Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Robert Fisk: A reign of terror which history has chosen to neglect

Friday, 12 October 2007

The story of the last century's first Holocaust – Winston Churchill used this very word about the Armenian genocide years before the Nazi murder of six million Jews – is well known, despite the refusal of modern-day Turkey to acknowledge the facts. Nor are the parallels with Nazi Germany's persecution of the Jews idle ones.
Turkey's reign of terror against the Armenian people was an attempt to destroy the Armenian race. While the Turks spoke publicly of the need to "resettle" their Armenian population – as the Germans were to speak later of the Jews of Europe – the true intentions of Enver Pasha's Committee of Union and Progress in Constantinople were quite clear.
On 15 September 1915, for example (and a carbon of this document exists), Talaat Pasha, the Turkish Interior minister, cabled an instruction to his prefect in Aleppo about what he should do with the tens of thousands of Armenians in his city. "You have already been informed that the government... has decided to destroy completely all the indicated persons living in Turkey... Their existence must be terminated, however tragic the measures taken may be, and no regard must be paid to either age or sex, or to any scruples of conscience."
These words are almost identical to those used by Himmler to his SS killers in 1941.
Taner Akcam, a prominent – and extremely brave – Turkish scholar who has visited the Yerevan museum, has used original Ottoman Turkish documents to authenticate the act of genocide. Now under fierce attack for doing so from his own government, he discovered in Turkish archives that individual Turkish officers often wrote "doubles" of their mass death-sentence orders, telegrams sent at precisely the same time that asked their subordinates to ensure there was sufficient protection and food for the Armenians during their "resettlement". This weirdly parallels the bureaucracy of Nazi Germany, where officials were dispatching hundreds of thousands of Jews to the gas chambers while assuring International Red Cross officials in Geneva that they were being well cared for and well fed.
Ottoman Turkey's attempt to exterminate an entire Christian race in the Middle East – the Armenians, descended from the residents of ancient Urartu, became the first Christian nation when their king Drtad converted from paganism in AD301 – is a history of almost unrelieved horror at the hands of Turkish policemen and soldiers, and Kurdish tribesmen.
In 1915, Turkey claimed that its Armenian population was supporting Turkey's Christian enemies in Britain, France and Russia. Several historians – including Churchill, who was responsible for the doomed venture at Gallipoli – have asked whether the Turkish victory there did not give them the excuse to turn against the Christian Armenians of Asia Minor, a people of mixed Persian, Roman and Byzantine blood, with what Churchill called "merciless fury".
Armenian scholars have compiled a map of their people's persecution and deportation, a document that is as detailed as the maps of Europe that show the railway lines to Auschwitz and Treblinka; the Armenians of Erzerum, for example, were sent on their death march to Terjan and then to Erzinjan and on to Sivas province.
The men would be executed by firing squad or hacked to death with axes outside villages, the women and children then driven on into the desert to die of thirst or disease or exhaustion or gang-rape. In one mass grave I myself discovered on a hillside at Hurgada in present-day Syria, there were thousands of skeletons, mostly of young people – their teeth were perfect. I even found a 100-year-old Armenian woman who had escaped the slaughter there and identified the hillside for me.
There is debate in Yerevan today as to why the diaspora Armenians appear to care more about the genocide than the citizens of modern-day Armenia. Indeed, the Foreign minister of Armenia, Vardan Oskanian, actually told me that "days, weeks, even months go by" when he does not think of the genocide. One powerful argument put to me by an Armenian friend is that 70 years of Stalinism and official Soviet silence on the genocide deleted the historical memory in eastern Armenia – the present-day state of Armenia.
Another argument suggests that the survivors of western Armenia – in what is now Turkey – lost their families and lands and still seek acknowledgement and maybe even restitution, while eastern Armenians did not lose their lands.

Robert Fisk: Darkness falls on the Middle East

In Beirut, people are moving out of their homes, just as they have in Baghdad

Saturday, 24 November 2007

So where do we go from here? I am talking into blackness because there is no electricity in Beirut. And everyone, of course, is frightened. A president was supposed to be elected today. He was not elected. The corniche outside my home is empty. No one wants to walk beside the sea.
When I went to get my usual breakfast cheese manouche there were no other guests in the café. We are all afraid. My driver, Abed, who has loyally travelled with me across all the war zones of Lebanon, is frightened to drive by night. I was supposed to go to Rome yesterday. I spared him the journey to the airport.
It's difficult to describe what it's like to be in a country that sits on plate glass. It is impossible to be certain if the glass will break. When a constitution breaks – as it is beginning to break in Lebanon – you never know when the glass will give way.
People are moving out of their homes, just as they have moved out of their homes in Baghdad. I may not be frightened, because I'm a foreigner. But the Lebanese are frightened. I was not in Lebanon in 1975 when the civil war began, but I was in Lebanon in 1976 when it was under way. I see many young Lebanese who want to invest their lives in this country, who are frightened, and they are right to frightened. What can we do?
Last week, I had lunch at Giovanni's, one of the best restaurants in Beirut, and took out as my companion Sherif Samaha, who is the owner of the Mayflower Hotel. Many of the guests I've had over the past 31 years I have sent to the Mayflower. But Sherif was worried because I suggested that his guests had included militia working for Saad Hariri, who is the son of the former prime minister, murdered – if you believe most Lebanese – by the Syrians on 14 February 2005.
Poor Sherif. He never had the militia men in his hotel. They were in a neighbouring building. But so Lebanese is Sherif that he even offered to pick me up in his car to have lunch. He is right to be worried.
A woman friend of mine, married to a doctor at the American University Hospital, called me two days before. "Robert, come and see the building they are making next to us," she said. And I took Abed and we went to see this awful building. It has almost no windows. All its installations are plumbing. It is virtually a militia prison. And I'm sure that's what it is meant to be. This evening I sit on my balcony, in a power cut, as I dictate this column. And there is no one in the street. Because they are all frightened.
So what can a Middle East correspondent write on a Saturday morning except that the world in the Middle East is growing darker and darker by the hour. Pakistan. Afghanistan. Iraq. "Palestine". Lebanon. From the borders of Hindu Kush to the Mediterranean, we – we Westerners that is – are creating (as I have said before) a hell disaster. Next week, we are supposed to believe in peace in Annapolis, between the colourless American apparatchik and Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister who has no more interest in a Palestinian state than his predecessor Ariel Sharon.
And what hell disasters are we creating? Let me quote a letter from a reader in Bristol. She asks me to quote a professor at Baghdad University, a respected man in his community who tells a story of real hell; you should read it. Here are his own words:
"'A'adhamiya Knights' is a new force that has started its task with the Americans to lead them to al-Qa'ida and Tawheed and Jihad militants. This 300-fighter force started their raids very early at dawn wearing their black uniform and black masks to hide their faces. Their tours started three days ago, arresting about 150 citizens from A'adhamiya. The 'Knight' leads the Americans to a citizen who might be one of his colleagues who used to fight the Americans with him. These acts resulted in violent reactions of al-Qa'ida. Its militants and the militants of Tawheed and Jihad distributed banners on mosques' walls, especially on Imam Abu Hanifa mosque, threatening the Islamic Party, al-Ishreen revolution groups and Sunni endowment Diwan with death because these three groups took part in establishing 'A'adhamiya Knights'. Some crimes happened accordingly, targeting two from Sunni Diwan staff and one from the Islamic Party.
"Al-Qa'ida militants are distributed through the streets, stopping the people and asking about their IDs ... they carry lists of names. Anyone whose name is on these lists is kidnapped and taken to an unknown place. Eleven persons have been kidnapped up to now from Omar Bin Abdul Aziz Street."
The writer describes how her professor friend was kidnapped and taken to a prison. "They helped me sit on a chair (I was blindfolded) and someone came and held my hand saying, 'We are Muhajeen, we know you but we don't know where you are from.' They did not take my wallet nor did they search me. They only asked me if I have a gun. An hour or so later, one of them came and asked me to come with them. They drove me towards where my car was in the street and they said no more." So who are the A'adhamiya Knights? Who is paying them? What are we doing in the Middle East?
And how can we even conceive of a moral stand in the Middle East when we still we refuse to accept the fact – reiterated by Winston Churchill, Lloyd George, and all the details of US diplomats in the First World War – that the Armenian genocide occurred in 1915? Here is the official British government position on the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915. "Officially, the Government acknowledges the strength of feeling [note, reader, the 'strength of feeling'] about what it describes as a terrible episode of history and recognises the massacres of 1915-16 as a tragedy. However, neither the current Government nor previous British governments have judged that the evidence is sufficiently unequivocal to be persuaded that these events should be categorised as genocide as it is defined by the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide." When we can't get the First World War right, how in God's name can we get World War III right?

