REFUTATION OF THE ARMENIAN RESOLUTION ARTICLE BY ARTICLE
(PROF. DR. KEMAL ÇİÇEK)
27 March 2007
(PROF. DR. KEMAL ÇİÇEK)
27 March 2007
Turkey is concerned that the Armenian genocide resolution which has been submitted to the US House of Representatives several times in the past will pass due to Nancy Pelosi, the new Democratic speaker of the House. However, I don’t think there is any major significance if the law is passed or not. Firstly, similar resolutions have already been passed in state senates. According to ANCA, 47 states have passed such resolutions. Secondly, the bill cannot impose sanctions. The US president is under pressure to say on April 24 that 1.5 million Armenians were murdered. U.S Republican and Democratic presidents have always used terms similar to the word “genocide” when speaking on April 24. I am not saying that Turkey should stop lobbying against the resolution. Of course, Turkey should fight against this unjust and biased legislation and try to prevent the genocide label from being attached to the nation. Otherwise, those Turkish children who read in textbooks that their ancestors were murderers will suffer an inferiority complex and will become asocial in the countries in which they live.
At the other end of the spectrum, the mentioned resolution that was submitted to the US House of Representatives is laden with incorrect historical information and material mistakes. It seems that those who drafted the resolution were not very concerned about the facts. It was prepared with the assumption that the representatives would approve whatever was submitted and calls on the US president to employ sensitivity to foreign politics regarding ethnic cleansing, human rights and the Armenian genocide. The president is also asked to declare April 24 a day to commemorate the “Armenian genocide.” Certainly this call is intended to hamper Turkey-US relations. So while the resolution lacks the authority to impose punitive sanctions, it is very important because it could prevent Turkish-US relations from moving forward in peace and cooperation. The resolution will increase Turkish opposition to America and will strike a blow to Turkish government efforts to mend relations between the two countries.
While the previous genocide resolutions had indicated that the genocide was committed by the Ottoman Empire and not the Republic of Turkey, the current one directly charges Turkey with being responsible for genocide. The third article was removed from the current resolution, which is why the history of the genocide was extended to 1923. The Armenian lobbyists have extended their claims of genocide because they want to hold the Turkish state responsible and punish Turkey for the goods and property that were confiscated. What’s worse is that the image of Turks in America will be damaged, and this could affect business and cultural relations between the two countries. Some intellectuals, writers and strategy experts say the US will not offend Turkey in any way until, at least, the problems in Iran and Iraq are resolved and do not expect the resolution to pass in the Senate. However, we should remember that in recent years the US has been guided by an unproductive and visionless administration. Unfortunately, the administration draws its strategy and road map based on the marginal groups of each country. Since the possibility exists for the US administration to err and become confused, it is very important that the American public and its administrative departments are informed of the half truths in the bill.
Below you will find an assessment of the mistakes in the mentioned bill.
(Article 1) The Armenian genocide was conceived and carried out by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923, resulting in the deportation of nearly 2,000,000 Armenians, of whom 1,500,000 men, women, and children were killed, 500,000 survivors were expelled from their homes, and which succeeded in the elimination of the over 2,500-year presence of Armenians in their historic homeland.
In the article under dispute, it was claimed that genocide was carried out by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923. We know that V. Dadrian and many other leading Armenian historians have claimed the loss of the Armenian life during World War I due to the actions of the Ottoman Empire was 1.5 million. Before we comment on these exaggerated figures, we must emphasize that the Ottoman Empire had exited the stage of history in 1923. This fact indicates that the Armenian lobby is directly targeting the Republic of Turkey and aims to keep Turkey from avoiding punishment for the refusal to acknowledge its heritage. As for the figures, we may state with certainty that the claimed number of Armenian victims is an exaggeration. First of all, many independent researchers have estimated that the Armenian population in 1914 ranged between 1,400,000 and1,700,000. Even such pro-Armenian scholars as Dr. Johannes Lepsius do not accept the figures asserted by the Patriarchate, at 2.2 million Armenian citizens in that area at that time, and instead calculated the Armenian population to be around 1,845,450 (Der Todesgang des Armenischen Volkes, Potsdam 1919, p. 308). There is not a single source that would indicate the population of the Ottoman Armenians was as high as 2 million. (See H. Özdemir and others. Armenians: Exile and Migration, Ankara, 2004, p.49-50.)
