Tall Armenian Tale


The Other Side of the Falsified Genocide


  A Historian's Analysis of The Burning Tigris  
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Mahmut Ozan
Edward Tashji
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 Hats off to the Times Literary Supplement; the British weekly had the courage to select a non-fawning reviewer for Peter Balakian's "The Burning Tigris." Reactions of outrage followed, some of which are below.

Dr. Andrew Mango is part of the "Centre of Near and Middle Eastern Studies" in England's SOAS University.


"The Burning Tigris ... is not a work of historical research, but an advocate's impassioned plea, relying at times on discredited evidence, such as the forged telegrams..."

Book review in the Times Literary Supplement of September 17th 2004 (No 5294) 



THE BURNING TIGRIS The Armenian genocide 474pp. Heinemann.


It is easy to understand the anger and anguish of Armenian nationalists. They gaze at their terra irredenta, historic Armenia which lies almost entirely within the borders of the republic of Turkey, and which is dotted with the ruins of monuments bearing witness to the high culture of Armenian kingdoms before the Turkish con-quest from the eleventh century onward. But there are no irredenti — no unredeemed Armenians — in historic Armenia or elsewhere in Asia Minor. Nor are there any prospects of a reconquista. The population of the small landlocked Armenian republic in the southern Caucasus has fallen from over three million at the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union to an estimated two million today. One-fifth of the territory of the neighbouring republic of Azerbaijan, which the Armenians have occupied, lies largely empty after the flight of close on one million of its Azeri inhabitants. There are not enough Armenians to hold on to recent conquests, let alone to people their terra irredenta in Turkey. Why have things come to such a sorry pass? 

Andrew Mango

Andrew Mango in 1990

In his campaigning book, Peter Balakian seeks to persuade liberal Americans in general, and members of the United States Congress in particular, that the Turks alone are to blame, and that, for reasons of realpolitik, the Christian West has failed to bring their crimes home to them. In Balakian's account, Muslim Turks have always oppressed Christian Armenians. Oppression turned to unprovoked massacre in the 1890s in the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid II, and peaked in genocide when the Young Turks deported the Armenians from Asia Minor in 1915 during the First World War. It was he argues, the first genocide of the twentieth century and a model for the Jewish Holocaust. The historical record does not support Balakian's thesis. 

For eight centuries — from 1071 when the Seljuk Turks defeated the Byzantines at Manzikert, in historic Armenia, to the congress of Berlin in 1878 when the Armenian Question entered the agenda of international diplomacy -the Armenians lived as a self-governing religious community perfectly integrated into the mosaic of Ottoman society. They provided the Ottoman State with most of its craftsmen — from humble farriers to imperial architects, from potters to jewellers, and in modem times, mechanics, train drivers and dentists. Not only did many, if not most, of them adopt Turkish as their mother tongue, but in a rare linguistic phenomenon, the grammar of the Armenian language was affected by Turkish morphology. The Armenian contribution to Turkish culture was immense: they set up the first modem Turkish theatre, they published books in Turkish, they devised Turkish translations for new Western terms and concepts, they were prominent in Turkish music, both as composers and performers. 

Like other non-Muslim communities, the Armenians were among the main beneficiaries of the nineteenth-century Tanzimat reforms which proclaimed the equality of the Sultan's subjects, regardless of creed The prosperity which the Tanzimat brought in its train drew the Armenians from their harsh homeland on the eastern Anatolian plateau to the great commercial centres of the Empire — to Trabzon, Istanbul, Izmir and the market towns of Asia Minor, where, together with the Greeks, they accounted for the bulk of a new middle class. The Armenians had always been renowned as merchants and bankers; under the Tanzimat many became senior civil servants. Right up to 1914 there were Armenian ambassadors and Cabinet ministers serving the Ottoman State. Balakian does not mention them. Of course, the Armenians had grievances, particularly in the mountainous areas of eastern Anatolia, where they were subject to the depredations of Kurdish tribes and of destitute Circassian refugees, not to mention venal Ottoman officials. But most Muslims were much worse off. 

As a result of Armenian emigration and the immigration of Muslim refugees fleeing from successive Russian advances in the Caucasus, Muslims came to outnumber the Armenians by a large margin in historic Armenia. There were prosperous Armenian communities everywhere, but they were not in the majority in a single province. This posed the biggest problem for Armenian nationalists, when they began to agitate for autonomous government. In his celebrated essay, "Minorities", Elie Kedourie described how ideas originating in the West destroyed the Armenian community in Asia Minor and the Jewish community in Iraq. In the case of the Armenians, these ideas came through two channels — from the Russian Empire where Armenian nationalism was born in the revolutionary ferment of opposition to the rule of the Tsars, and from American missionaries whose schools produced the unintended effect of alienating the Armenians from their Ottoman environment. Kedourie relates how Armenian nationalist terrorism was the pretext for the anti-Armenian pogroms of the 1890s — the first major inter-communal clash between Muslims and Armenians, who had earlier been known to the Ottomans as "the faithful nation". Even if one disregards the exaggerated figures put out by Armenian nationalists, and reduces the number of people killed to the more likely figure of 20,000-30,000, the pogroms were bad enough. But worse was to follow. 

