Well, it’s now Trump’s moment of masculinity. Will he – or will he not – have the guts to call the 1915 Armenian genocide a genocide? A small matter for a guy who’s shooting from the hip across the Muslim world, you may say. But he congratulated the Caliph Erdogan on winning his dictatorial referendum and I doubt that Trump has the courage to offend him this month by telling the truth about the slaughter of one and a half million Armenian Christians during the First World War.
After all, Bill Clinton didn’t call it a genocide. Nor did George Bush. Nor did Obama. They all promised they would before they were elected. But my guess is that Donald Trump will be as cowardly as them, bowing towards the sensitivities of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wretched generals, those of them who still have jobs after Erdogan’s post-attempted-coup purge of the last nine months.
Yet the deliberate mass slaughter of the Christians of the Turkish Ottoman Empire – the victims had their throats cut, Isis-style, or were shot or tied together and thrown into rivers – was the first industrial holocaust of the 20th century. The women were raped or sold into slavery or starved to death. There were thousands of eyewitness testimonies to these atrocities, including the burning of babies by Turkish gendarmes. And Trump, as we all know, cares very much about “beautiful babies”.
But under no circumstances will the President of the United States, I suspect, have the honour to admit that the Armenian Holocaust – and Israelis use this same word in Hebrew for the Armenian genocide, even though their government does not acknowledge it – was a fact of history. Indeed, it even taught Hitler how to commit the Jewish Holocaust. And quite by chance this April, when the Armenians commemorate the start of their genocide – a word coined by the Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin after the Second World War for the Armenian massacres – up comes more fool-proof evidence of the atrocities committed by Erdogan’s Turkish predecessors in the Ottoman Empire which he admires so much.
A copy of the original Turkish pamphlet on the genocide presented to the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919 – when the Turkish state and parliament actually acknowledged the massacres – has been unearthed by Armenian researcher Missak Kelechian, whose earlier work disclosed the existence of a Turkish orphanage for Armenian children in Beirut who were “Turkified” and forced to adopt the Muslim religion after the 1915 massacres. The text of the 1919 document proves beyond a shadow of doubt that the genocide happened, calling it “a great crime” committed at “a time when by the operation of war the laws of humanity in their general acceptance were suspended.”
The same document, sent to Versailles by the Turkish government of the time, refers contemptuously to the “Committee of Union and Progress” which ruled Turkey during the First World War and declared itself an ally of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian empire during the conflict, as “the Unionist organisation” and states that the “guilt” of the three pashas who ran the committee is obvious because it “conceived and deliberately carried out this internal policy of extermination and robbery…”
The paper even admits that the Muslim population of Turkey joined in the extermination of the Armenians with “savagery”, adding that those officials responsible for the massacres had been “arrested”. Alas, most were later freed and when Turkey declared itself independent under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923 all thought of punishing the murderers of the century’s first holocaust disappeared. But the 1919 document, when the Allied powers still controlled Constantinople (now Istanbul) shows clearly that the Turks of that period knew and fully admitted the terrible crimes which had been committed under Ottoman Turkish rule.
At one point in the text, the Turkish government actually refers to “these manifestations of human wickedness surpassing in horror the worst that has been committed in Turkey still fresh in the minds of all.” In another passage the document says that “true it is contended that Musulman [sic] population joined on its own account the massacre of Armenians collectively or individually and therefore that the Turkish people is responsible for the terrible tragedy conjointly with the Unionist organisations and this not only indirectly and materially but directly and morally”.
Turkish and Armenian scholars have referred in the past to the 1919 booklet but with no specific references to the text – which led the Polish-Jewish lawyer Lemkin to his creation of the word “genocide”. But alas again, an American president who doesn’t read books cannot be expected to weep over the million and a half Armenian men, women, children and “beautiful babies” murdered in that 102-year old genocide – a mass slaughter carried out in some of the lands which Isis currently controls. So will Trump have the courage to use the word “genocide”? Like most bullyboys, I think he is a coward. So I have my doubts.
"The Independent" (independent.co.uk), April 24, 2017