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Problem of Northern Ireland

John Hume

John Hume was an absolutely unique force in politics in the North of Ireland. He stood head and shoulders above every other constitutional nationalist politician in political ability. He was indispensable to the Peace Process and its success and the achievement of the Good Friday settlement. His community was very fortunate it found a man of his calibre to lead it through very difficult times to a position of equality. But his actual political skill and talent could not be explained properly by those charged in writing his obituary.

John Hume, the Derry schoolteacher, first came to notice through some articles he wrote for The Irish Times during May 1964. These were published under the heading ‘The Northern Catholic’. In the series Hume questioned what he called “traditional nationalist attitudes” toward ‘Northern Ireland’ which he saw as having run their course, after a generation of failure. From the time of Partition the Northern Catholic community had aspired to make itself independent of the statelet it had been marooned within and to live in its own social framework in readiness for a future transference to an all-Ireland state. Hume urged the alienated Catholic community to give up on its boycott of ‘Northern Ireland’ and to play a fuller part in its political and economic life, to demonstrate to the unionist community that nationalists could be trusted and that discrimination was unnecessary.

The Nationalist Party, which had been disorientated by Taoiseach Lemass’s sudden order to enter Stormont, attempted to lure Hume into its ranks, but he would have none of it. Hume had made up his mind that Eddie M’Ateer’s party was dead wood and determined upon developing a new form of politics that the reluctant, “stuck in its ways,” Nationalist Party was incapable of. Hume, however, went along with Lemass’s fantasy that what was needed in the North was an opposition at Stormont to the Unionist Party. It was this that generated the frustration among Catholics that led to the streets, after the Stormont opposition proved a charade, as it impotently confronted the reality of permanent Unionist government and its resistance to nationalist demands.

Hume maintained a distance from the emerging Civil Rights Association until the end of 1968, when it began to gain momentum. He had refused to endorse the famous Derry march, fearing violent confrontation. Others, however, calculated that violent confrontation was just what was needed in the circumstances to break up the Unionist regime. One thing led to another and the August 1969 explosion in Derry and Belfast was the result.

Hume gave his verdict on the Civil Rights Association to Eamonn Gallagher of the Republic’s Department of External Affairs in September 1969. It was so sensitive Hume’s name was redacted in the state papers. Hume said “the Civil Rights policy had succeeded where an overt nationalist policy had not but the ultimate objective was the same”. (NAI, TSCH 2000/6/657)

That rather confirmed what Unionists had been saying about NICRA so it was decided not to have it attributed to Hume.

In the immediate aftermath of August 1969 John Hume determined on a policy of first trying an internal accommodation between Unionists and Nationalists at Stormont, in which ‘British’ Unionists were split from the Ulsterish bigoted element and a coalition of moderates formed from the two communities. If this proved impossible he was in favour of a period of Direct Rule to force a left/right realignment in politics.

This was impossible, of course, outside the politics of the State, and it also ran into the problem that Westminster was determined to maintain the 1920 devolved structures to keep the province at arm’s length if at nearly all costs. Only something new and of great vigour could shift Britain from this policy, and that had to be provided by the Provisional IRA, rather than the SDLP, which once formed followed the routine of the Nationalist Party it replaced at Stormont. Hume and his new colleagues, led by Gerry Fitt, went through the charade of forming an “official opposition” and Hume condemned proposals for Direct Rule as bringing about “evils that might be worse than at present” in which NI became “a mere outpost of London” (Irish News, 5.1.70). Whilst Fitt led the party, once British Labour let the province be in its communal quagmire, Hume quickly came to direct it as  instrument of his own policy taking the important decisions.

In June 1971 Brian Faulkner, the most able Unionist leader, made an unprecedented offer to the SDLP of committee chairs in Stormont. This was significant after 50 years of exclusive one-party Unionist rule. It was a moment of truth for the SDLP – was it interested in an internal accommodation with Unionism? Hume initially welcomed the offer as a measure of the changed situation in which a deal could be done, only to suddenly backdown after a couple of youths were controversially shot in Derry by the British Army. The SDLP leader, Fitt, was appalled at Hume’s about turn, which shot down the chance of an accommodation with Unionists and his public declaration for Direct Rule, against party policy. Hume’s rejection of Faulkner’s offer subsequently gave great momentum to the Provos’ stated objective of “Smash Stormont” and their bombing campaign accelerated, leading to Faulkner adopting a military solution, internment, to the problem. Conflict escalated greatly.

With Internment and Bloody Sunday the Provos determined the course of events. Hume led the parallel civil disobedience campaign and established and became President of the Alternative Assembly at Dungiven. The Attorney General, Basil Kelly, was asked to consider whether this was a serious attempt to form an illegal underground government but concluded it was a harmless farce that would disappear if it were ignored. He was right.

From the underground administration, via the Irish Times, Hume called for a public declaration by the British Government in favour of Irish unity that would break the “Unionist ascendancy.” This was the genesis of his policy of the next decade, that urged upon Westminster the breaking of the “Unionist veto” on “progress” which could be meant to mean reform, but which actually inferred an active united Ireland policy that Protestant Ulster had no right to obstruct.

After the January massacre in Derry Hume took the British Government to the United Nations, when Dublin thought better of the idea, after its experience of a year and a half previously. He was, of course, rebuffed as Britain had the UN stitched up, but it was the first incidence of Hume going international to manoeuvre against the British Government.

The Provos’ Bloody Friday massacre enabled Whitelaw to get the SDLP back into the realm of constitutional politics and Hume was used to tip off the IRA before the 23,000 Motorman assault. Prime Minister Heath had advised his commanders that up to 100 deaths were acceptable in the recapture of the no-go areas but the Provos decided to retire and live to fight another day. With the military ascendancy being lost to the British this enabled the SDLP and Hume to regain ground and take centre stage again in negotiations.

The details of the Sunningdale Agreement and Executive need not be gone into here. Suffice to say Hume and the SDLP overplayed their hand in a situation of declining Republican military power. Hume underestimated the power of the Protestant working class, which was considerable in the days before Mrs Thatcher destroyed Ulster’s industrial base. Hume demanded that the British Army suppress the Ulster Workers Council strike and “call the Unionist bluff” but Protestant society, which Hume and the other SDLP leaders, had little understanding of, showed its power and that it was a separate nation in Ireland. Coupled with the bungling of the new Labour Government the suicidal behaviour of the SDLP, which misconstrued Faulkner’s reasonableness for weakness, lost the chance of an internal settlement. Hume had to think again.

After the fall of the Executive Hume fell out with Dublin. He demanded that Dublin and the British force power-sharing on the Unionists. Hume fell hook line and sinker for the withdrawal propaganda issued by the NIO as a cover for the British Ulsterisation policy and began to urge Dublin and London into more and more fantastic schemes for repressing the loyalists through military force if necessary. Dublin’s will was, of course, broken by then and it was becoming clear to Hume that the Northern Catholics were on their own. At this point Hume decided to take over direct control of the SDLP from the expendable Fitt.

Around this time Hume came up with the terminology of the “two traditions” to magic away the national division that was apparent and undeniable in the North. The word “tradition” hardly does justice to the complete absence of collective feeling between the Unionist and Nationalist communities. It was a deadly national division that had pre-existed the War and which had been exacerbated by the construction of ‘Northern Ireland’ and the War it had ultimately generated. Hume devised a policy that involved an intricate juggling of words and which was articulated in a form that became known as ‘Humespeak.’ It involved not quite saying something but being heard by some people as if one thing was being said whilst others heard something else as being said. It aimed to bamboozle the more simple-minded and straight talking Unionists.

In 1977, with nationalism at a low ebb and the SDLP falling apart, Hume decided that a fundamental shift was needed to rejuvenate ‘Constitutional’ Nationalism and alter the situation. He diagnosed the problem as being “intransigent Unionism” and the inaction of the British government. Hume reckoned that the problem needed to be taken out of the purely British context by reintroducing the reluctant Irish government into the political process and getting London and Dublin to work together to advance a political settlement in ‘Northern Ireland’, despite the Unionists. The objective was to get the British and Irish governments to impose new political structures over the heads of Unionism to create a whole new ball-game. This was sometimes referred to as ‘the totality of relationships.’ It was a tall order but Hume stuck to his guns.

Hume removed the focus on trying to achieve an internal settlement with Unionists who were determined to hang on to their majority in a new sub-government. Along with this Hume went to the US and Europe to cultivate relationships with important people that could be employed in the future against Britain and the Unionists. Particularly important in this were the links developed with Irish-America. This was an important characteristic that Hume shared with Republicans – the ability to open up new fronts when progress on the battlefield was halted by Unionist or British resistance. It was something which the rest of the SDLP, including the previous leadership lacked.

Hume’s strategy was clever because it took things outside the 1920 Act, employing forces that were beyond the confines of ‘Northern Ireland’ to which Northern Catholics were confined. Gerry Fitt’s British horizons were inadequate to a breakout due to Westminster’s insistence that ‘Northern Ireland’ remain in its own political quarantine lest the virus in its politics spread to the British body politic.

One result of this clever strategy was the elevation of Hume into the role of ‘statesman’ – the first ‘statesman’ without an actual state to represent. This injected a new vigour into Irish diplomacy in relation to the North, led by Hume, which the diplomats and political representatives of the actual Irish State were dragged into. This had an important result with regard to the relationship between the two parts of the Irish Nation in that as Dublin lost its vigour with relation to the North it was taken up by Hume, determined that the Northern Catholics would not be let down as they had been in 1970 and previous times by the South.

However, the SDLP was in the doldrums from 1975 until 1981 and it was only given a new opportunity through the Republican rejuvenation brought about by political fall out from the Hunger Strikes.

Hume’s great achievement, The Hillsborough Treaty of 1985, came about not as a result of his efforts through the New Irish Forum but because of the political crisis that saw Sinn Fein emerge as an electoral force and a military crisis brought about by the Brighton bomb, which encouraged Mrs Thatcher to do something she was very reluctant to do. As a result of this crisis the British attempted to undermine the Republican political and military expressions through a deal with ‘Constitutional Nationalism’. The ‘Out! Out! Out!’ episode nearly shattered the ‘Constitutional’ Nationalist bulwark Britain relied upon and something had to be done by Britain to re-balance things (and Thatcher was bereft of an alternative policy). The British knew the central importance of Hume in any deal with Dublin but also that if an acceptable agreement was not produced there was the danger of losing the SDLP altogether. Senior figures in the British State persuaded a reluctant Thatcher to do business with Dublin.

After the signing of the Hillsborough Treaty Hume told the Irish Times (23.11.85): “We arrived where we are without the assistance of Sinn Fein and we shall not require their assistance in the future.” 

How wrong he was proved on both counts. And he, himself, proved it.

The Irish negotiator from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Michael Lillis, later revealed that Dublin only took in Hume into their confidence during the negotiations with the British. The rest of the SDLP was not trusted, because they would have let the cat out of the bag in their desire to taunt the Unionists, until just before the bombshell at Hillsborough. The Unionists were to be overridden by something that would take them by surprise and which they could not touch. The negotiations that resulted in what happened at Hillsborough had to be conducted behind closed doors because the Unionists were a substantial community who could not be sold out by an “ascendancy” element – something which the community was often characterised as consisting of by Nationalism. Hume took himself outside the country for months to avoid his colleagues.

This was the moment when the SDLP was understood to be a busted flush by all important players. From then on it was merely John Hume’s catspaw.

Interviewed on BBC Radio’s ‘File on Four’ on December 3rd 1985 Hume said that the Treaty would be of little value if the Unionists did not come out in substantial opposition to it in order for their opposition to be faced down by Britain. It was Hume’s view that the Unionist mind could only be changed after a decisive conflict had occurred with their government at Westminster which the Unionists would lose: “once that boil is lanced, then you will find the Unionist population for the first time in a position where they must talk to their neighbours.”

Hillsborough certainly traumatised the Unionist community like nothing else – much more so than the IRA campaign. But it failed because it did not provide Thatcher with a defeat of the Provos and security actually deteriorated as a result. She rowed back from a fuller implementation of it, seeing meagre advantage, much to Hume’s frustration.

It is sometimes suggested that Hillsborough was a success. The only thing that could be said for it, however, was a thing that its advocates did not want to say for it: it softened up the Unionists for a devolutionary settlement. And when the Unionists came out of the wilderness to the SDLP eager for a devolution deal Hume pulled the plug! This was the vital moment at Duisburg that has all but been forgotten.

There was by then another game in town as well as the Hillsborough Treaty. What is known as the Peace Process had its origin in the late 1970s when sections of the higher command of the Republican movement began to draw the conclusion that military victory was impossible and the conflict was going to end at the negotiating table. The objective of the Republican high command was a difficult one: to pursue a political strategy that led toward an acceptable peace, short of the formal objective, whilst maintaining Republican military capacity at an effective level.

The sequence of the Peace Process as it developed during the mid-1980s should be stated clearly: It started within the Republican command, around Gerry Adams; it availed of the unique figure of Charles J. Haughey to kick-start it; it was facilitated by the Redemptorist Priest, Fr. Alec Reid; it then took in John Hume, who blocked his party from the devolutionary course it had set itself upon. It finally began to take in other elements of Fianna Fail and the SDLP, before utilising the important force of Irish-America against the British State.

The policy instituted by Thatcher and Taoiseach Fitzgerald at Hillsborough ultimately failed in its stated objectives and Hume decided to give way to the Adams/Fr. Reid Peace initiative that Haughey was facilitating. In conjunction with the Republican leadership around Adams another direction for political development was then carved out which aimed at a more comprehensive and enduring Peace settlement that would finally end the Ice Age in politics that had been brought about at Hillsborough. This prospect was irresistible for Hume.

For a long time afterwards it was presumed, and the SDLP Leader was of the belief, that his talks with Gerry Adams had begun the Peace Process rather than, as really happened, it originated through the Adams/Fr. Reid/Haughey axis. Hume had been ‘protected’ from this information for his own good at the time, lest his party colleagues and others in Dublin should learn of the tentative growth and ruin it all. It all remained hidden from the SDLP and from those outside of Haughey’s close circle to prevent it being assailed by the mainstream of ‘Constitutional Nationalism’ and destroyed, until Fr. Reid was instructed, by Haughey, to make tentative contacts with Hume, who was felt trustworthy enough to be let in on what was going on. Hume had been taken into Taoiseach’s Fitzgerald’s confidence prior to Hillsborough and had remained water tight-lipped about it to maintain the element of surprise against Unionists.

What is apparent is that the primary objective of many within the SDLP, particularly the high-profile figures outside of Hume, was to use Hillsborough as a lever on Unionists to establish a return to devolution with the 1985 Treaty acting as a kind of fall-back device pinning the Unionists into some form of power-sharing with the SDLP.

This account is not meant to relegate Hume’s role in the Peace. Hume was absolutely indispensible to it. However, the standard account of Hume’s role is false. Hume’s crucial contribution to the Peace was in scuppering what the British and Dublin had intended for the SDLP at Hillsborough and in throwing his weight behind the other process that was developing through Adams, Fr. Reid and Haughey. That made all the difference to what subsequently was to occur in 1998. The moment where Hume accomplished this was in the obscure goings on at Duisburg.

One of the chief British objectives in agreeing to the Hillsborough Treaty was to lure the SDLP into a devolved government with Unionists that would replace Direct Rule. The British saw Hume as the main obstacle to such an internal settlement and 6 months before the Hillsborough Treaty was revealed, they sounded the SDLP leader out in a meeting where he was assured about the concessions Britain was prepared to make.

The moment for Hume and the SDLP to fulfill their part of the bargain arrived 3 years later at Duisburg, after the Unionists had been made, at last, pliable. However, whilst the SDLP had been hooked (like a 3 pound trout?) Hume refused to take the bait.

The British had invested considerable political resources, including the unprecedented Hillsborough concession itself, to bolster Hume and Dublin against Sinn Fein and now Hume betrayed that faith and went over to the Republican Peace process. This set everything on a path that Britain never intended and which the SDLP never expected.

Currie, McGrady, Hendron and Mallon had wanted to see a devolved power-sharing government established within ‘Northern Ireland’ on the basis of Article 4 of the Hillsborough Treaty. Hume let the devolutionists go through the motions before he calculated, after his talks with Adams, that an all-Ireland settlement which included Sinn Fein should be held out for rather than surrendering the position hard-won at Hillsborough.

Hume saw that the Treaty of 1985 had failed in its objectives and would, at best, only lead back to the situation of Sunningdale in 1974. That was good enough for many in the SDLP, but not for Hume any more, especially since he became aware of the wider peace initiative that involved Haughey and the Irish Government. Hume decided to bank the main gains attained at Hillsborough with its all Ireland component and the Dublin’s role in ‘Northern Ireland’. He then focused his efforts on the all-Ireland settlement which included Dublin and Sinn Fein. The devolutionists were shot down and shoved aside where the remained in disgruntlement but preserving their careers.

Hume’s adaption to a pan-Nationalism with Sinn Fein to achieve a wider settlement beyond devolution, won out through the powerful combination Haughey had enabled. And this was a watershed. If it had just been the SDLP, without Hume, there would have been no Peace Process and Good Friday Agreement. It was a product of the Republican Leadership around Adams, with Haughey’s facilitation, plus the strategic vision of John Hume. A confluence had been achieved of two separated rivers than now became a powerful force.

What Hume achieved through his alliance with Adams in the Peace Process, and then under the GFA, was to undo the separation of physical force and constitutional nationalism brought about by the Arms Crisis. The sudden Volte face by the Lynch Government in 1970, under pressure from the British, had shattered the potential emergence of a slightly-constitutional nationalism behind the barricades which would have kept the Catholic community united with the power of the Southern State behind them. Hume and Adams repaired the damage done by Lynch’s retreat from the North. The Northern Catholics began to punch their weight.

Former IRA Volunteer, Anthony McIntyre, commenting in his blog, The Pensive Quill, on Hume’s passing noted:

“The Good Friday Agreement made sense for him and he was consistent in driving for it because it was the outworking of what he believed. For republicans it was a mockery of everything they fought for. Hume’s pre GFA politics made the GFA logical. Republican pre-GFA politics made the GFA illogical. Ultimately, the GFA was not worth one single death. Point is Hume didn’t take one single life to obtain it.”

In an ideal world what came about in 1998 could have come about through an evolutionary reform. However, ‘Northern Ireland’ was as far removed as you could get from an ideal world. The unfortunate fact of life in Westminster’s political slum was that Hume would never have achieved the Good Friday Agreement without others being prepared to take life to alter the situation they found themselves in.

In essence what separated Gerry Adams and John Hume from others within the ranks is that they had, through the political experience of two decades, developed an understanding of the continuum that existed between Constitutional and non-constitutional Nationalism. This included an awareness of the limitations of both. They appreciated that a combination was essential for the progress of their community and were prepared to ditch the dogmatic positions held by others.  That was the secret of what happened.

And that was the greatest political achievement of John Hume.

Hume was a very effective politician who was always ready and able to improvise. When he made mistakes and his policies failed he was able to avail of new circumstances created by other forces outside of his control to push his own political agenda forward. He always maintained, from the beginning, that the key to success for his community was to split Unionism whilst unifying his own, less powerful community. He achieved this objective in 1998, doing a deal with Trimble which brought about the Good Friday Agreement and the current position. Skilfully he maintained the SDLP behind him, whilst nullifying his colleagues devolutionary proclivities that would have led down another dead-end.

He put his community before party, and Dublin, and rightfully so.

Published in The Irish Political Review September 2020

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Armenia Azerbaijan Britain's Great War Geopolitics Russia Turkey and Ottoman Empire

Nikol Pashinyan and the Lost Treaty of Sevres (Updated)

Treaty_of_Sevres_President_Wilson_Armenian_Boundary

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, has been addressing a Conference in Yerevan to celebrate the lost Treaty of Sevres. He made a statement at that conference praising the lost Treaty of August 1920 and indicated that he would like to see it revived from the dead, presumably to carve up the Turkish Republic in favour of Armenia. The statement reveals much about the twisted mind of Armenian nationalism.

The Armenian Prime Minister began:

“The Treaty of Sevres is a historical fact. It remains so to this day. What is the benefit that we can draw from that document? Why is it still in the focus of our attention?

First, the Treaty of Sevres came in the aftermath of World War I – one of the most dramatic chapters in human history – almost two years after its end. Just as the Treaty of Versailles established peace in Europe, in the same way, the Treaty of Sevres was meant to bring peace to the former Western Asian territories of the Ottoman Empire. It put an end to the war-driven sufferings and deprivations experienced by the peoples of our region. It heralded the end of the ‘cursed years.’

Like the Treaty of Versailles, the Treaty of Sevres shaped a new system of interstate relations in the region. It introduced new principles and values, which should have established not only lasting peace, but also justice in Western Asia.”

This is a quite extraordinary statement on a number of counts. First of all, the idea that “the Treaty of Versailles established peace in Europe” is just ridiculous. Most historians would suggest it led, indirectly or directly, to the Second World War, within a generation, and the deaths of over 50 million people. A century before Versailles, the Treaty of Vienna, after the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, preserved the peace in Europe for nearly a hundred years. Versailles made sure that “the war to end all wars” created an even more catastrophic world war soon after.

The Treaty of Versailles was a dictated peace, imposed on the vanquished in Europe. Its sister, the Treaty of Sevres, was the version meant for Asia Minor and the Middle East. It was superseded by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. As a publication of Chatham House noted in 1942 of Lausanne:

“All things considered, a contributor to the History of the Peace Conference of Paris is probably justified in predicting that the Treaty inaugurated a more lasting settlement than any other that followed the War. It was not imposed but negotiated, and in that fact lie hopeful prospects for its permanence.” (G.M. Galthorne-Hardy, A Short History of International Affairs, 1920-1939, p.115)

Having seen the disaster of Versailles the British came to acknowledge that the Treaty of Lausanne was a fortunate development in replacing the Treaty that they had originally attempted to impose on the Turks at Sevres.

The Treaty of Lausanne still stands today, one of the most successful peace treaties in world history. But the Armenians would have preferred the diktat it replaced, which Mustafa Kemal buried in the dust. Why? Because it would have given them more territory and that is all that matters to an Armenian. The peace, stability and security of the rest of the world can “go hang”.

Armenian PM Pashinyan continues in praise of Sevres:

“The Treaty was anchored on the most advanced ideas of the time. It specifically highlighted the principle of self-determination and equality of peoples. It put an end to the centuries-old subjugation imposed by empires, bringing freedom and independence to the peoples of the region. Moreover, by granting peoples the right to establish nation-states in their historical territories, it created favorable conditions for peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Christians in the region, promoted and further developed the region’s cultural and ethnic diversity.”

Few if any historians would agree with his view that Sevres “was anchored on the most advanced ideas of the time… the principle of self-determination and equality of peoples” that “put an end to the centuries-old subjugation imposed by empires, bringing freedom and independence to the peoples of the region.”

It certainly paid lip-service to these slogans that had been trumpeted across the world in order to recruit other peoples in the service of the Great War on Germany and the Ottomans, but which were never applied by the Imperialists themselves in their own empires (Ireland, India, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt etc. etc.) Sevres was at heart an Imperialist reordering of the region that paid little attention to local conditions or the views of its peoples. The Imperialists drew the maps in London and Paris and made their lines in the sand in negotiation only with each other, attempting to pass off the less valuable and more dangerous tracts of land, including “Armenia”, to the Americans.

Sèvres had little to do with democracy or self-determination. Where were the plebiscites for example? And it made nations of peoples who had never demanded to be nations before 1914 and who had lived lives of general contentment before the West decided that their places of habitation should form another battlefield in their world war and be reordered afterwards to suit Imperialist interests.

Perhaps Pashinyan is of the belief that “favorable conditions for peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Christians in the region” could have been produced by the continued presence, over decades, of British, French, Italian and Greek armies. But I doubt that the rest of humanity would agree with him and his definition of “peaceful coexistence” – which seems to be more on the lines of Western Powers keeping Muslims down by armed force, in the interests of Armenia, than anything else.

Pashinyan argues that another good feature of Sevres was that it

“… was the first international document to recognize and enshrine Armenia’s independence. The Republic of Armenia acted as an equal party to the Treaty. Centuries after the loss of independence, the Armenian authorities for the first time signed an international treaty along with the world’s great powers. The Republic of Armenia was recognized as a full member of the international community, an equal subject of international law within the limits set out in the Treaty. Being a party to the Treaty, Armenia and its people were recognized as key contributors to the victory of the Allies in World War I and the establishment of peace. The Treaty highlighted and properly assessed the role of the Armenian people in international relations and in the post-war global governance.”

Well Armenia might have imagined it was an equal party to those it had enlisted in its cause but it was brought down to earth soon afterwards when none of its equal allies defended the Treaty, or afterwards defended Armenia against the Bolsheviks. By then Armenia had been thanked for its services to the cause in throwing in its lot to destroy the Ottoman State, and providing good moral propaganda for the taking away of Ottoman territory by the Imperialists. Lloyd George had grown tired of the ridiculous territorial claims and lies of the Armenians and decided they were of no further use, and good riddance to them indeed. It is all in the British archives if Pashinyan cares to read about it.

What was this “post-war global governance” that Armenia formed a part of? The League of Nations, which after recognising Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia did little or nothing to defend them from the Red Army? The same body that Britain gave up on and used as an instrument in the inter-war years and which failed miserably to do its main job and keep the peace of the world?

The Armenian PM concludes with the following:

“… in its Article 89, the Treaty of Sevres reaffirmed our nation’s indisputable historical association with the Armenian Highland, wherein the Armenian people had originated, lived, developed their statehood and culture for millenia… The establishment of the independent Armenian statehood in its ancestral homeland was the fair solution of the Armenian Question. Historical justice was being restored. Favorable conditions were created for reinstating our people’s economic and demographic potential and ensuring its natural development.”

Unfortunately for the Armenians the world does not see itself through Armenian eyes. The Imperialist Powers went across the world over centuries, uprooting and removing countless peoples from their ancestral homelands”, destroying ancient cultures with impunity. The Armenians inhabited an area, as a minority, which was of little interest to the West but of more strategic value to Russia. And that is why the Bolsheviks walked in and saved the Armenians from complete disaster a little after Sevres.

The Treaty of Sevres was actually a disaster for the Armenians. More than anything else it motivated the Turks to fight. It produced the alliance between Ankara and Moscow that put paid to “Armenia”. It convinced the United States that Congress had been right to let its idealist President draw his little maps of Great Armenia to occupy his decline, whilst America took care not to drink from a poisoned chalice. And Britain ditched it all, along with Lloyd George, in favour of something that recognised reality, at Lausanne.

For some reason the Armenian mind can see none of this. It is so self-absorbed and self-contained, without understanding of the rest of humanity, unless it can do something for Armenia. Only such a mentality could see anything positive in the Treaty of Sevres.

Update: At the time of writing Mr Pashinyan’s bringing of the Treaty of Sevres onto the political agenda was thought to have little political implication. However, after 4 weeks of war and the defeats of Armenian forces in occupied Karabakh the implication is clearer. An Armenian observer, Jirair Libaridian (who was, from 1991 to 1997, senior adviser to the former President of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, and was closely involved in the negotiations over Karabakh) insightfully pointed out:

“Last month Armenia made the Sevres Treaty an important part of the country’s foreign policy. For Turkey that became the most important part. I don’t know if our leaders did so knowingly, but the statements by the President and Prime Minister of Armenia were equivalent to a declaration of at least diplomatic war against Turkey. And that, against the Turkey with a dangerous leader such as Erdogan. By adopting the Treaty of Sevres as an instrument of foreign policy Armenia placed the demand of territories from Turkey on its agenda. This was possibly the last step that will, in the eyes of our opponents and the international community, define the Karabagh problem as a question of territorial expansion, setting aside the right of self-determination of our people in Artsakh  as the basis of our policy. And that revanchist approach depends so much on the sympathy of that same international community to see its demands satisfied. That which is considered “the solution to the Armenian Question” by some is regarded by the international community as inane, at the least. Is it not time to stop harming our chances of resolving the real problems we face with what we say and do for internal consumption?”

Read more of this article at: https://www.aravot-en.am/2020/09/01/263436/?fbclid=IwAR3OSx3iSU910LevncRWf4VIAuMMnwZaBepd35kG73Fsk8h8Xv2MUYr4eMs

© 1998 – 2020 Aravot – Armenian News/

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Independent Ireland Problem of Northern Ireland

Bobby Storey: First Among Equals

The funeral of Volunteer Bobby Storey has created something of a palaver. Palavers, of course, are not unusual in the weird political construct of ‘Northern Ireland’. They are the very stuff of the communal grind and they gain extra purchase when they occur within one of the two communal blocs rather than between the two. Condemnations of a Republican show of force at a funeral are nothing new from Unionism. The interesting thing is the reaction within the Catholic community.

The view that has been expressed within the media by some ordinary, decent, right-thinking Catholics, and given extensive publicity, is that some people are more equal than others. For months relatives have had to put up with harsh restrictions in burying their loved ones, due to the Covid restrictions, and been instructed by the Executive, including the Sinn Fein leader of the North, to desist from normal practice associated with grieving. Seeing Sinn Fein flouting the directives given to the masses and doing its own thing with its own has angered a section of the community and this anger has been extensively aired in the media and latched on to by those who wish to do Sinn Fein ill, for various reasons.

The anger is understandable at a personal level. But surely, at the political level it is a case of first among equals rather than some being more equal than others. The sending off of Bobby Storey had every appearance of a State Funeral, a special event that had a status above the temporary circumstances which now regulate ordinary behaviour for individuals. If H.M. the Queen or another important Royal were to die would the restrictions imposed on the masses be applied? I very much doubt it. And there is little doubt that Bobby Storey was very special indeed in relation to the achievement of the current position of the Catholic community and the resurgence which brought it to a position of equality within ‘Northern Ireland’.

Bobby Storey was the most vigorous of spirits within that resurgence – ordinary in so many ways but special all the same. He was the embodiment of the struggle in most of its forms. From when he joined the IRA, during the high point of the Republican offensive, between Internment and the fall of Stormont, he was in the thick of the action – fighting gun battles with Crown forces, attempting to spring comrades from gaol in helicopters, serving nearly 20 years in gaol himself, organising the Great Escape of 1983, directing large and flamboyant operations like the taking over of Belfast docks by volunteers, when fleets of lorries were brought from South Armagh, to offload the captured goods to be taken south, and directing intelligence operations in the crucial period after 1998.

Could anyone within the demoralised and beaten community of the early 1960s imagine such things? Their occurrence helped demoralise the Unionist political class and their ascendancy over the Catholic community and forced the real Power in the Land to exact structural change that equalised relations between the two communities.

I have seen Bobby Storey compared to a number of figures by the political adversaries of Gerry Adams. Ed Moloney of Boston Project infamy called him “Gerry Adams’ Beria” and “Luca Brasi with brains” after the character from The Godfather. All very predictable from Moloney. Former comrade, Anthony McIntyre, compared him to Richard Mulcahy “an IRB and subsequent IRA leader who became a key player in the violent enforcement of the Treaty against those who maintained fidelity to a republican project.”

McIntyre described Storey as “an immensely courageous and determined IRA volunteer who invariably led from the front… A man of immense practical intelligence coupled with a tactical verve and… remarkably bereft of all political and strategic acumen… It is not that Bobby Storey abandoned everything he ever believed in. Politically, there was extraordinarily little he did believe in other than the IRA… His politics were those of armed resistance to the British state. When that ceased he was left with no politics… he became an enforcer for the Adams political career project.”

McIntyre rejected comparisons with Michael Collins made by some, founded on Storey’s role as Head of IRA Intelligence. Actually comparisons with Collins are very instructive. Certainly Storey was more of a fighter/soldier than Collins and spent much more time in British gaols. An argument could be made that he was an even more effective director of intelligence than Collins within the situation he operated. But his great attribute was actually the fact that he left the politics to others and then implemented agreed decisions to great effect. If Collins had left the politics to DeValera in 1921, and not engaged in statesmanship himself, on a unilateral basis, would the movement have been split by the British in the way it was? And if Collins had left the fighting to his men in the countryside and not indulged in reckless bravado in West Cork he would have preserved himself as the indispensable element for his stepping stones to freedom.

Bobby Storey had an immense task entrusted to him when he was released from prison in 1998 after the Good Friday Peace settlement. It was to organise the Republican Army’s retreat from the battlefield in the transition from war to politics. Retreating from the battlefield whilst maintaining your forces in good order and discipline is one of the most difficult of military manoeuvres. Britain, which is the most martial state in history, is well aware of how armies have been destroyed, whilst being formerly undefeated, in such a manoeuvre. Micheline Kerney Walsh described it well in her masterpiece, ‘Destruction by Peace: Hugh O’Neill after Kinsale’ and Cardinal O’Fiaich, who wrote the preface, surely communicated its lessons to Charles Haughey and Fr. Reid and Gerry Adams, who were at that time developing a new peace with the British State. Germany in 1918 was also a good case in point, for a more recent British achievement.

There were two problems in successfully performing such a manoeuvre. Firstly, the British State and its various and myriad agencies naturally wished to destroy the force that it had failed to defeat in war and which now confronted it politically. Secondly, there was always the problem of the Republican forces fragmenting and being torn apart by Republican diehards who wished to maintain the traditional position and found it impossible to accept the prospect of a political transition to the final objective, for which the war had been fought. This element was bolstered by the fact that Republicans had maintained a hostile disposition to many of the things Sinn Fein began to embrace to secure the secondary objective of the war – the equalising agenda – in the transition to the final objective. And there was a long experience of “sell-outs” through participation in the systems that were pointed to in order to preserve the core of the movement from the virus of the political process.

If the British State had got the better of the Republican movement in this process the resurgence would have been rolled back and the community position of equality squandered. And there were certainly some within the ranks, and outside, who would have been happy at this and to have said: “I told youse so!” 

There was therefore a shadow war which had to be organised by Bobby Storey against the British in the IRA’s fighting retreat. Storey established a meticulous intelligence gathering operation with assets in many important places, and he ran sleepers in significant positions within key institutions. This shadow war comprised obscure events like the Castlereagh break-in, the Northern Bank Robbery, the Stormontgate spy ring etc. It was never quite clear who was involved in these mysterious events but they were probably combinations of British/Republican activities: British Intelligence attacks on the Republican position which were warded off by very competent responses directed largely by Bobby Storey. What was proved was that the IRA remained a fighting force, not to be taken lightly by its former foe, as it metamorphosed “from a caterpillar to a butterfly, and flew away”, in Bobby Storey’s imaginative phrase.

It would have given Bobby Storey great pleasure to have seen the Republican movement take control of an area of East Belfast, in alien and hostile territory, to complete his passing. It was an operation that he would have organised himself if he had remained at the helm, and he surely would have smiled at what was accomplished in his absence.

Irish Political Review August 2020

Categories
Armenia Azerbaijan Geopolitics Russia United States

Armenia Unbalanced

tavuz

The flare up of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which has resulted in a number of military and civilian deaths and fears of a new war in the region, is all about Armenia and its unbalancing since the coming to power of its present Prime Minister, Nicol Pashinyan.

There is a strong tendency in the West to ascribe responsibility for the latest conflagaration to both sides and the “historic and intractable” conflict between Armenians and Azeris. However, there are a number of reasons why we can be certain that this latest conflict has its origins in Armenia rather than in Azerbaijan.

Firstly, it is very significant that military engagements have occurred at Tovuz, along the actual border between the Republic of Armenia and Azerbaijan, 300km from the front lines between Azerbaijan and Armenian-occupied Nagorno Karabakh. Azerbaijan has no interest in fighting in this location and it would only be to its disadvantage to do so. Azerbaijan has no territorial claims against Armenia proper and would have little to gain in any offensive operations here. It was the next stretch of territory that Baku was intent on demilitarizing as part of the de-escalation plan the Azeri military was following. It is is also an important strategic region for Azerbaijan with its gas and oil pipeline supply to Europe running adjacent in the hinterland, toward the border with Georgia, as the new link of the Southern Gas Corridor is completed. Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, confirmed that it was Armenia’s decision to attempt to push up to a position within 15km of the Azerbaijani export pipeline that ignited the conflict.

A direct conflict with Armenia is also not in Azerbaijan’s interest. Armenia is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and could probably rely on Russian assistance if directly attacked on its sovereign territory. If Azerbaijan ever initiates conflict it will be in pursuit of the reincorporation of its national territory of Karabakh and other areas of Azerbaijan currently under Armenian occupation, which is internationally recognised as a part of the Azerbaijan Republic. Only Armenia has an interest in fighting on the Armenia/Azerbaijan borderline proper, perhaps to divert Azerbaijani forces from the front line with Karabakh or to engineer a conflict where it would have outside backing against the Azeris.

Interestingly, in early 2020 Matthew Bryza, the U.S. Co-Chairman of the OSCE Minsk group, charged with helping to negotiate a settlement of the Nagorno Karabagh conflict (and afterwards President Obama’s Ambassador to Azerbaijan) was asked how he saw the prospects of the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict in the course of an interview. He replied:

“2019 began pretty well with Prime Minister of Armenia Pashinyan, showing that he wanted maybe to do things in a new way. He wanted to take a new approach to the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. He had a good meeting with President Aliyev, in fact, a couple of meetings. And you may recall that two presidents were talking about the need to prepare their population for peace. They also strengthened ceasefire arrangements along the line of contact, trying to build confidence between the sides. Then something happened. Then the old political system of Armenia based on the so-called Karabakh clan struck back. It started to attack Pashinyan politically. They threatened him. Later in the middle of the year, he started to change the attitude of Armenia toward the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. He started saying things that were very unhelpful. Such as Karabakh has always been part of Armenia, or Karabakh is independent. By the way, those two things are contradictory. It can’t be independent and part of Armenia at the same time. In my experience with Karabakh, those things were never said by the Armenian government. Armenian government was always very careful. Very careful in terms of international law that recognizes that Karabakh actually is part of Azerbaijan legally. So now, with more recent statements, I am pessimistic because it looks like Pashinyan has been forced to move in a new direction that makes political settlement not possible. So, I am pessimistic this year.”

