official history" (resmi tarih). Inevitably, such a posture led to a whole string of errors undermining the value of the book.[xii]

To illustrate the liabilities intrinsic to such a methodology, a detailed and critical examination of a particular case is presented below.

Involved here is the overarching assertion of acts of Armenian rebellion and the illustration of a case. Thirty thousand Armenians from Sivas province avowedly had launched a rebellion in the thick of the war. Fifteen thousand of them, who were of military age, remained in the province, another fifteen thousand Armenian men departed to join the Russians. "Unfortunately, conscription of all Turkish men up to the age of 50 years old had left the local villages practically unprotected and vulnerable to Armenian depredations." (p. 100).

This excerpt, that combines the input of the military commander of the Special Organization contingent of Sivas province and the imprimatur of that province's civilian governor-general, is a classic example of the ease and frivolity with which military and civilian Turkish officials throughout the war framed and compiled reports of this nature. They epitomize a persistence with which distortions and falsehoods are routinely purveyed for internal as well as external purposes. Whether considered geographically or demographically, or in terms of wartime exigencies and governmental measures, the contents of this excerpt are patently belied by taking into account the following facts. 1. Not only all the Turks, but the bulk of the Armenian citizens of the Empire, in the 18-45 age group, was likewise conscripted; those few who could afford to pay the stiff exemption fee were later in short order conscripted regardless. Within a few weeks after general mobilization in August 1914, those in the 16-18 and 45-60 age categories were likewise called to the colors. How is it conceivable that the remaining Armenians, consisting almost entirely of destitute women, children, and old men, full of anxieties and fears about the likelihood of new wartime massacres, would dare to contemplate, let alone mount in fact a general guerrilla campaign against a mighty and fully mobilized army whose combat zone jurisdiction and authority encompassed the same province of Sivas? Furthermore, in Sivas were headquartered the reserve units of the Xth army Corps of the Third Army. 2. No explanation is provided as to how this phantom army of 15,000 Armenian insurgents under exigent wartime conditions managed to escape from Sivas, cross hundreds of miles of rugged terrain that was watched and defended by the Third Army, and reach Russian front lines. 3. According to the official Ottoman statistics, "adjusted" by Justin McCarthy, an openly pro-Turk American demographer, some 180,000 Armenians lived in Sivas province. About 90,000 fell in the category of "males," and of those about half -45,000 - were children and old men, and as such, may be excluded from consideration. The remaining 45,000, then, would fall in the 18-60 year old age group. In order to form and army of 30,000 rebels, two out of three eligible Armenian males would have had to be enrolled in it. The questions to be posed are: Where could they have been hiding between August 1914, the onset of the general mobilization and April 1915, when they allegedly went into action? Who was supplying, housing, training, commanding this rather large group of insurgents, and how? Where were the logistics, communication gear, depots, weapons and the requisite supply of ammunition, along with the other provisions, to render such an irregular force a viable fighting unit?[xiii]

As German admiral Büchsel has reiterated again and again in his memorandum cited above, he found many Turkish officers with whom he had daily dealings throughout the war to be prone to fantasies, repeatedly calling them "fantasts." German Colonel Guse, likewise cited above, underscored the common propensity of many Turks he came to know in the army to be prone to lie routinely, without any sense of acting unethically. Amending, or tampering with the text of documents is depicted here as part of Oriental culture.[xiv]

In his seemingly strong penchant for glorifying the Turkish Army, Erickson ended up completely overlooking a major aspect of the complicity of segments of that Army both in terms of strategic planning and tactical execution of the wartime annihilation of the bulk of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire. The reference is first of all to the paramount role the commander-in-chief of the Third Army, General Mahmud Kâmil in this respect. As stated above, the Third Army's control extended to the seven eastern and central-eastern provinces containing the bulk of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire. According to the wartime Turkish army commander Ahmet Izzet Pasa, the first Grand Vizier of the post-war Ottoman government, General Mahmud Kâmil was the one who "proposed and demanded" (teklif ve talep) the wholesale deportation of the Armenians of the region of Erzurum.[xv] According to another wartime Turkish general, Kâmil was appointed to that post through the direct intervention of the three principal authors of the Armenian genocide, i.e., MD's Sakir and Nazim, and CUP's chief ideological guru, Ziya Gölkap.[xvi] Kâmil had thus abruptly displaced and replaced the newly appointed Vehip Pasa who regained that post only in 1916 when the genocide had all but run its course. Official German documents confirm and reconfirm Kâmil's pivotal role in the deportation and destruction of the bulk of the Armenian population of the seven provinces mentioned above.[xvii] Foremost among these reports is that of Colonel Stange who was in the thick of the military operations of Kâmil's Third Army and, accordingly, could observe firsthand the military underpinnings of that army's anti-Armenian exterminatory campaign. Describing Kâmil as a ruthless destroyer of the Armenians, Stange quotes him as saying that "there will be no more an Armenian question after the war." (nach dem Kriege keine Armenienfrage geben werde).[xviii] Several high-ranking Turkish military officers during the Armistice in 1919 through affidavits and oral testimony before the Turkish Military Tribunal attested to the extermination measures of General Kâmil, including General Süleyman Faik, the military commandant of Harput province,[xix] and Colonel Pertev, the Acting Commander of the Third Army's 10th Army Corps, who stated, "I have in my possession telegrams from him ordering the massacre of the Armenians."[xx]

