17 October 2007
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In the buildup to last week’s vote by a House of Representatives committee officially calling for U.S. foreign policy to recognize that a genocide of Armenians took place during World War I, at the behest of the “Young Turk” government of the Ottoman Empire, a flurry of advertising in American newspapers appeared from Turkey.
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The ads discouraged the vote by House members, and called instead for historians to figure out what happened in 1915. The ads quoted such figures as Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, as saying: “These historical circumstances require a very detailed and sober look from historians.” And State Department officials made similar statements, saying as the vote was about to take place: “We think that the determination of whether the events that happened to ethnic Armenians at the end of the Ottoman Empire should be a matter for historical inquiry.”
Turkey’s government also has been quick to identify American scholars (there are only a handful, but Turkey knows them all) who back its view that the right approach to 1915 is not to call it genocide, but to figure out what to call it, and what actually took place.
Normally, you might expect historians to welcome the interest of governments in convening scholars to explore questions of scholarship. But in this case, scholars who study the period say that the leaders of Turkey and the United States — along with that handful of scholars — are engaged in a profoundly anti-historical mission: trying to pretend that the Armenian genocide remains a matter of debate instead of being a long settled question. Much of the public discussion of the Congressional resolution has focused on geopolitics: If the full House passes the resolution, will Turkey end its help for U.S. military activities in Iraq?
But there are also some questions about the role of history and historians in the debate. To those scholars of the period who accept the widely held view that a genocide did take place, it’s a matter of some frustration that top government officials suggest that these matters are open for debate and that this effort is wrapped around a value espoused by most historians: free and open debate.
“Ultimately this is politics, not scholarship,” said Simon Payaslian, who holds an endowed chair in Armenian history and literature at Boston University. Turkey’s strategy, which for the first 60-70 years after the mass slaughter was to pretend that it didn’t take place, “has become far more sophisticated than before” and is explicitly appealing to academic values, he said.
“They have focused on the idea of objectivity, the idea of ‘on the one hand and the other hand,’ ” he said. “That’s very attractive on campuses to say that you should hear both sides of the story.” While Payaslian is quick to add that he doesn’t favor censoring anyone or firing anyone for their views, he believes that it is irresponsible to pretend that the history of the period is uncertain. And he thinks it is important to expose “the collaboration between the Turkish Embassy and scholars cooperating to promote this denialist argument.”
To many scholars, an added irony is that all of these calls for debating whether a genocide took place are coming at a time when emerging new scholarship on the period — based on unprecedented access to Ottoman archives — provides even more solid evidence of the intent of the Turkish authorities to slaughter the Armenians. This new scholarship is seen as the ultimate smoking gun as it is based on the records of those who committed the genocide — which counters the arguments of Turkey over the years that the genocide view relies too much on the views of Armenian survivors.
Even further, some of the most significant new scholarship is being done by scholars who are Turkish, not Armenian, directly refuting the claim by some denial scholars that only Armenian professors believe a genocide took place. In some cases, these scholars have faced death threats as well as indictments by prosecutors in Turkey.
Those who question the genocide, however, say that what is taking place in American history departments is a form of political correctness. “There is no debate and that’s the real problem. We’re stuck and the reality is that we need a debate,” said David C. Cuthell, executive director of the Institute for Turkish Studies, a center created by Turkey’s government to award grants and fellowships to scholars in the United States. (The center is housed at Georgetown University, but run independently.)
The action in Congress is designed “to stifle debate,” Cuthell said, and so is anti-history. “There are reasonable doubts in terms of whether this is a genocide,” he said.
The term “genocide” was coined in 1944 by Raphael Lemkin, a Jewish-Polish lawyer who was seeking to distinguish what Hitler was doing to the Jews from the sadly routine displacement and killing of civilians in wartime. He spoke of “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.” Others have defined the term in different ways, but common elements are generally an intentional attack on a specific group.
While the term was created well after 1915 and with the Holocaust in mind, scholars of genocide (many of them focused on the Holocaust) have broadly endorsed applying the term to what happened to Armenians in 1915, and many refer to that tragedy as the first genocide of the 20th century. When in 2005 Turkey started talking about the idea of convening historians to study whether a genocide took place, the International Association of Genocide Scholars issued a letter in which it said that the “overwhelming opinion” of hundreds of experts on genocide from countries around the world was that a genocide had taken place.
Specifically it referred to a consensus around this view: “On April 24, 1915, under cover of World War I, the Young Turk government of the Ottoman Empire began a systematic genocide of its Armenian citizens — an unarmed Christian minority population. More than a million Armenians were exterminated through direct killing, starvation, torture, and forced death marches. The rest of the Armenian population fled into permanent exile. Thus an ancient civilization was expunged from its homeland of 2,500 years.”
Turkey has put forward a number of arguments in recent years, since admitting that something terrible did happen to many Armenians. Among the explanations offered by the government and its supporters are that many people died, but not as many as the scholars say; that Armenians share responsibility for a civil war in which civilians were killed on both sides; and that the chaos of World War I and not any specific action by government authorities led to the mass deaths and exiles.
Beyond those arguments, many raise political arguments that don’t attempt to deny that a genocide took place, but say that given Turkey’s sensitivities it isn’t wise to talk about it as such. This was essentially the argument given by some House members last week who voted against the resolution, saying that they didn’t want to risk anything that could affect U.S. troops. Similarly, while Holocaust experts, many of them Jewish, have overwhelmingly backed the view that Armenians suffered a genocide, some supporters of Israel have not wanted to offend Turkey, a rare Middle Eastern nation to maintain decent relations with the Israel and a country that still has a significant Jewish population.
Dissenters or Deniers?
Probably the most prominent scholar in the United States to question that genocide took place is Bernard Lewis, an emeritus professor at Princeton University, whose work on the Middle East has made him a favorite of the Bush administration and neoconservative thinkers. In one of his early works, Lewis referred to the “terrible holocaust” that the Armenians faced in 1915, but he stopped using that language and was quoted questioning the use of the term “genocide.” Lewis did not respond to messages seeking comment for this article. The Armenian National Committee of America has called him “a known genocide denier” and an “academic mercenary.”
The two scholars who are most active on promoting the view that no genocide took place are Justin McCarthy, distinguished university scholar at the University of Louisville, and Guenter Lewy, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Both of them are cited favorably by the Turkish embassy and McCarthy serves on the board of the Institute of Turkish Studies.
McCarthy said in an interview that he is a historical demographer and that he came to his views through “the dull study of numbers.” He said that he was studying population trends in the Ottoman Empire during World War I and that while he believes that about 600,000 Armenians lost their lives, far more Muslims died. “There’s simply no question,” he said, that Armenians killed many of them.
The term genocide may mean something when talking about Hitler, McCarthy said, “where you have something unique in human history.” But he said it was “pretty meaningless” to use about the Armenians. He said that he believes that between the Russians, the Turks and the Armenians, everyone was killing everyone, just as is the case in many wars. He said that to call what happened to the Armenians genocide would be the equivalent of calling what happened to the South during the U.S. Civil War genocide.
So why do so many historians see what happened differently? McCarthy said the scholarship that has been produced to show genocide has been biased. “If you look at who these historians are, they are Armenians and they are advancing a national agenda,” he said. Cuthell of the Institute for Turkish Studies said that it goes beyond that: Because the Armenians who were killed or exiled were Christians (as are many of their descendants now in the United States), and those accused of the genocide were Muslims, the United States is more sympathetic to the Armenians.
