The Armenian Genocide was a systematic extermination that occurred during World War One, mostly in 1915. The killers were Ottoman Turks: agents and soldiers of that government, as well as eager civilians.
The slaughter took place in two phases. First was the wholesale killing of able-bodied Armenian males through massacre and forced labor. Afterward came the deportation of women, children, the elderly and the infirm, on death marches into the Syrian Desert.
All told, perhaps 1.5 million people were killed. The vast majority of these were Armenians, but the Turks also killed large numbers of Assyrian Christians, Greeks, and other minority groups. In many ways – including that of medical experiments on victims – the Armenian Genocide was the direct forerunner of the Nazi Genocide against the Jews.
Here is one miniscule part of the slaughter – a photo taken by an American diplomat, to which he added a commentary:
“Scenes like this were common all over the Armenian provinces, in the spring and summer months of 1915. Death in its several forms—massacre, starvation, exhaustion—destroyed the larger part of the refugees. The Turkish policy was that of extermination under the guise of deportation.”
The test, believe it or not, is whether people will acknowledge this as a genocide or not.
We live, as I have complained many times, in an age where institutions not only reign over money and lands, but also over men’s minds. And, as it turns out, Armenia is not big enough or threatening enough to matter. And so, the institutional line – world-over and even in some shocking places – has been that “we don’t talk about it.”
The Turkish government, desperate to protect its image, has battled long and hard to explain it all away, and to prevent the word “genocide” from being used. Many, many institutions – tossing aside truth for political expediency – have parroted the Turkish line.
A Turkish official, tormenting starving Armenian children with a piece of bread. (Wikipedia)
The Two Biggest Flunkees
Not everyone has flunked the test. Several European nations have made official statements on the Armenian Genocide, as have a few nations on every continent. Wikipedia lists 22 nations in all (out of 200).
What I want to focus on here, however, are the two big failures… places that are supposedly dedicated to an ancient philosophy that would instantly and irrevocably condemn the Armenian Genocide as a top-tier evil.
The first failure is the United States.
In an article I wrote earlier this year, I told how my editor (I was then writing for a major publisher) was made to change history textbooks to cut coverage of this story down to just a couple of paragraphs. The US State Department told him to do so because “we need to keep the Turks happy.” My editor’s bosses sided with the government – as people with government contracts nearly always do. Thus the truth, again, became a casualty to institutions.
The one US President to use the word “genocide” was Ronald Reagan, in a speech he made on April 22, 1981. The current US President, Barack Obama, used the word while a candidate for the presidency, but has repetitively refused to use it since. Again, truth dies where institutions reign.
It is of some interest that Reagan, who was a plebeian – not of the elite – was the one exception. Whatever the man’s virtues or vices, he was far less an institution man than presidents of more recent years.
The second flunkee is Israel. That the victims of the signature genocide would fail to recognize the one just before theirs is nothing short of tragic.
Certainly many Israeli and Jewish groups do acknowledge the Armenian Genocide (such as the Union for Reform Judaism), but the Knesset (the Israeli legislature) decided that recognition of this as a genocide would jeopardize relations with the Turks and the Azerbaijanis.
The reason I call this “tragic” is that by refusing to say “genocide,” the ruling Israeli institution turned its back on the great principle that the Hebrews gifted to the world several millennia ago: The enthroning of justice above rulership.
While many individual Israelis are good and decent people, the rulership of the Israeli state has turned away from the original Jewish principle.
As Adolf Hitler was starting his aggression against the Poles, the London Times quoted him as saying this:
Go, kill without mercy. After all, who remembers the Armenians?
For the sake of decency and for the sake of the future, remember the Armenians.
Also remember that justice stands above institutions and rulers.