It was the decision of the Young Turks to enter the Great War on the side of Germany against Russia and the other Allies that sealed the fate of the Armenians. By 1914 there were roughly as many Armenians in the Russian as in the Ottoman Empire. Tom between two warring sides, the Armenians were bound to prefer the Christian Russians. One can argue about the extent of the threat posed by Armenian irregulars to the Ottoman army, which was trying to contain a Russian advance in eastern Anatolia in 1915. In the words of the American military historian Edward Erickson, "It is beyond doubt that the actuality of Armenian revolts in the key cities astride the major eastern roads and railroads posed a significant military problem in the real sense". 

But it is hard to argue that the problem justified the decision of Enver Pasha and the other Young Turk leaders to deport almost the entire Armenian population of Asia Minor (outside Izmir and, of course, Istanbul) The Young Turks issued a sheaf of orders and regulations which, in theory, were meant to ensure the humane evacuation and transport of deportees But as Enckson points out, "Enver Pasha's plans hinged on non-existent capabilities that guaranteed inevitable failure" An earlier military historian, Gwynne Dyer, wrote "I believe that historians will come to see [the Young Turk leaders] not so much as evil men but as desperate, frightened unsophisticated men struggling to keep their nation afloat in a crisis far graver than they had anticipated, reacting to events rather than creating them, and not fully realizing the extent of the horrors they had set in motion". 

Dr. Andrew Mango

The horrors involved, according to the careful calculations by the American historical demographer Justin McCarthy (whom Balakian does not mention), the loss of some 580,000 Armenian lives from all causes — massacre, starvation and disease The fact that Muslim losses were much greater in the same theatre of operations does nothing to detract from the extent of the Armenian tragedy. Was it a genocide? Bernard Lewis was sued in a French court for saying sensibly that it all depends on the definition of genocide. But, whatever the definition, Balakian's insistent comparison with the Jewish Holocaust is misleading The Turkish Armenians perished m the course of "a desperate struggle between two nations for the possession of a single homeland", in Professor Lewis's words. For the Turks, Lewis wrote, "the Armenian movement was the deadliest of all threats", to yield to it "would have meant not the truncation, but the dissolution of the Turkish state". The Jews posed no such threat to the Germans. Religious fanaticism was a factor in the Armenian tragedy, racism was not. There is a much closer parallel with the eviction of Circassians and other Muslim mountaineers from Russian Caucasus in the nineteenth century. The figures are of the same order as those relating to the Armenians; some 1 2 million Muslim Caucasians left their Russian-conquered homeland, 800,000 of them lived to settle in Ottoman domains. 

The Burning Tigris fits in with the campaign waged by Armenian nationalists to persuade Western parliaments to recognize the Armenian genocide. It is not a work of historical research, but an advocate's impassioned plea, relying at times on discredited evidence, such as the forged telegrams attributed to the Ottoman interior minister, Talat Pasha, which were produced at the trial of his assassin in Berlin. Some of Balakian's assertions would make any serious Ottoman historian's hair stand on end. Like other similar books, it is replete with selective quotations from contemporary observers. Turkish historians have drawn from many of the same sources for material to rebut Armenian accusations. It would be better if, rather than ask parliaments to pass historical judgments, historians from all sides came together to research the horrors of the war on the Ottomans' eastern front. But it is better to lobby parliaments than to assassinate Turkish diplomats, as happened in a previous campaign by genocide-avengers, which Peter Balakian, to his credit, regrets. At present, Armenian nationalists refuse to engage in a dialogue with Turkish historians unless there is preliminary recognition of their genocide claim. Refusal is in their eyes tantamount to the crime of Holocaust denial. But acceptance would be a denial of the freedom of historical research, not to say of free speech.



Andrew Mango

Dr. Andrew Mango in the early 2000s

"The objective of the Armenian allegations is political. This is clear. And they have more than one aim. One aim is to keep the Armenian nation, which is spread all over the world, together. The genocide allegations have become elementary, fundamental to the Armenian identity. The second aim is to make the faults of the Armenian nationalists be forgotten. Whatever happened to the Armenians was the result of the miscalculations of their nationalist leaders."

Holdwater: No less an authority than Armenia's first prime minister, Hovhannes Katchaznouni, agreed (naturally adding a reference to mass murder): "The proof is, however — and this is essential — that the struggle begun decades ago against the Turkish government brought about the deportation or extermination of the Armenian people in Turkey and the desolation of Turkish Armenia. This was the terrible fact!"

"The massacres started after the weakening of the Ottoman Empire. Those who were massacred first were Muslims. The West, who called themselves Christians, turned a blind eye on that, and the Ottoman Empire's falling backward was viewed solely as the salvation for the Christians. This attitude lasted a long time."

Holdwater: And who could have thought, even with the assistance of powerful Armenian propaganda, aided by their dishonest genocide scholar allies, the West would be so prejudiced and dishonorable, that this attitude would continue into the 21st century.

(Dr. Mango's quotes are from the documentary, "Sari Gelin.")

 What a beautiful response, and credit goes to the newspaper for choosing a critic who is not a genocide zealot but a true historian. There was no shortage of outcry, as to be expected. Let’s take a look at how some fumed; wall-to-wall replies were included in the website of the Armenian Community of the United Kingdom.

Dr. Tessa Hofmann

 An excerpt from Dr. Tessa Hofmann’s longer response: "Why does an otherwise respectable paper like the ‘Times’ allow itself to be used, or rather misused, as a forum for the justification of genocide? There is no such thing as a justified genocide.” 

