Tall Armenian Tale


The Other Side of the Falsified Genocide


  Comments from a guestbook at an Armenian web site  
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Here are several well-written comments left in a guestbook of an Armenian web site, on the "genocide," as well as other matters. I particularly enjoyed the style of the one who called himself Nick. He so nicely maintains his civility when speaking to one who apparently was a lot more coarse.

On the  Post World War I "Malta Tribunal"

Dear Mr. Bennet: The Armenians have been feverishly trying to attach a charge of genocide on the Turks for the past 84 years or so. In the relentless pursuit of it, they have declared April 24 as the date of commemoration of this "alleged genocide". The British were the closest party to these events from 1915 to 1922 because they were the principal occupying power of the Ottoman Empire and its capital, Istanbul, and the Ottoman archives etc. As such, the British led an international war crimes tribunal on the island of Malta against 144 high Ottoman officials who were charged with war crimes against the Armenians. Subsequently 56 out of the 144 alleged criminals were deported to the Island of Malta to stand a trial. After a wide scale frantic search of all the archival material in the British and the US possession they concluded: Sir H. Rumbold, His Majesty's High Commissioner at Istanbul as the head of the occupying powers wrote in forwarding to London the "evidence" against the deportees: "very few were available, that Armenian Patriarchate at Istanbul had been the principal channel through which information had been obtained, and that none of allied, associated and neutral Governments had been asked to supply evidence". He admitted that " under these circumstances the Prosecution will find itself under grave disadvantage", but he added, "he hoped that the American Government could supply a large amount of documentary information". (Foreign Office document 371/6500/E. 3557). 

In failing to find any legally supportable evidence against the deportees in the hands of the occupying powers, Lord Curzon, the British foreign secretary at the time, informed Sir A. Geddes, the British Ambassador at Washington, that there was a "considerable difficulty" in establishing proof of guilty against the Turkish detainees at Malta and requested him "to ascertain if United States Government are in possession of any evidence that could be of value for purpose of prosecution". (Foreign Office document 371/6502/E. 5845). On July 13 1921, the British Embassy in Washington returned the following reply: "I regret to inform Your Lordship that there was nothing therein which could be used as evidence against the Turks who are being detained for trial at Malta? Having regard to this stipulation and the fact that the reports in the possession of the Department of State do not appear in any case to contain evidence against these Turks which would be useful even for the purpose of corroborating information already in possession of His Majesty's Government, I fear that nothing is to be hoped from addressing any further inquiries to the United States Government in this matter". (Foreign Office document 371/6504/E.8519. R.C. Craige , British Embassy in Washington to Lord Curzon, No. 722, of July 13, 1921.) 

Subsequently all the Ottoman detainees were dismissed of charges and exchanged for the British prisoners in Turkey. And there were no war crimes charges, let alone a charge of a "genocide" of the Armenians. This year, again, the Armenians appealed to the British Government to recognize the alleged Armenian genocide to which the British Government replied. On April 14, 1999 the PA News from London reported: "A bid to get the British Government to recognize as genocide the deportation and massacre and slaughter of thousands of Armenians by the Ottoman government of Turkey in 1915, was rejected by ministers in the Lords tonight". Foreign Office spokesman, Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale, said "the British Government had condemned the massacres at the time. But in the absence of unequivocal evidence that the Ottoman administration took a specific decision to eliminate the Armenians under their control at that time, British governments have not recognized those events as indications of genocide". "Nor do we believe it is the business of governments of today to review events of over 80 years ago, with a view to pronouncing on them. The events of 1915-16 remain a painful issue in relation to two states with which we enjoy excellent relations". Since the 1921 verdict, after 78 years, thank you Britain, once again, for being so meticulous in observing the rule of the law. A heap of dubious documents, revisionist history, greatly inflated population figures and exercise of terror to cow the Turks over a span of 84 years obviously do not spell genocide.


