The Armenian Genocide
by Stephen Lendman
Raphael Lemkin defined genocide as:
“the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group” that corresponds to other terms like “tyrannicide, homicide, infanticide, etc.” (It) does not necessarily mean the destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings….It is intended….to signify a coordinated plan (to destroy) the essential foundations of the life of national groups” with the intent to eradicate or substantially weaken or harm them. “Genocidal plans involve the disintegration….of political and social institutions, culture, language, national feelings, religion, economic existence, personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and” human lives.
In legal terms, the 1948 Genocide Convention used the same definition. They’re binding principles. Nonetheless, America, Israel, and rogue NATO partners violate them with impunity.
On May 28, 1948, the UN War Crimes Commission prepared a report on “The Massacres of the Armenians in Turkey,” saying:
On May 28, 1915, France, Britain and Russia denounced Turkey’s “crimes against humanity and civilization.” A key passage reads:
“In the presence of these new crimes of Turkey against humanity and the civilization, the allied Governments (know) that they will be held personally responsible for the so-called crimes of all members of the Ottoman Government as well as those of the officers who would be involved in such massacres.”
The 1920 peace Treaty of Sevres with Turkey required it “hand over to the Allied Powers the persons responsible for the massacres committed during the continuance of the state of war on territory which formed part of the Turkish Empire on the 1st August 1914.”
The Treaty of Sevres was never ratified. The Treaty of Lausanne (July 23, 1923) replaced it. Genocidal crimes were excluded. Instead, it was accompanied by a “Declaration of Amnesty” for all offenses committed from August 1, 1914 – November 20, 1922.
On May 28, 1951, the (1945-established) International Court of Justice (ICJ) published an “advisory opinion” on “Reservations to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” saying:
The Convention followed “the inhuman and barbarous practices….during World War II, when entire religious, racial and national minority groups were threatened with and subjected to deliberate extermination.”
The ICC also named past genocides, including “the Turkish massacres of Armenians….”
On July 2, 1985, the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities “revised and updated” the issue of genocide and preventing it.
Among those mentioned, it recognized “the Ottoman massacre of Armenians in 1915-1916.”
France Passes Armenian Genocide Law
On January 23, Reuters headlined, “France passes genocide law, faces Turkish reprisals,” saying:
France’s Parliament passed a bill “making it illegal to deny the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks nearly a century ago was genocide.”
France already recognizes the genocide. The new measure makes denying it illegal. It also imposes a one-year prison sentence and $57,000 fine.
In response, Turkey threatened a “total rupture” of diplomatic ties. All economic, political and military ones were cancelled after France’s lower House passed the law. Its ambassador was recalled, and Ankara said further retaliatory measures would follow.
Nonetheless, on January 24, the BBC said “President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to sign the bill into law before the end of February,” ahead of April presidential elections. In fact, his UMP party proposed it. Enactment seems assured.
Moreover, an estimated 500,000 Armenians live in France. Sarkozy’s trailing in the polls. Signing’s perhaps a way to improve his chances. At this point, they’re shaky at best.
Armenia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Edward Nalbanian said:
“This day will be written in gold not only in the history of friendship between the Armenian and French peoples, but also in the annals of the history of the protections of human rights.”
Perhaps he didn’t read Reynald Secher’s book titled, “A French Genocide: The Vendee,” in which he called France’s actions against the anti-clerical Republican government during the French Revolution the first modern genocide. He also ignored France’s complicity with America’s modern genocidal history.
Today’s Zaman, Turkey’s English language broadsheet, reacted to France’s new law headlining, “France ignores Turkish warnings, passes Armenian ‘genocide’ bill,” saying:
On Monday, France’s Senate passed “a controversial law making it a crime to deny the 1915 killings of Armenians was a genocide….” The lower House passed it earlier.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned hours before enactment that the measure “runs a high risk of wrecking Turkish-French ties….” He said Ankara would retaliate.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said measures have “already been determined.” AK Party Deputy Chairman Omer Celik indicated they’ll be permanent, not temporary. Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag added:
“It is clear (that) relations between Turkey and France will not be the same.”
Armenia’s located at the crossroads of three continents – Europe, Asia, and Africa. It’s bounded by the Caucasus Mountains and Black Sea to the North, the Caspian Sea to the East, the Syrian Desert to the South, Anatolia to the West, and the Mediterranean Sea to the Southwest.
Historically, it’s been divided between Ottoman Turkey, Russia and Persia. What remains of Armenia became Soviet Russia’s smallest republic in 1920. From 1918 – 1920, it was independent. In 1991, it regained independence when the Soviet Union dissolved. Currently, it borders Turkey, Georgia, Iran and Azerbaijan.
It was established around 7,000 BC. In 301 AD, it was the first country to accept Christianity as state religion. In the 11th century, Ottoman Turks invaded. In the 16th century, Armenia became part of their empire.
In the 19th century, Greeks, Serbs and Romanians won independence. By WW I in 1914, Arabs and Armenians remained under Ottoman rule. As it weakened and broke down, Armenian repression increased.
Called “infidels,” discriminatory taxes were levied. Persecutions escalated. Tyranny followed. In some areas, Armenians were afraid to speak their language openly or read books on Armenian history.
In fact, Sultan Abdul Hamid (Ottoman ruler from 1876 – 1909) banned many. He established censorship to exclude Western ideas and thought.
