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The principal purpose of the current thesis lies in the comparative analysis of three major approaches to the issue of Armenian genocide. The researched worldviews include: the Armenian, Turkish, and American visions of the Armenian genocide. Also, a mental note should be made that the investigated worldviews are discrepant and contradictory, making the ongoing study more valuable. In other words, the relevance of the present thesis lies in the necessity to ascertain which worldview with regard to the Armenian genocide is the most viable and incontrovertible. Additionally, the current study is likely to explore the correlation between the analyzed approaches to the matter of the Armenian genocide and the world vision of the aforesaid genocide in general.
In view of the above, the thesis statement should be formulated as follows:
The historical facts and documentary evidence proves the existence of the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923, whereas the general political worldview, sustained by Turkey and the United States, is based on the Armenian genocide denial.
In order to guarantee the coherence and logical consistency of the thesis, a set of research questions needs to be answered. Therefore, the research questions must be enumerated as follows:
- What is the Armenian vision of the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923?
- What is the Turkish position concerning the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923?
- What is the American position with regard to the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923?
- Which of the worldviews regarding the Armenian genocide is the most substantiated?
- What is the role of religion in the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923?
- What is the impact of the aforesaid study on the personal worldview?
II. The Armenian point of view concerning the matter of the Armenian genocide
To start with, it should be clarified that the issue of Armenian genocide is tightly connected with the past status of Armenia in the Ottoman Empire. Analysis of the complexities in the relationships between the Armenians and the Turkish will help to grasp the impetus to the genocide. According to Suny (2009), Armenians passionately defend their position that “massive deportations and massacres of a peaceful, unthreatening people were ordered and carried out by the Young Turk authorities and that these events constitute a genocide” (932). Also, the Armenian researchers emphasize that almost all prominent scholars accept the position that the intensification of the massacres of the 1890s resulted in the genocide of 1915. However, there are still disparities in various approaches to the nature of the aforesaid massacres.
In this light, Richard G. Hovannisian starts his contemplations on the issue of the Armenian genocide by asking the question, whether the results of total war in the Armenian plateau are incremental cleansing or premeditated genocide (5). According to the author, the strictly Armenian answer to the aforementioned question lies in the fact that the genocide is the premeditated death warrant for the Armenian people. Moreover, the Armenian scholars and their Western colleagues express confidence that the death warrant in a form of the genocide had been issued in covert meetings of the Young Turk dictators before the Ottoman Empire entered the Second World War as an ally of Germany (Hovannisian 5).
In contrast to the purely Armenian approach, certain Western thinkers, such as Jay Winter, Norman Naimark, Ronald Suny, and Donald Bloxham are prone to believe that the “total war” policies became worse after Turkey’s entering the First World War leading the country to the deterioration and radicalization of different repressive measures “into the most extreme form of persecution” - genocide (Hovannisian 5).
Nevertheless, the Armenian researchers accentuate the deliberate character of the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire. The Armenians substantiate their vision of genocide with the historical evidence. Thus, various plans to deal with the Armenians, the scholars assert, had been previously elaborated in the inner environment of the “Ittihad ve Terakki” (Committee of Union and Progress - CUP) ranks (Hovannisian 5). Notwithstanding this, the Armenians concede that the war gives birth to the favorable circumstances in which the genocide has been practiced with ease. Also, Hovannisian, as a researcher of modern Armenian history, tends to believe that the genocide of 1915 is discrepant both quantitatively and qualitatively from the Hamidian massacres of the 1890s (6).
According to the thinker, the Hamidian regime practiced plunder and massacre in a desperate effort to preserve the “status quo” in the state, whereas the extreme regime of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) refused to maintain the “status quo” due to the ambitions to create a new society grounded on “a single ethno-religious, linguistic, and cultural identity” (Hovannisian 6).
