By Ferruh DEMIRMEN Ph.D., - The announcement by US President Joe Biden on April 24 designating this day as “Armenian Remembrance Day” and recognizing “Armenian genocide” will pass into history as one of the most inane and short-sighted decisions by a US administration.
Driven by a deep-seated bigotry, and in what was total capitulation to a well-financed political lobby, it was a reckless act oblivious to how the decision would impact Turkish-American relations. It was putting the interests of Russia-partner Armenia (population nearly 3 million) and the Armenian lobby ahead of Turkey – a NATO member and putatively a major US ally. There is little doubt that the US relations with Turkey will take a deep wound.
Likewise, any softening of relations between Turkey and Armenia has been pushed back to an indefinite future.
There are already talks by the opposition leaders in Turkey about closing the Incirlik military base and questioning Turkey’s membership in NATO. There are even calls to have the Turkish Parliament declare the “Native-American genocide” and – in reference to the dropping of two atomic bombs in World War II – the “Japanese genocide.” Also calls for “Iraq genocide,” the “Syrian genocide,” and possibly the “Black American genocide.”
Reference to Istanbul as “Constantinople” in Biden’s statement also drew criticism.
Biden’s aversion to Turkish President Erdoğan’s style of leadership, and his anti-Turkish stance going back to the 1974 Cyprus events are no secret. When Turkey intervened in Cyprus in 1974 to prevent the takeover of the Cyprus government by a military junta in an attempt to form a union with Greece, Biden, then a member of the Senate Foreign Relations, praised the Greek Cypriots and told them, “If someday the Greeks beat the hell out of the Turks, they’ll be right.”
In an apparent attempt not to alienate modern Turkey, Biden’s statement characterized the 1915 Armenian events as “Ottoman-era.” But the fact that he was referring to Turkish people was obvious.
Biden also paid special tribute to Armenian immigrants (the “chosen people”?) for enriching the United States “in countless ways.” The Turkish immigrants, obviously, didn’t deserve such praise.
But broadside to Turkish immigrants aside, the damage to Turkish-American relations was only a collateral damage from Biden’s statement. More reprehensible, was his amateurish recognition of “Armenian genocide,” together with his citing of “1.5 million” Armenian deaths during “deportation,” while disregarding the massacre of Turkish and Muslim civilians – all taken from the Armenian lobby’s playbook.
It was playing politics with “genocide,” and all the assertions in his statement are outright insult to history and law.
There was a bitter irony in his call for a world unstained for “bigotry and intolerance,” and having a “shared resolve to prevent future atrocities.”
Just 2 days before Biden’s announcement, on April 22, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, issued a statement that the crime of genocide must be decided by a relevant court, while on April 24, the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill said that nobody in the Ottoman Empire had exterminated the Christian minorities, and that there was harmony between the religious communities within the empire.
Before Biden issued his April 24 statement, this author sent an urgent, hard-copy letter to President Biden and VP Kamala Harris, delivered to the White House on the morning of April 22. It was an attempt to enlighten Biden about the unsupportable allegations of “Armenian genocide” so that he wouldn’t make a colossal mistake 2 days later. Regrettably, the mistake was made, and a campaign promise to the Armenian lobby was fulfilled.
What follows is the copy of the letter sent to Biden and Harris.
Letter sent to White House on the issue of “Armenian genocide”
Dear President Biden and Vice President Harris,
Firstly, I take this opportunity to personally congratulate you on your election as the President and Vice President on November 3, 2020.
I decided to write you this letter to bring to your attention certain facts on the so-called “Armenian genocide” that you may be tempted to recognize on April 24. Thanks to an aggressive, all-out campaign by the Armenian lobby and its supporters, in particular those in California, you have been receiving many letters and appeals recently to do just that.
These letters include those you received in the past 2-3 months from 38 senators and more than 100 Congresspersons – the politicians that are essentially in the pockets of the Armenian lobby - and are influenced by a deep-seated anti-Turkish, anti-Muslim prejudice. So, you are under great pressure.
Among the die-hard supporters of the Armenian lobby, nobody matches the enthusiasm of Turk-hater Senator Robert Menendez, whose photo-ops with the lobby representatives grace the Internet, and whose recent marriage to a lady of Armenian descent marks a blissful occasion. But Congressman Adam Schiff of California is a close match – and what I find most regretful is that he is a Stanford graduate, my alma mater!
In any case, before you act, please consider the facts in the “FACT” document below. In so doing, I implore you to set aside the currently strained relations between the U.S. and Turkey, and weigh only facts for the sake of truth and justice.
In essence, the recognition of “Armenian genocide” by you would be big mistake, and would not only unjustly vilify Turks, it would insult history and international law.
Politics – which are transitory - should be set aside when the issue under consideration is a hefty and ponderous one, in this case the alleged “Armenian genocide” that refers to events that took place more than a century ago, at a time and place the U.S. politicians know little about. The scholars who support the “genocide” narrative refuse to engage in debates with their counterparts on the other side. And the Armenian side, instead of adjudicating its “genocide” claim in a court of law, resorts to day-in, day-out propaganda.
Lastly, please be informed that, when the British searched in 1921 the U.S. State Department files in Washington D.C. for evidence to prosecute the 144 high Ottoman government officials held captive on the Island of Malta on charges of atrocities against the Armenians (the Malta Tribunal), the State Department officials warned them not to use the information supplied to them in a court of law. The documents in the files included diplomatic dispatches sent from Istanbul (then Constantinople) by Ambassador Henry Morgenthau Sr., and the State Department officials knew the dispatches had little probative value in a court of law. The ambassador’s dispatches, in support of the British war propaganda, had little credibility.