The claim that 1.5 million Armenians were killed is also a myth. This myth originated from the report of Leslie Davis, the US consul at Harput. He wrote on July 24, 1915 -- the 44th day after the order for deportation -- that “It is impossible to say how many Armenians have been killed, but it is estimated that the number is not far from a million” (NARA 867.4016/269). Even Dadrian vouches for 1 million survivors and estimates the number of Armenian victims at 1.1 million. During the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, the Armenian leader, Bogos Nubar Pasha, spoke about the deportation of 600-700,000 Armenians. In addition, the Patriarchate calculated in 1919 that the total number of Armenians living in Anatolia was 644,000. A document released by the League of Nations stated the number of Armenians in 1922 who originated from Turkey was 817,873 and states that “the total given does not include the able-bodied Armenians” who still lived in Turkey. (NARA 867.4016/816) Last but not least, in a memorandum sent to English and French embassies by the Patriarchate in 1919, it claimed that “200,000 Armenians were buried alive or were drowned in Van Lake, the Fırat River and the Black Sea between 1914 and 1918.” (Report presented to the Preliminary Peace Conference by the Commission for the Responsibility of the Authors of the War and on the Enforcement of Penalties, March 29, 1919). These figures clearly demonstrate that the Armenian historians have exaggerated the figures about the number of Armenian victims during the war.
(Article 2) On May 24, 1915, the Allied Powers, England, France and Russia, jointly issued a statement explicitly charging for the first time ever another government of committing “a crime against humanity.”
In the second statement in the proposed resolution, the Allied statement of May 24, 1915 is mentioned, and it is asserted that the Ottoman Empire carried out genocide, although they had been warned before the deportation. The text of the resolution implies that the Ottoman Empire planned and launched a systematic campaign to annihilate the Armenians. It is true that there was such a statement made by the Allies; what is left out is the fact that the states that issued this statement were then at war with the Ottomans, and as we know now, had signed treaties amongst each other to divide the Ottoman Empire, which would complicate any claim they asserted about the Ottoman Empire. What is also striking is that these countries were overlooking their own “crimes against humanity.” For instance Russia was carrying out pogroms on the Jews in their country, and England had already deported citizens of German origin to concentration camps.
(Article 3) This joint statement stated “the Allied Governments announce publicly to the Sublime Porte that they will hold personally responsible for these crimes all members of the Ottoman Government, as well as those of their agents who are implicated in such massacres.”
As is stated above, these statements were the propaganda of the Allies. As a matter of fact, the Ottoman Empire, in its reply to the statement issued by the Allies, stated that a massacre of the Armenians in the empire was out of the question. There was also a very interesting detail in the statement of the Ottoman Empire: The sources of these slanders were English and Russian consuls in Romania and Bulgaria. In fact, political propaganda offices for the Taşnaksutyun [Armenian armed gangs] were present in the capitals of those countries, and many reports about the massacres appearing in the “Blue Book” also originated from these offices.
(Article 4) The post-World War I Turkish Government indicted the top leaders involved in the “organization and execution” of the Armenian Genocide and in the “massacre and destruction of the Armenians.”
Last year, Turkish-Americans staged demonstrations in front of the United Nations to protest the French bill that banned denying the so-called Armenian genocide.
The third article of the resolution asserts that the Ottoman Empire tried those responsible for massacres and thereby implicitly accepted criminal responsibility during the court-martials. Justin McCarthy, a leading American expert on the Ottoman history, describes those courts as “kangaroo courts” and recalls that they were established by a corrupt administration which was eager for retribution. The British High Commissioner S.A.G. Calthorphe wrote to London on Aug. 1, 1919, that the “trials were proving to be a farce and injurious to our own prestige and to that of the Turkish government” (FO 371/4174/118377). According to Dr. Ferudun Ata, the author of a book titled “Deportation Courts in Occupied İstanbul,” the Ottoman government of the time had established the court-martials to better its conditions in the Paris Peace Conference and also to take revenge against the regime of the “Young Turks.”
The interrogations in the courts-martial were not duly conducted, many witnesses were faked and only testified against the defendants. For example, a certain Artolos, a shoemaker, who testified against Maj. Tevfik during the trials in Yozgat, was brought to İstanbul and was paid to speak against the defendant. According to Dr. Ata, he later appeared before the court in another trial as a Muslim convert. Dr. Ata’s book reveals many false witnesses like this. Those who spoke in favor of the suspects were not brought to court. The chairmen of the courts never charged those false witnesses, although they were sometimes revealed in court. Dr. Ata also found that some false witnesses, before bearing testimony at the court, had been trained and instructed in the “Armenian-Greek Branch” established at the offices of the British High Commissioner. What is most important to note about the decisions of these courts is that the Court of Appeal declared the verdicts null and void. Unfortunately, among such cases was the verdict of Nusret Bey, who had been executed upon his death sentence. Such facts about the nature of the post war courts-martial become more meaningful when we read that the then US high commissioner, Lewis Heck, reported on April 4, 1919 that “many here regard executions as necessary concessions to Entente rather than as punishment justly meted out to criminals,” and that “it is popularly believed that many of them are made from motives of personal vengeance or at the instigation of the Entente authorities, especially the British.” (NARA 867.00/868; M 353, roll 7, fr. 448). Lastly we should remember that England also arrested 144 outstanding politicians of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) for crimes against Armenians and took them to Malta for trial, but later released all of the detainees without charge.