Dr. Hofmann (who was invited to the 11th Turkish History Congress, held in Ankara, in 1990; it seems she did not have the courtesy to respond) is the Chairwoman of “Working Group Recognition - Against Genocide,” yet another highfaluting “genocide scholar,” where genocides are treated in a near-religious vein. She is correct; a genocide is the greatest crime against humanity, and there is no way to justify it. Where she errs in her genocidal zeal is that the Armenian experience has yet to be proven as a genocide. If she were open-minded instead of pursuing her genocide agenda, she would pay heed to the genuine historic arguments provided by Dr. Mango. 

However, she writes in a rude manner, with statements such as “(Mango’s) name is to be found on nationalist Turkish propaganda websites.” Is she implying Mango has played an active part in those websites? If Mango is the rare westerner who has had the opportunity to see Turkey from the inside out (instead of the typically biased outsider, like Tessa Hoffmann), it would be inevitable for web sites to make reference to his views. If Hoffmann believes someone expressing views about Turkey that are not always negative makes that someone a propagandist, what does that say about the prejudice of Tessa Hofmann?

She mockingly adds, “Justin McCarthy, whom he recommends as an (sic) careful ‘American historical demographer’.” It so happens Prof. McCarthy is recognized in academic circles for exactly that... if she is accusing McCarthy of sloppy work (or worse), then she should explain what kind of demographic work she considers accurate, and why. (In other words, if figures provided by the Armenian patriarch of the period is what she would consider more reliable, then she's got another thing coming.) Of course, dogmatic “genocide scholar” activists like Dr. Hofmann, like their anti-Turkish missionary counterparts of a century ago, will go to great lengths to try and discredit the “enemy.” She’s actually foolish enough to state, “Both belong to the fortunately dwindling number of Turkish scholars, who call into question or at least play down the Armenian Genocide.” The reason why their number is dwindling is because few want to deal with the defamatory, below-the-belt smear campaigns the ethically challenged genocide zealots engage in. And neither McCarthy nor Mango are Turkish. 

Isn’t it odd that this “Against Genocide” person, after being reminded in Mango’s essay of the “eviction of Circassians and other Muslim mountaineers from Russian Caucasus in the nineteenth century,” almost certainly has made no serious mention elsewhere regarding these less popular victims of ethnic cleansing? (The Russians and other Orthodox folk rubbed out five-and-a-half million “Ottoman” Muslims, and kicked out another five million in the century up to and including WWI.) Hypocrites like Dr. Hofmann are only interested in victims they deem worthy.


Peter Balakian Defends His Book

Peter Balakian gets into the act, starting off by claiming Dr. Mango presents a false history of Ottoman-Armenians and basically accuses Mango of being a propagandist... after pointing out all the chiefly propagandistic sources Balakain has utilized. “Mango claims that my book is not a work of historical research. Yet I make use of a wide range of US State Department documents, British Foreign Office records, German and Austro-Hungarian Foreign Office records, and numerous eyewitness accounts from diplomats, relief workers, missionaries, and survivors,” he whines.

Peter Balakian

Let’s get straight what real history means: a dispassionate, objective analysis of ALL the facts. Peter Balakian has nerve to present himself as a historian when his book clearly pursues a one-sided agenda. “It would seem that a reviewer's first obligation is to explain to the reader what a book is about,” he complains. The fact is, The Burning Tigris is such an achingly distorted version of history, that the reviewer has chosen to counter Balakian’s nonsense by explaining what really happened. That ties in precisely with what the book is about. The only way in which war propaganda, reports from German and Austrian religious bigots and largely false eyewitness reports (for example, Henry Morgenthau, never having left Istanbul's environs, is usually cited as an eyewitness) represents history is if the story in question is Balakian’s, and he is the “his” in his story.

Mango tells exactly what Balakian’s book is about by referring to “discredited evidence” such as the forged telegrams of Talat Pasha, which was incredible of Balakian to try and pass off as legitimate, in this day and age. By writing, “Some of Balakian's assertions would make any serious Ottoman historian's hair stand on end,” Mango tells exactly what Balakian’s book is about.

"Balakian is a product of Bergen County, New Jersey USA. The Armenian communty there are the most pompous, arrogant and self-serving bunch I have ever encountered, and this includes many of my own flesh and blood. They are ignorant to boot, dealing only with generalities and knowing nothing of nuance..."

Khodja, May 26, 2002, Armenians.com forum

Balakian shows his biased stripes when he actually refers to Prime Ministers William ("Turk reeking of ... the most imaginative pictures of hell") Gladstone and David Lloyd ("The Turks are a human cancer") George as reliable sources, when both were notoriously racist Turk-haters and the latter was leading a war where demonization of the enemy was part of British strategy. After all, Britain had an eye on valuable Ottoman lands, via secret treaties.

Balakian continues: “(Mango gives) the reader a version of candy-coated, consensus Ottoman history of a kind practised by many Ottoman historians of his generation (Mango was born in 1926, in Istanbul). Such history is reminiscent of the kind apologists for American slavery wrote in the early part of the last century.”

How foul of the ethically challenged Mr. Balakian to compare Dr. Mango’s facts with the intentionally-meant-to-mislead reports of slavery apologists. Known to spearhead the smear campaign against Prof. Heath Lowry, Balakian is up to his old tricks by bypassing Mango’s message, instead concentrating on the credibility of the messenger. What difference does Mango’s birthplace, or when Mango was born, make? Armenians born in Turkey weren’t automatically loyal to the land of their birth. (One notorious contemporary example: Vahakn Dadrian.) And is Balakian trying to say that because Mango is older, his views are illegitimate?

