Last Thursday a U.S. congressional panel approved a resolution declaring, what it called, the Ottoman-era killing of Armenians genocide. The U.S. foreign affairs committee endorsed the resolution with a 23-22 vote even though the Obama administration had urged Congress not to approve it. The resolution now goes to the full House, where prospects for passage are uncertain.
Turkey has always maintained, and rightly so based on objective investigation of the matter by unbiased historians that the Armenian toll in 1915-16 has been inflated and those killed were victims of civil war and unrest, not genocide. Turkish government has pulled its ambassador home as a protest of the U.S. congressional panel decision.
While the death of those Armenians during World War I has often been dubbed as genocide, perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks, it should be noted that the Ottoman Empire was a distant memory since 1908 after the Young Turks, run by the Freemasons, had taken effective control of the falling Caliphate. It was its Committee of Unity and Progress (CUP) that entered the war on Germany's side in 1914. Those Freemasons had little, if any, love for Islam or the old Ottoman Caliphate. To most Muslims, those secular fundamentalist - Young Turks were traitors.
The CUP never developed an anti-Armenian doctrine and yet it is accused of committing genocide. Let’s take a look at the definition of the loaded term. Article Two of the UN Convention on Genocide of December 1948 describes genocide as carrying out acts intended "to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group". From this definition, it’s easy to comprehend why the mass killings in Bosnia, Chechnya, Kosovo and Rwanda, and of course, the exterminating campaigns during the World War II against the Jews, gypsies and some other minorities qualify as genocidal campaigns. But do the case of Armenians in Turkey (1915-16) fall into that category?
The death of those Armenians remains a highly controversial subject. Like any other genocide debate it is also a very sensitive subject for the players involved. Depending on which side one listens to the opinions may vary drastically. Thus, unless one is unbiased and objective, the conclusions drawn may be wrong, further feeding to the controversy.
Armenians claim that some 1.5 million died. This number seems untenable given the fact that studies of the Ottoman census by unbiased historians and other contemporary estimates show that far fewer than 1.5 million Armenians lived in the relevant areas before the war. So, how could the number of those killed be more than the total that lived? In this context it is worth pointing out that the census bureau was headed by an Ottoman Armenian --Migirdic Shabanyan from 1897-1903. He can’t be accused of lying on behalf of the Ottoman state.
Yusuf Halacoglu, president the Turkish Historical Society (TTK), estimates that with the deportations (excluding inter-ethnic violence) a total of 56,000 Armenians perished during the period due to war conditions, and less than 10,000 were actually killed.
Almost all Turkish intellectuals, scientists and historians accept that many Armenians died during the conflict, but they do not consider these events to be genocide. A number of Western academics in the field of Ottoman history, including (late) Bernard Lewis (Princeton University), Heath Lowry (Princeton University), Justin McCarthy (University of Louisville), Gilles Veinstein (College de France), and Stanford Shaw (UCLA) have expressed serious doubts as to the genocidal character of the events. They offer the opinion that the weight of evidence instead points to serious inter-communal warfare, perpetrated by both Muslim and Christian irregular forces, aggravated by disease and famine, as the causes of suffering and massacres in Anatolia and adjoining areas during the First World War.
It is not difficult to understand why in his book "Armenia: Secrets of a 'Christian' Terrorist State" the late historian and author Samuel Weems wrote, "Many scholars and authors throughout the Western world are in agreement that rarely, in the pages of history, have facts been so deliberately altered to deceive and create an untrue picture. ... These Armenians are coming up with more Armenians murdered than there were Armenians in Anatolia."
Professor Justin McCarthy, an American historian who is an expert on late Ottoman era history, believes that orthodox Western histories of the declining Ottoman Empire are biased, since they are based on the testimonies of biased observers: Christian missionaries, and officials of (Christian) nations who were at war with the Ottomans during World War I.
And yet in spite of such overwhelming verdicts of unbiased historians, many in the West have dubbed the loss of Armenian civilian lives as the first genocide of the 20th century. A BBC report even called it the first genocide in recorded history. Forgotten in all such inflated and disingenuous charges is the mere fact that more than half a million Muslim civilians were massacred in that era by Armenian irregular units and Armenian revolutionary groups compromised of the Dashnaks, the Hunchaks, and the Ramgavars, in addition to the French Armenian Legion and the British and Russian backed Armenian volunteer units.