In the Madrid document of November 2008 Presidents Aliev of Azerbaijan and Sargsyan of Armenia had come to a private agreement on the framework for a settlement of  Karabakh and other territorial issues. When Pashinyan became Prime Minister he gave every indication that he was favourable to strengthening the ceasefire agreement and moving toward peace at the conference table. Pashinyan had seemingly broken the stranglehold of the Karabakh clan – those who had been credited with winning the war with Azerbaijan in 1993 and attained dominance in Yerevan on the back of their achievement – and promised a clean slate.

However, the new Prime Minster then unexpectedly declared that Madrid had been negotiated by “a previous regime” and he would have none of it. In March 2019 Pashinyan attempted to introduce the Nagorno Karabakh Armenians into the negotiation process, something that was contrary to the Minsk principles and which has been vigorously opposed by Azerbaijan since 1994. In the same month his Defence Minister, David Tonoyan talked of “new war for new territory” to a diaspora meeting in New York. A number of inflammatory statements were then made by Pashinyan himself, including “Nagorno Karabakh is Armenia” which suggested an intention of formal annexation by Yerevan. This was something that went against 4 UN Security Council Resolutions, and a statement that previous Armenian administrations had carefully avoided making in the interests of state.

Former Ambassador Bryza said that Pashinyan had effectively reversed course 180 degrees. The American put this change down to internal pressure and perhaps also pressure from some elements in Moscow (but not Putin, he stressed). He noted how the Deputy chairman of the committee of the State Duma for the CIS, Konstantin Zatulin, had made an extraordinary visit to Nagorno Karabakh in October last year where he declared, against official Russian policy, his support for the independence of the territory and his belief that Moscow would not be prepared to see its reincorporation into Azerbaijan. That was another novel event which suggested something strange was afoot between elements in Moscow and Yerevan. All these actions seemed designed to shoot down any prospect of proceeding toward a settlement.

Armenia is balanced between two forces – Russia, its protector, and its American diaspora, which provides it with important patronage and finance from the United States. Both elements are essential to the Armenian Republic’s continued existence and functioning, but the alliance with Russia is the more important prop, guaranteeing ultimate survival. The election of Pashinyan seems to have upset that balance, threatening to take Armenia away from its main source of protection, in a colour revolution.

Pashinyan, a former journalist, shot to power in May 2018 on an anti-corruption drive. Although Moscow initially welcomed his ascension to the Premiership and his promises to clean up the Yerevan stables he soon worried the Russians by targeting two former Presidents, who had been Moscow confidantes, and the incumbent Secretary General of CSTO. Ex-President Sargsyan, a military figure, was subsequently brought to trial on corruption charges by the new Prime Minister.

Worse still, Pashinyan also began to make overtures to NATO, inviting it at its July 2018 summit in Brussels, to get involved in keeping the peace in the Caucasus – which is very much seen as Russia’s sphere of influence.

Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Lavrov publicly signalled his displeasure at the threat to Armenia’s stability – indicating that this stability depended very much on Armenia’s relationship with Russia.

The pro-Russian Armenians point to the fact that Russia is indispensable to Armenia just as Armenia is geopolitically more than useful to Russia. Armenia probably only exists because of Russia, which built up and concentrated Armenian numbers in the area during the 19th Century in a process of colonisation designed to assist Russian expansion in the Southern Caucasus. In 1920 Moscow saved the Yerevan Republic from a disaster of its own making, ensuring its survival as a part of the Soviet Union. Russia protects Armenia’s Western frontier with Turkey so that Yerevan can concentrate its limited resources on the Karabakh/Azerbaijan front. Russia owns the Armenian energy system and infrastructure. Armenia’s border security is under Russian command. Its airspace is integrated into that of the CIS. In short, Armenia is in Russia’s pocket.

Whilst the Armenian diaspora in the U.S. is a useful source of finance and influence it would be of little help to Yerevan in a major war involving Turkey and Azerbaijan. Whilst there were high profile volunteers and assistance from the U.S. diaspora during the Karabakh war it was the Russian military provision after 1992, when Yeltsin stabilised things, that routed the Azeri army when it threatened to gain the upper hand in the war. When Gorbachev lost Azerbaijan through an incompetent handling of the settlement made by Stalin in the 1920s, Armenia became indispensable to it. It is a Russian base that acts as a fortress guarding the Southern Caucasus, with hostile Georgia, independent Azerbaijan, and its important Iranian ally around it. Azerbaijan, of course, separates Russia from Iran.

Russia’s policy since the 1994 ceasefire has always been to stir the Karabakh pot, keeping it simmering but prevent it from boiling over.

Moscow now sells armaments to Baku but it gives the same to Yerevan at little or no cost, to balance up the business it does with Azerbaijan. Clearly Moscow is also interested in maintaining leverage over Baku in order to curtail any drift it might make toward the West. It also has to act with care, mindful of its own large and growing Muslim population. Without Armenia and Karabakh Russian leverage would be much decreased, and be based almost entirely on the threat of military force.

It might be wondered why Armenia needs protection. The simple answer to that is that while it holds Karabakh and remains an irritant in the area, through its aggressive nationalism, Armenia is always likely to endanger not only the general stability of the region, but its very own existence. It therefore is very dependent on Russia.

Historically, Armenia has always set the agenda of conflict in the region. It is a discontented and unstable society which seems only to be able to hold itself effectively together by a continual striving for the territory of ‘historic Armenia’ and through a campaign of relentless hatred of Turks, now focused on the ‘Armenian Genocide’ campaign. It has certainly always been the agitator/aggressor in its conflict with the Azerbaijanis, whose state they recognise the existence of only with the utmost reluctance. Armenian aggression was the major feature in the 1918-21 period as well as more recently between 1988 and 1994, when the Armenians availed of the collapse of the Soviet Union to seize nearly 20 per cent of Azerbaijan, including Nagorno Karabakh and surrounding territories.

Azerbaijan has never initiated conflict with Armenia, but has always had to react to the aggressive activity of its more pro-active neighbour. It has often been taken by surprise, and been at a disadvantage as a result. Azerbaijan has tended to be a more conservative society, existing in greater contentment within any state authority that has existed – be it Tsarist Russia or the Soviet Union.  The Armenians organised major terrorist activity against the Tsarist authorities in the decade before the Great War of 1914 and had a significant part in bringing down the Soviet Union. Their attempt at insurrection against the Ottoman Empire, of course, was a reckless gamble that ended in disaster.

Azerbaijan has been trusting of international law and institutions since the establishment of the nation in 1918 and its de facto recognition by the League of Nations in early 1920. Baku produced democratic, constitutional government whilst military dictatorship was the norm in Yerevan. The Armenians are ultra-nationalists who have strived for racial purity and a homogeneous state whilst the Azeris established their nation largely in self-defence from the Armenians and their attempts at ethnic cleansing of mixed population areas. When the Azeris have been agitated to violence and killing it has always been the Armenians who have provoked them into a response.

It is not difficult to see who the aggressor is in the latest hostilities – all the evidence points to Yerevan, which alone has the incentive and motivation to provoke a conflict at this time and at the place it occurred.

Categories
Britain's Great War Geopolitics Germany Russia Turkey and Ottoman Empire United States

“Fatal Philanthropy” – James Bryce and the Armenians

Bryce

To understand the point of this article we need to revisit something that George Curzon (later Lord) said in the British Parliament. At the time Curzon was Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and he said it in the course of defending traditional British policy with regard to the Ottoman Empire, on behalf of Lord Salisbury’s Government:

“We were not prepared at any moment to go to war for the sake of Armenia. We were not prepared to plunge Europe into a Continental war for the sake of Armenia. We were not prepared to jeopardise the interests of this country and I will go further and say the interests of the Armenians themselves, in pursuit of… what might, in the last resort, have turned out to be a perilous, if not a fatal philanthropy. [Loud Cheers.]” [1]

James Bryce both personified what Curzon called “fatal philanthropy” and did much to realise such a thing in reality, in relation to the Armenians.

Firstly, in discussing this issue we should say something about the importance of James Bryce. Bryce was a tremendously gifted all-rounder: a Historian, jurist, and statesman. He was Regius Professor of civil law at Oxford University, 1870-1893. In his political career he was elected as a Liberal MP in 1880 and from 1885 to 1907 he was Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs; he was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1892); and President of the Board of Trade (1894–95). He became Chief Secretary for Ireland (1905-6), British Ambassador to the United States (1907–13) and the President of British Academy (1913-17) during the Great War. He was also involved in the establishment of the League of Nations, and served at the International Court at The Hague.

He was author of a large amount of publications including most ntably The Holy Roman Empire (1864), Transcaucasia and Ararat (1877), The American Commonwealth (1888), Modern Democracy (1921) and many other works, including a large output of pamphlets of a propagandist nature during the Great War.

Bryce’s background is instructive regarding the formation of his “fatal philanthropy”. Bryce was born in Belfast 1838, a city in the North East of Ireland that was strongly Unionist and pro-British. Justin McCarthy, the 19th Century Irish historian, noted the following about him in his pen-portraits of British politicians:

“I may say also that James Bryce is not first and above all other things a public man and a politician. He does not seem to have thought of a Parliamentary career until after he had won for himself a high and commanding position as a writer of history. Bryce is by birth an Irishman and belongs to that northern province of Ireland which is peopled to a large extent by Scottish immigrants… James Bryce has always been an Irish Nationalist since he came into public life, and has shown himself, whether in or out of political office, a steady and consistent supporter of the demand for Irish Home Rule. Indeed, I should be well inclined to believe that a desire to render some personal service in promoting the just claims of Ireland for a better system of government must have had much influence over Bryce’s decision to accept a seat in the House of Commons.”[2]

Bryce was from an Ulster/Scottish Protestant (Presbyterian) family. Unusually for a Protestant in Ireland, he was in favour of Irish Home Rule (autonomy). In British politics he was a Gladstonian Liberal with a strongly Christian moralistic view of world.

Bryce was also a noted mountain climber, and it is said, the first European to climb Mount Ararat in 1876. There he believed he found evidence of the remains of Noah’s Ark.

So, almost everything in his background would have endeared Bryce to the Armenian cause. He became the first president of the Anglo-Armenian society, in 1893.

Bryce’s connection with the Armenians begins with his travels to Ararat and the publication of ‘Transcaucasia and Ararat’ in 1877. In this book, written during the 1877 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[3] and the Ottomans as a dying government.[4] Conversely, he suggested that the Armenians were the most industrious and clever race in the region[5] – the highest form of civilisation there.

However, Bryce noted a number of things that made the construction of nations out of the peoples of the Ottoman Empire problematic. Firstly: “They have no patriotism, in our sense of the word, for they have neither a historic past… nor a country they can call exclusively their own…”[6] Secondly: “Religion is everything… and… is not a fusing  but a separating, alienating, repellent force.”[7]

Bryce also admitted that the Armenians were a scattered people surrounded by a great Moslem majority within the Ottoman territories. He described them as timid and lacking in national spirit[8] with “no political aspiration.” [9]However, Bryce felt affronted as a Christian that the Armenians should be ruled by what he considered to be their inferiors within humankind. He seems, like other British Liberals, to believe that an Islamic state should not exist in the world, in principle.

Bryce made clear his desire that England should somehow take what he saw as a special people in hand and lead them to nationhood:

“England may save the Sultan from foreign invaders, she may aid him to supress internal revolts; but she will not thereby arrest that sure and steady process of decay which makes his government more and more powerless for anything but evil. She may delay, but she cannot prevent, the arrival, after another era of silent oppression, varied by insurrections and massacres, of a day when the Turkish Empire will fall to pieces, and its spoils be shared by powerful neighbours or revengeful subjects… Further delay… may wreck the chance that yet remains of relieving these unhappy peoples from their load of misery, as well as of regaining and strengthening the legitimate influence of England in the East.”[10]

This passage shows how Bryce blended the humanitarian concerns of Liberalism in with Imperialist expansionism. This was an early manifestation of an Imperial ethical foreign policy.

Despite the fact that Russia was much more likely to support the Armenians than Britain Bryce ruled out the possibility of this because he believed the Tsar would not tolerate an Armenian state and the Russians were not civilised themselves, for such a task.[11]

Bryce’s book was a best-seller and went to 4 editions. It was republished in 1896, with a new chapter. In this update Bryce argued that in the 2 decades since the first edition Russian expansion in the region, the effects of Protestant missionary activity in the Ottoman Empire and the British assertion of the right of interference had greatly encouraged the Armenians into a more nationalist spirit. [12]Although Bryce, as a good Liberal, condemned the violence of Dashnak activity in the 1890s, he went along with their political objectives and in many respects surpassed them.

Bryce suggested that the problem the Armenians faced was that international pressure had not been maintained on the Ottoman Government since the Treaty of Berlin and that the situation had stabilised, leaving the civilised Christian Armenians stuck under uncivilised Moslem rule.[13] He was loathed to criticise his own government for this inaction, although it was evident that Britain, in its traditional policy of checking Russian expansion, was the main culprit in this. British Liberals, like Bryce, took their own Empire as the highest form of civilisation and progress in the world and were loathed to criticise it.

In an article published in ‘The Century’ periodical around this time Bryce described the Turks as “worse than savages,” who would only respond to “fear”. He lamented that the “speedy extinction of the Turkish power by natural causes” was not a foreseeable prospect.[14]

In 1897 Bryce published ‘Impressions of South Africa.’ The 19th Century historian, Justin McCarthy, writing after the British conquest of South Africa, made a comment of interest on this work:

“The warning which Bryce gave, and gave in vain, to the English Government and the English majority, was a warning against the credulous acceptation of one-sided testimony, against the fond belief that the proclamation of Imperialism carried with it the right to intervene in the affairs of every foreign State, and against the theory that troops and gold mines warrant any enterprise.”[15]

And yet the very opposite position characterised Bryce’s position with regard to British intervention in the Ottoman Empire. The only logical explanation for this is that Bryce baulked at intervening against the devout fundamentalist Christian Boers while he had no such compunction about military force being applied against Muslims.

The American connection is a very important aspect of Bryce and something that really gave his “fatal philanthropy” political traction. Bryce had 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.

Bryce’s links with academics and politicians in the US 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 the development of its Anglo-Saxon offspring and the real probability that it would become the major force in the world. Britain needed, above all, influence over this coming force, if it could not prevent its emergence. Whilst as Ambassador Bryce developed a strong affinity with Woodrow Wilson, another Ulster-Scots Presbyterian, who entered the White House in 1913. These factors added to Bryce’s growing political leverage in the US.

This was a very important period in British/US relations. Britain was re-orientating its Foreign Policy, preparing and making covert plans for war on Germany and the Ottoman Empire. Bryce was sent from the British Cabinet to sweeten the US. It was a very unusual appointment in the sense that members of the British executive are never made into Ambassadors. It indicates the importance in which Britain viewed the US during this period that Bryce was removed from the British Cabinet and sent to Washington. On his return he was made a Viscount of the Empire for his services, becoming Lord Bryce.

The key to understanding Lord Bryce’s desire to provide his services to the Imperial State as a propagandist during the Great War lies in his general attitude to war. In a letter to James Ford Rhodes, on August 1st, 1914, Bryce reacted to the European war describing it as “the most tremendous and horrible calamity that has ever befallen mankind.”[16]

Bryce, as a Gladstonian Liberal, initially opposed the Great War and felt he had to justify his subsequent support for it. Liberalism suffered a great moral collapse during July/August 1914 in the face of the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey’s, revelations of the secret arrangements and contingencies he had made for war against Germany with France and Russia on the eve of the conflict. [17]The Liberal opponents of entering the war within Grey’s Party were faced with the dilemma of choosing whether to support the war in the face of the Liberal Imperialist fait accompli of waging a war, with or without their Liberal base, because the Liberal Government had already secured the support of the Opposition front benches for its war. Liberal support was secured by the Germany entry into Belgium.

To justify his support for the war Bryce, like other Liberals, had to present the Great War as being about something it was not in order to justify his own support for it. So he joined the moral campaign against England’s enemies and produced propaganda describing the war in fundamentalist Christian terms as a great struggle of good over evil in which there were no grounds for staying out of the conflict. In such a conflict propaganda was essential to fight the good fight and triumph over evil.[18]

In entering the European war the Liberals helped Britain state its aims in the grandest universalistic terms that were idealistic in the extreme. These aims were not only idealistic and unachievable but they were also quite fraudulent. The objective of the Liberal propaganda, on behalf of the British State, was to show to the world that Britain was fighting a good war against an evil that had to be vanquished. The war was proclaimed as being for “civilisation against the Barbarian”, for “democracy” against “Prussianism”. And it was also supposedly a “war for small nations” for “poor little Belgium.” However, this moral veneer disguised the real character of the war. It had been planned for nearly a decade to cut down a rising commercial competitor in the long-standing tradition of the British Balance of Power policy.

So Lord Bryce and his fellow Liberals helped promote a great moral campaign against England’s enemies. This involved utilising their own talents for moral outrage in the production of propaganda. Bryce presented the Great War as a new type of war. In the great amount of war propaganda Bryce produced in favour of it he described England’s participation in the War as self-less, wholly honourable and moral – to rid the world of the great evils of the Prussian German and then the Ottoman Turk.[19]  In such a moral conflict propaganda was essential and the Blue Book and propaganda about the Armenians should be viewed within this context.

Bryce’s general war propaganda was designed to impress neutral nations into the conflict so that the War could be extended across the earth by Britain. This was because the Triple Entente proved incapable of winning it without widening it and Liberals like Bryce were reluctant to support military Conscription in England, even for such a moral war. So they concentrated their efforts on encouraging others to do England’s fighting, and conquering for it. A particular target was America, which was seen as a great democracy, as opposed to the Tsarist autocracy which embarrassed British Liberals as an ally.[20]

Bryce’s war propaganda contains so many falsehoods and untruths that anything he wrote during the Great War must come under suspicion. Certainly there is substantial evidence of him exaggerating the enemy’s conduct of the war and minimising, or totally denying, the activities of his own government and its allies.[21]

Early in 1915, the British government, through its Attorney General, asked Bryce to oversee a Royal Commission to investigate the atrocity reports that had appeared in the British press regarding the Germans in Belgium.[22] Bryce was perfect for this role, being one of the best known historians of the time, with a background in human rights. He had collaborated with Roger Casement, to expose the exploitation of Indian peoples on the Amazon by a rubber company, establishing an international reputation as a result of his work.

The German atrocity propaganda was so successful that the secret British Department of State, Wellington House[23], commissioned Bryce to construct a similar case against the Ottomans.  Attention to the Armenians became a war issue in Britain after 6th October 1915 when Lord Bryce made his second speech in the House of Lords about the forced removals and alleged massacres in the central and eastern Anatolia.

This new publication, in 1916, was a ‘report’ issued under the title ‘The Treatment Of Armenians In The Ottoman Empire, 1915-1916’, which became known as “The Blue Book.” [24]It was a collaboration between Arnold Toynbee, a noted young historian and member of the Charles F. Masterman Propaganda Bureau and Viscount Bryce. Bryce, though probably not a member of Wellington House himself, was the important link between the Propaganda Bureau and the US.

Bryce became the organiser of, and figurehead for, the Blue Book rather than the author or writer. In contrast to his earlier anti-Turkish work on behalf of the Armenians the Blue Book was not a private enterprise on Bryce’s part but a government project. Most material used in “The Blue Book” was supplied to Lord Bryce by the U.S. Ambassador in Istanbul, Henry Morgenthau, who, not knowing Turkish, relied heavily on his Armenian secretaries.[25] Accounts were gathered mainly from Armenian sources, or people sympathetic to the Armenians, often at second or third-hand, with the help of Morgenthau, who had never left the Ottoman capital for Anatolia. The same “witnesses” appeared under multiple pseudonyms. Bryce forwarded this information to Toynbee to be included in the report. Bryce wrote the introduction to give it a high intellectual standing in the US.

The validity of the data could not be verified, even by the official authors. The Blue Book was characterised by the use of anonymous American missionary sources described as ‘American traveller’ etc. who had an interest in defaming the Muslims. There were 150 documents attributed to “impeccable sources”, 59 of Missionary origin and 52 from individual Armenians or newspapers. The identity of the sources of information was only discovered in unrelated files in the British archives. A quarter of the sources identified were unknown even to the writer, Toynbee. No physical record of the original information/writings has been found. [26]

The accuracy and reliability of the accounts were secondary considerations, however. The point of the Blue Book was the production of propaganda. The British historian Trevor Wilson notes that in compiling atrocity propaganda Bryce was confronted with a dilemma. If he was scrupulous in establishing the validity of accounts, as a historian should be, and failed, he would be conveying the impression that the allegations were unfounded. He was, therefore, forced into using information that was suspect and unproven, in order to maintain the moral war.[27]

A letter, dated 11th May 1916 and written by Arnold Toynbee to Lord Bryce gives some indication of how the propaganda was constructed to create distance between the propagandists and the British Government it was being written for:

“If you were to send these documents with an introductory note to Sir Edward Grey and say that they have been prepared under your supervision, that they are trustworthy, then your letter would be published by the Foreign Office as an official document, and the documents would constitute an appendix to your letter. The problem of publication would thus be solved. While giving the book an official character, it would free the Foreign Secretary from the obligation to take upon himself the probing of the accuracy of every matter mentioned in these documents.”[28]

The Blue Book was issued by the British Government and presented formally in Parliament by Bryce as an official publication in order to lend it more authenticity and credibility. Toynbee considered it as “the biggest asset of His Majesty’s Government to solve the Turkish problem in a radical manner, and to have it accepted by the public”[29]

The British Government chose well in the man to provide the Blue Book’s figurehead. The Washington Post said “No man in Europe commands a more sympathetic audience in America than Viscount Bryce.”[30] Herbert Asquith and Stanley Baldwin, both former Prime Ministers, in a joint memorial, presented in 1924 to the then Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, stated that “The Blue Book” was “widely used for Allied propaganda in 1916-17, and had an important influence upon American opinion and the ultimate decision of President Woodrow Wilson to enter the war”. [31]

Sir Roger Casement, Bryce’s former colleague in investigating atrocities in South America, took a different view of Bryce’s war work. He condemned Bryce for selling himself as a hireling propagandist. According to Casement, Lord Bryce, had presided over a government body “directed to one end only”:

“the blackening of the character of those with whom England was at war… given out to  the world of neutral peoples as the pronouncement of an impartial court seeking only to discover and reveal the truth.”[32]

Casement particularly criticised Bryce’s methods of reporting atrocities. He noted that in relation to the reporting of Belgian atrocities in the Congo he had investigated these reports “on the spot at some little pain and danger to myself” whilst Bryce had “inspected with a very long telescope.”[33]

Casement continued with a point that is very relevant to any estimation of the validity of the Blue Book:

“I have investigated more bona fide atrocities at close hand than possibly any other living man. But unlike Lord Bryce, I investigated them on the spot, from the lips of those who had suffered, in the very places where the very crimes were perpetuated, where the evidence could be sifted and the accusation brought by the victim could be rebutted by the accused; and in each case my finding was confirmed by the Courts of Justice of the very States whose citizens I had indicted.”[34]

Casement added: “It is only necessary to turn to James Bryce the historian to convict James Bryce the partisan…”[35]

Casement wrote the above about Bryce’s work on the German atrocities but the criticism stands equally against the companion work directed at the Ottomans. Sir Roger was incapable of commenting directly on the Blue Book since he had been hanged by the British in 1916 as a traitor, for doing in Ireland what Bryce and other British Liberals had supported the Armenian revolutionaries in doing within the Ottoman Empire. Casement had followed through on the principles of small nations on which the war was supposedly being fought by Britain and advertised by Bryce. But Casement was found to be a traitor whilst the Armenians and others who went into insurrection were lauded as patriots in England.

A comparison between Bryce’s attitude and actions with regard to Ireland and Armenia are interesting and expose the hypocrisy at the heart of British Liberalism.

With regard to Ireland: Bryce had been Chief Secretary for Ireland, championing Irish Home Rule before he was a member of the government. But when in office he failed to provide the country with even this small measure of autonomy. It took a hung parliament, when British government was paralysed and dependent on Irish MPs to stay in office, for the Liberal Government to produce a Bill for Irish Home Rule in 1912, and that was suspended and never actually implemented. The Irish had to fight for their freedom after the war, after voting overwhelmingly for it in 1918.[36]

On the island of Ireland 80% of the people wanted some form of independence from Britain. That was shown during the 1918 General Election. The Protestant Colonial element of 20% who wanted to stay part of the UK was concentrated locally in the north-east corner of the island. The Liberals failed in government to provide Ireland even with a regional parliament within the UK and Bryce defended this denial afterwards, when a clear democratic basis obviously existed for it. Such a policy could have been carried through peacefully in the bulk of the island by Britain if it had had the courage of its Liberal convictions.

However, with regard to the Armenians Bryce said that they should be a nation even though he himself admitted there was no demographic basis for such a development. In the area the Armenians sought for a state no where did they constitute a majority. They represented less than 20% of the population in the “Magna Armenia” they claimed in 1918/9 and probably much less. Still, Bryce aimed to create a nation when he knew the Armenians were a scattered people, lacking a democratic basis for nationhood. Only through war and great ethnic cleansing of the majority Muslim population, and perhaps what is now called “genocide” could an Armenian state of any size be constituted and maintained within Ottoman territory.

The fact cannot be avoided that Liberals like Bryce bear great responsibility for the catastrophe suffered by the Armenians because they encouraged dangerous notions of unrealisable nationalism among the revolutionaries. They also encouraged Armenians to believe England would assist them militarily to realise their ambitions and produced propaganda that provoked great antagonism between Muslim and Armenian.

However, Bryce and the other Liberals were merely the moralistic wing of the British Imperial State. They were not its substance. Their role within the Imperial State was to encourage others to fight in a war that was not in reality what it was pretended to be. The War was really a Balance of Power war to destroy a commercial competitor and accumulate territory for the British Empire at the expense of the Ottomans and the Muslim world. Within such a war the Armenians only mattered for England as cannon-fodder and useful propaganda material for the British.

As Sir Roger Casement wrote in November 1915:

“The English, having called up the storm for their own ends, left their victims to the deluge. And now, when the waves have subsided, again for their own ends, their paid and ennobled beach combers go out to scavenge amid the wreakage cast up on distant shores, in the hope of finding enough to soil the honour of those they ran away from… Lord Bryce’s name will be associated not with that Holy Roman Empire he sought to recall by scholarly research, but with that unholy Empire he sought to sustain in the greatest of its crimes by lending the weight of a great name, and prostituting great attainments to an official campaign of slander, defamation and calumny conducted on a scale unparalleled in any war…”[37]

The Armenians found this out at their cost after the Russian collapse and paid a terrible price for the great fraud perpetuated against them, as did others around the world, for the “fatal philanthropy” of British Liberalism.

Footnotes

[1] Hansard, British House of Commons, 3.3.1896

[2] British Political Leaders, p.286

[3] Transcaucasia and Ararat, p.423

[4] ibid, p.428

[5] ibid, p.430

[6], ibid, pp.414-5

[7] ibid

[8] ibid, p.482

[9] ibid, p.466

[10] ibid, pp. 441-4

[11] ibid, p.441

[12] ibid, pp. 468-9

[13] ibid, p.471

[14] The Armenian Question,” The Century, 51/1, November 1895

[15] British Political Leaders, p.291

[16] H.A.L. Fisher, James Bryce, Vol II, p.125

[17]  See Irene Willis, England’s Holy War, pp.86-90

[18]  ibid p.90

[19] See Viscount Bryce, Essays and Addresses in Wartime for a collection of his speeches of a propagandist nature. These contain many untruths. See Dr. Pat Walsh, The Armenian Insurrection and the Great War, pp. 201-4, for a discussion on this aspect.

[20] ibid

[21] ibid

[22] Gary S. Messinger, British Propaganda and the State in the First World War, p. 81.

[23] See M.L. Sanders, Historical Journal, XVIII, 1975, Wellington House and British Propaganda during the First World War. Unfortunately documents of the Office of War Propaganda remain sealed by Britain.

[24] For more on this see also Dr. Pat Walsh, Britain’s Great War on Turkey – An Irish Perspective, pp. 192-208

[25] See Heath Lowry, The Story behind Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story

[26] See Justin McCarthy, The Turk in America, pp.235-9, for a full discussion about the Bryce Report and authenticity of sources.

[27] Lord Bryce’s investigation into alleged German atrocities in Belgium, Journal of Contemporary History, July 1979, p.381

[28] FO 96/205: Toynbee Papers.

[29] Public Records Office, FO 71/3404/162647, p.2

[30] 28.1.17

[31] See Mosa Anderson, Noel Buxton: A Life, pp.81 and 110; Bodleian Library, Toynbee Papers, box on Armenian Memorial, 26.9.1924

[32] The Far Extended Baleful Power of the Lie, Continental Times, 3.11.1915

[33] ibid

[34] ibid

[35] ibid

[36]  See Viscount Bryce, The Attitude of Great Britain in the Present War, pp. 7-8, for a defence of a denial of Ireland’s right to nationhood

[37] The Far Extended Baleful Power of the Lie, Continental Times, 3.11.1915

Categories
Germany Turkey and Ottoman Empire

Muslim Lives Matter!

This is another in the TAFSO (New York based Turkish-American Security Foundation) interview series; German Political Scientist, Dr. Christian Johannes Henrich. It is of specific interest in relation to information concerning the Swiss Historian Professor Hans-Lukas Kieser whose book on Talaat Pasha I recently reviewed.

Dr. Henrich studied Political Science, Sociology and Economics in Siegen, Bonn, Innsbruck and Bursa with his dissertation being in Political Science and International Relations. His dissertation was titled: “Die türkische Außenpolitik 2002-2012 – Die Türkei zwischen regionalem Hegemonieanspruch und Nullproblempolitik am Beispiel der türkisch-armenischen Beziehungen” (En. “Turkish Foreign Policy 2002-2012 – Turkey between Claim of Regional Hegemony and Zero Problem Policy on the Example of the Turkish-Armenian Relations”). Dr. Henrich is currently The Director of the Research Center for Southeast Europe and Caucuses (SOEK), a habilitation student and lecturer at University of Vechta for Political Science, and a lecturer at FOM University of Applied Science for Business Administration, Economics and Sociology.

How did you become interested in the so-called Armenian genocide issue and begin researching on the matter?

It started with finding a topic for my master thesis. I wanted to work on something exciting that people do not know that much about in Germany. I knew the term “genocide of the Armenians” from the collective memory in Germany but had no detailed knowledge on it. I started asking my Turkish friends how they dealt with “their Holocaust”. I discovered that nobody in my circle of friends recognized it. I asked religious and more secular, left, right and apolitical, educated and uneducated Turks. No one accepted the term genocide. Compared to the perception of the Holocaust in Germany, this is a phenomenon. In Germany, only a few extremely right-wing neo-Nazis deny the genocide of Europe’s Jews. This broad social consensus in Turkey, of not accepting the term genocide, aroused my curiosity.

In your opinion, why do the Armenians allege that they have been subjected to a so-called genocide in 1915?

In my view, the allegations of genocide have been an issue in the Armenian diaspora from the very start. I lived in Turkey for three years, including a year in Istanbul in an Armenian neighborhood. Neither my Armenian neighbors nor the representative of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople, nor the people in the Armenian Community in Hatay supported these allegations. The voices I heard here coincided with the attestation of the first Armenian Prime Minister Hovhannes Katchaznouni, who acquitted the Turks at a Dashnak Party Conference in 1923 and made references to Armenian massacres against the Muslim civilian population.

In my view, governments and parliaments of other countries should stay away from this topic. And Turkey and Armenia should first discuss these open questions unconditionally and openly with the support of scientists. The topic is being used by the Armenian Disapora and some western politicians to stir up resentments against Turkey. There is structural anti-Islamic racism in western countries, which is cherished and cared for by various people.

There is significant evidence in the Turkish Ottoman Archives to suggest that Armenian gangs have perpetrated unprecedented massacres and massive atrocities against the Turkish and other Muslim peoples in Turkey and in Caucuses in 1915-1923. Why, in your opinion, does the Christian World choose to ignore these atrocities perpetrated by Armenians?

As previously mentioned, the former Dashnak fighter and latter Prime Minister of Armenia (Katchaznouni) confirmed the outrages against Turks, Kurds and Arabs in Eastern Anatolia. He bases it on blind trust in Russia.          However, these parts of the story are hidden. You will hardly find a book by a western author that mentions the Muslim victims through Armenian and Russian massacres. Professor Justin McCarthy is an important exception here.

Following a lecture by the Swiss Historian Professor Hans-Lukas Kieser at the University of Bonn, I asked why he did not mention the Muslim victims of this conflict in his text. His answer was short – that it had not been the subject of his research. I find this to be grossly unscientific because I cannot research on a conflict by not examining both sides of it. I could enumerate numerous Western scientists who lack any scientific ethics on this question and conducted only targeted research.

In 2016, German Parliament moved to recognize the so-called Armenian Genocide. What are your opinions on this subject?

When the term genocide was recognized by the German Bundestag in 2016, I quit the CDU after 21 years. I had previously tried several times to visit and inform the CDU parliamentary group in Berlin. Then MP, Erika Steinbach, wrote to me that they did not have to hear my opinion and that they were already sufficiently informed. I think it is fundamentally wrong for historical issues to be decided in the Bundestag. Especially when it comes to a different country. Politicians are not scientists! Politicians do not try to find out the truth but pursue power politics.

When the German Air Force bombed Belgrade in 1999 as part of the NATO Allied Force mission and waged the first war of aggression since World War II, the Bundestag decided with the votes of the CDU / CSU, SPD, FDP and Greens that it was not an aggressive war. Nevertheless, according to most international lawyers, it was a war of aggression contrary to international law and thus a violation of our German constitution.

What value should a politically motivated parliamentary decision have in scientific questions? And if the Bundestag really wants to send a signal, then we should first recognize and deal with the genocide of Herero and Nama by the German Wehrmacht between 1904 and 1908 in what is now Namibia (formerly German South West Africa). But that is not just a German problem. Look at other countries that recognize genocide too: The Netherlands did not recognize the 1947 genocide in Rawagede in Indonesia, the Belgians in the Congo between 1888 and 1908, and the French in Algeria in 1945.

 

Categories
Britain's Great War Geopolitics Germany Russia Turkey and Ottoman Empire

The Tsar’s Last War on the Ottomans

MEV-10289679 - © - Mary Evans / John Massey Stewart Collection
A British cartoon satirising the role of Russia during the First World War: The steam roller is truly Russian and Crushin’. Tsar Nicholas II drives th…

A few years ago I obtained a copy of Sean McMeekin’s book ‘The Russian origins of the First World War’. It is certainly a very interesting read, particularly because it looks at something that Western histories neglect about the Great War – the role of Czarist Russia. Czarist Russia, of course, collapsed in its waging of this war. Because it does not fit the narrative constructed by the Anglo-French accounts of the war its role has been handily forgotten. But Russia was the lynch-pin of the Triple Entente’s war on Germany and the position which the Ottoman Empire found itself in during the latter part of 1914 is incomprehensible without taking account of Russia.

Tsar Nicholas II offered his country and its population up to Britain in its Great War of 1914 to destroy Germany and break up the Ottoman Empire. He did so as an autocrat within an autocratic system in which the mass of the population only demanded stability in which to live their lives, from the “Little Father”. In waging that War, in which Russia was bled to collapse in return for substantial British finance to continue fighting to the bitter end, the Tsar sealed the fate of himself, his dynasty and his State. The Tsar had been warned for a long time before about the dangerous road he was taking by his most able and impressive minister, Count Witte, who Nicholas dismissed in 1903. He received one final warning of great substance from Pyotr Durnovo, Count Witte’s old Interior Minister, who had effectively suppressed the 1905 Revolution for the Tsar. But Tsar Nicholas persisted and he took Russia to the abyss.

Of course, when autocratic Russia collapsed her place in the Great War was taken by democratic America and the Imperialist war on Germany became something else, for both the remaining parties to the Entente and their historians.  A democratic gloss could be put on the subsequent war with the Czar out of the way – although on the downside restrictions were imposed in the carving up of the spoils amongst the remaining Imperialists (Britain, France, etc.) by the great democracy (the U.S.).

Germans Guilty, Russia more Guilty!

Sean McMeekin wrote another book, a few years before his Russia book, called ‘The Berlin-Baghdad Express’. In this previous book the author put forward the view that the Great War represented an attempt by the Germans and Turks at world domination. ‘The Berlin to Baghdad Express’ represented a modern manifestation of John Buchan’s Wellington House propaganda popularised in his novel ‘Greenmantle’ (the sequel to ‘The 39 Steps’).

McMeekin certainly deserves credit for identifying the Berlin-Baghdad Railway as a major cause of the Great War. If one reads British publications of the time that impression is inescapable – although it has escaped the grasp of most academics.

However, when writing a review of the ‘The Berlin to Baghdad Express’ for Athol Books’ Church and State magazine it became apparent to me that his account of the importance of the Railway was precisely the opposite of mine. McMeekin saw the Railway as the chief instrument of the German/Islamic bid for world power that made it necessary for Britain to make war in 1914. I saw it as the thing that connected the German commercial rise to the Ottoman Empire that marked both states out for destruction in the British Imperial mind.

To hold McMeekin’s position one must accept the Anglophile view of the world – that it is perfectly natural to cut competitors down to size because they represent potential challengers to England’s world supremacy. And of course this was Britain’s view in 1914 expressed in a thousand publications by its thinking class.

However, if one sees this as an unnatural state of affairs the world then looks to be a different place entirely.

Sean McMeekin, however, has changed his view in his newer book. Having delved into the Russian State archives he makes the bold statement: “I contend in this book that the current consensus about the First World War cannot survive serious scrutiny. The war of 1914 was Russia’s war even more than it was Germany’s.” (p.5)

Presumably if the war was not Germany’s it certainly was not Turkey’s either.

