The President of the United States has declared that the Ottoman Empire committed Genocide against the Armenians. In his statement chastising Turkey, President Biden chose not to mention the millions of Ottoman Muslims killed by the actions of the invading Imperialist Powers and their Armenian allies from 1914-22.
According to the US demographer, Justin McCarthy, the total Muslim losses in eastern Anatolia, where Armenians were relocated from by the Ottomans, were nearly 1.2 million. In the city of Van alone, 60% of the Muslim population (mostly Kurds) were massacred by Armenian revolutionaries ahead of the advancing Russian army in April and May of 1915. It was this event which triggered the relocation decree. A further 1.25 million Muslims were killed in Western Anatolia between 1914-21. The US President also chose not to mention the well-documented massacres committed by armed Armenians against Azerbaijanis from 1905 to 1994. At least 500,000 Muslims perished in the Southern Caucasus, mostly at the hands of armed Armenians, and mostly during the 1915-21 period.
These are all low estimates of Muslim mortality, unlike the gross exaggerations of Armenian deaths bandied around by all (which were around 650,000 and not 1 or 1.5 million). Why such an oblivion of history? Are the deaths of the Muslim part of humanity of no consequence and deaths of Christians the only important lives lost?
Of course, President Biden’s statement is of no consequence outside of politics. Genocide is a legal definition and no international court has ever found the Ottomans guilty of such a thing. In the historical sphere the issue is hotly contested, but it should be stated that there is no evidence of intent on the part of the Ottomans to destroy the Armenian population and no historian has ever found documentation to corroborate the statement made recently by the current US President.
The Ottoman archives are open (unlike the Armenian ones which apparently contain damning material relating to the ethnic cleansing and mass killing of Turks, Kurds and Azerbaijanis by the Armenian Republic) and they were in the hands of the British occupation for 4 years from 1918. During this period attempts were made to try various Ottoman officials held in custody and in their absence. But the evidence was declared non-existent or insufficient by the British legal establishment and the case was closed.
Discontent with legal and historical fact, the Armenian lobby has sought to cultivate an atmosphere in which the Ottomans are found guilty outside the courts of law and history – rather like someone who has been found not guilty being later damned by innuendo and the gossip of the rumour mongers. How often do we hear the phrase that “it is widely accepted” the Ottomans committed Genocide? By whom, one might ask: the Armenian lobby and the ignorant, lazy, media and pseudo-historians of some parts of Western academia?
Now the rich and influential Armenian lobby have succeeded in hooking the 10 pound trout himself, the Gossiper-in-Chief, the President of the United States.
The current US President may not have altered the legal and historical facts of the 1915 matter one iota but what he has done is drawn attention to an interesting question: Since the President of the United States has now accused the Ottomans of Genocide, is it not pertinent to examine the issue of Genocide comparatively, with particular reference to genocidal intent. Intent, after all makes up a large part of a determination if certain acts are criminal. In English criminal law intent is one of the forms of mens rea (guilty mind) that, when accompanied by an actus reus (guilty act) constitutes a crime. Article II of the 1948 UN Convention stipulates that, for a crime to be identified as genocide, there must be special intent (dolus specialis) – a requirement echoed by the International Court of Justice in its 2015 Croatian vs. Serbia judgment. Since we are talking about the extremely serious matter of “crimes against Humanity” here intent is surely a fundamental issue in such a question.
So, let us ask the question: in the historical period concerned, which was the Genocidal State, the Ottoman Empire or the United States? In which State was the Genocidal state of mind located, leading up to 1915?
The Ottoman State of Mind
The Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, after taking Constantinople in 1453, opened it to the Armenians and founded the Armenian Patriarchate there. Many Armenian clans joined the Ottomans in the city and were taken on in high position. The Ottoman’s Islamic principles dictated tolerance toward Christians and the Armenians were respected for their architectural flair and prowess at banking and accountancy. The Armenian Patriarch was put in charge of the administrative, cultural and judicial affairs of the Armenians, along with the Assyrian Christians. In the 4 centuries of their life within the Ottoman state the Armenians thrived and grew into the most prosperous, educated and well cared for community in the Empire, with the highest life expectancy. They had most of the rich merchants, financial experts, professionals and small business owners in Anatolia.