Lewy said that before he started to study the issue, he too believed that a genocide had taken place. He said that intellectuals and journalist “simply echo the Armenian position,” which he said is wrong. He said that there is the “obvious fact” that large numbers of Armenians were killed and he blamed some of the skepticism of Turkey’s view (and his) on the fact that Turkey for so long denied that anything had taken place, and so lost credibility.
In 2005, the University of Utah Press published a book by Lewy that sums up his position, Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide. Lewy’s argument, he said in an interview, “is that the key issue is intent” and that there is “no evidence” that the Young Turks sought the attacks on the Armenians. “In my view, there were mass killings, but no intent.” Lewy’s argument can also be found in this article in The Middle East Forum, as can letters to the editor taking issue with his scholarship.
The Evidence for Genocide
Many scholars who believe that there was a genocide say that Lewy ignored or dismissed massive amounts of evidence, not only in accounts from Armenians, but from foreign diplomats who observed what was going on — evidence about the marshaling of resources and organizing of groups to attack the Armenians and kick them out of their homes, and the very fact of who was in control of the government at the time.
Rouben Adalian, director of the Armenian National Institute, called the Lewy book part of an “insidious way to influence Western scholarship and to create confusion.” He said it was “pretty outrageous” that the Utah press published the book, which he called “one of the more poisonous products” to come from “those trying to dispute the genocide.”
John Herbert, director of the University of Utah Press, is new in his job there and said he wasn’t familiar with the discussions that took place when Lewy submitted his book. But he said that “we want to encourage the debate and we’ve done that.”
Notably, other presses passed on the book. Lewy said he was turned down 11 times, at least 4 of them from university presses, before he found Utah. While critics say that shows the flaws in the book, Lewy said it was evidence of bias. “The issue was clearly the substance of my position,” he said.
Of course the problem with the “encouraging the debate” argument is that so many experts in the field say that the debate over genocide is settled, and that credible arguments against the idea of a genocide just don’t much exist. The problem, many say, is that the evidence the Turks say doesn’t exist does exist, so people have moved on.
Andras Riedlmayer, a librarian of Ottoman history at Harvard University and co-editor of the H-TURK e-mail list about Turkish history, said that in the ’80s, he could remember scholarly meetings “at which panels on this issue turned into shouting matches. One doesn’t see that any more.” At this point, he said, the Turkish government’s view “is very much the minority view” among scholars worldwide.
What’s happening now, he said, outside of those trying to deny what took place, “isn’t that the discussion has diminished, but that the discussion is more mature.” He said that there is more research going on about how and why the killings took place, and the historical context of the time. He also said that he thought there would be more research in the works on one of “the great undiscussed issues of why successive Turkish governments over recent decades have found it worthwhile to invest so much political capital and energy into promoting that historical narrative,” in which it had been “fudging” what really happened.
Among the scholars attracting the most attention for work on the genocide is Taner Akçam, a historian from Turkey who has been a professor at the University of Minnesota since 2001, when officials in Turkey stepped up criticism of his work. Akçam has faced death threats and has had legal charges brought against him in Turkey (since dropped) for his work, which directly focuses on the question of the culpability of Young Turk leaders in planning and executing the genocide. (Akçam’s Web site has details about his research and the Turkish campaigns against him.) Opposition to his work from Turkey has been particularly intense since the publication last year of A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility.
In an interview, Akçam said that his next book — planned for 2008 — may be “a turning point” in research on the genocide. He is finishing a book on what took place in 1915 based only on documents he has reviewed in Ottoman archives — no testimony from survivors, no documents from third parties. The documents, only some of which he has written about already, are so conclusive on the questions Turkey pretends are in dispute, he said, that the genocide should be impossible to deny.
To those like Lewy who have written books saying that there is no evidence, “I laugh at them,” Akçam said, because the documents he has already released rebut them, and the new book will do so even more. “There is no scholarly debate on this topic,” he said.
The difficulty, he said, is doing the scholarship. In the archives in Turkey, he said, the staff are extremely professional and helpful, even knowing his views and his work. But he said that he has received numerous death threats and does not feel safe in Turkey for more than a few days, and even then must keep a low profile. As to legal risks, he said that laws on the books that make it illegal to question the Turkish state on certain matters, are inconsistently enforced, so while he has faced legal harassment, he generally felt that everything would work out in the end. But Akçam is well known, has dual German-Turkish citizenship, and a job at an American university, and he said those are advantages others do not have.
He plans to publish his next book first in Turkey, in Turkish, and then to translate it for an American audience.
Another scholar from Turkey working on the Armenian genocide is Fatma Müge Göçek, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Michigan. Until she came to Princeton to earn her Ph.D., Göçek said that she didn’t know about the Armenian genocide. For that matter, she said she didn’t know that Armenians lived in Turkey — “and I had the best education Turkey has to offer.”
Learning the full history was painful, she said, and started for her when Armenians she met at Princeton talked to her about it and she was shocked and angry. Upon reading the sorts of materials she never saw in Turkey, the evidence was clear, she said.
Göçek’s books to date have been about the Westernization of the Ottoman Empire, but she said she came to the view that she needed to deal with the genocide in her next book. “I have worked on how the Ottoman Empire negotiated modernity,” she said, and the killings of 1915 are part of “the dark side of modernity.”
So the book she is writing now is a sociological analysis of how Turkish officials at the time justified to themselves what they were doing. She is basing her book on the writings these officials made themselves in which they frame the issue as one of “the survival of the Turks or of the Armenians” to justify their actions. While Göçek will be focusing on the self-justification, she said that the diaries and memoirs she is citing also show that the Turkish leaders knew exactly what they were doing, and that this wasn’t just a case of chaos and civil war getting out of hand.
Göçek said she was aware of the harassment faced by Akçam and others from Turkey who have stated in public that a genocide took place. But she said scholars must go where their research leads them. “That is why one decides to become an academic — you want to search certain questions. If you do not want to, and you are not willing to, you should go do something else.”
— Scott Jaschik
As Turkey aspires to membership in the EU, let the latter entity admit the former on condition that Turkey acknowledges the genocide. One assumes an appropriate phrasing could be crafted.
Abbott Katz, at 7:40 am EDT on October 16, 2007
Hypocrisy at its Finest
It is my belief that the U.S. is willing to support Turkey in their attempts to disprove that the mass killings of the Armenian people was genocide because we ourselves are guilty of the mass extermination of millions of indigenous people from the North American continent.
Our government is concerned that if what Turkey did to the Armenian people is labeled as genocide, how soon after will the U.S. face similar legislation that calls our governments forced extermination of millions of Native Americans from the U.S. to be labeled as genocide as well?
The U.S. continues to play up its role as a humanitarian nation, but continually ignores the grave injustices it committed to build the country we see before us today. We are also willing to ignore genocide occurring in other countries if it does not suite our political agenda (Armenia, Rwanda, and Darfur). That is hypocrisy at its finest.
Kevin Leonard, Sr. Program Coordinator at Michigan State University, at 8:50 am EDT on October 16, 2007
While it’s convenient to hide behind the cloak of self-righteousness and call others “genocide deniers", does anyone with one eye open doubt that the anti-military crowd in congress deliberately wants to sabotage relations between the United States and Turkey? As a strong ally, Turkey is crucial in terms of getting supplies and materials into Iraq for our troops. So please spare me the holier-than-thou “injustice” speech. Where was the House and the academy on this issue for the past 92 years? The timing, my friends, is transparent...
