The Reality of Events

The following is the full transcript of an interview I gave to Eurasia Diary and which was published in 2 parts here:

Please explain for us, what was the reality of events which occurred in eastern Anatolia in 1915?

On 24th April 1915, which the Armenians commemorate as “Genocide Day,” what happened was the internment of a couple of hundred Armenians connected with the Dashnaks. Quantities of arms were seized by the Ottoman security forces, and suspects were moved by train to various locations and mostly placed under house arrest or told to report to police regularly. Those detained were granted a living expenses subsidy. Most detainees were subsequently released and survived the war. Only a minority, around 20, were subsequently hung as traitors. Probably nobody died on “Genocide Day”.

The relocation or forced migration of Armenians did not begin until June 1915. The forced migration policy is the centerpiece of the “genocide” allegation. It is suggested the Ottomans sent the Armenians on death marches into the deserts. However, the Turks acted in accordance with standard military practice. Britain, which considered itself to be the most civilized power in the world at the time, and who had been the greatest critics of the Ottoman Turks, had used a forced migration policy only a decade earlier in South Africa. It involved concentration camps, which were never employed by the Ottomans. Britain used the same policy again 40 years later in Kenya to suppress an insurgency. The U.S. and Russia did the same. Russia relocated huge amounts of Jews in 1915, in the months before the Ottoman operation, and nothing was heard of this in the Western media.

There was no evidence of a premeditated plan on the Ottoman’s part to remove the Armenians, let alone kill them. The forced migrations were improvised because of the catastrophic situation that had developed in early 1915 as a result of multiple invasions and an existential crisis. The famous British Cabinet Secretary once said the safety of the state is the highest concern. It is within this principle that the Ottomans acted. A Law was passed openly to declare the state’s intention and so that preparations could be made. Time was not always available in war areas, like the east, where Russian armies were close. However, it was insisted that convoys were guarded and life protected. A major problem was that most of the gendarmerie that would guard the columns had to be pressed into military service due to Armenian Dashnak action behind the lines – illegal in warfare.

Not the whole Armenian population was relocated, mainly those in the warzone and immediately behind the lines. Elsewhere migration was selective. Catholic and Protestant Armenians were less likely to be moved. Around 350,000 were totally exempted. Armenians in Istanbul were largely left alone and Moslems in the east were also moved. Other Christian minorities were treated differently. Armenians in the west were allowed back once the Gallipoli assault was beaten off. Convoys included their priests, canteens, and were provided with oxen and carts. Missionaries kept a watchful eye. Armenian possessions were neatly stored and labelled to await their return. All these things tend to suggest there was no genocidal intent. Individual Turks and Kurds did a lot of bad things to the relocated people, of course. Kurdish bands who were beyond the authority of the state, and who were outlaws in a war situation, resisting conscription, attacked many of the convoys. The Kurds, who the Armenians were deeply hostile to, took revenge for what the Dashnaks did to them. Ottoman employees robbed and killed people and there were some massacres in areas conducted by locals for various reasons that come to a head in catastrophic situations.

Talaat Pasha, the architect of the migration policy, established commissions in late 1915 to investigate abuse and crimes and ended the policy in the winter of 1915/16. Thousands of Ottoman officials were subsequently tried for maltreatment of the Armenians and about ten per cent were hung. These included commanders who failed to protect columns. The Armenians tried no one for massacring any Moslems. Criticism can be made about the inadequacy of the operation and the failure of the commissions to punish all who were guilty, but there is no evidence that the Ottomans had any intention of annihilating a race.

The forced migration policy adopted by the Ottoman State to deal with the Armenian insurrection was a western military measure employed to solve a military problem. It was outstandingly successful. Once the insurgents behind the front were separated from their mass base the small forces available to the Ottomans mopped up the Dashnak bands.

About 650,000 Armenians were relocated to Syria/Iraq. Around 400,000 went east to Russian territory, in Transcaucasia, under the influence of the war. Russia refused them the right to return when they captured the territory in which they lived. Over 160,000 died in this relocation which took place, entirely outside Ottoman territory. Around 500,000 Armenians were counted by U.S. observers in 1916 in Syria/Iraq. It appears, as far as we can be sure, that over three quarters survived their forced migration. Around 400,000 Armenians remained in their homes at the time of the Armistice in 1918, out of the pre-War Empire’s population of 1.6 million.

Tell us about the massacres committed by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaks against Muslim and the local Armenian population.

