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The Turkish ambassador’s navel-gazing — and its dangers

He still thinks the Armenian genocide is ‘in dispute.’ Read: fodder for anti-Semitism.

The ambassador of Turkey to the US, Berdbar Kilk, felt constrained to write to the Wall Street Journal and deny the Armenian genocide. He wrote: “The basic events in Asia Minor between 1894 and 1924 are subject to significant debate nearly a century later.”

Actually, the only debate a century later is between the genocide deniers and themselves. No one else has joined this debate because the facts are in, the facts are clear, the facts are abundant, and the facts are as old as the genocide itself. The ambassador is navel-gazing.

More than a century after the genocide, Turkey’s leaders inexplicably cannot acknowledge the intentional mass murder of some one to one-and-a-half million Armenian men, women and children under the orders and execution of the leaders of the Ottoman Empire. We say “inexplicably” because modern day Turkey bore no responsibility for what the Ottomans did.

Why is this important? What difference does it make, anyway, whether the Turkish government in 2019 acknowledges what the Otto-man government did, 1915-1917?

First, truth is its own justification. Truth is a supreme value. Truth is not a trifle.

Second, if one genocide can be denied, so can another.

Third, and most important, if one genocide can be denied, it is easier for others who would commit genocide to get away with it. If, as the Turkish ambassador would have it, the Armenian genocide was actually nothing other than a tragic consequence of war, a series of “massacres and countermassacres” (as Ambassador Kilk terms it), then perpetrators of genocide can claim they are merely acting in self-defense. If genocide can be cast as bad behavior by both sides, then, for example, genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 can be characterized merely as a class conflict that got out of hand. The same “logic” can justify everything from Cambodia’s Pol Pot in the early 1970s to Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya Muslims today.

Thus, it is of critical importance to keep the record straight, not to obfuscate the facts, about the early genocide of the 20th century, the Armenian genocide. Hitler himself looked to the world’s indifference to the Armenian genocide as proof that he could get away with genocide of the Jews. Against this backdrop, the continuing attempt by Turkey to deny the Armenian genocide is an assault not only on the truth, but on the public safety of any hated group.

In his letter to the to the Wall Street Journal, Turkey’s Ambassador Kilk wrote:

“‘Genocide’ isn’t a word that should be tossed around lightly.” Correct.The only people making light of the word are the deniers, chief among them the leaders of modern Turkey. The ambassador continued: “What determines genocide is not necessarily the number of casualties or the cruelty of the persecution but the ‘intent to destroy’ a group.” Correct. This is precisely what the Ottoman Turks intended to do and tried to do. Literally tens of thousands of pages in hundreds of learned studies attest to this.

As the ambassador continues his letter, he would have us believe that the real instance of genocide was the Holocaust (he throws in the Hebrew  term Shoah as if to demonstrate his bonafides as one who can recognize genocide when he sees it). To the ambassador, the Holocaust qualifies as genocide because it was the culmination of racism. But the Turks, he writes, “have never harbored any anti-Armenianism, or Greekism or Assyrianism.” Really? Go ask the millions of victims.

Go consult what historians have classified as the eyewitness accounts, the official archives, the photographic evidence, the testimony of survivors, and the reports of diplomats starting with the anguished and sustained reports of the US ambassador to Turkey during WW I, Henry Morgenthau. Based on the Turkish ambassador’s letter, one would never know that countless public meetings of protest against the unfolding, mass murder and torture of Armenians exercised the conscience of American citizens at the beginning of WW I.

Ambassador Kilk’s letter regurgitates many of the stages of Armenian-genocide denial, which has a history all its own: first, blame scapegoats for the mass killings (such as Kurds); second, suppress the discussion (by, for example, pressuring politicians to prevent films about the genocide); third, devise “another side of the story”; fourth, prohibit any mention of the genocide at the UN or in Congressional resolutions; fifth, disrupt academic conferences on the genocide; sixth, corrupt academic scholarship on the genocide by paying for it. This list goes on. See “Professional Ethics and the Denial of Armenian Genocide,” by Profs. Smith, Markusen and Lifton.

Just as there was a direct line from the Armenian genocide to the confidence of Hitler, there is a direct line from denial of the Armenian genocide to denial of the Holocaust. For Armenians, Jews and others, denial of genocide endangers public safety. The line from the Armenian-genocide denial stretches not only up to Hitler, but through him up to anti-Semitism today.

Copyright © 2019 by the Intermountain Jewish News

2 thoughts on “The Turkish ambassador’s navel-gazing — and its dangers

  1. David Davidian

    Today’s Turkey is responsible for the actions of its predecessor, just like Adenauer’s Germany and successive German governments pay Nazi Holocaust reparations. In Turkey’s case, it is much worse. Hundreds of perpetrators, organizers, and genocidal ideologues of the Armenian genocide entered service in Ataturk’s “Modern” Turkey. Some of these genocidal criminals attained high government positions and served for decades with impunity. Further, Armenian wealth in the form of property, factories, and confiscated gold (which ended up in German banks) jump-started today’s Turkish economy.

    Turkey spends many millions of dollars in genocide denial annually because it knows it is culpable given the right international circumstances. The damages Armenians have conservatively calculated for this genocide is on the order of several trillions of dollars, and the clock is ticking.

    Yerevan, Armenia

  2. marcus

    Thank you for publishing the article. In a few words, it shoots down the boilerplate denialism of Turkey. I wish the author would write a sequel and address a major issue related to the Armenian Genocide: compensation and restitution to the Armenian people for the slaying of 1.5 million Armenians, for scattering the survivors (many of them orphans) to the four corners of the world, for expropriating individual and collective Armenian wealth (residences, community buildings, churches, convents, schools, lands, businesses, books, art, furniture, jewelry, bank accounts.) But above all, the occupation of 90 percent of historic Armenia now called eastern Turkey. Incidentally, a century after the Armenian Genocide, Turkish treasure hunters still dig into the foundations of Armenian homes hoping to find hidden family gold.


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