19 August 2008

2567) Book Review by Prof. Sam S. Baskett: "The Genocide of Truth" by Sukru Server Aya


Book Review: "The Genocide of Truth" by Sukru Server Aya (Istanbul Commerce University - 2008) ISBN 9789756516249

"The Genocide of Truth" is a monumentally ambitious compilation of facts accumulated by Sukru S. Aya over some three decades in his "totally private and personal research… to reach the truth" about the treatment of Turkish Armenians by the Ottoman government during . .
World War I. In brief, it is a convincing refutation of the charge of "genocide", the at-times vehement tone justified by the factual body of the book… an overwhelming collection of contemporary and later reports from a multitude of sources largely from (non-Turkish) pro-Armenian or neutral historians and reputable scholars, plus a large variety of newspapers or archived official documents. All verbatim quotations are identified in the extensive references and footnotes .. There is a remarkable bibliography for general information, although the writer carefully avoided quoting any "pro-Turkish foreign scholars or almost all of the Turkish historians and rich archival material".

This work is indeed a remarkable, even encyclopedic achievement and repays the considered attention of anyone interested in reaching an objective understanding of an issue that remains threateningly unresolved after nearly a century of ill-considered, inflammatory charges by the Armenian diaspora in political centers throughout the Western World. As the distinguished Turkish man-of letters Talat Halman (also celebrated for his long career at several prestigious American Universities) notes in his introduction, this document is "impressively strong… for the rectification of distortions and misinformation".

In recommending "The Genocide of Truth", I must declare an interest in writing this review; for I have known Sukru S. Aya as a valued friend in a variety of contexts since the 1990s and have always found him to be a liberal, warm-hearted, responsibly intelligent human being…blunt, out-going and strong-minded to be sure, but a person of unimpeachable integrity. In this volume I recognize the work of such a person committed to sharing what he has learned with any reader willing to examine all the evidence no matter how upsetting to one's "received wisdom" it might be. I am confident that my recommendation has nothing to do with friendship and accordingly I invite any potential reader to see for himself.

And I also must note that as an American professor of literature I have no political or historical professional credentials to qualify me as an expert on the subject of this book. I have, however, spent a long professional career in studying, evaluating and teaching books, in not only America and Turkey, but also Mexico, Japan and the United Kingdom. I am attempting to bring this experience to bear when I laud the authenticity and validity of Aya's "quest for truth", whatever flaws of expression might be discerned.

Aya comments that he became intensely involved in his investigation of "The Genocide of Truth" in the mid -1970s out of his cultural…and more profoundly, humanistic outrage at the murder of some 40 Turkish diplomats around the world, who were singled out for assassination simply for "being Turkish" in retaliation for the alleged "genocide" of Turkish Armenians by the Ottoman Officials a century ago. These incidents caught my "American" attention back at Michigan State University , especially since I had taught at Hacettepe University on a Fulbright Grant (1970-1971) and thus became alerted to the inadequacy of the information about Turks and Turkey I had absorbed from my "Western" milieu. Whatever the validity of the "genocide charge", I remember thinking at the time, the assassinations seemed to me totally unjustified on any moral scale. Like Aya, I was repulsed; but to his great credit he launched the impassioned but ultimately helpful search that is the document that offers to contribute so greatly to the reader's understanding.

Although I cannot offer a fully professional political analysis of the "Armenian Question", in a modest way I have enhanced my understanding of this matter gradually over the years in several ways. First, by reading widely "western" historians of Turkish matters over the past four decades; Secondly, in teaching at Hacettepe University and other Turkish Universities I have had extended conversations with a wide range of informed Turkish colleagues as well as those of other nationalities for whom I have great respect. Although none had devoted the time and passionate attention to this matter as has Aya, his factual presentation further validates the thoughtful views I had been gathering from these sources. Thirdly, since retiring from Michigan State University in 1990, I have lived and taught in London for considerable periods and have had the opportunity to attend numerous Anglo-Turkish activities, including more than a few panels on the Armenian charges in which Turkish, British and even Armenian intellectuals participated. Thus, I am familiar with most of the aspects of the question. "The Genocide of Truth" presents more stark, unassailable evidence than any of the panels I attended… or all of them in total.

Thus, when I recently turned to this document, I was well prepared to recognize and applaud the magnitude of the task to which Sukru S. Aya has devoted so much of himself to reach "truth" beyond accommodation. And I am greatly impressed by his success in establishing facts that cannot be gainsaid. Henceforth, no honest assessment of the "Armenian Question, particularly the charges of "genocide", can fail to take the facts of this document into full account.

One hopes that Aya's all-out effort will succeed in reducing the flood of hate based on distorted accounts of remembered or imagined wrongs, a hate that seems to feed on itself, thus damaging in various complex ways the "haters" and their misled supporters in the 21st century as well as their Turkish targets whose only guilt can be that they happen to be alive in this century. To succeed, in short, Aya needs readers to spread his findings. This may be a problem for some who have neither the time, nor the particular focused interest required to work one's way through 702 pages sequentially over a period of days. The 30 chapters (usually descriptively titled in rough chronological order), however, may be consulted in keeping with the reader's time, interest and particular body of information. This, thus can be a reference book, an index of about 1500 entries facilitating this usage.

In conclusion, the bibliography includes a long list of Turkish documentation and historians. Aya has definitely avoided using any of them. Likewise he has avoided all "pro-Turkish Foreign historians" , such as Bernard Lewis, Stanford Shaw, Norman Stone, Andrew Mango, Samuel Weems, Justin McCarthy and all who are Turkish such as Türkkaya Ataöv.

In any event, perhaps the best starting point for a reader of whatever conviction to undertake his own private research for "truth" he can live with is a booklet or Power Point presentation open to everyone at under the title of "A few Sample Notes," which may lead many into a closer examination of this work as a whole.

The book is open to all, in the Free E-library … The book is not on sale in bookstores or at the publishing University. It was not intended for any profit, and had no sponsorship in any form. Those who would like to have this book in their hand or library can order it from the E-mail address given inside the book cover ( ssaya at superonline dot com ).


Sam S. Baskett, Professor Emeritus, Michigan State University, August 2008

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