The Armenians were part of the Ottoman millet system, the organisation of the scattered communities of the Empire into non-territorial authority based on religion. The millets cared for the communities they represented in areas like social affairs, education, justice, religion, culture and welfare. The Armenian millet was named Militia Sadaki – “the faithful people”, to honour those the Turks trusted as their closest and loyal associates among the Christian communities. The Ottomans had a very un-racial view of the world that was unusual for the time, when Europe obsessed about bloodlines and racial pedigree. The 1863 Tanzimat reforms democratised the millet system, making the Armenian Patriarch an executive officer over a representative General National Assembly. This was an “imperium in imperio”, representing the most developed form of devolved authority possible outside of the cessation of territory – which was impossible due to the scattered nature of groups like the Armenians, Greeks and Jews, who thrived on being mobile across the Empire.
Count von Moltke rather accurately described the Armenians as “Christian Turks.” The Armenians served in significant positions within the Ottoman State throughout its history. Sultans often took Armenian women as wives so the Ottoman line became mixed with Armenian blood – something the English and Americans saw as fatal “race suicide”.
There were around 20 Ottoman ministers between 1867 and 1913 who were Armenian. There were 33 deputies and 7 ambassadors of Armenian origin during the Ottoman era, and 29 prominent members of the Armenian community were awarded the honorary title “Pasha”.
They also served as Ambassadors, Bankers, translators, consuls and deputies in the Ottoman Parliament – 14 in 1908. The Ottoman Foreign Minister in the year before the Great War was an Armenian named Gabriel Noradukyan. It is extraordinary that the belief exists about an Ottoman desire to destroy the Armenians since they were such an important pillar of the Empire and its functioning.
There was no Ottoman racial literature because the Ottomans did not understand the world in such terms. Their conception of the world was religious, and it was a remarkable religious toleration they exhibited in comparison with sectarian Christian Europe. Where did the Jews seek refuge when fleeing anti-Semitism and Pogrom? The Muslim Ottoman Empire. When did they leave the Balkans and the great Jewish Ottoman city of Salonika? They left with the Muslim population who were ethnically cleansed in their millions by the Christians in establishing new national states in the region.
Can it be imagined Hitler having a Jew as his Foreign Minister in 1938? Were there native Americans or blacks within the US government?
Not until the 1880s and the birth of the Armenian Question in England, and Armenian revolutionary societies in the Southern Caucasus, did the Armenian position begin to become problematic within the Ottoman territories. This was became what happened in Bulgaria in the 1870s became the template for the Armenian revolutionaries – Christian uprising, Ottoman counter-measure, Anglosphere Liberal outrage, Imperialist military intervention, eradication of Moslems. That was the desired process of the Dashnak revolutionaries. One thing for certain was that such a process would inevitably result in great inter-communal violence, ethnic cleansings and the massacre of innocents. And that is what the Armenian revolutionaries pursued in the 1890s and then more fully in the Great War catastrophe beginning in 1914. The Ottomans were confronted with an existential crisis of simultaneous invasions on four fronts by the great Imperial Powers (Britain, France and Russia) and a substantial Armenian insurrection behind the lines.
All this suggests that there was no genocidal intent toward the Armenians. What happened to the Armenian community in 1915 was largely a consequence of the actions of Imperialist Powers taking their war into Ottoman territories, the behaviour of Armenian revolutionary groups intent on eradicating the Moslem population to carve out a great Armenian state, and the Ottoman response, modelled on the counter-insurgency methods employed at the time by the most advanced civilized nations to confront armed insurrections.
The American State of Mind (Witness No.1)
Since it is the Ottoman behaviour toward the Armenians that is in question, it would be appropriate to examine the people who most supported the Armenian cause in the US to assess the validly of the Genocide charge.