Two other wartime Turkish generals were actively involved in the anti-Armenian exterminatory campaign. Army commander (the Sixth Army; later, commander-in-chief of Army Groups East), actively involved in the extermination campaign, was War Minister Enver's uncle General Halil (Kut). In a December 4, 1916 report, Erzurum's General Consul Scheubner-Richter advised his ambassador that Halil Pasa "had ordered the massacre of his Armenian.battalions and had massacred the Armenian population falling under his control (Massakrierung seiner armenishchen.Bataillone). In his memoirs, Halil not only admits but almost prides himself on having destroyed 300,000 Armenians: "[I]t can be more or less, I didn't count." On 4 November 1915, Mosul's Vice-Consul Holstein reported that "Halil's troops perpetrated massacres in the north and now want to slaughter the Armenians of Mosul.[xxi] The other officer was General Ali Ihsan Sabis, who is reported of having boasted to German military officers of the scope of his extermination of Armenians. According to one of these officers, Lüttichau, he "proudly" declared that he "killed the Armenians with his own hands." [xxii] Furthermore, Erickson likewise overlooks, or perhaps was induced to overlook, another aspect of the vital role of that army in the detailed planning of the wartime Armenian genocide. As attested to by Colonel, later Major General, Otto von Lossow, the German wartime plenipotentiary in Turkey, the Armenian deportations (paving the way for the attendant massacres) were actually schemed and organized at the Ottoman General Headquarters, Department II, whose head, Colonel Seyfi, was in charge of the respective planning of these deportations. Moreover, a commander of the Special Organization, Fuad Balkan, in his memoirs, reveals that Colonel Seyfi was also in charge of the killer bands of that Special Organization which had functioned as the principal instrument of the anti-Armenian extermination campaign.[xxiii]

There is no way to know whether Colonel Erickson was afforded unfettered and complete access to all the relevant files of the archives of the Turkish General Staff - assuming for a moment that he would have no appreciable trouble in fully comprehending the Ottoman and Turkish language contents of the respective documents. This uncertainty stems from his somewhat ambiguous statement that the bulk of these documents, particularly those dealing with sensitive political and military issues, are "unavailable to researchers." (p. 24). The cardinal question poses itself; was that bulk of the documents available or unavailable to him personally?

It may be said in conclusion that in either case his volume could not have escaped some serious deleterious effects. Indeed, if he was denied such access, the rationale and validity of his entire undertaking will inevitably evaporate. On the other hand, if he was allowed such access, the judgment, based on the arguments adduced above, becomes inescapable that he allowed himself to be manipulated, wittingly or unwittingly, for the production of a considerably incomplete, biased, and, therefore, tainted volume.


[i] The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915-1916. Documents presented to Viscount Grey of Fallodon, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs by Viscount Bryce (compiled by Arnold Toynbee) (London: His Majesty' s Stationary Office). Miscellaneous No. 31 (1916). P. 653. In another book Toynbee described that crime by choosing the title Armenian Atrocities. The Murder of a Nation. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1915).

[ii] Henry Morgenthau, Ambassador Morgenthau's Story (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Page and Co., 1918), Ch. XXIV, pp. 301-325.

[iii] Commandant M. Larcher, La Guerre Turque dans la Guerre Mondiale (Paris: Chiron and Berger-Levrault, 1926).

[iv] W.E.D. Allen and Paul Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields. A History of the Wars on the Turco-Caucasian Border, 1828-1921 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953).