Kevin, at 9:25 am EDT on October 16, 2007
Emotions and Historical Scholarship
Genocides and holocausts are extremely touchy subjects, I recognize. Anything said or written on the subject is politically risky. However, intellectual honesty and objectivity require sober and reflective understanding of historical evens and their framing. To begin with, asking such questions as the following seem important: What is a holocaust, and what is a genocide, and what are the differences? What are the major instances of each in recent centuries? The slave trade included the killing and dehumanization of millions of human beings. Millions of Native Americans were annihilated by the colonizers of North America. World War I as well as World War II were used as cover to commit acts of mass killings by both the Axis and Allied powers. The 10 year Iran-Iraq war resulted in the death of millions. The Combodan civil war resulted in the death of over three million people. The current US-led invasion of Iraq has resulted in the death of nearly two million people, and it still goes on. How does a historian choose to name some as holocaust, some as genocide,and some as collateral damage? Is it possible for historians to detach scholarly work from the emotions that are attached to these events?
Bob, at 9:30 am EDT on October 16, 2007
I think it is important that countries recognize the terrible wrongs that they have done in the past. Whether genocide or the brutality of war it is important that Turkey understand and recognize this part of their history accurately. Good historical research is critical for this to happen.
Unfortunately this isn’t what this debate is about. It has centred around the US legislature making pronoucements about it. While this make the Armenian voting block happy it is likely to increase resistance in Turkey to accepting what happened. What if India decided to pass a resolution condemning the ethnic cleansing and genocide perpetrated against the Amerindians emphasizing that this was one of the major causes for the founding of the US since most of the leadership were land speculators who benefited by the displacement of Indians that was being disallowed by the British with George Washington as the largest of the speculators. I don’t think this would help the US recognize the terrible wrong it did. Historical research and convincing countries to recognize wrongs are important but passing resolutions tends to only self assure the country passing the resolution of its own righteousness. Best RegardsJohn McEwen
John McEwen, at 9:35 am EDT on October 16, 2007
Response to Kevin
In fact, such resolutions have been introduce many times before:
In the last session of Congress, the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.316) had 160 bipartisan cosponsors and was overwhelmingly passed the House International Relations Committee. Unfortunately, this legislation was blocked by former Speaker Dennis Hastert, who refused to bring this resolution to the House floor for a vote. This coming year, the Speaker is Nancy Pelosi, who has supported Armenian Genocide resolutions for over a decade and has already stated she will continue to support this legislation.[Emphasis added; Source: http://www.tiny.cc/resolution ] So blaming the “anti-military crowd in Congress” just doesn’t cut it as an argument.
Ann Arc, at 9:45 am EDT on October 16, 2007
Thank you for your gutsy decision to publish this article. When seeking to understand Islam, the world should know the truth about the slaughter of Armenian Christians by Turkish Muslims. My respect for your publication just went way up.
Noel Anderson, Humanities Librarian at Univ. of Texas at Arlington, at 10:05 am EDT on October 16, 2007
The rest of the story...
Actually, it was the last-minute intervention by President Bill Clinton to Speaker Dennis Hastert which prevented a final vote on 398 and 596 on the House floor in 2000. Sorry, timing IS everything and the recent flurry of activity in this matter (after all of these years) has nothing to do with righting any wrong...
Kevin, Response to Ann, at 10:10 am EDT on October 16, 2007
When there are so many similar crimes in history that have not been labeled as such, calling what happened to the Armenians ‘genocide’ and doing it today is simply hypocritical. Democrats are simply trying to mess up things in Iraq even further. Anything else they may say, especialy the BS claims of moral authority, wants to make me puke. People who responded before me here made some good arguements, so I will not repeat them. However, I would like to say that Armenians living in Armenia are hurt the most by this wild ‘genocide’ pursuit of the diaspora in the US and France. Turkey want to open the border and resume relations, but will not do so until this matter is resolved. Armenia is paying a huge bill for this.
Killings happened, nobody denies them. Despite this article’s attempt to portray Armenians as innocent bystanders, they sided with the Russians and rebeled against the Ottomans. Yes, the Ottoman response was cruel and cost many lives, but it is also a fact that many Ottoman Turks died in the hands of the Armenians during this rebellion.
All the above are facts, not justifications. Hence, why does it bother people when Turkey herself wants an international committee to investigate the incidents and come up with a conclusion. Furthermore, Turkey opened up its Ottoman era archives long time ago. Armenia has to-date refused to do so. C’mon people, nothing is so black and white. Evil is sometimes in the eye of the beholder.
Koray Yilmaz, at 10:20 am EDT on October 16, 2007
unintentionally bogged down in parsing “intent”
Bob and John’s comments above are worth noting. Many will look at the academic effort to parse words as an ivory tower exercise that unfortunately abstracts from the real-time, flesh-and-blood horrors we do not want to forget. The source of much of this abstraction lies in the tricky issue of establishing “intent.” The horror of the Holocaust against European Jews was that the intending minds of a few powerful people to destroy Jews was systematically and effectively carried out. Now, if one Turk cried out, “death to all Armenians!” while shooting at someone, there is genocidal intent there, but at a more limited effectiveness. Repeat that one individual over and over, thought, and does it become a genocide? I don’t know the answer, and I’m one to likely to reason that it’s not the same as what happened with the Final Solution—but still, the material suffering remains, and we musn’t forget that, and Turkey musn’t be allowed to hide behind a plea of “no intent.” This is a problem with all hate crimes that have us focusing on intent to the point that deciphering the minds of the perpetrators becomes more important and academically “interesting” than remembering the victims.
david, at 10:25 am EDT on October 16, 2007
Re: Noel Anderson’s comment
Here we go, another blood thirsty Texan making this about religion. You claim to be a librarian, so I recommend you read some books about the Ottoman Empire. You will notice that it allowed a lot freedom for all minorities and religions. Why do you think there were so many Armenians, Jews, Greeks, and many more living within the Ottoman Empire when the British, French, Russians and Greeks decided to invade the Ottoman lands. It all went downhill from there on for the minorities.
Did you also know that the Ottoman Empire was the only country that allowed the Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition to come and live without fear of persecution for centuries, with many of them still living in Turkey?
If you really want to get into the religion arguement, and who is more ‘evil’, history will only shame you Mr Anderson. The crusades and the inquisitions are just for starters..
I think you are wasting your libray’s resources by remaining so ignorant.
Koray Yilmaz, at 10:35 am EDT on October 16, 2007
Hey Kevin; Let me get this straight. According to you, Clinton came to Hastert and asked him to kill the bill. How did this happen? I can’t imagine Hastert doing anything at Clinton’s bidding. Your comment smells a little like a Karl Rove “rumor.”
Fred Flener, Retired, at 11:05 am EDT on October 16, 2007
Armenian Genocide Resolution
Good article I wanted to share this one with everyone as well:
nationalreview.com October 16, 2007
Genocide? What Genocide?Critics are right that Congress has no business weighing in on historical controversies. But there is no controversy here.
By Mark Krikorian
The House Foreign Affairs Committee has passed a non-binding resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide, and Turkey is in a tizzy. A few thoughts.
First of all, it is simply inarguable that the Ottoman Empire tried to eradicate the Armenian people under the cover of World War I. Despite the Turkish government’s efforts to purchase a different historical narrative (by, for instance, using government funds to endow chairs in Turkish Studies at American universities), genocide denial is finding an increasingly small audience. As the International Association of Genocide Scholars has put it, “to deny its factual and moral reality as genocide is not to engage in scholarship but in propaganda.”