The greatest genocide of the 20th century

bones of killed Armenians and Greeks near Smyrna, around 1916-1920
The Armenian Genocide took place under cover of World War I and had four major stages. In the first stage, all able-bodied Armenian men aged 20 to 45 were conscripted into the Ottoman army. They served as soldiers at first, but in early 1915 they were disarmed and reduced to laborers toiling under brutal conditions, even working as pack animals. Many were bound and shot. In the second stage, Armenian politicians, community leaders, educators, intellectuals, and leading priests were arrested in April 1915 and soon deported and executed. In the third stage, beginning in May and June of 1915, the remaining Armenian population was deported, supposedly for relocation in the deserts of Mesopotamia, then part of the Ottoman Empire. Large numbers of the deportees in the eastern and central provinces of Trabzon, Sivas, Harput, Erzurum, Van, and Bitlis were killed at the outset in mass executions. Others died on the forced marches due to exposure, starvation, dehydration, or mistreatment. But contrary to expectations, about 200,000 to 300,000 Armenians-mainly from Turkey's western, northwestern, and southwestern provinces-survived the long trek. These wretched survivors, reduced by starvation to skin and bones, faced another series of massacres in the areas of Dayr az Zawr and Ra's al 'Ayn in Syria. Three primary methods were used in the massacres: blunt instruments; mass drownings in the Black Sea and tributaries of the Euphrates River; and incineration in stables, haylofts, and specially dug large pits in the provinces of Bitlis, Harput, and Aleppo.

A group of turkish party functionaries, mostly former military officers, were given sweeping authority to organize and supervise the killing of Armenians, including veto power over provincial governors who might object. Local party leaders and hardened criminals assisted party functionaries in this task. The criminals, released from the empire's several prisons for massacre duty, functioned as an indispensable instrument in carrying out the Armenian Genocide.

The main rationale of the perpetrators was that the Armenians were internal enemies of the Ottoman Empire, had engaged in acts of sabotage and espionage, had rebelled in Van province, and were fighting against the Turks as volunteers in Russia's Caucasus army. In April 1915 the Armenians had risen up in Van province in a desperate last-ditch attempt to resist deportation and certain destruction, as they also had resisted in Mussa Dagh (now Musada?i), Shabin Karahisar (now Kara Hissar Sahib), and Urfa. Successive military setbacks prevented the Young Turks from completing the deportations and massacres in the rest of the country, mainly Constantinople (Ystanbul), Smyrna (now Yzmir), and Aleppo.

Surviving official Ottoman documents as well as documents from the archives of the empire's wartime allies-Germany and Austria-Hungary-indicate that the extermination of the Ottoman Armenians was premeditated and centrally organized by the Young Turk regime. As many as 1.2 million Ottoman Armenians perished, out of a prewar Armenian population estimated at 1.8 million. A postwar Ottoman interior minister revealed in 1919 that 800,000 of the Armenian victims were killed outright. Of the survivors, some 250,000 managed to escape to the Caucasus, primarily to what is now Armenia but also to Georgia, and about 100,000 women and children were forcibly converted to Islam. The remaining survivors dispersed in every direction. Many immigrated to the United States. Today, about 60,000 Armenians live in Turkey, most of them in Istanbul.

Despite the Allies wartime pledges, at the end of World War I they failed to prosecute and punish the authors of the Armenian Genocide. A Turkish military court held a series of courts-martial from 1919 to 1921 that sought to hold the CUP responsible for the massacres. Although the court convicted a number of officials, including cabinet ministers, many of those involved escaped punishment or fled the country. The sentences of the court, mostly rendered in absentia, bore little relationship to the enormity of what British historian Arnold Toynbee called "this gigantic crime." The United States ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau described that crime as "the murder of a nation." With the triumph of Turkish wartime hero and nationalist insurgent Mustafa Kemal, later known as Ataturk, the Republic of Turkey was created and the courts-martial were abruptly discontinued.

History of the massacres

By the late 1800s the Ottoman Empire was seriously weakened. Various Haemus (Balkan) Christian peoples under Ottoman rule had gained independence as a result of a series of Greek and Serbian insurrections and the Russo-Turkish war of 1877 and 1878. Russia, the victor in that war, had imposed harsh terms on the Ottoman Empire in the peace treaty. Alarmed at Russia's growing strength, other European powers, notably Austria-Hungary and Britain, insisted upon a new treaty. In doing so they invoked the 1856 Treaty of Paris, which ended the Crimean War. That treaty stipulated that all six Great Powers must be involved in negotiations with the Ottoman government. The Great Powers met in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin to draw up a new treaty. Article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin called for the Ottoman sultan to immediately put into effect reforms needed to protect the security of Armenians. It also authorized the European powers to "superintend the application" of these reforms.

Despite pressure from Britain, reforms were not undertaken by the defeated Ottoman Empire, which protested that an empty treasury prevented it from policing its eastern provinces. The sultan, however, strongly opposed these reforms on behalf of Armenians in the belief that they would lead to autonomy (self-government) and ultimately to independence for the Armenians. This process had been the pattern in the Haemus (Balkan)s.

At this time Muslim Kurdish tribes, spurred by the sultan's policy of Islamic patriotism, were raiding Armenian villages in the eastern provinces of the empire. Corrupt tax collectors also harassed villagers. Conflict with the Armenians intensified when certain Armenian groups that despaired of peaceful reforms abandoned that quest and resorted to confrontation. Three revolutionary parties sprang up as a result. Ottoman Armenians led one party, the Armenakans, which formed in 1885 in the eastern Van province. The other two were rather militant and combative parties founded by Russian Armenians. In 1887 emigrants from Russian Armenia founded the Hunchak party in Geneva, Switzerland. Three years later Russian Armenians in Tbilisi, Georgia, founded the Dashnak party.

Armenian demonstrations against Ottoman authorities took place in 1890 and 1895 in the Ottoman capital, Constantinople (now Istanbul). The Hunchaks organized uprisings in the towns of Sason, in 1894, and Zeytun (now Suleymanl?), in 1895. The Dashnaks mounted an unsuccessful expedition across the Russian border into Ottoman territory in 1890 and occupied the Ottoman Bank in 1896. These revolutionary undertakings led to counterattacks against the empire's general Armenian population. Empire-wide massacres of Armenians from 1894 to 1896 claimed approximately 200,000 victims, either directly or as a result of associated hardships. Under the banner of Islam, Sultan Abd al-Hamid II had enlisted the help of several Kurdish tribes in the eastern part of the empire. They acted as quasi-military detachments and played a critical role in the destruction of property and lives. These attacks became known as the Sultan Abd al-Hamid-era Armenian massacres.