Balakian accuses Mango of displaying “little scholarship,” objecting to the presentation of “a happy, prosperous minority that was in the end ungrateful to the magnanimity of their Ottoman rulers.” Since Balakian is blind to all but the propagation of his propaganda, he cares not to address the fact that the Armenians WERE known as the “faithful nation.” For the most part, the Armenians were happy and prosperous, and it’s a sickening distortion of history when the Balakians of the world say otherwise. Besides, it’s not like Mango is claiming all was peaches and cream: “Of course, the Armenians had grievances, particularly in the mountainous areas of eastern Anatolia, where they were subject to the depredations of Kurdish tribes and of destitute Circassian refugees, not to mention venal Ottoman officials. But most Muslims were much worse off.”

Balakian tries to discredit this “old generation” of Ottoman historians by referring to Bernard Lewis’ “The Emergence of Modern Turkey” book not getting into the Armenians’ fate in detail. Does Peter Balakian stop to think those as himself have transformed this story into such a political hot potato, Lewis could have chosen not to dwell upon this area so as not to detract from the main purpose of the book? Meanwhile, how many paragraphs did Balakian devote to the Malta Tribunal? (He sneakily tried to blend Malta in with the 1919 Ottoman kangaroo courts.) Or to the over one-half million Turks/Muslims savagely killed by Armenians (with Russian help)? (He devoted only a sentence or two to the latter, falsely claiming the massacres only began years later, and only because, in effect, the Turks deserved it.)

Balakian attempts to reinforce his deception by referring to how his book laid out what a carefully implemented governmental plan it was to massacre the Armenian people; and to the “mobilization of killing squads that included some 30,000 convicts released from prisons,” an intentionally murderous strategy with no documented evidence aside from the selective facts and fabrications that Vahakn Dadrian and associates have strung together through the years. “Mr Mango claims there is no relationship between” (the Holocaust and the Armenian “genodice”),” Balakian states with a straight face. Of course there is no relationship.... not only with the way the Jews and the Armenians were handled (did Hitler exempt any Jews, for example?) but also with the naked, cold, hard fact that the Armenians REBELLED.

"The Jewish experience in World War II particularly, where the full power of an industrial state like Germany, were trained on a single people... for no crime except that they were Jewish; and where, of the six million people who died, over a million and a half were children under twelve years old; we think is unique. There has been nothing like it in history."

Barry Jacobs, Jewish Committee Director, "Sari Gelen" documentary

To validate his point, Balakian suggests referring to the works of genocide-obsessed NON-historians like Yair Auron, Israel Charney and Robert Melson. He even throws in Taner Akcam as an example of an objective “Turkish historian,” once again demonstrating what an expert “Peternocchio” Balakian is in his practice of scruples-poopers.

Balakian informs us further: “As a scholar who has worked in the fields of peace studies and human rights as well as in literary and cultural studies, I have no identification with nationalisms. Rather, in blaming the Armenians for their fate and blaming the Armenian Genocide on everything from Russian nationalism to the migration of Muslim refugees into eastern Turkey, Mango reveals his own nationalist viewpoints.”

First, the definition of “scholar” is one who takes into account all sides of a story. Balakian scoffs outright that there is no other side to his genocide story, right off the bat... in the first few pages of his book. And to me, human rights include all forms of humanity, not just selective ones. By completely and intentionally ignoring the massive ethnic cleansing the Armenians performed upon Ottoman Muslims and Jews, it is awfully disingenuous of Balakian to present himself as one with such a humanistic heart of gold. Lastly, it’s the duty of a real historian to examine all extenuating circumstances of the cause of an event... since there is no proof there was a genocide against the Armenians, of COURSE factors such as the ones Balakian moans over are going to be relevant. And what’s this about Mango’s nationalist viewpoints? Mango is not a Turkish national, nor do we have reason to believe he is blindly sympathetic to all things Turkish. (Mango is a genuine historian. If there were real evidence of a genocide, who believes Mango would not confirm it?) What kind of an unsubstantiated crack is that?

And can you believe this "Peternocchio" statement: “I have no identification with nationalisms.” Brother!

"...Balakian did a good job in his book "Black Dog Of Fate" and i was touched and his transformation from a typical american into an ARMENIAN american really impressed me."

Sar, Dec 1 2003, Armenians.com forum

“The International Association of Genocide Scholars agrees that the Armenian case conforms to every aspect of the United Nations definition of genocide and that more than a million Armenians perished at the hands of the Ottoman Turkish government.” Who gives a flying fluke over what those hypocritical genocide scholars have to say? If they are going to demonstrate lack of scholarly integrity by solely concentrating on the kind of information Balakian and his ilk have been vomiting these many years, they are seriously compromising their own credibility, paving the way to be publicly perceived as a laughing stock among true academicians. (Few are willing to call these zealots on their shoddy work, because nobody wants to come across as an anti-genocide neo-Nazi type... so hampered and hysterical has the dialogue been in this area, since everyone knows genocide is “bad.”)