Let us take witness number 1, the President of the United States himself, during the pre-Great War period, and one of the greatest and most representative of American Presidents, Theodore Roosevelt. He is carved into Mt. Rushmore itself and there is no doubting he stands with Washington and Lincoln in terms of historical significance. Theodore Roosevelt was regarded as an expert on the “Indian Question” and as President he organised the expansion of the United States from its continental dominance toward global power. He built up the US navy, intervened in Cuba and the Philippines on “humanitarian” grounds, and thereby began the relentless mission of American interference in the world. Roosevelt began the process (briefly halted after WW1) by which the US became a dominating world power which interferes in the affairs of those who might show signs of emulating it, on a much smaller scale.
In his State of the Union Message, 1904, President Roosevelt said to the American people:
“There are occasionally crimes committed on so vast a scale and of such peculiar horror as to make us doubt whether it is not our manifest duty to endeavour at least to show our disapproval of the deed and our sympathy with those who have suffered by it… in extreme cases action may be justifiable and proper… The cases in which we could interfere by force of arms as we interfered to put a stop to intolerable conditions in Cuba are necessarily very few. Yet… it is inevitable that such a nation should desire eagerly to give expression to its horror on an occasion like that of the… long-extended cruelty and oppression of which the Armenians have been victims, and which have won for them the indignant pity of the civilised world…”
In his address the US President was justifying American “humanitarian interventionism” and the extension of US power over Panama and Cuba as a matter of the US’s “manifest duty” to go along with its manifest destiny on the continent and in the world.
Those who advocate “humanitarian interventionism” as a US policy do not point out the selective and ethnocentric nature of their projects. Isn’t it strange that acting in the cause of humanity always seems to involve White Christian Powers, guilty of the most extensive genocides themselves, chastising the non-White, non-Christian states of the world, for transgressions that are much more understandable and limited in scale and often provoked by the Western Powers themselves?
If we need to illustrate this point all we need to do is look at President Theodore Roosevelt.
Two great moral issues confront the US in its domestic history – the extermination of the native peoples it organised across the American continent and the savage treatment of the African population it enslaved to do its work over centuries. These two issues have a linkage after the American Civil War because the Black slaves were freed into a different form of misery by Lincoln whilst the extermination of the native peoples was carried to a conclusion in the course of a generation by the power of State he established. Roosevelt inherited the result and presided over the transition from internal to external genocide.
President Roosevelt saw the completion of the internal genocide as an unquestioned moral obligation for the progressive forces that drove the development of the United States. He wrote:
“I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indian is the dead Indian, but I believe nine out of every ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth. The most vicious cowboy has more moral principle than the average Indian. Take three hundred low families of New York and New Jersey, support them, for fifty years, in vicious idleness, and you will have some idea of what the Indians are. Reckless, revengeful, fiendishly cruel.”
Roosevelt was in no doubt that massacres and genocide were progressive events, essential to the development of the United States and its mission in the world. Talking about an infamous one in living memory he noted: “the so-called Chivington or Sandy Creek Massacre, in spite of certain most objectionable details, was on the whole as righteous and beneficial a deed as ever took place on the frontier.”
The Sand Creek massacre had occurred a couple of decades previously in the Colorado Territory. In the massacre a village of over 100 Cheyenne and Arapaho people was wiped out by the US Army. Nelson A. Miles, an officer who eventually became the US Army’s top general, wrote in his memoirs that it was “perhaps the foulest and most unjustifiable crime in the annals of America.” The assault was led by Colonel John Chivington, who famously said, “I have come to kill Indians. … Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice.” Soldiers later reported that after killing all the men, women, and children, they mutilated the bodies for trophies.