But that, of course, doesn’t give House members much direction in considering whether to vote for the actual resolution that will soon reach the House floor. It wouldn’t matter much one way or the other if Congress were voting on whether to condemn the Mongols’ extermination of 90 percent of Persia’s population in the 13th century, for instance, because that doesn’t have much political saliency. But, for whatever reason, the modern Turkish Republic has adopted a monomaniacal position of genocide denial, similar to the ChiComs’ insistence on the fiction of “One China,” or the Greeks’ obsession with FYROM, or the Arabs’ demand that we pretend Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel. This is despite the fact that the genocide was the policy of a long-defunct state and its architects were actually condemned to death in absentia by Turkish military courts specifically for committing the genocide. The smart thing would be to simply acknowledge the crimes of the ancien regime, and move on.
Nonetheless, Turkey will brook no argument. Simply asserting the existence of the Armenian Genocide there is a criminal offense, and just yesterday two Turkish-Armenian journalists were convicted on such charges, including the son of another journalist murdered earlier this year for asserting the reality of the genocide.
As a result of the House committee vote, Turkey has temporarily recalled its ambassador and Washington fears that if the genocide measure passes the full House, Turkey will limit our use of an air base in southern Turkey used to supply troops in Iraq. They may well make good on their threat, though the Turkish government’s pique is likely to be short-lived, since they need us more than we need them. And we’ve coped just fine with earlier efforts at Turkish obstruction of our efforts in Iraq; in 2003, Turkey refused to allow U.S. troops to pass through on their way to overthrow Saddam. What’s more, Turkey is moving toward sending its own troops to invade Kurdistan, the only part of Iraq that isn’t at war, in order to flush out separatist guerrillas.
The context for Turkey’s reaction to the House resolution is the fact that Turks are the most anti-American people on Earth. A 47-nation Pew survey earlier this year showed that ordinary Turks had the least favorable view of the United States, more negative than even the Palestinians or Pakistanis. Mein Kampf is a bestseller there, and the luridly anti-American and anti-Semitic film Valley of the Wolves — Iraq drew record audiences and thumbs-ups from Turkey’s political leadership. The Turkish people’s deep-seated hatred of America obviously wouldn’t get any better because of passage of the genocide resolution, but it couldn’t get any worse.
Back home, it’s particularly amusing to see opposition to the genocide resolution from those who want to use American foreign policy to promote human rights abroad. If you’re going to stick your nose in other people’s business, and tell Burma’s junta how to behave, and pass judgment on every nation’s commitment to religious freedom, etc., this is what you’re going to be stuck with. In other words, once you start moving along the spectrum toward foreign-policy Idealism, don’t be surprised when this sort of thing happens.
If there’s any real problem with the genocide resolution it’s precisely that it feeds into an excessively idealist view of foreign policy. While its many findings are largely restatements of facts in the public record, its “Declaration of Policy” states that “The House of Representatives — (1) calls upon the President to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide and the consequences of the failure to realize a just resolution.” Our foreign policy is already reflects inordinate “sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights” — we hardly need more of it.
None of this would have happened if subsequent presidents had simply followed Ronald Reagan’s lead in commemorating the Armenian Genocide along with the Holocaust, without lots of specific “findings,” without declarations of policy, without even mentioning Turkey or the Ottomans. Our policy toward modern Turkey should have nothing whatsoever to do with acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide. But caving to Turkish pressure never to use “Armenian” and “genocide” in the same sentence is what has given the current resolution its impetus.
Critics are right that Congress has no business weighing in on historical controversies. But there is no controversy here. This isn’t even a matter of the polite fictions necessary to international diplomacy. Denying the Armenian Genocide is simply a lie, and a lie propagated at the behest of a foreign power. It’s unworthy of us.
— Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.
Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies and an NRO contributor.
Rich, at 11:20 am EDT on October 16, 2007
For the American right, it’s always “Clinton’s fault.” There were numerous resolutions before the one Kevin claims Clinton sneakily got Hastert to kill.
By the way, I don’t know the history in detail, but I suspect that both Dem & Rep administrations have been leery of getting on the wrong side of a valuable though not entirely stable ally like Turkey.
(Sorry about the weird italics in my previous post.)
Ann Arc, at 11:55 am EDT on October 16, 2007
Congress, suffering in public support, seeks to regain moral high ground by defining atrocities of the crumbling Ottoman Empire against Armenians in 1915 a “genocide.” The resolution ignores other atrocities, like Rwanda (1994), Cambodia (1975), Mao’s China (1958), Nanking (1937), and Ukraine (1932)—not to mention our own atrocities against native Americans and blacks. It selectively pokes the eye of a key ally, the democratic republic of Turkey, in an untimely action that many consider setting new tapestries afire to remove an old stain.We remember, of course, that “good” Germans once tolerated the Gestapo, but apparently have forgotten that “good” Americans like Paul Bremer, our man in Iraq, gave infamous “Order 17” granting contractors immunity from all Iraqi laws. Congress’ resolution, if honest, would recognize potential evil in all human hearts, including our own, rather than selectively condemning it only in others? “Why behold the mote only in thy brother’s eye, but consider not the beam in thine own?” [Matthew 7:3].
Daniel Biezad, Dr. at Cal Poly State University, at 12:00 pm EDT on October 16, 2007
“I can’t imagine Hastert doing anything at Clinton’s bidding. Your comment smells a little like a Karl Rove “rumor.””
As hard as it may be to imagine today, before the Iraq war, foreign policy was often a much less partisan issue than it is today. I can easily envision Hastert being willing to accommodate Clinton on this issue in order to protect our relationship with an important NATO ally. Unfortunately 9/11 and Iraq have led both parties to see foreign, defense, and homeland security policies primarily as political weapons to beat up their opponents with.
Chris, at 12:05 pm EDT on October 16, 2007
Respone to Mark Krikorian’s posting
Mark, I will respond to some of the issues in your posting:
1) Yes, polls in Turkey today indicate a dislike of the Americans because of a) the war in Iraq b) more importantly — believe it or not — the incident in which American soldiers imprisoned some unsuspecting Turkish special forces soldiers by forcing bags over their heads and manhandled them. Hence the movie, Valley of the Wolves came about. (remember the theory of action and reaction!!!) However, if you look at the surveys during the Clinton years, you will see the numbers were JUST THE OPPOSITE. Turks loved the Americans as much as the Brits did. Selective memory huh, Mark?
2) Saying something is ’simply inarguable’ does not make it inarguable, especially if the one saying it is an Armenian. Why would the Armenians not open their archives and let an international committee be formed. Let them say it is genocide, if they so conclude. In that case, the Turkish goverment will have nothing more to say, will they?
3) You are critizing the goverment paid U.S. university chairs who are defending the views of the Turkish side. You must be kidding me..! Armenian lobbies spent much much more money lobbying and forming similar institutions for decades. Turkish goverment is just waking up and doing something about the media side of this issue.
As an Armenian, what do you hope to accomplish by hearing the word ‘genocide’ from a bunch of people who had nothing to do with the killings? Will that really satisfy you? Or are there other motives? What is the end game here Mark?
Koray Yilmaz, at 12:05 pm EDT on October 16, 2007
Gwynne Dyer appears to be with Kevin on this one:
Diana Relke, Professor at U. Saskatchewan, at 12:25 pm EDT on October 16, 2007
“The current US-led invasion of Iraq has resulted in the death of nearly two million people, and it still goes on.”
I like how as the anti-war movement has progressed, these numbers have gotten progessively more ridiculous.
First 10s of thousands, then hundreds of thousands, then 600,000! Now two million!