Well, this is the element that is always left out of accounts in the West and, of course, Armenian writings. I have visited a number of places where large massacres of Moslems were carried out by the Dashnaks, including Erzurum, Baku and Quba. The documentary evidence is very complete and detailed and mass graves have been uncovered. However, there is little knowledge of this side of events outside of Turkey and Azerbaijan. Even in the years when I wrote about the Great War and the Ottoman Empire I was totally unaware about the extent of killings of Azerbaijanis that took place.  It was only when I visited Azerbaijan that I learnt of these atrocities and they shocked me. In the West the Armenian has the image of helpless, innocent victim and there is little knowledge of the Dashnak activities, which from 1915 were covered up by their allies in the West, who had developed a narrative they did not want destroyed, of the “terrible Turk” and the “ravished Armenian”. Of course, when you read honest accounts of people who were there, like British and Russian officers and later American investigators, the truth comes out. Professor Justin McCarthy, an Irish American geographer, has done extensive demographic analysis of casualties in Eastern Anatolia and has found that Moslem death rates were at least as high as Armenian. The Dashnaks perpetrated campaigns of extensive ethnic cleansing and killing in the Western Caucasus between 1917 and 1920 in Erivan, Karabakh and other areas. Armenian leaders like Pasdermadjian and Dro boasted of their exploits and how they had killed more Tatars than Armenians had died. And logic suggests this was true because the Armenians were the most militarized element in the region with long-standing organizations, who were well armed and trained, and capable of carrying out such terrorism against the Moslem civilian population.  I am aware, too, about Dashnak actions against their own people who they often terrorized into submission. I have no hesitation in seeing ordinary Armenians who just wanted to live their lives in peace with their neighbours but who became victims of the whole tragedy as just as much victims as ordinary Moslems. But you never see the same recognition of Moslem suffering in Armenian accounts.

Why does the world still believe groundless Armenian claims about so-called genocide, and do not want to see and hear bloody massacres done by Armenian rebel groups against the Muslim population?

Because the narrative in the West was created during the Great War as a form of propaganda against the Ottoman enemy and it has stuck ever since. Europe is not as Christian as it once was, but the Armenians were carefully presented as Christian, European and highly civilized and deserving of more sympathy as such than the peoples they lived amongst. Of course, the Armenians are as Asiatic as the Turks (or as European). But accounts written by people like James Bryce and others in the propaganda departments like Wellington House were careful to depict Armenians as a special people, and a higher form of humanity than their neighbours, presumably on the basis that they were Christians and therefore deserving of sympathy and help. This, of course, is sheer racism.

A lot of belief in an Armenian Genocide today is simply the product of ignorance. Journalists and pseudo-historians simply regurgitated the simplistic, emotional narrative of Armenian propagandists. A lot of these people are just lazy careerists in essence, who have never studied history in the proper way but are content to go along with any tales of victimhood without actually investigating the complex series of events that actually created the victims, who were just as likely to be Turk, Azeri or Kurd as they were Armenian, and in the Caucasus more likely to have been.

What is the main importance of Armenian issue in the foreign policy of western powers, especially the United States and France?

Both these countries have powerful and influential Armenian lobbies that can achieve the success of motions, resolutions and votes in favour of recognizing a Genocide. Of course, these things are meaningless in a historical sense. It is doubtful either whether they have any real effect on the Foreign Policy of States. Most states are sensible enough to realise that these votes are the frivolous stuff of politicians acting like student debating societies to show how well-meaning they are to gullible sections of the public who are impressed with empty gestures. However, in one respect they are important. They can be employed against Turkey, in certain circumstances, when the West is displeased with its political orientation – say, for instance, when it becomes closer to Mr. Putin or buys defence systems from Moscow instead of American ones. In these circumstances these empty declarations can be used as leverage. However, because the Turks have generally maintained a solid position against the Genocide lobby the use of this lever has generally been counter-productive. So some element of the U.S. democracy votes through a recognition of the Genocide and Turkey shifts toward Russia in response, which has also issued similar declarations. Nothing changes in reality. It is all just politics and does not influence the course of major events. The Armenian issue has always been like that.

Please tell us, how the Armenian lobby in the US and European countries continues to influence policy-makers and media to support the so-called Armenian genocide.

The Armenians have a great advantage in their diaspora which is 3 generations resident in the United States and writes very effectively in the English language. Lobbying and interest groups are the basis of U.S. politics and, actually, are one of the things that both undermines its democracy and makes the system dysfunctional. Because members of Congress are subject to frequent re-election – every 2 years in the House of Representatives – they are prone to great pressure from both lobby groups and powerful groups of citizens in a district. The U.S. is also the home of ethnic politics and identity politics. All these features of the U.S. system suit the Armenian lobbyists. And, of course, the thing that really oils the U.S. system is money and the Armenians are not afraid to spend it to buy influence for their cause. Armenian identity has unfortunately been boiled down to a single issue. This makes the Armenian lobby quite different from, say, the Irish Americans, who have a wide range of cultural pursuits and political causes to pursue. This is both a strength and weakness for the Armenians. Of course, they have great influence for the size of their community, but they are also myopic and have harmed the richness of their culture by this singular pursuit of bitterness against Turkic people.

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