In a subsequent book, The Winning of the West, Roosevelt explained that US actions toward American Indians were all part of the noble endeavour of the great civilizing mission of America:
“All men of sane and wholesome thought must dismiss with impatient contempt the plea that these continents should be reserved for the use of scattered savage tribes… Most fortunately, the hard, energetic, practical men who do the rough pioneer work of civilization in barbarous lands, are not prone to false sentimentality. The people who are, these stay-at-homes are too selfish and indolent, too lacking in imagination, to understand the race-importance of the work which is done by their pioneer brethren in wild and distant lands… The most ultimately righteous of all wars is a war with savages… American and Indian, Boer and Zulu, Cossack and Tartar, New Zealander and Maori,—in each case the victor, horrible though many of his deeds are, has laid deep the foundations for the future greatness of a mighty people.”
President Roosevelt understood the strong relationship between US democracy and extermination. Genocide was a precondition of the development of the United States as a free-ranging democracy. Roosevelt emphasised the importance of a democratic insistence on race purity. It was aristocratic societies – such as Great Britain and Spain – that had introduced slave labour, while the new democratic states, like the US, acted to save the best portions of the earth as a “heritage for the white people” on which functional democracies could be constructed, without the human elements who were unsuitable:
Had these regions been under aristocratic governments, Roosevelt contended, Chinese immigration would have been encouraged precisely as the slave trade was encouraged of necessity by a slave-holding oligarchy, and the result would have been fatal to the white race. But democracy, with the clear popular instinct of race selfishness, saw the racial enemy, and kept out the dangerous alien through immigration controls. Roosevelt saw the unfortunate and then unwanted presence of the negro in the Southern States as a legacy of the time when America was ruled by a trans-oceanic aristocracy.
President Roosevelt emphasised the world-historic significance of the advent of white democracies which had overcome traditional societies and annihilated their backward peoples: “The whole civilization of the future owes a debt of gratitude greater than can be expressed in words to that democratic policy which has kept the temperate zones of the new and the newest worlds a heritage for the white people”.
President Roosevelt also made it clear that if ever blacks, Asian immigrants, or the remnant of the native population ever threatened white domination, they should be ruthlessly suppressed:
“What occurs in our own Southern States at the least sign of a race war between the blacks and the whites seems to me to foreshadow what would occur on a much bigger scale if any black or yellow people should really menace the whites. An insurrectionary movement of blacks in any one of our Southern States is always abortive, and rarely takes place at all; but any manifestation of it is apt to be accompanied by some atrocity which at once arouses the whites to a rage of furious anger and terror, and they would put down the revolt absolutely mercilessly. In the same way an Indian – outbreak on the frontier would to this day mean something approaching to a war of extermination.”
That statement by a US President should be borne in mind when it is wondered why ordinary Turks and Kurds looked for vengeance against Armenians after their relatives and friends were massacred by armed Dashnaks in cities like Van. 1915 would look very different if the US applied the same standards it applied to its own actions. It certainly would not be given the label Genocide.
In 1900 Roosevelt wrote a book called ‘The Strenuous Life’. Here is a passage from it, explain why it was the “White Man’s burden” to make war and impose order on the barbarous sections of humanity, who were obviously non-Christian, and required extirpation:
“It is only the warlike power of a civilized people that can give peace to the world. The Arab wrecked the civilization of the Mediterranean coasts, the Turk wrecked the civilization of southeastern Europe, and the Tatar desolated from China to Russia and to Persia, setting back the progress of the world for centuries, solely because the civilized nations opposed to them had lost the great fighting qualities, and, in becoming over peaceful, had lost the power of keeping peace with a strong hand. Their passing away marked the beginning of a period of chaotic barbarian warfare. Those whose memories are not so short as to have forgotten the defeat of the Greeks by the Turks, of the Italians by the Abyssinians, and the feeble campaigns waged by Spain against feeble Morocco, must realize that at the present moment the Mediterranean coasts would be overrun either by the Turks or by the Sudan Mahdists if these warlike barbarians had only to fear those southern European powers which have lost the fighting edge. Such a barbarian conquest would mean endless war; and the fact that nowadays the reverse takes place, and that the barbarians recede or are conquered, with the attendant fact that peace follows their retrogression or conquest, is due solely to the power of the mighty civilized races which have not lost the fighting instinct, and which by their expansion are gradually bringing peace into the red wastes where the barbarian peoples of the world hold sway.”