Some of the Armenian revolutionaries and others hoped that the massacres would provoke the intervention of the European powers (Britain, France, Austria-Hungary, and Germany). Although the leaders of the European powers publicly condemned the actions of the sultan, they failed to intervene. Mutual rivalries and suspicions, as well as the imprecise terms of Article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin, helped produce this inaction. But these bloody episodes soon paved the way for the rise of a new nationalist movement in the Ottoman Empire that would displace Islam as the main rallying force.

Upset by Abd al-Hamid's increasingly autocratic rule and alarmed by threats to the empire's survival, a group of civilian and military revolutionaries known as the Young Turks, combined their resources and efforts, inside and outside the empire, to overthrow the sultan and his regime. The Young Turk Revolution of 1908 and 1909 restored the empire's constitution and parliament and deposed Abd al-Hamid. By ending the sultan's 33-year despotic reign, the Young Turks hoped to stop the empire's decay and disintegration.

Although Abd al-Hamid's brother retained the title of sultan, a group of Young Turks operating under the name Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) dominated the government in one way or another, except for a brief period. Eager to infuse the empire with a new, progressive spirit, the CUP embraced the ideals of the French Revolution: liberty, equality, and fraternity. Despite success in enacting certain legal and administrative reforms, however, the CUP's foreign policies and domestic nationality policies soon drove the empire into an abyss.

Lacking leaders experienced in the art of government, the Young Turks continued to conduct themselves as a secret revolutionary organisation in the years following the revolution. They became increasingly intolerant of criticism and dissent and resorted to tactics of intimidation and terror. When rebellions broke out in various parts of the empire, the government responded with repression by military force. Their greatest blunders related to nationality conflicts, which culminated in the Haemus (Balkan) Wars in 1912 and 1913, conflicts that cost the Ottomans their remaining territory in the Haemus (Balkan)s. The First Haemus (Balkan) War (1912) was especially devastating to the empire. The substantial territorial and human losses from the war led to a national crisis during which the radical wing of the Young Turk party maneuvered itself into a position of party dominance in the spring of 1913. Thereafter, authoritarian elements of the Young Turk party controlled the central and provincial governments of the empire. A new policy of nationalism was adopted, which emphasized Turkism (the culture and traditions of the Turks) as a substitute for multiethnic Ottomanism. On the one hand it sought to replace Islam as the empire's unifying force, but on the other it used Islam as an instrument against non-Muslim elements. Christian minorities especially were viewed as an obstacle to Turkification.

As the Ottoman Empire crumbled under the pressures of spreading nationalism among its subject nationalities and as a young government took power, several factors favored targeting the Armenian community for destruction. The first factor was renewed pressure from the Great Powers in 1912 and 1913 for Armenian reforms to be carried out under direct European control. The Ottoman government resented this interference and blamed the Russians in particular for the initiative, but the Ottoman government found it more convenient to direct its anger at the vulnerable, essentially powerless Armenians. A second factor was the relatively dense concentration in the eastern provinces of Armenians who were clamoring for reforms. The Armenians were the last major non-Muslim nationality under Ottoman rule still seeking the types of reforms that the CUP government understood to mean autonomy and eventual independence. The Ottoman government subsequently declared the Armenians a danger to the empire's security and feared they might aid the Russians, with whom the empire was at war. A third factor was the 1909 massacre in the town of Adana and its environs, which had claimed some 23,000 Armenian victims. Because that massacre had been executed swiftly and without intervention from the Great Powers, whose warships stood idly by, it encouraged the Young Turks to contemplate a more radical and sweeping scheme.

Shortly before World War I began in 1914, the Ottoman Empire signed a secret treaty with Germany. Enver Pasha, a CUP leader who directed Ottoman military efforts, had faith in Germany's military prowess and ability to win a war against the other Great Powers. In addition, Germany and the Ottomans shared a long-standing hostility toward Russia. Three months after the outbreak of World War I the empire entered the conflict on the side of the German and Austro-Hungarian empires. Their crushing military defeat precipitated the Ottoman Empire's ultimate demise in 1922. But the war also provided the pretext for a campaign of extermination against the empire's Armenian population, which was denounced as a traitorous group.

Consequences of the Armenian Genocide

As the victim of the first major genocide of the 20th century, the Armenian nation not only lost nearly 60 percent of its population but also was shut out of its ancestral territories. Countless monuments and institutions testifying to the legacy of a several thousand-year-old civilization were obliterated in the process, as were thousands of churches and monasteries identified with the Armenian Church, one of the world's oldest Christian institutions. The persistence with which Turkish governments, past and present, deny the crime has severely aggravated the trauma of this catastrophe for the Armenians. The fact that the perpetrators escaped an international trial has made it easier for them to deny the crime. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) compounded the problem by imposing a decades-long silence on the subject upon Armenian survivors who had gathered in Soviet Armenia in the aftermath of the genocide. The Turkish government's success in escaping punishment for the Armenian Genocide likely contributed to German dictator Adolph Hitler's defiance in initiating his wartime crimes, including the Holocaust, during World War II (1939-1945). Shortly before the invasion of Poland in 1939, Hitler reportedly exhorted his military commanders to be merciless, saying to them, "Who, after all, speaks today about the annihilation of the Armenians."

Turkey’s belligerent attitude threatens relations with West

Someone needs to tell the irresponsible Turkish government to calm down and halt its attacks on northern Iraq.That someone is President Bush. This week, however, Bush showed only weakness and timidity in the face of Ankara’s aggressive bluster.The United States should expect better from an ostensible ally.Turkey’s over-the-top campaign against Kurdish separatism has already destroyed hundreds of villages and killed thousands within its own borders.Now Turkey is shelling and bombing Kurdish areas in northern Iraq, and threatening to launch ground attacks in force. That would bring chaos to what has been the most stable and thriving part of Iraq.In addition, the Turks are throwing another temper tantrum over how Americans choose to describe the Ottoman Empire’s many atrocities against the Armenians a century ago.Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were killed in the late 1800s, and perhaps a million lost their lives in the midst of World War I.But the Turks want to quibble with the term “genocide” — so much so that they commanded Bush to drop everything else this week and rush to defend the good name of the Ottoman Empire on Capitol Hill.That empire was one of America’s enemies in World War I, incidentally, so it seems particularly unreasonable to expect our president to help whitewash its ghastly record.“Genocide” was the blunt term that President Ronald Reagan used. But Bush, kowtowing to Ankara, urges U.S. lawmakers not to approve a measure that uses the word.Turkey wants closer ties to the West and has long yearned for membership in the European Union.So U.S.-Turkish relations should not be a one-way street. If the Turks want our continued friendship, they need to act more like friends — and stop their attacks into a country where we have more than enough problems already.