Reflecting on the aforementioned arguments, it should be admitted that the differentiation between the massacres of the Hamidian regime and the genocide of the CUP provides reasonable grounds to claim that the genocide is not a mere deterioration of the situation of 1890s. If the genocide is considered a separate phenomenon, which is independent from the prerequisites of the Hamidian regime, then it should be regarded as a new policy. Furthermore, if the Armenian genocide is recognized as a new policy of the CUP, the Armenian genocide should be considered well-elaborated intentional measures.
To elaborate further, the author ascertains that the new Turkish authorities have aspired to implement the clique of Turkism, which rejects the old system of plural society. Hence, they have tried to accelerate the new order of the assimilation or total eradication of all non-Turks, including the Assyrians, Greeks, and Armenians (Hovannisian 7).
Comparing the Armenian genocide with the massacres of the 19th century, it might be appropriate to note the entire period from 1870s to 1920s constitutes the uninterrupted continuum of “ethnic cleansing, forced religious conversion, and de-Armenianization of the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey” (Hovannisian 7). Also, it is possible to claim that the violence of 1915-16 is a crescendo of the aforesaid continuum. However, the researcher fails to answer the question whether the Armenian Genocide is premeditated. The failure to provide a precise answer to the above-mentioned question is justified by the lack of the relevant documents and other written evidence capable to put an end to doubts about the existence of a single decision or order to eliminate the entire Armenian population.
In this connection, the apprehension of the Armenian Genocide as a Continuum is more popular among scholars in Armenia. The fact is that the eradication of the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire had started long before the First World War. In like manner, Tigran Matosyan conducts a comparative analysis of the Armenian and Jewish cases of genocide (291). Among other things, the similarities between the two cases lie in the fact that the propaganda of both Ittihadist and Nazis is tightly interweaved with the political ideologies of the Turkish and German ruling elites, which were directed towards the extermination of the targeted people. The juxtaposition of the Jewish and Armenian genocide facilitates the understanding of the motives which incite that the ruling powers were about to commit the extreme violence in a form of genocide.
Taking into consideration the aforementioned cases of genocide, it might be appropriate to note that both genocides manifest certain similarities in religious matters. In Papazian’s opinion, the issue of the Holocaust has spoiled the Jewish believes, “by turning it away from a religion of redemption and salvation and toward one of suffering and death” (22). As far as the Armenian case is concerned, it should be noticed that the Armenian traditional Christian theology has been influenced by the genocide with its emphasis on death and destruction. Religious confrontation has been one of the core incentives in the Armenian genocide. The new Turkish order, being motivated by nationalism and Islamism, has inevitably confronted the Orthodox Christianity in Armenia. It means that both ethnical and religious disparity allowed the Turkish to recognize the Armenians as an alien populace.
In the final analysis, it should be generalized that the Armenian point of view with regard to the issue of the Armenian Genocide is substantiated with the following arguments:
- The Armenians are convinced that the violent actions against them must be stringently regarded as genocide.
- Furthermore, the Armenian’s approach to the nature of the genocide is twofold. Thus, on the one hand, the genocide is recognized as the culmination of ethnical cleansing in conditions of the “total war”. On the other hand, the genocide is also considered by a group of Armenian scholars to be a deliberate as well as premeditated eradication of the Armenian population. The first approach concerns the genocide as a peak of historical violence, whereas the second approach deals with the genocide as a separate program of extreme violence, implemented by the new nationalist regime of Turkey. Notwithstanding this, the Armenians have no doubts that the Turkish violence against them should be deemed genocide.
III. The Turkish official position in respect of the Armenian genocide
After the Armenian position has been evaluated, it is prudent to clarify the Turkish view regarding the issue of the Armenian Genocide in order to ensure the impartiality of the current study. Therefore, the Turkish authorities and negligible number of scholars, who rejects the idea of genocide, assert that the tragedy is the outcome of “a reasonable and understandable response by a government to a rebellious and seditious population in time of war and mortal danger to the state’s survival” (Suny 932). To put it briefly, the Turkish official position in respect of the Armenian Genocide may be called the “Armenian Genocide Denial”.