It is obvious from this that President Roosevelt was determined that the US democracy should take up the previous exterminating work of the Europeans in the 20th Century in the name of Progress. And he was most annoyed when the US failed to make war on the Ottomans when it joined the Great War in 1917.
The US as Model for the Nazi Racial State
We should now take a short journey round a taboo topic for the United States – how it provided an inspiration and benchmark for the construction of a Nazi Racial order in Germany.
Adolf Hitler, in 1928, made it clear that he modelled his solution to the Jewish question on the United States’ solution to the native American question. He spoke approvingly of how Americans had “gunned down the millions of Redskins to a few hundred thousands, and now keep the modest remnant under observation in a cage.” In 1941, Hitler told confidants of his plans to “Europeanize” Russia. It wasn’t just Germans who would do this, he said, but other Aryan races like Scandinavians and Americans, and “all those who have a feeling for Europe.” The most important thing in completing the European civilizing mission was to act with the utmost ruthlessness, like the Americans, and “look upon the natives as Redskins.”
There is a recent books on Nazism by James Q. Whitman’s “Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law” (Princeton University). In it Whitman methodically explores how the Nazis took inspiration from American racism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He notes that, in ‘Mein Kampf,’ Hitler praises America as the one state that has made the most progress toward a racial conception of citizenship, by “excluding certain races from naturalization.” A week after the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law on the Protection of German Blood and German Honour were formally proclaimed by Adolf Hitler, 45 Nazi lawyers sailed for New York under the auspices of the Association of National Socialist German Jurists. The trip was a reward for the lawyers, who had codified the Reich’s race-based legal order. The purpose of the visit was to gain “special insight into the workings of American legal and economic life through study and lectures.”
Upon docking in the US, the Nazis attended a reception organized by the New York City Bar Association. Everyone in the room would have known about the events in Nuremberg, but the leading Nazi jurists wishing to learn from America’s legal and economic systems were warmly welcomed by the Americans as kindred spirits. The leader of the Nazi group was Ludwig Fischer. He became the governor of the Warsaw Ghetto half a decade later.
Whitman notes that the discussion of such American influence on the Nazi regime is taboo. He marshals strong evidence to support the argument “that the Nuremberg Laws themselves reflect direct American influence.” The US was the global leader in Race Law and America therefore provided the most obvious point of reference for the September 1933 Preussische Denkschrift, the Prussian Memorandum, written by a legal team that included Roland Freisler, the President of the Nazi People’s Court. American precedent also informed other foundational Nazi texts, including the National Socialist Handbook for Law and Legislation of 1934–35, edited by the future Governor-General of Poland, Hans Frank, who was later hung at Nuremberg. A pivotal essay in that volume, Herbert Kier’s recommendations for race legislation, devoted a quarter of its pages to U.S. Racial Law. This which went beyond segregation to include rules governing the lives of native Americans, African Americans, and citizenship criteria for Filipinos and Puerto Ricans as well as immigration regulations, and prohibitions against miscegenation (race mixing) in 30 US states. No other country possessed such a developed set of relevant laws for the Nazi regime to model its racial order upon.
The German lawyer Heinrich Krieger was “the single most important figure in the Nazi assimilation of American race law.” He spent the 1933–4 academic year in Fayetteville as an exchange student at the University of Arkansas School of Law. Krieger’s objective was to deploy historical and legal knowledge in the service of Aryan racial purity, and he studied a range of Racial orders, including South Africa, before discarding the Apartheid regime as a model in favoured of discovering the foundation he was seeking for Nazi legality in American Law. His writings about the United States included articles in 1934, concerning the subjugation of native Americans. Krieger’s overarching assessment of U.S. race legislation formed the framework for his landmark 1936 book, Das Rassenrecht in den Vereingten Staaten (Race Law in the United States).