Published on 2007-10-12, Page B8, Kansas City Star, The (MO)

Skylark Farm, By Antonia Arslan, trans. Geoffrey Brock

Where memory becomes legend

Reviewed by Alev Adil
Friday, 18 January 2008

It is 1915, and Sempad the prosperous pharmacist and his family are excitedly making preparations for his brother Yerwant's visit after decades abroad. The Pharmacie Hayastane, named after the lost homeland of the Armenians, is a "beacon of prog-ress and civilisation" in their little Anatolian town. The Arslanian family are busy putting the finishing touches to Skylark Farm, their new country house, with tennis and croquet lawns and rose-covered pergolas, while in Italy Yerwant dreams of building a villa nearby where he can retire.
This is a bucolic paradise, yet from the first we know that disaster looms; most of the family will perish. The reader has already met little Henriette, three in 1915, as an old lady accompanying the author to her first name-day church service in Italy. Arslan's first novel is also a family memoir, and bears witness to the Armenian massacre that wiped out so many of her forebears in Turkey.
Her imagined history is frequently mystical. Some have had premonitions, "smelled blood in the air, caught the scent of evil" or had visions of the archangel surrounded by evil fire. The paterfamilias, Hamparzum, sees the horsemen of the Apocalypse as his toddler grandson feeds him grapes on his deathbed. He entrusts the child to the Virgin as he dies.
The atrocities they suffer are hard to read, both because of the horrific events and Arslan's purple prose. Leslie is "flung against the wall, where his small round head smashes like a ripe coconut, spraying blood and brain across the delicate floral designs." Carnage becomes religious kitsch, as when Hripsime sees her baby skewered on a bayonet, "the joyous soul of her little Vartan hesitantly trying out his new wings".
Leaving aside literary quality, Arslan's novel raises compelling questions about the traumatic historical events that shaped our inherited identity – here, where memory becomes third-generation legend. The Armenian massacres are said to have served as a model for Hitler's subjugation of Poland. Here the collective memory of the Holocaust serves as the model for imagining the Armenian genocide. Arslan inappropriately attributes Nazi ideologies to the Ottomans. Setrak the baker becomes a sub-human collaborator with the Kurdish guards. Arslan calls him "a capo": I read this to mean kapo, a term borrowed from Nazi concentration camps. This was the only moment Geoffrey Brock's translation offered anything less than lucid clarity.
The narrative has echoes of Schindler's Ark. Ismene, a wily Greek and Nazim, a Turkish beggar, save the survivors. Nazim is no Schindler, though, compelled by greed as much as remorse. There's little hope for redemption or reconciliation here, in the face of an inherited, implacable grief.
Atlantic £12.99 (275pp) £11.69 (free p&p) from 0870 079 8897

Robert Fisk: Holocaust denial in the White House

The Turks say the Armenians died in a 'civil war', and Bush goes along with their lies

Saturday, 10 November 2007

How are the mighty fallen! President George Bush, the crusader king who would draw the sword against the forces of Darkness and Evil, he who said there was only "them or us", who would carry on, he claimed, an eternal conflict against "world terror" on our behalf; he turns out, well, to be a wimp. A clutch of Turkish generals and a multimillion-dollar public relations campaign on behalf of Turkish Holocaust deniers have transformed the lion into a lamb. No, not even a lamb – for this animal is, by its nature, a symbol of innocence – but into a household mouse, a little diminutive creature which, seen from afar, can even be confused with a rat. Am I going too far? I think not.
The "story so far" is familiar enough. In 1915, the Ottoman Turkish authorities carried out the systematic genocide of one and a half million Christian Armenians. There are photographs, diplomatic reports, original Ottoman documentation, the process of an entire post-First World War Ottoman trial, Winston Churchill and Lloyd George and a massive report by the British Foreign Office in 1915 and 1916 to prove that it is all true. Even movie film is now emerging – real archive footage taken by Western military cameramen in the First World War – to show that the first Holocaust of the 20th century, perpetrated in front of German officers who would later perfect its methods in their extermination of six million Jews, was as real as its pitifully few Armenian survivors still claim.
But the Turks won't let us say this. They have blackmailed the Western powers – including our own British Government, and now even the US – to kowtow to their shameless denials. These (and I weary that we must repeat them, because every news agency and government does just that through fear of Ankara's fury) include the canard that the Armenians died in a "civil war", that they were anyway collaborating with Turkey's Russian enemies, that fewer Armenians were killed than have been claimed, that as many Turkish Muslims were murdered as Armenians.
And now President Bush and the United States Congress have gone along with these lies. There was, briefly, a historic moment for Bush to walk tall after the US House Foreign Relations Committee voted last month to condemn the mass slaughter of Armenians as an act of genocide. Ancient Armenian-American survivors gathered at a House panel to listen to the debate. But as soon as Turkey's fossilised generals started to threaten Bush, I knew he would give in.
Listen, first, to General Yasar Buyukanit, chief of the Turkish armed forces, in an interview with the newspaper Milliyet. The passage of the House resolution, he whinged, was "sad and sorrowful" in view of the "strong links" Turkey maintained with its Nato partners. And if this resolution was passed by the full House of Representatives, then "our military relations with the US would never be as they were in the past... The US, in that respect, has shot itself in the foot".
Now listen to Mr Bush as he snaps to attention before the Turkish general staff. "We all deeply regret the tragic suffering (sic) of the Armenian people... But this resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings. Its passage would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in Nato and in the global war on terror." I loved the last bit about the "global war on terror". Nobody – save for the Jews of Europe – has suffered "terror" more than the benighted Armenians of Turkey in 1915. But that Nato should matter more than the integrity of history – that Nato might one day prove to be so important that the Bushes of this world may have to equivocate over the Jewish Holocaust to placate a militarily resurgent Germany – beggars belief.
Among those men who should hold their heads in shame are those who claim they are winning the war in Iraq. They include the increasingly disoriented General David Petraeus, US commander in Iraq, and the increasingly delusional US ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, both of whom warned that full passage of the Armenian genocide bill would "harm the war effort in Iraq". And make no mistake, there are big bucks behind this disgusting piece of Holocaust denial.
Former Representative Robert L Livingston, a Louisiana Republican, has already picked up $12m from the Turks for his company, the Livingston Group, for two previously successful attempts to pervert the cause of moral justice and smother genocide congressional resolutions. He personally escorted Turkish officials to Capitol Hill to threaten US congressmen. They got the point. If the resolution went ahead, Turkey would bar US access to the Incirlik airbase through which passed much of the 70 per cent of American air supplies to Iraq which transit Turkey.
In the real world, this is called blackmail – which was why Bush was bound to cave in. Defence Secretary Robert Gates was even more pusillanimous – although he obviously cared nothing for the details of history. Petraeus and Crocker, he said, "believe clearly that access to the airfields and to the roads and so on in Turkey would be very much put at risk if this resolution passes...".
How terrible an irony did Gates utter. For it is these very "roads and so on" down which walked the hundreds of thousands of Armenians on their 1915 death marches. Many were forced aboard cattle trains which took them to their deaths. One of the railway lines on which they travelled ran due east of Adana – a great collection point for the doomed Christians of western Armenia – and the first station on the line was called Incirlik, the very same Incirlik which now houses the huge airbase that Mr Bush is so frightened of losing.
Had the genocide that Bush refuses to acknowledge not taken place – as the Turks claim – the Americans would be asking the Armenians for permission to use Incirlik. There is still alive – in Sussex if anyone cares to see her – an ageing Armenian survivor from that region who recalls the Ottoman Turkish gendarmes setting fire to a pile of living Armenian babies on the road close to Adana. These are the same "roads and so on" that so concern the gutless Mr Gates.
But fear not. If Turkey has frightened the boots off Bush, he's still ready to rattle the cage of the all-powerful Persians. People should be interested in preventing Iran from acquiring the knowledge to make nuclear weapons if they're "interested in preventing World War Three", Bush has warned us. What piffle. Bush can't even summon up the courage to tell the truth about World War One.
Who would have thought that the leader of the Western world – he who would protect us against "world terror" – would turn out to be the David Irving of the White House?