Are you guys even aware of what the population of Iraq is?
Iraq has a population of 27.5 million.
It has had a death rate of 5.26 per 1,000 (and this is at the peak of the insurgency). Uf you do the rough math on this — that comes out to 144,650 per year X 4 years = 578,600.
Roughly 578,600 people have died in Iraq. . . as the result of anything. . . by **ANY** cause whatsoever. So when you’re saying America killed two million Iraqis (all civilians, of course. . . and all by Americans (apparently there’s no infighting between Shiites or Sunnis in Iraq or terrorists, just a bunch of Americans causing everybody’s deaths) — what you are saying is that the U.S. has killed three times more people than have died in Iraq as the result of any cause at all, whether it be war + cancer + old age + regular crime + anything.
Iraq Body Count, a left-wing anti-war group puts the dead at 75-80,000. The last estimates I saw from the UN were ~50,000, though I’d assume it’s a little higher now. And, again, these aren’t tallies of death by Americans — they’re largely the work of the people Americans are trying to stop and who will run the country if America pulls out.
AD, at 12:25 pm EDT on October 16, 2007
Sorry to harp on that, but this has been a pet peeve of mine.
AD, at 12:35 pm EDT on October 16, 2007
To Fred & Ann...
The tired “Karl Rove” conspiracy theory and right-wing-bashing-Clinton stuff aside, it’s the Armenian Assembly of America that said Clinton intervened with Speaker Hastert.http://www.aaainc.org/fileadmin/aaainc/pdf/Advocate/Advocate_2007-03.pdf
See page 3, lower right. Hope this helps!
Kevin, at 1:05 pm EDT on October 16, 2007
What does this achieve?
Is it just me or am I the only one who wonders why don’t we don’t just leave the old country battles back in the old country?
What will this resolution do for either side?
Does anyone think Turkey will repeat what may or may not have happened almost 100 years ago if this resolution is not passed?
Does anyone think Turkey will collapse as a nation if it is passed?
Some Americans should realize that they aren’t still ‘back home’ and pay attention to what is happening here. Jeez, its not like the US doesn’t have a whole darn lot of troubles itself that we can, and SHOULD, shoot at.
Old Codger, at 1:30 pm EDT on October 16, 2007
The timing of this resolution is simply stupid.Was killing 2 1/2 million Armenians genocide? The Turks also killed up to 750,000 Assyrians and maybe a million or so Greeks. They were very democratic in their butchery which continued even after WWI ended.
Dennis Ruhl, at 3:00 pm EDT on October 16, 2007
A slaughter by any other name....
The legislature is given to pass non-binding symbolic bills that get nothing done, whether for the present in Iraq or the past in the Ottoman Empire. It makes them looked engaged in something. I detest hate crimes (and have the bracelet to show it), but mass slaughter for political reasons is not a hell of a lot worse than one for religious reasons (and today the differences are often small). The Holocaust was deplorable (my wife’s Polish family was victims of it), but Stalin’s mass political cleansing was not just a governmental act. So, as in criminal trials here, the issue is not intent (there was intent to massacre), but motive for the intent and act. The issue of motive is only mildly important in a case that is moot by a century’s length.I live near Glendale, California, which has the largest Armenian population in the world outside of Armenia, so I know about the depth of feelings that Armenian-Americans have on this issue. So situated, I wonder whether the Armenian-American lobby (like the pro-Israel Jewish lobby) has convinced congress to such a useless, placating act on a century-long conflict.
Dave, prof emeritus at USC, at 3:00 pm EDT on October 16, 2007
A few weeks ago, there was uproar over Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust denier from Iraq, speaking at Columbia University. Even with the scholarship and agreement over the genocide of Armenians, we seem to think it’s OK to deny this genocide because the US needs to use Turkey’s airbase. It may not be opportune now, but it wasn’t a great opportunity for that many Armenians to be killed like the Jews in WWII, either. There may have also been other genocides in the century, but if we don’t recognize the first, why would there be any incentive to recognize the rest?
kaanswfm, at 5:05 pm EDT on October 16, 2007
BTW, it’s not just Democrats who voted for this:
“Every California lawmaker on the committee voted in favor of the resolution, including Reps. Howard Berman, D-Van Nuys; Linda Sanchez, D-Lakewood; Diane Watson, D-Los Angeles; Elton Gallegly, R-Thousand Oaks; Ed Royce, R-Fullerton; Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach/Long Beach; and Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks.”
From the Daily News, Los Angeles: Armenian killings called ‘genocide’ by House panelBY LISA FRIEDMAN, Washington Bureau
kaanswfm, at 5:05 pm EDT on October 16, 2007
There is no one alive today who participated in that horror. Why do we bring this issue up now?
Kate, Instructor at LCC, at 6:30 pm EDT on October 16, 2007
Stop Racism against the Turks
STOP RACISM AGAINST THE TURKS
In order to establish truth and to confront racist bias against Turks, read below the works and commentaries of neutral scholars and researchers,Find out what former Armenian Premier Senin Ovanes Katchaznouni said during the 1923 Dashnak Party Conference in Bucharest-Romania, about the mistakes and misguided activities –treachery- of Armenian extremists and activists. Available from firstname.lastname@example.org ISBN 975-343-438-3 (distributed in London email@example.com )
You may peruse www.tallarmeniantale.com, by author Holdwater & http://www.eraren.org/bilgibankasi/en/index.htm The “Armenian Research” Foundation or peruse http://www.anarmenianmyth.com
Read on internet www.tallarmeniantale.com/c-f-dixon-BOOK.htm, written by a British officer in 1916 – the portrayal of Anatolian Armenian character
Examine Guenter Lewy’s “The Armenian Massacres in Turkey, A Disputed Genocide” ISBN-13:978-0-87480-849-0 available on Amazon.com (Jewish author from USA)
Salahi Sonyel’s “The Turco-Armenian Imbroglio” ISBN-0-9504886-6-6, available at Cyprus Turkish Association 0207 437 4940 firstname.lastname@example.org (Cypriot Turk author)
films to watch are: “The Armenian Revolt 1894-1920″ documentary DVD by Third Coast Films, P.O. Box 664, Clarion, PA 16214, USA, email@example.com (by an American Director) This is a MUST !! &"Sari Gelin’ documentary DVD through www.sarigelinbelgeseli.com firstname.lastname@example.org (maybe available on eBay) (by a Turkish Director)
have a look at www.armenians-1915.blogspot.com by Turkish Armenians (including free downloadable books and automatic translation of site text into several languages),
Read Prof. Turkkaya Ataov’s WHAT HAPPENED TO OTTOMAN ARMENIANS? ISBN 1=4243=1004-0 (obtainable from ssaya at superonline dot com), (Turkish author)
“MYTH OF TERROR’ by late Erich Feigl (1986)Zeitgeschichte/Bucherdienst Austria (Austrian Author) which contains the signatures of 63 foreign Academics refuting the Armenian claims
http://www.tallarmeniantale.com/terrorism-breakdown.htm for Armenian terrorism against Turks.. why Armenians are not talking about their terrorists?
an interesting read (in 3 languages) of memoirs of a Russian Officer on Armenians at http://www.tsk.mil.tr/ermeni_sorunu/kitap.htm (click on the book for downloading) or access it and others at http://www.tsk.mil.tr/eng/ermeni_sorunu_salonu/armenianissues_index.htm (from Turkish Military archives reputed to be richest on this issue)
There are also several powerful books on this subject by the American author Justin McCarthy http://homepages.cae.wisc.edu/~dwilson/Armenia/mccarthy.html
The TURKS ARE WILLING AND READY TO FACE THE ARMENIANS AT A PUBLIC INQUIRY AND DEBATE, FOR THE SAKE OF ESTABLISHMENT OF TRUTH. But are the Armenians are ready to do so? Have you asked them ..?
