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Web Letter

I cannot understand why politicians have to discuss history in parliaments. Have they forgotten that history departments of the universities research and discuss such topics and courts decide on such issues? Our Canadian parliamentarians gave in to Armenian pressure and voted to describe events of 1915 as genocide. After all, politicians make decisions to get votes or financing. Now US politicians are deciding on the history. Such strong accusations are decided by the courts, as was the case for Jewish Holocaust.

Following WWI, occupying British forces put Ottoman officials to trial in Malta and nobody was found guilty. Historians still dispute the events of 1915. The Turkish government has opened the Ottoman achieves. whereas Armenians have been confiscating books and journals throughout the world if any contained information on the terrorist activities of Armenians and suffering of other Ottoman citizens in the hand of Armenian bandits between 1880-1915.

Even the media, including the Ottawa Citizen, refer to the events of 1915 as genocide without knowing the real facts. All of this proves that any strong lobbying group can persuade the media and the politicians by providing selected documentation and lobbying tirelessly. Events that took place in Eastern Anatolia during WWI as a result of the Armenian uprising were indeed tragic and many lives were lost from both sides. Picturing these events as genocide and portraying the rebelling Armenians as innocent victims is not fair to the other citizens of the Empire--Turkish, Christian and Jewish--who lost their lives during the tragic events.

Dr. Kevser Korhan

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Oct 20 2007 - 8:14pm

Web Letter

Dear Mr. von Hoffman, I enjoyed your article titled "Whose Genocide Counts?" Thank you for exposing that sitting for what it was, a pandering, a charade.

I am a Canadian of Turkish origin. I watched the entire session, listened to all the speeches. I had no idea how much these representatives loved Turkey, I couldn't believe how many friends Turkey had. Almost all of them felt the need to mention that Turkey was their friend, some of them even said, "I went to Turkey, lovely place." It is good to know that they like us so much and value our friendship.

It is not my intention to make light of a past tragedy and to belittle the sufferings of the Armenians and Turks of a troubled time, but the committee was so out of touch that the session turned out to be pitifully comical and it deserves every sarcastic remark made in your very funny article. Thanks to the ridiculousness of the sitting, I did not feel guilty one bit when I laughed out loud reading your article. It was very enjoyable and to the point.

At least three of the representatives quoted Hitler, who is supposed to have said, on August 22, 1939, "I have given orders to my death units to exterminate without mercy or pity, men, women and children belonging to the Polish-speaking race. It is only in this manner that we can acquire the vital territory which we need. After all, who remembers today the extermination of the Armenians?" Hitler is presumed to have said this while delivering a secret talk to members of his General Staff, just a week prior to his attack on Poland. The official texts of this speech, published in the Nuremberg documents, contain no reference to Armenians.

However, that is beside the point. Even if Hitler had said any such thing, are the representatives of the House Foreign Affairs Committee learning their history lessons from Hitler, the single most loathsome figure in history?

Then there was the issue of dates and numbers. Some said "the events that took place between 1915 and 1922," and some extended the latter date all the way up to 1928 (a date eight years after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire).

Numbers of victims ranged between 1 million and 2 million, but what's a million between friends? (Statistically, the entire Armenian population in the area was around 500,000.)

Some quoted Ambassador Morgenthau, whose accounts are challenged by scholars on its sincerity and accuracy. Henry Morgenthau Sr. was commissioned to write a war-time propaganda by President Woodrow Wilson and the book Ambassador Morgenthau's Story was the result of this effort. Nobody quoted Heath W. Lowry, who wrote The Story Behind Ambassador Morgenthau's Story, which deconstructs Morgenthau's narration as largely fiction.

I was happy to read your comments, there is still sanity around. Thanks again for your humorous insights.

Lale Eskicioglu

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Oct 17 2007 - 11:05am

Web Letter

First of all, there is no consensus on the number of people who died between 1915 and 1918. The Armenian side pushes 1.5 million, which is silly because the total number of Armenians who had lived in the Ottoman Empire was about 1.5 million anyway. Official number of Armenians who got deported in 1915 was 500,000, 390,000 of which managed to reach their destination, Syria, Lebanon etc.