Ferruh Demirmen, Ph.D., Stanford Univ.
FACT: “Armenian genocide” is an allegation not supported by history and law
Ferruh Demirmen, Ph.D.
As Hitler’s propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels famously said, “Repeat a lie often enough, and it becomes the truth,” thus creating the "illusion of truth." This, in fact, is where we stand as April 24 approaches and a cacophony of “opinions” appear in the American media advocating the recognition of “Armenian genocide” by President Biden.
The recent “open letter” addressed to President Biden by a number historians representing “International Christian Concern,” those sent by the supporters of the Armenian lobby (reportedly more than a million!), and the letters sent to Biden by 38 senators and more than 100 Congresspersons in the past 2-3 months, are prominent examples.
Sure enough, it is Turkey-bashing time, Christian solidarity, and musical chairs to the likes of Senator Ted Cruz and his Evangelical crowd. As well, perhaps, to satisfy the anti-Turkish gusto of those like Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Congressman Adam Schiff of California.
After all, the Armenians have been reminding us that they were the “First Christian nation,” and so, why not stand by them, and while doing so, vilify Turks as well!
Essence of the Matter
The premise underlying “Armenian genocide,” that the Ottoman Empire undertook a campaign to exterminate Armenians, and by extension, other Christian minorities during 1915-1923, is manifestly false. Ethnic and religious minorities in the Ottoman Empire enjoyed much autonomy in their religious, social and cultural activities, and none were forced to Islamize. For centuries, they all kept their religious and ethnic identities, and prospered in trade and craftsmanship. Many of them sent their children to Europe for their education.
Armenians, in particular, were considered a “loyal nation,” and held high positions in the government. There were 22 ministers, 33 deputies and 7 ambassadors of Armenian origin during the Ottoman era, and 29 prominent members of the Armenian community were awarded the honorary title “Pasha” (general). As late as 1913, the foreign minister in the Ottoman cabinet was an Armenian named Gabriel Noradukyan.
Noteworthy also is the fact that the Ottoman Turks extended warm welcome to Jews that were persecuted during the Spanish inquisition in the 15th century, and Turkish diplomats saved thousands of Jews from the Nazi terror during World War II. Turkey also invited and welcomed hundreds of Jewish scholars and scientists who had fled Nazi Germany and Austria. In fact, Turkey probably did significantly more than the US and the UK in saving Jewish lives during the Holocaust.
More in that thread, Turkey was one of the few countries that came to the aid of Ireland during the Great Famine between 1845 and 1852. Ottoman Sultan Abdul-Majid not only donated money, but also sent three to five ships full of food against the wishes of the English which attempted to block the ships. Helping starving people across the seas is real humanity.
Given such background, it should be self-evident that Turks are not the kind of people that would perpetrate genocidal crime against minorities. The “Armenian genocide” accusation is fraught with fallacies, is not supported by historical facts, and is contravened by international law. Without belaboring details, the following additional points should be borne in mind.
Act of Defense
At the Dashnak (Armenian Revolutionary Federation, ARF) convention in Bucharest in April 1923, Katchaznouni issued a Manifesto in which he stated that, by revolting against their government, Armenians had lost sense of reality, that the Ottoman government decided to relocate the Armenian population for defensive purposes, and that that was the right decision. He blamed the Dashnak Party for the unfortunate events that followed.
These were academicians specializing in Turkish, Ottoman and Middle Eastern studies. Among them was the eminent British historian Prof. Dr. Bernard Lewis. The declaration stated that the 1915 events were an inter-communal strife, not an act of violence planned by the Ottoman government. Prof. Lewis, deceased at age 103 in 2018, also noted on separate occasions that there is absolutely no similarity between the Jewish Holocaust and what is claimed to be “Armenian genocide.”
UN Convention and International Law
Given the account above, there is no justification for recognizing the so-called “Armenian genocide,” firstly because it does not reflect historical facts, and secondly, the recognition would be in breach of a U.N. Convention, to which the U.S. is a signatory. The recognition would disregard the rulings of the highest judicial bodies in Europe. These rulings underline the fact that “Armenian genocide” is unproven, has no similarity to Holocaust, and that governments and parliaments do not have the authority to judge the crime of genocide, i.e., this is the bailiwick of competent courts.
Unlike in the case the Rwandan, Srebrenica and Cambodia genocides, there is no determination by a competent tribunal as to “Armenian genocide.”
In its substance, the allegation of “Armenian genocide” is morally and unjustly offensive for Turks. It is a racist assertion that is promoted by a well-funded, well-organized Armenian lobby exploiting a religious (“Armenians first Christian nation”) and deeply-rooted ethnic prejudice in America. It is divisive, and overlooks the atrocities committed against civilian Muslims by Armenian terrorists during World War I, and even afterwards.
One good way to settle the dispute on Armenian allegations is for the Armenian side to open all its archives e.g., in Yerevan, Boston and Jerusalem. Unlike the Turkish archives, which are open to all, the Armenian archives are closed.
Further, if the Armenian side is sincere about its “genocide” allegations, it should litigate its case in a court of law. To date, it has refrained from doing so; instead, running an aggressive propaganda campaign to influence the public and politicians.
Ferruh Demirmen, Ph.D.