The writer: Attila, Fresno, CA. (1999-06-10)


On Stereotyping, Cyprus and the Kurds

Comments: Hi Winston. With respect, I think that numbers killed are important. If we are talking about genocide then the perpetrators suffered more than the victims. There is no evidence of state directed genocide. What we have, at best, is hearsay, anecdotal and circumstantial evidence — which is not enough. Besides, we are talking about events that happened in a country that does not exist anymore with a government that is long gone during a war in which little quarter was given by all sides. That massacre and reprisal was a way of settling scores was (and is) a fact of life and has little to do with shade of their skins. This web site refers to the Turks as caricatures — "the terrible Turk," "the lustful Turk"— which confirms and reinforces very long standing prejudices. If there is any demonising or dehumanising going on the Turks are on the receiving end of it — for the most part. 

How is it possible to have international or bilateral forums when one party is calling the other party every derogatory name under the sun?.......These events happened a long time ago. Cyprus and the Kurds are in the here and now — much easier to document. The Cyprus question goes further back that the military junta in Athens. It starts in the late 50s. The existence of Cyprus as an independent sovereign state was a compromise that tried to reconcile the conflicting aims and interests of the UK (strategic), Greece (political and nationalistic), Turkey (strategic) and the two communities on the island (self determination and nationalistic). 

Almost as soon as the ink was dry on the various treaties the Greeks started to undermine them — specifically on the issues of enosis and constitutional guarantees for the island's Turks. Within three years of independence the Turks had been evicted from the political process and herded at gun point into ghettos where they were blockaded until 19 74. The Greek junta merely provided the final act of this tragedy. The only thing that surprises me is that the Turks did not invade ten years earlier — they had the right under international treaty to do so. 

Because of a very effective propaganda machine all we hear about is the missing Greek Cypriots and the savagery of the Turkish army — "terrible Turks" again. We hear nothing about the ethnic clearences or the massacres carried out by EOKA-B with the connivance of the Greek Cypriot administration in 63-64 or about the massacres carried out by Greek and Greek Cypriot troops in 74 after the Turkish landings. All of this is very well documented. In 50 years time I can imagine a Cypriot campaign aimed at enlightening the world about the genocide on Cyprus — there is a similarity here with Anatolia 1915. 

As far as the PKK is concerned it is worth remembering that the very first PKK attack ocurred in S.E. Turkey in August 84. A number of villages were attacked and scores of people, including women and children were murdered — all of the victims of these first attacks were, without exception, Kurds.

 Not an auspicious way to begin a national liberation movement — start as you mean to carry on I suppose. Most of the PKK's victims are soldiers or Kurdish civilians which is why significant numbers of the troops deployed by the government against the PKK are Kurds. The PKK is a throw back to the cold war; a good old fashioned people's national liberation organisation with all the ideological flexibility and brutality these organisations were known for. It behaves entirely to form. If you want a good comparison, compare the PKK to Peru's Sandero Luminoso movement led by another failed left- wing academic, like Ocalan, called Guzman. 

Before flunking out of university Ocalan tried to join the Turkish army. I will bet you that if he had succeeded he would have been an extreme right-wing Turkish nationalist — that is the nature of the man. As it was, his first attempt to set up a revolutionary movement had no ethnic dimension. This was a time of social break down in Turkey with extremist movements proliferating all over the place. The army crack down, which was necessary, produced the ethnic dimension. It is interesting to note that, after all the "hang him high" editorials in the Turkish press, the papers are now starting to review their stance and to discuss the Kurdish issue. Maybe Ocalan achieved something. But was it worth 30,000 lives. I think that we could have got to this point even if the PKK had not had the foreign support that made it such a potent organisation. 

Nearly ten years ago Ozal (half Kurd) considerably liberalised the position of Kurds as a distinct ethnic group and Ocalan (half Turk) did not respond in any way. It was only the threat of the hangman's noose that prompted concessions. We can thank Greece and Syria for the fact that this nasty war took on the proportions that it did — shades here too of foreign meddling at the end of the Ottoman era. Greece, in particular stands shamed — its policy towards Turkey too often has been characterised by psychologically juvenile and irredentist beliefs......... 