When you look at the Eastern Anatolia in the years of 1910 to 1920, you can easily realize that it was like a horror movie in there. First Armenian rebels attacked and massacred as many Muslims as they could when they thought it was the right time to side with the Russians and claim their independence, but the reaction that they got from the Ottoman army and Kurdish tribes was as harsh as their own. As many Turks and Kurds were killed in that era by Armenian forces sided with Russians and France. If you go to Eastern Turkey and talk to people they would tell you reversed genocide stories and this is why this issue is not as easy to conclude as the Holocaust.

Serhat Ozbay

Cranston, RI

Oct 16 2007 - 12:16am

Web Letter

I am neither of Turkish nor Armenian heritage. I am curious.

What is the motivation for the resolution in Congress right now?

The Turkish response seems over-the-top. Would it not be more prudent to lament the terrible events of so long ago? Why not acknowledge the painful loss of 1.5 million Armenians? The government and people of today do not have responsibility to misdeeds of past leaders. But the response and threats of "irreparable damage" gives me pause.

I am questioning here...

Rochelle Cisneros

Cocoa Beach, FL

Oct 14 2007 - 5:55pm

Web Letter

To understand Turkish sensitivities on the issue, one needs to understand the history of Armenian revolts carried out by Armenian nationalist and separatist organizations such as Dashnaktsutyun (Armenian Revolutionary Federation) in the Ottoman Empire and mass killings of Muslims. These organizations are still active and heavily involved in the lobbying efforts to pass the Armenian genocide resolution. Their final goal is the same as in the 1800s: to grab land from the Turks. An interview with a spokesman of Dashnaktsutyun ("Dashnaks Insist On Territorial Claims To Turkey," by Ruzanna Khachatrian) presents their staged efforts, which will be final with a claim of territory from Turkey:

Armenia does not recognize Turkey's territorial integrity and may in the future lay claim to lands that were populated by Armenians before the 1915 genocide, a senior member of the governing Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) claimed on Friday.

"The current government of which we are a part and the president whom we have supported and will support will not abandon territorial claims," Giro Manoyan, a spokesman for the nationalist party's ruling Bureau, said. "Armenia's official position is that the issue is not on our foreign policy agenda. That means it can be on the agenda tomorrow."...

Manoyan revealed last summer that the party, which also has chapters in major Armenian communities abroad, plans a major shift in its long-running campaign for international recognition of the Armenian genocide. He said Dashnaktsutyun will strive to force Turkey to pay reparations.

Yavuz Cayir

Morristown, NJ

Oct 14 2007 - 11:04am

Web Letter

Here we go again! Anybody who speaks up in an impartial tone will be booed off the stage. All the letters are full of rage and even hatred against Mr. Hoffman but none of them seems to care to mention the committee's responsibility for 600,000 civilian causalities in Iraq. Why? Because Iraqi lives are not as valuable as Armenian or American lives. This is what really lies beneath fascism.

Comparing the Armenian Issue to the Holocaust is historically erroneous on so many levels. And this whole resolution stuff is a circus! There is no single soul who is really and honestly seeking the truth. If you need Armenian votes in California it is genocide, if you need Turkey on your side in Iraq it's just a tragedy but not genocide. And I love it when my Armenian friends come up to me and brag about the resolution! I say wow, 21-to-27 huh! Now I'm concerned. I’ve gotta get me one of these resolutions…

Serhat Ozbay

Providence, RI

Oct 13 2007 - 11:08am

Web Letter

This is just about the most callous, uninformed piece I've ever read in The Nation. I ask the editors whether they would have even considered running a similar article that poked fun at recognition of the Holocaust.