Estimates of the Ottoman-Armenian population: M. Zarchesi, French Consul at Van: 1,300,000; Francis de Pressence (1895): 1,200,000; Torumnekize (1900): 1,300,000; Lynch (1901): 1,158,484; Ottoman census (1905): 1,294,851; British Blue Book (1912): 1,056,000; L.D.Conterson (1913): 1,400,000; French Yellow Book: 1,475,000; Armenian Patriarch Ormanian: (*)1,579,000; Lepsius: 1,600,000

Estimates of the Ottoman-Armenian population

The U.N. definition says intent must be proven, and political groups are exempt. Already that means the Armenian con job does not conform to the 1948 Convention. And "The International Association of Genocide Scholars"  is really embarrassing itself if they have swallowed Balakian and company’s claim that more than a million Armenians were killed... since over a dozen neutral estimates had the pre-war Armenian population between one and 1.5-1.6 million. Peter Balakian also ‘fesses up to one million having survived. Not only should poets and genocide scholars leave the business of history to real historians, they also need to brush up on their mathematics.

Christopher Walker


Armenophile Christopher Walker takes a stab against Mango’s review by stating “that the rule of law did not exist for Turkish Armenians. (It did for Russian Armenians.)” What a silly simplification. I know from reading “Men are Like That” (and other sources) that the Russians did not treat the Armenians so spectacularly, and I also know that in areas where Ottoman control was strongest — particularly in the West — the Armenians were far from living a life of hell. Even in the comparatively poorer and less controlled east, before war broke out, many Armenians belonged to the upper classes.

The Armenophiliac Author, Christopher Walker

The Armenophiliac Author

“Even the most pacific activities for Armenians resulted in destruction, rape and death, years before any Armenians took up weapons to defend themselves. Amid the deprivation and violent atmosphere fostered either by local non-Armenian magnates or the Ottoman government (or both), the Armenians strove in the first place to create a rational and law-abiding future for themselves. When that failed, some of them took up arms.”

Mr. Walker is so completely blind in his love for the Armenians, he is truly trying whatever little remains of his credibility. (Never will I forget the ridiculous statement he made in The Armenians, A Story of Survival.) So practically everything the Armenians engaged in resulted in destruction, rape and death?? It’s a wonder there were any Armenians left by 1914, for a genocide to have been perpetrated against them.

The reason why the Armenians took up arms after centuries of mainly peaceful co-existence is because the “Sick Man of Europe” was losing territories right and left, and nationalism became the order of the day... and greedy Armenians figured on getting in on the act. Revolutionary committees began forming in 1872-78, and fanatical terrorism was perpetrated against the Turks (AND the Armenians) by the Armenians for some 40 years. When 1914 rolled around, Armenians throughout the country were armed to the teeth, en masse. Of course, not all were involved, but that’s a far cry from “some of them.”

Walker actually has the nerve to state: “the Turks were fighting the Russians, not the Armenians, in World War I.” WRONG.

"It is the Armenians much more than the Russians who are fighting us."

Cevdet Bey, governor of Van, as quoted by Avetoon Pesak Hacobian, "Armenia and the War," 1918, in his chapter detailing "Armenia's Services in the War."

The Turks were fighting the Russians, their most dangerous enemy, AND the Armenians... when the Armenians betrayed their country, in their country’s darkest hour. Mango referred to this irrefutable fact by quoting American military historian Edward Erickson: "It is beyond doubt that the actuality of Armenian revolts in the key cities astride the major eastern roads and railroads posed a significant military problem in the real sense."

Andrew Kevorkian, "Journalist"

Andrew Kevorkian, a reporter who has written articles for the Kirk Kevorkian co-owned The Independent, has written a blistering letter comparing Mango with ... "Holocaust revisionist" David Irving? Talk about ignoring the message, and going directly into the Armenian time-honored smear campaign.

“As it is, Andrew Mango did concede that a few Armenians did suffer sprained ankles and a further few also suffered broken fingernails during the events of 1915.”

Yes, his sarcasm is very funny, but what’s dead serious is nobody denies the Armenians suffered. In what was the graveyard of the Ottoman Empire, where even Ambassador Morgenthau believed a quarter of Ottoman Muslims was lost because of starvation (all the men were mobilized into the army, and few were left to till the fields; added to the British naval blockade), the question becomes: what were the reasons for the Armenian mortality? It is immoral to accuse another (especially when the other is an entire nation) of a terrible crime if the proof of that crime does not exist.

This professional Armeni-Lemming is so far gone, he strays into the “Mango ... only repeats the standard lies” category. I see nothing but the truth in what Mango has written, based on real historical facts. When the pro-Armenians get frustrated, their “liar, liar, pants on fire” rebuttal is the first thing they resort to.

Look at this:

He repeated(ly) places all the blame for the suffering of the Armenians on the Armenians themselves with his constant repetition of those nasty "Armenian nationalists." Is he suggesting that my father's 12-year-old sister was brutally raped and murdered because she, too, was an "Armenian nationalist"?

If Mr. Kevorkian’s aunt lost her life in such a manner, that was terrible. Over one-half million Turks/Muslims were also victims of atrocities at the hands of the nasty "Armenian nationalists." Some in the Armenian community were coerced into cooperation, but most complied willingly. The point is, when fanatical leaders are going to betray your homeland, particularly during a desperate time of life-or-death struggle, then there will be a price to pay. Unfortunately, the innocent will suffer with the guilty; this is a brutal consequence of war.

We are offered the doctored spiel about The Special Organisation (TSO) “whose instructions were to kill the Armenians.” And what is the proof of that, aside from the selective tidbits Prosecutor Vahakn Dadrian has come up with, with his agenda solely to incriminate? Is there some kind of solid document we have missed? No; there is no proof, only theories. Mr. Kevorkian, especially as a “journalist,” should be particularly careful about touting facts that have yet to be proven.