Just to change tack a little; our mountain Brits have done OK in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Foreign Secretary and the Minister for Defence (the four top jobs listed in order of importance) are all Scots. So don't listen to every whining Jock you hear. As for the Irish, they think Oliver Cromwell died yesterday and Wales and England were politically and administratively unified by a Welsh king — Henry VIII. I am Welsh by the way — in spite of my funny name and mongrel heritage. I returned home from my travels not for economic advantage but for the pleasure of Brains SA (Special Ale) — brewed in Cardiff — and a locally known as Skull Attack. Fish & Chips is no longer our favourite food ( unless you are from the backwaters of East Anglia). We are not a cosmopolitan nation and Chicken Tikka Masala tops the bill. If you are a Glaswegian Scot, however, it is ten pints of lager followed by an extra hot Vindaloo. Cheers.


The writer: Nick. (July 4th 1999)

Genocidal Thoughts

Comments: Hello Winston. How are you? Yes, Edward's (and many others) presentations could be described as being dramatic and a little over the top. Hysterical and libelous would be my choice of words. The figure of 600,000-800,000 Armenian deaths is a figure I have seen, presented by serious historians many times, most recently (coincidentally) a few days ago on BBC TV. The BBC is not noted for its Turkish sympathies. 

Armenians say 1.5- 2 million and Turks often say 200,000. The natural suspicion, bourne out by neutral historians, is that the figure would lie somewhere in the middle. There were extensive British and French investigations carried out directly by respective military missions — Morgenthau did little investigating on the ground and relied on second hand reports and was known to think little of the Turks. To say the Turks preserved the Istanbul Armenians to disguise the genocide in the east does not stand up to critical inspection — it runs counter to the norm in these circumstances. 

The Nazis, for example, stepped up their campaign of extermination at the end of the war when it was obvious that they were going to lose and in spite of the huge amount of resources (men, material and especially transport) required to run the extermination programmes. The behaviour of the Serbs was similar — although genocide was not the goal in its strict definition — but without massive international relief efforts that would have been the result. 

At this juncture, Winston, I would like to say that I don't take offense at what you say but I would rather you did not suggest that my attitude was akin to being Neo-Nazi. My father served as a partisan for three years in Silesia, the Ukraine and Slovakia fighting the Nazis. I have family who did time in Ravensbruck concentration camp and also Communist labour camps after the communist coup in Czechoslovakia. I have had anti- Nazi/ Communist beliefs with my mother's milk. 

You say that the Armenian genocide is a fact. In America maybe but not in Europe. While the term "Armenian genocide" might be used as a short hand to describe events it is not accepted that genocide in this narrow sense means genocide in the true definition of the word. In fact both the British and French parliaments have recently rejected this argument. Both the British and French parliaments are presently left of centre and are not known as Turkish apologists and do not have significant Turkish constituencies to satisfy. If foreign policy needs are to blame for this then the Turks would not have such a problem over Cyprus where they are basically in the right. 

This is not the case in the US where there are significant, wealthy and well organised Greek and Armenian lobbies. One's percentage of the population does not translate into an equivalent degree of influence. Money, dedication and organisation do that. The Jewish lobby is a case in point; influence far outweighs their representation in the population because it is well funded, very well organised and specific in terms of its goal. This was not always the case. It was only after the catastrophe of Suez that American Jews realised the need to lobby for Israel and they have been remarkably successful ever since. In fact not only have they succeeded in influencing policy in the Middle East (on balance a good thing) but they have also managed to stifle academic debate on the subject of recent Israeli/ Arab history (unequivocally a bad thing). 