On June 5th, 1934, a conference of leading German lawyers gathered to exchange ideas about how best to construct a Racialist regime in Germany. The record reflects how the most extreme among them, who relied on Krieger’s American scholarship, were especially drawn to US legal codes based on White Supremacy. The main conceptual idea that won the day was Freisler’s argument that a Racial Policy needed a political/legal foundation to sustain itself. Any social conventions leading to a mixing of the races were to be subdued in the future through political decisions enshrined in Law.
Another Nazi policy that was inspired by America was eugenics or Race Science. Although theoretically it had emerged in England in the 19th Century it was taken up quickly and with most vigour in the US, in California. California eugenicists played an important role in the American eugenics movement’s campaign for Racial cleansing, which involved exterminating all human beings deemed “unfit” for existence and procreation. Elements of the eugenics philosophy were enshrined in US national policy through forced sterilization and segregation laws, as well as marriage restrictions, enacted in 27 states. Ultimately, eugenics practitioners coercively sterilized some 60,000 Americans, barred the marriage of thousands, forcibly segregated thousands in “ghetto colonies,” and persecuted numerous others. Before World War II, nearly half of coercive sterilizations were done in California, and even after the war, the state accounted for a third of all such mandatory surgeries.
Eugenics was extensively financed by US corporate philanthropists, specifically the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Harriman railroad fortune. The US philanthropists worked with America’s most respected scientists from the prestigious universities of Stamford, Yale, Harvard, and Princeton. Stanford President David Starr Jordan asserted the primacy of “race and blood” in his 1902 work ‘Blood of a Nation’, in which the scholar declared that human qualities and conditions such as talent and poverty were hereditary. In 1904, the Carnegie Institution established a laboratory complex at Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island that accumulated millions of index cards on Americans, as researchers carefully plotted the eradication of whole families, bloodlines and groups to improve the Racial Stock. From Cold Spring Harbor, these eugenics lobbyists agitated in Congress, as well as social service agencies.
The most commonly advocated method of eugenicide in America was a “lethal chamber” or locally operated gas chambers. In 1918, US Army venereal disease specialist Dr. Paul Popenoe, co-wrote the widely used textbook, Applied Eugenics, which argued, “From an historical point of view, the first method which presents itself is execution… Its value in keeping up the standard of the race should not be underestimated.” ‘Applied Eugenics’ devoted a chapter to “Lethal Selection,” which operated “through the destruction of the individual by some adverse feature of the environment, such as excessive cold, or bacteria, or by bodily deficiency.”
The United States Supreme Court endorsed eugenics as compatible with the US Constitution. In its 1927 decision, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind…. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” The Court’s decision opened the floodgates for thousands to be coercively sterilized or otherwise persecuted as subhuman. Years later, the Nazis at the Nuremberg trials quoted Justice Holmes’s words in their defence. They were only doing what the US Supreme Court had ruled Constitutional and Lawful in the most progressive state on earth!
The great US endowment organisations financed the Nazi eugenic drive. By 1926, Rockefeller had donated some $410,000 ($4 million today) to German researchers. In May 1926, Rockefeller awarded $250,000 to the German Psychiatric Institute of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, later to become the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Psychiatry. A grant of $317,000 enabled the Brain Research Institute to construct a major complex and take centre stage in Racial work. The Institute received additional grants from the Rockefeller Foundation over the years. Leading the Institute, was Hitler’s medical adviser, Ernst Rüdin. Rüdin’s US funded organization became the main practitioner in the murderous experimentation and research conducted on Jews, Gypsies and others “sub-human” groups.
Only after eugenics had become standard practice in the United States was the process transplanted into Germany, in no small measure through the efforts of California eugenicists, who published booklets promoting sterilization as the best means of achieving “Racial Hygiene” and circulated them to Nazi officials and scientists. Hitler informed his colleagues that he closely followed the progress of the American eugenics movement. “I have studied with great interest,” he told a fellow Nazi, “the laws of several American states concerning prevention of reproduction by people whose progeny would, in all probability, be of no value or be injurious to the racial stock.” The Fuhrer even wrote a fan letter to prominent American eugenics advocate Madison Grant calling his eugenics book, ‘The Passing of the Great Race’ his “bible.”