Armenian Genocide Denial is the official statement of the Turkish government that the Armenian Genocide has not occurred to the extent or in the way depicted by the scholars. In this light, it should be noted that the Turkish officially disregards the available historical evidence concerning the issue of the Armenian Genocide. Moreover, the Turks refuse to recognize the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during the First World War as genocide by taking advantage of the divergence in views among the scholars. Notwithstanding this, Yair Auron is disposed to think that the existent of historical debate about the exact circumstances of the discussed phenomenon proves there is no doubt that the Armenian genocide is a historical fact. Therefore, the denial of the Armenian genocide resembles the denial of the holocaust according to the researcher (Auron 53).
However, the Turkish counter-arguments against the allegations of conducting the Armenian genocide lie in the explication of various historical and legal terms. Thus, the Republic of Turkey rejects both the planning and implementation of the Armenian genocide. The core arguments against the allegations of the Armenian genocide are disclosed in the official web-site of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Taking into consideration the information published in the aforementioned web-site, it might be relevant to outline the significant responses of the Turkish government against the accusations of genocide.
Firstly, the date of April 24 1915 should not be recognized as the day of genocide according to the Turkish officials. The aforesaid date is believed by the Turkish to be the day, when the Ottoman government has started arresting “the suspects of Armenian terrorism, violence and treachery” (“Views Against Genocide Allegations”). Also, the Turks are prone to believe that the Armenians have exploited the above-mentioned date because of the arrest of their revolutionary leaders on that date.
Secondly, the Turkish government expresses confidence that the notions of “sending” and “settling” is not stringently related to the issue of genocide. In this connection, the Turks claim that the relocation of the Armenians during the so-called genocide had been conducted within the territory of the Empire according to the Ottoman law (“Views Against Genocide Allegations”). It means that the relocation of the Armenian populations should not be juxtaposed with the deportation in its traditional apprehension. In addition, the Turkish officials assert that 200.000 Armenian casualties may be explained by conditions of the “total war” alongside with the Ottoman casualties of 400.000 of those who were injured and 240.000 deaths from different diseases. Thirdly, the Turkish government declares that the Ottoman Empire has always accepted the refugees, spending millions of kurushes on their needs.
To elaborate further, the Turkish officials believe that the telegrams of Talat Pasha, which contain information about the deliberate character of the genocide, are counterfeit. The Turks substantiate their counter-arguments against the allegations of genocide with the fact that there are no originals of the Ottoman official documents with regard to the aforementioned matters. Also, the signatures in the telegrams are recognized by the Turkish government as not real.
Despite a large number of arguments for the denial of the Armenian genocide, there is a wide range of historical evidence, designed to refute the aforementioned denial. Thus, it is widely accepted that, in June 1915, Talat Pasha had a conversation with the representative of the German Embassy, claiming that “Turkey is taking advantage of the war in order to thoroughly liquidate (grundlich aufzaumen) its internal foes, i.e., the indigenous Christians, without being thereby disturbed by foreign intervention” (Alayarian 181). The aforesaid claim evinces that the Turkish state had planned aggression against the “internal Christian foes”. The Armenians, a Christian population of the Ottoman Empire, have been undoubtedly associated with both the “indigenous Christians” and “internal foes”. To elaborate further, it should be ascertained that after bringing up the Armenian question by the German Ambassador in 1918, Talat acknowledged, “What on earth do you want? The question is settled. There are no more Armenians” (Alayarian 181).
More historical evidence regarding the Ottoman’s attitude to the Armenian question may be exemplified by the words of Enver Pasha, who, on19 May 1916, officially proclaimed that “The Ottoman Empire should be cleaned up of the Armenians and the Lebanese. We have destroyed the former by the sword, we shall destroy the latter through starvation” (Alayarian 182).
Apart from the above, Alayarian also takes into account Prince Abdul Mecid’s words during an interview, “...I went to Istanbul and insisted on seeing Enver. I asked him if it was true that they intended to recommence the massacres which had been our shame and disgrace under Abdul Hamid. The only reply I could get from him was: It is decided. It is the programe” (182).