McMeekin states that “the current consensus about the First World War” still blames it on the Germans. And having previously gone along with the “current consensus” McMeekin has now decided that it can no longer stand in the light of what he has discovered.

McMeekin blames the “current consensus” on Fritz Fischer who “taught several generations of historians to pay serious attention only to German war aims.” (p.3) Fischer’s book, ‘Griff nach der Weltmacht,’ was published in Germany in 1961. It was issued in Britain under the title Germany’s Aims in the First World War in 1967. Fischer argued that Germany had a set of annexationist war aims similar to those of Hitler and a policy of deliberately provoking war in July 1914.

But surely there is a similar narrative older than that of Fischer’s – the guilty German. Isn’t Fischer merely a product of the ideas and world that John Buchan et al helped create and which the German succumbed to when being pulverized by force in two world wars? (I should say that East Germany succumbed to a different narrative in 1945, with a great deal of enthusiasm, but that narrative is now dead and need not be considered).

Russian War Aims

Having broken free of Fischer’s influence, McMeekin comes across some important facts in his book. One of them is the following: “Russia’s war was fought not for Serbia, but to achieve control of Constantinople and the Straits… control of the Straits was Russia’s first strategic priority.” (p.239)

A few years ago when I was writing ‘Britain’s Great War on Turkey’ it occurred to me to ask the question: why Russia was fighting in the Great War at all. That is a question that is not asked very often in the West. McMeekin notes: “As for what Russia’s leaders hoped to accomplish by going to war in 1914, most histories of the conflict have little to say, beyond vague mutterings about Serbia and Slavic honor, treaty obligations to France, and concern for Russia’s status as a great power.” (p.2)

It is indeed taken for granted that Russia should want to fight Germany because it was part of an alliance that did its duty against her. But that explains very little.

It might be pretended that Russia had territorial desires in Eastern Europe in relation to the Austro-Hungarian State. However, McMeekin correctly points out: “Austrian Galicia clearly mattered to Russia’s leaders but nowhere near as much as the Straits. For Russia, the war of 1914 was always, ultimately, about Turkey.” (p.101)

Galicia mattered because the salient that was Russian Poland felt exposed by having East Prussia to the North and Austrian Western Galicia (Cracow etc.) to the South. It was one of those extensions of Empire that often felt vulnerable in the Imperial view unless territory around it was added to protect it. But then more territory had to be added to protect the new territorial acquisition and so on, in infinitum. That was how Empires had almost a mind of their own in their growth.

McMeekin correctly points out that although Anglo-French efforts to carve up Ottoman territory dominate accounts of the demise of the Ottoman State the role of Russia is almost forgotten – due to the collapse of the Czarist State in 1917 before a sharing out of the spoils amongst the victors could be accomplished.

He also usefully notes that the Great War is seen in very different terms in Turkey, Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Syria and Egypt than it is in the West:

“From the perspective of present-day residents of these places, the First World War appears not as a kind of senseless civil war between European nations which have now long since learned to live in peace but more like a deliberate plot to disrupt and dismantle the last great Islamic power on earth, Ottoman Turkey. What were the Italian and Balkan wars fought by the Turks in 1911-1913, after all, but a kind of opening act for the world war of 1914, in which great powers threw in with the smaller ones already fighting to dismember the Ottoman Empire?” (p.4)

There is certainly a case for arguing that what began in Libya in 1911 and continued into the Balkans in 1912 had great implications for what subsequently happened from 1914 on, when the direct participation of Britain produced a qualitative escalation in throwing the region into the melting-pot of history – a melting-pot from which it still struggles to emerge.

Russia’s Strategic Imperatives

McMeekin’s chapter ‘The strategic imperative in 1914’ describes Russia’s intentions towards the Ottoman Empire.

The Balkan Wars had the effect of convincing Russia that the dismembering of Ottoman Turkey was a realistic possibility not only because of the defeats suffered by the Ottoman army at the hands of the Bulgarians, Greeks and Serbs but also because of the reluctance of Austria to intervene in the conflict. McMeekin argues that the Russians realised that the only power standing between their dream of occupying Constantinople and turning it into ‘Czargrad’ was Germany.

McMeekin comments that the two major fears of Russia at this time were the worry of a “Crimean coalition” emerging against them or another ‘Congress of Berlin’ being organised to cheat them of the spoils they might win on the battlefield, to deprive them of Constantinople when they had won it.

McMeekin, however, fails to mention the pertinent fact of the all-important 1907 agreement between the Russians and Britain. This altered everything. Firstly, it meant that there would be no “Crimean coalition” organised against Russia to frustrate their intentions in the Black Sea toward Constantinople because both the French and British were now the allies of the Czar. Also, the logic of this agreement implied Russian help against Germany in return for an ending of the Anglo-French block on a Russian move down to Istanbul.

McMeekin notes that during the First Balkans War a discussion took place in Russia about whether to wait for a general European war to take place in order to seize Constantinople or to seize an opportunity presented by the Ottoman collapse in the Balkans. Sazanov, the Czar’s Foreign Minister, argued in a memorandum, for a Russian intervention to seize Constantinople, before the Bulgarians got there. Conquering Constantinople would, he argued, give Russia a “global position which is the natural crown of her efforts and sacrifices over two centuries of our history.” He was opposed, however, by Yuri Danilov, the chief architect of Russia’s war plan 19, who suggested that “the shortest and safest operational route to Constantinople runs through Vienna… and Berlin.” (p. 26)

McMeekin explains that the Russian desire to come down to Constantinople was not just a romantic dream about worshipping again in St Sophia it also had a strong economic impulse:

“Because of the centuries-old Russian interest in ‘Tsargrad’ as the ‘Second Rome’ of Orthodox Christian dreams, the Straits obsession of Russian policymakers like Sazanov in the early 20th century has sometimes been mistakenly assumed to be romantic. In fact, Russia’s designs on the Straits, unlike her shadowy pan Slavic pretensions in the Balkans, were a matter of cold, hard national interest… In economic terms, the importance of the Straits of Russia was stark and true. Although calculations differed on the exact figure, something approaching half of Russia’s burgeoning export trade was, by 1914, routed via the Black Sea, Bosphorus, and Dardanelles to world markets. When, in summer 1912, the Porte had briefly closed the straits to shipping during the Italian Turkish war, Russia’s vulnerability had been painfully exposed: the volume of Black Sea exports dropped by one third for the calendar year 1912, and revenue likewise dipped 30%, from £77 million Sterling to 57 million. Heavy industry in the Ukraine, dependent on supplies imported directly through the Straits near the Black Sea, had nearly ground to a halt… To understand the overriding importance of the Straits question for Petersburg, however, we must go beyond numbers. Russia’s principal Black Sea export was grain. Over 20,000,000 tonnes were shipped in both 1911 and 1912, of which nearly 90% was exported through the Bosphorus to world markets: the health of her entire agricultural economy now depended on unfettered Straits access. Stimulating grain production was, moreover, the key to Stolypin’s social reforms, which envisaged the creation of a stable class of successful peasant producers who would serve as a bulwark against anarchic social revolution… “ (pp.29-30)

The Russian Predicament

Sean McMeekin makes an interesting point about the pressure that suddenly appeared on Russia in late 1913 with regard to their objective of capturing Constantinople. After the Balkans Wars the Ottomans began to strengthen the Straits defences by appointing Liman von Sanders and other German officers as advisers as well as purchasing coastal defence guns from Italy. However, most worrying of all was the naval alliance Turkey had with Britain and the two dreadnoughts that were being built by the Royal Navy, which would immediately make obsolete Russia’s entire Black Sea Fleet. This was because by the terms of the Berlin Treaty of 1878 Russia was not allowed to send warships through the Straits, even in peacetime, which meant she could not import dreadnoughts into the Black Sea. This stipulation was largely a British insistence because England did not want Russia to be able to send its fleet into the Mediterranean. However, what it meant in 1914 was that as the Turks improved their defences in the Black Sea and around Constantinople in the light of the Russian and Slavic threat the window of opportunity for  a Russian amphibious attack on the Ottoman capital was rapidly closing.

When the Russians complained to the British government that they were helping to strengthen the defences of a potential enemy against their ally, Edward Grey and Winston Churchill washed their hands of the problem claiming they were laissez-faire liberals and the British government could not legally interfere with private business contracts.

Interestingly, as McMeekin notes, when in 1908 Izvolski demanded that Britain relax its insistence against Russian naval access to the Mediterranean Edward Grey made a counter offer to Russia that the Straits be open to warships of all countries. Grey knew that this proposal was even more repugnant to the Russians than maintenance of the status quo as it would open Russia’s southern coastline to attack from any rival naval power, particularly Britain. And so the Russians declined and settled for the status quo.

The main immediate cause of the Great War (along with the French desire to have Alsace/Lorraine) was the Russian desire for the Straits. Yet, the only person blocking this was Sir Edward Grey (aside from the Ottomans). The blocking, therefore, of Grey, and its unblocking, contingent on services rendered by the Czar in relation to England’s Germany problem, was actually the pivotal factor in the Great War on Germany and Ottoman Turkey.

McMeekin reveals that things came to a head at a meeting of the Russian Council of Ministers in January 1914. Sazanov had, a week earlier, proposed to the Czar that the time was now right to provoke a European war in alliance with England and France so that Constantinople could be stormed. The idea was to use the Liman von Sanders appointment as a cause for war. McMeekin reveals that there was almost unanimous enthusiasm for provoking a European war over the Liman affair. However, whilst there was near certainty amongst the Ministers that Russia would be joined by England and France in such a war there were lingering doubts about whether London would stay out of the conflict if it was provoked at that point on such an issue. The Russian naval command warned that a unilateral amphibious assault would also be beyond them at that moment. It was determined, therefore, to resort to war only if “the active participation of both France and England in joint measures were assured.” (p.32)

The following month a joint army/navy meeting was convened that aimed to make a unilateral attack on Constantinople a possibility and a large subsidy was allocated to fund a Russian offensive against the Ottoman capital. However, there was general acceptance that such an operation could only be guaranteed success in conjunction with France and England in the context of a European war.

Although McMeekin has come across a significant fact here he does not choose to develop it.  The leverage that England had cultivated over Russia through the Entente is evident in the predicament Russia found herself in, in relation to Britain, and her heart’s desire at Constantinople.

McMeekin passes by Grey’s and Churchill’s laissez-faire dismissal of Russia’s complaints about British private companies contributing to the defence of the Straits without noting that the Royal Navy – the senior agency of the British State – was the primary contributor to the Ottoman defences.

A British double game

The obvious question – which McMeekin does not ask – is why Britain was contributing to the defences of the Straits when it understood for centuries that Constantinople was the heart’s desire of its new ally?

The reason is connected to the fact that Britain was an island nation and it was primarily a sea power. It did not have a large army and it had been traditionally opposed to military conscription. Therefore, it would have been impossible for Britain to have defeated Germany by itself. It needed the large French army and the even larger Russian Army to do most of the fighting on the continent for it. The Russian Army was particularly important and it was described in the English press as a ‘steamroller’ that would roll all the way to Berlin, crushing German resistance by its sheer weight of numbers.

The problem for Britain was that the Russians (unlike the French who wanted to recapture Alsace/Lorraine after their loss to the Germans in 1871) had no real reason to fight Germany. Therefore, something substantial had to be promised to the Czar for his help in destroying Germany. That something was his heart’s desire, Constantinople.

But at the same time leverage had to be maintained and the hand had to be kept in at the Ottoman capital. The Young Turks had entered into a naval agreement with Britain in which British dockyards took orders for Turkish battleships, under the supervision of Winston Churchill and the Admiralty, and a British naval mission was established at Constantinople. By 1914 the size of this naval mission was as large as the German military mission there, and they were looked on as a counter-balance to each other by the Turks. If it was said that Turkey had a military alliance with Germany in 1914 it could be equally said that she had a naval alliance with England.

The Turkish Government gave both England and France extraordinary positions of influence in its capital – positions that no other country with concern for its sovereignty would offer. They entrusted to Britain the most vital components of the defence of Constantinople – the re-organisation of their navy under Rear-Admiral Gamble and Admiral Limpus and an English Naval Mission, and the modernisation of the arsenal at the Golden Horn (Turkey’s centre of munitions) by Armstrong and Vickers. Admiral Limpus offered advice to the Turkish Admiralty on such matters as the location of mine fields in the Straits and mine laying techniques as well as torpedo lines.

It is not surprising that the British took on this constructive work, even though their longer term ambition was to destroy the Ottoman Empire. From the British interest it countered German influence at Constantinople, gave the English a unique, inside knowledge of the defences of the Turkish capital and controlling influence over the Turkish Navy – and made sure that the Russians, French and Germans did not possess such influence or information themselves. And when the English naval mission left those in charge of it were the first to suggest to Winston Churchill that Constantinople should be attacked, and how it should be, with all the inside information they had obtained.

But the naval mission also had a vital role to play in relation to England’s ally, Russia by keeping the Czar out of Constantinople until his steamroller was started, pointed westward and heading toward Berlin.

Enver Vindicated?

 The war against Germany got underway in August 1914 but unfortunately for Russia Turkey remained neutral.

The opportunity of finding a cause of war against Turkey developed after the Royal Navy forced two German ships (Goeben and Breslau) trapped in the Mediterranean into neutral Constantinople in early August. The German crews faced with the prospect of destruction if they re-entered the Aegean handed the ships over to the Turks. The Turks accepted them in place of the two battleships owed to them by Britain that Churchill had seized before war had even been declared on Germany.

Churchill proceeded to lay a blockade on the Dardanelles to prevent the ships coming out. This in itself was an act of war against Turkey. Then he organised a series of meetings in the first days of September to discuss a pre-emptive strike on Constantinople – to “Copenhagen” the city, as Nelson had done in destroying the Danish fleet in its port in neutral Denmark in 1801 before declaration of war. But the British Cabinet decided that diplomatic niceties had to be persevered with, particularly as things went badly in France and another enemy, at this juncture, would be better put off for the present.

McMeekin, although he doesn’t probably intend to, vindicates Enver’s policy when he sees things from the point of view of Russian aggression toward the Ottoman capital:

“Paradoxically, the arrival of the two German warships in Constantinople – at least after they had been transformed into ‘Turkish’ ships by Said Halim’s fictitious sale – likely delayed the onset of hostilities between Turkey and Russia for months. The reason should not be difficult to grasp… This made offensive operations supremely difficult, and rendered any kind of amphibious operation in the Bosphorous… well-nigh impossible. Had the Goeben not made it through the Allied Mediterranean screen against heavy odds the Russians might themselves have forced the issue.” (p.106)

This is a very good argument for what the Turks actually did in relation to the German battleships. If the Turks had refused entry to the battleships they would have been destroyed by the Royal Navy outside the Straits and this would have put an end to any hope of German protection in the event of a British war Russian attack on Istanbul. Whilst the German battleships were anchored in the Straits the Turks realised that they were open to attack by the Royal Navy. It was only through their conversion into ships of the Turkish Navy (replacing the two battleships which Churchill had earlier seized) that two birds were killed with one stone.

Firstly, the delicate problem of neutrality was solved. Secondly, the defence of Constantinople against Russian attack was secured. The combination of these two factors meant the preservation of Turkish neutrality in the Great War – at least in the short-term. This was an important achievement because in August 1914 it was not clear how long the war would last or whether the attention of the major combatants would just move elsewhere according to the passage of events in Europe. It therefore held out the possibility that the Ottoman Empire might survive the war that was meant to bring about its demise.

McMeekin argues that whilst “publicly, Girs (the Russian Ambassador at Istanbul), along with his British and French counterparts Louis Mallet and Morris Bompard, made a great show of desiring Ottoman neutrality… there is little chance the Russian diplomat was ever sincere about this.” (p.106) And McMeekin quotes a memorandum of Girs to his Foreign Office that states; “We need a strong boss ruling over Constantinople, and since we cannot let any other power assume this role, we must take her for ourselves. For us to accomplish this without waging war on Turkey would, of course, be impossible.” (p.98)

McMeekin does not say this was also the British position – through the implication that England was allied with Russia. It is unlikely that it will be found in any British archives.

But if England needed Russia against Germany and Russia had Constantinople as her price for assistance how can it be any other way than Britain required a war with Turkey. (There are other reasons why England wanted war on the Ottomans. Two of them were Mesopotamia and Palestine)

The Ottoman Cabinet, in order to preserve the Empire in the face of the war that was threatening its existence, did much ducking and diving and playing for time between September and October 1914.

On 5 August 1914 Enver made an offer to the Russians of demobilising the Turkish army in eastern Anatolia and dismissing the German military mission in Istanbul so that the Russians could reinforce their fronts against Germany and Austria. McMeekin comments,

“Here we have a precious glimpse into Russia’s real war aims. Given even the hypothetical chance of a rapprochement with Turkey, which would free up troops from the Caucasus to reinforce the European fronts, the architect of Russia’s mobilisation on those very fronts said no, absolutely not, because these fronts were no more important than the Caucasian one, even if the latter was still inactive. Sooner or later, Russia and Turkey would be at war, and the last thing Stavka (Russian command centre) wanted to do was deprive Tiflis command (Caucasus) of the troops it needed to fight.” (p.108)

The occasion for the Russian and British declarations of war was an obscure incident in the Black Sea where the two formerly German ships engaged Russian ships that were attempting to lay mines on the approaches to Constantinople to complete a blockade which the British had instituted at the other end of the Straits. The ships then engaged Russian ships at the port of Odessa where operations were taking place to prevent the Turks from being able to reinforce their Eastern provinces via the Black Sea – something that was indispensable to Ottoman forces due to the lack of a road network toward Eastern Anatolia.

The Czar’s declaration of war on Turkey explicitly mentioned the Russian objective with regard to Constantinople. The war would provide the opportunity to “open up Russia’s path towards the realisation of the historic task of her ancestors along the shores of Black Sea.” It was to be a holy war too waged for “the Christian faith” against the “Turkish hordes”. (p.114)

 Origins of the Gallipoli Assault

The problem for the Russians in relation to seizing Constantinople after the war had been declared on Turkey was that they did not have sufficient resources to accomplish this by themselves. The dreadnought-class Goeben had cancelled out any previous advantage Russia had in the Black Sea and made an amphibious assault on Istanbul very difficult. Also, Russian forces were only holding their own against the Germans and Austrians on the eastern front (Russia’s western front) and this made the diversion of Russian forces very difficult to accomplish.

The Russians, therefore, found themselves reliant on the British to realise their dream because it was only Britain which had the naval forces and sufficient military reserves to attack the Ottoman capital from the Aegean (French forces were also bottled up defending their homeland against the Germans).

When Grey met a Russian delegation in November 1914, a few days after the declarations of war on Turkey, his main fear was that Russia might divert troops into Persia. Before the war the British and Russians had divided up spheres of influence in Persia and England did not want the war to spread into the country as British troops moved into conquer Mesopotamia. Grey told the Russians that they should concentrate their efforts on the eastern front and that the question of Constantinople and that they need not worry – the Straits would be settled “in accordance with their interests”. On the same day the British Prime Minister, Asquith, made a public speech in which he stated that Turkey’s entry into the war had spelt “the death knell” for the Ottoman Empire. Less than a week later King George V told Benckendorff, the Russian Ambassador in London, that “as concerns Constantinople, it is clear that must be yours.” (p.123)

These were the first formal indications to the Russians that the British had ended their century’s long opposition to the Czar having Constantinople.

Sir Edward Grey then gave a pledge from the British Foreign Office that a settlement of the Constantinople issue “would be reached after defeat of Germany irrespective of whether Turkish rule is actually overthrown in the course of the hostilities now being conducted.” (p.124) McMeekin comments: “In effect, Britain’s Foreign Secretary had promised Russia Constantinople and the Straits, whether or not she contributed in any way to a military campaign that might conquer them.” (p.124)

McMeekin states:

We should pause for a moment here to consider the enormity of diplomatic revolution wrought by the end of November 1914. In the Crimean War, British troops had bled and died to prevent Russia from dismembering the Ottoman Empire. Following the Russo Ottoman war of 1877-78, Disraeli’s government had dispatched the British Mediterranean Fleet to deny Constantinople to the Russians… the maintenance of some kind of Ottoman buffer against the Russian threat had endured as a cardinal aim of British foreign policy right up to 1914, as illustrated by British fears of Russian incursions into Persia ostensibly justified by the Turkish threat there. And yet here were British statesmen openly advocating the total dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire so that Russia might have naval access to the Mediterranean – the urgent prevention of which had been a full-on British cassus belli as recently as 36 years ago.” (pp.124-5)

That is the background to the French and British assault on the Straits in March 1915 and the subsequent landings at Gallipoli later on. It struck me in writing ‘Britain‘s Great War on Turkey’ that there was more to it than that and McMeekin comes up with exactly the same understanding that I reached. The British and French, in attempting to capture Constantinople, were actually intending to hold it as a kind of hostage to prevent the Russians from ever making peace with Germany or Turkey. The Russian steamroller could be guaranteed against Germany by holding the Czar’s greatest prize in readiness for him in return for the continued commitment of his armies on the eastern front:

“The Dardanelles campaign represented the logical culmination of this pattern. With both Paris and London on perennial alert that Petrograd might cut a separate peace with Berlin, a Straits campaign had a compelling strategic logic for the Western allies, even if Petrograd stood to reap the principle reward. Certainly, the thinking went, the Russians would not waver in their commitment to the war while her alliance partners were endeavouring to win her Constantinople. At a minimum, such an amphibious campaign, launched to aid Russia, would improve Russian fighting morale. If it succeeded, it would open Russia’s year-round warm-water Black Sea ports for Western arms (and maybe also food) shipments.” (p.128)

Dividing the Ottoman spoils

 In March 1915 the Czar decided that the time had come to get his French and British allies to formally agree to the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire. Sazanov coupled the Czar’s demands for Constantinople with a threat to the allies that if they did not agree he would resign and bring Sergei Witte (who was regarded as sympathetic to the Germans) into the government in order to cut a separate peace with Germany.

Grey used Sazanov’s threat to convince the British Cabinet to cut a deal with the Russians on Constantinople and finally give concrete form to the reversal of British foreign policy of a century. On 12 March 1915 the British Cabinet adopted the position of endorsing Russia’s Imperial claim to Constantinople and the Straits.

(For some reason or other McMeekin does not discuss or detail the secret Constantinople agreement of March 1915 that then took place between the Triple Entente. I have included this as an Appendix)

In early 1916 flesh was put on the bones of the Constantinople agreement through the Sykes-Picot agreement for the dividing up of the Ottoman spoils after the war. And McMeekin suggests that the real inspiration to this agreement from the British side was Kitchener’s fear that Russia would re-emerge as Britain’s primary antagonist after the world war was over. The idea, therefore, was to create a French buffer zone in between the old Great Game antagonists. Britain agreed to give France Syria, Lebanon, and Cilicia in exchange for French recognition of British primacy in Mesopotamia up as far as Mosul and the ports of Acre and Haifa as well as the whole of Arabia.

The final agreement that emerged gave Russia direct control over Constantinople and the area around the Straits. The Czar also received ‘Turkish Armenia,’ ‘Kurdistan’ and ‘Persian Azerbaijan’. France obtained Cilicia as far East as the Taurus Mountains and South to Beirut. The French also obtained an area of indirect control in compassing modern-day Syria and Northern Iraq. Most of the areas south of this, including the bulk of Mesopotamia became areas of direct and indirect British control.

Russia and the Armenians

McMeekin describes the relationship between the Russian State and the Armenian inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire from the time of the Armenian risings of 1894-6:

“Most commentators concede that Armenian Revolutionary groups deliberately aimed to enlist outside powers in their cause by staging provocations… and that outside powers did indeed take the Armenian side in 1895-6, even if none intervened in any effective way… the essential truth about Russian imperial foreign policy should not be surprising, considering the evidence of the Russo Ottoman war of 1877-78 and the First World War. However, the same policy was consistently followed in peacetime years in between these conflicts, with predictable – and revealing – upswings in the intensity of military planning during each successive Armenian crisis. It was precisely in order to piggyback on the Armenian uprisings of 1895-6 that Russia first began serious logistical research into the possibility of staging an amphibious operation at the Bosphorus… in the wake of internal Ottoman turmoil with unruly Christian minorities, Russian operational planning for seizing Constantinople was accelerated. These plans expressly specified that ‘agents from the Christian population’ would cut off rail lines to Constantinople… whereupon native Christians would ‘burn down all the wooden bridges spanning the Golden Horn and set fire to Stamboul’. A more explicit blueprint for using Armenians (and other Ottoman Christians) as a fifth column for an invading Russian army could scarcely be imagined.” (pp.145-6)

The quotations McMeekin uses are from a Russian General Staff memorandum produced just after the Young Turk revolution of 1908. The Russians saw the democratising of the Ottoman State as a sign of weakness and as an opportunity to be exploited. McMeekin discusses this earlier in his book:

“The fall of the last true Ottoman Sultan produced a kind of manic glee in the Russian General Staff, where wargaming for the occupation of Constantinople – which had largely ceased following the sinking of the Russian Baltic and Pacific fleets in the Russo Japanese war – now resumed with a vengeance. The mood at the time was well captured in a General Staff memorandum of October 1910 that outlines plans for seizing Constantinople: first the rail and telegraph lines to Adrianople and Ankara would be cut by ‘agents from the Christian population’, whereupon Russia-friendly Christians in the city would burn down all the wooden bridges spanning the Golden Horn and set fire to Stamboul – which predominantly Muslim district was, conveniently for Russian purposes, blanketed ‘almost without interruption with wooden houses’… The Christians of Pera would then rise, in coordination with a Russian amphibious landing. Once Russia’s Black Sea Fleet had secured the Straits, it would herald the annihilation of Turkish Dominion on the Balkan Peninsula.” (p.17)

 That was a very inflammatory programme considering the vast ethnic cleansing of Moslems that was to take place in the Balkans during the following years. And one way or another it was going to result in tragedy for the communities of the Ottoman Empire when it was attempted. (The subsequent Balkan Wars of 1912-13 did not fully realise the Russian programme of inter-ethnic mayhem in the Ottoman capital because the Bulgarians were halted short of Constantinople. However, similar events as those hoped for were to occur in Eastern Anatolia from 1915.)

McMeekin describes the complicated situation that existed in eastern Anatolia in the period just prior to the Great War:

“In a real sense, the whole disputed area of eastern Anatolia… where the Ottoman and Russian empires intersected with Persia, was on a permanent war footing long before 1914. Most Kurdish tribal chiefs were exceedingly well armed and virtually sovereign in the areas they roamed. Like nearly everyone else, they bought primarily Russian weapons. Christian townsmen, too, bought arms from the Russians… the great Kurdish tribal chiefs… generally had the rule of the roost, unless they were directly confronted by Ottoman or Russian troops, in which case they would simply flee to friendlier marauding pastures. The story of eastern Anatolia in this tense and dangerous time, then, was about far more than Turks and Armenians. One could claim that Kurdish nomads were consistently hostile to the Christian population, but for other generalisations about which groups were on which ‘side’ are hazardous… At times, armed Armenian groups inside the Ottoman Empire might even join forces with Turkish troops to pursue Kurdish chieftains who would wrong their people… Complicating the regional picture immeasurably were the opportunistic Russians, willing to work with anyone who might extend their influence. In the classic divide and conquer style Chorister’s Bridge (St Petersburg) cultivated close relations with Kurdish tribal chiefs and their Christian victims alike. Both groups were often at loggerheads with the Ottoman government, Russia’s primary antagonist… By thus promoting general mayhem, Kurdish nomads were the ideal Imperial tool. And the Russians were not loath to use them, sending arms, money, and even trade missions to Ottoman and Persian Kurds. So serious was Russia’s commitment that Kurdish language institutes were founded in Petersburg… Russian diplomats had to be careful with the Kurds. Periodic tribal skirmishes with Ottoman troops were one thing: summoning armies of 50,000 men was something else entirely, not least because their first target after routing Ottoman troops would almost certainly be Armenians and other Russia friendly Christians… The ideal scenario was simply to promote enough regional chaos to give Russia a pretext for intervening, with no single ethnic or religious group emerging to dominate the others.” (pp.147-9)

 This was the complex milieu that Russian and Anglo-French invasion and blockade imposed itself upon in 1915. It was something that could be easily set ablaze but not so easily controlled or extinguished.

Russia’s great Armenian Reform Campaign of 1913 was ironically conducted, according to McMeekin, as Ottoman troops and Dashnaks (Armenian revolutionary bands) combined to see off Kurdish raiders who were attacking Armenian villages. The Reform Campaign which made some unrealistic demands on the Ottomans in relation to imposing law and order without shedding blood culminated in the threat of Russian intervention in Ottoman territory if another ‘Armenian massacre’ occurred.

In late 1913/early 1914 a Kurdish rising occurred in Bitlis led by Mullah Selim. Tens of thousands of Kurds took to the field with the object of imposing Sharia Law in the area (to ‘put it up to’ the ‘impious’ C.U.P/Young Turks). When Ottoman troops were sent to disperse the Kurds Mullah Selim was given refuge by the Russian Consulate (where he remained until Russia declared war on the Turks in November 1914).

Perhaps in recognition of the Ottomans efforts at maintaining some measure of security, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation vowed support for the Ottoman Government against the Russians at their conference in August 1914 at Erzurum and the Dashnaks even sent a delegation to discourage Armenians from enrolling in the Czarist armies. But Russia was determined to make the Armenians into their fifth column.

Despite the Dashnak proclamation of loyalty to the Ottoman State, tens of thousands of Armenians deserted the Ottoman army and went over to the Russians even before war was declared on Turkey. In August 1914 (more than two months before war was declared on Turkey) the Russian Caucasian army asked for an extra 25,000 rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition to arm the Armenian bands being organised along the Ottoman frontier and began to smuggle arms into Ottoman territories so that Armenians could fight behind Ottoman lines when the time was right:

“The Russian army, then, actively sought to arm Ottoman Armenians even before Turkey entered the war, with the full co-operation of the Dashnaks, General Andranik, and Armenian leaders in Tiflis. So, too, was the Russian Foreign Office involved, and at the very highest level… Russia’s Foreign Minister recommended that Tiflis command begin arming Ottoman ‘Armenians and Assyrian Christians’ so that they could strike a blow for Russia as soon as Turkey entered the war. Crucially, Sazanov stipulated that the Armenians were ‘not to undertake anything without our instructions’, because ‘if they launched an uprising that was not supported by us, this would inflict an irreparable blow to our prestige’. (p.156)

McMeekin also reveals that whilst the Russian army command favoured an arming of the Kurds, Sazanov saw things in religious terms and insisted that Russia act simply as a Christian power against the Moslems. McMeekin comments:

“The Armenians were to be encouraged to achieve an essential foreign policy goal for Petrograd: the overthrow of Ottoman rule in eastern Anatolia. The Russians would offer all assistance to the Armenians in this endeavour… but they would do so only so long as they… acted in full obeisance to Russia’s instructions, so that Russia could reap the strategic benefit. Considering the human consequences… Sazanov’s carelessness about ends and means is almost breathtaking.”  (p.156)

The question of ‘genocide’

McMeekin’s argument is that the Russians were always incapable of following through on their promises and this was the main reason for the disaster that befell the Armenians:

 “The root of the Armenian catastrophe is not so much in the fact of treachery and collaboration, which was rampant among other groups on both sides, but rather in the gap between Russia’s enormous Imperial ambitions and her limited means for achieving them. The reform campaign of 1913-14 had left little doubt at the Porte that Russia aimed to annex Turkey’s six eastern provinces over which she had essentially declared proprietary interest, if not yet a formal protectorate. Likewise, the Dardanelles campaign and the diplomacy surrounding it – if not also the previous 500 years of history – made perfectly clear that Russia aimed to conquer Constantinople and the Straits. Any group inside Turkey rumoured to be aiding and abetting the Russians near either of these fronts would not simply be suspected of disloyalty, but likely relocated for reasons of urgent military necessity, as were the Ottoman Greeks from the Gallipoli peninsular in April to May 1915. That Armenians were eventually targeted in the same way is not the least bit surprising, considering how much the Ottomans stood to lose from defeat to the Russians.” (p.158)

Two events precipitated and provoked the Armenian relocations: the Gallipoli landings and what happened at Van. (Earlier in his book McMeekin blames the Russians for failing to aid the British at Gallipoli and therefore contributing to the disaster there.) McMeekin describes the events at Van to illustrate how Russian ambitions and their failure to realise them in time provoked the disaster that befell Armenian and Moslem alike:

“The rebellion at Van provides a perfect illustration of the Armenian tragedy… violent clashes between the Dashnaks and government forces in Van were reported as early as September 1914. On 24 September 1914, the Ottoman Third Army reported evidence that the Russians were smuggling weapons and ammunition across the border… all winter, the frontier areas passed with activity, as Armenian deserters, fleeing Van, crossed over to the Russians… February-March 1915 saw the first reports of significant rebel activity in Van, Bitlis, and Erzurum, including the cutting of telegraph wires, the detonation of bombs, attacks on Turkish army and police barracks, and… the ‘pillaging and destroying of Moslem villages’… On or about 13th to 14th of April 1915, the Turk’s worst nightmare came to pass, when partisans expelled government forces from Van erecting barricades around the city… the fighting was merciless, with Armenians despatching Moslems caught inside the town even while the Turks and Kurds were massacring Armenian civilians outside its walls… The first advance guard of Cossacks rode into town on 18 May 1915 – almost 5 weeks after the rebellion began. By this time, the city was in ruins, with it’s Armenian quarter bombed out by Ottoman artillery and the Moslem neighbourhoods raised to the ground by Armenian partisans. Tens of thousands of Armenians, Kurds and Turks alike had perished, the vast majority of them civilians… scarcely had the town’s reconstruction under Russian occupation begun before it was retaken by the Ottoman army in August 1915… the short lived and ultimately futile Armenian rebellion at Van had set in motion that whole terrible series of events about which historians still argue today.” (pp. 169-70)

Sean McMeekin concludes:

“By 18th of May 1915, when the first advance Cossack regiments of the Caucasian army finally made it as far as Van, Ottoman Armenians had already begun dying in droves for Russia’s hollow promises – as they would in even greater numbers after her half-hearted invasion of eastern Turkey swung into reverse that summer. One can hardly blame the Dashnaks and Hunchaks for arming themselves in self defence. Their error lay in expecting the Russian cavalry to arrive in time to protect them once the inevitably brutal counter-attack against their rebellion commenced. These revolutionaries, and the Ottoman Armenian civilians they claimed to represent, fell victim to Russia’s peculiar mixture of imperial greed and impotence, as the would-be liberatees of an army unable – or rather willing – to liberate them.” (p.174)

It is certainly the case that the Czarist State proved incapable of realising its dream and collapsed in pursuing it. And it is certainly the case that in instigating the Armenians to rebellion in order to provoke the collapse of the Ottoman State Russia led them on to disaster. The Armenians were used by England in a propagandist manner and by Russia as cannon-fodder as a means of destabilizing the Ottoman Empire and disrupting Turkish resistance behind the lines. There were, obviously, Armenian revolutionaries who are willing to participate in this process but its main effect was to make the ordinary Armenians’ position impossible within the Ottoman Empire. It was made impossible for them to remain a loyal community and a functional part of the Empire, which they had been for centuries.

Justin McCarthy’s book ‘Death and Exile – the ethnic cleansing of Ottoman Muslims, 1821-1922’ describes the internal situation in eastern Anatolia as the Great War began.

The last decades of the Ottoman Empire had seen a significant extension of Ottoman power in Eastern Anatolia. Law and order had been established through renewed Ottoman military power in the region. However, when the Great War began these military forces withdrew and civil order began to end. Ottoman troops were withdrawn from garrisons in eastern and central Anatolia and sent to fight the Russians on the Caucasian border. Only a minimum of the gendarmerie remained to control the Kurdish tribes in the area remained. In theory, Kurdish tribesmen should have been conscripted into the Ottoman army but the Ottomans find this was more trouble than it was worth. The Ottomans would have had to employ considerable men and military forces to subdue the tribes in the middle of a war situation. The Kurdish tribesmen were not loyal or compliant citizens and they began to attack and pillage local villages, Christian and Moslem alike, when this Ottoman state apparatus was absent.

In the same areas in preparation for war Armenian revolutionaries had stored vast stockpiles of weapons, largely provided or paid for by the Russian army. When the war was declared, the Armenian revolutionaries mobilised and were joined by substantial numbers of Armenian deserters from the Ottoman army. Great internal migrations began to take place with Armenians and Moslems who lived in mixed villages migrating to purely Armenian or purely Moslem villagers and populations even began to cross Russian and Ottoman lines for safety.

Armenian revolts and attacks on Ottoman forces in various districts of the East were in full swing by May 1915. There were three sides in the battles and massacres. On one side were the settled Moslems (Turks Kurds and others) and the Ottoman military forces. On the other side were Armenians (and other native Christians) and the Russian army. On the third side were tribal Kurds, an essentially neutral force that pursued its own agenda, both attacking and cooperating with the Russian and Ottoman forces as the need arose. From the first, the war was distinguished by attacks on civilian populations from all sides. The innocent and peaceful on all sides were forced to fight in order to survive.

McCarthy details the extensive attacks that took place by Armenian bands on Moslem villagers and reproduces accounts of the killing, pillaging and rape that occurred before the relocations. He acknowledges that similar things happened to the Armenians. He stresses that the most dangerous situation for all communities occurred when state forces of either side, Ottoman or Russian, withdrew from an area and security began to break down. The Russian army tended to have a controlling influence on local Armenians but when they withdrew from an area the local Moslems became very vulnerable to massacre.