The stifling of debate has been accomplished very successfully by Greek and Armenian lobbies. There are constant cries that Turks are liars, that their academics are biased (as if Armenians and Greeks aren't) and that non Turks who question the "received wisdom" are discredited, corrupted or have been bought. To say that Armenians were not in any position to undermine the state is simply not true. Armenians consistently supported invading Russian armies and they employed the methods that have always been employed in the region: massacre and expulsion. Why should the Armenians be different from anyone else in the Caucasus and the Balkans? If the Kurds could do it now Armenians could do it then. 

It does not take much to undermine a state especially when order is breaking down anyway. Italy in the 60s, 70s and early 80s was a political basket case because of the Mafia, small groups of single minded terrorists and weak central governments (due to a ridiculous electoral system) — similarities with Turkey here. It took the EU and massive subsidies to help sort them out. The difference in Turkey is that the PKK is probably one of the most effective and dangerous terrorist groups in the world with a budget (according to the PKK) of $250 million a year. It got that way because it had significant help from Syria and Greece. Now I would expect this from Syria, but from Greece? This does not say much for the decency of Greek politics (since decency seems to be at the core of this discussion).

Nobody will ever convince me that Greeks (or Armenians) care about the Kurds — they are simply a stick with which to beat the Turks. Nobody argues that the Turks have not been heavy handed with the Kurds — some of them. But Kurds have actually done well in modern Turkey rising to positions of power. The mistake is to look at Kurds as a nation. They are not. They are a collection of clans and tribes. Past Kurdish uprisings have been tribal uprisings transmogrified into national uprisings for propaganda purposes. Organisations like the PKK never ever germinate in conservative rural areas like Kurdistan. They are the product of social disorder and urban areas that would never be a part of a Kurdish homeland. And I bet you that if they ever get a homeland people won't come flooding back from Istanbul or Berlin to live in a PKK workers paradise. And Armenians are hardly pulling up sticks to go back to Armenia since the fall of the Soviet Union. 

I do not dispute that Armenians suffered terribly. But most of the casualties were from deprivation and disease as was the case for soldiers who fought in this theatre of war, something bourne out by a number of allied military missions in the area including the Americans. My grandfather fought in the Russian revolution with the Czech Legion (not a million miles from the Caucasus) and this was the case among military and civil populations there too. When I say that the Turks (like the Byzantines before them using similar policies) imposed order in a volatile region it gives away nothing — it is fact accepted by any number of independent historians. That the Ottomans were tolerant by the standards of the day is also a fact — there was no Islamic inquisition and Orthodox churches survived and thrived (mostly); the case of the Orthodox church in Cyprus is a case in point. 

To say that I have an ulterior motive is to imply that I have been bought or corrupted and..... well, I covered that earlier. I may have a bias, but then so does Frank and so does Edward. You also have your own biases built on your perceptions and experiences whatever they may be. We all do. I have always had an intense suspicion that when people scream too loudly they and won't consider the opposing view in any shape or form often have something to hide. This is usually bourne out (shoa excepted) and is the case here too. Nobody has clean hands. Cheers Winston

The writer: Nick. (Date unknown)


Excellent Points on History and Logic 

Comments: Winston. Hello. I read your last posting with interest. Yes, there is plenty of evidence of Turkish/ Kurdish massacres perpetrated against Armenians. No one disputes this—although Morgenthau's evidence is suspect. The argument is over the word "genocide," over the numbers and whether this was a one sided affair. There is no hard evidence of genocide as a policy of state although there were probably elements within the CUP who approved of the idea and even colluded in the process—may be. We don't know. We can only say that there were massed deportations that produced many deaths through disease, deprivation, murder and banditry. 

Imagine Kosovo with no UNHCR or Red Cross. If this were a true genocide Armenians would not have survived through the war in Istanbul. In spite of the rounding up of political and nationalist suspects, some of whom were killed, the Armenians in Istanbul were, essentialy, unmolested. Imagine Hitler exterminating European Jews but leaving the sizeable Jewish population of Berlin untouched. It is unthinkable. The closest the Nazis came to that was the preservation of Prague's Jewish ghetto as a "museum of an extinct race." 