In this sense, it should be noted that the Turkish response to the allegations of the Armenian genocide is comprehensively defensive and negative. The analyzed arguments against the Turkish defense manifest themselves as groundless and provocative. The power of the Turkish position regarding the issue of the genocide lies in the lack of any significant documents which might contain the proof of the predetermined nature of the genocide. In the final analysis, the Turkish view of the Armenian genocide may be generalized as follows:
- According to the Turkish official, the deaths of Armenians in 1915 cannot be regarded as genocide, because there is no evidence of the intentional policy of the Ottoman Empire to extirpate the Armenian population.
- The Armenian casualties during the period of the First World War are primarily caused by the annoyance of the “total war”.
- In 1915, the Ottoman government’s actions against the Armenians were directed towards the suspension of their revolutionary leaders.
- All actions against the revolutionary Armenians have been conducted in accordance with the Ottoman law.
- The Ottoman government has always been benevolent to various refugees and minorities, supplying them with necessary care and financial aid.
- All allegations of the Armenian genocide should be considered unsubstantiated, because there is no original written evidence proving the deliberate planning on the extermination of the Armenians.
IV. The American approach to the phenomenon of the Armenian genocide
Above all things, it should be clarified that the role of the Americans in the evaluation of the Armenian genocide is crucial. Moreover, some researchers are disposed to think that the Americans have helped the Armenians to familiarize themselves with the ideals of liberty and equality. Thus, according to Jeri Freedman, in the nineteenth century Protestant missionaries from America came to Armenia with the purpose to expose the local population to the American social values of freedom and equality (12). Such preliminary approach towards assisting the Armenians in adopting the European and American concepts of equality and liberty contradicts the contemporary policy of the USA concerning the recognition of the Armenian genocide.
According to Dennis R. Papazian, the modern American vision of the Armenian tragedy is wide. The author claims that the Americans are absolutely aware of the genuine nature of the tragedy of that time. American diplomatic officials were the first observers of the genocide, since the US diplomatic establishments were positioned in the Ottoman Empire, particularly in such locations as Smyrna, Aleppo, Mersina, Kharput, and Trebizond (Papazian). The aforesaid names designate either the places of massacres or the routes of the deportations.
Moreover, there is enough written evidence capable to prove the deliberate character of the massacres. Thus, one American official of enormous expertise writes in his report to the US ambassador in Constantinople “The entire movement seems to be the most thoroughly organized and effective massacre this country [Turkey] has ever seen” (Papazian). The following reports by the counsel have been thwarted because of their extreme criticism of the Ottoman behaviors.
It should be observed that dozens of similar reports arrived at the American diplomatic establishments, not only from American officials, but also from the US missionaries, who were positioned alongside the Ottoman territories, including the Armenian ones.
Taking into consideration Papazian’s considerations, it is possible to concede that the Americans are well-informed about the genuine situation around the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923. The available knowledge is sufficient to build up a political position regarding the recognition of the Armenian genocide. The aforesaid position is literary formulated, but not adopted. The official American view of the Armenian genocide is expressed in the proposed Armenian Genocide resolution of 2007, which is currently under consideration of the US House of Representatives.
The history of the resolution is controversial and politically motivated. In 2007, the US House Foreign Relations Committee voted “to bring a resolution (HR106) to the floor” (Anastasopolous). The aforesaid resolution is conceived to commemorate the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923. According to the section 2 of the resolution, the Armenian Genocide was truly planned and implemented by the Ottoman government in 1915, and resulted in the killing of 1,500,000 people, while the surviving 500,000 were driven out with force of their places of inhabitance (H.Res.106). Moreover, the section 2 of the resolution contains the statement that the leaders of the Young Turk Regime tried a series of courts-martial for plotting and conducting massive killings of the Armenians. Among other things, the resolution relies on the facts that are the overwhelming evidence, which substantiate the fact of the genocide are kept in the national archives of the United States, western European countries, and other states.