The Turkish Government supports the establishment of an independent International commission to research the background of the Turco-Armenian relations during the 1st World War, but the Armenians are refusing to participate!. Do ask them why..! If truth scares them, then let it be. Simply put, they are afraid of the truth surfacing and damaging the bond holding together their people.
——————————————————————————————— Comments by neutral Scholars and Outcomes of Trials
The Middle East Journal 61.2 (Spring 2007): p348(2). The Armenian Rebellion at Van, by Justin McCarthy, Esat Arslan, Cemalettin Takiran, and Omer Turan. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press, 2006. vii + 266 pages. 11 Maps. Notes. Appends. to p. 285. Bibl. to p. 291. Index to p. 296. $25. Reviewed by Edward J. Erickson This timely book follows and complements recent work by Donald Bloxham [The Great Game of Genocide, reviewed in The Middle East Journal (MEJ), Vol. 60, No. 1 (Winter 2006)] and Guenter Lewy [The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide, reviewed in MEJ, Vol. 60, No. 2 (Spring 2006)]. Both Bloxham and Lewy contend that there was an actual Armenian rebellion in 1915, which was encouraged and aided by the Allies, and aimed at the establishment of an Armenian state. Moreover, Bloxham asserts that ill-timed active collaboration with the Allies by Armenian nationalist leaders led their people into a disastrous confrontation with the Ottomans. The Armenian Rebellion at Van supports these contentions by showcasing them with a fascinating case study of the well-known uprising in Van, the eastern Anatolian city and province, in the spring of 1915.
The authors begin with three chapters detailing the geographic, economic, and demographic setting of Van province, with attention to the origins and politics of the Armenian committees, especially those of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (the ARF or Dashnaks). Chapter four examines the rebellion of 1896. Chapter five, titled the “Development of the Revolution, 1897-1908,” outlines the growth of an armed Armenian movement by examining its leadership, tactics, arms smuggling, and Russian connections. Chapter six, on the period 1908-1912, briefly covers the deteriorating relations between the Young Turks and the ARF, while chapter seven covers the events preceding the outbreak of war. The heart of the book, chapter eight, is a detailed examination, at the tactical level, of what happened at Van in late March and April 1915. Using previously unavailable documents from the Ottoman military archives in Ankara, the authors offer a picture of a carefully planned and executed rebellion that was sponsored by and closely coordinated with the Russians, who launched an offensive aimed at seizing the city. The concluding two chapters explain the destruction of both the Armenian and Muslim communities in the province and present an analysis of why the Ottomans failed to suppress the rebels. So why read another book about the Armenians’? This book represents a massive revision of what is known in the West about the Van uprising. Of particular importance is a well-developed exposition of Armenian leadership, organizational architecture, professionalism in military training, innovative tactics, and weaponry that is integrated into an explanation of how the battles were fought. The authors assert that the rebels were not simply city residents reacting in self-defense but were instead well led, tightly organized, and dangerous. They present a convincing argument based on new archival information. The maps are unusually clear and include (for the first time) small-scale municipal maps of the city of Van as it existed in 1915. The book is a gold mine of new and detailed information. This reviewer found the overall tone of the book to be unusual in its fair treatment of the Armenians by Turkish scholars. Professor McCarthy and his Turkish co-authors present the Armenians as able practitioners of the art of insurgency and note that the Armenian leader “Aram Manukian must be counted as one of the geniuses of guerrilla warfare” (p. 258). Moreover, they conclude that the Armenian insurrections were instrumental in crippling the Ottoman strategic position in Anatolia, and they also reinforce Bloxham’s assertion that the Armenians were badly let down by their Russian allies. Unfortunately, there are minor factual errors in the text. For example, Ottoman casualties at Sankaml are overstated by 100% (p. 179) while the cited Turkish source (Turk Harbi) actually gives much lower numbers. The authors erroneously give the date of a critical order from Enver Pasha on security precautions as September 25, 1914 (p. 190), when the correct date is February 25, 1915. Incorrect information is given on the composition of the First Expeditionary Force (p. 210) that includes flawed British estimates of non-existent bis divisions. There is also a lack of clarity and completeness in citing the Turkish archives; the authors rarely detail what the document is. Instead, they choose to list only its archival call number. However, these are small issues in what is otherwise a very valuable contribution to the field. Specialists and interested readers alike will understand and appreciate this book. It is clearly written, and establishes an important corrective to the extant Western historiography. While it will certainly irritate the global Armenian lobby, this reviewer would encourage those seeking a balanced and informed understanding of these events to read The Armenian Rebellion at Van. It is well worth the price and highly recommended. Lt. Col. Edward J. Erickson, USA (Retired), International Research Associates, LLC —————————————————————————————————————————————————————————- The following are excerpts from a review essay by Masaki Kakiszaki, University of Utah, on a newly released book by Guenter Lewy, titled “The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide” University of Florida Press, 2005. The full review is published in Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies, Spring 2007. Ethnic Cleansing or Genocide? by Masaki Kakiszaki, University of Utah, The full review is published in Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies, Spring 2007. Guenter Lewy’s The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide has unleashed debate in the United States as well as in different countries such as Canada, France, Germany, and Turkey. In the United States, Lewy’s articles expressing skepticism about historiographies constructed by both Armenian and Turkish historians about the Armenian genocide appeared in Middle East Quarterly and Commentary; in subsequent issues, these journals published several letters to the editors from readers, mostly Armenians, who objected to Lewy’s thesis. (…) It is important to examine Lewy’s argument in order to understand the reasons for Armenian scholastic anger against the book. The attacks on the book demonstrate how an inquiry into the tragic events of the First World War can be removed from historical context and elevated to mythological level, a process that, in turn, prevents any rational exchange between the two sides. (…) Lewy’s purpose is to evaluate the consistency and validity of the ongoing debate over the evidence for the Armenian massacres in Ottoman Turkey. The literature that pertains to the fate of the Armenian population during the First World War involves two narratives. On the one hand, Armenian scholars present this tragedy as the first genocidal event of the twentieth century. They argue that the Armenian massacre was a product of the Ottoman government’s special intent to deport and exterminate the entire Armenian population in the empire. On the other hand, Turks contend that this event was an outcome of Armenian collaboration with the Russians, inter-communal warfare in eastern Turkey, and the harsh economic and social conditions of war (such as food shortages and the spread of diseases). (…) This book tackles the question not of the scale of Armenian suffering but of ‘the premeditation thesis.’ Although there are wide discrepancies with regard to the total number of victims, at least both camps acknowledge that hundreds and thousands of Armenians lost their lives during the deportation. Thus, Lewy focuses on the dispute over the cause of Armenian massacres by inspecting the way in which Armenians and Turks have offered contradictory or competing accounts (…) He concludes that an Ottoman intent to organize the annihilation of Armenians cannot be determined with the evidence that so far has become available to scholars. Thus, he rejects the term ‘genocide’ to describe the mass killing of Armenians, while admitting the indirect responsibility of the Ottoman local government officials for the loss of life of a large number of Armenians. (…) He criticizes the manner in which Armenian authors rely on the consequences of the Armenian deportation to prove that the Young Turk leaders had prior plans for total destruction of the Armenian population. He argues that ‘objective results are not the same as subjective intent’. Furthermore, Lewy claims that the Armenian side ignores the multiplicity of cases in the tragedy by playing down the roles of starvation and disease, which afflicted not only the Armenian deportees but also Muslim Turks. Lewy also finds problems in the Turkish version of the stories (…) As Lewy points out, ‘Both Turks and Armenians have accused each other of horrible crimes while at the same time denying or minimizing the misdeeds committed by their own forces’. The Turkish side tends to dodge the responsibility of atrocities against Armenians by shifting the blame from the Ottoman government to ‘the civil war cause.’ On the other hand, Armenian authors ignore the Armenian revolutionary movements’ relationship with Russia and the threat this relationship posed to the Ottoman government. (…) Lewy’s book aims to clarify the gap in our knowledge of the Armenian suffering. Lewy ‘reconstructs’ a history of this tragedy by strictly distinguishing the confirmed facts from the mere assertions of historians who fail to support their claims with substantive evidence. In this process he attempts to determine how the government decided on the deportation plan, how it was implemented in different regions and cities, who were responsible for the massacres, and how many people died. The chapters in this section reveal the diversity in the levels of Armenian suffering and the variation of the degree of implementing the deportation. This picture seems to imply that the deportation of the Armenian population was not carried out in a systematic or well-organized manner, which would be necessary for the purpose of total destruction of the Armenian community. (…) In terms of the number of victims, different authors have generated different estimations. It is also difficult to determine the precise death toll because we have neither an exact figure for the prewar Armenian population nor an accurate count for the number of survivors. It also is impossible to distinguish the number killed by Turks and Kurds and those who perished due to starvation and disease. After a critical examination of the Armenian and Turkish historiographies, Lewy proposes an alternative explanation. He argues that ‘it was possible for the country to suffer an incredibly high death toll without a premeditated plan of annihilation’ for several reasons. First, the Ottoman government, despite its willingness, failed to arrange an orderly process of relocation of Armenians because of its institutional ineptness. The systematic and organized relocation of tens of thousands of Armenians proved beyond the ability of the Ottoman government. Food shortages and epidemic diseases which the authorities could not prevent or control exacerbated the environment for Armenians during the course of the deportation. Additionally, the government could not provide adequate protective measures for the Armenian deportees from hostile Kurds, Circassians and others. According to Lewy, these severe conditions and the inability of the Ottoman government to provide protection resulted in the high death toll of the Armenians. Thus, while he concedes that the government bears responsibility to a certain extent for the outcome, he emphasizes that it is the government’s ineptness rather than a premeditated plan to exterminate the Armenians that caused the Armenian tragedy. One of the contributions of Lewy’s work is that he clarifies what we have learned as confirmed facts from both the Armenian and Turkish historians. Without leaning to either side, he accepts evidence and arguments that are substantiated by other sources. His neutrality becomes obvious in Part IV, which discusses the politicization of the controversy over the Armenian massacres. He argues that the Armenian side’s argument of the premeditation thesis lacks authentic documentary evidence and suffers from a logical fallacy. But he also criticizes the Turkish side for distorting the historical fact by translating the Armenian massacres into mere ‘excesses’ or ‘intercommunal warfare’. (…) The personal memories of individual Turks and Armenians are not separable from the collective social memory of their communities because people can be confident about the accuracy of their remembrances only when their own memory is confirmed by others’ remembrances. The politicization of the Armenian massacres, then, facilitates the transmission of collective memories from generation to generation; Armenian campaigns for the recognition of the genocide and the airing of the Turkish government’s argument have functioned as mechanisms by which both Armenians and Turks are reminded of the past and their distinctive identities. The current rigid adherence of both sides to their historiographies thus is likely to lead to the deepening of the gap between them, not pave a way to closing this gap. For this reason, Lewy suggests that historians ought to keep the door of research open for further exploration of the Armenian massacres. Political confirmation of the Armenian massacres as historically established genocide, he argues, will deprive future historians of opportunities to start collaborative research for the advancement of common understanding grounded in historical facts rather than propaganda. (…) Lewy knows that an attempt to put all the aspects of the Armenian massacres into a single picture as a whole ignores the variation of stories. In this tragedy, there is a diversity of experiences lived by each group of people. Therefore, Lewy adopts a method with which he constructs his own historiography by aggregating different local incidents and experiences. The Armenian and Turkish historians take the opposite approach. They look into the events from the pictures that they want to see. In this process, evidence and incidents that may disconfirm their theses are likely to be ignored in their analytic frameworks. There is one point that I find unsatisfactory in Lewy’s book: he refrains from making his definition of genocide explicit while claiming that ‘the attempt to decide whether the Armenian massacres in Ottoman Turkey fit. . . definitions [of genocide] strikes me as of limited utility’ (…) However, this debate still is of substantive importance because parliaments in several countries have proclaimed this tragedy to be an instance of genocide. For example, in the fall of 2006 the French parliament adopted a bill that criminalizes the denial of the Armenian genocide. What is relevant to Lewy’s argument is that the politicians who vote on these resolutions are influenced exclusively by their ethnic Armenian constituents, and they rely only on an Armenian version of the history of 1915. The politicians are not without their own prejudices, and their determinations never can substitute for actual history. In the French parliament, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin argued that it is ‘not a good thing to legislate on issues of history and of memory,’ but his caution was ignored. These resolutions spotlight politics, not the truth, and are therefore debatable. (…) The attack against Lewy’s book and the controversy created by Peter Balakian and others who share his views indicate the problem of academic freedom of speech with respect to events associated with the Turkish-Armenian conflicts. There are coordinated efforts by Armenian NGOs and scholars to silence and suppress different interpretations about the events of 1915. Simultaneously, free speech about the Armenian massacres also is denied in Turkey. (…) In the final analysis, Lewy’s book indeed has become like dynamite to both sides by pointing out the shortcomings of both Turkish and Armenian scholarship and revealing the difficulty of objective debate on the Armenian tragedy. It is very unproductive for diaspora Armenians to turn the Armenian genocide thesis into a source of identity. The shift prevents contextualization of the events and turns them into mythological facts outside of any rational inquiry. Lewy tried to de-sacralize the Armenian thesis by subjecting it to rational inquiry. Lastly, it is also important to mention that Lewy’s book has been relatively favored in Turkey despite his criticism of Turkish historiography on the Armenian massacres and the failure of Turkish historians to challenge the official view endorsed by the state. Since its publication, the Turkish media has presented Lewy’s book as a new scholarly work that supports the Turkish explanation of the Armenian killings, but the media also has ignored Lewy’s disapproval of the Turkish historiography. It seems that the Turkish side is satisfied with Lewy’s conclusion that the Armenian killing cannot be confirmed as a genocide ‘as of now,’ even though he criticizes Turkish historiography. In other words, Lewy’ book once again has illuminated that both sides simply are concerned whether the Armenian massacre in 1915 was or was not a genocide, an issue which Lewy has problematized in his work. ————————————————————————————————————————————————————- BRITISH GOVERNMENT position vis-� -vis Armenian claims “that the evidence is not sufficiently unequivocal to persuade us that these events should be categorised as Genocide as defined by the 1948 UN Convention on genocide” Foreign & Commonwealth Office, London — dated the 22nd February, 2006To date, there exists NO legally binding United Nations resolution or International Court judgement to support the Armenian claims. In year 2000, The United Nations stated that they do not recognise -alleged- Armenian genocide. There exist recognition claims, which are NOT tried and tested at any International Court of Law. So far, the The Armenians have refused invitation for a legal trial of their claim!