McCarthy says the following about the relocations:

The decision to force the Armenians to leave was sound in purely military terms, but it caused hardship and great mortality among them, and these were deplorable. Nevertheless, it did have the desired effect: Armenian Revolutionary attacks dwindled in areas still occupied by the Ottoman government… In the end, the Armenian deportations did reveal the Ottoman state as a failure in its ability to protect its own citizens – the most important aspect of any state. It was the weakness of the Ottoman state that forced it to choose between two groups of its citizens. The blame for the deaths of Armenians in the convoys must be shared by the Ottomans – shared with the Armenian revolutionaries and their supporters and with the Russians.” (pp.195-6)

Prof. McCarthy notes that the Ottoman relocations were the standard military response to guerrilla warfare behind the lines at the time. The British had used similar measures only a decade previously in South Africa to deal with Boer resistance. Tens of thousands of relocated civilians had died in British concentration camps. The difference between what the British did in South Africa and what the Ottomans attempted to do in eastern Anatolia in 1915 was that the Ottomans were confronted by a much stronger enemy and assault on their state. The Armenian relocations were conducted in a situation of external invasion, blockade, starvation, inter-community killing and general lawlessness of a collapsing state apparatus.

Prof. McCarthy produces figures (p.229) to show that the Moslem population of Eastern Anatolia declined by about one million people during the decade to 1922. He states that the exact number of deaths can never be accurately known (on all sides). But there is strong reason to believe that the number of Moslems (Turks and Kurds) and Armenian Christians who perished were comparable in the general mayhem that occurred.

The use of the word ‘genocide’ with regard to what happened to the Armenians during the Great War is an attempt to connect Turkey with Nazi Germany. However, a much better analogy would be that which happened on the Eastern Front during the Second World War when different groups of people became destabilized by the Nazi invasion of Russia. This is much closer to the events which McMeekin describes than what happened to the Jews between 1943 and 1945.

In the hinterland of war between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia terrible things were done as state authority began to collapse, society began to return to its raw elemental condition and ordinary people struggled to survive in the circumstances. In 1915 the Russian and British invasions of the Ottoman Empire had a similar effect on the patchwork that was Eastern Anatolia. The Russians and British raised some people’s expectations so that they were willing to exact retribution on people they had grievances against and in turn those people exacted revenge on them. No one quite knew under whose authority they would exist when the war was over and as a consequence all restraint was removed on behaviour. It was under these circumstances and in this context that the relocation of the Armenians took place.

Essentially the responsibility for what happened to the Armenians and the other minorities that existed happily and peacefully within the Ottoman Empire for centuries must be placed at the hands of those who attempted to destabilize and ultimately destroy this multinational Empire. It was not in the Turkish interest that the Armenians should rebel and resort to war but it was very much in the Russian and British interests that they should do so. That both powers were ultimately unable to complete the task they set themselves left the Armenians in a situation not unlike that of the unfortunate East Prussians in 1945 (although it is not politic to show any sympathy for them).

Whose ‘genocide’?

Michael Reynolds’s book, Shattering Empires – The Clash and Collapse of the Ottoman and Russian Empires, 1908-1918, makes some interesting points in relation to the context of the Armenian relocations:

“At the same time as the Van rebellion was unfolding, the Russians were entering from the East, the British pushing on Baghdad from the South, and, most ominously, the British and French were storming ashore at Gallipoli. The simultaneous attacks stretched the wobbling Ottoman army to breaking point. As the Unionists debated how to handle the Van uprising, an Ottoman colonel pointed to Russia’s expulsion of Moslems into Ottoman territory and urged a reciprocal expulsion of the rebels and their families either into Russian territory or into the interior of Anatolia… Small scale deportations of Armenians had begun in February, but it was the combination of the Van uprising and the landings at Gallipoli that triggered the decision to deport the Armenians en masse…

The decision to define whole populations as suspect and to uproot, expel, and relocate them was not particular to the Ottomans or Unionists. The manipulation of borderland populations was hoary imperial practice. In the 19th century, however, two things changed. The first was that, beginning in Europe, state institutions began to employ sciences such as statistics, sociology, and ethnography to vastly increase their capacity to identify, classify, and control population groups. The second was that these institutions, including armies, came to imagine ethnicity to be a key predictor of political behaviour. Armies anxiously trained ethnographers to advise on how to manage and exploit the ethnic identities of friendly or hostile populations alike. By the beginning of the 20th century, forced population exchange was emerging as an almost routine practice, one that many regarded as logical and even salutary… During World War I, Russia forcibly relocated not just Moslems from the border region in the Caucasus but also Germans and Jews by the hundreds of thousands on its Western front… Ottoman military officers referenced the Russian precedent in the Caucasus during the debate on how to respond to the uprising at Van…

 The destruction of the Armenians… must be understood as part of a nascent programme of ethnic homogenisation that involved the resettlement of a multitude of other population groups, including Moslem Kurds, Albanians, Circassians, and others in small, dispersed numbers so as to break up clan and tribal ties and facilitate assimilation… These measures were aimed at the long-term Turkification of Anatolia. This larger programme, in turn, was a direct response to the global order’s adoption of the national idea. If the legitimacy, and security, of state borders was dependent on the degree of correspondence to ethnographic lines, the Unionists would ensure that the latter conform to the former. They would reshape the square peg of Anatolia to fit the round hole the global order favoured…

 It is no coincidence that nearly half of the Unionist leadership came from the Balkan and Aegean borderlands, i.e. those territories that had witnessed repeated violent expulsions and massacres of Moslems and the establishment of nation states. Significantly, these men fostered no fantasies of irredentist in the Balkans. They nurtured no illusions about the relative power of the Ottoman state. Difficult though it must have been for them, they recognised that their homelands had been lost for good… Experience had taught them that the global community of states accorded no legitimacy to pluralistic and weak empires. As long as Anatolia remained ethnically pluralistic it would be vulnerable to subversion and partition. The homogenisation of Anatolia was the surest solution to the dilemma they faced.” (pp. 147-9)

The logical implication of this is that if what happened to the Armenians in 1915 is to be described as ‘genocide’ we must look much wider for those responsible than just the C.U.P. and Ottoman authorities directly responsible for relocating the Armenians. Firstly, there was the responsibility of the Anglo-French and Russian invasion forces whose arrival in May 1915 signaled that the destruction of the Ottoman Empire was a distinct probability. Secondly, there was the exportation from Europe of Social Darwinist ideas of race homogeneity as the ideal type for societies that undermined the old heterogeneous Ottoman attitude toward race that had promoted ‘live and let live’ in the Empire. Thirdly, there was the promotion of nationalism from Europe in order to destabilize the Ottoman State and make multi-ethnic units impossible.

I have not seen any evidence that the Ottoman State actively pursued a policy of religious homogeneity in 1915. Events from then to 1923 certainly resulted in the heterogeneous Ottoman State giving way to the largely homogeneous Turkish Republic.

In 1915 the Ottoman Empire was collapsing under the weight of problems that came to it from Europe and the C.U.P. looked for solutions to its predicament in that direction too. It had been a multi-ethnic state based on a healthy disregard for any notions of racial hierarchy. But what was being imposed upon it from the West, in the name of ‘progress’, was the requirement that society should be based on the nation state rather than a multi-ethnic/religious combination, with as much racial homogeneity as possible.

What happened to the Armenians in 1915 was qualitatively different from what had ever happened to that community before. And that can only be seen as being so because the Ottoman Empire was being assailed from without and within and being dissolved in the name of Western ‘progress’.

Sean McMeekin has an interesting section on Russian plans for the government of the Armenians. He relates that, despite the assistance given by Armenian revolutionaries to the Czarist forces, the Russians began to have doubts about how far they should trust the Armenians with any measure of autonomy:

“Armenian partisans, despite playing a certain useful role for the Russians at Van and Bitlis in 1915, had long since worn out their welcome at Tiflis’s command, which kept hearing about the atrocities they were committing against Moslems. ‘The Armenians,’ General Pechkov wrote on 29 June 1916, ‘have shown themselves to be a very cruel people. It appears they have massacred the Kurds without pity.’ The report spoke of rampant ‘lawlessness and looting’ by Armenian volunteer units, which were now disbanded by direct order of Grand Duke Nicholas himself. Another decree from Tiflis’s command imposed ‘strict censorship on Armenian publications’… In a letter dispatched from Tiflis on 27th of June 1916, Sazanov reminded Grand Duke Nicholas that Russia had pushed for greater Armenian autonomy – under Ottoman rule – during the reform campaign of 1913-14. But now the Armenians were under Russians suzerainty, things looked different… Sazanov noted that ‘the Armenians nowhere constitute a majority’ in the area he called Greater Armenia – particularly after the deportations of 1915. Armenians now comprised, even in the areas of their greatest concentration, at most 25% of the population. In view of this fact, for Russia to grant Armenian autonomy ‘would mean unjustly enslaving the majority to the minority.’ Tensions between Christians and Moslems would explode yet again, this time in Russia’s face instead of Turkey’s. An enduring peace would only be possible, Sazanov argued, if the Czarist government could rule ‘ on the basis of its own laws, its own system of justice, and with complete impartiality towards all national elements in the land’…  The only concession Russia’s Foreign Minister was willing to grant Armenians was to allow them to use their own language and to run their own churches and schools… Grand Duke Nicholas agreed to all of these stipulations.” (pp. 211-2)

I think this confirms the view that it was the attempted destruction of the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire with its delicate balance of order between the patchwork of peoples that inhabited it that led to disaster for Balkan Moslems and Jews, Anatolian Greeks and Armenians and many more besides. It was possible that a Russian victory and the reincorporation of these peoples in another multi-ethnic state might have preserved the balance in a new form leading to some kind of stability. But that is the stuff of counterfactual conjecture. The Russian Revolution saved the Ottomans in the East and closed off this possibility for good.

Sean McMeekin has now written two books attributing blame for the Great War. The first argued for the guilt of the Germans and Ottomans. The second blames the Russians. Perhaps another would make him ‘third time lucky’ but it is also unlikely.

 

Appendix: Correspondence between the partners of the Triple Entente for the secret Constantinople Agreement of March 1915 (as later revealed by the Bolsheviks):

Aide-mémoire from Russian Foreign Minister to British and French ambassadors at Petrograd, 19 February / 4 March 1915

“The course of recent events leads His Majesty Emperor Nicholas to think that the question of Constantinople and of the Straits must be definitely solved, according to the time-honoured aspirations of Russia.

“Every solution will be inadequate and precarious if the city of Constantinople, the western bank of the Bosphorus, of the Sea of Marmara and of the Dardanelles, as well as southern Thrace to the Enez-Midye line, should henceforth not be incorporated into the Russian Empire.

“Similarly, and by strategic necessity, that part of the Asiatic shore that lies between the Bosphorus, the Sakarya River and a point to be determined on the Gulf of Izmit, and the islands of the Sea of Marmara, the Imbros Islands and the Tenedos Islands must be incorporated into the (Russian) Empire

“The special interests of France and Great Britain in the above region will be scrupulously respected.

“The Imperial Government entertains the hope that the above consideration will be sympathetically received by the two Allied Governments. The said Allied Governments are assured similar understandings on the part of the Imperial Government for the realization of plans which they may frame with reference to other regions of the Ottoman Empire or elsewhere.”

British aide-mémoire to the Russian Government, 27 February / 12 March 1915

“Subject to the war being carried on and brought to a successful conclusion, and to desiderata of Great Britain and France in the Ottoman Empire and elsewhere being realised, as indicated in the Russian communication herein referred to, His Majesty’s Government will agree to the Russian Government’s aide-mémoire relative to Constantinople and the Straits, the text of which was communicated to His Britannic Majesty’s Ambassador by his Excellency M. Sazonof on February 19 / March 4 instant.”

British Memorandum to the Russian Government, 27 February / 12 March 1915

“His Majesty’s Ambassador has been instructed to make the following observations with reference to the aide-mémoire which this Embassy had the honour of addressing to the Imperial Government on February 27 / March 12, 1915.

“The claim made by the Imperial Government in their aide-mémoire of February 19 / March 4, 1915, considerably exceeds the desiderata which were foreshadowed by M. Sazonof as probable a few weeks ago. Before His Majesty’s Government have had time to take into consideration what their own desiderata elsewhere would be in the final terms of peace, Russia is asking for a definite promise that her wishes shall be satisfied with regard to what is in fact the richest prize of the entire war. Sir Edward Grey accordingly hopes that M. Sazonov will realise that it is not in the power of His Majesty’s Government to give a greater proof of friendship than that which is afforded by the terms of the above-mentioned aide-mémoire.

“That document involves a complete reversal of the traditional policy of His Majesty’s Government, and is in direct opposition to the opinions and sentiments at one time universally held in England and which have still by no means died out. Sir Edward Grey therefore trusts that the recent general assurances given to M. Sazanov have been most loyally and amply fulfilled. In presenting the aide-mémoire now, His Majesty’s Government believe and hope that a lasting friendship between Russia and Great Britain will be assured as soon as the proposed settlement is realised.

“From the British aide-mémoire it follows that the desiderata of His Majesty’s Government, however important they may be to British interests in other parts of the world, will contain no condition which could impair Russia’s control over the territories described in the Russian aide-mémoire of February 19 / March 4, 1915.

“In a view of the fact that the Constantinople will always remain a trade entrepot for South-Eastern Europe and Asia Minor, His Majesty’s Government will ask that Russia shall, when she comes into possession of it, arrange for a free port for goods in transit to and from non-Russian territory. His Majesty’s Government will also ask that there shall be commercial freedom for merchant-ships passing through the Straits, as M. Sazanov has already promised.

“Except in so far as the naval and military operations on which His Majesty’s Government are now engaged in the Dardanelles may contribute to the common cause of the Allies, it is now clear that these operations, however successful, cannot be of any advantage to His Majesty’s Government in the final terms of peace. Russia alone will, if the war is successful, gather the direct fruits of these operations. Russia should therefore, in the opinion of His Majesty’s Government, not now put difficulties in the way of any Power which may, on reasonable terms, offer to co-operate with the Allies. The only Power likely to participate in the operations in the Straits is Greece. Admiral Carden has asked the Admiralty to send him more destroyers but they have none to spare. The assistance of a Greek flotilla, if it could have been secured, would thus have been of inestimable value to His Majesty’s Government.

“To induce the neutral Balkan States to join the Allies was one of the main objects which His Majesty’s Government had in view when they undertook the operations in the Dardanelles. His Majesty’s Government hope that Russia will spare no pains to calm apprehensions of Bulgaria and Roumania as to Russia’s possession of the Straits and Constantinople being to their disadvantage. His Majesty’s Government also hope that Russia will do everything in her power to render the co-operation of these two States an attractive prospect to them.

“Sir E. Grey points out that it will obviously be necessary to take into consideration the whole question of the future interests of France and Great Britain in what is now Asiatic Turkey; and, in formulating the desiderata of His Majesty’s Government with regard to the Ottoman Empire, he must consult the French as well as the Russian Government. As soon¸ however, as it becomes known that Russia is to have Constantinople at the conclusion of the war, Sir E. Grey will wish to state that throughout the negotiations, His Majesty’s Government have stipulated that the Mussulman Holy Places and Arabia shall under all circumstances remain under independent Mussulman dominion.

“Sir E. Grey is as yet unable to make any definite proposal on any point of the British desiderata; but one of the points of the latter will be the revision of the Persian portion of the Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907 so as to recognize the present neutral sphere as a British sphere.

“Until the Allies are in a position to give to the Balkan States, and especially to Bulgaria and Roumania, some satisfactory assurance as to their prospects and general position with regard to the territories contiguous to their frontiers to the possession of which they are known to aspire; and until a more advanced stage of the agreement as to the French and British desiderata in the final peace terms is reached, Sir E. Grey points out that it is most desirable that the understanding now arrived at between the Russian, French, and British Governments should remain secret.”

French Ambassador in Petrograd to Russian Foreign Minister, 1/14 March 1915

“I should be grateful to Your Excellency for informing His Imperial Majesty that the Government of the French Republic, having studied the conditions of the peace to be imposed on Turkey, would like to annex Syria together with the region of the Gulf of Alexandretta and Cilicia up to the Taurus (mountain) range. I should be happy to inform my government, without delay¸ of the Imperial Government’s consent.”

Russian Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs to Russian Foreign Minister, 2/15 March 1915

“The French Ambassador has told me that it is his impression that Syria “includes Palestine”. I deemed it useful to remind him that there is in Jerusalem an independent governor.”

Russian Foreign Minister to Russian Ambassador in Paris, 3/16 March 1915

“After arrival at General Headquarters, the French Ambassador informed me of the contents of Declassee’s telegram which asks for consent by Russia to the annexation of Syria and Cilicia by France. Paleologue explains that in his opinion the French Government refers also to Palestine when speaking of Syria. However, since in this telegram there is no question of Palestine, it would be desirable to elucidate whether the explanation of the Ambassador really corresponds to the view of the French Government. This question appears important to us; for, if the Imperial Government should be prepared largely to satisfy France’s desires concerning Syria and Cilicia proper, it is indispensible to study the question with closer attention, if the Holy Places are involved.”

Russian Foreign Minister to Russian Ambassador in Paris, 5/18 March 1915

“On 23 February, the Ambassador of France declared to me, in the name of his Government, that France was prepared to consider in the most benevolent manner the realization of our desires relative to Constantinople and the Straits, which I explained to you in my telegram No. 937 and for which I charged you to express my gratitude to M. Delcasse. In these earlier conversations with you Delcasse had assured us several times that we could count on the sympathy of France and had simply pleaded the necessity of elucidating the attitudes of England, from whom he feared objections, before he could himself give more formal assurances in the sense already indicated.

“Now, today, the British Government has expressed to us in writing its full accord in the matter of the annexation by Russia of the Straits and Constantinople within the boundaries fixed by us; it has simply formulated one reservation concerning the safeguard of its economic interests and an equally benevolent attitude on our part toward the political aspirations of England in other areas.

“Insofar as it concerns me personally, the assurance received from Delcasse is amply sufficient, because of the complete confidence that he inspires in me; but the Imperial Government would desire the French Government to issue more precise declarations like [those of the] British Government regarding its assent to the complete realization of our desires.”

Russian Foreign Minister to Russian Ambassador in London, 7/20 March 1915

“Referring to the memorandum of the British Embassy here of 12 March¸ will you please express to Grey the profound gratitude of the Imperial Government for the complete and definitive approval of Great Britain to a solution of the question of the Straits and Constantinople that satisfies Russia’s desires. The Imperial Government appreciates fully the sentiments of the British Government and is convinced that the sincere recognition of their respective interests will guarantee in perpetuity firm friendship between Russia and Great Britain. Having already given assurances respecting the commercial regime in the Straits and Constantinople, the Imperial Government sees no objection to confirming its assent to the establishment (1) of free transit through Constantinople for all goods not deriving from or destined for Russia and (2) free passage through the Straits for merchant vessels.

“With a view to facilitating the capture of the Dardanelles undertaken by the Allies, the Imperial Government will endeavour to obtain the intervention on reasonable terms of those states whose help is considered useful by Great Britain and France.

“The Imperial Government completely shares the view of the British Government on the maintenance of the Muslim Holy Places under an independent Muslim government. It is necessary to elucidate at once whether [those places] will remain under the suzerainty of Turkey, the Sultan retaining the title of Caliph, or it is contemplated to create new independent states, in order to permit the Imperial Government to formulate its views in full knowledge of the case. For its parts the Imperial Government desires that the Caliphate should be separated from Turkey. In any case, the freedom of pilgrimage must be completely secured.

“The Imperial Government confirms its assent to the inclusion of the neutral zone of Persia in the English sphere of influence. At the same time, however, [the Imperial Government] regards it as equitable to stipulate that the districts adjoining the cities of Isfahan and Yazd, forming with them an inseparable whole, should be reserved for Russia in view of the interests that Russia possesses there; a part of the neutral zone which now forms a wedge between the Russian and Afghan frontiers and touches Russia’s frontier at Zulfiqar, must also be included in the Russian sphere of influence.

“Railway construction in the neutral zone constitutes for the Imperial Government a question of capital significance that will require further amicable discussion.

“The Imperial Government expects that in the future its full liberty of action will be recognized in the sphere of influence thus delimited and that in particular it will enjoy the right preferentially [to develop] its financial and economic policy.

“Finally, the Imperial Government considers it desirable simultaneously to solve the question of northern Afghanistan adjoining Russian in conformity with the wishes expressed on the subject by the Imperial Government in the course of negotiations last year.”

Note verbale from French Ambassador at Petrograd to Russian Foreign Minister, 28 March / 10 April 1915

“The Government of the Republic will give its agreement to the Russian aide-mémoire addressed by M. Isvolsky to M. Delcasse on 6 March last relating to Constantinople and the Straits, on condition that war shall be prosecuted until victory and that France and Great Britain realise their plans in the Orient as elsewhere, as it is stated in the Russian aide-mémoire.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Britain's Great War Geopolitics Independent Ireland Russia Turkey and Ottoman Empire United States

The Events of 1915 in Eastern Anatolia in the Context of Britain’s Great War on the Ottoman Empire.

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A Talk given by Dr. Patrick Walsh at the London School of Economics on February 15th 2013

The events that occurred in Eastern Anatolia in 1915 should be located in a broader context than simply that of Turk against Armenian. Both Turks and Armenians were, after all, actors in a much wider drama that was unfolding in the world and any judgement about their actions can only be made with the knowledge that they were caught up in circumstances that were not of their choosing and were largely beyond their control.

Even Atatürk was an actor in this great drama imposed from outside by the Imperialist Powers – although he succeeded in assuming a leading role in it and writing a different ending to the script that was intended for the Turks by its authors.

The context of what happened to the Armenians in 1915 is left out of consideration in most discussions. An event can only be understood in relation to other events in history within the context of cause and effect. If other events are extracted then historical understanding is impossible. But it seems that this is the objective of people who wish to replace historical understanding with legal argument in deciding about such events.

Geoffrey Robertson QC wishes for historians to stop discussing the Armenian tragedy altogether. He recently declared in Yerevan that: “The historians have completed their mission, now it is the time for judges, who will demand proper punishment for guilt and compensation for the Genocide victims. It is no longer a subject of historians but judges.”  And in the ‘New Statesman’ of 10th December 2009 Robertson made it clear that the case, for him, is already closed: “… genocide is a matter for legal judgment, not a matter for historians, and there is no dispute about the Armenian genocide among legal scholars.” 

Robertson is an advocate of ‘International Law.’ At the end of the day law is policy. It is, in effect, the foreign policy of the big states in the world. By reducing the event of ‘genocide’ to law one is making it into a subjective judgement of the big states and a weapon of foreign policy to gain leverage on other states. The nature of an event and whether or not it constitutes ‘genocide’ is therefore rendered incapable of being measured in any objective way. In such circumstances it is reduced to a mere slogan.

I do not share Robertson’s faith in International Law. It seems to me to be applied only when it suits the Western Powers and forgotten about when it does not. It is overwhelmingly used to keep the ‘lesser states’ of Africa and Asia in order and to subvert their sovereignty and independence when the West sees it in its interest to do so.

International Law is applied to the ‘lesser states’ by the ‘superior’ states who appear to be above it themselves. In many ways it is the old ‘civilizing’ mission of Imperialism in a new guise of ‘ethical foreign policy’.

Something that is so partially and inconsistently applied cannot be taken seriously as having moral credibility. And if you take this kind of law seriously at all it is surely debased through its arbitrary application. So I prefer to trust in the historians.

What constitutes ‘genocide’ has, therefore, become a subjective matter – indeed, a matter for policy about whether it would be in the interests of the dominant states in the world whether some event should be termed ‘genocide’ or not for political advantage. And it is being ruled out as a matter of historical fact or a subject for historical investigation.

Reorientation of British Foreign Policy

First of all, let us make no mistake about the single most important event that made what happened in Eastern Anatolia a possibility – the 1907 agreement between England and Russia that prepared the way for the Great War of destruction on Germany and the Ottoman Empire.

For England the war on Ottoman Turkey, which resulted in the Armenian massacres, came about from a revolutionary change of policy at the start of the 20th century. England had acted as an ally of the Ottoman Empire for most of the century before the Great War when Britain was determined to preserve the Ottoman State as a giant buffer zone between its Indian Empire and the expanding Russian Empire. It was part of what was known as the ‘Great Game’ in England that ‘the Russians should not have Constantinople’ and the warm water port and access to the Mediterranean that this would have given them.

What completely changed British relations with Ottoman Turkey was the emergence of Germany as a serious commercial rival around the end of the 19th century. Britain had since 1688 practiced a ‘Balance of Power’ policy with regard to Europe. For centuries it had built its empire by keeping Europe divided and by giving military assistance to the lesser powers against any power that might be emerging on the continent. Then, whilst Europe was preoccupied with war England was able to get on with its business of conquering the rest of the world. It had the great advantage of being an island and therefore it could meddle with Europe and then retire from the continental battlefield and let others continue the fighting when enough had been gained. Its chief weapon of war, its Senior Service, was the Royal Navy, which established and controlled the world market for it. When the continent of Europe was at war the Royal Navy took over markets established elsewhere by the other European powers and in this way the British Empire went from strength to strength, both economically and in terms of expansion.

During the 19th century Britain’s traditional enemy in Europe had been France and her traditional rival in Asia was Russia. However, in the early years of the 20th century England gradually came to the conclusion that Germany was the coming power to be opposed. Therefore, it was decided to overturn the foreign policy of a century and to establish alliances with England’s traditional enemies, France and Russia, so that Germany could be encircled and then when war came about Britain would join the conflict and destroy Germany as a commercial rival. The alliance that Britain entered into with Russia in 1907, therefore, was the single most important event that made a British war on Ottoman Turkey inevitable.

This is where Russia came into the equation. As I have said, Britain was an island nation and it was primarily a sea power. It did not have a large army and it had been opposed to military conscription. It would have been impossible for Britain to have defeated Germany by itself. Therefore, it needed the large French army and the even larger Russian Army to do most of the fighting on the continent for it. The Russian Army was particularly important and it was described in England as a ‘steamroller’ that would roll all the way to Berlin, crushing German resistance by its sheer weight of numbers.

The problem for Britain was that the Russians (unlike the French who wanted to recapture Alsace/Lorraine after their loss to the Germans in 1871) had little real reason to fight Germany. Therefore, something had to be promised to the Czar for his help in destroying Germany. That something was his heart’s desire, Constantinople.

That fact should always be borne in mind when people suggest that Turkey brought the war on itself. The fact of the matter was that in order to defeat Germany Britain had to promise Constantinople to Russia and in order for the Russians to get Constantinople there had to be a war on Turkey.

Turkish historians are not alone in having overlooked the role of the famous British statesman, Maurice Hankey in these events. Hankey conducted extensive spying operations on behalf of Royal Naval Intelligence in the summer of 1907 based on the contingency that Britain would soon be at war with Germany and Turkey.

Hankey and his colleagues scrutinized the harbours and naval defences of the Ottoman Empire from Syria, through to Smyrna and Istanbul, up to Trabzon on the Black Sea. He surveyed, in particular, the coastal defences of the Dardanelles with an amphibious landing at Gallipoli in mind, to follow up a report of the Committee of Imperial Defence entitled ‘The Possibility of a Joint Naval and Military Attack upon the Dardanelles’ which had been produced in December 1906. And it was Hankey as Secretary to the CID who first proposed to the British War Cabinet in December 1914 that the pre-war plans should be put into operation as soon as possible.

The alliance with Russia was obviously the main factor that spelled trouble for the Ottoman Empire. But it was not the only factor that encouraged Britain to overturn her traditional foreign policy.

Britain began to show an increasingly aggressive attitude in relation to Istanbul as Germany showed interest in the Ottoman Empire. What worried Britain about the German involvement with the Ottoman Empire was that it was not the parasitic relationship of the other Imperialist powers. The German objective seems to have been to rejuvenate and modernize the Ottoman Empire, partly through the Berlin-Baghdad Railway, in exchange for commercial rights there. England and Russia had seen the Ottoman Empire as the ‘sick man of Europe’ and they had been waiting around for his death but now they looked on as Germany threatened to revive the ‘sick man’, and dash their dreams of conquest.

This great reorientation of British foreign policy had serious consequences for not only the Ottoman Turks but also for the Armenians. Prior to 1907 it was the Russians alone who wished to exploit the Armenians for political ends and the Armenians always had to consider the likelihood that if they rose in revolt Britain would restrain the Russians from taking advantage of the situation – and any uprising would be crushed without foreign help. The Russians complained that they were stopped in assisting the Armenians because of the Cyprus Convention of 1878 between Britain and the Ottoman Sultan. This guaranteed a British war on Russia if the Czar moved into Ottoman territory in return for Cyprus being occupied by Britain.

But this all changed in 1907. Under the Anglo-Russian Treaty of 1907 England and Russia agreed an immediate partition of Persia between them and envisaged a future partition of the Ottoman Empire in which the eastern provinces would go to Russia and Mesopotamia would go to Great Britain. Later, once Russia had shown its commitment to the war on Germany, in the secret Constantinople agreement of March 1915, the Ottoman capital which the British described as ‘the greatest prize of the war’ was awarded formally to the Czar.

Russian annexation of the eastern Ottoman provinces became the common program of Great Britain and Russia alike. (The fact must be emphasized that there has never been any Russian population in these provinces and that the Armenians constituted Russia’s only ground for intervention and eventual annexation.)

The pre-War Armenian revolts illustrate this point very well. In 1894-6 The Armenian nationalists believed they had got signals that the intervention of the Great Powers would take place if they could provoke the Ottomans into a harsh reaction. They attempted to do this but found that Britain had not changed its position at this point and Russia, therefore, could not act. In 1909 in Adana there were further raised expectations of foreign intervention amongst Armenian groups. However, Britain needed the preservation of the Ottoman Empire until Russia was prepared to advance against Germany in a European war. The result was disaster for the Armenians after they had initiated killings in the hope of foreign intervention only to be left to face the consequences of their actions from their neighbours, alone.

By 1914-5 England was in alliance with the Czar and all restraint was removed from Russia and the Armenian nationalists. Mayhem and mutual killings were instigated in the Ottoman Empire by the Entente Powers to bring about its collapse and to facilitate the absorption of its parts into the empires of Britain, France and Russia. In a general war situation which threatened the very existence of the State in which the Armenians lived and which forced them to choose between it and their deliverance by the Great Powers catastrophe for either them or for local Moslems was always going to be the most likely outcome.

Position of the Armenians

As I have said, the context is all-important.  The Russians and the other Entente Powers had every interest in stirring up Armenian rebellion to further their war effort while the Ottomans had every interest in preserving good relations with the Armenians.  Sean McMeekin’s book ‘The Russian origins of the First World War’ describes a 1908 Russian General Staff memorandum expressly specifying that ‘agents from the Christian population’ would cut off rail lines to Constantinople… whereupon native Christians would ‘burn down all the wooden bridges spanning the Golden Horn and set fire to Stamboul’. McMeekin comments: “A more explicit blueprint for using Armenians (and other Ottoman Christians) as a fifth column for an invading Russian army could scarcely be imagined.” (p.146)

Intention is a very important element in judging the nature of an event. The Ottomans had no objective interest in creating an Armenian ‘genocide’.  Their interest lay in maintaining the Armenians as a loyal and functional community within the Ottoman State and the C.U.P. would undoubtedly have preferred it if the Armenians had remained that way.

The breakdown in Ottoman State infrastructure and authority caused by the British blockade and by the invading Allied armies was the major factor in turning the position of Armenians and other Christian groups from one of mainstays of the commercial infrastructure of the Ottoman Empire and “the loyal community” into a problematic element within it. And since the objective of the Allies was the destruction of the commercial life of the Ottoman State through invasion and blockade what future, indeed, had the Armenians in it?

Lately I came across a speech by T.P. O’Connor made in the House of Commons during the debate on the Treaty of Lausanne. O’Connor was one of the last remaining pro-Imperialist Irish MPs left in the British Parliament after the Irish Party had been smashed by Sinn Fein in the 1918 General Election. He made an impassioned plea on behalf of the establishment of an Armenian state in Anatolia, which, he said, had been abandoned in the Treaty signed by the British Empire with the resurgent Turks.

The bulk of O’Connor’s speech is taken up with quotations expressing British support for the Armenians during the war and detailing the betrayal of the Armenians by the Entente after it. However O’Connor also credits the Armenians with having played a vital role in the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, despite attempts by the Turks to gain their loyalty. It is interesting in relation to the matter of context. O’Connor said:

 “Let us trace what happened to the Armenians during the War. Turkey was in a tight place. She made every effort to obtain the support, or at least the quiescence, of the Armenians. She offered them autonomy when assembled at a National Congress in 1914. She applied the condition that the Armenians should join Turkey in carrying on the War against the Allies. The offer of autonomy was, of course, very attractive, but the Armenians declined to accept it… Not only did the Armenians refuse this insidious offer, but they actually sent 200,000 Armenian soldiers to fight the battle of Russia, then one of our Allies, and it was their splendid resistance, when The Russian army broke down, to the Turks in the Caucasus which helped us finally to win the War. I believe I am right in saying that nearly 200,000 Armenian soldiers lost their lives fighting for the Allies during the War. If it makes no appeal to our humanity, I think that enormous sacrifice in face of immense temptations gives the Armenians a supreme right to our gratitude…” (House of Commons Debates, 28 March 1923)

 As O’Connor states whilst the Ottomans attempted to retain the loyalty and service of the Armenians with concessions the Entente Powers sought to use them in their destruction of the Ottoman State. And when the Armenians were no longer useful and Atatürk had established Turkey as a power to be reckoned with, the Entente just left them high and dry.

Unfortunately for the Armenians, they, like other peoples in strategically important areas during 1914-18 found themselves being used as pawns in a new ‘Great Game.’ After being encouraged to insurgency and to try to form themselves into a national entity (that was never a practicality given their dispersion across Ottoman territories) they were quickly discarded and forgotten when their interests no longer coincided with those of their Great Power sponsors.

Edward Frederick Knight, the famous journalist from ‘The Times’ of London wrote in 1910: “Armenia is now but a geographical expression, and ancient Armenia has been partitioned between Turkey, Russia, and Persia. The Armenians in Turkish Armenia are vastly outnumbered by the Moslem population; and the creation of an independent Armenian principality, desired by a section of the revolutionists, was obviously an impracticable scheme. The more sensible Armenians realised that the only alternative for the rule of Turkey was that of Russia, and the experience of their brethren across the border had proved to them that, of the two, the rule of Turkey was to be preferred; for under it they enjoyed a measure of racial autonomy and various privileges — much restricted… which the Russian Government, ever bent on the Russianisation of the nationalities subject to it, would certainly have denied to them.” (‘The Awakening of Turkey’, p.80)

The Armenian nationalists relied upon external forces as the only means of creating an Armenian state within Ottoman territories. This was because they were a relatively small minority in Eastern Anatolia, constituting only about 1 in 6 of the population of the Ottoman lands they claimed. Only through outside help from a Great Power and extensive ethnic cleansing of their Moslem neighbours could they achieve their nationalist objective.

The two main uses that Britain had for the Armenians were: firstly, to encourage American participation in the war and secondly, to cultivate and construct a case against the Ottomans in order to justify the incorporation of Moslem lands into the British Empire after the war.

These were the primary interests of Britain in them and not their well-being or that they should be governed well. That can be seen in the way Britain failed to press the Armenian case after they had acquired Mesopotamia and Palestine and how they put the Blue Book (Lord Bryce and Arnold Toynbee’s account of the ‘Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire’) back on the shelf, perhaps for use on a future day.

After the Great War Britain had it in her power to bring about an Armenian state and to try those it had accused and detained in connection with the deaths of Armenians. But, despite attempting many things in the world that were immensely more difficult at the time it decided not to follow through with these two measures, as if it did not take the claims it made against the Turks as seriously as it pretended to, during the war.

Genocide and extermination

The Armenians did not possess land or resources required by the Ottoman Turks for any colonial programme. The major area in which they lived was mainly of interest to the Ottomans because it contained substantial numbers of Turkish and Kurdish Moslems. This can be compared with cases in other places in the world where natives were in possession of territory which Britain and the other Imperial powers required for their empires.  I am thinking of North America and Australia, particularly.

The policy of extermination of ‘inferior’ races that Britain carried out in the name of progress was openly proclaimed by Charles Dilke and many other important Imperial writers in the 19th Century. Dilke stated frankly and proudly in his immensely popular book ‘Greater Britain’ that the Anglo-Saxon race was the most effective genocidal force in world history: “The English everywhere attempt to introduce civilisation, or to modify that which exists, in a rough-and-ready manner which invariably ends in failure or ends in the destruction of the native race… A gradual extinction of the inferior races is not only a law of nature, but a blessing to mankind… The Anglo-Saxon is the only extirpating race on earth. Up to the commencement of the now inevitable destruction of the Red Indians of Central North America, of the Maoris, and of the Australians by the English Colonists, no numerous race had ever been blotted out by an invader.” (p.223.)

The word ‘extirpation’ is a much stronger word than the word ‘genocide.’ ‘Extirpation’ means the intentional and planned, total and utter destruction of a race. ‘Genocide,’ according to Article II of the 1948 Convention is a much wider legal concept under which practically all of the European nations could be charged for their activities between 1941 and 1946, when various peoples settled accounts with each other and vast amounts of ethnic cleansing and killing were done. But there does not seem to be any will to engage in such a process.

In effect, the word ‘genocide’ has meant the partial destruction of a people since ‘extirpated’ people no longer exist to commemorate their destruction.

Nothing like the ‘extirpation’ practiced by European colonialism is applicable to the Ottoman State in relation to the Armenians or any other minority within the territory of the Empire. In fact, the Ottomans were criticized by British writers for their easy-going tolerance of races which, it was suggested, was leading to the demise of their empire. The British Social Darwinists were, in particular, appalled at the way the Ottomans had inter-married and incorporated other races into the governing of their empire and had blended aspects of their cultures into the Ottoman mix. In those days of Empire the British believed in a distinct racial hierarchy and saw ‘race-mixing’ as an abomination and fatal to the ‘racial stock.’

Nationalism and War in the Near East’  by George Young, ‘A Diplomatist,’ edited by Lord Courtney of Penwith, and published by Oxford University Press in 1915 (at the time of the Armenian relocations) is a good example of this argument. The British and Ottoman Empires were seen as having entirely different notions of race and governing. It was argued that the British Empire was successful because it was founded on the principle of racial and religious distinction and hierarchy whereas the Ottomans played ‘fast and loose’ with these categories to the extent that, in the English biological view, they contravened the ‘laws of nature’, leading to an inevitable Ottoman extinction.