In view of the above-mentioned, it should be ascertained that the official aspirations of the US House of Representatives are directed towards the recognition of the Armenian genocide. Surprisingly, the resolution, which has been elaborated against the genocide, meets a storm of criticism admonishing of the potential negative influence of the resolution on US-Turkish relations (Anastasopolous). Hence, it follows that many developers of the resolution are becoming more prone to vote against it.
The core arguments of the American opponents of the resolution in Congress and in the news media state that, since the facts around the matter of the Armenian genocide are questionable, the issues of the genocide need to be settled by historians, not politicians (Anastasopolous). According to Anastasopolous, genocide denial in the United States takes place only if one of its allies is also in denial. Thus, the United States has to deny the genocide, because Turkey, an ally of the USA, denies it.
In like manner, Ronald Grigor Suny reckons that the reaction to the resolution in Turkey is furious. According to the researcher, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit warned that the Turkish-American relations would undoubtedly suffer if the House of Representatives accepted the characterization of the massacres as genocide (Suny 938). Additionally, it should be noticed that the press has blamed the Armenian version of history as myth. Moreover, when the Congress was ready to pass the bill, the administration of President Bill Clinton persuaded the sufficient number of House members to vote against it, and, therefore, the resolution failed. Besides, the researcher discloses that, in October 2007, Turkey recalled its ambassador and threatened American supply lines to Iraq, which made the Americans withdraw the resolution.
As the result, the resolution condemning the Armenian genocide and affirming the United States Record on the Armenian genocide is not adopted by the US Congress as law.
In this light, the American official position with regard to the matter of the Armenian genocide should be generalized as follows:
- The United States has officially demonstrated its aspiration towards the recognition of the historical truth about the Armenian genocide.
- The above-mentioned aspiration of the United States is materialized in the “Affirmation of the United States Record on the Armenian Genocide Resolution” of 2007 (H.Res.106).
- The aforesaid resolution is grounded in a variety of written evidence, gathered by the American counsels and missioners in the Ottoman Republic at the time of the tragedy.
- The resolution recognizes the actions of the Young Turk Regime against the Armenian populations as genocide.
- The resolution is not adopted by the US Congress as law, which means that the USA is not prone to confront Turkey, its ally.
- A wide range of American politicians claim that the matter of the Armenian genocide should be resolved by historians, and not politicians.
- The United States seems to be more preoccupied with the external political benefits rather than the historical truth.
V. The comparative study of the three worldviews: similarities and disparities
After everything has been given due consideration, it should be claimed that the above-mentioned positions with regard to the issue of the Armenian genocide have something in common. Analysis of the similarities of the Armenian, Turkish, and American approaches to the issue of the Armenian genocide results in the findings presented below:
Each of the analyzed worldviews recognizes the existence of violence against the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1923. So, the Armenians passionately defend their position that the Young Turk Regime ordered and carried out the massive deportations and massacres of a peaceful, unthreatening people of the Armenian origin. In this light, the Turks are not disposed to use the term “deportation”, replacing it with the notion of “dislocation” within the territory of the Empire.
However, the fact of moving the Armenians without their consent is affirmed by the Turkish side as well. As for the question of massacres, the Turks are prone to call those events arrests of the revolutionaries coupled with the violence of the “total war”. Furthermore, the American position concerning the issues of massacres and deportation is similar to the Armenian. The Americans provide sufficient evidence, secured by their counsels and ambassadors in the Ottoman Empire, which proves the extreme violence against the Armenians.
Besides, there is another similarity in three different worldviews to the matter of the Armenian genocide. The aforesaid similarity lies in the fact that the Armenians, Turks, and Americans agree that there exists a never-ending historical debate about the precise determination of the genocide’s nature. Therefore, one cohort of the historians believes that the Armenian genocide has definitely been the premeditated death warrant for the Armenian people, whereas another group of researchers express confidence that the massacres as well as the cleansing process of 1890s has escalated to the Armenian genocide in 1915 as the crescendo of the total war violence. In this connection, all prominent historians, both Armenian and American believe that the genocide genuinely took place. However, the scholars are not sure whether the genocide has the direct nexus with the conditions of total war or not.
