Armenia

The next country on the list was Armenia, which was fitting, since the Armenian genocide of the 1915 has been in the news recently.  And the only documentary I could find was about the genocide.  It’s called “Betrayed” and was filmed in 2003 by the BBC, almost 90 years after the fact, but the Armenians who appeared in it said that thoughts of that horrible time are part of their daily lives.

The genocide of the Armenian people by the Ottoman Turks started in 1915–though the Turks will tell you there was no genocide at all.  The Ottoman Empire was invaded by the Russians, and a small number of Armenians (a Christian ethnic minority in the Empire) joined them, so the government of the Empire branded all Armenians traitors and issued orders for them to be deported from the cooler mountainous regions of the country towards the deserts which are now part of Syria.  Many Armenians were killed when being rounded up (forcing people into buildings then setting them on fire was a favorite tactic) but in order to avoid responsibility, the government used other methods for most of the hundreds of thousands of murders.

While marching on the Trail of Desolation, as it was called, the Armenians were given little water, little food, and no shelter.  They were attacked often by disgruntled tribes or “deserting” Turkish soldiers, who are widely believed to have been paid off by the government to carry out the attacks.  Doctors systematically overdosed children with morphine, suffocated newborns, and issued death certificates citing “natural causes” for nearly every death.  Along the way, many women and children were placed into boats which were then “accidentally” capsized in the Black Sea.

Turks today vehemently deny that it was a genocide, saying that it’s “pathetic” that government officials “who clearly have no passports and know nothing about anything” would vote on such matters.  Well, I think it’s pathetic that they can’t accept it as what it is.

Well, I shouldn’t say all Turks deny it….because most don’t know anything about it.  They’re taught in school that the Turks and Armenians were always allies, and then one day the Armenians just left.  That’s all.  No deportation, no genocide, nothing but a friendly neighbor randomly deciding to move on……

The government says that there are “no records” of an intention to exterminate the Armenians in Turkish archives, which proves it wasn’t genocide.  Please.  Just because you destroy the evidence doesn’t mean it never happened.  If you go to the archives of many other nations–including Russia and Germany, who were traditionally Turkish allies–you will find a lot of photographic and journalistic evidence, as well as a general feeling of disgust that their allies would do such a thing.  There’s also evidence here in America. The US Ambassador to Turkey at the time, Henry Morgantile, received reports from missionaries all around the nation, as well as from independent sources, that all signs pointed to a controlled, knowledgeable push towards complete extermination of the Armenians.

The Turks in power today claim that deaths from starvation should not be attributed to the government, because such events were just “the unfortunate result of a mass relocation for the safety of Turkish soldiers.”  Right….and I’m sure withholding food didn’t have anything to do with it……..

Diplomats also claim that the killings didn’t fit the legal definition of genocide–a word whose creator only defined it after witnessing the atrocities committed by the Turks!  See, they claim that it’s all about intention, so even if the government had killed all those Armenians, if they didn’t have the direct intent of destroying a culture, it didn’t count.  They also claim that ethnic cleansing in and of itself doesn’t meet the legal requirements.

Twenty nations officially recognize what happened to the Armenians as genocide.  The US is not one of those nations (neither are the UK or Australia, for that matter).  A bill has come before the Congress three times in the past three administrations.  Bill Clinton and George Bush both pressured the Speakers of the House to remove the bill from the table before the vote, which they did.  Now the bill has passed the House committee and is on its way to the floor again….and the Obama administration is doing what the other two did.

I understand the political implications.  We need Turkey’s help in the Middle East at the moment.  We use their country as a stopover point between us and our wars.  The country also lies on top of a key route for oil and natural gas as it moves from the Middle East to the West.  Each time this bill comes up, Turkey makes veiled threats against the lives of American soldiers and tourists that ultimately scare the White House into submission.

I’m divided on this issue.  I mean, clearly the genocide took place, and to allow a country to deny it is to allow it to happen again in the future, but at the moment there are clear security and economic concessions that I’m not sure we as a country can make right now.  Should we let the issue rest forever?  No, but I think we should wait until angering the Turkish government is not going to cause the needless deaths of Americans.  But just because it’s not officially recognized doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, and I hope Turkey knows that most of the world knows the truth, whether politics allow their governments to admit it or not.

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