Arnold Toynbee in his famous work ‘Study of History’ argued that the Anglo-Saxon inclination toward ruthless extermination of other races was due to the inspiration that the savage Old Testament of the Christian Bible had on Protestant powers like England and America. He noted that Catholic Imperial powers, like Spain and Portugal, tended to try to convert subject races to Catholicism before inter-breeding with them. England rejected such a policy in the name of racial superiority and the preservation of a master race of Empire.

Such ideas, that were prevalent in the Anglo-Saxon notion of ‘progress,’ would have been seen as inexplicable to the Ottoman Turk.

A few years ago the British historian, A.J.P. Taylor reviewing a book about the Irish Famine of 1847/8 for the New Statesman (12.11.62), under the title ‘Genocide’ compared Ireland under British rule to one giant concentration camp, like Belsen. This analogy provoked a hostile reaction in England. However, the Liberal Government were simply doing in their policy what Dilke later praised by allowing the potato blight to get rid of the ‘human waste’ through famine. And in the same century Britain took to clearing an awful lot of territory in the world of its ‘human waste’ to create great waste spaces that the superior form of humanity – the Anglo-Saxon could colonize.

The long-term tendency of British policy in Ireland was genocidal from Elizabethan times. Of course, it was a failed genocide because it could not be sustained long enough to be fully effective. But there was nothing of this type of activity evident in Ottoman policy toward their minorities.

The point I am making is that if there was a racially genocidal spirit at hand in 1915 it was to be found on the opposing side to the Turks – amongst the Anglo-Saxons who had obliterated races across the world in the name of ‘progress’ and ‘civilisation’ and the creation of new great white settler nations, in the continents of America and Australasia.

Hitler may or may not have uttered the notorious question; “Who remembers the Armenians?” But the Armenians are remembered today to a much greater degree than the many races that perished as a result of the expansion of England across the globe. These races are now footnotes in history while the Armenians have had hundreds of books dedicated to them.

It was not those who killed the Armenians who inspired Hitler. The race he admired most and who he tried to emulate in the world was the Anglo-Saxon (The evidence for this is laid out most comprehensively in a book by the Armenian born Manuel Sarkisyanz entitled ‘Hitler’s English Inspirers’.)

After the war, when Atatürk had triumphed over the British, he was very generous to the enemy. But let us speak plainly here. Those who sailed into Gallipoli were representatives of the great genocidal nations of the world. The Turks surely would have seen what these ‘extirpating’ nations had done across the world to native peoples they had conquered and could have expected the same to be done to them. Those who invaded from the East had been responsible for the clearing of more than a million Caucasian Moslems within living memory. And I have read many British accounts from the period that speculated about what would happen if the Turks ‘disappeared’ without any concern for what would happen to the inhabitants of the State in such an event.

So who knows what might have happened to the Turks if the Czarist State had not collapsed in 1917 and Atatürk had not seen off the British and their allies in 1922.

The use of the word ‘genocide’ with regard to what happened to the Armenians during the Great War is an attempt to connect Turkey with Nazi Germany and what it did to the Jews. However, a much better analogy would be what happened on the Eastern Front during the Second World War when different groups of people became destabilized by the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Here terrible things were done as state authority began to collapse, society began to return to its elements and people struggled for mere survival in the circumstances.

In 1915 the Russian and British invasions of the Ottoman Empire had a similar effect. The Russians and British invasions raised expectations so that some were willing to exact retribution on people they had grievances against and, in turn, those people exacted revenge on them. No one quite knew under whose authority they would exist when the war was over and therefore all restraint was removed on behaviour. It was under these circumstances and in this context that the relocation of Armenians took place and the mass killings of both Christian and Moslem peoples.

The problem of Nationalism

Attributing intention – as opposed to discovering actual intention – seems to take a large part in deciding what constitutes a ‘genocide’ these days and this seems to count more than actual deeds in determining what is ‘genocide’.

The cultivation of nationalism was a British Liberal tactic used to break up multi-national Empires of rival powers in the nineteenth century. It worked by sowing the seeds and cultivating the harvest of nationalism in them – whilst denying and repressing it closer to home. In this way Britain sought to undermine enemies or states it saw as rivals by destabilizing them through their ‘national’ minorities – whilst doing everything to repress and subdue minorities within their own Empire, of course – as they did in Ireland.

So the clearance of Armenians from Eastern Anatolia should have been seen, from the British perspective, as a ‘progressive’ development, since it was the culmination of the general process that England encouraged with regard to the Ottoman territories and elsewhere in the world. The responsibility for what happened to the Armenians and the other minorities that existed relatively peacefully within the Ottoman Empire for centuries must be placed, therefore, primarily at the hands of those who attempted to destabilize and ultimately destroy the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire.

The importation of nationalism into the Ottoman Empire for the purposes of weakening it and gaining leverage for the Great Powers there is very much at the root of what happened to the Armenians.

Nationalism was a most unsuitable thing to promote in the region covered by the Ottoman Empire where a great patch-work of peoples were inter-mingled and were inter-dependent. Its promotion in the region by the Entente powers was as disastrous for the many Moslem communities of the Balkans and the Caucasus, who were driven from their homes of centuries, as it was for Christians caught up in the inevitable consequences of the simplifying process it ultimately encouraged.

The catastrophic effect of the Balkan Wars on the Ottoman Empire are often absent from Western accounts of this period. These, beginning in the time of Gladstone, sought to focus on Ottoman ‘atrocities’ against subject peoples, particularly Christians, and ignored the widespread ethnic cleansing and genocide that was practised on Moslems by the Balkan Christians and against each other once the Ottoman State began to disintegrate and after when the Turks had gone.

The Ottoman Empire had been a tolerant multi-ethnic Empire for hundreds of years, in which different races and religions had lived side-by-side in comparative peace and harmony. For instance, alone out of all the states in Europe at the time, the Ottomans accepted the entry and settlement of Jewish refugees fleeing from persecution so that these people could contribute their talents to the commercial life of the Empire.

As a result, the Ottoman Empire became the most successful example of collaboration between different peoples in history. This collaboration was sometimes accomplished through bribery, corruption, dealing, trade-offs and the occasional massacre (that encouraged the settlement of disputes between the various peoples before they became full scale wars). But from the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries peoples of diverse races and religions intermingled contentedly and successfully under Ottoman administrations and even the Balkans became a relatively peaceful area.

If there was antagonism between Christian and Moslem in the region it was primarily the result of the Russian Imperial expansionism of the previous three centuries which had seen Tatars, Circassians and Abazians driven from their lands into the Ottoman territories. Armenians took the place of Moslems in the Erivan Khanate in what is modern day Armenia. During the 19th Century the vast ethnic cleansing of Moslems in the Caucuses by Russia and in the Balkan Wars (1912/13) by the emerging Christian nations set off a wave of inter-ethnic violence and population movements that set a pattern for the history of these regions during the 20th Century.

Raphael Lemkin, who Geoffrey Robertson describes as ‘the legal architect’ of the UN Genocide Convention, interestingly attempted to categorize the phases of Genocide: “Genocide has two phases: one, the destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor.” (‘Axis Rule’, p.78)

The Ottomans never attempted anything like this in relation to the subject races of the Empire. The Millet system did not even encourage assimilation and provided for the maximum expression of each community’s ‘national pattern’ – in great contrast to British Imperialism. It would not be going too far to suggest that there is a connection between what happened to the Armenian community in Anatolia in 1915 and what was done to the Moslems of the former regions of Ottoman Empire that were conquered by Christian powers in the years before and during the Great War.

If the Balkan Wars had one great effect on the Ottoman Empire and its Moslem inhabitants it was to begin to shatter the long-held faith in multi-ethnic communities existing together in mutual benefit that had characterised of the Empire for centuries. And the influx of large numbers of Moslem refugees amongst the Christian communities within the Ottoman Empire must surely have had serious consequences for public order as soon as Anatolia itself was threatened by the Western powers and state authority removed. They would have feared the worse for themselves and their families and be determined it would not happen again.

There would inevitably have been a gradual loss of faith in the multi-ethnic principles of the Ottoman Empire after the experience of the Balkan Wars. We know that some deputies in Istanbul called for a clean break with the Empire’s Imperial past advocating a withdrawal from territories that were not predominantly Turkish and a future reliance on the Moslem people of the Anatolian heartland as the one and only trusted basis of the nation. Such sentiment began to be expressed in publications that took the Western view that the Ottoman Empire, not being based on national principles, would collapse like a house of cards. This development is sometimes called ‘Turkification’ by those wishing to attach the label of ‘genocide’ to what happened in Eastern Anatolia.

In the course of thinking about this issue I read the QC Geoffrey Robinson’s Opinion; ‘Was there an Armenian Genocide?’ Robinson knows that intent is very important in legal matters and tries to suggest that the Young Turks “developed the kind of race supremacy theories that are particularly associated with a build-up to genocide. For example, the racist idea that Turanian nationality was a badge of superiority… public sub-humanising of minority groups… extreme nationalist fervour, demanding a ‘warrior nation’ to prevent the decay of the Turkish race…” (p.15)

Robinson is more accurately describing the characteristics and ideology of British Imperialism in the nineteenth and twentieth century than he is the attitudes of the Ottomans to the peoples they governed. For instance, Karl Pearson, a Professor of Mathematics at this (London) University gave a famous lecture in 1907 about the ‘superiority of the Aryan race’ and the only ‘healthy’ option facing it: “that he should go and completely drive out the inferior race. That is what the white man has done in North America… The Australian nation is another case of a great civilisation supplanting a lower race.” (National Eugenics, Robert Boyle Lecture, 1907)

Robinson can present no evidence of a significant racialist body of writings that inspired and justified a programme of genocide like that of the English Social Darwinists in the late 19th Century. It is also clear that the Ottoman State did not actively pursue a policy of religious homogeneity in 1915. Events from then to 1923 certainly resulted in the heterogeneous Ottoman State giving way to the largely homogeneous Turkish Republic. But this was due to circumstance more than anything else.

In 1915 the Ottoman Empire was collapsing under the weight of problems that came to it from Europe and the C.U.P. looked for solutions to its predicament in that direction too. It had been a multi-ethnic state based on a healthy disregard for any notions of racial hierarchy. But what was being imposed upon it from the West, in the name of ‘progress’, was the requirement that society should be based on the nation state rather than a multiethnic/religious combination, with as much racial homogeneity as possible.

If some Ottomans began to lose faith in the multi-ethnic character of their Empire this was a consequence of a process instigated by Liberal Britain and Tsarist Russia in order to destabilize the Ottoman Empire. If a small minority of writers succumbed to British Social Darwinist ideas of ‘progress and civilisation’ then were they not merely coming up to the benchmark set and propagated successfully by British Imperialism? However, the continuation of the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire did not require a genocidal policy on the part of the Ottomans but the establishment of a nationalist Armenian state in Anatolia did.

This was because, unlike the Greeks and Bulgarians in the old Balkan provinces of Ottoman Europe who possessed majorities and many of the elements of nationhood, in none of the eastern provinces did the Armenians constitute a majority of the population. So whilst it was comparatively easy for Greeks and Bulgarians, once Western ideas of nationalism had reached them, to enlarge the autonomy of their own community institutions into territorial independence, any attempt to transfer Armenian autonomy from a religious to a territorial basis was quite another matter. The population of the modern eastern provinces was such that a restoration of the old Armenian Kingdom was impossible without overcoming six centuries of history through the construction of a homogeneous Armenian State. That would, of necessity, have involved the ethnic cleansing of large numbers of Turks and Kurds and almost certainly have required a policy of genocide against them to achieve a functional and stable Armenia (At the 1919 Paris Peace Conference the area claimed for an Armenian State was gigantic and included territory as far west as Sivas and Adana).

The Ottoman State was an established functional entity built upon the peace and stability of six centuries whereas an Armenian State in the region would have been inevitably a violent revolutionary affair. These types of constructions are rarely good for any minorities that might find them obstructing the necessary process of ‘nation building’. Turks, Kurds and other non-Armenian groups in the new state would have more than likely been exterminated or been driven out.

The question of intention is also relevant. There are instances in which population movements involving slaughter were planned and done intentionally.  For instance, the area bombing of Germany during WWII by the RAF had the intention of killing the German workforce. It was planned and refined with the intention of maximising working class casualties within dense population areas. Nagasaki & Hiroshima also come to mind.

There were also huge population movements conducted by the British in Malaya and Kenya during uprisings, about which little was known until recently. The Harvard professor, Caroline Elkins reveals in her book, ‘Britain’s Gulag: the Brutal End of Empire in Kenya, that the British detained almost the entire population of Kikuyu, one and a half million people, in camps and fortified villages. Thousands were beaten to death or died from malnutrition, typhoid, tuberculosis and dysentery. In many of the concentration camps, which were authorised at the highest level, almost all the children died. In the camps the inmates were tortured or used as slave labour and above the gates were slogans reminiscent of Auschwitz, such as “Labour and freedom.” The British did not bother with body counts, most victims were buried in unmarked graves and files were destroyed to cover up official direction. But tens of thousands died in the camps and during the relocations. Undoubtedly, the intention was to teach the support populations a lesson they would not forget in a hurry. And this was in the last half century, after the crimes of the Nazis had been exposed and people hung at Nuremburg.

It is not at all a convincing argument to suggest that the Ottomans had any intention or plan to wipe out the Armenians. There was a complete absence of such an ideal in Ottoman literature and the appliance of the basic historical principle of cause and effect suggests that the relocations were a practical response to an emergency situation, however badly they might have arguably been handled.

The Ottoman Response in Context

In the spring of 1915 three events precipitated and provoked the Armenian relocations: the Gallipoli landings by the British, a large ambush in Zeytun by Armenian insurgents which resulted in the deaths of 500 Ottoman soldiers on the main supply route into Syria and the Armenian rebellion at Van, which resulted in a massacre of Moslems. In April, Lord Bryce (of Blue Book fame) and the ‘Friends of Armenia’ in London made a widely publicised appeal for funds to equip Armenian volunteers fighting behind Turkish lines.

Any State will protect itself, if attacked, and these three events, which took place right across Ottoman Turkey, with the Russians on the advance into Anatolia, placed the State on an emergency footing of the highest order. Population movement was the primary defensive measure taken by the Ottoman State in relation to these events and the position of the Armenians. And most of the deaths occurred incidentally to this emergency measure.

The Russian reform campaign of 1913-14 had left little doubt at Istanbul that Russia aimed to annex Turkey’s six eastern provinces over which she had declared a proprietary interest – which was the usual preliminary to an Imperial power declaring a formal protectorate and annexing a region.

In the period between the outbreak of war in Europe and before the declarations of war on the Ottoman Empire the Russians had began arming the Armenians in preparation for invasion. The invading Russian armies brought with them Armenian groups armed with Allied weapons whose main purpose was to kill Turks and Kurds – which they proceeded to do. British and Russian agents circulated amongst the Armenians behind Turkish lines and provided them with weapons and money to enable them to create general disorder. In the Armenian capture of the city of Van and the general massacre of Moslems that followed Ottoman soldiers were diverted and prevented from reaching the front to fight the invading Russian forces. All these factors influenced the Ottomans to relocate the Armenian population from the area.

And along with the Armenian relocation there was also a relocation of up to 800,000 Moslems from the war-zone. But when the Ottoman authorities moved various peoples out of the war zones they became prey to other groups with scores to settle, such as the Kurds on the Armenians. Moslem civilians faced similar problems as they fled the attacking Russian armies only to be harassed by armed Armenian bands. And I have seen figures of up to 500,000 Moslems killed by Armenians, with extensive lists of names and modes of death recorded by the Ottoman authorities.

Even before 1915 Eastern Anatolia resembled a powder-keg. The Kurdish tribes were exceedingly well armed and virtually sovereign in the areas they roamed. They and the Christian townsmen, bought arms from the Russians and frequent skirmishes occurred between different groups. The Russians flirted with using the Kurds as well as the Armenians as instigators of chaos in the region prior to the war. Order was only maintained by an Ottoman presence between the various elements. If that presence were removed, as it inevitably would in war-time, it was predictable as to what would occur.

‘Relocations’ were the standard military response to guerrilla warfare waged behind the lines at the time. A decade and a half before the Turks relocated the Armenians the British ‘relocated’ Boer and African civilians away from the war-zone in the Transvaal – into concentration camps. This was not a defensive act conducted in response to encirclement, invasion and rebellion – as was the case in Anatolia in 1915 – but was done in the course of an aggressive expansionism aimed at neutralising a population resisting conquest.

The United States also conducted ‘relocations’ with regard to the native Americans putting them into reservations. And this was after multiple genocides were carried out over centuries on the American continent to establish the United States.

Britain conducted its ‘relocations’ and confinements in stable conditions, controlling the seas around Africa, under no pressure of blockade, with plentiful availability of food supplies, in a localised conflict fought in a gentlemanly way by their opponents. And yet they still managed to kill tens of thousands of Boer and African women and children in the process. It was called “methods of barbarism” at the time but I have never seen it called ‘genocide.’

The Armenians were not imprisoned by the Ottomans but resettled away from the war-zone. It is probable that the majority survived the forced migration into Syria and Armenians away from the war-zone in Istanbul, Izmir and Edirne were largely left alone. Therefore, the character of the Ottoman actions suggests they were more of a defensive emergency war measure than an aggressive colonial or extirpating campaign, practiced by the Imperial Powers.

The difference between what the British did in South Africa and what the Ottomans attempted to do in eastern Anatolia in 1915 was that the Ottomans were confronted by a much stronger enemy and assault on their state. The Armenian relocations were conducted in a situation of external invasion, blockade, starvation, inter-community killing and the general lawlessness of a collapsing state apparatus.

There was also a more recent example of relocations for the Ottomans to consider. In January 1915 the Russians and Armenians responded to an Ottoman offensive by massacring upwards of 50,000 Moslems in Kars and Ardahan. This was followed by extensive relocations of Moslems who were behind the Russian lines and in the potential war-zone.

Prof. Cicek’s book, ‘The Great War And The Forced Migration Of Armenians’ shows that the Ottomans did not have the intention of destroying the Armenian population in the course of moving those out of the front-line fighting areas and military security zones:  he shows that there were attempts to care for them in various ways. The Decree for the locations issued by the Ottoman Government insisted that those who were being moved should be cared for, protected and adequately fed and preparations were made to this effect. However, the war conditions imposed on the region by the Entente invasions and blockade ensured that such conditions could not be adequately met.

The whole relocation exercise was conducted under the watchful gaze of missionaries and diplomats sympathetic to the Armenians. The atrocity stories employed by the British propaganda departments are largely based on their (mainly) hearsay reports. To compare this with the Holocaust, where defenceless, peaceable Jews were relocated into Labour and Extermination Camps, with no foreign diplomats or missionaries to intercede for them, is quite unjustified.

The Christian Missions themselves have some responsibility for what happened to the Armenians. The Ottoman State was subject to a growing tide of missionary activity, particularly from the Anglo-sphere, before the Great War.  The mainly Protestant missionaries offered educational opportunities to Christians and a support base for emigrants. Moslems were impervious to conversion: it was the Christians that were susceptible.  This missionary work, which the tolerant Ottomans unwisely permitted, broke up the homogenous Armenian community (and other Christian traditions too).  In this situation, Nationalism gradually replaced Religion as a cohesive force in the Armenian communities. The missionaries also engendered dissatisfaction with the existing Ottoman arrangements.  The Christian missions had extra-territorial status and they acted in conjunction with their own governments and under their protection, outside the normal Ottoman governing system. All these factors tended toward the development of Armenian communities that were antagonistic toward their neighbours and undermined the existing social relationships that had preserved the peace for centuries.

There is a great double-standard at work here. Britain always wants to judge what happens elsewhere in the world in moral terms, quite apart from context. It judges what other countries do on grounds of high moral principle, but takes a very pragmatic view of its own conduct in the world.

That is why Turkey finds itself in the dock for the Armenian ‘genocide’ but Britain never seems to face any charges about its conduct in the world.

Hunger Wars and Starvation Blockades

The British blockade of the Ottoman Empire, which began even before the formal declaration of war, was carried out with the intention of starving Ottoman citizens to force them into surrender and encouraging a general collapse of Ottoman society into anarchy. A similar blockade was organised against neutral Greece to encourage regime change and her enlistment in the Allied ranks.

A significant component in the large numbers of deaths in Anatolia was the conditions brought about by the general lack of food in the region. This was largely caused by the military encirclement of the Ottoman Empire and the Royal Navy blockade organised in the seas around it.

It is difficult to ascertain exact statistics on the modes of deaths of victims in the Armenian tragedy. However, the effects of malnutrition and associated diseases are bound to have played a very large part. We are fairly certain that hundreds of thousands died in Syria and Lebanon during this period as British forces prevented food from being supplied from Egypt and Entente warships blockaded the coasts. Turkish soldiers in Mesopotamia and Palestine starved to death in their tens of thousands and the death toll from Typhus reached fifty per cent of the population at times. According to a recent study by Edward Erickson seven times as many Turkish soldiers died from illness than from wounds received in battle. In Eastern Anatolia where there was an absence of roads and railways transportation of food and medical supplies would have been very difficult, even if they were available.

Thousands of people moving around as refugees from the invading armies of Britain and Russia and the Royal Navy blockade, in chaotic conditions, with the transportation system collapsing, with bandits preying on them under the collapse of order, with the general shortage of food and with primitive sanitation conditions leading to famine, hunger and disease, inevitably resulted in a general reverse to a state of nature in much of the outlying areas of the Empire, particularly in Eastern Anatolia, the war zone between Russia and the Turks.

I have seen it argued that it was the neglect and incompetence of Ottoman authorities that were responsible for such high levels of deaths amongst its own soldiers, prisoners of war and the civilian populations within the blockaded area. However, it must be remembered that Germany suffered nearly a million deaths in some estimates from the starvation blockade organised against it by the Royal Navy. Germany was a highly organised society with great skills of improvisation that helped it to hold out against blockade for four years. However, it too failed and was ground down by the irresistible force of the Royal Navy.

Hunger and famine have been significant methods of British warfare for centuries. In the seventeenth century they were used by Crown forces to suppress Irish resistance in Ulster. In the nineteenth century during the Irish famine (which the Ottoman Sultan tried to alleviate with aid) at least a million of the population were left to die and more than a million forced out as a useful policy for weakening Ireland for conquest. The same was true of the famines in India presided over by Lord Curzon and others, not to mention what happened in Persia under the British occupation of 1917-19 (Dr. Mohammad Gholi Majd in ‘The Great Famine and Genocide in Persia, 1917-1919’ estimates that as much as 40% or 10 million of the population of Persia was wiped out because of starvation and the associated diseases when the British seized the country’s food supplies for its armies of occupation.)

Taking these considerations into account I cannot see how the Ottomans can be held wholly responsible for what happened in Eastern Anatolia. Those organising the invasions and blockade must surely have been aware of the effects of their war policy on the general population within the encircled area. It was designed to kill large numbers, regardless of race or religion, encourage the spread of disease, weaken the population and produce general disorder and conflict within the Ottoman State. And it accomplished all of these objectives.

Before the war considerable effort had been put into calculating the effects of blockading Germany on its civilian population. It had been openly speculated in the British press that not only would it lead to mass starvation, disease and social revolution but, in true Social Darwinist fashion, it would also weaken the German racial stock. It would be foolish to believe that any other eventuality would have been entertained in relation to the appliance of blockade to the much less developed state apparatus in the Ottoman lands.

Conclusion

The logical implication of all this is that if what happened to the Armenians in 1915 is to be described as ‘genocide’ we must look much wider for those responsible than just within the C.U.P. and Ottoman authorities directly responsible for relocating the Armenians. Firstly, there was the responsibility of the Anglo-French and Russian invasion forces whose arrival in May 1915 signalled that the destruction of the Ottoman Empire was a distinct probability. Secondly, there was the exportation from Europe of Social Darwinist ideas of race homogeneity as the ideal type for societies. This undermined the old heterogeneous Ottoman attitude toward race that had promoted ‘live and let live’ in the Empire. Thirdly, there was the promotion of nationalism from Europe in order to destabilise the Ottoman State and make multi-ethnic units impossible.

If the deaths of Armenians are seen as ‘genocide’ the powers that were most responsible for it were Britain and Russia (and to a lesser degree France). In the interests of destroying Germany and conquering the Ottoman territories they made the Ottoman State an impossible place for Armenians to live in the space of a few months after they had lived in it peacefully for centuries. If we are to talk of an Armenian ‘genocide’ and insist on an official apology we must put these countries in the dock first because without their actions it would never have happened.

 

Some Athol Books publications:

  • The Great War And The Forced Migration Of Armenians

by Prof. Dr. Kemal Çiçek

  • Forgotten Aspects Of Britain’s Great War On Turkey. 1914-24

by Dr. Pat Walsh

  • Remembering Gallipoli, President McAleese’s Great War Crusade

by Dr. Pat Walsh

  • Britain’s Great War, Pope Benedict’s Lost Peace: How Britain Blocked The Pope’s Peace Efforts Between 1915 And 1918 by Dr. Pat Walsh
  • The Rise And Fall Of Imperial Ireland. Redmondism In The Context Of Britain’s War Of Conquest Of South Africa And Its Great War On Germany, 1899-1916 by Dr. Pat Walsh
  • The Politics Of Pre-War Europe: The Catholic Bulletin on Peace, War And Neutrality, 1937-1939. Introduction: by Dr. Pat Walsh
  • Preposterous Paradoxes of Ambassador Morgenthau by Şükrü Server Aya
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The Talaat Pasha Question

talaat

A recent book by Professor Hans Lukas Keiser ‘Talaat Pasha: Father of Modern Turkey, Architect of Genocide’ has the objective of establishing Talaat as the chief orchestrator of the event the author calls the “Armenian Genocide” and to establish him alongside Ataturk as “The Father of Modern Turkey. Prof Keiser makes the case that the charming Talaat Bey was the individual most responsible for the destruction of the Armenian community in the Ottoman territories during 1915. Talaat Pasha, of course, was Interior Minister in the pre-War C.U.P. Government and the last powerful Grand Vizier of the Ottoman era, during the Great War of 1914. He was one of the Triumvirate of Young Turk leaders, with Enver and Cemal Pasha, which largely presided over the affairs of state. Prof. Keiser makes a strong case for Talaat being the dominant one in that Triumvirate, and the driving force in the direction of Ottoman policy, particularly from 1913 onwards.

This is actually an interesting book for a number of reasons. It is certainly well-researched and has a lot of thought provoking information and argument. It is not the usual exercise in attempting to cobble together every conceivable hostile statement to damn the Ottomans. There is an attempt to clear the garbage from the house. If people read the book and listen to interviews with the author they will find that his information actually undermines other recent publications promoted by the Armenian Genocide lobby and advances an alternative view of the course of events that provokes thinking about the nature of what happened.

One further interesting aspect of Prof. Keiser’s book are the Armenian reviews of it. They obviously are a little deflated at Keiser’s failure to uncover anything new they can use as ammunition against the Turks and his failure to land a knock-out blow on their behalf. For them he is a boxer who had great billing and demonstrated some fancy ring craft, but who never really landed a serious blow on their opponent. In fact, the Armenian lobby, who, after all, only seek mud to sling, struggle to understand the Professor’s book because it is obviously at an intellectual level that far exceeds theirs. Maybe a better way of putting it would be that it has significantly broader horizons than the reductive simplifying world of the Armenian Genocide promoters. They are content with its provocative title which Prof. Keiser concedes was not his but the publishers, Princeton University Press. Which raises the question why are all these prestigious US universities issuing propagandist material lately on behalf of the Armenian lobby (Stanford being another example)?

For the purposes of this review I will quote from presentations and interviews Prof. Keiser gave in promoting his book. There are a number of these on YouTube and are easily found. They give a more focused view of what the book is about rather than the book itself.

Whither Fascism?

Prof. Keiser stated in one of his presentations (in Jerusalem) that he is making “a bold claim” in “revising the idea of fascism” and its origins in his book on Talaat Pasha.

He said he was arguing that “the Young Turks’ single party regime opened the greater European era of the extremes, dictatorships, extensive ethnic cleansing and genocides.” He notes that this “era of extreme violence is usually traced back to the Russian Revolution or the Nazis” but Keiser sees it as originating “in 1913 with Talaat and the Young Turks”. Talaat’s rule was “proto-fascism” according to Keiser. It was the shape of things to come in Russia, Germany and other places in what Keiser calls “greater Europe”.

In many ways, Talaat was not only father of Turkish nationalism but of Europe too!

I would say that Keiser has not got a historical grasp here but a political science or sociological notion of Fascism. Fascism, if it has any meaning at all, beyond a term of abuse, is historically related to the defence of Western capitalism/democracy/civilization against Bolshevism after the Great War cataclysm.

Bolshevism was the virus and Fascism was the antidote. That was the view of Winston Churchill, and I can see no reason to dispute it. In all cases where there was Fascism there were similar features – the fracturing of societies socially, economically and politically as a result of the Great War of 1914 that left them open to the possibility of Bolshevik style movements taking power. Fascism was how democracy defended itself against Bolshevism where such was necessary. And Fascism, like a vaccine, provided elements of the “Bolshevik poison”, as Churchill called it, to the population in order to ward off the full dose of the virus. That, after all, was why there was a National Socialist Party in Germany which captured much of the left wing as the political ground shifted.

How does Talaat and the C.U.P. fit into this historical understanding of Fascism? They don’t. For one thing, they predate the Great War, the midwife to Fascism. For another, they also predate the Bolshevik coming to power in Russia in late 1917. So how can they be Fascist, except in an unhistorical social science way? The Ottoman government would have been admired by Thomas Hobbes – it was a Hobbesian form of power, not a Fascist one.

It is, of course, possible that “proto-fascist” elements existed before Fascism took the political stage. But these – extreme nationalism, race pride and racialism, imperialism, elite government, social-Darwinist ideology, etc. were all present in the Mother of Democracy herself, Imperial Britain. While Talaat was governing in Istanbul the inaugural world conference of Eugenics was being presided over by Arthur Balfour and Winston Churchill in London, with a delegation from the Institute of Racial Hygiene coming from Germany attending. Ottoman society was wholly out of sync with this form of “progress” that England was championing in the world. A number of Imperialist publications condemned in Britain for its lack of Social Darwinist presumptions, which were all the rage at the time, and for its race-mixing and the foolish allowing of inferior elements (Jews, Gypsies, Armenians etc.) into the corridors of power in Istanbul – something the British Empire, built on strict racial foundations, took great care of guarding against.

Prof. Keiser admits that the Young Turk revolution produced an “Ottoman Spring” after Sultan Abdul Hamid’s rule, but he argues that Talaat “abandoned constitutional democracy” at the end of 1912 and “embraced war politics”, leading an “Ottoman mobilization for war” in the Balkans through propaganda and mass rallies in Istanbul. Keiser depicts the C.U.P. as being ready to meet the challenge of the Balkan Christians, who themselves were mobilizing for war, rather than being victims of an aggression. The recovery of Edirne, according to Keiser was a crucial event in a kind of national rejuvenation for Ottoman Turkey after the disastrous defeat in the Balkans. Talaat then “assisted Enver Pasha in the putsch of January 1913 that established single-party repressive rule from 1913 to 1918”.

There is little here about the vast ethnic cleansing of Moslem populations that took place in the Ottoman heartland of the Balkans when the Christian states engaged in nation-building through the killing and removal of millions in the decade prior to 1914.

Prof. Kaiser believes it is more significant that the C.U.P. Government was “the first single-party regime at the head of an Empire” – a model for things to come in what he calls “greater Europe”. However, since most multi-party states are the result of a civil war, the only thing that the Young Turks were guilty of was not having been formed out of one. It was unlikely that there would have been civil war in the Ottoman State when it was under such threat by enemies intent on dismantling it.

Prof, Keiser sees late 1912/early 1913 as the watershed moment in Talaat’s descent into evil.

Keiser contends that “Constitutional Rule was never a priority for the C.U.P.” Instead it “developed a new Islamic pan-Turkism inspired by Talaat’s friend and Central Committee member Zia Gokalp”, who Keiser describes as “his Prophet”. Keiser sees Gokalp as “the spiritual father of Turkish nationalism” – for both Talaat and for Mustapha Kemal. Although Ataturk, while acknowledging his inspiration, repressed political Islam, President Erdogan and the AK Party have revived his project, according to Prof. Keiser, delving into current affairs. Prof. Keiser asserts that Gokalp framed Turkish nationalist ideology through his poetry and afterwards went on to Ankara to preserve continuity between the Ottoman C.U.P. and the new Kemalist Turkey. His influence on the Young Turks and the Turkish masses made the Shaykh al Islam very jealous, according to Keiser.

Ideology, of course, is recognized as an essential ingredient in mass murder, these days. So the Ottomans need to be connected up with extreme nationalism, pan-Turkism, and pan-Islamism, among other things. But the sheer fact that such a variety of “ideologies” needs to be accumulated against the Ottomans tends to suggest we are not dealing with a totalitarian system here but rather a conglomeration of things thrown together to bolster the security and cohesion of the Ottoman State in a shifting environment. Again, it is a case of the antidote warding off the virus by the taking on of features from it.

Prof Keiser, therefore, argues that Talaat’s “ideological personality” was Gokalpian and Golkalp’s ideas were executed through the chief executive, Talaat, in a kind of synergy. From 1913 Talaat developed from primus inter pares within the C.U.P. Central Committee and Triumvirate to effective dictator, according to Prof. Keiser. Enver Pasha was the figurehead that many liked to pretend was the leader of the C.U.P. for various reasons.

Keiser strangely depicts Talaat as being “far right” in politics and says this is “a core element” in his argument and “a crucial part of his book”. He also describes Talaat as a “conservative revolutionary” – part of the movement later seen in Germany that wanted modernization within tradition. That is a peculiar notion. I would have thought that the idea of left and right was a completely alien notion in Ottoman politics. Although the Young Turks were inspired by the French Revolution if its divisions were somehow transplanted to Istanbul the C.U.P. would have been the left to the Sultan’s supporters on the Right. But I must admit to finding this baffling and perhaps an attempt on Keiser’s part to associate Talaat with the German conservative revolutionaries who are often bracketed with the National Socialists, but actually shouldn’t be. It is a construct rather than reality.

Genocide as a product of the Great War

Keiser significantly does not see Talaat’s behavior in the context of a “30 year Genocide” of Armenians and offers good explanations why this latest manifestation of the Armenian lobby is deeply flawed (See Benny Morris and Dror Ze’evi, The Thirty-Year Genocide: Turkey’s Destruction of Its Christian Minorities, 1894–1924, Stanford University).

He notes that the Young Turks had good relations with the Armenian revolutionaries in the decade before the war and mentions the fact that Garegin Pasdermadjian (“Armen Garo”) helped hide and shelter Talaat from the Sultan’s forces surely proving that even the Dashnaks did not see the Young Turks as genocidal. Some of the Dashnak deputies turned down offers of positions within the Ottoman administration in Istanbul where they would have joined Armenian ministers. With his C.U.P. colleagues and Dashnaks present at his side, Talaat appeared at commemorative events marking the Hamidian “1896 pogroms” against Armenians. Certainly, there was no pre-War plan for any punitive measures against the Armenian community, let alone genocide, and Prof. Keiser acknowledges this, implicitly and explicitly. The C.U.P. and Armenian Dashnaks were political allies, if anything.

The Armenian position in the Ottoman Empire was entirely different to the Jewish position in Nazi Germany. Count von Moltke rather accurately described the Armenians as “Christian Turks.” The Armenians served in significant positions within the Ottoman State throughout much of its later history. Sultans took Armenian women as wives and the Ottoman line became mixed with Armenian blood – something the English saw as “race suicide”. At least 12 Ottoman ministers between 1867 and 1913 were Armenian. 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. It is extraordinary that the belief exists about Ottoman desire to destroy the Armenians when they were such an important pillar of the Empire and its functioning. Can it be imagined that Hitler had a Jew as his Foreign Minister in 1938?

So here we see immediate problems with the comparisons made between the Ottomans and Hitler and his Nazis. But whilst dismissing the substance of such a view about pre-War Ottoman society, Prof. Keiser cannot resist pursuing it in later events.

This is surprising because Prof. Keiser sees “a totally different outcome” as having been possible for Turks and Armenians if it had not been for the July crisis and Great War of 1914. He argues that the failure of the 1913 Eastern Reform process in “Turkish Armenia” was a “turning point” after which Talaat was re-born as a “war-monger.” Things therefore “could have evolved differently” according to Prof. Keiser – presumably on the basis of “no war/no genocide”. Prof Keiser argues that if it had not been for the outbreak of War in Europe, Talaat would have operated the Reform programme for the Eastern Provinces, perhaps obstructing it on occasion in the Ottoman interest, but he was “pragmatic and a man of reality” and would have undoubtedly seen it through, according to Prof. Keiser. He “did not have a fixed personality” and he “would not have become genocidal” if it were not for the circumstances of the Great War.

This is very interesting because in arguing this point – which is undoubtedly correct – he is focusing the case for Genocide almost exclusively on the event of War. Of course, the Prof. would point to the ideological basis of Turkish nationalism underpinning the clearing of non-Turkish minorities from the former inclusive Ottoman State – but this is a different argument. After all, it is not a requirement that such a process would emerge from any ideological inspiration and if the Reform process had taken root undoubtedly it wouldn’t. And we know that Talaat even suggested to the British that Lord Milner oversee the administration of “Turkish Armenia”. That would have involved a drastic loss in Ottoman sovereignty.

So the crux of the matter is the catastrophe of the Great War of 1914.

Keiser knows that there is a weakness in the historical case for Genocide if the issue is the Great War. This is because the issue of war responsibility then becomes important. So Prof. Keiser is forced to argue the point of Talaat’s responsibility for the conflict, bringing it to the Ottoman Empire, and using it as a state building exercise in a form of salvation for the Turkish nation.