Divide and Conquer

The United States should be squeezing Turkey, not the other way around.

By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Oct. 29, 2007, at 11:36 AM ET

In the past century, the principal victims of genocide or attempted genocide have been, or at least have prominently included, the Armenians, the Jews, and the Kurds. During most of the month of October, events and politicians both conspired to set these three peoples at one another's throats. What is there to be learned from this fiasco for humanity?

To recapitulate:
At the very suggestion that the U.S. House of Representatives might finally pass a long-proposed resolution recognizing the 1915 massacres in Armenia as a planned act of "race murder" (that was U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau's term for it at a time when the word genocide had not yet been coined), the Turkish authorities redoubled their threat to invade the autonomous Kurdish-run provinces of northern Iraq. And many American Jews found themselves divided between their sympathy for the oppressed and the slaughtered and their commitment to the state interest of Israel, which maintains a strategic partnership with Turkey, and in particular with Turkey's highly politicized armed forces.
To illuminate this depressing picture, one might begin by offering a few distinctions. In 1991, in northern Iraq, where you could still see and smell the gassed and poisoned towns and villages of Kurdistan, I heard Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan say that Kurds ought to apologize to the Armenians for the role they had played as enforcers for the Ottomans during the time of the genocide. Talabani, who has often repeated that statement, is now president of Iraq. (I would regard his unforced statement as evidence in itself, by the way, in that proud peoples do not generally offer to apologize for revolting crimes that they did not, in fact, commit.) So, of course, it was upon him, both as an Iraqi and as a Kurd, that Turkish guns and missiles were trained last month.

And here, a further distinction:
Many of us who are ardent supporters of Kurdish rights and aspirations have the gravest reservations about the so-called Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. This is a Stalinist cult organization, roughly akin to a Middle Eastern Shining Path group. (Its story, and the story of its bizarre leader Abdullah Öcalan, are well told in Aliza Marcus' new book Blood And Belief: The PKK and the Kurdish Fight for Independence.) The attempt of this thuggish faction to exploit the new zone of freedom in Iraqi Kurdistan is highly irresponsible and plays directly into the hands of those forces in the Turkish military who want to resurrect Kemalist chauvinism as a weapon against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, which it sees as soft on Kurdish demands. There's a paradox here, in that the uniformed satraps who claim to defend Turkish secularism are often more reactionary than the recently re-elected and broadly Islamist Justice and Development Party. The generals vetoed a meeting earlier this year between Abdullah Gul—now president of Turkey and then foreign minister—and the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq. This alone shows that they are using the border question and the PKK as a wedge issue for domestic politics.
This is enough complexity to be going on with, but Congress and the executive branch have been handling it with appalling amateurishness. The Armenian resolution is an old story. I can remember when it was sponsored by Sen. Robert Dole and stonewalled by President Bill Clinton. What a shame that we didn't get it firmly on the record decades ago. But now a House and a White House that can barely bring themselves to utter the word Kurdish are both acting as if nothing mattered except Turkish amour-propre. And, as a consequence, the United States and its friends are being squeezed by Ankara instead of—to put it shortly—the other way around. This is disgracefully undignified.
In 2003, the Turkish authorities, who had been parasitic on American and NATO support for several decades, refused to allow our bases in Turkey to be employed for a "northern front" in the removal of Saddam Hussein unless their own forces were allowed to follow us into Iraqi Kurdistan. The Bush administration quite rightly refused this bargain. The damage done by Turkey's subsequent fit of pique was enormous—nobody ever mentions it, but if the coalition had come at Baghdad from two directions, a number of Sunni areas would have got the point (of irreversible regime change) a lot sooner than they did. The rogue PKK presence was not then a hot issue; Turkey simply wished to pre-empt the emergence of any form of Iraqi Kurdish self-government that could be an incitement or encouragement to its own huge Kurdish minority.
So, let us be clear on a few things. The European Union, to which Turkey has applied for membership with warm American support, has insisted on recognition of Kurdish language rights and political rights within Turkey. We can hardly ask for less. If the Turks wish to continue lying officially about what happened to the Armenians, then we cannot be expected to oblige them by doing the same (and should certainly resent and repudiate any threats against ourselves or our allies that would ensue from our Congress affirming the truth). Then there remains the question of Cyprus, where Turkey maintains an occupation force that has repeatedly been condemned by a thesaurus of U.N. resolutions ever since 1974. It is not our conduct that should be modified by Turkey's arrogance; we do a favor to the democratization and modernization of that country by insisting that it get its troops out of Cyprus, pull its forces back from the border with Iraq, face the historic truth about Armenia, and in other ways cease to act as if the Ottoman system were still in operation.

The Greek and Armenian (H.A.) Minorities of Turkey

By Theodoros Karakostas - 4/7/2008

Last July, Army officers in Turkey were arrested for planning the assassinations of Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I and Mesrob II, Patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The targeting of the spiritual heads of these two ancient Christian communities is symbolic considering the genocide of Armenians and Greeks in Anatolia by Turkish regimes earlier in the twentieth century. Human rights abuses against the Christians of Turkey, harassment, and violations of religious freedom continue unabated in Turkey. What is just as appalling as the relentless assault on Christianity in Turkey, is the silence and lack of diplomatic protests emanating from the international community.It has become a matter of dogma for the foreign policy establishment and much of the American media that Turkey is a "secular democracy". On the basis of strategic considerations and mythical views about the alleged moderation of Turkey, the Western world has stood by and tolerated acts of terror and violence against peaceful Christian communities that would have been denounced and opposed had they occurred elsewhere. A case in point are the notorious September 6, 1955 pogroms that occurred in the historic Christian City of Constantinople. For most of the world this tragic date has no significance, but for Greek Orthodox Christians this date remains forever locked in our consciousness and represents heartbreak and mourning over the final stage of the destruction of Greek Orthodox civilization in what was once the Capital of Christian Byzantium.Heartbreak also because of the realization of younger generations of Orthodox Greeks born and raised in America years after these events that neither the United States, nor Europe, nor the NATO alliance acted to defend democratic and moral values. On that terrible September night, the Turkish government actively encouraged its criminal and extremist elements to attack the Greek community. Turkish police stood by while mobs of rioters physically assaulted Greek men, sexually assaulted Greek women, and enthusiastically destroyed Orthodox Churches while violating their sanctity in the most appalling manner. A 90 year old Greek Orthodox priest was doused with gasoline and set on fire. There were dozens of deaths, and in the aftermath of this evening of terror thousands of Orthodox Greeks fled from their ancestral homeland in terror.The purpose of recollecting these horrors emanates from the fact that the last vestiges of Greek Orthodoxy in Turkey are still under attack as a result of the policies of the Turkish government. In late 2007, a Greek Monastery on the island of Heybeliada was demolished, and an editor of a Greek minority newspaper was beaten by thugs. The Ecumenical Patriarchate is the victim of State sponsored discrimination and is unable to operate the only Seminary inside Turkey that would enable this historic Church to survive. The Western democracies took no action to protest or condemn the Turkish pogroms of September 1955, and that has been the active policy of the Western governments up to the present day. Between 1993 and 2004, there have been at least five arson attempts or bombings at the Ecumenical Patriarchate.Less than a century ago, Anatolia was populated with millions of Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek Christians. The genocide of these Christian peoples has been well documented by foreign diplomats, missionaries, relief workers, and many others. In September 1922, while American, British, French, and Italian warships were docked in the harbors of Smyrna, the Greek and Armenian populations were slaughtered by the armies of Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal. The future Turkish dictator Mustafa Kemal is well known in the West and is falsely represented as a liberal, despite his responsibility for the mass exterminations of Greek, Armenian, and Assyrian Christians throughout Asia Minor.There are many heroes and martyrs who deserve to be remembered by free societies everywhere. Among them is the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostom of Smyrna who sacrificed his life for his flock, and was subsequently murdered in the most horrific fashion on the orders of a Turkish General named Noureddin Pasha. There are a great many Americans from this period such as Consul General George Horton and relief worker Edward Hale Bierstadt who were present in Asia Minor during this tragedy and have left behind documentary evidence about the destruction of the Christians in Asia Minor.Unfortunately, official US policy toward Turkey has taken an indifferent position toward the Christians, and this remains the case up to the present day. Greek Orthodox Christians pray and hope for the security of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and for the last vestiges of Greek Orthodox faithful in Turkey who continue to live under excruciatingly difficult conditions even as their numbers dwindle to the point of near extinction. Furthering the devastating attacks on Greek Orthodoxy is the Turkish occupation of Cyprus where 200,000 Greeks have been ethnically cleansed by the Turkish Army, and where over 550 Orthodox Churches have been desecrated or converted into Mosques.If democratic principles are to mean anything in reality, Ankara must begin to receive serious scrutiny from Western media and the democracies led by the United States must begin imposing serious sanctions on Turkey for ongoing atrocities.

