Turks and Armenians

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Posted by panch from pool0219.cvx20-bradley.dialup.earthlink.net ( on Friday, July 05, 2002 at 9:11AM :

Imagine my surprise when I read that the Young Turks instigated a rebellion that forced Abdul Hamid to make concessions and restore the consitution he'd cancelled years before...and in a mood of euphoria the nation declared a new willingness to live up to the principles of Ottomanism...first time I heard that phrase...to bring together all ethnic groups and declare greater harmony and tolerance among the diverse religions especially them warring Christians(!). And that in ceremonies and at cemetaries where the dead of past massacres lay buried...Christian prelates and Rabbis and Mullahs had prayed together and even recited each other's prayers.

But a reaction set in from conservative forces... there was a renewed campaign of hostility towards Christians...Armenians primarily, who still yearned to join the nationalist movements that were boiling all over Europe. That brought in a counter-reaction in which the liberals finally won, but by then the First World war had started and Turkey found itself beseiged by Christian nations eager for any pretext to carve up the empire... the Turks grew suspicious of the Armenians again...as they had several secret societies well funded by an Armenian upper class...with the result that they decided to move them away from the border region where they comprised a collective force that might open the gate, so to speak, at any time. Of a million marched off, half died, killed outright and starved and frozen ( now who would be so hard hearted as to starve children)...that's according to Kinross' book.

It just never made any sense to me that after 600 years of relative stability and harmony within the empire...(where was that even attempted anywhere else)...the Turks all of a sudden and for no reason decided to kill several of their own subjects. It's that old saw about Islam being sneaky and murderous just for the fun of it, or because their Koran tells them to. This nonsense comes from our own equivalent of the Turkish lower classes, the ignorant and red necked kind that Peters and the others lived among and learned to emulate.

The Ottoman Empire was watching itself be chopped up piecemeal by nations who at one time claimed to be their friends and giving them sound advice...and the following week left them to be devoured by another friend now turned enemy...then have last month's enemey become a friend and give more sound advice, and then be confronted by three or four of the Powers who this month combine together and present ultimatums, only to have one of them secretly negotiate a separate agreement with the Turks promising this in exchange for that...the end result of all of this was war with Russia, threats from France, withdrawal of support from Britain, war with Italy, the loss of the Balkans, of Tunisia...the demands for humiliating concessions by one or three or all of the "freiendly" powers.

The Turks weren't stupid...they just weren''t in any position to ward off all of these better organized powers who eventually did manage to carve their empire up just as they wanted. In that atmosphere the slightest move towards nationalism of a Christian minority within the Empire itself would be doomed...especially if, as I'm sure happened, that minority was given encouragement by the Brits or any other friendly Christian power.

The massacre of the Christians within the empire was an act of war...of the need to protect the fatherland from within against subversive elements...something any nation would have done. The United States, in a much more favorable position and with a Constitution like none other to stand behind...still managed to trump its own laws and throw the Americans of Japanese descent, who were in many cases Christians themselves, into concentration camps. We aren't 19th Century Turks...and we were not fighting for our lives by any stretch of the imagination...yet had we been facing that sort of combination of enemies as vastly superior to us as the Europeans were to the Turks...and had our Japanese citizens...all of them born within America, staged armed uprisings and threatened the internal security of America...well, guess again.

This is not to excuse any kind of murder against anyone. It's just a dismal reality of war and what nations still do to each other and to weaker people they determine have acted outside the law.

The killing of the Christians within the Ottoman empire was not a genocide. People were not singled out for their religion or hair color just to cleanse an area ...rid the world of an inferior race. There were well founded fears of an armed insurrection or a betrayal of the nation's borders by citizens of a different religion who had nationalist aspirations.

If the Spanish rounded up elements of the Basque minority and killed them all, it wouldn't be genocide. It would be a bloody and merciless attempt to get rid of a seperatist movement...along ethinic lines. That's a police action aimed at one group...it is not motivated by hatred as much as fear and insecurity.

The Ottoman Empire under different absolute rulers tried with varying success to provide a stable and secure existance for its minorities. Events led them to feel threatened...as they indeed were, and this made them suspicious of the loyalty of certain groups...a natural enough occurance hardly unique with Turks or Muslims.

Though nothing near the internal threats and rebellions that the Turks actually experienced has happened to America...still one or two more incidents and we might see people of a certain religion or ethnicity begin to suffer for it...and if any coalition of Muslims or Arabs ever got the strength to seriously endanger the sovereignty of the United States...began to peel off outlying territories such as Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Alaska...you might find us capapble of what all people are capable of when they feel themselves facing defeat, humiliation and destruction...we might round up American Muslims or Arab Americans...and you never know.

It does us no good to distort reality for some short end gain in feeling aggreived or set upon...there is nothing positive to being murdered...no benefit to come from having been martyred. We were not martyred at all...but suffered the consequences of war. What do we perceive will be the gains of having been victims of a genocide? Is there a bonus or a dividend, or an inheritance we can claim if only we can prove we were martyred? On the contrary it keeps us infantile and loses respect for us in the eyes of others who know full well what the language means...and who see our attempt to cash in somehow, as less than honest.

It is no less a tragedy to be murdered as it is to be martyred...either way you're dead. But still...there must be something "in it" because we labor like giants, in obscurity and futility, to prove what can't be proven to any of the people we seem to want recognition from. And the Armenians pat us on the head...assure us that they'll speak up for us, enlisting our feeble voices because we help strengthen their own.

What is it about us that says "CHUMP" all over us? Were Assyrians ever chumps...were they?

-- panch
-- signature .

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