British held Malta Military trials of Armenian claims and subsequent acquittal of the 144 Ottoman Officers on alleged Armenian Genocide Quoting from British Ambassador, Sir A Geddes in Washington to Lord Curzon in London.. upon searching for evidence against captive Ottoman officers in American Governmental and private archives – 13th July 1921 ” I have the honour to inform Your Lordship that a member of my staff visited the State Department yesterday, the 12th instant, in regard to the Turks who are at present being detained at Malta with a view to a trial... He was permitted to see a selection of reports from United States Consuls on the subject of the atrocities committed in Armenia during the recent war, the reports judged by the State Department to be the most useful for the purposes of His Majesty’s Government being chosen from among several hundreds. 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 at Malta. The report seems.. made mention of only two names of the Turkish officials in question... and in these cases were confined to personal opinions of those officials on the part of the writer, no concrete facts being given which could constitute satisfactory incriminating evidence. I have the honour to add that officials of the Department of State expressed the wish, in the course of conversation, that no information supplied by them in this connection should be employed in the court of law. Having regard to this stipulation and the fact that the reports in the possession of the Department of State do not appear in any case to contain evidence against these Turks which would be useful even for the purpose of corroborating information already in possession of His Majesty’s Government, I fear that nothing is to be hoped from addressing any further enquiries to the United States Government in this matter.” Nor did the British archives offer any tangible evidence, thus the acquittal of the wrongly accused. 2007 – Armenian claims still stand unproven at any International Court or at the United Nations, but machinations leading to unfair propaganda, racist denigration of Turks and backdoor recognition attempts are still alive. Furthermore, these unproven Armenian claims are currently used as a convenient leverage against Turkey by whomever and whenever opportune! And these are for further thought and a public debate with Armenians
The Armenian problem started in 1878 not 1915 – Indeed Armenians had treacherous designs on Ottoman Turks since 1821 not 1915 .. history does not lie.
Contrary to their claims, 200,000 Armenian traitors of circa 1915 were well armed by outside powers and that’s how Armenians rebelled and murdered 524,000 innocent Turks circa 1915 .. ask them why, but if you feel they are rather economical with truth, let us tell you how!The Azeri Jewish leaders cited research saying that some 3,000 Mountain Jews, along with tens of thousands of Azeris, were murdered in 1918 by the Armenian bandits and nationalists in the region of Guba .. how long is that soul destroying Armenian nationalist hatred against anything ‘Turk’ is going to last?
What would you have said if 200,000 traitors armed by Nazis in the middle of WW2 rebelled, committed high treason, razed British cities and towns and murdered 524,000 innocent British men, women and children in cold blood? How would The British Government may have reacted to beginnings of an intended British Genocide?
By the way, there were the Armenian Nazi Brigade/s –Armenische Legion- from 1935 onwards (i.e. Armenian 812th Battalion of Wehrmacht of some 20,000 men, commanded by Drastamat Kanaian -Dro-), The Armenian National Council of 15th December 1942 sanctioned by Alfred Rosenberg –The German Minister of Occupied areas- ) even publishing their own magazine called MITTEILUNGSBLATT DER DEUTSCH-ARMENISCHEN GESSELSCHAFT (Berlin 1938 to end 1944) what do you think they did to the innocent Jews; for example Bucharest 1935, fifth column work?
Find out what British thought of Armenians pre-WW2, on Foreign Office Document F.O 371/30031/R5337 …. ‘The Armenians (in Turkey) are extremely fruitful ground for German activities ……’
“Wholly opportunistic, the Armenians have been variously pro-Nazi, pro-Russia, pro-Soviet Armenia, pro-Arab, pro-Jewish, as well as anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist, anti-Communist, and anti-Soviet — whichever was expedient.”  Sources:  Turkkaya Ataov: Armenian Extermination of the Jews and Muslims, 1984, p. 91.  C.J. Walker: _Armenia_ London, 1980, pp. 356-8.  John Roy Carlson (Arthur Derounian), _Cairo to Damascus_ Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1951, p. 438.
As stated, neither The UNITED NATIONS nor The INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE/HR accept Armenian claims. If the Armenians are right, why has there never been a trial in consequence of these claims?
SO, HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED WHAT REALLY LIES BEHIND THE ALLEGED ARMENIAN GENOCIDE CLAIMS?
STOP RACISM AGAINST THE TURKSIn remembrance of 524,000 innocent Turks murdered by the Armenians
Erdal Firinci, Mr at CPTR, at 7:50 pm EDT on October 16, 2007
It’s hard to understand conservative outrage (and look at it on this post!) about this. I thought conservatives believed in chucking moral equivocation, calling a spade a spade, and dumping the kind of relativism that says “hey, everyone has butchered a few hundred thousand ___’s so what’s the big deal?” It strikes me that conservatives that admire Reagan’s tendency to name the USSR “evil” and Bush’s tendency to call our foes “evil-doers” as the forthright recognition that there is evil in the world and we must confront it would have no problem with accepting a resolution that simply names an evil for what it is. On the other hand I think the headline and it’s accompanying blurb on the home page of IHE unfairly puts Bush and his administration in a poor light. As I heard him put it Bush acknowledged Armenian suffering at the hands of the Turks but is worried about the geo-political effect of this resolution. I’m not sure how he is “propping” up “genocide deniers” as the blurb states, as the article mentions him only in relation to Bernard Lewis (and certainly does not demonstrate that he “props” Lewis up because he is a “genocide denier” in this matter)...
Ken, at 7:50 pm EDT on October 16, 2007
Alleged Armenian genocide is use by the Westerns Powers to put pressure on Turkey to get concessions. When Western powers do not need to put pressure the whole thing dies down.. THIS IS RACISM
check the quite periods and high periods to appreciate above .. high years 1071-1200, low years 1821 to 1878, high years 1878 to 1923, low years 1923 to 1970’s, high years 1980-2007 so THIS IS GENOCIDE OF CONVENIENCE
Erdal Firinci, Mr at CPTR, at 9:15 pm EDT on October 16, 2007
Kate sez “There is no one alive today who participated in that horror. Why do we bring this issue up now?” OK, once the few remaining perpetrators of the alleged Nazi genocide of the Jews die off, we’ll close all the Holocaust Museums in the US. Same for you, Old Codger. The alleged genocide of the Jews was Old Country, and we bore no responsibility for it. So again, let’s close all the Holocaust Museums.
Koray Yilmaz: Taner Akcam has reviewed the Ottoman archives. Go read his book. Will you agree to Mr. Akcam as the Turkish representative? More importantly, the whole idea of a commission is simply an attempt to delay and obfuscate. You parrot the line of Big Oil when it says climate change hasn’t been proved, let’s study it further... As for the “unsuspecting Turkish Special Forces,” just what were they doing in Iraq in the first place? They got treated far better than they treat Kurds. As for lobbying, the Turkish gov’t has been doing this for decades in the US. And more shamelessly than the tobacco lobby.
david: What happened to the Armenians was worse than what happened to the Jews. the Turkish holocaust of the Armenians was carried out with even more genocidal intent. How many Germans wanted to kill all the Jews? Just a few leaders. That does not make it a genocide. Any more than just a few leaders of the CUP managed to have the Ottoman state carry out its genocidal intent.
Those apologizing for the Turks are no different than David Irving or David Duke. Just a lot slicker and far better financed.
Georfe, at 10:05 pm EDT on October 16, 2007
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Labels: Peter Balakian