Articles in Turkish media
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- Published: 13 July 2008
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Part II: Popular opinion today knows of only one set of deportations, more properly called forced migrations, in Anatolia, the deportation of the Armenians. There were in fact many forced migrations. For the Armenians, the worst forced migrations came when they accompanied their own armies in retreat. Starvation and disease killed great numbers of both, far more than fell to enemies' bullets.
It is true that the Ottomans had obvious reason to fear Armenians, and that forced migration was an age-old tool in Middle Eastern and Balkan conflicts. It is also true that while its troops were fighting the Russians and Armenians, the Ottoman Government could not and did not properly protect the Armenian migrants. Nevertheless, more than 200,000 of the deported Armenians reached Greater Syria and survived Those who see the evil of genocide in the forced migrations of Armenians ignore the survival of so many of those who were deported. They also ignore the fact that the Armenians who were most under Ottoman control, those in Western cities such as Izmir, Istanbul, and Edirne, were neither deported nor molested, presumably because they were not a threat If genocide is to be considered, however, then the murders of Turks and Kurds in 1915 and 1916 must be included in the calculation of blame. The Armenian molestations and massacres in Cilicia, deplored even by their French and British allies, must be judged. And the exile or death of two-thirds of the Turks of Erivan Province, the Armenian Republic, during the war must be remembered.
Historical principles were once again at work. Rebels had begun the action and the result was the creation of two warring sides. After the Armenian deeds in Van and elsewhere, Muslims could only have expected that Armenians were enemies who could kill them. Armenians could only have feared Muslim revenge. Most of these people had no wish for war, but they had been driven to it. It was to be a merciless conflict.
For the next five years, total war raged in the Ottoman East. When the Russians attacked and occupied the East, more than a million Muslims fled as refugees, itself an indication that they expected to die if they remained. They were attacked on the roads by Armenian bands as they fled. When the Russians retreated it was the turn of the Armenians to flee. The Russians attacked and retreated, then attacked again, then finally retreated for good. With each advance came the flight of hundreds of thousands. Two wars were fought in Eastern Anatolia, a war between the armies of Russia and the Ottomans and a war between local Muslims and Armenians. In the war between the armies, civilians and enemy soldiers were sometimes treated with humanity, sometimes not. Little quarter was given in the war between the Armenians and the Muslims, however. That war was fought with all the ferocity of men who fought to defend their families.
Popular opinion today knows of only one set of deportations, more properly called forced migrations, in Anatolia, the deportation of the Armenians. There were in fact many forced migrations. For the Armenians, the worst forced migrations came when they accompanied their own armies in retreat. Starvation and disease killed great numbers of both, far more than fell to enemies' bullets. This is as should be expected from historical principles; starvation and disease are always the worst killers. It is also a historical principle that refugees suffer most of all.
One of-the many forced migration was the organized expulsion of Armenians from much of Anatolia by the Ottoman government. In light of the history and the events of this war, it is true that the Ottomans had obvious reason to fear the Armenians, and that forced migration was an age-old tool in Middle Eastern and Balkan conflicts. It is also true that while its troops were fighting the Russians and Armenians, the Ottoman Government could not and did not properly protect the Armenian migrants. Nevertheless, more than 200,000 of the deported Armenians reached Greater Syria and survived. (Some estimate that as many as two-thirds of the deportees survived.)
Those who see the evil of genocide in the forced migrations of Armenians ignore the survival of so many of those who were deported. They also ignore the fact that the Armenians who were most under Ottoman control, those in Western cities such as Izmir, Istanbul, and Edirne, were neither deported nor molested, presumably because they were not a threat.
No claim of genocide can rationally stand in the light of these facts. If genocide is to be considered, however, then the murders of Turks and Kurds in 1915 and 1916 must be included in the calculation of blame. The Armenian murder of the innocent civilians of Erzincan, Bayburt, Tercan, Erzurum, and all the villages on the route of the Armenian retreat in 1918 must be taken into account. The Armenian molestations and massacres in Cilicia, deplored even by their French and British allies, must be judged. And the exile or death of two-thirds of the Turks of Erivan Province, the Armenian Republic, during the war must be remembered.
That is the history of the Conflict between the Turks and the Armenians. Only when that history is known can the assertions of those who accuse the Turks be understood.
In examining the claims of Armenian nationalists, first to be considered should be outright lies.
The most well-known of many fabrications on the Armenian Question are the famous "Talat Pasa Telegrams", in which the Ottoman interior minister and other officials supposedly telegraphed instructions to murder the Armenians. These conclusively have been proven to be forgeries by Sinasi Orel and Sureyya Yuca. However, one can only wonder why they would ever have been taken seriously. A whole people cannot be convicted of genocide on the basis of penciled scribblings on a telegraph pad.
These were not the only examples of words put in Talat Pasa's mouth. During World War I, the British Propaganda Office and American missionaries published a number of scurrilous works in which Ottoman officials were falsely quoted as ordering hideous deeds.
One of the best examples of invented Ottoman admissions of guilt may be that concocted by the American ambassador Morgenthau. Morgenthau asked his readers to believe that Talat Pasa offhandedly told the ambassador of his plans to eradicate the Armenians. Applying common sense and some knowledge of diplomatic practice helps to evaluate these supposed indiscretions. Can anyone believe that the Ottoman interior minister would actually have done such a thing? He knew that America invariably supported the Armenians, and had always done so. If he felt the need to unburden his soul, who would be the last person to whom he would talk? The American ambassador. Yet to whom does he tell all? The American Ambassador! Talat Pasa was a practical politician. Like all politicians, he undoubtedly violated rules and made errors. But no one has ever alleged that Talat Pasa was an idiot. Perhaps Ambassador Morgenthau knew that the U.S. State Department would never believe his story, because he never reported it at the time to his masters, only writing it later in a popular book.