From 1894 – 1896, responding to reform demands, pogroms massacred around 300,000 Armenians. In 1909, another 30,000 were killed in the Cilicia region.
Armenians responded in self-defense. Ottomans feared losing them entirely. At the turn of the century, they demanded democratic reforms and constitutional government.
In 1908, Turkish nationalists gained control. Armenian elation faded when terror tactics followed.
Enver Pasha, Talaat Pasha, Djemal Pasha, and others like them subscribed to elitist/racist Pan-Turkism. They believed Turkey was for Turks alone. Pluralism assuring equal rights for all minorities was rejected. Armenians threatened their ideology. Eliminating them became policy. On the eve of WW I, Ottomans were in crisis.
The 1915 – 1922 Genocide
In 1914, over 2.5 million Armenians lived in Ottoman Turkey. Today, only 100,000 remain. Mostly they reside in Istanbul and Western areas. The Eastern Armenian heartland was decimated.
On April 24, 1915, hundreds of Armenian religious, political and intellectual leaders were arrested, detained or exiled. Most were eventually slaughtered.
Within several months, about 250,000 Ottoman army Armenians were placed in forced labor battalions. They were over-worked, starved, or executed.
Without leaders or able-bodied youths, ethnic cleansing occurred throughout Ottoman Turkey and Asia Minor. Death marches followed. Men and older boys were separated and executed. Women and children were force-marched, raped, tortured, and otherwise abused. Most deportees died of starvation, disease, or massacres.
About 500,000 escaped to Russia, Arab countries, Europe or America. Ottoman Armenia was virtually eliminated.
A Final Comment
In 1918, Henry Morgenthau, US ambassador to Turkey, said:
“When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race: they understood this well, and, in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact.”
“I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this. The great massacres and persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when compared to the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915.”
Morgenthau perhaps couldn’t envision later WW II atrocities, nor America’s subsequent genocidal history. He also ignored its past, including waging war against Native Americans, African Americans, poor and disadvantaged ones, and women.
Historian/activist Howard Zinn wrote how since inception, America committed “genocide, brutally and purposefully….in the name of progress.” Our leaders then buried ugly truths “in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth.”
At home, profit over human lives and welfare took millions of working American lives. Abroad it was far worse through direct or proxy wars, death squads, torture, occupations, alliances with despots, and neglect. Against Native and Black Americans, it was worst of all.
Over centuries, America reduced its indigenous population to at most 3% of its original total. In his book titled, “A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas 1492 to the Present,” Ward Churchill said:
Millions were “hacked apart with axes and swords, burned alive and trampled under horses, hunted as game and fed to dogs, shot, beaten, stabbed, scalped for bounty, hanged on meathooks and thrown over the sides of ships at sea, worked to death as slave laborers, intentionally starved and frozen to death during a multitude of forced marches and internments, and, in an unknown number of instances, deliberately infected with epidemic diseases.”
Shockingly, “every one of these practices (still continues in new forms). The American holocaust was and remains unparalleled, in terms of its scope, ferocity and continuance over time.” Today, its entirely suppressed in mainstream discourse.
The African holocaust was just as grim. It resulted from 500 years of colonialization, oppression, exploitation, and slavery, much of it trafficked to America. Black Africans were captured, branded, chained, force-marched to ports, beaten, kept in cages, stripped of their humanity, and often their lives.
Around 100 million or more were sold like cattle. Millions perished during the Middle Passage. They were packed like cargo under deplorable conditions in coffin-sized spaces, sometimes atop one another.
They experienced extreme discomfort because of poor ventilation, little or no sanitation, and overall appalling conditions. As a result, dysentery, smallpox, ophthalmia (causing blindness) and other diseases became epidemics. Conditions below deck were dark, filthy, slimy, full of blood, vomit, and human excrement.
Women were beaten and raped. For some, claustrophobia caused insanity. Others were flogged or clubbed to death. Anyone thought to be diseased was dumped overboard like garbage. Arrivals with three-fourths of human cargos were considered successful voyages. The Middle Passage claimed as many as half of those trafficked. Estimates range up to 50 million lives lost.
Zinn called American slavery “the most cruel form in history: the frenzy for limitless profit that comes from capitalistic agriculture; the reduction of the slave to less than human status by the use of racial hatred, with that relentless clarity based on color, where white was master, black was slave.”
Is it any different now? In today’s America, thousands of garment factory sweatshops exploit workers with poverty wages, few if any benefits, and long hours in unsafe conditions.
Two million or more farm workers are abused. They live in sub-poverty misery and no protections, even for children. In Florida and perhaps elsewhere, lax federal and state oversight lets owners chain workers to poles, lock them in trucks, physically beat them, and cheat them out of pay.
They also perform dangerous jobs and live in unsafe environments, contaminated by toxic chemicals. As a result, about 300,000 suffer pesticide poisoning annually. Many others experience disabling accidents.
Millions of other American workers are also exploited and abused. They range from Wal-Mart and similar enterprises to domestic servitude, restaurant and hotel workers, non-union factory ones, women forced into prostitution, and sexually exploited children.
Turkey’s Armenian genocide was one of history’s great crimes. America exceeded it manyfold, especially through permanent imperial wars taking many millions of lives and causing incalculable human misery.
Raging unchecked today, victor’s justice alone triumphed.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.