Obama Avoids Calling Amenian Killings "genocide"
Obama Softens Tone On Armenian Deaths
POLITCAL LANDSCAPE:Obama Stops Short In Turkey
Obama Follows The ADL Line On The Armenian Genocide
But today, we have this:
Turkey Says Obama's Comments On 1915 Incidents "unacceptable"
ANKARA, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Turkey on Saturday defined U.S. President Barack Obama's comments on the incidents of 1915 related to Armenia as "unacceptable".
"We consider some expressions in that statement and the perception of history it contains concerning the events of 1915 as unacceptable," a statement issued by Turkey's Foreign Ministry said, referring to Obama's speech on the "Armenian remembrance day" on Friday.
The statement said that nobody should forget that several hundreds of thousands of Turks also lost their lives in those days.
Armenians claim that more than 1.5 million Armenians were killed in a systematic genocide in the hands of the Ottomans during World War I before modern Turkey was born in 1923.
But Turkey insists the Armenians were victims of widespread chaos and governmental breakdown as the 600-year-old empire collapsed in the years before 1923.
"History can be construed and evaluated only on the basis of undisputed evidence and documentation," the statement said.
It said that common history of the Turkish and Armenian nations had to be assessed solely through impartial and scientific data, and historians must base their evaluations only on such material.
"It is with such an understanding that we support the historical dimension of the Turkish-Armenian dialogue," it said.
During his visit to Turkey on April 6, U.S. President Barack Obama said he was encouraged by the dialogues between Turkey and Armenia aimed at improving ties, promising Washington will be as constructive as possible on the improvement of their ties.
He said as Turkey and Armenia are having serious negotiations that could bear fruit quickly, "I will be as encouraging as possible," adding the world should also encourage them.
Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in support of Azerbaijan during its conflict with Armenia over the Upper Karabakh region.
So, what exactly did he say?
-- HE DID NOT SAY "GENOCIDE", BUT INSTEAD HE SAID "BIG DISASTER"
U.S. President Barack Obama used the expression "Meds Yeghern", meaning "big disaster" in Armenian, instead of "genocide" in his speech on the Armenian claims regarding the incident of 1915.
The executives of the Turkish Embassy in
Now, let's take a look at what happened back then:
When World War I broke out in 1914, leaders of the Young Turk regime sided with the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary). The outbreak of war would provide the perfect opportunity to solve the "Armenian question" once and for all. The world's attention became fixed upon the battlegrounds of France and Belgium where the young men of Europe were soon falling dead by the hundreds of thousands. The Eastern Front eventually included the border between Turkey and Russia. With war at hand, unusual measures involving the civilian population would not seem too out of the ordinary.
As a prelude to the coming action, Turks disarmed the entire Armenian population under the pretext that the people were naturally sympathetic toward Christian Russia. Every last rifle and pistol was forcibly seized, with severe penalties for anyone who failed to turn in a weapon. Quite a few Armenian men actually purchased a weapon from local Turks or Kurds (nomadic Muslim tribesmen) at very high prices so they would have something to turn in.
At this time, about forty thousand Armenian men were serving in the Turkish Army. In the fall and winter of 1914, all of their weapons were confiscated and they were put into slave labor battalions building roads or were used as human pack animals. Under the brutal work conditions they suffered a very high death rate. Those who survived would soon be shot outright. For the time had come to move against the Armenians.
The decision to annihilate the entire population came directly from the ruling triumvirate of ultra-nationalist Young Turks.
The actual extermination orders were transmitted in coded telegrams to all provincial governors throughout Turkey.
Armed roundups began on the evening of April 24, 1915, as 300 Armenian political leaders, educators, writers, clergy and dignitaries in Constantinople (present day Istanbul) were taken from their homes, briefly jailed and tortured, then hanged or shot.
Next, there were mass arrests of Armenian men throughout the country by Turkish soldiers, police agents and bands of Turkish volunteers. The men were tied together with ropes in small groups then taken to the outskirts of their town and shot dead or bayoneted by death squads. Local Turks and Kurds armed with knives and sticks often joined in on the killing.
Then it was the turn of Armenian women, children, and the elderly. On very short notice, they were ordered to pack a few belongings and be ready to leave home, under the pretext that they were being relocated to a non-military zone for their own safety. They were actually being taken on death marches heading south toward the Syrian desert.
Most of the homes and villages left behind by the rousted Armenians were quickly occupied by Muslim Turks who assumed instant ownership of everything. In many cases, young Armenian children were spared from deportation by local Turks who took them from their families. The children were coerced into denouncing Christianity and becoming Muslims, and were then given new Turkish names. For Armenian boys the forced conversion meant they each had to endure painful circumcision as required by Islamic custom.
Individual caravans consisting of thousands of deported Armenians were escorted by Turkish gendarmes. These guards allowed roving government units of hardened criminals known as the "Special Organization" to attack the defenseless people, killing anyone they pleased. They also encouraged Kurdish bandits to raid the caravans and steal anything they wanted. In addition, an extraordinary amount of sexual abuse and rape of girls and young women occurred at the hands of the Special Organization and Kurdish bandits. Most of the attractive young females were kidnapped for a life of involuntary servitude.
The death marches, involving over a million Armenians, covered hundreds of miles and lasted months. Indirect routes through mountains and wilderness areas were deliberately chosen in order to prolong the ordeal and to keep the caravans away from Turkish villages.
Food supplies being carried by the people quickly ran out and they were usually denied further food or water.
Stopping to rest or lagging behind the caravan was mercilessly beaten until they rejoined the march. If they couldn't continue they were shot. A common practice was to force all of the people in the caravan to remove every stitch of clothing and have them resume the march in the nude under the scorching sun until they dropped dead by the roadside from exhaustion and dehydration.