(Article 5) In a series of courts-martial, officials of the Young Turks regime were tried and convicted, as charged, for organizing and executing massacres against the Armenian people.
Besides the findings of Dr. Feridun Ata, historians like Justin McCarthy and Gunter Lewy stated that post war courts-martial were a travesty of justice, the findings of these courts were unreliable, interrogations were not legal, the right of defense for the arrested was denied and the presiding officer, when questioning the defendants, often acted more like a prosecutor than like an impartial judge. As Lewy stated, “The legal procedures of Ottoman military courts, including those operating in 1919-20, suffered from serious shortcomings when compared to Western standards of due process of law.” The court did not listen to any testimony during judgment and the decisions were made by relying solely on false witnesses without considering the answers of the defense.
(Article 6) The chief organizers of the Armenian Genocide, Minister of War Enver, Minister of the Interior Talaat and Minister of the Navy Jemal were all condemned to death for their crimes; however, the verdicts of the courts were not enforced.
The courts-martial operating in the occupied Istanbul tried Enver, Talat and Cemal and convicted them to capital punishment in absentia. Yet, they were not found guilty of “organizing and performing massacres against Armenians,” as stated in the resolution, but they were found guilty of political crimes for dragging the country into a terrible war. The fact that the verdicts of the courts were not enforced has nothing to do with ignorance or being indifferent to the suffering of Armenians, but that the guilty parties had fled the country after the war. Anyhow, the untold verity about these people is that they were assassinated by a secret Armenian organization called “Nemesis” in the countries where they sought refuge. Sadly, the Nemesis organization also killed some statesmen like Sait Halim Pasha, Bahaeddin Takir and Cemal Azmi without judgment although the courts found them innocent.
(Article 7) The Armenian Genocide and these domestic judicial failures are documented with overwhelming evidence in the national archives of Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, the United States, the Vatican and many other countries, and this vast body of evidence attests to the same facts, the same events, and the same consequences.
This is also untrue. I have personally dug out the documents preserved at the US National Archives and Research Foundation and found no concrete evidence in the documents that can be qualified for use in court. The documents in the archive contain reports by the consul and the testimony of the missionaries who were biased toward the Muslims and the Turks and reported information that they had not witnessed, but rather heard through secondary sources. It can safely be claimed that an overwhelming amount of these documents and reports are based on hearsay. There are also large amount of documents, or rather statements, from the Patriarchate and Taşnaksutyun political propaganda offices. As a matter of fact, documents and reports from the United States consuls had been examined by the officials “for any mention of forty-five Malta detainees accused of outrages against Armenians and other Christians” and found no information that could “be employed in a court of law.” Thus, one cannot help thinking that this might be the reason why the proposal of the Turkish government to set up an international committee of historians have so far been refused by the Republic of Armenia.
(Article 8) The United States National Archives and Record Administration possesses extensive and thorough documentation on the Armenian Genocide, especially in its holdings under Record Group 59 of the United States Department of State, files 867.00 and 867.40, which are open and widely available to the public and interested institutions.
The documents in the American archives have been classified under various categories. The collection that is mostly used by the Armenians as basis for their claims is from the Records of the Department of State, especially the section classified as “Internal Affairs of Turkey 1910-1929.” Most of these documents were collected with the help of the two Armenian secretaries of Ambassador Henry Morgenthau. Reports from the Armenian political propaganda offices were also included in the mentioned reports. When one studies these documents carefully, and ignores the lines of hearsay cited in the reports, he/she can gather a wealth of information about the implementation of the relocation process. For example, we learn from the reports of J. Jackson, the consul of Aleppo, that the number of Armenians who reached the city of Aleppo was up to 500,000, that these people were settled in the houses and camps in and around the city. The consul also gives lists of arrivals by sex, religion and sect.
(Article 9) Henry Morgenthau, US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1913 to 1916, organized and led protests with officials from many countries, among them the allies of the Ottoman Empire, against the Armenian Genocide he said occurred.