[v] Felix Guse, Die Kaukasusfront im Weltkrieg (Liebzig: Koehler und Amelang, 1940), p. 83.

[vi] Alptekin Müderrisoglu, Sarikamis Drami, vol. 2, (Istanbul: Kastas, 1988), pp. 352, 366, 403.

[vii] Sevket Süreyya Aydemir, Makedonya'dan Ortaasya'ya Enver Pasa, vol. 3, 1914-1922 (Istanbul: Remzi, 1972). On p. 140 the author identifies these divisions as being the 31st and the 32nd.

[viii] Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv. RM5/ v. 1571. "Erfahrungen im türkischen Marineministerium," copy to Avi S12434, pp. 7, 8, 31, 32. The widespread nature of this practice of self-serving misrepresentations by Turkish officers is further attested to by other high-ranking Army officers on duty in wartime Turkey. Major-General Kannengiesser, for example, in his book Gallipoli. Bedeutung und Verlauf der Kämpfe 1915 expresses "shock and dismay" (erschüttert und betroffen) about a book on the same subject put out by the Turkish General Staff in 1922 (and translated by French military historian Larcher under the title, Campagne des Dardanelles (Paris: Chiron, 1924). In that book, which Kannengiesser decries as a work full of "factual errors" (tatsächliche Irrtümer), Turkish military commanders and staff officers are portrayed as the sole heroes and geniuses of the Dardannelles campaign - "in complete disregard of [the leadership of such German commanders as] (General) Sanders, (Admiral) Usedom, (Vice Admiral) Merten, (Navy Commander) Wossidlo etc." Mitteilungen des Bundes der Asienkämpfer, vol. 9, no. 9, September 1, 1927, p. 111. The article was published in Mitteilungen des Bunndes der Asienkämpfer,vol. 9, no. 9, September 1, 1927, p. 110. Another high ranking German officer, Major General Schlee, in an article titled "Versuchte Geschichtsfälschung" (The Attempt to Falsify History) gives expression to his indignation against a Turkish staff officer [Cevdet Kerim Incedayi] who in a speech at the tombs of Gallipoli's fallen heroes, exalted the latter, totally ignoring Germany's help "without which the Turks wouldn't have been able to hold on to the [Dardanelles]. Cevdet knew this very well but he tried to create through words something that they by themselves would never have been able to create. This is more than dangerous. With such a bent for Byzantine habits the Turkish people will never be able to achieve moral triumphs." Ibid., vol. 10, no. 11, November 1, 1928, pp. 120-22.

[ix] Guse, Die Kaukasusfront. op. cit., p. 107.

[x] The first, Hans Wangenheim, stated that "isolated instances" (Vereinzelte Vorgänge) of resistance to deportation are being portrayed as a general uprising. German Foreign Ministry Archives. A.A. Türkei 183/36 A9528 or, R14085 in the new system of classification of the documents. No. 140. For his part, Ambassador Wolff-Metternich in a comprehensive seventy-two-page report declared that "There was neither a concerted general uprising, nor was there a fully valid proof that such a synchronized uprising was planned or organized." Moreover, he said, that the few local uprisings in the summer and fall of 1915 were defensive acts to resist deportation. A.A. Türkei 183/40 A25749 or, R14093. The quotation is from p. 14 of the report.

[xi] J. Pomiankowski, Der Zusammenbruch des Ottomanischen Reiches. (Graz, Austria: Akademische Druck-und Verlagsanstalt, 1969. Originally published in 1928). P. 160.