Theodoros Karakostas has a degree in Political Science and History. He's presently working toward a Masters degree in Eastern Orthodox Theology. He writes extensively on issues pertaining to Eastern Orthodox and Hellenic affairs, and contributed to the Boston Globe, Washington Post, Washington Times, Boston Herald, USA Today, the Financial Times, and the National Review, as well as to Greek publications and to various Eastern Orthodox News Sources.

Monday, June 23, 2008

OSCE media freedom representative protests prison sentence handed to publisher of book on Turkish history

VIENNA, 19 June 2008 - Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, today condemned the five-month prison sentence handed down to Turkish publisher Ragip Zarakolu for "insulting the institutions of the Turkish Republic" despite the fact that Article 301 of Turkey's Penal Code was recently reformed.
"It is disappointing that despite recent changes in the law, serious obstacles to free speech in Turkey remain. People are still jailed for publishing peaceful ideas," said Haraszti. "Freedom of debate in Turkey will increase only if the government stops trying to control the debate in the first place. Article 301 must be abolished altogether."
Following a reform of Article 301 in April, the maximum prison sentence was reduced from three years to two, and the crime of "insulting Turkishness" was changed to "insulting the Turkish nation".
On 17 June, an Istanbul court found Zarakolu guilty of "insulting the institutions of the Turkish Republic" for publishing a Turkish translation of "The Truth Will Set Us Free" by British author George Jerjian. The book covers the killings of Armenians in 1915.
The sentence is commutable to a monetary fine, but Zarakolu has said he opposes paying the fine on principle and will appeal the verdict. Following the amendments, cases under Article 301 must be referred to the Justice Ministry. However, the judge decided not to refer Zarakolu's case on the basis that it was launched under Article 159, an earlier version of the current Article 301 of the Penal Code.
"Regardless of the legal dispute over this particular case, publishing a book critical about a country's history should not be criminalized in a democracy. The Helsinki principles, to which OSCE participating States including Turkey have committed, provide for the free flow of information and ideas," said Haraszti.
In May 2008, Zarakolu was the recipient of the International Publishers Association's Freedom to Publish Prize.

Friday, June 20, 2008

State of Denial

Turkey Spends Millions to Cover Up Armenian Genocide
By David Holthouse
Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report
Summer 2008

Early this year, the Toronto District School Board voted to require all public high school students in Canada's largest city to complete a new course titled "Genocide: Historical and Contemporary Implications." It includes a unit on the Armenian genocide, in which more than a million Armenians perished in a methodical and premeditated scheme of annihilation orchestrated by the rulers of Turkey during and just after World War I.
The school board members each soon received a letter from Guenter Lewy, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts, rebuking them for classifying the Armenian genocide in the same category as the Holocaust. "The tragic fate of the Armenian community during World War I," Lewy wrote, is best understood as "a badly mismanaged war-time security measure," rather than a carefully plotted genocide.
Lewy is one of the most active members of a network of American scholars, influence peddlers and website operators, financed by hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from the government of Turkey, who promote the denial of the Armenian genocide — a network so influential that it was able last fall to defy both historical truth and enormous political pressure to convince America's lawmakers and even its president to reverse long-held policy positions.
Lewy makes similar revisionist claims in his 2005 book The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide and in frequent lectures at university campuses across the country. Speaking at Harvard University in March 2007, he chalked up the ghastly Armenian death toll to "bungling misrule," and stressed that "it is important to bear in mind the enormous difference between ineptness, even ineptness that had tragic consequences" and deliberate mass murder.
"Armenians call the calamitous events of 1915-1916 in the Ottoman Empire the first genocide of the twentieth century," he said. "Most Turks refer to this episode as war time relocation made necessary by the treasonous conduct of the Armenian minority. The debate on what actually happened has been going on for almost 100 years and shows no signs of resolution."
But it's not only Armenians calling the slaughter a genocide, and there is no real debate about its essential details, according to the vast majority of credible historians. Although Lewy's brand of genocide denial is subtler than that of Holocaust deniers who declare there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz, it's no less an attempt to rewrite history.
"The overwhelming opinion of scholars who study genocide — hundreds of independent scholars, who have no affiliations with governments, and whose work spans many countries and nationalities and the course of decades — is consistent," the International Association of Genocide Scholars stated in a 2005 letter to the Turkish government.
"The scholarly evidence reveals the following: 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."

Double Killing
Despite this clear consensus of experts, Turkey exerts political leverage and spends millions of dollars in the United States to obfuscate the Armenian genocide, with alarming success even at the highest levels of government. Lobbyists on the Turkish payroll stymied a Congressional resolution commemorating the genocide last fall by convincing lawmakers to reverse their stated positions. Even President Bush flip-flopped.
Revisionist historians who conjure doubt about the Armenian genocide and are paid by the Turkish government provided the politicians with the intellectual cover they needed to claim they were refusing to dictate history rather than caving in to a foreign government's present-day interests.
"This all happened a long time ago, and I don't know if we can know whether it was a massacre or a genocide or what," said U.S. Rep. John Murtha (D-Penn.) after changing his vote.
"The last thing Congress should be doing is deciding the history of an empire [the Ottoman empire] that doesn't even exist any more," said President Bush.
But experts in genocide saw things quite differently.
"Denial is the final stage of genocide," says Gregory Stanton, president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars. "It is a continuing attempt to destroy the victim group psychologically and culturally, to deny its members even the memory of the murders of their relatives. That is what the Turkish government today is doing to Armenians around the world."
Last year, the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity issued a letter condemning Armenian genocide denial that was signed by 53 Nobel laureates including Wiesel, the famous Holocaust survivor and political activist.
Wiesel has repeatedly called Turkey's 90-year-old campaign to cover up the Armenian genocide a double killing, since it strives to kill the memory of the original atrocities.
He was hardly the first. As long ago as 1943, law professor Raphael Lemkin, who would later serve as an advisor to Nuremburg chief counsel Robert Jackson, coined the term "genocide" with the Armenians in mind.
Stanton, a former U.S. State Department official who drafted the United Nations Security Council resolutions that created the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, spoke this April at a United States Capitol ceremony honoring victims of the Armenian genocide — a ceremony held four months after the bill to commemorate the slaughter was shot down.
"The U.S. government should not be party to efforts to kill the memory of a historical fact as profound and important as the genocide of the Armenians, which Hitler used as an example in his plan for the Holocaust," Stanton said before an audience that included three survivors of the Armenian genocide and more than 100 representatives and senators.

