Turkish Mosque

One hundred years ago, in 1915, Turkish Muslim civilians as well as Turkish troops, swept down on the Armenian Christian minority's population in a horrific massacre. One and a half million Armenian Christians were murdered in a national blood bath that can only be described by one word - genocide. World leaders did nothing. Absolutely nothing. Turkish political leaders did nothing. Well, that is not exactly correct. They did one thing: deny it.

When Hitler and his murderers met in the 1930's to consider "the Jewish problem" and the monstrosity of their "final solution" was being considered, even some of those Nazi psychopaths were concerned that such a blatantly genocidal plan would pull other nations into a war against them. Hitler swatted away that concern pointing to the international impotence in response to the 1915 Armenian genocide.

Even today, while admitting that well, yes, many murders were committed, the Turkish government refuses to own up to what that attempted mass extermination obviously was, genocide. Turkey's disgusting moral equivocation includes accusing the Armenians of inflating the numbers, as if a half million ethnic murders might be less of a genocide, less horrible, less something than a million and a half.

They then add insult to injury by dismissing the slaughter of innocent Armenians, entire villages, entire regions, as "another regrettable result of the terrible times around WWI." Perhaps the most ludicrously dismissive statement made by Turkish officials includes a reference to "the suffering on all sides." That is a pathetic moral argument. Times were violent. Many people died. A war was raging. Therefore our officially tolerated if not governmentally sponsored national genocide was not really genocide but a sign of the times.

The most despicable of the Turkish responses, however, is not outright denial, but what I call "definitional denial." Hiding behind some nuanced, hair-splitting analysis of the UN definition of genocide, the Turks steadfastly refuse to face what really happened in 1915. A recent article in The Daily Sabah (a Turkish newspaper indirectly controlled by the Turkish government), makes three points, each of which is more disgusting than the last. Here is the gist of that article.

1) The UN definition of genocide should only be applied with pinpoint precision. If some phrase or word can provide even a hint of cover for national murderous actions, then mass murder may be many things but it cannot be called genocide.

2) The Armenians inflamed the Muslim population, many of whom were not really Turks anyway but recent immigrants from the Balkans.

3) Many Armenians lived over the mass deportations and murders, therefore it must not have been genocide. Evidently the Turks believe that the effectiveness of mass murder is what makes it genocide.

4) The UN definition includes the word "intent." If a national uprising, neighborhood by neighborhood, urged on and tolerated by a government allows a million and a half murders, it cannot be called genocide because there is no clearly stated evidence, no document that proves "intent." The international community, especially the West, identifies more with Armenian Christians, and therefore joins in the totally unfair Armenian effort to defame Turkey.

In other words, the Turkish denial rests on two pillars: plausible deniability based on vocabulary and blaming the victims and their co-conspirators.
Turkey should step up to it and call this reprehensible chapter in their history exactly what it was-- GENOCIDE. Moral equivocation, blaming the victim and parsing words to avoid guilt is nothing but hiding behind words. I'm sure there are Turks who are disagree with their government's pathetic attempts to dismiss this monstrosity. I cannot imagine how embarrassing this must be for them.

Imagine how painful it must be for the citizens of any country to watch their senior leaders parse words, hide behind definitions, split hairs and blame vague conspiracies for their criminal actions. Imagine how discouraging it must be to see such an obvious national comedy played out in front of the whole world. It must be excruciating for such a people to know that right-thinking people around the globe can see their leaders' actions for what they really are, while those very leaders and a sympathetic or controlled press hide behind words, words, words. Imagine that.

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