The Turkish countryside became littered with decomposing corpses. At one point, Mehmed Talaat responded to the problem by sending a coded message to all provincial leaders: "I have been advised that in certain areas unburied corpses are still to be seen. I ask you to issue the strictest instructions so that the corpses and their debris in your vilayet are buried."
But his instructions were generally ignored. Those involved in the mass murder showed little interest in stopping to dig graves. The roadside corpses and emaciated deportees were a shocking sight to foreigners working in Turkey.
Eyewitnesses included German government liaisons, American missionaries, and U.S. diplomats stationed in the country.
The Christian missionaries were often threatened with death themselves and were unable to help the people. Diplomats from the still neutral United States communicated their blunt assessments of the ongoing government actions. U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau, reported to Washington: "When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race..."
The Allied Powers (Great Britain, France, Russia) responded to news of the massacres by issuing a warning to Turkey:
"...the Allied governments announce publicly...that they will hold all the members of the Ottoman Government, as well as such of their agents as are implicated, personally responsible for such matters."
The warning had no effect. Newspapers in the West including the New York Times published reports of the continuing deportations with the headlines:
Armenians Are Sent to Perish in the Desert - Turks Accused of Plan to Exterminate
In May 1918, Turkish armies attacked the area to achieve the goal of expanding Turkey eastward into the Caucasus and also to resume the annihilation of the Armenians. As many as 100,000 Armenians may have fallen victim to the advancing Turkish troops.
However, the Armenians managed to acquire weapons and they fought back, finally repelling the Turkish invasion at the battle of Sadarabad, thus saving the remaining population from total extermination with no help from the outside world.
Following that victory, Armenian leaders declared the establishment of the independent Republic of Armenia.
World War I ended in November 1918 with a defeat for Germany and the Central Powers including Turkey. Shortly before the war had ended, the Young Turk triumvirate; Talaat, Enver and Djemal, abruptly resigned their government posts and fled to Germany where they had been offered asylum.
In the months that followed, repeated requests were made by Turkey's new moderate government and the Allies asking Germany to send the Young Turks back home to stand trial. However all such requests were turned down. As a result, Armenian activists took matters into their own hands, located the Young Turks and assassinated them along with two other instigators of the mass murder.
Meanwhile, representatives from the fledgling Republic of Armenia attended the Paris Peace Conference in the hope that the victorious Allies would give them back their historic lands seized by Turkey. The European Allies responded to their request by asked the United States to assume guardianship of the new Republic. However, President Woodrow Wilson's attempt to make Armenia an official U.S. protectorate was rejected by the U.S. Congress in May 1920.
But Wilson did not give up on Armenia. As a result of his efforts, the Treaty of Sevres was signed on August 10, 1920, by the Allied Powers, the Republic of Armenia and the new moderate leaders of Turkey. The treaty recognized an independent Armenian state in an area comprising much of the former historic homeland.
However, Turkish nationalism once again reared its head. The moderate Turkish leaders who signed the treaty were ousted in favor of a new nationalist leader, Mustafa Kemal, who simply refused to accept the treaty and even re-occupied the very lands in question then expelled any surviving Armenians, including thousands of orphans.
No Allied power came to the aid of the Armenian Republic and it collapsed. Only a tiny portion of the easternmost area of historic Armenia survived by being becoming part of the Soviet Union.
After the successful obliteration of the people of historic Armenia, the Turks demolished any remnants of Armenian cultural heritage including priceless masterpieces of ancient architecture, old libraries and archives. The Turks even leveled entire cities such as the once thriving Kharpert, Van and the ancient capital at Ani, to remove all traces of the three thousand year old civilization.
The half-hearted reaction of the world's great powers to the plight of the Armenians was duly noted by the young German politician Adolf Hitler. After achieving total power in Germany, Hitler decided to conquer Poland in 1939 and told his generals: "Thus for the time being I have sent to the East only my 'Death's Head Units' with the orders to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of Polish race or language. Only in such a way will we win the vital space that we need. Who still talks nowadays about the Armenians?
Is this not genocide?
the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.
And lest we not forget what the Young Turks were.
Is Islam able to apologize?
Muslim scholars tell me the holy month of Ramadan takes care of the sins of the individual, but not those of a nation. There's no concept of national sin, which may be why the Shi'ite Iranians have never apologized for their sacking of the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979.
The concept of national repentance started with Jewish prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures. Christians then ran with the idea, with modern examples including President Lincoln's 1863 call to a day of national repentance and fasting. His idea lives on in the National Day of Prayer on the first Thursday of each May. Plus, Christians ranging from the late Pope John Paul II to bands of evangelical Protestant missionaries have apologized for the excesses of the Crusades. But what Islamic entity has apologized for the 300 years of conquest that provoked the Crusades?
"The idea of being sorry for what's happened in the past is a Western way of expressing things," Mr. Haddad says.
"Nations elsewhere in the world do not do this."
However, he added that his wife, Georgetown University professor Yvonne Haddad, lost two Armenian Orthodox ancestors during the genocide.
"Individual Muslims can express regret or repentance, but I don't know what the appropriate institution would be to express Islamic regret," Georgetown University Islamic history professor John Voll told me. Christianity has corporate bodies representing its various divisions, he added, but "in Islam, there is no corporate structure that represents the umma [world Muslim community].
" Corporate repentance requires an acceptance of corporate guilt, an idea that dates back to original sin.
"Islamic theological tradition does not involve a concept of original sin," he said.
"Muslims think Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were expelled from the garden, but God did not curse them."
If the majority religion of Turkey does not have a concept of common guilt, can Turks apologize for their past?