The British, who occupied Istanbul, arrested a large number of Ottoman officials and army officers intending to prosecute them for war crimes. In spite of considerable efforts and full access to Ottoman archives they could not find any viable evidence and all detainees were released from their prison in Malta within two or three years. As you point out, the Turks themselves tried people for their excesses. Over a thousand courts martial all told. Hardly the behaviour of a government implicated in genocide. 

The war in the east was typfied by massed expulsions, deportation and massacre on all sides; Turks, Kurds, Armenians and Russians. Between 1870 and 1920 it is estimated that in Eastern Anatolia something like 2.5 million Muslims and 600,000- 800,000 Armenians had died. Armenians were deported because they had repeatedly supported invading Russian armies and in their support of the Russians they also massacred Turks and Kurds. The Russians in particular had been pursuing a policy of eradicating or expelling Muslims and replacing them with Orthodox Christans. The population of what is now Armenia was, at the start of the last century, more than 80% Muslim. 

To say that Armenians have been in the region for over two thousand years and that the Turks are recent interlopers (recent being over a thousand years in this case) is irrelevant. How long do you have to be in a place before you belong? The Turks ruled from Constantinople well before the Americas were colonised. It seems to me that if Armenians want the terrors of the past recognised they could start by admitting their own part in the region's bloody history. 

However, given the recent role of Armenians in their conflict with the Azeris it would seem unlikely; they are continuing the same policies of ethnic clearences and murder that has been the pattern in this region for centuries. 

The Turks managed to maintain peace and order, where disorder had been the rule for centuries, with a combination of guile and force. Given the ethnic and religious mix and the potential for conflict this was a major achievement and it deserves to be recognised not excoriated. You can't judge their entire history by the last seventy years or so when foreign powers were inciting unrest and hovering to feed on the carcass. Given the Turks' recent history and experiences you can not blame them for being sensitive to the issues of minorities. They are, after all trying to build a state where citizenship rather than ethnicity is the key — a good western, liberal idea. 

The Kurdish language issue is a case in point. There is nothing wrong in the Turks insisting that education is in Turkish. At least the Kurds get a language that is widely understood rather than localised regional dialects which will confine them where they are. The British did this to the Welsh, Irish and Scots — to their benefit in the long term. The French are doing it now and recently in the US there has been a major argument over teaching children in the medium of Spanish which will only serve to confine them to ghettos. 

The Turkish government may be, at times, autocratic on minority issues or political dissent — but then so are the Greeks. This web site does not highlight anything — it is a one sided, racist and selective tract. Calling a people "satan" or "barbarian" or "savages" is hardly going to encourage an honest appraisal of a shared history. If this were a web site that called all blacks savages because of recent atrocities across Africa— and they are many — it would quite simply be shut down! Why? Because the Turks do not yet have the lobbying power of the Greeks, Armenians or Blacks in America or elsewhere. Votes count!


The writer: Nick. (July 2nd 1999)


Savagery of War

Comments: If this picture of headless Kurds is genuine, which I doubt, what does it signify about Turks? Only that they are no different from other soldiers during war. My own father, a Czech partisan during WWII cut notches on the handle of his pistol to count dead Germans. He got to seven when he stopped. I asked him about this and he said "When you are young you are stupid." It is the only thing he ever said about his war experiences. War does this to people; it degrades everyone, even when it is necessary. 

The Kurds in this picture are terrorists. American GIs massacred civilians in Vietnam— My Lai to mention but one notorious incident of many. A nasty thug called Nicos Samson, very briefly president of Cyprus in 74, liked to have trophy pictures of himself taken with dead Turkish Cypriots (civilians mostly). Does this act by one depraved and racist Greek make all Greeks savages? Or does he truly represent the Greeks? Maybe someone would like to tell me which.

The writer: Nick. (Sunday June 27th 1999 06:32:15)




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