It is usually argued that Enver Pasha’s maneuvering with the Germans brought war on for a reluctant Ottoman government. Prof. Keiser, however, claims that Talaat himself instigated war in Europe by pressurizing Austria to be tough on Serbia after the assassination of the Arch Duke and intimidating the Germans into war by threatening an alliance with Russia, unless they supported the Germans against the Tsar. Keiser claims that the Great War was seen “a war of restoration and expansion” by enthusiastic C.U.P. This is what he means when he calls Talaat “a war-monger” after 1913.

It seems very much that Prof. Keiser has to compensate through these claims for the weakness of an argument, that his demolition of the “30 year genocide” case entails. In Prof. Keiser’s view “Total War was an opportunity for Genocide”. In the course of this “the Expansionist war was lost but the domestic war war that created the Turkish Republic was won through Genocide”

Prof. Keiser is emphatic: “There was no blueprint for genocide, it was something that was evolving from early Spring 1915”.

Keiser claims that what happened to the Armenians “was not a collateral occurrence in a different much bigger event called World War” but was in fact “the central element, the main exploit and legacy of Talaat’s war policy”. He says that “Talaat was never so busy, excited and focused than when he was removing the Armenians from Asia Minor from April to September 1915”.

But nobody has ever claimed the Ottomans were instrumental in the outbreak of the European war and this seems like turning the world upside down to advance a new theory. Neither were the Ottomans responsible for Britain’s decision to join this European war and turn it into a much more catastrophic and wide-reaching world war. This was the decisive decision in bringing catastrophe to the Ottoman Empire because it placed its territory in a vice between the British and Russian Empires for the first time. It put its capital under direct threat in a way that it never had been before, because the British had always warned the Tsar away from it on the threat of war.

The Ottomans, far from being instigators of war, were victims of the great geopolitical shift in the world that occurred between 1906 and 1914 under Sir Edward Grey. They struggled. like all others, to take account of this and respond to it. They were actors within a much wider and bigger drama that came upon them in 1913-14 and who tried to avert to by offering alliances with all and sundry. Only the Germans were serious about responding to the Ottomans, because they were the only state without an interest in the destruction of the Ottoman State. If Talaat and Enver were the ones who acknowledged this, rather than the other more Anglophile Young Turks, that only confirms Prof. Keiser’s view that they were the realists.

It is noticeable that Britain does not figure to any great degree in Prof. Keiser’s work and that is entirely understandable. It is a result of history itself that such an important influence on events should be an absent blank in things. But how are the decisions that the Ottomans took conceivable without taking into account the great geopolitical shift that Britain brought about and its determination to wage war with its new Tsarist ally upon Germany? (This geopolitical aspect is something that has been largely ignored in the Armenian issue and I intend to address this in a substantial way soon).

We know that there was a substantial attempt made by the Ottomans to dissuade the Dashnaks from supporting a Russian invasion and an assault on the state which was made at the Dashnak world conference held in Erzurum at the start of the European War in late Summer 1914. The Dashnaks seem to have been divided about whether to take up the Ottoman offer of autonomy, which suggests they took it seriously. Those who wished to prevent a catastrophe were overridden by the hardliners who had already made plans and preparations for the greatest of opportunities that would be presented to them. Pasdermadjian stated in a later publication, issued at the time of the Paris Peace Conference, that the Dashnaks were fully aware of the casualties the Armenian community would take if there were an armed insurrection organised as part of the Allied war on the Ottoman State and it had been worth the sacrifice!

Prof. Keiser notes that “the Prophet” Gokalp wrote a poem in September 1915 describing Talaat as “the Noah of Turkey,” and praising him as the father of the Turkish nation. I don’t understand how the Noah story is supposed to count against Talaat. After all, Noah, after being confronted with a coming deluge, attempts to save as much of the old world as he can. It is a very good analogy for what the Ottoman leadership attempted to do when confronted with the impending catastrophe.

Keiser sees Talaat as using the War as an opportunity for cleansing the Turkish nation of Armenians, Pontic Greeks and Assyrians. He shows pictures of trains “bringing the Armenians to the Syrian death camps” to create “a Turkish homeland in Asia Minor.” He points out that Talaat kept detailed information and maps detailing the demographic effects of the relocation in his Black Book (which have been published). It is obvious that this is all meant to demonstrate sinister connections to other times.

Trains, of course, would have been a much better means of moving the Armenians than marching them in columns, if the Ottomans had had a good railway system. Many more Armenians would have survived the relocations if they had been conducted with trains. Perhaps Keiser forgets that the railways didn’t kill the Jews and, if anything, lured them into a false sense of security, prior to their final destinations. The Ottomans didn’t have many train tracks toward the east and it was Britain and Russia who did everything to prevent them and the Germans from building these railways. If the Armenians died on marches during the relocation, rather than surviving on trains, it was Britain and Russia who were responsible for the difference this would have made.

Keiser also looks for an equivalent of the SS or einsatzgruppen to further damn the Ottomans. He finds it in the Special Organisation, formed in November 1913. But this had no role in the Armenian locations, and was used largely for special military operations in the Caucasus, Mesopotamia, Syria and Egypt. The 1919 court-martials in Istanbul indicted the organisation but failed to provide any evidence for anything but special operations behind Russian lines.

There is no evidence that the Ottomans had any intention or plan to wipe out the Armenians. Relying on the U.S. Ambassador, Henry Morgenthau’s diary, with its second and third hand hearsay and rumours, constructed by two Armenians hostile to the Ottomans, is not evidence. The fact that Morgenthau was on a mission to convince President Wilson to join the war and used his correspondence to him about the Armenians to achieve this objective further takes away any validity from such “information”. Ambassador Morganthau frankly stated he had given his diary to his Armenian assistant, Andonian, to “elaborate” upon freely and was, therefore, relieved of taking any responsibility for any error himself. How can such a process of fabrication be relied upon as evidence?

Keiser’s other secondary literature is highly selective and constructed by officials of enemy governments to form a diplomatic record – in other words, a case for themselves and their actions, which aimed at producing a case for relieving the Ottomans of their territory.

There was a complete absence of any ideal in Ottoman literature of annihilation and the appliance of the basic historical principle of cause and effect suggests that the relocations were a practical response to an emergency situation, however badly they might have arguably been handled.

The clearance of Armenians from Eastern Anatolia should have been seen, from the British perspective, as a ‘progressive’ development, since it was the culmination of the general process that England began to encourage with regard to the Ottoman territories and elsewhere in the world. The responsibility for what happened to the Armenians and the other minorities that existed relatively peacefully within the Ottoman Empire for centuries must be placed, therefore, primarily at the hands of those who attempted to destabilize and ultimately destroy the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire. The provoking of nationalism in the Ottoman Empire for the purposes of weakening it and gaining leverage for the Great Powers is very much at the root of what happened to the Armenians.

Prof. Keiser’s attempt to shift the responsibility for the War onto the Ottomans is really a weak affair. The most that can be said is that the Ottomans failed to join the right side in a moral war – but it was the right side who rejected them, or never gave them enough assurance to keep them neutral.

The Real Battleground of the Issue

So what is left is the argument that Talaat availed of the catastrophe of the Great War to solve the Armenian issue, which had been causing problems for the Ottomans ever since the Dashnaks had begun to apply the Bulgarian model to their situation – insurrection, repression, foreign intervention. This is the real battleground of the Armenian issue.

In one of his presentations Prof. Keiser presents an entry from the diary of Mehmud Cavid Bey from 14 September 1915. It is damning of Talaat’s forced migration policy, which Cavid believed, from the reports he had read whilst away from Istanbul, had been done in a most inhumane way:

“Ottoman history has never known before such monstrous murder and enormous brutality even in its most sinister periods… One would hope these stories and reports are lies, or at least exaggerated. I am of the opinion that Talaat was involved in this with full conviction having embraced the underlying ideology together with a few deranged idiots in the Central Committee. The course started in the Armenian provinces and extended to the nearest provinces. Perhaps nearest provinces witnessed the most disastrous scenes.

One day, we were both together and Talaat said, ‘Sad thing, it comes into my dreams, but it was absolutely necessary for the country. What will we tell Paris?’

If you want to approach the Armenian issue by bloody politics, then scatter the people in the Armenian provinces, but scatter them in a humane manner. Hang the traitors, even if there are thousands of them. Who would like to keep among us Russians and supporters of Russians? But stop right there.

You dared to destroy not only the political existence but the life itself of a whole people. You are not only guilty, but also incapable. Of what quality is your conscience, when you accept that women, children, and elderly people, ousted from towns, are murdered at lakes and on mountains?…

In immense indignation, Talaat rails against this. He will establish an inspection committee. He will punish the culpable. But will the act be undone by this? They act like this to do away with the Armenians… A thoughtless and blindfold nationalist current has taken the place of common Ottoman bounds. What became of the beautiful humanity in the hands of foolish butchers? … By these acts we have condemned everything. We have put an inextinguishable stain on the present administration.”

I removed quite a few inserted words by Prof. Keiser from this passage – which were not in the original Turkish. These additions steered the meaning of Cavid’s words away from a condemnation of the forced migration policy and the way it was carried out, to imply disgust at an attempted annihilation/genocide policy, which is not what Cavid was saying, This is concerning because it indicates that Prof. Keiser was attempting to fit the diary entry into a pre-conceived narrative that twists its meaning to justify his argument.

Cavid Bey was an old Ottoman disgusted at the reports he had heard of the results of the relocations. He received letters when he was in Berlin and confronted Talaat when he returned to Istanbul about what he had heard. Cavid was on the liberal wing of the C.U.P. and had been the victim of a notorious attempt in 1911 by the British Embassy in Istanbul to whip up anti-semitism in the Young Turks. Ambassador Lowther and his dragoman Fitzmaurice had an obsession with the power of the “crypto-Jews” or Salonika donmes of which Djavid was the most prominent. Prof. Keiser chose not to mention this in his presentation in Jerusalem. Is this because the British attempted to damn Cavid as a Zionist? Cavid resigned from the government when the Ottomans joined the War in November 1914. He was later executed for an assassination attempt on Mustapha Kemal.

Cavid Pasha changed his views about the relocations when he later discovered the large scale killings that the Moslems of Eastern Anatolia suffered. Anyone who asked him after 1918 about whether he thought the relocations were right was met by a statement that 400,000 Moslems had been killed so what else was there to do? He seems to have abandoned the view that hanging a few thousand Dashnaks would have been an adequate response in the circumstances.

The Cavid diary entry was powerful enough without the leading additions. I am surprised I do not see the Cavid quote more often in Armenian accounts. It has been available for about 5 years now after the Turkish Historical Society got permission from the family to release it and it is certainly quite thought-provoking. Perhaps it is a question that Armenian writers would not dare answer: Could the Ottomans have dealt with the situation and saved the state without a relocation policy through a pin-point targeting of Dashnak activists? They do not do so because they support the attempt to destroy the Ottoman State, whilst pretending that there were no implications for the Armenians in doing so. They want it both ways, of course.

The removal of the Armenians from the 6 eastern vilayets constituted a counter-insurgency campaign in the minds of the Ottoman leadership. It was far from systematic in its execution: In some areas nearly all Armenians were killed and in others nearly all survived. The big variable was local circumstance. The Ottoman State took active measures in the summer of 1915 to halt the relocations and stop the killings, holding to account some of those who were responsible for them. Many Ottoman officials, like Cemal Pasha, protected Armenians effectively, enabling a high proportion to survive the relocations. Around 350,000 Armenians remained in their localities in the western parts of Asia Minor. Armenians moved back and forth with the progress of the Russian Imperial armies in the east. Approximately 300,000 fled to Transcaucasia during the first 6 months of the war and others followed with the collapse of the Russian lines in late 1917, as a result of internal collapse of the Russian State and its forces.

Talaat himself, “the Architect of the Genocide”, instituted the prosecutions against those who had mishandled the relocations or used them as an excuse for killing and robbery. He set up commissions to investigate what happened late in 1915. Hundreds of Ottoman officials were tried by military courts, including commanders and soldiers from the ranks. Dozens were executed, like the commander in Sivas, who had failed to protect Armenians. Although this period saw the greatest numbers of mass locations (Cuba, South Africa, Balkan Wars) such punishment for acts committed within them was unknown.

This is the territory of discussion that the Armenian issue should really centre on if this were a truly historical debate and not a battle over a slogan or a label.

The Talaat/Ataturk Continuum

The other main objective of Keiser’s book is to associate modern Turkey with the “Armenian Genocide” through Talaat. The title of Prof. Keiser’s publication describes Talaat Pasha as the “Father of Modern Turkey” – a position usually reserved for Mustapha Kemal (Ataturk, father of the Turk). Whilst Keiser is not challenging the role of Ataturk in creating the Turkish State, what he does do is suggest that he was “standing on the shoulders” of Talaat in doing so. Keiser claims Ataturk used this phrase himself.

Prof Keiser argues that Ataturk accomplished what he calls Talaat’s “minimalist goals” in the creation of the Turkish Republic. Keiser does not actually make clear what these maximalist goals of Talaat actually were, but says that Talaat decided to limit himself to his “minimalist goals” around 1913 – presumably after the heart of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans was lost.

Did Talaat support the drive toward Baku in 1918? I always thought that was Enver’s project. I may have missed that in Keiser’s book.

After the War Talaat had to leave Istanbul for Germany. While the British occupied Istanbul they decided to squeeze the Germans through the Royal Navy Blockade, which was operated until July 1919. The Germans remained undefeated on the battlefield after an orderly retreat. Prof. Keiser says that Talaat’s “agitation in exile contributed to the winning of the war against the West” through the “Bolshevik/Kemalist alliance” that Mustapha Kemal organised from Eastern Anatolia. It was through this alliance that Talaat’s goals were accomplished by Ataturk, says Prof. Kaiser.

While Prof. Keiser maintains that he is a historian who takes into account that “events could have evolved differently” he does not seem to apply that principle to the biggest variable of all – Britain. The Turkish alliance with the Bolsheviks was entirely a consequence of Lloyd George’s policy of imposing a punitive treaty on the Ottomans and using the Greeks, and to a much lesser extent the Armenians, to carry it through to fruition. Lloyd George’s War Minister, Churchill was against this policy, seeing the danger from Bolshevism, and wanted to enlist the Ottomans as a bulwark against Russia – as in the days before Sir Edward Grey upset everything in his 1907 Convention with the Tsar.

If Lloyd George had not followed his policy of using the Greeks as a cats paw to strangle and partition the Ottoman territories, and had concluded an honourable peace what would the effect of this have been on the resistance movement in Ankara?

Talaat’s support for Mustapha Kemal was a consequence of Britain’s attitude to the Ottomans. He makes that clear in his last interview and no one can doubt it. The Turkish Republic was not a plan of Talaat’s (his “minimalist policy”) it was a consequence of what Britain did from October 1918. It was, of course, brought about by Mustapha Kemal, in an extraordinary feat of military and political agility. But nothing was certain, and when Talaat gave his final interview things were really on a knife-edge to the west of Ankara.

Talaat was right in his warnings to Audrey Herbert and some say that is why the British had him assassinated through an Armenian gunman. I have no way of knowing if that were true or not. But we know that Basil Thomson was involved and it was Thomson who made sure Sir Roger Casement was hung.

The Turkish Republic was one of the consequences of Britain’s Great War of 1914. No Ottoman had such a state in mind as an objective prior to 1914. If anything it could be said to have been a British objective of the War to reduce the Turks to a territory of their own, and take the parts of the Ottoman territory that were of strategic value for itself (e.g. the Arab parts of Palestine and Mesopotamia). The survival of the Empire in some shape or form was the objective of the Ottoman leadership in 1914, and probably the only objective.

Before the Great War the C.U.P. had struggled with a formula to rejuvenate the Empire. They had been told they had a “Sick Man” on their hands and they certainly believed it. The era of nationalism, which had descended upon the Empire in its heartland, the Ottoman Balkans, and uprooted its Moslem community, seemed to be the requirement of the future and progress. But at the same time, the British, French and Russians maintained their empires and expanded them. Mixed messages were everywhere. It seemed to be one law for some and one law for others. But who were the some and who were the others? The winners and the losers, perhaps?

So what was there to do? Various blends of Ottoman nationalism, Islamism or Turkification were all advocated at one time or another and a mash up sought that would rejuvenate the Empire. But the intention was never a Turkish national state and a process of simplification. That was actually the Armenian aim.

An answer to the problem was never found by the Young Turks and it had to be solved as a consequence of the War by Mustapha Kemal in war, politics and at the conference table.

If someone attempts to maintain the structure of a building facing collapse during an earthquake, by taking extraordinary measures to keep it standing, can we really correctly call them an architect?

Britain won the Great War of 1914 against the Ottomans and destroyed their state, placing a Turkish state of some kind as the only item on the agenda. Lloyd George lost the war he subsequently waged to reduce the Turks to an Anatolian fragment and in the end the Turkish Republic conceded by the British at Lausanne reflected quite well the territory where Turks were in the majority (Mosul was debatable). All were relatively content with the result – except Greeks and Armenians who proved to be pawns in a losing game.

Between 1919 and 1921, as resistance was put up to Lloyd Georges scheme (whatever it actually was), the existence of any form of Turkish political entity was in the balance. Seeing Ataturk’s achievement from this position as the culmination of Talaat’s plan is simply bizarre.

In conclusion, the problem with Prof. Keiser’s book is that he has determined on a fixed position with regard to the Armenian issue and has then applied all the information he can gather to support that position, ignoring everything that undermines his arguments. However, what he offers as evidence is very insubstantial and is outweighed considerably by the evidence that opposes his view. Prof Keiser’s zeal in spreading the word is almost religious and has resulted in the type of closed mind that is consequent from such a disposition. At one point, toward the end of the book he expresses pleasure that he has played a part in consigning Talaat Pasha to Hell! Such moral animosity to historical figures is curious, to say the least, in a scholar.

That lethal combination turns history into propaganda – as Bryce and Toynbee demonstrated a century ago. Therefore, although Prof. Keiser presents enough evidence to falsify other accounts that are being used by the Armenian lobby, in the end he joins them all in their declarations of the one true faith, in which all dissent is damned as “denialism”. That is not historical inquiry, it is religion.

 

2.  TALAAT PASHA’S ACCOUNTS

a. The Last Interview

Let us now look at Talaat Pasha’s own account and explanation of what happened to the Armenians, and why he did what he did.

The last interview with Talaat Pasha was conducted by Aubrey Herbert in March 1921, a week before he was assassinated by an Armenian in Berlin. Talaat’s assassin, Tehlirian Soghomon had earlier killed Haroutounian Mkrtchian, in Istanbul in 1920. Haroutounian was accused of being the head of the Ottoman secret police who began the round-ups of Dashnaks in April 1915, the event that is marked as the beginning of the ‘Armenian Genocide”. The Head of the Ottoman Secret Police who began the “Armenian Genocide” was an Armenian!

Herbert had met Talaat back in 1908 when the Young Turks had come to power in Istanbul. After the armistices Talaat wrote a letter to the Englishman declaring he was not responsible for the Armenian massacres during the War and saying he could prove it. Herbert took the letter to “a distinguished man who is famous for his spotless integrity.” The dignitary persuaded him to refuse a meeting as “it was illegal to correspond with the enemy.”

However, in February 1921 Sir Basil Thomson of British Intelligence invited Herbert to see him at Scotland Yard and told him to go out immediately to Germany to speak to Talaat. Herbert asked for a letter to make his dealings official, which Thomson provided. Thomson presumably wanted information about the dangerous things that were emerging in the Near East out of Lloyd George’s policy – the developing Turkish/Bolshevik alliance that had been cemented by the carving up of the Southern Caucasus, the Bolshevik propaganda aimed at setting the Moslem world ablaze against the British Empire. He wanted to know what Talaat’s role was in all this and perhaps the German’s role too.

The interview is included in Herbert’s book ‘Ben Kendim: A Record of Easter Travels’. The reader needs to be a little bit careful with the interview since it is Aubrey Herbert who is reporting Talaat’s account. But the gist of it is certainly Talaat’s story.

Herbert first asked Talaat about “the attempted extermination of the Armenians”. Talaat replied that such a thing would be “impossible, and a country that adopted such methods” would “cut itself off from civilization.” He had, “twice protested against” the relocation policy “and had been overruled by the Germans.”

Talaat Pasha continued:

“In England you hear only one side of the case,” he  said. “Now, I don’t know what is happening in Ireland, and I don’t believe all I hear, but you are certainly doing some very stiff things to the Sinn Feiners; and, after all, what is your Irish problem to ours of Armenia? Can any nation go through a war and acquiesce when it is stabbed in the back? What would you have done if you had had Sinn Fein enclaves all over England, fighting you during the war?” He said that he was in favour of granting autonomy to minorities in the most extended form, and would gladly consider any proposition that was made to him.

“You remember,” he said, “years ago, I asked you to go to Lord Milner and beg him to become Governor-General of Armenia. I knew that we had either to reform ourselves or to perish, and I knew that we were incapable of reforming ourselves when every man’s hand was against us, and all the world was waiting to exploit our country. But your Government, rightly or wrongly, had decided upon a Russian policy, and would lend no official support to Englishmen entering Turkish service, or, indeed, do anything that was disliked by St. Petersburg. You English cannot divest yourselves of responsibility in this matter. We Young Turks practically offered Turkey to you, and you refused us. One undoubted consequence has been the ruin of the Christian minorities, whom your Prime Minister has insisted on treating as your allies. If the Greeks and the Armenians are your allies when we are at war with you, you cannot expect our Turkish Government to treat them as friends.”

“Rightly or wrongly,” said Talaat Pasha, ”you made friends with Russia; that was your policy at home, and that was your policy at the Embassy in Constantinople. I liked Sir Gerard Lowther; he was an English gentleman, and I suppose he carried out his orders; but never, I think, in the history of the world, did one Power have such a commanding position and so obsess about as did Great Britain Turkey when we made our revolution. For if the leaders liked you, the people adored you; they took the horses out of your Ambassador’s carriage and they pulled it up to the Embassy. That was a very little thing, a small symbol; they would have let it go over their bodies if he had wished it. There was nothing in those days which we would not have given if you had asked it of us. But you wanted nothing of us, and gratitude cannot live on air. The Ambassador was cold; Fitzmaurice was hostile; we had to find means to live. But even after our estrangement, we still tried to regain your friendship. We accepted Kiamil, our determined opponent, as Grand Vizier, to please you. It did not please you — nothing that we could do pleased you. You drove us into the arms of Germany. We had no alternative: anything else was political death and partition.”

I asked him at what point friendly relations between ourselves and Turkey became impossible. He said, at the time when Mr. Asquith made his speech on the question of Adrianople. Sir Edward Grey saw Tewfik Pasha; he and Mr. Asquith both said the same thing, publicly and privately. “If the Turks go to Adrianople, they must take the consequences.”

Talaat continued: “I went to the Turkish Cabinet, and said: ‘ This is bluff; neither Russia, France nor England is prepared to do anything. I resign now. You can continue, but I shall go down to the Chamber and will tell them why I have resigned, and you will fall.’ Meanwhile troops marched on Adrianople, and British prestige received a great blow, as no penalty followed.”

He then talked about the war, and his own experiences in it. He said that in his opinion soldiers were the salt of the earth, but that they were often stupid people. He himself had been present when the Brest-Litovsk Treaty had been signed. Czernin was also there, but they had been beaten by Ludendorf and Hoffmann. Ludendorff counted for everything, the Kaiser for very little. Talaat Pasha said that once Count Czernin had shouted in a burst of passion: “By God, if I ever have a reincarnation I shall be born a British subject, even if I have to be born black.” “Ah,” said Talaat, “I do not know if he would say that now. It is sad for you; you have lost a great deal of your prestige.”…

I asked him what had been their relations with the Germans during the war. He laughed and said, “Detestable.” He said that what the Turks had wished for was not a war that should end war, but a war without a decisive victory on either side. If we won, as we had won, it meant the partition of Turkey. If, on the other hand, Germany won, it meant the enslavement of Turkey. On one occasion a Q.M.G. arrangement had been come to between the Turks and the Germans without his knowledge. He found himself completely handcuffed by the Germans, and said to the Council of Ministers, “I often wondered why the English wanted to fight the Germans, but now I know.”

He talked at length of the end of the war. He had been on a mission in Europe, where he had seen the kings, the military leaders and the politicians. His account was dramatic. He had seen the Emperor Charles, who was, he said, “bon enfant ” in Austria. The Emperor, he said, wanted peace, in order to enjoy his Empire, and for his Empire’s sake; the continuation of war would be the end of Austria. He saw was peace over-ripe. He talked with the Kaiser. “Quand le Kaiser m’a vu, il a crie, ‘Eh bien, Talaat, si c’est la trahison de vouloir la paix, moi aussi je suis traitre. Je veux la paix.’ ” He returned to Turkey with Tewfik Pasha, whose son was Talaat’s military secretary. On the way they received a telegram inviting them to the palace at Sofia for an audience with the Tsar Ferdinand. Then came another telegram cancelling the first, and saying that there would be a reception at the station for them. Tewfik Pasha was inclined to be affronted, but Talaat told him that the Tsar Ferdinand was  “un homme tres ruse,” and would not have changed the programme without a very good reason.

There were enormous crowds at the station at Sofia. “Moi j’ai apercu tout de suite que quelque chose s’etait passe.” Malinoff came up to Talaat and said, “It is finished. The 11th Division have broken ; Bulgaria is done, and we have sued for an armistice.” Talaat replied, “You are wrong to have done this; we should all have asked for an armistice together. What terms shall we be given now?”

He went to see King Ferdinand. That monarch talked to him only of the character of the new Sultan, and Turkish politics. He avoided immediate political issues. Talaat grew restive, and interrupted: “Your Majesty, I have had an hour’s talk with Malinoff, and I know what has happened. What are you going to do now?” King Ferdinand, he said, threw out his arms in a gesture of despair.

Prince Boris, said Talaat, had great charm, but he did not believe that he took the defeat very much to heart. He showed no sorrow, and in the ex-Grand-Vizier’s opinion he was as much in favour of peace as was the Emperor Charles, though possibly for different reasons.

Tewfik and Talaat pursued their journey to Constantinople, where Talaat Pasha laid his resignation before the Sultan, who refused to accept it. Talaat said to the Sultan: “It is essential for your Government to have someone else to talk to the victors. They do not like me: my personality is disagreeable to them. Choose Rahmy; they will be glad to have discussions with him.” Talaat’s advice was not taken, but he was allowed to resign.

He spoke with angry indignation of the imprisonment of Eyub Sabri, his friend, and of Rahmy Pasha and other Turks who were our prisoners in Malta. By what right, he asked, were these men — many of whom had been against the war, and were pro-British — seized during the Armistice and imprisoned for two years without a trial? No other country had been treated like that. “It is only to us poor Turks, to whom you are always preaching principles, that you behave like that,” said Talaat Pasha.

Khairy Effendi, formerly Sheikh-ul-Islam, had been in the Government that had declared war upon us. He was liberated, while others, who had opposed the war, were held prisoners. It was possible that Rahmy Pasha had been imprisoned in Malta because of the expulsion of the Greeks, but as a matter of fact Rahmy had vehemently opposed this measure. He knew that the littoral Greeks (Greeks on the coast) would give the Allies what assistance they could, but he thought their help would be insignificant; and he believed that if they were expelled, it might very easily bring King Constantine and the Greeks into the war against Turkey. But the Germans had insisted, and neither Talaat nor Rahmy felt that they could be “plus royaliste que le roi.”

Rahmy had treated the English throughout the war with a friendship that was more than consideration. He asked me if Rahmy had not been officially thanked by our Minister in Athens, Sir Francis Elliot, for his kindness to our people. I answered that all he said was true and made Englishmen like myself very heartily ashamed. Our Government was sent to us as an affliction from God.

The ex-Grand Vizier talked much about himself. He said that he was born a rebel, and that when he was young he had read much French literature, which added an extra varnish to his mutinous soul. The condition of Turkey was enough to make anyone, with a spark of manhood in him, fierce. Talaat came across the infamous Fehim, Chief Constable of Constantinople, whose amiable habit it was to seize any woman who caught his fancy, forcing her husband to play some version of the part of Uriah.

I asked him if he thought the spies of Abdul Hamid very efficient. “No, not very,” said he. “Mine were fairly good, I think; but then, I had much to appeal to with my people, and also I used your English system.” “What?” said I. “Well,” he said, “we were told that the noble youths of England offered their service gratis to the secret police. Was not that true? ”…

I… asked him if assassination was often in his mind. He said that he never thought of it. Why should anyone dislike him? I said that Armenians might very well desire vengeance, after all that had been written about him in the papers. He brushed this aside.

He made a number of inquiries about old friends, and asked warmly after Louis Mallet. Speaking of Enver, I said I liked him, and thought him modest, but not at all clever. “No,” he said, “you could not call him clever, though he is a brave man and patriotic.”

He spoke of his own family ; he was living with his wife in Berlin, he said, and, like most people, he had been selling all that was available; but he looked forward to a swift ending of these troubles. England and Turkey would soon be on terms of friendship.

Next morning, he told me that good news had come from England. Bekir Sami Bey had been invited to tea with the Prime Minister. They had, he believed, agreed upon the autonomy of Armenia, where the majorities were recognized, and to an inquiry in Thrace and Smyrna.

“Now,” said the ex-Grand Vizier, “let me make a summary of my proposals to you, which amount to an Anglo-Turkish alliance. Though I am not in power at the present moment, you will find that these proposals are acceptable to those who are, and their acceptance will bring peace to you as well as to us.

“Let us realise the present complicated position,” said he.” My thesis is, that there is only one civilisation in the world, and that if Turkey is to be saved she must be joined to civilisation. Before the war, I was anxious that England should be her teacher; you will remember that, and my proposals about Lord Milner. Well, England refused, and the war came; then, quite frankly, I looked to Germany in victory to do what we had once hoped for from England. For I believed that Germany would win the war. In that belief we signed a treaty with Germany one month before war was declared. Germany has not won; we have all been defeated.

“The house that we had has been burnt to the ground, but that house was badly built; it was full of Naughts, and it was not sanitary. We still possess the site upon which it stood. Our geography is a fortress to us — a. very strong fortress. Our mountains are the strongest of our forces. You cannot pursue us into the mountains of Asia; and stretching back into Central Asia are six republics, composed of men of our blood, cousins, if not brothers, and limited now by the bond of misfortune. I will speak of that later.

Then, too, the war forced us to cut our losses, and that is an advantage. We shall be no more troubled by the rebellions of the Albanians, the Macedonians and the Arabs,” said the ex-Grand Vizier.

He elaborated the situation. The urgent need of Turkey was to be helped, and for this help he and his friends looked eagerly to Great Britain. But the Turks would not accept help at the price of financial or military servitude. Mr. Lloyd George, in his opinion, had believed that Turkey could be destroyed, and had been persuaded that this was the case by his Greek friends, Venizelos and Sir Basil Zaharoff. Mr. Lloyd George was wrong. Talaat did not wish to exaggerate the strength of Turkey, but he thought that England ought not to underrate it. If there was not a unity of ideas between Angora and Constantinople, there was, at any rate, unity of ideals.

‘‘Now,” he said, when again speaking of the six Red republics, “they are red, but not deep red. They are Moslem populations, and are naturally influenced by all that Turkey does, and they are affected by all that Turkey suffers. Bokhara is a potential force; there are latent possibilities to be developed there for good or for evil. At the present moment” Talaat Pasha continued, “Turkey is at war with England, and we are engaged in propaganda throughout the East, and inciting India, though not very effectually. Turkey is, in fact, pursuing a policy of enlisting as many people as she can against Great Britain, and undertaking all possible reprisals open to her.”

It was, he admitted, an ineffective reply to the French policy of conscription of native races in Africa, and it was a pity that this policy of Turkish propaganda had not been begun earlier, and had not been better organised.

“It is not a grand policy,” he said. “No grander than yours has been. Yours was a violation of the Armistice, and ours was the best that we could do.” He said it was a “jeu de gamin,” and compared it to cutting telegraph wires. That might do very little damage, but, on the other hand, it might do a great deal of harm.

“Turkey,” he said, “is a Power, and, do what you will, she will remain a Power. There is, at the present moment, only a political hatred of Great Britain in Turkey.” He would go so far as to say that there was more hostility to us amongst the Arabs and the Hindus than amongst the Turks. The Crimea, although it happened long ago, was not forgotten; the Dardanelles would not weigh in the balance against it. England had often intervened on behalf of the Turks, and they were a grateful people. He could not pretend to know the Indian question, but he did not believe that there was any real hatred of us in India.

He discussed Bolshevism with acute dislike. He said it might suit Russia; it could not suit the rest of the world. The human race could not change, or, at any rate, not to that extent, outside Russia. It could not accept such a lunatic system. “But,” he continued, “as the Russians chose to go in for Bolshevism, that is their business. There is no danger to Turkey in it now; nor do I consider that it is a peril to England, as long as it remains in its own borders, and with propaganda for its only weapon.”

There were many of his countrymen who hoped that Bolshevism would boil over the Russian border, and go foaming into Europe, foreseeing salvation to Asia in a general European catastrophe. He was not one of those. He did not want a safety that came from ruins. He preferred to see an ordered Europe, and a peaceful Turkey helped by Great Britain. But he would refuse to join an anti-Bolshevist alliance at the present moment, when his country was at war.

Men, said the ex-Grand Vizier, were Bolshevik by conviction, by policy, or by interest. He might be the last; he was certainly not the first. An alliance with the Bolshevists was purely a matter of expediency. You might say it was a double-edged sword, but its edge, as far as the enemies of Turkey were concerned, was sharp, and its dangerous edge to Turkey was very blunt. The Turk and the Bolshevik had nothing in common but a temporary alliance, a convenience from the point of view of Russia that answered a need from the point of view of Turkey.

He had not been to Moscow recently, nor had he seen Lenin, but he had seen Trotsky at Brest-Litovsk, and had a poor opinion of him. Trotsky, he thought, like the majority of the Russian Jews, was a degenerate.

He told me that Enver was at the moment in Moscow, for the same reason that he, Talaat, might have been there, not through any liking of Bolshevism. Enver, he said, was colourless, as far as policy was concerned. He was doing the best in his power for his country.

Halil Pasha (whom I had last seen between Sanayat and Kut on the day that Townshend surrendered) was also in Moscow. He was an exception, and had a penchant towards communism. Djemal Pasha was engaged in propaganda against Great Britain in Turkestan.

He spoke of the natural antagonism between the principles of Bolshevism and Islam: fire and water were not more different. I asked him what part pan-Islam was likely to play in the future, and he expressed the Nationalist, or the Young Turks’ point of view. Islam, he said, in itself is a grand religion, and though it was preached in the desert, it is still compatible with civilisation, and can be adapted to modern needs. But, in common with all other religions, it can swiftly become intolerant in the hearts of fanatics. By their actions the Young Turks had shown that they did not mean to use pan-Islam as a weapon. That had been the policy of Abdul Hamid, but it was a short-sighted policy, because in the end it could not succeed, and meant war between Islam and the rest of the world, and that could have no other result for Islam as a creed than fanaticism and barbarism.

The deeds of the Young Turks were a proof that they did not favour pan-Islam. Had they not incurred the greatest unpopularity by putting the rayah (native Christian) on a level with the Moslem? There were other features of their policy that gave offence — amongst them their intention to abolish polygamy. His party had deliberately adopted the milder and less fanatical creed which was useless as a fiery torch.

He spoke of the Caliphate question, using the usual arguments, and again wondered what demon of madness had taken possession of the British Government. If the question of the Caliphate was satisfactorily settled, a big step would be taken to restore our popularity among the Indians. I said it was always more easy to raise a storm than to allay it; and I asked him if there was any Turk with sufficient prestige to calm the Indian agitation, if such a course was ever desired by Great Britain. He said that the trouble in India would cease automatically when we entered into friendly relations with Turkey. We could send any Turk to India whom we pleased. He laughed, and added, “It is very unlikely that your Government would trust me. But if they did, I would guarantee to do my best.”

I asked him if he thought it likely that the pan-Turanian movement would develop. He answered that the events of the last years had given all those who were related a closer sense of kinship. Often men only remembered a poor brother when they themselves became poor, but he saw no future in our lives for Turanianism, though Asiatics were drawing closer to each other.

He said that he had written a memorandum on the Armenian massacres which he was very anxious that British statesmen should read. Early in the war, in 1915, the Armenians had organised an army, and had attacked the Turks, who were then fighting the Russians. Three Armenian deputies had taken an active part; the alleged massacres of Moslems had taken place, accompanied by atrocities on women and children. He had twice opposed enforced migration, and he had been the author of an inquiry which resulted in the execution of a number of guilty Kurds and Turks.

He and his friends were willing to consider sympathetically any proposition for Armenian autonomy. But facts must be faced. Even if all the Armenians who had been driven into the Caucasus were to return, they would represent only a small fraction of the population, who are mainly non-Armenian. He himself favoured the rights of minorities in its most extended form. After President Wilson’s speeches, and in the present state of the world, opposition to this principle was folly. If Great Britain came to an amicable agreement with Turkey, she would be in the position to do what she liked with regard to Armenia. The first, and most practical, step would be the organisation of an efficient gendarmerie to pacify and create order in that country…

Talaat Pasha spoke with more emphasis and fire of Greece than of any other question. Greece had no title to Smyrna, To give Smyrna to Greece was in contradiction to all that we had promised, and was a reward to her for the massacres that had taken place there. Smyrna was Turkish, and must remain Turkish. He rejected a compromise which I suggested, but without violence. “No, no,” he said; ”you must give us back Smyrna, and peace will be restored, and when peace is restored all the resources of Asia Minor will be at the disposal of Great Britain. Asia Minor is a rich land, crying aloud for development, and the only serious condition that we will ask you, excluding your friendship, is recognition of our independence.