Adolf Hitler’s main inspiration for Genocide was the Anglosphere and what it had achieved through its “civilizing mission” of successfully exterminating the “lesser races of the world” (sometimes referred to as the “cheap races” at the time). In contrast, Hitler never said “who, after all, remembers the Armenians”. The document that is universally quoted by the Armenian lobby and their Western hangers-on, is, in fact, a fraud. We know that because it was examined and rejected at Nuremberg and discarded as evidence by the Allies on the basis that it, alone of the accounts of the same meeting, had this unique line and it was suspiciously typed by a non-German typewriter.
How pitiful looks this fake document attempting to associate the Ottomans with Hitler in comparison with all the substantial facts that reveal the US as the main inspiration for Nazi Germany.
The American State of Mind (Witness No.2)
The other great advocate of the Armenian cause at this time was the Liberal, White Supremacist, James Bryce. Bryce was not an American, but he was very prominent as a celebrated British Ambassador to the US in the period and historian of the US Republic. He represents, perhaps more than anyone else, the Anglosphere continuity in relation to the Armenians, which operated between Britain and its great offspring across the Ocean, to which it would ultimately pass the torch of civilisation and progress.
James Bryce’s connection with the Armenians begins with his travels to eastern Anatolia and the publication of ‘Transcaucasia and Ararat’ in 1877. In this book, written during the Russian/Ottoman war, Bryce made clear he desired the expulsion of the Ottomans from eastern Anatolia and the creation of nations from the peoples of the Ottoman territories. He described the Turks as lazy and lacking intelligence and the Ottomans as a dying government. Conversely, he suggested that the Armenians were the most industrious and clever race in the region – the highest form of civilisation there. Bryce wrote that “Degraded as they are, after ages of slavery and ignorance, the Christian population nevertheless offer a more hopeful prospect than the Muslims.”
Bryce had a racialist conception of the world. While he found Social Darwinism distasteful he shared many of its preconceptions about the “quality of races” and “racial stock”. He argued that the race mixing practiced by the Ottomans had made them “incapable of ruling” and that “Turkish government is dying. It has been sick for a long time.” The superior breeds and more civilised races needed to take over – namely the Armenians under British tutelage.
Bryce wrote ‘The American Commonwealth’, published in 1888, an examination of the constitutional system of the US. This became the standard text on the subject in the US. Americans loved it because here was a famed British intellectual flattering their political system. It seemed to confer an extra legitimacy upon it and the achievements of the founding fathers. It helped establish Bryce with both a high standing in the US and with a degree of leverage which did not go unnoticed in London. It led to his appointment in 1907 as British Ambassador in Washington DC, a post he held for seven years. During his tenure he greatly improved UK-US relationships. Britain, at this point, was making provision for exerting influence over this coming force, if it could not prevent its emergence. Whilst as Ambassador Bryce developed a strong affinity with Woodrow Wilson, who entered the White House in 1913. These factors added to Bryce’s growing political leverage in the US. On his return he was made a Viscount of the Empire for his services, becoming Lord Bryce. During the Great War Lord Bryce was the frontman for the historian, Arnold Toynbee, working for Wellington House, the secret propaganda department of the British State and producing the Blue Book against the Ottoman treatment of Armenians.
By 1902, Bryce had become an acknowledged expert on race relations in the US. ‘The American Commonwealth’ was established as a compulsory reference work for nation-builders and political science students. In his Romanes lecture Bryce theorised a typology of four possible outcomes of conquest and colonisation in the inevitable and progressive process of “unequal race contact”: (1) the weaker races would die out; (2) the weaker race would be absorbed by the stronger; (3) the races would mix to form something new; and ( 4) racial difference was so great that it must result in social separation. Numbers (1) and (4) applied to the fundamentalist Protestant US, and to the native Americans and African-Americans respectively, it encountered in its nation-building. Numbers (2) and (3) tended to apply to the less thorough, and less genocidal Catholic colonists of South America who had a weakness for marrying into the local native populations, seeing them as more human than the Anglo-Saxon colonists viewed native populations.