[xii] Here are some of the more glaring errors. (1) When citing those historians who have disputed the Armenian genocide "as a matter of historical fact," the name of Jay Winter, then from Cambridge University (presently at Yale University), has been juxtaposed along with the two most notable deniers of that genocide, namely, Stanford Shaw of UCLA and Bernard Lewis of Princeton (p. 116, n. 37). The fact is, however, that Jay Winter is in the forefront of those historians who not only recognize that historical fact but in several of their works do contest the orchestrated denial of that fact. A description of Winter's respective output can be found in the introduction of the book of which he is the editor, America and the Armenian Genocide of 1915 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003). (2) Von Jagow (p. 232) was Foreign Minister of Germany, not ambassador. (3) Ahmet Izzet (Furgaç) was definitely not involved "in the War of Independence" (p. 230). On the contrary, he was intimately connected with the Sultan's government in Istanbul that the Kemalists, the organizers of that "War of Independence," were challenging and ultimately succeeded in toppling and replacing. Ahmet Izzet Pasa was not only the first Grand Vizier of that postwar government of the Sultan, but several times he served in the cabinets of other Grand Viziers before going in 1920 to Bilecik and then to Ankara to negotiate a deal with the Kemalists. He then had a chance to finally dissociate himself from the Sultan's regime and join the insurgent Kemalists. Instead, he returned to Istanbul and rejoined that regime of the Sultan in whose government he subsequently served first as Interior Minister (October 21, 1920 - June 13, 1921), and then as Foreign Minister (June 13, 1921- November 4, 1922). (4) Vehip Pasa (Kaçi), likewise, never served in the War of Independence, let alone as a "front commander" (p. 221). Though a successful army commander on the eastern front during World War I, General Vehip had no involvement at all in the origin, development, or the molding of the military outcome of the ensuing War of Independence. On the contrary, he denounced that war as ruinous for the country, at the same time castigating its chief architect, Mustafa Kemal, as a self-seeking adventurer. Besides, having fled Turkey in 1919 (escaping from a Bekiraga prison) and returning there only thirty years later, he would not have had any participation at all in the War of Independence (1920-1922). During all this period he wandered all over Europe, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Palestine, engaging in military consultations for reforms (Egypt) and in military command activities (Ethiopia) while Mustafa Kemal's fledgling government through law no. 347 (September 25, 1923) terminated his membership in the Turkish army on October 18, 1923, and four years later, i.e., May 23, 1927, under the provisions of law no. 1041, he was divested of his Turkish citizenship. (5) Halil (Kut) likewise never served in the War of Independence (p. 219), as far as the actual military campaign is concerned. He was considered an arch-Ittihadist, i.e., CUP man, with close family and ideological ties with his nephew, wartime War Minister Enver, who was conspiring to topple and replace, M. Kemal with the intent of restoring the discredited and bankrupt CUP regime. He nevertheless assisted from his vantage grounds in Moscow and the Soviet dominated Transcaucasus in the task of securing and conveying to the Kemalist front large quantities of Soviet weapons and ammunition as well as substantial cash in gold.

[xiii] For a fuller discussion of this matter see Vahakn N. Dadrian, "Ottoman Archives and Denial of the Armenian Genocide." In The Armenian Genocide. History, Politics, Ethics, ed. by Richard G. Hovanissian. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992), pp. 287-88.

[xiv] In a volume critical of the methods employed in modern Turkish historiography, a Turkish historian with disdain speaks of a coterie of Turkish officers who were engaged by the Department of Military History of the Presidium of the Turkish General Staff for the task of organizing and cataloging official military documents. He maintains that these officers were totally ill equipped to master the task assigned to them. "These apostles of official history couldn't even handle the technicality of placing quotation marks where appropriate. They would sometimes curtail a report, or unnecessarily use quotation marks, or even alter its content." Yalçin Küçük, Türkiye Üzerine Tezler 1908-1978, vol. 2 (Istanbul: Tekin, 1979), pp. 633-34.

[xv] Feryadim, 2 vols. (Istanbul: Nehir, 1992), 1: 201.

[xvi] Ali Ihsan Sabis, Harb Hatiralarim, 6 vols. (Ankara: Günes, 1951), vol. 2, pp. 165, 179..

[xvii] A.A., BoKon (Botschaft Konstantinopel) 168, no. 3007, May 16, 1915 report of Erzurum's German Vice Consul Scheubner-Richter; ibid., 169, no. 47, folio 110, June 26, 1915 report; ibid., 170. July 28, 1915 report.

[xviii] Ibid., 170, Folio no. 3841, August 23, 1915 "confidential" report.

[xix] Vahakn N. Dadrian, "The Role of the Turkish Military in the Destruction of Ottoman Armenians: A Study in Historical Continuities," Journal of Political and Military Sociology, vol. 20, no. 2, Winter 1992, p. 277.

[xx] Jerusalem Armenian Patriarchate Archives, Series 22, file Hee, no. 149. In the official Turkish publication, Documents, Prime Ministry, Ankara, 1982, vol. 1, doc. no. 29, Pertev's military rank and position, as described in the text, is confirmed.

[xxi] For a fuller discussion of this matter see Vahakn N. Dadrian, "The Armenian Question and the Wartime Fate of the Armenians as Documented by the Officials of the Ottoman Empire's World War I Allies: Germany and Austria-Hungary," International Journal of Middle East Studies," 34:1 (February 2002) pp. 73-75.