Infiltrating the Academy
Efforts to kill the memory of the Armenian genocide began while carrion birds were still picking over corpses in their desert boneyards, with Turkey issuing a first official statement assuring the world at large that no atrocities had occurred. Turkey's primary strategy for denying the Armenian genocide since then has shifted from blanket denial to disputing the death toll to blaming the massacres on Kurdish bandits and a few rogue officials to claiming the Armenians who died were enemy combatants in a civil war.
Turkey began intervening in the U.S. on behalf of denying the genocide in the 1930s, when Turkish leaders convinced the U.S. State Department to prevent MGM studios from making a movie based on the book The Forty Days of the Musa Dagh because it depicted aspects of the Armenian genocide.
In 1982, the government of Turkey donated $3 million to create the Institute for Turkish Studies, a nonprofit organization housed at Georgetown University that pushes a pro-Turkey agenda, including denial of the Armenian genocide.
Three years later, in 1985, Turkey bought full-page advertisements in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Washington Times to publish a letter questioning the Armenian genocide that was signed by 69 American scholars. All 69 had received funding that year from the Institute for Turkish Studies or another of Turkey's surrogates like the Ankara Chamber of Commerce, a quasi-governmental agency in Turkey's capital city.
The Institute for Turkish Studies has since received sizable donations from American defense contractors that sell arms to Turkey, including General Dynamics and Westinghouse. Turkey continues to provide an annual subsidy to support the institute. In 2006, the most recent year for which tax records are available, the institute awarded $85,000 in grants to scholars. Its chairman is the current Turkish ambassador to the U.S., Nabi Sensoy.
The first unassailable evidence of the extent of the Armenian genocide denial industry's reach in academic circles arrived in 1990 in an envelope addressed to Robert Jay Lifton, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the City University of New York's Graduate Center and John Jay College. It contained a letter signed by Nuzhet Kandemir, who was then Turkey's ambassador to the United States, protesting Lifton's inclusion of several passing references to the Armenian genocide in his prize-winning book The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide.
"It is particularly disturbing to see a major scholar on the holocaust, a tragedy whose enormity and barbarity must never be forgotten, so careless in his references to a field outside his own area of expertise," Kandemir wrote. "To compare a tragic civil war perpetrated by misguided Armenian nationalists, and the human suffering it wrought on both Muslim and Christian populations, with the horrors of a premeditated attempt to systematically eradicate a people is, to anyone familiar with the history in question, simply ludicrous."
There was nothing out of the ordinary about Kandemir's letter. Academics who write about the Armenian genocide were then and still are routinely castigated by Turkish authorities.
What Lifton found intriguing, however, was a second letter in the envelope, which the Turkish ambassador had included quite by accident. It was a memo to Kandemir from Near East historian Heath Lowry, in which Lowry provided Kandemir with a point-by-point cheat sheet on how to attack Lifton's book, which Lowry chummily referred to as "our problem."
Lowry at the time was the founding director of the Institute for Turkish Studies. He resigned that position in 1996 when he was selected from a field of 20 candidates to fill the Ataturk Chair of Turkish Studies at Princeton University, a new position in the Near Eastern Studies department that was created with a $750,000 matching grant from the government of Turkey.
Prior to joining the Princeton faculty, Lowry had never held a full-time teaching position and had not published a single work of scholarship through a major publishing house. As a result of that and of what The Boston Globe described in 1995 as his work as "a long-time lobbyist for the Turkish government," his appointment sparked a firestorm of controversy. A protest group called Princeton Alumni for Credibility published a petition decrying Lowry's appointment that was signed by more than 80 leading scholars and writers, including Kurt Vonnegut, Arthur Miller, Cornel West, Joyce Carol Oates and many historians and experts in genocide.
Peter Balakian, the director of Colgate University's Center for the Study of Ethics and World Societies and the author of The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response, called Lowry "a propagandist for a foreign government."
Speaking at a 2005 symposium at Princeton commemorating the 90th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, Balakian posed a rhetorical question: "Would a university want someone who worked with a neo-Nazi group to cover up the Holocaust on their faculty?"
The relationship of Turkey to U.S. scholars promoting Armenian genocide denial is similar to that of the oil industry to fringe climatologists who dispute the reality of global warming. The cause and effect relationship is murky. It's impossible to know for sure if they're making the claims to get the money or getting the money because they make the claims. And many of those who receive money from the Institute of Turkish Studies do little or nothing to support the government's version of what happened to its Armenian minority.
But a number of them certainly seem to, including Justin A. McCarthy, a professor of history at the University of Louisville. McCarthy claims that death tolls attributed to what he calls "this imaginary Turkish plan" are grossly exaggerated and resulted from justifiable wartime self-defense actions triggered by traitorous Armenians conspiring with Turkey's enemies.
McCarthy also points out that Armenians massacred Turks on at least one occasion before the "so-called Armenian genocide." In other words, they had it coming. "The question of who started the conflicts is important, both historically and morally important," McCarthy declared in a 2005 speech before the Turkish Grand National Assembly. "In more than 100 years of warfare, Turks and Armenians killed each other. The question of who began the killing must be understood, because it is seldom justifiable to be the aggressor, but is always justifiable to defend yourself."
He continued: "If those who defend themselves go beyond defense and exact revenge, as always happens in war, they should be identified and criticized. But those who should be most blamed are those who began the wars, those who committed the first evil deeds, and those who caused the bloodshed. Those who began the conflict were the Armenian nationalists, the Armenian revolutionaries. The guilt is on their heads."

Enforcing the Turkish View
In France and Switzerland, it's a crime to deny the Armenian genocide. In Turkey, it's a crime to affirm it.
Enacted in 2005, Article 301 of the Turkish penal code makes it illegal for any citizen or resident of Turkey to give credence to the Armenian genocide. Numerous journalists and scholars have been prosecuted for "denigrating Turkishness" under that statute, beginning with Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, who was charged for stating, "A million Armenians were killed in these lands." Newspaper editor Hrant Dink was prosecuted three times for criticizing the Turkish government's longstanding policy of denying the Armenian genocide.
Where the law failed to silence Dink, bullets succeeded. He was gunned down in front of his central Istanbul office last January by a Turkish ultranationalist.
Footage and photos later surfaced of the assassin celebrating in front of a Turkish flag with grinning policemen.
Dink's friend and ideological ally Taner Akçam, a distinguished Turkish historian and sociologist on the faculty of the University of Minnesota's Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, attended Dink's funeral in Turkey, despite the considerable risk to his own life. Akçam, a leading international authority on the Armenian genocide, was marked for death by Turkish ultranationalists following the November 2006 publication of his book, A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and The Question of Turkish Responsibility. The book is a definitive history based in large part on official documents from Turkish government archives.
"It would be better for world peace and truth if sewer germs like you were taken off the planet," went one of the dozens of anonymous threats Akçam continues to receive in Minnesota. "Pray that the devil takes you away soon because otherwise you'll be living a hell on earth. … Who am I? You're going to find out, Taner, you're going to find out."
Turkish ultranationalists have, in effect, targeted many other people who, like Akçam, affirm the genocide. Several of their websites include home addresses, phone numbers and photos of these scholars.
Genocide deniers often disrupt Akçam's lectures. In November 2006, a gang of Turkish ultranationalists attacked him at a book signing at City University of New York.
"Denial of the Armenian genocide has developed over the decades to become a complex and far-reaching machine that rivals the Nazi Germany propaganda ministry," says Akçam. "This machine runs on academic dishonesty, fabricated information, political pressure, intimidation and threats, all funded or supported, directly or indirectly, by the Turkish state. It has become a huge industry."