Whilst Theodore Roosevelt saw no contradiction between democratic progress and extermination James Bryce agonised over the problem of assimilating lesser peoples into the US democracy, acting on the pretensions of democracy as an abstract theory and the grandiose proclamations of the US Constitution.
“To make race or colour or religion a ground of political disability runs counter to what use to be deemed a fundamental principle of democracy and what has been made (by recent Amendments) a doctrine of the American Constitution. To admit to full political rights, in deference to abstract theory, persons, who, whether from deficient education or want of experience as citizens of a free country, are obviously unfit to exercise political power, is, or may be, dangerous to any commonwealth. Some way out of the contradiction has to be found and the democratic southern States of the North American Union and the oligarchical republic of Hawaii, as well as the South African colonies, are all trying to find such a way.”
The abolitionist Wendell Phillips Garrison replied to Bryce: “I fear you will comfort both our Imperialists and the lynchers, for the latter have caste for their stronghold, and it seems to me you justify caste.” In an extensive review in ‘Nation’, Garrison regretted that Bryce had thrown “the weight of his humane authority into the white scale” noting that he “pointedly omits to recommend abolition of the laws forbidding intermarriage.”In this way, Garrison charged, Bryce was denying African-Americans’ equal humanity with Whites by supporting America’s prototype for Hitler’s Nuremberg Laws: “The weight of the statutory prohibition lies in its perpetuating the doctrine of slavery, that the colored man is, when all is said and done less than a human being. This doctrine has not been eradicated from the white mind in the generation since the war, and it coexists with a logical toleration not only of exceptional punishments for crimes perpetrated by the blacks, but for atrocious cruelty reserved solely for them – the lynchings deplored by Mr Bryce, in which the faggot is ever ready to be applied to the dark skin.”
But James Bryce continued to insist on the dangers posed to democracies by any influx of “half-civilized men”. The admission to the franchise to people who were “not only ignorant, but in mind children rather than men” was not, for Bryce, a welcome development for democracy, but would inflict a fatal injury to democratic development. (These quotations can be found in the book ‘Drawing the Global Colour Line’ by Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds)
Bryce, for all his Liberalism, was a White Supremacist, a fundamentalist Christian Supremacist and an Armenian supremacist in Anatolia and the Caucasus. What made him an opponent of Black rights in the US and an exponent of Armenian nationalism was his view of a hierarchy of races with White, Anglo-Saxon, Christian Protestants at the top and lesser breeds beneath, usually on the basis of darkness of skin and lack of Christianity.
Sir Charles Dilke, the Gladstonian Liberal, in his famous and best-selling 1869 book ‘Greater Britain’ praised the Anglo-Saxons as the greatest exterminating race the world had ever seen. He meant it as a compliment, and it was hardly disputable, least of all in the United States and by the Americans who went about their work with relish and never dissented from such praise. The informal subjugation of the emancipated slaves was not challenged officially until the 1960s and the process of phasing them into national life began only a hundred years after their freeing.
The Armenian experience of the Ottoman State was very different. They were an integral part of all aspects of Ottoman social, economic and political life before 1915. That is undeniable. And then they were engulfed by a sudden catastrophe from outside, as a European war came to them, and everything changed. So where was the genocidal intent?
Who, then, has the Genocidal state of mind: Accuser or accused?
Now let us be done with this issue. The President of the US has spoken and got something off his chest. The skies have not fallen. The US apparently has the same strategic interests now as it did on 23rd April. Secretary of State Blinken is putting distance between ‘Ottoman Turkey’ and ‘Turkey’ and cosying up to Baku again. The Pentagon says that Biden can talk about anything, but military co-operation with Turkey remains a strategic priority for the US. Armenians have been let down again. They find they are merely a black pawn on the chess board among much bigger pieces. What has changed in the world?
As an old Turkish proverb says “The dogs may bark but the caravan moves on.”