The other details can easily be arranged. There is, of course, the question of the islands. If we are ever going to have peace, steps must be taken to see that the islands immediately adjacent to the mainland are not made a sanctuary for Greek comitadjis.” I asked him if a compromise could not be arrived at with regard to Thrace, and he answered that no compromise was possible with regard to Eastern Thrace, for Constantinople could never rest in security under the guns of her enemies.

He was, however, quite ready to agree to the internationalisation or to the neutralisation of the Straits. He looked upon the occupation of the Dardanelles by the Greeks as provocative, and wished to bring it to an end. When Russia was out of action, he said, the question of the Dardanelles had almost ceased to exist. He had lately been approached by a Greek official, whose name he gave me, on the question of coming to an understanding. But the time was not ripe. The Greeks said that Mustapha Kemal was bluffing. Very well; let them prove that by the force of arms…

The ex-Grand Vizier then talked of Europe generally, but asked me to respect certain confidences of his. It was evident from his conversation that he and the Turks of Angora were in close touch with the big forces of the moment, and with all the chief European Governments, except that of Great Britain. He said he thought the Irish situation had been badly handled. It was the first time in our own days that we had had to deal with a question of that kind, and we had made crude mistakes. He had seen some of the Sinn Feiners in Germany, but had a poor opinion of them. He thought that the position in Germany itself was dangerous, and he believed that the French were determined to go into Germany, though he did not think that such an action would bring them any nearer to getting their money. A French invasion of Germany would drive the Germans to join hands with the Bolshevists. Relief might then come to Turkey through European chaos, but, as he had said before, he hoped for relief through other channels.

I asked Talaat Pasha if his views were Right or Left, and he answered that he was Liberal, but would not admit to any political colour, saying that politics changed, and that patriotism was constant.

“Now,” said Talaat Pasha, “I have put all my cards on the table, and I hope you will be able to persuade your Government of these facts, which, after all, can easily be proved. We are ready to make great concessions to achieve our object, which is peace and friendship with England, I do not want power nor office; I speak for myself, but I am in the centre of things. Mustapha Kemal in Angora will not be in disagreement with me; and Bekir Sami Bey is saying in London to-day what I am saying in Dusseldorf to you. His propositions have been favourably considered ; the Allied Governments propose to have an inquiry into the question of Smyrna and of Thrace. The Armenian question is on the way to being settled. Bekir Sami has had friendly discussions with Mr. Lloyd George at Downing Street, and now I have said all I have to say. If the British Government desire it, peace can be obtained immediately, and with it the development of Asia Minor. You can never achieve the partition of Turkey. England and Turkey are not industrial rivals, but customers, who depend upon each other, and surely it is better for customers to be friends.”

I said good-bye to Talaat Pasha, and we went our different ways. I returned to London, where I saw Bekir Sami Bey several times. He was a straight man and a gentleman, who was ready to go to the limit of concession to obtain peace and British friendship. His proposals, which did not materially differ from those of Talaat Pasha, like many other things of that time, were discreetly broadcasted, it was said, from Downing Street, and became known to the Bolshevists, who demanded Bekir Sami Bey’s head upon a charger, and duly received it.

The Greeks advanced triumphantly during the Eastern Armistice. Negotiations broke down, and war raged again in Asia Minor, and so things continued for a year. The Foreign Office was ignored, and the Eastern policy of No. 10 Downing Street remained a mixture of frivolity and fanaticism, until Mr. Lloyd George effectively combined them in his speech of August 4, 1922. That fervent oration was sent out as an Army Order to the unhappy Greek troops, whom it hurried to their doom. For the sake of the Greeks and Turks, and, indeed, our own reputation, it is a pity that Talaat Pasha was not able to have his way and to achieve peace. But if the revolver of the murderer had spared him, it is not likely that he, or indeed any other man, would have been able to convince Mr. Lloyd George of the truth of facts. They might as easily have persuaded Sir Basil Zaharoff.

Talaat returned to Berlin, where he was immediately murdered by a Persian Armenian. He died hated, indeed execrated, as few men have been in their generation. He may have been all that he was painted — I cannot say. I know that he had rare power and attraction. I do not know whether he was responsible or not for the Armenian massacres. All I know is that he was fearless; and anyone who, like myself, only knew him superficially, found him to be kindly and with a singular charm.

So died Talaat Pasha, the Young Turk, and, I incline to think, the genius of that movement. But, Young Turk leader though he was, he still had much of the old Turk in him. He was not envenomed against England by the protracted persecution of Mr. Lloyd George. Is what Talaat Pasha proposed to me, what Bekir Sami Bey suggested in London, and the peace terms that Ali Fethi Bey brought fruitlessly to deaf ears in London in 1922, still open to us to-day, or is the chasm that separates us from Turkey and from Islam unbridgeable? I think not. Our interests lie together, and whatever the reason may be, it is a fact that the Turk and the Englishman, in nine cases out of ten, get on with each other and like each other. We have been left the heirs of the incompetency of Mr. Lloyd George and his Government, and the Turks have inherited the legacy of hatred that recent years have bequeathed to them.

But the Turks have a proverb, which those Englishmen who were sent out between the lines on the various occasions when an armistice was proclaimed during the war often heard. It became familiar to them between mounds of Turkish and British dead — “Eski dost Dushman olmaz ” (an old friend cannot be an enemy). If we can convince the Turks that we have a similar sentiment here, the memory of recent quarrels may be forgotten in the recollection of a more ancient understanding.

b. Talaat’s Memoirs

Talaat’s Memoirs, which he referred to in his final interview, came to light not long after his murder in Berlin and were published posthumously in New York. (Note: English translations of Talaat’s memorandum use the word “deportation” for the word “tehcir.” The word “deportation” is incorrect, because Armenians were moved within the country, and not out of the country. They were also allowed to return their homes after September 1915. This meaning is not conveyed by the word deportation – either relocation or forced migration is more accurate.)

Here are the parts of Talaat’s memoirs to do with what happened to the Armenians:

“The relocation of the Armenians, in some localities of the Greeks, and in Syria of some of the Arabs, was used inside and outside the empire as a source of attack on the Turkish Government. First of all, I wish to inform the public that the rumors of relocation and assassination were exceedingly exaggerated. The Greeks and the Armenians, taking advantage of the ignorance of the American and European public of the Near Eastern situation and of the character of the Turks, used the relocations as a means for propaganda, and painted it as best suited their aim. In saying this, I do not mean to deny the facts. I desire only to eliminate the exaggerations and to relate the facts as they occurred.

I admit that we relocated many Armenians from our eastern provinces, but we never acted in this matter upon a previously prepared scheme. The responsibility for these acts falls first of all upon the relocated people themselves. Russia, in order to lay hand on our eastern provinces, had armed and equipped the Armenian inhabitants of this district, and had organized strong Armenian bandit forces in the said area. When we entered the great war, these bandits began their destructive activities in the rear of the Turkish Army on the Caucasus front, blowing up the bridges, setting fire to the Turkish towns and villages and killing the innocent Mohammedan inhabitants, regardless of age and sex. They spread death and terror all over the eastern provinces, and endangered the Turkish Army’s line of retreat. All these Armenian bandits were helped by the native Armenians. When they were pursued by the Turkish gendarmes, the Armenian villages were a refuge for them. When they needed help, the Armenian peasants around them, taking their arms hidden in their churches, ran to their aid. Every Armenian church, it was later discovered, was a depot of ammunition. In this disloyal way they killed more than 300,000 Mohammedans, and destroyed the communication of the Turkish Army with its bases. The information that we were receiving from the administrators of these provinces and from the commander of the Caucasian Army gave us details of the most revolting and barbarous activities of the Armenian bandits. It was impossible to shut our eyes to the treacherous acts of the Armenians, at a time when we were engaged in a war which would determine the fate of our country. Even if these atrocities had occurred in a time of peace, our Government would have been obliged to quell such outbreaks. The Porte, acting under the same obligation, and wishing to secure the safety of its army and its citizens, took energetic measures to check these uprisings. The relocation of the Armenians was one of these preventive measures.

I admit also that the relocation was not carried out lawfully everywhere. In some places unlawful acts were committed. The already existing hatred among the Armenians and Mohammedans, intensified by the barbarous activities of the former, had created many tragic consequences. Some of the officials abused their authority, and in many places people took preventive measures into their own hands and innocent people were molested. I confess it. I confess, also, that the duty of the Government was to prevent these abuses and atrocities. or at least to hunt down and punish their perpetrators severely. In many places, where the property and goods of the relocated people were looted, and the Armenians molested, we did arrest those who were responsible and punished them according to the law. I confess, however, that we ought to have acted more sternly, opened up a general investigation for the purpose of finding out all the promoters and looters and punished them severely.

But we could not do that. Although we punished many of the guilty, most of them were untouched. These people, whom we might call outlaws, because of their unlawful attitude in disregarding the order of the Central Government, were divided into two classes. Some of them were acting under personal hatred, or for individual profit. Those who looted the goods of the deported Armenians were easily punishable, and we punished them. But there was another group, who sincerely believed that the general interest of the community necessitated the punishment alike of those Armenians who massacred the guiltless Mohammedans and those who helped the Armenian bandits to endanger our national life. The Turkish elements here referred to were short-sighted, fanatic, and yet sincere in their belief. The public encouraged them, and they had the general approval behind them. They were numerous and strong. Their open and immediate punishment would have aroused great discontent among the people, who favored their acts. An endeavor to arrest and to punish all these promoters would have created anarchy in Anatolia at a time when we greatly needed unity. It would have been dangerous to divide the nation into two camps, when we needed strength to fight outside enemies. We did all that we could, but we preferred to postpone the solution “of our internal difficulties until after the defeat of our external enemies.

As to the relocation of the Greeks and the Arabs, this charge is based more on propaganda than on real fact. The truth is that the Greeks living on the coast of the Sea of Marmora supplied food and petrol to the enemy submarines, which, passing through the strait, entered the Marmora and threatened our communication by sea. In order to prevent the Greeks from aiding the enemy, we relocated those who were guilty to Anatolia? But their relocation was carried out in a very regular way. They suffered neither loss of life nor of goods. As to the Arabs of Syria, we confined ourselves to the application of martial law, and punished only those who promoted a revolution to overthrow the Turkish authority in Syria.

These preventive measures were taken in every country during the war, but, while the regrettable results were passed over in silence in the other countries, the echo of our acts was heard the world over, because everybody’s eyes were upon us.”

 

 

 

Categories
Azerbaijan Geopolitics Russia Turkey and Ottoman Empire

“Erməni Soyqırımı” haqqında düşüncələr

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Alim qondarma erməni soyqırımı haqqında iddiaların çürük olduğunu bildirib

ABŞ-da qondarma “erməni soyqırımı” ilə bağlı Türkiyəyə yönəlik qaralama kampaniyası aparan siyasi dairələrə və qeyri-hökumət təşkilatlarına qarşı diaspora xidməti göstərən və 2008-ci ildə Nyu-Yorkda qurulan Türk-Amerikan Təhlükəsizlik Fondu (TASFO) bununla əlaqədar Qərb tarixçiləri ilə reportajlar həyata keçirir.

Təşkilatın mövzu ətrafında söhbət apardığı ekspertlərdən biri də irlandiyalı alim Patrik Volşdur. Doktor Volş “Böyük Britaniyanın Türkiyəyə qarşı böyük müharibəsi”, “Erməni üsyanı və böyük müharibə: Xəyanət məsələsində diqqtəlayiq tarix” kitablarının müəllifidir. Bu yaxınlarda onun “Qafqazda Böyük Britaniya-Rusiya mücadiləsi: Geopolitika, Müharibə, İnqilab sarmaşığında Osmanlı türkləri, ermənilər və azərbaycanlılar” adlı kitabı satışa çıxacaq.

Patrik Volş hazırda Birləşmiş Ərəb Əmirliklərində beynəlxalq universitetində dərs deyir.

Musavat.com TASFO-nun Facebook-dakı hesabına istinadən Emre Serbest tərəfindən alınan həmin müsahibədən bəzi hissələri təqdim edir.

– 1915-ci ildəki Osmanlı dövlətində ermənilərlə bağlı hadisələr haqqında düşüncələriniz nədən ibarətdir? Siz nəyə görə bu hadisələrin soyqırım olduğuna inanmırsız?

– “Soyqırım” hər şeydən öncə beynəlxalq hüquq tərəfindən müəyyən bir hadisə üçün nəzərdə tutulan hüquqi bir termindir. Bu termindən BMT Baş Assambleyasının “Soyqırım cinayətlərinin qarşısının alınması və cəzalandırılması haqqında” konvensiyanın qəbul edilməsinə qədər istifadə olunmayıb. BMT yalnız alman nasistləri ilə bağlı müstəsnalıq təşkil etsə də, digər bənzər hadisələrə hüquqi qiymətin verilməsi xüsusunda başqa ölkələrə qarşı “qanunun geriyə qüvvəsinin olmaması” prinsipini işə salıb. Bu səbəbdən 1915-ci il hadisələrinin soyqırım olduğu iddiası sadəcə bir iddiadır və heç bir hüquqi statusu yoxdur.

“Soyqırım” kəlməsi polşalı, yəhudi əsilli hüquqşünas Rafael Lemkin tərəfindən yəhudilərin nasistlər tərəfindən yox edilməsini ifadə etmək üçün ortaya atılıb. R.Lemkin bununla bağlı yazdığı “Ox idarəsi” adlı kitabında ermənilərdən bəhs etməyib. Buradan çıxara biləcəyimiz nəticə R.Lemkinin həmin termini sırf yəhudilər üçün işlətməsidir

Əslində “erməni soyqırımı” deyilən bir şeyin hüquqi və ya tarixi bir təməli də yoxdur. Bu, əsasən emosional bir iddiadır. Tarixçilər də bu məsələdə bölünüblər.

Tarixçilərin əksəriyyəti əslində “soyqırım” məsələsində inkarçı olmalıdırlar, çünki belə bir iddianı dəstəkləyən sübut tapılmadan həmin sözü işlətməməlidirlər. “Erməni soyqırımı” ilə bağlı aparılan kampaniya siyasi bir kampaniyadır. Qərbin qanunvericilik orqanlarında isə deputatlar mövzu ilə bağlı hər hansı səlahiyyətləri və bilikləri olmadığı halda tarixi və hüquqi hökm verməyə çalışırlar.

Osmanlının erməniləri nəinki öldürmək, hətta sürgünə göndərmək barədə planı olduğuna dair heç bir dəlil yoxdur. 1915-ci ilin əvvələrində erməni üsyanları, habelə həmin dövrdə bir sıra torpaqlarının işğal edilməsi Osmanlı dövlətində böhran yaratmışdı, bu səbəbdən məcburi olaraq sürgün qərarı çıxarıldı.

Burada əsas olan dövlətin təhlükəsizliyi məsələsidir. Tarixin müəyyən dövrlərində başqa dövlətlərin də eyni situasiya ilə üz-üzə qaldıqlarında bənzər şəkildə hərəkət etmələrinə şübhə yoxdur. Məsələn, Böyük Britaniya 1950-ci illərdə Keniyada bir üsyanı yatırmaq üçün konsentrasiya düşərgələri metodunu seçmişdi.

-Bizə ASALA, JCAG kimi erməni terror təşkilatılarının məqsəd və motivasiyaları haqqında bəhs edin.

-ASALA və onun bir qolu sayılan JCAG mənə “Baader-Maynhof” və “Qırmızı briqadalar” kimi təşkilatı xatırladır. 1970-ci illərdə terror hadisələri tüğyan edirdi və erməni təşkilatları da bu şiddətli illərin böyük bir parçası olub. Erməni milliyətçiliyi daşnaklardan belə əvvəlki dövrlərə qədər uzanan zəngin bir terrorçu mirasa sahibdir. Prinston universitetinin professoru və stailinizm üzrə ekspertlərdən sayılan Stiven Kotkin bolşevik terrorunun daşnaklarla müqayisədə bir şey olmadığını belə söyləyib. ASALA və onun şöbələri “erməni soyqırımı” lobbisiylə birlikdə Türkiyənin soyqırımı tanıması, maddi təzminat və torpaq iddiaları kimi hədəf qoymuşdular. Həmin vaxtlarda onlar Türkiyənin 6 vilayətini və Transqafqazın bir bölümü ilə birlikdə “Böyük Ermənistan”ı qurmağı fikirləşirdilər. Lakin ASALA-nın fəaliyyəti erməni soyqırımının tanınması tələbini dəstəkləməklə bərabər ümumi kampaniya içində yararsız oldu. Çünki əgər diplomatları qətlə yetirib, terror aktları həyata keçirirsinizsə, hökumətlərin və xalqların düşmənçiliyindən başqa bir şey qazana bilməzsiniz.

-İrlandiyalı alim ABŞ və Fransa kimi ölkələrdə erməni diasporunun güclü fəaliyyət göstərdiyini, bu səbəbdən burada qondarma soyqırıma dəstəyin güclü olduğunu söyləyib.

-Lobbi və mənafe qrupları ABŞ siyasətinin təməlini təşkil edir. Konqres üzvləri iki ildən bir Nümayəndələr Palatasına seçildikləri üçün həm lobbi, həm də vətəndaş qrupları tərəfindən ciddi təzyiqə məruz qalırlar. ABŞ həm də etnik kimlik təməlinə əsaslanan siyasətlərin də evi sayılır. ABŞ sisteminin bütün bu özəllikləri erməni lobbiçiləri üçün olduqca əlverişlidir. ABŞ sistemini ayaqda tutan puldur, ermənilər isə mübarizələri üçün pul xərcləməkdən çəkinmirlər”,-deyə o qeyd edib.

İrlandiyalı alim ABŞ və Böyük Britaniyanın soyqırım iddialarını rəsmi şəkildə tanımamasına da aydınlıq gətirib:

“Bir çox dövlət kütlələri məmnun etmək üçün bəşəri prinsiplər barədə car çəksələr də, zamanı gələndə yalnız öz maraqlarına uyğun hərəkət edirlər. Erməni lobbisi nə qədər güclü olursa-olsun, onun ABŞ xarici siyasəti üzərində həqiqi təsirini söyləmək çətindir.

Bəzi situasiyalarda Qərb Türkiyənin siyasətindən məmnun olmadıqda, məsələn, Ruisya ilə yaxınlaşdığı hallarda bu məsələni rəsmi Ankaraya qarşı kozır kimi istifadə edə bilərlər. Lakin türklər soyqırım lobbisinə qarşı həmişə sağlam mövqe tutduqlarına görə bu kozır olduqca zəif təsir göstərib.

İngiltərədə isə ermənilərin ABŞ-dakı qədər güclü lobbisi yoxdur. Eyni zamanda burada tarix məsələsində ABŞ-dan daha az idealist və gerçəkçi baxış tərzinə malik, o cümlədən atılacaq addımların nəticələrini düşünən şüurlu bir kütlə mövcuddur. Vaxtilə dünya imteratoru olmuş və keçmişdə törətdiyi əməllərinin yadına salınmamasını istəyən br ölkə üçün bu çox təhlükəli br yol ola bilərdi…Ona görə də 1-ci dünya müharibəsindən sonra Maltada keçirilən məhkəmə prosesində Osmanlı zabitləri erməni məsələsinə görə məhkum edilmədilər. İngiltərə qondarma bir prosesin parçası olmaq istəmədi.

Patrik Volş I dünya müharibəsi gedişində emrənilərin türklərə qaşrı törətdikləri vəhşilikdər və qətliamlar mövzusuna da toxunub.

O, araşdırmaçı Ceremi Soltun “Son Osmanlı savaşları” adlı kitabında Osmanlı dövlətinin 18 milyon əhalisinin 4 milyonunun həmin müharibələrdə öldüyünü, ölənlərin dörddə üçünün müsəlman olduğunu yazdığını bildirib. Hələ buraya Azərbaycan türkləri daxil edilməyiblər. Bundan başqa, Ərzurum Atatürk univeristetindən professor Kürkçüoğlu 1980-ci ilərdə apardığı tədqiqatlar zamanı azı 500 min türkün həmin dövrdə qətlə yetirildiyini üzə çıxarıb.

“Ərzuruma dəvət edildim və bəzi sübutları şəxsən gördüm. Orada daşnaklar tərəfindən 50 min mülki şəxs öldürülüb.

Həmçinin Vanda 45 min, Qarsda 17 min, İğdırda 15 min, Ərzincanda 13 min, Diyarbəkirdə 12 min , Muşda isə 10 min günahsız insan qətlə yetirilib. Öldürmə metdları nasistlərin 1942-44-cü illərdə yəhudilərə qarşı törətdiyi vəhşilikləri xatırladır. Ermənilərə həmin vaxt müttəfiq olan çar əsgərləri də onlara mane olmayıblar”,-deyə o bildirib.

İrlandiyalı alim ermənilərin Osmanlıya qarşı üsyanında ingilislərin də ruslara eyni şəkildə maliyyə və silah dəstəyi verdiyni söyləyib.

“Həmin dövrdə osmanlılar uzun zaman hadisələrin miqyasını, neçə müsəlmanın öldürüldüyünü müəyyənləşdirə bilməmişdi. Bunun müqabilində Azərbaycan hökuməti 1918 və ondan sonra törədilən qətliamlarla bağlı sübutların araşdırılamsı və kataloqa alınması məsələsində olduqca ciddi işlər görüb. Onun tərəfindən toplanılan məlumatlar ermənilərin tərəfindən yayınlanan və Qərb mətbuatının şüursuzca qəbul etdiyi yalanlara və şişirtmələrə qarşı güclü mövqe formalaşdırıb. Həmin vaxt ermənilərlə müttəfiqlik edənlər müsəlman ölümləri ilə çox da maraqlanmadılar və Qərb ictimaiyyətində yaxşı qarşılanmayan bəzi gerçəkləri ört-basdır etmək üçün hər şey etdilər. Bununla birlikdə ingilis zabit və jurnalistlərin daşnaklaırn qəddarlığını durdurmaları üçün hökumətlərinə az qala yalvardıqları tərzdə yazdığı bir çox raport və hesabat da mövcuddur. Təəssüf ki, həqiqi mənada irqçi olan Qərb mətbuatında yazılan hekayələrdə tarixi gerçəkliklər öz əksini tapmayıb. Yazılan məqalələrin çoxu isə “hər şeyin doğrusunu bildiyini düşünən” və erməni lobbisini təsiri altında olan liberal kəsimlərin uydurduqları və yaydıqları şayiələrdən ibarətdir.

Turkish translation:

ABD’de teröre, sözde soykırım yalanlarına ve Türkiye Cumhuriyeti’ne karşı karalama propagandası yapan politikacılara ve sivil toplum kuruluşlarına karşı  etkin bir diaspora hizmeti vermekte olan ve 2008 yılında New York’da kurulan Türk-Amerikan Güvenlikçiler Derneği (Turkish-American Security Foundation [TASFO]) sözde Ermeni soykırım yalanlarına karşı, Batılı tarihçiler ile röportajlar yaparak, Türkiye ve Azerbaycan medyasında yayınlanacak bu yeni projesi ile yoluna devam etmektedir.

Röportajı ilk gerçekleştirdiğimiz tarihçi, İrlandalı Dr. Patrick Walsh. Kendisi, doktora derecesini Siyaset Bilimi alanında Queens Belfast Üniversitesi’nden aldı. Birinci Dünya Savaşı dönemi ve Kuzey İrlanda’daki çatışmalarla ilgili olarak İngiliz ve İrlanda tarihi üzerine bir dizi kitap yazmıştır. Dr. Walsh aynı zamanda ‘İngiltere’nin Türkiye’ye Karşı Büyük Savaşı’, ‘Ermeni Ayaklanması ve Büyük Savaş: İhanet Konusunda Dikkatli Bir Hikaye’ ve önümüzdeki günlerde piyasaya çıkacak olan ‘Kafkasya’da Rusya’ya Karşı İngiltere; Jeopolitik, Savaş ve Devrim Sarmalında Osmanlı Türkleri, Ermeniler ve Azerbaycanlılar’  kitaplarının da yazarıdır. Halen, Birleşik Arap Emirlikleri’ndeki uluslararası bir üniversitede ders vermektedir.

Emre Serbest (TASFO): Sayın Dr. Walsh, öncelikle derneğimiz TASFO’ya mülakat vermeyi kabul ettiğiniz icin çok teşekkür ederiz. 1915’teki Osmanlı Ermeni azınlığı ile ilgili olaylar hakkında genel olarak düşünceleriniz nelerdir ve neden bu olayların bir soykırım eylemi olduğuna inanmıyorsunuz?

“Soykırım”, her şeyden önce, Uluslararası Hukuk tarafından belirli olaylar için rezerve edilmiş yasal bir terimdir. Bu sözcük, BM Genel Kurulu’nun “Soykırım Suçunun Önlenmesi ve Cezalandırılmasına Dair Sözleşmeyi” kabul ettiği 1948 yılına kadar kullanılmadı. Nazilerin yaptığı soykırım öncesi, bu kanun tarafından resmen tanınan hiçbir soykırım yoktur – muhtemelen bir kanun yürürlüğe girmeden suç işlenemeyeceği için. BM, Naziler konusunda bir istisna yaptı ancak diğer olayların yargılanması hususunda, ve diğer ülkelere karşı, bu yasasını geriye doğru işletmemeyi seçti. Okuyucu, burada nedenini tahmin edebilecektir sanırım. “Soykırım” suçunu neyin oluşturduğunu tanımlayan BM, Ermeni olaylarını bu şekilde tanımlamamıştır. Bu nedenle, 1915 olaylarının bir soykırım teşkil ettiği iddiası, sadece bir fikirden başka bir şey değildir ve hiç bir yasal statüsü yoktur.

“Soykırım” sözcüğü Polonyalı Yahudi avukat Raphael Lemkin tarafından, özellikle Yahudilerin Nazilerin elinde uğradığı sistematik yok oluşu ifade etmek maksadıyla yaratıldı. Lemkin’in, Naziler’in yaptığı kıyım için bu özel sözcüğü üretirken aklında hep Ermenilerin olduğunu iddia edenler, aslında bu iddiayı 1915’te uygulanabilir bir soykırım yasasının olmaması gerçeğini örtmek için kullanıyorlar. Burada bir tür yaratıcı hayal gücü var. Lemkin sadece aile hukuku uzmanlığı olan bir hukuk profesörüydü. Ünlü ve biraz da karmaşık kitabı “Mihver Yönetimi”, ABD’ye geldikten sadece 2 yıl sonra, İngilizce’yi nispeten kötü konuştuğu bir dönemde yazıldı. Burada, “kendisinin hayalet yazarları kimdi?” diye sorulabilir. Neyse, Lemkin’in Yahudilere olanlar için bu sözcüğü icat ederken aklında her zaman Ermenileri bulundurduğunun sürekli iddia edilmesi gerçeğine rağmen, Lemkin bu kitapta Ermenilerden nedense hiç bahsetmiyor. Buradan hareketle varabileceğimiz tek sonuç, Lemkin için Ermeni örneğinin yeni bir kelime icat etmeyi gerektirmediği, ve kendisinin bu terimi Yahudilere sakladığıdır.

Yahudilerin soykırıma uğradığı kanıtlandıktan sonra, sanırım yeni bir çalışma alanı geliştirebilmek için başka örneklere geçilmesi doğaldı. Bu yeni çalışma alanı, kariyerlerini geliştirmek ve çeşitli araştırma kurumlarında açılan kadroları doldurmak için istekli bir dizi akademik girişimciyi de kendine çekti.

Aslında “Ermeni Soykırımı” olarak adlandırılan şeyin hukuki veya tarihsel bir temeli de yoktur. Esas olarak duygusal bir iddiadır. Tarihçiler de bu konuda son derece bölünmüş durumdadırlar. “Çoğu tarihçinin” “soykırım” etiketlemesi üzerinde hemfikir olduğu iddiası akılsızca sürekli tekrarlanıyor. Fakat bu iddia ne zaman nicel olarak kanıtlandı? Ve eğer böyle bir zihinsel egzersiz sonuçlandırıldı ise ne kadar anlamsız olduğu görülmüş müdür? Bu “çoğunluk”, eğer gerçekten varsa, Anglosferden, ağırlıklı olarak Ermeni diasporasından, kariyer odaklı bazı Batılı’lardan, ve de birkaç suçlu Türk’ün (Taner Akçam gibi) bu karışımın içine bırakılmasından oluşur. Tarihçilerin büyük çoğunluğu aslında (Ermeni lobisi açısından) “inkarcı” dır, çünkü haklı olarak, destekleyici tarihsel kanıt bulunmadan o meşum kelimeyi kullanmazlar.

“Ermeni Soykırımını” tanıtma kampanyası, aslında son zamanlarda başlamış politik bir kampanyadır. Yapılan şey, tamamen yasama organlarına, milletvekillerine, yetkili ve bilgili olmadıkları tarihsel ve hukuki bir konuda hüküm telaffuz ettirmeye çalışmaktır.

Osmanlı’nın, bırakınız Ermenileri öldürmek, onların tehcirine izin vermek hususunda dahi tahammüdi bir planı olduğuna dair hiç bir kanıt yoktur. 1915’in başlarındaki Ermeni ayaklanmasının Osmanlı Devleti için varoluşsal bir kriz yaratması ve akabindeki çok sayıda istilanın sonucunda meydana gelen felaket durumundan dolayı, zorunlu göç (tehcir) uygulaması doğaçlama olarak yapıldı. Ünlü İngiliz Kabine Sekreteri Maurice Hankey, o dönemlerde “herhangi bir hükümet için en büyük endişe unsurunun, o devletin güvenliği olduğunu” söylemiştir. Osmanlılar da, bu prensiple hareket ettiler. İngiliz, Rus, Amerikan ya da başka herhangi bir devletin de, aynı durumla karşı karşıya kaldıklarında benzer şekilde hareket edeceğine kesinlikle şüphe yoktur. Bütün bu saydığım devletler, kendi devletleri söz konusu olduğunda, çok daha az tehlike ve tehdit arz eden ayaklanmaları dahi bastırmak için benzer isyan bastırma yöntemlerini kullanmışlardır. Mesela İngiltere, Kenya’da bir isyanla mücadele için, 1950’lerde bile bir yöntem olarak toplama kamplarını kullanmıştır.

Bize biraz, Ermeni terör gruplarının terör eylemlerini, yani ASALA ve JCAG’yi, amaçlarının ve motivasyonlarının neler olduğunu açıklayabilir misiniz?

Elbette, ben bu terörist gruplar konusunda uzman değilim, ancak İrlanda’nın kuzeyinde yaşamış olmaktan dolayi politik şiddet konusunda oldukça fazla şey biliyorum. ASALA ve onun bir dalı olan JCAG, bana Baader-Meinhoff ve Kızıl Tugaylar gibi örgütlerin kuzenleri gibi geliyor. 1970’lerde bir terör patlaması yaşandı ve Ermeni terör faaliyetleri de bu şiddetli on yılın büyük bir parçasıydı.

Elbette Ermeni milliyetçiliği, Taşnaklardan bile önceye uzanan zengin bir terörist mirasa sahiptir. Terörizm, kendisine eşlik eden ikna özellikleriyle, bu devrimci grupların en gözde aracıydı. Princeton Profesörü ve Stalin uzmanı Stephen Kotkin, geçtiğimiz günlerde “Bolşeviklerin terörizm söz konusu olduğunda Taşnaklara kıyasla hiçbir şey olduklarını” söyledi. Taşnaklar, terör söz konusu olduğunda Güney Rusya’da resmen mükemmeliyeti temsil ediyorlardı.

ASALA ve onun şubeleri, gerçekten de “Ermeni soykırımı” lobisiyle aynı amaçlara sahipti – Türkiye’nin Soykırımı tanıması, maddi tazminatlar ve toprak tazminatı. Sanırım Magna (Büyük) Ermenistan’ı da talep ettiler – 6 vilayet artı Transkafkasya’nın önemli bir bölümü… Bu elbette aşırı derecede saçma ve umutsuzcaydı. Mevcut siyasi kampanya ise daha ince kurgulanmış ve daha sınırlı hedefler deklare ediyor. ASALA’nın faaliyetleri, ‘Ermeni Soykırımı’nın tanınması talebini desteklemeye yardımcı olmakla beraber, genel kampanya içinde temelde işlevsizdi. Bombalamalar yapar, çeşitli milletlerden diplomatlar, hükümet çalışanları ve masum sivilleri öldürürseniz, hükümetlerin ve halkların düşmanlığını kazanmanız kaçınılmazdır. Ve bu da, bir mağdurun durumuna pek uymaz.

Neden birçok Avrupa ülkesi (ve diğerleri) 1915 olaylarını soykırım olarak kabul ederken, Türkiye ve Azerbaycan bunu kabul etmiyor?

Batılı politikacılar, çeşitli nedenlerden ötürü bir Ermeni Soykırımı’nı tanımak yönünde oy kullanıyorlar. ABD ve Fransa gibi bazı ülkelerde oy arayan politikacılara baskı yapan güçlü Ermeni diasporaları var. Lobi ve çıkar grupları ABD politikasının temelini oluşturur. Kongre üyeleri, her iki yılda bir Temsilciler Meclisi’nde sık sık yeniden seçime tabi tutulduklarından, hem lobi gruplarından hem de bir bölgedeki güçlü vatandaş gruplarından büyük baskıya maruz kalırlar. ABD aynı zamanda etnik kimlik temeline dayalı politikaların da evidir. ABD sisteminin tüm bu özellikleri, Ermeni lobicileri için uygundur. Ve elbette, ABD sistemini gerçekten yağlayan şey paradır ve Ermeniler de, davaları için nüfuz satın almak amacıyla para harcamaktan korkmazlar. Obama ve Biden gibi cumhurbaşkanlığı adaylarının hepsi bu gruplara söz vermek için çok isteklidir. Ama Washington’daki önemli insanlar bunlara anlamsız sözlerinin ne denli ahmakça olduğunu ve yerine getirildiğinde ABD çıkarlarını nasıl tehlikeye atabileceğini anlattıklarında sık sık vaatlerini tutmaz, hemen unuturlar.

Batılı politikacıların çoğu basitçe oportünisttir ve her zaman destekleyecek “iyi bir dava” ararlar. Zavallı ve ezilmiş (Hristiyan) insanların acılarının tanınması hususunda “adalet talep etmelerini” desteklemenin, kötü sonuçları olmayan zararsız bir faaliyet olduğunu düşünüyorlar. Bu politikacılar, elbette, tarih konusunda tamamen cahildirler ve ulvi bir amaç için gibi görünen her şeyi söyleyebilecek veya yapabilecek kapasitede insanlardır. İrlanda’da iken de böyle insanlarla tanıştım – dürüst, hoş, genellikle sol görüşlü insanlardır. Onlara tarih hakkında ne bildiklerini sordum. Elbette, her sene Nisan ayında bir gazetenin kes-yapıştır usulü bastığı, sonuçta bir Ermeni kaynağından türemiş, 1.5 milyon ölü Ermeni yalanı ve Nuremberg’de sahteliği kanıtlanıp reddedilen Hitler’in sözde sözleri…

Türkiye ve Azerbaycan Türkleri, bu saçmalıkları nasıl kabul edebilirler? Kendi tarihleri hakkında en ufak bir bilgiye sahiplerse, ve özsaygıları varsa, yapamazlar.

ABD ve İngiltere’nin Ermeni’lerin soykırım iddialarını resmen tanımaktan neden kaçındığını düşünüyorsunuz? Malta Mahkemeleri’nde Osmanlı’nın önde gelen devlet adamlarını yargılama konusunda başarısız oldukları için olabilir mi?

Devletler her zaman öz çıkarları tarafından yönetilir. Çoğu hükümetler kitleleri memnun etmek ve dünya izleyicisine oynamak için evrensel prensipler hakkında filan propaganda yaparlar, ancak zamanı geldiğinde neredeyse her zaman kendi ulusal çıkarlarına göre hareket ederler. ABD’de, Soykırımın tanınması için hareket eden, bu yönde kararlar aldırıp oylamalar yaptırabilen güçlü ve etkili bir Ermeni lobisi var. Elbette, bunlar tarihsel anlamda birşey ifade etmiyor. Bu lobinin Amerika Birleşik Devletleri’nin dış politikası üzerinde gerçek bir etkisinin olup olmadığı ise şüphelidir. Çoğu devlet adamı da bu oylamaların ahmakça olduğunu, jestlerden etkilenen halkın saf kesimlerine ne kadar iyi ve mantıklı olduklarını göstermek için öğrenci tartışma toplulukları gibi davranan sorumsuz politikacıların işi olduğunu kavrayabilecek duyarlılıktadırlar. Ancak, bir açıdan da bu oylamalar önemlidir. Bazı durumlarda Batı, Türkiye’nin siyasi yöneliminden hoşnut olmadığında, örneğin Rusya’ya yaklaştığında ya da Amerikalılar yerine Moskova’dan savunma sistemleri satın aldığında, bu işler Türkiye’ye karşı kullanılabilir. Bu durumlarda bu anlamsız beyanatlar Türkiye’ye karşı birer koz durumuna gelir. Ancak Türkler soykırım lobisine karşı genel olarak sağlam bir pozisyon aldıklarından, bu kozun kullanımı genel olarak karşı-üretken olmuştur. Sonuç olarak ABD demokrasisinin bir unsuru sözde Soykırım’ın tanınması yönünde oy kullanıyor ve Türkiye de buna yanıt olarak daha fazla Rusya’ya doğru kayıyor.

İngiltere’de ABD’deki gibi bir Ermeni lobisi yok; aynı zamanda tarih konusunda Amerika’dakilerden daha az idealist, buna mukabil daha gerçekçi bir bakış açısıyla bakan, aynı zamanda soykırımı tanıtma yoluna girildiğinde bunun olası etkileri konusunda da daha bilinçli bir kitle var. Böyle bir yol, bir Dünya İmparatorluğu olan ve geçmişinde başkalarının dikkatine sunulması istenmeyecek pek çok şeyler yapmş bir ülke için tehlikeli bir yoldur. Ve tabii eminim ki İngiltere, Osmanlı arşivlerinin emrinde olduğu, o zaman bilinen tüm kanıtlara sahip olduğu bir dönemde sağlam bir dava açamadığı Malta Duruşmaları’nda neler yaşandığının da bilincindedir. İngiltere’ye burada hakkını teslim edelim derim. Sonucu biliyor, kanıtları gördü, zaten bu yolda bulundu ve düzmece bir mahkeme oyununun parçası olmak istemiyor.