Convincing Congress
Academia is one of two major American fronts in Turkey's campaign to kill the memory of the Armenian genocide. The other is Congress.
As the only Muslim-dominated country in a troubled region to call the U.S. and Israel its allies, Turkey wields significant political influence that it uses to prevent the U.S. from joining 22 other nations in officially recognizing the Armenian genocide as a historical fact.
In 1989, the U.S. State Department released archived eyewitness accounts that, according to State Department officials, showed that "thousands and thousands of Armenians, mostly innocent and helpless women and children, were butchered." That same year, a bill commemorating the genocide was introduced in the U.S. Senate.
But Turkey responded by blocking U.S. Navy ships from entering strategically important Turkish waters and by declaring a ban on all U.S. military training operations on Turkish territory. The bill quickly evaporated.
Last September, the matter came up again. The U.S. House Foreign Relations Committee approved and moved to bring to the floor of Congress a nonbinding resolution condemning the mass murder of Armenians by Ottoman Turks, placing the death toll at 1.5 million, and labeling the killing a "genocide."
This time, Turkey responded by recalling its ambassador to the United States and forecasting dire repercussions. "In the case that Armenian allegations are accepted, there will be problems in the relations between the two countries," warned Turkish President Abdullah Gul.
"Yesterday, some in Congress wanted to play hardball," said Egmen Bagis, foreign policy advisor to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "I can assure you, Turkey knows how to play hardball."
The next day, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack apologized to Turkey on behalf of the United States by issuing a statement expressing "regret" for the committee's actions, which, he cautioned, "may do grave harm to U.S.-Turkish relations and to U.S. interests in Europe and the Middle East."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates added his opposition to the resolution and pointed out that 70% of the air cargo sent to U.S. forces in Iraq and 30% of the fuel consumed by those forces is delivered via Turkey. President Bush, perhaps forgetting his campaign promise in 2000 to push for official recognition of the Armenian genocide if elected president, also came out against the resolution.
While Turkish officials made threats, lobbyists paid by Turkey delivered money to congressmen in the form of campaign and political action committee donations. Louisiana representative Bobby Jindal (a Republican who's now Louisiana's governor) and Mississippi representative Roger Wicker (now a Republican senator representing that state) both dropped their sponsorship of the resolution and began speaking against it — but only after receiving around $20,000 each from former congressmen Bob Livingston, a Republican, and Richard Gephardt, a Democrat, who now work for lobbying firms contracted by Turkey to oppose any recognition of the Armenian genocide.
In 2000, while still in office, Gephardt had declared that he was"committed to obtaining official U.S. government recognition of the Armenian genocide." In 2003, he co-sponsored a resolution placing "the Armenian genocide" in the company of the World War II Holocaust and mass deaths in Cambodia and Rwanda that was voted down after a Turkish lobbying blitzkrieg.
Since leaving office and accepting a $1.2 million-a-year contract to lobby for Turkey, the former House majority leader has experienced a profound change of heart. "Alienating Turkey through the passage of the resolution could undermine our efforts to promote stability in the theater of [Middle East] operations, if not exacerbate the situation further," he wrote in an E-mail to the International Herald Tribune. Last fall, as part of his efforts to help torpedo the symbolic Armenian genocide resolution, Gephardt escorted Turkish Ambassador Nabi Sensoy to meetings with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders.
Bob Livingston, whose firm has been paid more than $12 million by the Turkish government since 1999, also pitched in. As part of the lobbying effort last fall that U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), one of the sponsors of the resolution, called "the most intense I've ever seen," Livingston shepherded Turkish dignitaries from office to office on Capitol Hill.
As another part of that campaign, the government of Turkey took out full-page advertisements in major American newspapers calling upon the members of Congress to "support efforts to examine history, not legislate it." The ads featured a testimonial from Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice — "These historical circumstances require a very detailed and sober look from historians" — that implied that historians have yet to seriously study the Armenian genocide.
More than 100 stated backers of the resolution withdrew their support, and H.R. 106 never made it to the floor for a full vote.
The government of Turkey has since continued to call for a "historian's commission" of scholars to "study the facts of what happened in 1915-1923." The proposed committee is marketed as a high-minded quest for truth and reconciliation, a long overdue arbitration of disputed history, and a chance to finally give equal weight to both sides of the story.
But as the saying goes, a lie isn't the other side of any story. It's just a lie.
"When it comes to the historical reality of the Armenian genocide, there is no 'Armenian' or 'Turkish' side of the question, any more than there is a 'Jewish' or 'German' side of the historical reality of the Holocaust," writes Torben Jorgensen, of the Danish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. "There is a scientific side and an unscientific side — acknowledgement or denial."

Copyright 2008 The Southern Poverty Law Center

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Armenian Genocide: What caused it? When it happened? How it could have been prevented?

Armenian Genocide

by , Feb 7, 2008

The Armenian Genocide is said to be the first genocide of the twentieth century. Many people refer to it as the Armenian Holocaust. This slaughtering of Armenians was just like the Holocaust that targeted Jews. The Armenian Genocide was masterminded by the Central Committee of the Young Turk Party. They killed the Armenians using several methods. First, those who were in the army were disarmed, placed in labor battalions, and then killed. Second, the Armenian political and intellectual leaders were rounded up on April 24, 1915, and then killed. This date is Armenians all over the world commemorate this great tragedy. And finally, the remaining Armenians were called from their home, thinking that they were going to be relocated, and marched to concentration camps in the middle of the dessert, where they would die from lack of food and water. In the end, western scholars predict that over 500,000 Armenians were killed in this massacre between the years 1914-1918.
Many people wonder don't know what caused the Armenian Genocide. They could Google it and find the answer to that question, but they don't know it off the top of their heads. The Armenian Genocide was caused by a battle, else called World War 1. The Ottoman Empire at that time was allied with the Central Powers. The Minister of War, Enver Pasha, planned to encircle and destroy the Russian Caucasus Army at Sarıkamış to regain territories lost to Russia after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. They went to Sarıkamış, Enver Pasha's troops were almost completely destroyed. When he returned to Istanbul, he blamed the Armenians living in that area helping the Russians.
Different people react differently on issues such as the Armenian Genocide. For example, the Turkey government has always denied what happened, while everyone else in the world says that this historical event occurred. So, who's right? There is a lot of evidence that supports the fact that the Armenian Genocide had taken place. Survivors, historical documents, and remains of bodies prove this event had occurred in history. On the other hand, the world only has the word of the Turkish government that the Armenian Genocide did not happen.
In my opinion, there are a lot of events in history could have prevented the Armenian Genocide from taking place. First of all, if the government and the people got along with each other, this “genocide” would have never taken place. Another reason why this event took place was because the Ottoman Empire was a monarchy, meaning a single person or organization is ruling the people. Having a single person ruling an empire would lead to corruption and abuse of its people. Finally, World War I was a key factor of the Armenian Genocide. If the Ottoman Empire did not get involved in WWI, they would have never battled Russia in the Battle of Sarıkamış. Because of this event, the Armenians were blamed on helping the Russians and later be killed. So each year, on April 24, Armenians around the world commemorate the loss of their people.