September 2009

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Day Old Hate

by Rachel Price

Genocide: the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group (1944)i

The subject of genocide in Armenia is not a new one. It is in fact a genocide that occurred nearly one hundred years ago, gaining momentum in 1915 and not ceasing until 1919. Upwards of 1.5 million people, women and children not spared, were brutally forced from their homes into the desert and either bludgeoned with bayonets, or left to starve to death. While Turkey insists that these numbers are grossly inflated, there is clear evidence of wrong-doing. It is a travesty that only in recent years has the United States government been “considering” acknowledging these atrocities as genocide. The U.S. is reluctant to concede to this disclosure solely due to the fact that Turkey is one of America’s closest aides in the war on terrorism in Iraq. Turkey banning much needed use of their airspace for military war efforts fuels the fear of ruffling feathers. The only culpable solution to this dilemma is for the U.S. to take responsibility for standing by and allowing these atrocities to continue and accept whatever consequences Turkey bestows on them.

In 1908 the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) took power of Turkey. This groups was, for all intensive purposes, believed by the western world to be a democratic assembly. It was believed that they would put liberal terms in place within the Ottoman Empire. The sad reality was that their nationalist beliefs far outweighed their liberal political views. Mid 1914, World War I broke out and the CUP opted to abrogate on the sovereignty of the Armenian areas of the Empire. Soon thereafter the Ottoman Empire, much to the worlds dismay, joined the war as well. The battle of Sarikamish delivered a detrimental blow to the Ottoman Third Army, who in turn blamed the Armenians and labeled them as a whole a perfidious people.ii

In April 1915, the deportations began of Armenians and Greeks, both of Christian belief systems. The deportations grew in size and number followed by mass killings of non-Turkish people, mostly Armenian. No one was spared, pity was not given to women or children, not even infants. One Armenian Catholic Bishop from Trabzon, the hub of these atrocities, reported this ghastly scene:

““Having gathered together 1,000 little children, the governor-general Mustafa Abdulhalik led them to a place called Tashod where he had them burnt to death in the presence of notables and Turkish crowds, at the same time shouting at the top of his voice, “It is necessary to erase once and for all the Armenian name in these provinces for the security of Turkey.” Their remains, along with those still alive, were afterwards thrown into ditches prepared especially beforehand; the moans of those not yet completely consumed could be heard for days.”iii

Very early on in 1915 the world was made aware of the atrocities occurring in the region, yet most were very hesitant to get involved. Henry J. Morgenthau Sr. was a chief voice in America, he sent multiple correspondence to the White House depicting the events and imploring action. President Woodrow Wilson empathized with the Armenian’s plight, but never endeavored to actually aide in their liberation. Much press was made of the Armenian genocide which resulted in many American’s giving money for aide groups but there was not enough public reinforcement to give reason for action. By entering the war and not declaring one on Turkey as well, America became hard pressed to force any type of resolution on Turkish government. Their policy of non-interference was a slap in the face to the Armenians, practically condoning the Turks behavior.iv

Eventually the Turk’s resolve waned, but still, no one was brought to trial. Even today, we balk at using the term “genocide” to describe thousands upon thousands being brutally slaughtered or left to die of starvation. In October of 2006, France took a much needed step in the right direction when lawmakers passed a bill making it illegal, with fines up to $56,000, to deny that the Turkish killed mass quantities of Armenian. Those contesting this measure can also face jail time.v In 2007 a congressional panel passed a bill that would recognize these killings as genocide, much to President Bush’s consternation, but once arriving for the house approval, fell short on necessary votes to Bush was concerned about the bill passing. Why? You guessed it. Airspace. Turkey, meanwhile, believes that since it did not pass then it should not be brought about again.

President Barack Obama made a solemn vow when running for his prestigious post. He vowed to recognize the Armenian Genocide and call it appropriately. He made this statement: ;

Two years ago, I criticized the Secretary of State for the firing of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, after he properly used the term 'genocide' to describe Turkey's slaughter of thousands of Armenians starting n 1915. … as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.
vii ,

However, on April 24 2009, the international day of remembrance of the unspeakable atrocities, he chose to tiptoe around the word for fear it may upset any peace talks between the two countries. Armenians everywhere were outraged by this blatant omission. In Obama’s statement he made it clear that his opinions of the matter had not changed, as well as alluding to “unspeakable acts” occurring on that day years ago, yet he refused to say the word “genocide”. It was a palpable avoidance of the word. Nothing more.

This is not the first time America has stood by and allowed weaker people to be ravaged. In Rwanda, then President Bill Clinton knew of the atrocities occurring and apologized after the fact, stating he did not know the gravity of the situation. In fact, Mr. Clinton was well aware of the issues at hand, and even had the military resources to help, yet not only did nothing but convinced other to pull out all aide they offered.viii Kosovo is yet another genocide occurring on Clinton’s watch. Even now, countless Darfuri citizens are dying every day while our fine President, who vowed to take action, has done nothing. Sitting by indolent, we as a country are saying that the mass slaughtering of innocent people is ok. Here is the proof, the Armenian Genocide was a precursor to the Holocaust and Adolf Hitler, the leader of the regime out to exterminate Jews, had this to say:

Go, kill without mercy . . . who today remembers the annihilation of the Armenians?

As long as this carnage and bloodshed is allowed to continue unmitigated and unpunished, no single group will ever stop and ponder the effects of their actions.

While we cannot undo the Armenian genocide there is a small chance to mend some old hurts, the only way to do this is for our country to concede to facts. The fact of the matter is over a million people died, and we did nothing.

i "genocide." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009.

Merriam-Webster Online. 29 July 2009

ii Segesser, Daniel Marc. "Dissolve or punish? The international debate amongst jurists and publicists on the consequences of the Armenian genocide for the Ottoman Empire, 1915-23." Journal of Genocide Research 10.1 (Mar. 2008): 95-110. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Gateway Technical College, Burlington, WI. 29 July 2009

iii Dadrian, Vahakn N. "Children as victims of genocide: the Armenian case." Journal of Genocide Research 5.3 (Sep. 2003): 421. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Gateway Technical College, Burlington, WI. 29 July 2009

iv Cook, Bernie. "Merrill D. Peterson, Starving Armenians: America and the Armenian Genocide, 1919–1930 and After." Human Rights Review 9.2 (Apr. 2008): 273-274. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Gateway Technical College, Burlington, WI. 29 July 2009




viii Kaufmann, Chaim. "See No Evil." Foreign Affairs 81.4 (July 2002): 142-149. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Gateway Technical College, Burlington, WI. 29 July 2009