Bernard Lewis

Bernard Lewis

I suppose Mr. Kevorkian is implying Bernard Lewis is a paid propagandist. (“After Lewis joined the Turkish cause....” Ugly, ugly.) He can’t believe Lewis changed his position from a 1968 book where all the available information pointed to a genocide. (The Armenians, not unlike today, had the playing field totally to present their version of events. The Turks only started speaking up after the round of Armenian terrorism beginning in 1973.) “Additional research” is exactly what made Lewis change his mind, because it is the duty of a TRUE historian to revise views as better information comes to light. The fact that Lewis chose not to submit an article to the genocide journal of one obsessed Israel Charny would construe guilt only in the minds of those deeply genocide-demented.

Justin McCarthy

Professor Justin McCarthy

Kevorkian goes far as to say “Justin McCarthy... is in the pay of the Turkish Government”! (Through “a Chair of Turkish studies funded by Ankara.”) Professor McCarthy gets his salary from the University of Louisville. Does the "journalist" have his facts straight, or is his mouth watering over the Heath Lowry smear campaign? Kevorkian had better be careful before he makes ugly insinuations that McCarthy is a paid propagandist.

After Kevorkian brings up the good old Hitler Quote and the 1919 kangaroo courts as his “proof,” he really shoots himself in the foot. Attempting to give validity to the Andonian-forged Talat Pasha telegrams (there is still no shortage of ethically-challenged Armenians hoping to get mileage out of these forgeries... even in this day and age), he claims “the telegrams were among the most convincing evidence against Talaat and his colleagues in the War Crimes Trial!”

If that’s true, then anyone who tries to present these false 1919 courts as legitimate is really getting into trouble. The puppet Turks who held these trials were anxious to appease the occupying British, already having threatened ill treatment at the Peace Conference (if the Turks would not come up with guilty parties regarding the massacres). If the kangaroo courts relied on the Andonian forgeries for evidence [which is not true], that clinches how desperate the Turkish prosecutors were, and further clinches these courts’ “kangaroo” status. When the British held their own trials with the Malta Tribunal, they made the decision to use only judicial evidence. Naturally, the fake telegrams were rejected.

We get a reminder that genocide scholars and historians have signed petitions acknowledging the Armenians’ genocide (as this one), but let’s not forget: true scholars and historians do not look at only one side of a story.

Curiously, Kevorkian refers to “The Burning Tigris” as such: “(I)t is, after all not a history of the Armenian Genocide but is a story about the Armenian Genocide.” (And after Balakian went through such trouble in his letter, trying to demonstrate what he wrote was “history.”) There is truth there... after all, that’s what this despicable book boils down to. Mainly, stories... stories that the Brothers Grimm would have been inspired by.

 The TLS Dialogue on "Tigris," Continued


Astounding! Generally, in the rare instance of a "Western Publication" allowing the anti-genocide perspective, the publication would feel compelled to print the sure-to-be-outraged responses that would be sure to follow... and the TLS dutifully complied. But that would be the end of that.

However, the TLS has done the unthinkable, they actually allowed the publication of a contrary view to the pro-genocide responses! Professor Norman Stone (whose marvelous writings may be found on this site) offered his thoughts regarding Balakian's defense, in an Oct. 29, 2004 letter; when Balakian complained, “It would seem that a reviewer's first obligation is to explain to the reader what a book is about," he now got his wish of having his work placed under a better magnified microscope, as Prof. Stone specified the many examples of Balakian's scholarly failings:


Sir, - In response to Andrew Mango’s review, Peter Balakian (Letters, October 1) apparently regards his book on the Armenian massacres as a masterpiece of scholarship: “I make use of a wide range of US State Department documents, British Foreign Office Records, German and Austro-Hungarian Foreign Office records… More than 1.100 footnotes in a twenty-eight chapter book with an extensive bibliography”. Have I been reading the same book?

There are very few references to German and Austro-Hungarian records, and the references are second-hand, ie, lifted from another author; even the spelling of proper names is defective (for example, page 412: “Der Zusammenbruch des Ottomaschen Reiches” or, page 167: “Maj. Gen. Fritz Bonssart von Schnellendorf” and, page 207, the Austrian rank of FMLt — a divisional commander — absurdly rendered “Vice-Field-Marshall”). As to British archives, I count eleven uses of them and two of these are quoted from another source. There are rather more American archival references, but not many. The vast bulk of the vastly bulky references consist of English-language secondary sources and, as Mr Balakian disarmingly confesses, he has had to use, for his book on the late Ottoman history, Turkish (and Armenian) documents “in translation”. One result of this is that his list of sources is extraordinarily one-sided. The reader could hardly work out from it why such authorities as Bernard Lewis from Princeton or Gilles Veinstein from the Collège of France or the late Elie Kedourie of the LSE did not accept Armenian nationalist claims that a “genocide” as classically defined had taken place. Veinstein’s very short essay in L’Histoire of April 1995 is an admirably fair-minded summary of what the debate is about.

