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For some, it’s the Armenian non-Genocide

For some, it’s the Armenian non-Genocide

Semantics of the “Great Catastrophe”

During the unraveling of the Ottoman Empire, the embattled leadership ordered the forced deportation of ethnic Armenians from the region. Nobody has ever been able to say for certain how many people were slaughtered in the years following the order, but experts estimate that somewhere between 300,000 and 1.5 million ethnic Armenians lay dead when all was said and done.

Armenia’s “Great Catastrophe” was, in the eyes of much of the world, the first genocide of the 20th century. Ceremonies were held today in both Turkey and Armenia commemorating the massacres, yet even in the face of such a solemn anniversary, Turkish officials continued to deny that ethnic cleansing was the motivation for the forced deportations and murders.

Calling what happened to ethnic Armenians is a consistent point of contention even amongst the world’s most powerful governments. The EU Parliament, and even the pope, have used the word “genocide” to describe what happened, but the United States continues to lag behind. President Barack Obama has come under fire in recent days for offering official statements that omit the use of the word “genocide” to describe the “Great Catastrophe,” and many see this as the breaking of a major campaign promise.

More from the New York Times:

In appointing the secretary of the Treasury, Jacob J. Lew, to lead the American delegation to Yerevan, the White House referred to the ceremony as the “Centennial Commemoration of the Events of 1915” — euphemistic enough perhaps to satisfy President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, but a grave disappointment to Armenians who had hoped Mr. Obama would make good on his promise as a presidential candidate to recognize the killings as genocide.

In a statement on Friday, Mr. Obama called the killings of Armenians “the first mass atrocity of the 20th century,” adding that “the Armenian people of the Ottoman Empire were deported, massacred and marched to their deaths.”

He also suggested that the absence of the word genocide in his statement was an official position, but not a reflection of his own personal beliefs. “I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed,” Mr. Obama said.

The United States isn’t alone in its official position. Counterintuitive though it may seem, Israel holds a similar position, although many in the country are pushing for reform even in the face of the political difficulties it would cause.

For both the US and Israel, however, recognizing the massacres of 1915-16 would come at great political cost. Israel’s strategic alliance with Azerbaijan against Iran presents a major complication with any show of solidarity with Armenia; Armenia and Azerbaijan exist together in a state of war, and continue to dispute the nature of a 1992 clash in the village of Khojaly (complication: Khojaly sits in the disputed Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh) that ended in the deaths of 600 Azeri civilians.

Israel’s relationship with Turkey has foundered over the years, but the United States continues to tread lightly on the issue of the Armenian genocide for fear that use of the “G-word” could further damage relations with the strategic ally. Russia faces similar issues, as they depend on Turkey’s cooperation in the construction of a pipeline bypass around Ukraine.

It’s the dark and disgusting side of international politics at play. Relationships in this volatile area of the world are important, but as Ali Gharib points out, placating Turkey 100 years later does nothing to advance freedom in the region:

But there will never be a right time to enrage Turkey and it’s not worth it to continue to placate their denialism: the fight against terrorism will go on despite Turkey’s wounded pride. Turkey – unlike Libya, where post-revolutionary chaos led to a deadly attack on American diplomats – has sophisticated and heavy-handed security forces, so any failure to help protect US diplomats and troops there would be an abdication of its position as an ally.

Obama isn’t the first president to dance around the “G-word,” but he should be the last.

The Daily Mail has a devastating collection of photographs chronicling the crimes against the ethnic Armenians.

This piece has been updated to correct the timeline of the fall of the Ottoman Empire.


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Hey, Armenians are mostly Christian. That explains the whole ScamWOW attitude toward using the ‘G’ word.

And, if calling a spade a spade would “enrage” Turkey 100 years after the fact, screw them.

I suggest we stop this whole mindset of tippy-toeing around ginned up hypersensitivity.

Sammy Finkelman | April 24, 2015 at 12:34 pm

When the Ottoman Empire collapsed in 1915..

The Ottoman Empire (then ruled by the “Young Turks, mainly 3 people) didn’t collapse in 1915.

April 24, 1915 is now given as the start of the genocide, because that was the day of the mass arrest of Armenian intellectuals in Istanbul (who were not killed, however) and April 25, 1915 was the day of the landing at Gallipoli, Winston Churchill’s idea, which could have led to its collapse, but it didn’t, and the landing was abandoned. This was not actually the first amphibious landing by the British Empire in Turkey. A different landing had failed in March.

Although the best contemporary non-nationalist historians of the Armenian Genocide – the Turk Taner Akçam and the Briton Donald Bloxham – differ on the question of when the decision for genocide was arrived at, and even over whether there was one particular decision or many, both accept that it was this constellation of events – the advance of the Russian Army in the Caucasus; the Anglo-French attack at the Dardanelles; the growing fears concerning the loyalty of the Ottoman Empire’s most important remaining Christian minority, the Armenians of Anatolia – that acted as the trigger for, if not the cause of, the Armenian Genocide.

Akçam, whose analysis of the mechanics of the genocide is the most convincing I have read, believes the fundamental decision to unleash the deportations and the massacres of the Armenians was taken during meetings of the central committee of the Young Turks’ party, the Committee of Union and Progress, in March 1915, at the time of the beginning of the Dardanelles naval campaign.

The main engineer of the genocide was Dr Bahaettin Shakir, who had convinced the CUP leadership that at this time of crisis for the Empire, the “internal” enemy, the Armenian, was as dangerous as the “external” – the Russian, the British and the French.

This seems to be taken from or repeated in this book:

Making Trouble: Essays Against the New Australian Complacency by Robert Manne.

See also

Many of the troops were from Australia and New Zealand, and it is today a legal holiday called Anzac Day in those two countries. Since the 1980s many people from both countriesd have visited the site on the anniversary, and they will be there this year for the 100th anniversary, although there are some worried about terrorism. Turley seems to be OK with that. There were many casualties from Ireland as well.

Winston Churchill also lost his position as First Lord of the Admiralty as a result.

If you voted for Obama believing his promise to do something that would make Moslems look bad – you were a sucker.

Maybe Obama was too busy opening the big Turkish Mosque with his buddy Erdogan?

Obama’s statement that “amid horrific violence that so suffering on all sides, 1.5 million Armenians perished,”

Maybe we should feel sorry for those Nazi guys too. I mean, I’m sure they had some suffering too.