To elaborate further, it might be appropriate to claim that the aforesaid three different positions to the issue of genocide possess a large number of discrepancies. The disparities in the Armenian, American, and Turkish worldviews should be generalized in following statements.
The Armenians is the only nation who passionately claims that the genocide is the national tragedy, which is documentary substantiated. In contrast to the Armenians, the Turkish authorities promote the position of the Armenian genocide denial. The Turks argue that there is no original documentary evidence capable to prove the deliberate and well-planned character of the violence against the Armenians in 1915.
Likewise, the American vision of the Armenian genocide is inconsistent and contradictory. On the one hand, the Americans demonstrate their aspirations towards the recognition of the historical truth by drafting the resolution HR106 - “Affirmation of the United States Record on the Armenian Genocide Resolution”. On the other hand, the aforesaid resolution, which is potent to acknowledge the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923, was suspended in the Congress.
Surprisingly, the resolution can not be enacted for almost five years. Such inconsequence in conjunction with indecisiveness evinces that the US pursues certain political interests in respect of Turkey, as the state’s important ally. Also, it is apparent that Turkey spends large sums of both administrative and financial resources in order to promote the policy of the Armenian genocide denial. Thus, the USA is currently having many benefits from using the support of Turkey in both military and economical intervention in the Middle East.
Additionally, the American vision of the Armenian genocide is not only inconsistent but also ambivalent. The declarative provisions of the resolution HR106 witness that the United States possesses enormous scholarship concerning the reality of violence against the Armenian population. However, a large number of benefits from the tight cooperation with Turkey force the United States to trade in the historical truth.
Another discrepancy in the three worldviews lies in the valuation of the actions of the Young Turk Regime against the Armenian peaceful population. Thus, the Turkish officials tend to believe that the Young Turk Regime acted according to the Ottoman law. In other words, the Turkish authorities believe that the violence against the Armenians, as the revolutionaries, is justifiable in the framework of the Ottoman law and the circumstances of the “total war”. The Armenians disagree with such nihilistic approach to the actions of the Young Turk Regime. The Armenian sources speak of a million murders.
The American resolution condemning the Armenian genocide contains information about 1,5 million deaths, which is the outcome of the genocide. Also, the Americans seem to be tolerant with the Armenians in recognizing the devastating results of the genocide. However, the American authorities do not see it appropriate to recognize the Armenian genocide both publicly and officially. The political benefits from the cooperation with Turkey surpass the ambitions to assert the historical truth.
After every position has been given due consideration, it should be generalized that the thesis statement has been followed and verified as true one. As the matter of fact, there is an undeniable controversy between the historical and political approaches to the matter of the Armenian genocide. The historical facts and documentary evidence genuinely evince the actuality of the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923, whereas the world politics, sustained by Turkey and the United States, seeks to deny the Armenian genocide as such.
In this light it should be added that the principal purpose of the current thesis, to compare three major approaches to the issue of Armenian genocide, has been attained. Moreover, the present study has successfully explored the correlation between the analyzed approaches to the matter of the Armenian genocide and the world vision of the aforesaid genocide in general. Thus, a wide range of world historians agree that the Armenian genocide was conducted by the Young Turk Regime. Only a negligible number of pro-Turkish scholars deny the actuality of the genocide.
In the final analysis, it should be elucidated that the research questions have been answered completely:
- The Armenian vision of the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923 has been explicated.
- The Turkish position concerning the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923 has been disclosed.
- The American position with regard to the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923 has been clarified.
It has been investigated that the Armenian worldview regarding the Armenian genocide is the most substantiated. The declarative American resolution on the issue of the genocide is well-substantiated as well.
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