But Balakian is also extraordinarily inaccurate in matters major and minor. Here are some instances, among many more: “Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli” was not around “when the Russians went to war in 1853 in the Crimea”; “Bosnia and Herzegovina” were not “seeking independence in 1876”: Byron did not die “fighting at Missolonghi in 1824 for the cause of Greek freedom” (he died of disease, perhaps demoralized by a gold-digging page, one Loukas); p 160: “Within decades after Ottoman troops led by Sultan Mohammad II captured Constantinople in 1453, the Ottomans had conquered south-eastern Europe — Albania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Romania and pieces of Poland and the Ukraine” is a grand misstatement, containing four mistakes, indicating such a profound misunderstanding of early Ottoman history that a critic does not know where to begin — the Turks took Constantinople and, later, much of Anatolia from a Christian and Balkan base, not vice versa and if you do not understand that, the whole relationship of the Ottomans to their Christian subjects degenerates into the caricature of oppressiveness that Balakian conveys; p 162: “The Armenian Reform Agreement of February 1914” was not signed as international law in Constantinople” — it was never ratified; p 212: “Selimiye” is not “a town on Constantinople’s Asiatic side” — it is a barracks; p 320: the Provisional government of 1917 did not “immediately beg[i]n to disengage Russia from the war” nor did it “urge” the Armenians or the Ukrainians “to seek independence”, nor did Russian troops evacuate “Turkish Armenians” in “spring of 1917” nor (p 321) were Kars, Batum and Ardahan “heavily Armenian” nor were they ceded (as distinct from occupied by) the Ottoman empire by the “Brest-Litovsk Treaty” — all of this indicating unfamiliarity with even the most elementary accounts of the Russian Revolution; Greeks did not in 1914 make up “the vast majority of Izmir population

There is one mistake which really blows Balakian’s effort sky high. He relies on a forgery that was exposed as such over eighty years ago, the “Naim-Andonian documents”. Here he goes, on p 344: the British in the summer of 1921 “released forty-three Turkish prisoners who were accused of perpetrating the Armenian massacres”; he suggests that that this happened because the nationalist Turks had captured British officers. But the fact is that the Law Officers advised that there was no case against these Turks (interned on Malta). Some documents incriminating them had turned up, peddled by one Andonian, on the basis of alleged confessions by one Naim (“massacre the lot but keep it secret”, was the general tenor, and on page 346 Balakian reproduces some of this). But the lawyers discarded the documents as a forgery, and German lawyers at the trial of Talaat Pasha’s assassin in 1921 also waved Andonian aside (preferring, rather bizarrely, hearsay testimony from a clergyman named, as it happens, Balakian). Taner Akçam, in Türk Ulusual Kimligi ve Remeni Sorunu (fifth ed., 2001), discusses the matter. Balakian’s own note 29 (P371) refers to Dr Akçam, but self-confessedly he cannot read Turkish and a related footnote (66, p 427) shows no consciousness at all that the documents are forgeries.

One particularly irritating habit is to stray into comparisons with the Nazis that Mr Balakian is simply not competent to make. Thus, p 163, “Not unlike Hitler’s… nazification programs for German youth, exemplified in the Hitlerjugend, the Young Turks now launched a program of nationalist indoctrination and paramilitary training for Turkish youth” — a grotesque statement because they had in mind Baden-Powell, and legalized football, hitherto frowned upon because religion disapproved of bare male legs — or “… pan-Turkism was … influenced by the German nationalism of Herder and Wagner, who were also key influences on Nazi Aryan ideology”: Herde, the most Enlightened of men! Is Balakian somehow confusing him with Hegel, while being entirely unfamiliar with both? Or, again, p 181: Like its Nazi counterpart after 1933, the [Ottoman] Ministry of the Interior was the key to orchestrating … genocide” – this is a nonsense, again revealing total unfamiliarity with the subject. The famous Wannsee conference of 1942 was summoned so that the SS and Gestapo machine could overcome possible legalistic objections from the Ministry of the Interior, and a simple glance at Ian Kershaw’s classic work on Hitler would have shown Balakian what was what. There is just no comparison possible between the Holocaust and the Armenian massacres of 1915. What happened was a tragedy for Turks and Armenians alike, and it deserves a decent book. Peter Balakian is simply way out of his depth. There is a classical fictional account, Franz Werfel’s Forty days of Musa Dagh. It is not altogether accurate, historically, but is brilliantly written. The Armenians often cite it, and rightly. But they might remember that Werfel wrote on his manuscript “nicht gegen Türken polemisieren” (“not to be used as a polemic against the Turks”). He understood that the Turkish Republic was doing a great deal for civilization in an exceptionally difficult part of the world, and amen to that. I have yet to meet an Armenian, ex-Soviet or Turkish or for that matter in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem, who would disagree.


Department of International Relations,

The University, Bilkent 06533, Ankara.


A medical doctor from New York, Murat Acemoglu, then decided to get mixed in the fray (he is likely a full Armenian whose family hailed from Turkey [the son of Irma and Asst. Prof. Kevork Acemoglu, a reportedly humanistic man who taught in Istanbul University] -- thus his misleading Turkish name; he is a board member of the powerful propaganda group, the Armenian Assembly of America, and has been a regular columnist for The Armenian Reporter, since at least the mid-1990s. He serves as an important reminder that not all Turncoat Turkish scholars are necessarily ethnic Turks.)

What's below is Professor Stone's response to Dr. Acemoglu in a second letter, November 5, 2004.