Birinci Dünya Savaşı sırasında yabancı işgal ordularıyla işbirliği yapan Ermeni milislerin sebep olduğu katliamlar ve Türk ve Azerbaycan’lı sivil Müslüman nüfusun uğradıkları kayıplar hakkında ne düşünüyorsunuz? Sizce toplam Müslüman sivil kayıpları için verilebilecek doğru bir rakam ne olabilir?

Jeremy Salt’ın son kitabı olan “Son Osmanlı Savaşları”, 18 milyonluk Osmanlı nüfusundan 4 milyondan fazla kişinin öldüğünü, ve bu ölüm oranının Büyük Savaş sırasında herhangi bir devlet için en yüksek oranlardan biri olduğunu savunuyor. Ölenlerin en az dörtte üçü Müslüman’dı. Ve bu rakama, Azerbaycan Türkleri dahil değildir.

Erzurum Atatürk Üniversitesi’nden Profesör Kürkçüoğlu, 1980’lerde yapılan kazıların ve arşiv araştırmalarının savaş sırasında yaklaşık 500,000 Müslüman Türk’ün katledildiğini kanıtladığını söyledi. Diyarbakır, Muş, Bitlis, Van, Erzurum, Erzincan, Kars, Ardahan, Trabzon, Adana ve diğer yerlerde sivillerin katledilmesinin ardından Doğu ve Güneydoğu Anadolu’da 185 toplu mezar bulunduğunu söyledi. Erzurum’a davet edildim ve bazı kanıtları şahsen gördüm. Orada, Taşnak kuvvetleri tarafından 50,000 kadar sivil katledildi; Van’da 45,000, Kars’ta 17,000, Iğdır’da 15,000, Erzincan’da 13,000, Diyarbakır’da 12,000 ve Muş 10,000 masum sivil katledildi. Öldürmelerin çoğu, Nazilerin Einsatzgruppen’in 1942-44’te Doğu Avrupa’daki Yahudileri öldürme biçimine benzer şekilde savaşın art alanında yapıldı. Rus askerleri Bolşevik devriminden sonra Doğu Anadolu’dan çekildiklerinde, Çar ordusunun müttefikleri olan Taşnaklar ve Ermeni askerler için, askeri kontrolün olmadığı bir ortamda düzensiz birliklerle katliamlar yapmaya mani kalmamıştır.

Benzer şekilde, Güney Kafkasya’da da, Andranik, Dro ve diğerlerinin liderliğinde geri çekilen Ermeni güçlerin, Magna (Büyük) Ermenistan idealini gerçeğe dönüştürmek için Müslüman yerleşimlerini tahrip ettiği ve Müslüman nüfusu kılıçtan geçirdiği bir süreç yaşandı. Araştırmalarımda, Taşnaklar tarafından sadece Rus silahlarının kullanılmadığını, Lenin’in Çarlık Kafkasya Ordusu’nu dağıtmasının akabinde İngilizlerin de Ermeniler’le anlaşıp etnik temizlik görevlerine devam etmeleri hususunda bu grupları finanse ettiğini, silahlandırdığını ve eğittiğini gördüm.

Tabii ki, toplamda kaç Müslüman’ın öldüğünü bilmek çok zor. Osmanlılar tarafından da uzun bir süre sonraya kadar tahmin edilemedi. Buna mukabil, Azerbaycan Hükümeti ise, 1918 ve sonrası katliam kanıtlarını araştırmak ve kataloglamak konusunda çok iyi bir iş çıkardı ve bu veriler de Ermeniler tarafından yayınlanan ve Batı basınının düşüncesizce kabul ettiği yalanlara ve abartılara karşı keskin bir tezat oluşturuyor. Müttefikler, Müslüman ölümleriyle ilgilenmiyorlardı ve Batı’da iyi karşılanmayan gerçekleri örtbas etmek için de gereken her şeyi yaptılar. Bununla birlikte, bölgedeki İngiliz subay ve gazetecilerin yazdığı, katliamları tanımlayan ve Taşnak acımasızlıklarını durdurmaları için hükümetlerine adeta yalvaran birçok rapor var.

Maalesef, gerçek anlamda ırkçı olan Batı matbuatını kaplayan anlatılarda konuya ilişkin tarihsel gerçekler hala yok. Bu anlatıların çoğu da, maalesef her zaman her şeyin “en doğrusunu düşünen” Ermeni Soykırımı lobisinin büyüsü altındaki liberal kişilerin yaydığı söylemler.

Iranian version:

بنیاد امنیتی ترک-آمریکا3در سال 2008 میلادی در نیویورک تاسیس شد و در جهت مبارزه با دروغ پردازی ها در خصوص نسل کشی ادعایی ارامنه، ترور، تبلیغات و سیاه نمایی سسیاستمداران و سازمان های غیر دولتی بر علیه ترکیه فعالیت می کند. این بنیاد در سری جدید فعالیت های خود اقدام به مصاحبه با مورخین غربی در خصوص دروغ پردازی حول نسل کشی ارامنه نموده که بازتاب وسیعی در مدیا، مطبوعات و شبکه های اجتماعی ترکیه و آذریایجان داشته است.

اولین شخصی که در این چهارچوب مورد مصاحبه قرار گرقته است دکتر پاتریک والش از ایرلند است. دکتر والش درجه ی دکتری خود را از رشته ی علوم سیاسی دانشگاه کوئین بلفاست4  دریافت کرده است و مولف چند سری کتاب در مورد جنگ جهانی اول و درگیری های ایرلند شمالی است. او در عین حال آثاری را با عنواین «جنگ بزرگ انگلیس علیه ترکیه»5  و «شورش ارامنه و جنگ بزرگ: داستانی دقیق در مورد خیانت»6  تالیف کرده است و در آینده نزدیک کتابی دیگر از وی با عنوان «رویارویی انگلیس و روسیه در قفقاز: ترک های عثمانی، ارامنه و آذربایجانی ها در مارپیچ انقلاب، جنگ و ژئوپولتیک»7منتشر خواهد شد. دکتر والش اکنون در یک دانشگاه های بین المللی در امارات متحده عربی به عنوان استاد دانشگاه تدریس می کند.

امره سربست8  (بنیاد امنیتی ترک-آمریکا): قبل از هر چیز از اینکه مصاحبه با باتا را پذیرفتید از شما تشکر می نمایم.

در مورد وقایع مربوط به اقلیت ارامنه در سال 1915 به طور عام چگونه می اندیشید؟ آیا باور دارید که آن وقایع نمونه ی یک نسل کشی هستند؟

«نسل کشی» قبل از هر کاربرد دیگر عنوانی حقوقی است که برای وقایع مشخصی توسط حقوق بین الملل به کار می رود. این اصطلاح تا سال 1948 و قبل از تصویب «قرارداد مقابله و مبارزه با نسل کشی»9  توسط مجمع عمومی سازمان ملل متحد استفاده نشده است. قبل از نسل کشی یهودیان توسط نازی ها هیچ نسل کشی دیگری توسط این قرارداد به رسمیت شناخته نشده است. و این احتمالا به این دلیل است که قبل از تصویب یک قانون نمی توان بنا به آن قانون مرتکب جرم انگاشته شد.

سازمان ملل متحد طبق این قرارداد با جنایات نازی ها به عنوان یک مورد استثنایی برخورد کرد اما در خصوص محاکمه ی وقایع دیگر و مقابله با کشورهای دیگر ترجیح داد که این قرارداد مشمول عطف به ماسبق نباشد. فکر می کنم مخاطب دلیل این برخورد را درک خواهد کرد. در تعریف سازمان ملل از جرم «نسل کشی»، وقایع مرتبط با ارامنه به عنوان نسل کشی شناسایی نشده است به همین دلیل ادعاهای نسل کشی ارامنه در سال 1915 جز یک اندیشه نیست و هیچ مبنای قانونی ندارد.

لفظ «نسل کشی» از سوی یک وکیل لهستانی به نام رافائل لمکین10  و برای تعریف کشتار سیستماتیک یهودیان به دست نازی ها بوجود آمد. بعضی ها ادعا می کنند رافائل لمکین موقعی که این لفظ را برای کشتاری که نازی ها مرتکب شده بودند بوجود آورد در واقع به ارامنه می اندیشید. این افراد در حقیقت برای سرپوش گذاشتن به این واقعیت که در سال 1915 قانونی قابل اعمال برای نسل کشی وجود نداشت چنین ادعایی دارند. اینجا در واقع نوعی خیال بافی خلاقانه وجود دارد. لمکین فقط یک پروفسور حوزه ی حقوق بود که تخصص اش حقوق خانواده بود. او کتاب معروف و در عین حال کمی گنگ اش با عنوان «مدیریت محور در اروپای اشغال شده»11  را تنها دو سال بعد از آنکه به آمریکا آمد و در موقعی که انگلیسی را هنوز به خوبی نمی توانست صحبت کند نوشت. در اینجا می توان چنین پرسید که «نویسنده های خیالی او چه کسانی بودند؟». بی خیال. برخلاف کسانی که پیوسته ادعا می کنند رافائل لمکین موقعی که این لفظ را برای کشتاری که نازی ها مرتکب شده بودند بوجود آورد در واقع به ارامنه می اندیشید، عجیب است که لمکین در این کتاب اصلا بحثی از ارامنه نمی کند. تنها نتیجه ای که از اینجا می توان گرفت این است که از نظر لمکین موضوع ارامنه نیازی به ایجاد اصطلاحی جدید نداشت و او این اصطلاح را برای یهودی ها نگه داشت.

به نظرمن بعد از اثبات نسل کشی یهودیان، ورود به مثال های دیگر برای ایجاد و گسترش یک زمینه ی کاری طبیعی بود. و این زمینه ی کاری جدید بعضی از محققین دانشگاهی را که مشتاق قرار گرفتن در کادرهای آموزشی جدید بودند به خود جذب کرد.

در حقیقت آنچه که به عنوان «نسل کشی ارامنه» نامیده می شود هیچ مبنای تاریخی و حقوقی ندارد و در اصل یک ادعای احساسی است و مورخین در مواجهه با این حادثه به شدت دچار چند دستگی شده اند. ادعاهایی از این دست که «اکثر» مورخین موافق برچسب «نسل کشی» برای این موضوع هستند به صورت نابخردانه ای تکرار می شوند. اما این ادعا چه زمانی مگر به صورت کمّی ثابت شد؟ و اگر این تمرین فکری به نتیجه رسید آیا ندیدند که چقدر کار بی مفهمومی بوده؟ اگر واقعا این «اکثریت» وجود داشته باشد چیزی فراتر از آنگلوسفر،12  انبوهی از لابی ارامنه و بعضی غربی های شیفته ی ترفیع درجه و حرفه و برخی اتباع مجرم ترکیه (از جمله تانر آکچام13) نخواهد بود. در واقع اکثر تاریخ دانان از منظر لابی ارامنه «منکر»14  هستند چونکه به واقع بدون دلایل و قرائن تاریخی مایل به کربرد آن کلمه ی نسل کشی نیستند.

پویش به رسمیت شناختن نسل کشی ارامنه در حقیقت یک پویش سیاسی بسیار موخر و جدید است. آنچه آنها در پی آن هستند این است که نمایندگان مجلس و قوه ی قانونگذاری را مجبور به قانونگذاری و تعیین تکلیف ور خوزه ای بکنند که نه اطلاعاتی در آن حوزه دارند و نه صلاحیتی در مورد یک موضوع تاریخی و حقوقی دارند.

هیچ سند و مدرک مستدلی نیست که نه فقط برنامه کشتار تعمدی ارامنه، بلکه طرح عمدی مهاجرت اجباری ارامنه توسط عثمانی ها را اثبات کند. شورش های ارامنه در روزهای آغازین سال 1915 و در پی آن هجوم ها و شبیخون های پی در پی ارامنه بر علیه دولت که اوضاعی فلاکت بار برای دولت عثمانی پدید آورده بود از حیث دولت عثمانی یک نوع تهدید موجودیت بشمار می رفت و در نتیجه ی این تحولات مهاجرت اجباری به عنوان یک طرح ابتکاری15  به اجرا درآمد. دبیر معروف کابینه ی انگلستان مائوریس هانکی16  چنین می گوید که «در آن دوران بزرگترین عنصر نگرانی بر هر دولت مسئله امنیت آن دولت بود». عثمانی ها هم با تکیه بر همین اصل اقدام کردند. اگر هر کدام از دولت های انگلستان، روسیه، آمریکا و یا هر دولت دیگری در همان شرایط قرار می گزفتند شکی نیست که به همان شیوه برخورد می کردند. همه ی این دولت هایی که نام بردم زمانی که امنیت و حاکمیت دولت های خودشان مطرح بود شورش ها و تحراکات بسیار کم خطرتر را نیز با تکیه بر همان روش های برطرف کردن شورش ها انجام می دادند. بهعنوان مثال انگلستان برای مبارزه با یک عصیان در کنیا حتی در سال 1950 نیز از روش تجمیع در اردوگاه ها استفاده کرده است.

ممکن است کمی در مورد عملیات های گرو های تروریستی ارامنه از جمله آسالا وJCAG، اهداف و انگیزه های آنها توضیح دهید؟

البته من تخصصی در خصوص این گروه های تروریستی ندارم اما از آنجایی که در شمال ایرلند زیسته ام در خصوص خشونت های سیاسی مطالب زیادی آموخته ام. از نظر من آسالا و یکی از شاخه های آن به نامJCAGچیزی مثل عمو زاده های بریگاد سرخ17  وBaader-Meinhoffهستند. یعنی اینها از یک جنس هستند. در دهه ی 1970 ما با یک جهش در حوادث تروریستی مواجه بودیم. فعالیت های تروریستی ارامنه هم قسمتی از خشونت های این دهه بود.

البته ناسیونالیسم ارمنی دارای یک پیشینه ی تروریستی تاریخی تر از داشناک ها است. تروریزم و اقناع به عنوان ویژگی جدایی ناپذیر آن یکی از محبوب ترین دست آویزهای این گروه های انقلابی بود. استفهان کوتکین18  استاد دانشگاه پرینستون و کارشناس حوزه ی استالین در روزهای گذشته چنین گفت که تروریزم بلشویک ها در مقایسه با تروریزم داشناک ها هیچ بود. وقتی سخن از ترور بود داشناک ها در جنوب روسیه بهترین بودند و حرف اول را می زدند.

آسالا و گروه های وابسته به آن به واقع با لابی «نسل کشی ارامنه» اهداف مشترکی داشتند: به رسمیت شناختن نسل کشی از سوی ترکیه، جبران خسارات مادی و واگذاری سرزمین. و فکر می کنم حتی ماگنا ارمنستان19  (یعنی ارمنستان بزرگ) را هم مطالبه کرده اند. شش استان ترکیه و قسمت اعظمی از ترانس قفقاز20. و البته این بسیار مضحک بود و امیدی هم به آن نبود. پویش سیاسی اخیر اما بسیار دقیق سناریوسازی شده و اهداف محدودتری بروز می دهد. فعالیت های آسالا با اینکه مدافع و حامی مطالبات به رسمیت شناخته شدن نسل کشی ارامنه بود اما در اساس ناکارآمد بود. طبیعی است که اگر بمباران کنید، دیپلمات های ملل مختلف و انسان های بی گناه را بکشید دشمنی دولت ها و ملت ها را در پی خواهد داشت. و این اصلا به نفع موقعیت یک قربانی نیست.

با اینکه کشورهای اروپایی زیادی و حتی کشورهای غیر اروپایی وقایع سال 1915 را به عنوان نسل کشی به رسمیت می شناسند چرا ترکیه و آذربایجان این مسئله را قبول نداریند؟

سیاستمداران غربی به دلایل متنوعی در جهت به رسمیت شناختن نسل کشی ارامنه رای می دهند. در کشورهایی نظیر فرانسه و آمریکا لابی بسیار قدرتمند ارامنه وجود دارد که سیاستمداران محتاج رای را تحت فشار قرار می دهند. لابی و گروه های ذینفع اساس سیاست آیالات متحده آمریکا را تشکیل می دهند. از آنجایی که اعضای کنگره هر دو سال یکبار مشمول فرایند بسیار سخت انتخاب شدن در مجلس نمایندگان می باشند از اینرو تحت فشار گروه های لابی و همچنین گروه های قدرتمند جمعیت های محلی قرار می گیرند. ایالات متحده در عین حال پناهگاه سیاست هایی است که بر اساس هویت های قومی است و تمامی این ویژگی های سیستم آمریکایی برای لابی ارمنی بسیار مناسب است. و البته پول همان چیزی است که به عنوان روغن لای چرخ سیستم آمریکایی عمل می کند و ارامنه برای خریدن افراد با نفوذ در راستای ادعاهای خود از هزینه کردن به هیچ وجه ابایی ندارند. نامزدهای ریاست جمهوری آمریکا از جمله افرادی چون اوباما و بایدن بسیار مایل به قول دادن به این گروه های لابی هستند. اما انسان های عاقل در واشنگتن وقتی به آنها یادآوری می کنند که قول هایی که داده اند چقدر احمقانه هستند و اگر به آنها عمل کنند چطور منافع ایالات متحده را به خطر خواهد انداخت پشت سر هم وعدهای خود را فراموش می کنند و از آن سر باز می زنند.

اکثر سیاستمداران غربی به بیانی ساده فرصت طلب هستند و همیشه به دنبال حمایت از به اصطلاح «یک طرح/ادعای خوب» هستند. آنها همیشه فکر می کنند که حمایت از ادعاهای عدالت خواهانه انسان های(مسیحیان) بیچاره و مورد ستم واقع شده در خصوص به رسمیت شناخته شدن رنج هایشان فعالیتی بی ضرر است که نتایج بدی را به بار نمی آورد. اینسیاستمداران البته در حوزه ی تاریخ بسیار جاهل و نادان هستند و قابلیت انجام هر کاری را در راستای یک هدف به ظاهر مقدس دارا می باشند. در ایرلند با انسان های زیادی از این دست آشنا شدم. انسان های خوب، صادق و معمولا با گرایشات چپ هستند. از آنها در مورد تاریخ و اطلاعات تاریخی شان پرسیدم. (جواب این نوع سوالات)21  البته ادعای دروغین کشته شدن یک و نیم میلیون ارمنی که از منابع ارامنه نشات گرفته و ماه آوریل هر سال به صورت کپی-پیست در یک روزنامه چاپ می شود و یا جملاتی که به سخنرانی هیتلر در نورمبرگ22  نسبت داده می شود در حالی که جعلی و کذب بودنشان آشکار شده است.

ترک ها و آذربایجانی چظور می توانند این مزخرفات را باور کنند؟ آنها اگر کمترین اطلاعی از تاریخ خودشان داشته باشند و به خودشنان اخترام قائل باشند نمی توانند این نوع مزخرفات را باور کنند.

به نظر شما چرا دولت های آمریکا و انگلیس از به رسمیت شناختن ادعاهای نسل کشی ارامنه تفره می روند؟ آیا می تواند به دلیل ناکامی آنان در محاکمه دولتمردان عثمانی در محاکم قضایی مالتا باشد؟

دولت ها همیشه بر اساس منافع ملی خودشان اداره می شوند. بسیاری از دولت ها برای راضی کردن توده ها و نقش بازی کردن برای ناظران جهانی در خصوص ارزش های جهانی تبلیغات می کنند اما موعدش که می رسد همه ی آنها به طرز عجیبی در جهت منافع ملی خودشان عمل می کنند. در ایالات متحده آمریکا یک لابی قدرتمند و موثر ارمنی وجود دارد که در جهت به رسمیت شناختن نسل کشی ارامنه حرکت می کند و در این راستا بارها قوانینی را به تصویب رسانده و رای گیری هایی را به راه انداخته اند. گرچه اینها از حیث تاریخی ارزشی ندارند. موثر بودن یا نبودن این لابی بر روی سیاست خارجی ایالات متحده آمریکا هنوز جای بحث و شبهه دارد. بسیاری از دولتمردان البته متوجه احمقانه بودن این نوع رای گیری ها هستند و آن را در جهت خوب و منطقی نشان دادن بعضی از سیاستمداران بی مسئولیت به مردمی صاف و صادق که از ژست هم خوششان می آید می دانند و این حرکت ها را فراتر از انجمن های مباحثه ی دانشجویی نمی دانند. اما از نگاهی دیگر این رای گیری ها مهم هم هستند. در بعضی موقعیت ها غربی ها وقتی از جهتگیری های سیاسی ترکیه خوشنود نمی شود، به عنوان مثال وقتی ترکیه به روسیه نزدیک می شود و یا به جای آمریکا از مسکو سیستم دفاع موشکی می خرد از این موضوع در مقابل ترکیه استفاده می شود. در این موقعیت ها همه ی آن بیانات پوچ و بی مفهوم به عنوان اهرمی بر علیه ترکیه استفاده می شود. ولی از آنجایی که ترک ها در مقابل لابی نسل کشی موضعی صحیح و مستحکم گرفته اند استفاده از این اهرم به ضرر طرف مقابل می انجامد. در نتیجه یکی از اضلاع دموکراسی آمریکایی برای به رسمیت شناخته شدن نسل کشی ارامنه رای گیری می کند و در مقابل ترکیه بیشتر به روسیه نزدیک می شود.

در انگلستان لابی ارمنی به مانند آمریکا وجود ندارد و در عین حال در خصوص تاریخ نسبت به آمریکایی ها کمتر ایده آلیست هستند. در مقابل انبوهی از انگلستانی ها هستند که به این وقایع با نگاهی واقع بینانه می نگرند و وقتی موضوع به رسمیت شناخته شدن نسل کشی ارامنه مطرح می شود در مورد تاثیرات و پیامدهای آن نیز آگاهانه برخورد می کنند. قرار گرفتن در چنین مسیری (به رسمیت شناخیت نسل کشی)23  برای یک امپراتوری جهانی مانند انگلستان که در تاریخ گذشته ی خود وقایع زیادی برای پنهان کزدن از چشم دیگران دارد مسیری خطرناک خواهد بود. و البته مطمئن هستم که انگلستان به خوبی واقف است که در آن دوره که تمامی آرشیوهای عثمانی در دسترسش قرار داشت و تمامی اسناد و مدارک و شواهد موجود و شناخته شده را در اختیار داشت در دادگاه قضایی مالتا نتوانست شکایتی درخور و مستحکم ثبت کرده و کاری از پیش ببرد و به خوبی بر جزئیات محاکم مالتا واقف است. به نظرم باید حق مطلب را در خصوص انگلستان ادا کرد. آنها نتیجه را می دانند، همه ی شواهد و مدارک را دیده اند، یک بار این مسیر را رفته اند و دیگر بار نمی خواهند قسمتی از یک دادگاه مضحک و ساختگی باشند.

در مورد قتل عام هایی که جوخه های ارمنی با همکاری قوای بیگانه در طول جنگ جهانی اول مرتکب شدند و همچنین تلفات ترک ها و آذربایجانی های مسلمان و غیر مسلح چه می اندیشید؟ آیا به نظر شما می توان عدد دقیقی برای تلفات مسلمانان در این وقایع تعیین کرد؟

جرمی سالت24  در آخرین کتابش به نام «آخرین جنگ های عثمانی»25  می گوید که از جمعیت هجده (18) میلیونی عثمانی بیش از چهار (4) میلیون کشته شدند و این نسبتِ مرگ و میر در مقایسه با تمامی دولت های متخاصم و درگیر در جنگ بزرگ (جنگ جهانی اول)26  بیشترین میزان مرگ و میر می باشد. حداقل سه چهارم کشته شدگان مسلمانان بودند این در حالی است که آذربایجانی ها در این آمار و ارقام محسوب نشده اند.

پروفسور کورکچواوغلو27  استاد دانشگاه آتاتورک در ارزروم با توجه به حفاری های دهه ی 1980 و تحقیقات آرشیوی چنین نتیجه می گیرد که در طول جنگ نزدیک پانصد هزار از اتباع مسلمان کشته شده اند. بعد از کشتار غیر نظامیان در مناطق دیاربکر، موش، بتلیس، وان، ارزروم، ارزنجان، قارص، آردهان، ترابزون، آدانا و سایر نواحی، در آناتولی شرقی و جنوب شرقی 185 (صد و هشتاد و پنج) گور دسته جمعی پیدا شده است. من شخصا به ارزروم دعوت شدم و شواهد و بقایا را به چشم خود دیدم. قوای داشناک در آنجا حدود پنجاه هزار نفر افراد غیر نظامی را قتل عام کردند. چهل و پنج هزار نفر در وان، هفده هزار نفر در قارص، پانزده هزار نفر در ایغدیر، سیزده هزار نفر در ارزنجان، دوازده هزار نفر در دیاربکر، ده هزار نفر در موش و همه غیز نظامیان بیگناه قتل عام شدند. بیشتر این قتل عام ها مشابه قتل عام های یهودیان اورپای شرقی در پشت جبهه های جنگ توسط جوخه های مرگ28  نازی ها در سال های بین 44-1942 صورت گرفت. بعد از آنکه قوای روس پس از انقلاب بلشویکی از آناتولی شرقی خارج شدند، همدستان اردوهای تزاری از جمله داشناک ها و نظامیان ارمنی در نبود هیچگونه مکانیزم کنترلی هیچگونه مانعی برای قتل عام و کشتار نمی دیدند.

به موازات آنچه گفته شد، در قفقاز جنوبی نیز قوای تحت رهبری آندرانیک29، درو30  و سایرین با نظامیان تحت امر خود برای واقعیت بخشیدن به آرمان بزرگشان یعنی ماگنا ارمنستان (ارمنستان بزرگ) شروع به تخریب مناطق مسکونی مسلمانان و کشتار آنان کردند. در تحقیقات خودم به اسناد و مدارکی برخوردم که نشان می داد داشناک ها علاوه بر سلاح ها و مهمات روسی از سلاح های انگلیسی هم استفاده می کردند. این اسناد نشان می داد که پس از آنکه لنین اردوی تزاری قفقاز را لغو کرد انگلیسی ها با ارامنه توافق کردند و برای پاکسازی قومی منطقه از سوی ارامنه هرگونه کمک ازجمله مالی، تسلیحاتی و آموزشی را ارائه می دادند.

بدیهی است که تعیین دقیق کشته شدگان مسلمان کاری بس دشوار است. حتی عثمانی ها هم تا مدتها بعد از آن وقایع رقم و یا تخمینی برای تعداد کشته شدگان مسلمان مشخص نکردند. اما در مقابل دولت آذربایجان تحقیقات گسترده ای را در خصوص قتل عام های سال 1918 و سال های بعد از آن انجام داد و به صورت کاتالوگ هایی منتشر نمود. این نشرها در مقابل ادعاها و تزهای دروغین و بزرگنمایی شده ی ارامنه  که از سوی مدیا و انتشارات غربی بدون تامل و تفکر پذیرفته می شوند تضاد خوبی را تشکیل می دهند. متفقین علاقه به موضوع کشتار مسلمانان نداشتند و تمام توان خود را برای سرپوش گذاشتن بر موضوعی که چندان رغبتی به آن نداشتند انجام دادند با این حال گزارش های خبرنگاران و مستشاران نظامی انگلیسی در مناطق مورد نظر حاکی از وقوع جنایات و قتل عام از سوی داشناک ها بود و در بعضی از این گزارش ها می بینیم که آنها به دولت های خود برای متوقف کردن بی رحمی های داشناک ها التماس می کردند.

متاسفانه در روایت های آلوده به نژادپرستی که سرتاسر مطبوعات غربی را در بر گرفته است هنوز هیچ اثری از حقاق مرتبط با موضوع دیده نمی شود و اکثر این روایت ها متاسفانه مثل همیشه از سوی افراد به ظاهر لیبرال تولید و منتشر می شوند که مدعی هستند همیشه بهتر از همه می اندیشند در حالی که از سوی لابی نسل کشی ارامنه مسخ شده اند.

English Original:

What are your thoughts in general, on the events of 1915 involving the Ottoman Armenian minority and could you please elaborate specifically, on why you do not believe that these events were an act of genocide?

‘Genocide’ is, first and foremost, a legal term reserved for particular events by International Law. The word was not used until 1948, when the UN General Assembly adopted the “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”. There are no genocides recognized by Law before the Nazi one – presumably because a crime cannot be committed before a Law is in place. The U.N. made an exception to this with the Nazis but has chosen not to extend its Law backwards in judgement of other events and against other countries. The reader should be able to hazard a guess why. The U.N. defines what constitutes “Genocide” and it has not defined the Armenian events as such. Therefore, an assertion that the events of 1915 constitutes a genocide is nothing but opinion and has no legal status.

The word “Genocide” was coined by the Polish Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin, to deal particularly with the then recent systematic killing engaged in by the Nazis. Lemkin is used to cover up the absence of a genocide law in 1915 by the assertion that he always had the Armenians in mind when he invented his special word for the Nazis. There is a kind of creative imagining involved here. Lemkin was only a Professor of Family Law competence. His famous and complex book ‘Axis Rule’ was written only 2 years after he came to the U.S., when he was a poor speaker of English. Who was the ghostwriter, one might ask? And yet it does not mention the Armenians at all, despite the fact that it is continually asserted that Lemkin always had the Armenians in mind when he invented his word, for what happened to the Jews. One can only conclude that Lemkin did not feel the Armenian example warranted the invention of a new word and he saved it for the Jews. Once the Genocide of the Jews had been established it was natural to move onto other examples, I suppose, to develop a new field. The new field attracted a host of academic entrepreneurs eager to enhance their careers and fill new departments in institutions.

There are, in fact no judicial or historical grounds for what is termed the “Armenian Genocide”. It is mainly an emotional assertion. Historians are extremely divided over the issue. It is mindlessly repeated that “most historians” agree on the “Genocide” label being applied. But when has this assertion ever been quantified? And if such an exercise is ever completed how meaningless it will be. This “majority” is, if it actually exists, made up of those from the Anglosphere, predominantly from the Armenian diaspora, and some career-minded Westerners, with a few guilty Turks thrown in (like Taner Akcam). The vast majority of historians are actually “denialists” (on the terms of the lobby) because they, quite rightly, do not use the word without historical evidence being available to support it.

The campaign for recognition of an “Armenian Genocide” is, in fact, primarily a political one, begun quite lately. It is an attempt to muster legislators together to pronounce on a historical and legal issue when they have no competence to do so.

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 Armenian insurrection and multiple invasions that produced an existential crisis for the Ottoman State. The famous British Cabinet Secretary, Maurice Hankey, said at the time that “the safety of the state is the highest concern” of any government. It is within this principle that the Ottomans acted. There is absolutely no doubt that the British, Russian, American or any other state would have acted in similar fashion if confronted with the same situation themselves. All of these states used similar counter-insurgency methods to suppress threats in situations that were of much less danger to their states. Britain used concentration camps as recently as the 1950s to fight an insurgency in Kenya.

Can you please explain TO us a little bit, the terrorist acts of Armenian terror groups, namely ASALA and JCAG, what their aims and motivations were etc.?

Well, I am not an expert in these recent terrorist groups but know a fair bit about political violence from having lived in the North of Ireland. ASALA and its offshoots appear to me to be cousins of people like the Baader-Meinhoff and Brigade Rosse. The 1970s saw an explosion of terrorism and the Armenian activities were very much a part of this violent decade.

Of course, Armenian nationalism has a rich terroristic heritage stretching back even before the Dashnaks. Terrorism was really the favorite means of these revolutionary groups with its attendant features. Stephen Kotkin, the Princeton Professor and expert on Stalin recently said that the Bolsheviks had nothing on the Dashnaks with regard to terrorism. The Dashnaks were the terrorists par excellence in Southern Russia.

ASALA and its offshoots really had the same aims as the Armenian genocide lobby – Turkish recognition of Genocide, reparations and territorial compensation. I think they also demanded Magna Armenia too – the 6 vilayets plus a lot of Transcaucasia. That was ridiculous and hopeless in the extreme. The current political campaign is more subtle and declares more limited objectives. ASALA’s activities, although they helped promote the ‘Armenian Genocide’ recognition demand, were fundamentally dysfunctional for the campaign. The hostility of governments and peoples would inevitably be incurred by planting bombs and shooting diplomats, government employees and innocent civilians of various nationalities. It does not accord well with the status of the victim.

Why did many European (and other) countries acknowledge the 1915 events as genocide while Turkey and Azerbaijan does not?

Western politicians vote through motions in favour of recognizing an Armenian Genocide for various reasons. Some countries like the U.S. and France have powerful Armenian diasporas who put pressure on politicians who look for votes. Lobbying and interest groups are the basis of U.S. politics. Because members of Congress are subject to frequent re-election – every 2 years in the House of Representatives – they can be subjected 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. Presidential candidates like Obama and Biden are all too willing to make promises to these groups – promises they often do not keep when important people in Washington point out the foolishness of their frivolous promises and how U.S. interests may be at stake if they are fulfilled.

Many Western politicians are simply opportunists, always looking for the “good cause” to support. They imagine that supporting a poor downtrodden (Christian) people in their “just demand” for recognition for their suffering is a harmless activity with no bad consequences. These politicians are, of course, completely ignorant of the history and will really say and do anything that seems to be doing good for a good cause. I have met people in Ireland like this – honest, nice, usually left-wing people. I asked them what they know of the history. Nothing, of course, except what they might have read in a newspaper article trotted out every April by a journalist who has cut and pasted his information from some other article which ultimately derives from an Armenian source and invariably includes the false 1.5 million claim and the false Hitler quote which was dismissed as fraudulent at Nuremburg.

How can Turks and Azeris accept this nonsense? They can’t if they have any knowledge of their own history and any self-respect.

Why do you think US and UK so far refrained from officially recognizing the Armenian genocide allegations? Could it be, perhaps, because Malta Trials were unsuccessful in terms of prosecuting the interned Ottoman Dignitaries?

States are always governed by self-interest. Most governments employ propaganda about universal principles to please the masses and play to the world audience – but they nearly always act in their own national interest when bit comes to bit. The U.S. has a powerful and influential Armenian lobby 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 the United States. Most statesmen 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 grand 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 Russia or buys defence systems from Moscow, instead of American ones. In these circumstances these meaningless declarations can be used as leverage. However, because the Turks have generally maintained a solid position against the Genocide lobby the use of this leverage has usually been counter-productive. The result is that some element of the U.S. democracy votes through a recognition of the Genocide and Turkey shifts toward Russia in response.

The UK does not have an Armenian lobby like the U.S., it is also less idealistic than America with a more realistic view of history and its ends, as well as being more conscious of the implications for itself in going down the Genocide recognition road. Such a road would be a dangerous one for a country that had a world Empire and did many things that it does not want brought to the attention of others. And perhaps it is aware still of what happened at Malta, when it had possession of the Ottoman archives and all the evidence at its disposal but failed to make a case that could stand up in court. Let’s give Britain the benefit of the doubt here. It knows the score, having seen the evidence and been down that road already, and does not want to be party to sham justice.

What are your opinions on the losses suffered by Turkish and Azerbaijani Muslim civilian population, inflicted by the Armenian militia who were cooperating with foreign invasion armies during WW1? What would be an accurate number, in your opinion, for the total Muslim civilian losses?

Jeremy Salt’s recent book, ‘The Last Ottoman Wars’, argues that there were over 4 million deaths in an Ottoman population of 18 million, one of the highest proportions for any state during the Great War. At least three quarters of those who died were Moslems. This would not include Azerbaijani Turks.

Professor Kurkcuoglu at Ataturk University in Erzurum has said that excavations in the 1980s and archival research prove the massacre of around 500,000 Muslim Turks during the war. He said that 185 mass graves had been found in eastern and south-eastern Anatolia after mass killings of civilians in Diyarbakir, Mus, Bitlis, Van, Erzurum, Erzincan, Kars, Ardahan, Trabzon, Adana and other places. I was invited to Erzurum and saw some of the evidence. There, it is claimed, up to 50,000 civilians were massacred by Dashnak forces, while in Van 45,000, Kars 17,000, Igdir 15,000, Erzincan 13,000, Diyarbakir 12,000 and Mus 10,000 were slaughtered. A lot of the killing was done in the hinterland of war, rather like in the way the Nazis’ Einsatzgruppen killed Jews in Eastern Europe in 1942-4. When Russians soldiers withdrew from Eastern Anatolia, after the Bolshevik revolution, the Dashnaks held the line for the Allies and Armenian soldiers of the Tsar’s army, along with irregulars, outside of military control, did the killing unhindered.

A similar process took place in the Southern Caucasus where the retreating Armenians and forces led by Andranik, Dro and others devastated Moslem settlements and put the population to the sword, in an attempt to make Magna Armenia a reality. In my research I found that not only Russian weapons were used by the Dashnaks but the British funded, armed and trained these groups to hold the line after Lenin had disorganized the Tsar’s Caucasus army and the Armenians went off on ethnic cleansing missions of their own accord.

Of course, it is very difficult to know how many Moslems died in all. They couldn’t even be estimated until a long time after by the Ottomans. The Azerbaijani Government did a very good job in investigating and cataloguing evidence between 1918 and 1919, and it stands out in sharp contrast to the lies and exaggerations issued by the Armenians and which the Western press accepted unthinkingly. The Allies were disinterested in Moslem deaths and did everything to cover up the facts, which did not play well in the West. However, there are numerous reports from British officers and journalists in the area describing the carnage, and pleading with their government to stop the Dashnak atrocities.

Unfortunately, the true facts are still notably absent in the narrative that pervades Western writing on the subject, which is frankly racist, even though a lot of it is pedaled by the most “right-thinking” of liberal people, caught in the spell of the Armenian Genocide lobby.