[xxii] A.A. Türkei 183/54, A. 44055, Summer 1918 report, p. 12.

[xxiii] Dadrian, "The Armenian Question," op.cit., p. 75.


Added At 4 Nov 2011

Debate needed; What happened in Armenia?

The Washington Times


A few months ago, I came across an article in the Middle East Quarterly entitled “Armenian Massacres: New Records Undercut Old Blame.” Its author, Edward J. Erickson, a retired U.S. Army officer, categorically dismissed the claims of genocide perpetrated against the Armenians by the Ottomans during World War I. “In bitter internecine fighting, many civilian Turks, Armenians, and other ethnic groups were massacred indiscriminately,” Mr. Erickson wrote.

The claim of Armenian genocide is an incredibly emotional subject, fraught with political and violent undertones. Only a small number of scholars dare to question the notion that what happened was genocide. When Stanford Shaw, a pioneer scholar and former UCLA professor, disputed it in 1977, a bomb exploded in front of his house.

Recently, two researchers have debated the nature of World War I Armenian massacres, Dr. Erickson wrote. The first, Vahakn Dadrian, is director of genocide research at the Zoryan Institute for Contemporary Armenian Research and Documentation. Mr. Dadrian wrote that Stange (a Prussian artillery officer known in records only by his last name) was the “highest-ranking German guerrilla commander operating in the Turko-Russian border” area and the Ottoman government ordered him to deport Armenians. Stange and his soldiers became principals in the Armenian massacres, Mr. Dadrian found.

But last year, Guenter Lewy, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts, challenged Mr. Dadrian’s claim, concluding that Stange’s unit did not even operate in the area. “Tribal Kurds or Circassians may have deported the Armenians in the spring of 1915,” Mr. Erickson wrote.

The debate over the historical record goes on, and Turkey has finally begun to allow its citizens to engage in controversial debates. This makes one wonder what the members of the French Parliament were thinking last week when they made it a crime to question the claim of Armenian genocide. The lower house decided that the punishment for denying the genocide would be one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 Euros. It would only take effect if it passed the upper house and was agreed to by French President Jacques Chirac. According to Turkish media reports, Mr. Chirac called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and said he would do his best to keep the legislation from becoming law.

Making it a crime to dispute the idea of an Armenian genocide is so outrageous that senior European Union officials sided with Turkey. “This is not the best way to contribute to something we think is important,” said Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission. Oli Rehn, the EU commissioner for enlargement, agreed, saying, “We don’t achieve real dialogue and real reconciliation by ultimatums, but by dialogue. Therefore this law is counterproductive.”

Indeed it is. This law displays the aggressive tactics of the Armenian diaspora to prevent any objective re-examination of history. They demand that Turkey accept that what happened was genocide. But is the goal to find the truth, or to make political arguments? Mr. Erdogan offered to open the Turkish archives to study the matter, and called for Armenians to do the same. They denied his request. The other side can’t stand the idea of questioning whether what happened was genocide.

Turks have done a poor job in dealing with the claims. They let one narrative dominate the world’s understanding of the incident. They did not write about the Armenian attacks on Muslim villages. But now Turks are paying attention. They are angry. But they are not hateful like the Armenians who killed almost four dozen Turkish diplomats over “history.”

I sat down with Turkish Ambassador Nabi Sensoy in Washington, and asked him whether the French Parliament’s vote will make it more difficult for him to deal with the resolutions likely to be presented this year in the U.S. Congress, calling for recognition of Armenian genocide. Sixteen countries have already passed legislation or resolutions to recognize the Armenian genocide, he said. “The Congress has never been affected by the decisions of the foreign parliaments,” he said. “The U.S. knows to think independently in its own democracy, and they know their own responsibilities.”

The French Parliament’s law is even more absurd than the section of the Turkish penal code that calls for Turkish citizens to be punished if they insult “Turkishness” by accepting the genocide claims, for example. Orhan Pamuk, this year’s Nobel Prize winner for literature, was charged under that law. The charges were dropped, and no one has been punished.

But even the existence of such a law is embarrassing to a country wrestling with how to deal with freedom of expression. What Mr. Pamuk said about the Armenian genocide claims is irrelevant. What’s important is that he should feel free to say whatever he thinks. But historians should have the definitive say on the issue and they haven’t written the final chapter yet.
Tulin Daloglu is a free-lance writer.


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