Armenia in history

Sir, – Murat Acemoglu (Letters, October 29) waves aside my criticisms of Peter Balakian’s many mistakes in his book on the Armenian massacres — “typos”, he says. I do not think that the Letters editor would waste 1,500 words of his space on trivialities, and Balakian’s mistakes as regards sources and facts go to the heart of the matter — almost as if some book on American history asserted that Theodore Roosevelt introduced the New Deal or Woodrow Wilson annexed Cuba or President Jefferson led the South in the Civil War. In an effort to rebut one or two of my allegations, Mr Acemoglu asserts, on the basis of three or four secondary sources in English, that the relevant areas of eastern Anatolia were ceded to Turkey at the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. They were not, and Article Four, Paragraph III, of that Treaty refers. You can find it on the internet.

There are two parts to Mr Acemoglu’s letter. The first has to do with a forgery, the “Naim-Andonian documents” that Balakian uses as proper coin. I wrote that British and German lawyers had, at the time, discarded them. My sources were sound enough — Stanford Shaw’s From Empire to Republic (Istanbul 2000),
Volume One, pp341f. and the transcript of the German court case in question, from the internet. Acemoglu may be right or wrong as to the lawyers’ motives, but it does not really matter: he does not contest that the documents in question are fake. Why, then, defend Balakian? Or is his use of a notorious forgery just another “typo”?

Then Mr Acemoglu gets very angry at me for saying categorically that there can be no comparison of the Armenian massacres and the Holocaust. Two ancient pieces of evidence are brought in — Hitler’s speech of 1939 asking “who remembers the Armenians?”, and the memoirs of Ambassador Morgenthau, saying that the Turkish minister responsible, Talaat Pasha, had confessed to extermination of the Armenians. But there is at the very least a prima facie case to the effect that both documents are not what they seem. Professor Heath Lowry of Princeton examined the alleged text of that Hitler speech, and asserted, with solid evidence, that Hitler never made that remark (the article in question is in the journal Political Communication and Persuasion, 1985, Volume 3, no 2). In a later book (The Story Behind Ambassador Morgenthau’s [Story], Istanbul 2000) he examined the text of the Morgenthau memoirs and found that it had been tampered with. I cannot say whether Professor Lowry is right or wrong, but there is a strong enough case to deserve an answer before self-appointed diaspora spokesmen sound off again on the subject. As I was examining the German court case, I came across an article written in 1921 by the German chief of staff of the Ottoman army, Bronsart von Schellendorf (Balakian’s “Bronssart von Schnellendorf”). He knew Talaat very well indeed, and bore out the Turkish version of what had happened — no intention of extermination, but certainly of deportation of a potentially hostile population from a war zone threatened by savage Armenian semi-regular troops. Bronsart says that order broke down and there were murderous raids by wild tribes. There is support for this in the Russian archives. Professor Lowry seems therefore, at the least, to have a good prima facie case, and he may also be right about the Hitler speech. The directors of the Holocaust Museum in Washington might consider examining the matter in greater depth, because their monument should of course not be defaced by a false ascription.

The fact is that we do not have a document showing the genocidal intention of the Ottoman government, even if Bernard Lewis — Bernard Lewis! — was arraigned by a French court for “genocide denial” when he said as much. What is now needed is an account of the Armenian tragedy by a historian competent in the sources. They are not at all easy, and so perhaps we can forgive diaspora spokesmen such as Murat Acemoglu for swimming around endlessly in the same stagnant little self-referential pool of “ibids” and “cited ins”. Until we do have a proper account, I myself remain neutral, only reserving my right to say that a bad book is a bad book.

Department of International Relations, The University, Bilkent 06533, Ankara.

Holdwater: Some sources Prof. Stone cites above may be read in the TAT site, as Dr. Lowry's work on Hitler and Morgenthau, and Lt. General von Schellendorf's "Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung" article, from July, 1921

Professors Vahakn Dadrian and Stephen Feinstein (of the CHGS) teamed up and got into the act. Professor Stone shot back with what's below, by end of November, 2004:

Sir - Messrs Dadrian and Feinstein have a go at me for saying that at the Treaty of Brest Litovsk Russia did not cede Kars and Ardahan to Turkey, and then quote the text, showing me right. To be ceded is not the same as to be occupied. They also throw up a smoke-screen about a German trial to conceal the fact that a major piece of alleged evidence of Ottoman genocide was a forgery — the 'Naim-Andonian documents', not used in the German court. An earlier letter in this sequence also made play of Professor Dadrian's upholding of them as genuine, and attacked me accordingly. However, the chief Turkish ally of the Armenian diaspora historians, Taner Akcam, remarks that 'there are important grounds for considering these documents fake'. There are, too: the paper, the dating, the calligraphy, the signature of the governor, the absence of any back-up copies in the archives, and the refusal of British and German lawyers to use them. Professor Dadrian had a wonderful time trying to salvage the documents, and I vastly admired the prestidigitation involved — for instance, if the paper was of the type used in French schools, and not of the type used in government offices, this can be explained by the paper shortage, he says. But if he cannot convince his major ally, who knows the Ottoman documents, well, there we are. As regards hard evidence of genocidal intention we are still really left with circumstantial stuff, and it is as well to remain neutral until someone writes a proper book. I take it from Professor Dadrian's silence concerning the Balakian book (where he is effusively thanked) that he does not regard it as such.

Holdwater: Surely Prosecutor Dadrian's defense of the Andonian papers ... you know, the ones that even Andonian is on record claiming they were used for propaganda purposes ... will be the single pathetic example of his "weasel defense tactics" that will come back to haunt him. This will probably occur posthumously, given the man's advanced age... but the day will come when he will be completely discredited, and the reputations of those who loved to hang out with him will also be seriously affected. When a person's honor and integrity is gone, what else does a person have left?



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