In their naked bias, they also ignore that there were other more horrendous crimes that were and continues to be perpetrated by the western colonizing forces. For that we need not go too far down in history lane to the extermination campaigns against the aboriginals in Tasmania and rest of Australia and New Zealand, or against the Native Americans in the Americas. Consider for instance the case of Bengal (Bangladesh) under the East India Company and the British Raj, soon after the fall of Nawabi Rule in the Battle of Plassey. It was their heavy handedness with revenue collection that led to the horrible famine of 1769-1773 (corresponding to Bangla Year 1176-1180, and more commonly therefore known as “Chiatturer monontor”) killing some 15 million people of Bengal (that included Bihar and Orissa states of India). One in every three person perished in that great famine. It was all man-made, triggered, executed and authored by the English colonizers so that the size of the conquered subjects was manageable. Even the inflated number for the so-called Armenian Genocide pales in comparison to the genocide committed by the British against the people of Bengal. As to the extermination campaign against Muslims in Russia, since the 19th century (Imperial period to Putin’s Russia), the least said the better! It was all along, and remains, a pure case of ethnic cleansing in which in some places up to one third of the Muslims died. [Interested readers may like to read this author’s speech at the University of California, Santa Barbara (1982) – The Muslim Minorities of the Soviet Union.]
Never mind that the Iraqi War of 2003 was illegal and unnecessary. What about the Anglo-American embargo against Iraq since the Bush Sr. and Clinton era when some half a million children, below the age of five, died before Bush-Cheney’s invasion of 2003? It would be utter folly and blatant hypocrisy to deny the genocidal impact of that embargo that targeted and killed civilians. While American general Tommy Frank may not like to count civilian deaths in Iraq, it is estimated that more than a million unarmed Iraqi civilians died as a result of the 2003 invasion. And all these crimes in the 21st century, in spite of all the so-called humane laws and regulations we have today, and the technically superior killing machines like the so-called “smart” bombs that are supposed to spare civilian lives! The children born in Fallujah nowadays are showing distinct signs of U.S. use of biological and chemical warfare against the Iraqis. If we are looking for an honest evaluation it is not Saddam Hussein that used WMDs but Bush & Blair, who should face International Court of Justice for committing war crimes. They committed genocide.
The level of heart defects among newborn babies in Fallujah is said to be 13 times higher than in Europe, i.e., 95 per 1,000 births. The BBC world affairs editor John Simpson visited a new, US-funded hospital in Fallujah and saw children in the city who were suffering from paralysis or brain damage - and a photograph of one baby who was born with three heads. Most of the children born in the post-invasion period in those places where uranium depleted bullets and shells were used have six fingers and toes, instead of five. (BBC.com/news, March 4, 2010) And yet there is such a disregard in the western media and governments for such a calculated genocidal campaign against Iraq by the USA and UK! Why such a double standard when the same governments and media try to exaggerate Turkish government actions of World War I era?
While no human loss is small, it is difficult to overlook western hypocrisy that tries to smear the record of the Turkish people and its government while hiding its more horrific crimes under the rug. Lest we forget it was not too long ago that the same US Congress voted against the Goldstone Report on Gaza simply because the objective, fact-finding investigations, led by the Jewish South African Judge, had accused Israel of committing war crimes in its 2008-2009 campaign in Gaza. It is worth noting that the same report, which was rejected by the US Government, was endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council. Through such a decision, the US Congressional foreign affairs committee has once again bared its ugly hypocritical self that it is part of the Israel’s Amen Corner, which hides Israeli crimes of the last year but is all agog with a century-old controversial subject! By so doing, it does a disservice to the American public and the international community that demand fairness and transparency.
What could have motivated the US congressional foreign affairs committee to get so excited on this genocide debate? Why now? Does this decision have anything to do with trying to slap Turkey for its Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s condemnation last year of Israel's offensive in Gaza, in which some 1,500 Palestinians were killed? Published media reports in Israel and the Arab world do point to that connection. It is worth recalling that at the World Economic Forum in Davos on 29 January, 2009 Erdogan told Peres: "You are killing people." Later Mr. Erdogan stormed off the stage when he was refused time by the pro-Israeli Armenian-American moderator David Ignatius to refute Peres’s 25-minute long monotone that tried to justify Israel’s genocidal campaign in Gaza.
Turkey and Israel had enjoyed good relationship in the past. However, in recent months, the widely popular government of Erdogan has improved relations with its neighbors to the east and south – Iran and Syria, a matter of much annoyance to Netanyahu’s highly racist, nationalist and fanatical government. Turkish Prime Minister has also made a landmark trip to Armenia, thus, trying to improve relationship. Turkey is reportedly against any military strike against Iran over its nuclear program. Are these too much for the pro-Israeli lobby inside the USA to swallow? Nor should we forget that it was Turkey's Grand National Assembly where President Obama made his most direct outreach to Muslims around the world on April 6, 2009 telling that the United States "is not and never will be at war with Islam." Such a scenario is surely not desirable to any hardcore Zionist. With deep connections that Israel had maintained all these decades with Turkish military generals, we may not be surprised to find out a link to the recent failed coup attempt to topple the civilian government there.
All these may explain why the Israel-firsters within the U.S. Congressional foreign affairs committee felt that it was necessary to punish Turkey with a century-old libel. However, a careful evaluation would point out that America has much more to lose from any worsening of the relationship with Turkey. It is high time for American public to question their elected officials’ actions that are harmful for the state.