The use of Morgenthau’s book to support genocide claims is not a scholarly approach. Heath Lowry, a professor of history at Princeton, has documented without a shadow of a doubt that the Armenian secretaries of the ambassador changed the contents of the reports that came from towns and cities in Anatolia. As a matter of fact, there are in the archives the original documents of the reports of the missionaries and a scholarly approach requires the use of this material. An important detail about Ambassador Morgenthau is that he had never been to Anatolia and was pro-Armenian throughout his career. Adm. Bristol, who was his successor, accused him of taking sides and exaggerating the reports about the massacres. Historians specialized in American politics share the opinion that Morgenthau wrote his book in support of the Armenian National Delegation at Paris in 1919, which had been waging a campaign to persuade the Allies to carve out independent Armenian state in the eastern part of Anatolia.
(Article 10) Ambassador Morgenthau explicitly described to the United States Department of State the policy of the government of the Ottoman Empire as ‘a campaign of race extermination,’ and was instructed on July 16, 1915, by United States Secretary of State Robert Lansing that the `Department approves your procedure . . . to stop Armenian persecution.’
Such statements in Morgenthau’s report show how much he had been influenced by his interpreter, Arshag Schmavonian, and his secretary, Hagop Andonian. We must remind the reader that when the ambassador made these remarks, the relocation of Armenians had not started yet or had been implemented in a few strategic towns. It should be kept in mind that the transportation began in many eastern cities after the 1st of July. To name but few, the transportation of Armenians began in Harput on July 4 and in Yozgat on July 18. So, when Morgenthau wrote his report in July, it was very early to call the events “a campaign of race extermination.” This report is an indication of the prejudice of the consul. The quotation in the resolution must be considered in line with the wordings of the reports of the consular since at it is impossible for the US Department of State to have knowledge of the events that took place in the Near East at such an early date.
(Article 11) Senate Concurrent Resolution 12 of Feb. 9, 1916, resolved that ‘the President of the United States be respectfully asked to designate a day on which the citizens of this country may give expression to their sympathy by contributing funds now being raised for the relief of the Armenians,’ who at the time were enduring `starvation, disease, and untold suffering.’
In fact, Robert Lansing in his report dated Nov. 21, 1916 to President Wilson claimed that the Armenian deportation was due to the betrayal of the Armenians. The resolution in question aimed at initiating a relief campaign to increase America’s support to the refugees in the Armenian camps. Thus, it is obvious that resolution of Robert Lansing did not have a purpose like the resolution worded. It should be underlined that Muslim villagers were also suffering from the same conditions. Justin McCarthy in his book (”Death and Exile”) puts the losses of Muslims above 2 million, most of which were caused by epidemics and starvation. Prof. Hikmet Özdemir, in his book “March with Epidemics 1914-1918,” stated the victims to the epidemics among military personal was exactly 401,859.
(Article 12) President Woodrow Wilson concurred and also encouraged the formation of the organization known as Near East Relief, chartered by an Act of Congress, which contributed some $116 million from 1915 to 1930 to aid Armenian Genocide survivors, including 132,000 orphans who became foster children of the American people.
First, the first formation of this organization was in 1916 under the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief. The US Ambassador Morgenthau had an important role in the foundation of the committee, also the most active members of this committee were missionaries and consul generals in particular.
For example the coordinator at Aleppo was Consul General J.J. Jackson. In 1919 all relief organizations in the Near East came under the umbrella of a new organization called Near East Relief. One of the most important details that were not mentioned in the resolution is that these relief organizations helped the Armenians with the help, support and permission of the Ottoman government.
In the beginning of the war the Ottoman Empire rejected aid from foreign organizations to the Armenians on the grounds that it may have “encouraged resistance against relocation orders” and that all needs of refuges were to be met by the state. However when the economic condition of the state worsened all relief organizations were given permission to work and full access to the camps. The presence of relief organizations at camps is self-evident of the fact that the empire had no intention to implement of race extermination to the Armenians as often claimed by the Armenian historians.
(Article 13) Anatolia between 1914 and 1920. During his term in Turkey as high commissioner, Admiral Mark L. Bristol wrote on March 12, 1926, about the Armenian massacres in the East, saying that “the extent of the excesses committed will never be known.”
He also noted this: “I have received reports from Americans who were there at the time to the effect that the Christians cleared out the Moslem population completely so that ‘there was not a living thing, even a dog, a cat or a chicken left in the country.’
“Russians also reported that the Armenians had killed most of the Muslims in the districts of Erzurum.” (NARA 767.90g15). Unfortunately, little scholarly attention has been paid to the atrocities committed by the Armenians.