The use of quotes from Americans is selective. One American ambassador, Morgenthau, is quoted by the Armenian apologists, but another American ambassador, Bristol, is ignored. Why? Because Bristol gave a balanced account and accused Armenians as well as Muslims of crimes.
The most often seen fabrication may be the famous "Hitler Quote". Hitler supposedly stated, "Who after all is today speaking of the destruction of the Armenians?" to justify his Holocaust. The quote now appears every year in school books, speeches in the American Congress and the French Parliament and most writings in which the Turks are attacked. Professor Heath Lowry has cast serious doubt on the authenticity of the quote. It is likely that Hitler never said it. But there is a more serious question: How can Adolf Hitler be taken as a serious source on Armenian history? Were his other historical pronouncements so reliable that his opinions can be trusted?
Politically, Hitler is a magic word that conjures up an all too true image of undisputed evil. He is quoted on the Armenian Question for polemic and political purpose, to tie the Turks to Hitler's evil. In the modern world nothing defames so well as associating your enemies with Hitler. This is all absurdity, but it is potent absurdity that convinces those who know nothing of the facts. It is also a deliberate distortion of history.
Population has also been a popular field for fabrication. Armenian nationalists had a particular difficulty -- they were only a small part of the population of the land they planned to carve from the Ottoman Empire. The answer was false statistics. Figures appeared that claimed that Armenians were the largest group in Eastern Anatolia. These population statistics were supposedly the work of the Armenian Patriarch, but they were actually the work of an Armenian who assumed a French name, Marcel Leart, published them in Paris and pretended they were the Patriarch's work. Naturally, he greatly exaggerated the number of Armenians and diminished the number of Turks. Once again, the amazing thing is that these were ever taken seriously. Yet they were used after World War I to justify granting Eastern Anatolia to the Armenians and are still routinely quoted today.
The Armenian apologists quote American missionaries as if missionaries would never lie, omitting the numerous proofs that missionaries did indeed lie and avoided mentioning anything that would show Armenians to be less than innocent. The missionaries in Van, for example, reported the deaths of Armenians, but not the fact that those same Armenians had killed all the Muslims they caught in that city.
The main falsification of history by the Armenian apologists lies not in what they say, but in what they do not say. They do not admit that much of the evidence they rely on is tainted because it was produced by the British Propaganda Office in World War I. For example, the Bryce Report, "The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire", has recently been reproduced by an Armenian organization, with a long introduction that praises its supposed veracity. Nowhere does the reprint state that the report was produced and paid for by British Propaganda as a way to attack its wartime enemies, the Ottomans. Nor does the reprint state that the other Bryce Report, this one on alleged German atrocities, has long been known by historians to be a collection of lies. Nor does the reprint consider that the sources in the report, such as the Dashnak Party, had a tradition of not telling the truth.
The basic historical omission is never citing, never even looking at evidence that might contradict one's theories. Nationalist apologists refer to English propaganda, missionary reports, statements by Armenian revolutionaries, and the like. They seldom refer to Ottoman documents, hundreds of which have been published in recent years, except perhaps to claim that nothing written by the Ottomans can be trusted although they trust completely the writings of Armenian partisans. These documents indicate that the Ottomans planned no genocide and were at least officially solicitous of the Armenians' welfare. The fact that these contradict the Armenian sources is all the more reason that they should be consulted. Good history can only be written then both sides of historical arguments are considered.
Worst of all is the most basic omission -- the Armenian apologists do not mention the Muslim dead. Any civil war will appear to be a genocide if only the dead of one side are counted. Their writings would be far more accurate, and would tell a very different story, if they included facts such as the deaths of nearly two-thirds of the Muslims of Van Vilayeti, deaths caused by the Russians and Armenians. Histories that strive for accuracy must include all the facts, and the deaths of millions of Muslims is surely a fact that deserves mention.
Those of us who have studied this question for years have seen many approaches come and go. The old assertions, based on the Talat Pasa telegrams and missionary reports, were obviously insufficient, and new ones have appeared.
For a while, Pan-Turanism was advanced as the cause for Turkish actions. It was said that the Turks wished to be rid of the Armenians because the Armenian population blocked the transportation routes to Central Asia. This foundered on the rocks of geography and population. The Anatolian Armenian population was not concentrated on those routes. The Armenian Republic's Armenians, those in Erivan Province, were on some of those routes. However, when at the end of the war the Ottomans had the chance to occupy Erivan they did not do so, but went immediately on to Baku to protect Azeri Turks from attacks by enough to believe that their chief concern was advancing to Uzbekistan.
Much was made of post-war-courts martial that accused members of the Committee of Union and Progress Government of crimes against the Armenians. The accusations did not state that the courts were convened by the unelected quisling government of Ferid Pasa who created the courts to curry favor with the allies. The courts returned verdicts of guilty for all sorts of improbable offenses, of which killing Armenians was only one. The courts chose anything, true of false, that would cast aspersion on Ferid's enemies. The accused could not represent themselves. Can the verdicts of such courts be trusted? Conveniently overlooked were the investigations of the British, who held Istanbul and were in charge of the Ottoman Archives, but who were forced to admit that they could find no evidence of massacres.