R. Diller

Brooklyn, NY

Oct 12 2007 - 2:16pm

Web Letter

One of the definitions of genocide held by scholars maintains that the final crime of genocide is denial and erasure of the act from living and historical memory. Given the recent denial industry that's popped up all over America, one could argue that the Armenian Genocide is still continuing. Microsoft's Encarta has softly cushioned the event after Turkish pressure, the Washington Post yesterday cast doubt or at least encouraged speculation on the validity of the genocide charges in an editorial, our best publishers are offering foreign-funded "historical treatises" that maintain the genocide is a lie, our universities house historians bought and paid for by Turkey (a few of them all too willing to deny). Our common culture is dangerously close to whitewashing this genocide, as evidenced by the Washington Post's take this week. That's exactly why a bill like this one is needed.

Mr. von Hoffman, you may argue that this is not a good time. That argument has been made many times before and at any point this bill has come up in the past. Apparently, over the past ninety-five years there has never been a good time to offend our Turkish ally. Not surprising when you think about it. You ask for this genocide resolution to wait, to wait for a time when the Iraq situation has calmed, to wait for a time when Turkey will not be fighting the PKK, to wait for a time when our dealings with Turkey will not be so crucial. My question to you: Do you think that time will ever come? If so, when? And, if it ever comes, are you assured that the denialists won't have the upper hand at that time? Because they have made huge inroads into distorting our collective understanding of history already.

Denying is the last criminal act of the genocide. Enough representatives on the committee realized that, and they made the correct moral choice in this matter.

Dimitri Anastasopoulos

Buffalo, NY

Oct 12 2007 - 10:38am

Web Letter

My father, my grandmother and most of the adults who helped raise me were survivors of the Armenian Genocide. Thanks to the denial of the Kemalist Turks--the direct descendants of the Young Turk government--I've lived with the Armenian Genocide every day of my life.

The Armenian Genocide occurred between 1915 and 1923. The atrocities against Jews began in the late 1920s and continued through the Holocaust in the 1940s. How do you manage--in your own mind, at least--to characterize as ancient history the Armenian Genocide, which was finalized at almost exactly the same time as the persecutions of Jews in Europe began? How does one mock another people's genocide, knowing full well that survivors of that genocide as well as their children are reading such words?

Last year, when the Armenian Genocide Resolution wasn't even on the table, a poll in Turkey revealed that 89 percent of the Turks believe that America is their worst enemy. Their most popular novel in recent years--Metal Storm--climaxes with a Turkish agent setting off a nuclear bomb in America. The number-one best seller in Turkey is Mein Kampf. A few months ago, three Christian missionaries were mutilated and murdered for the crime of passing out Bibles. I won't go into the assassination of the Armenian editor in Istanbul. I can't imagine you would consider the killing of an Armenian in 2006 any more relevant than you do the killing of Armenians in 1915.

In 2003--after decades of giving them billions in military and economic aid--the Turks refused to allow a northern front to be opened by US troops, an act that Donald Rumsfeld and many others in the Administration have characterized as the primary reason for the quagmire into which America has sunk. What is perhaps most ironic is your self-righteous indignation at Armenian Americans' having the audacity to request a symbolic gesture from our own government and not one word of criticism about the millions in revenue generated by lobbyists pandering to agents of a foreign government. You claim to want the war in Iraq to end and yet you conveniently overlook the fact that the Turks closing the supply route may be the only thing that can force the Bush Administration to bring the troops home.

Perhaps the Democrats in Congress are not as crass as you portray them. The Armenian Genocide Resolution may catalyze your Turkish friends into inadvertently doing what our Congress is apprehensive of doing--ending the war in Iraq. Why would someone who claims to want the war to end argue so passionately against alienating the only country that's enabling the war's continuation? You failed to inform your readers that the Turks have been generating mountains of lira via Incirlik and the overland supply chain during the entirety of the Iraq war. They've been massacring the Kurds by the tens of thousands for decades and began their threats against Kurdistan in 2004. Their using the passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution as a pretext for killing more Kurds is almost as specious as your allegations.

America's alliance with Turkey is the worst thing that ever happened to my country, and perhaps the only thing as hollow as your half-truths.

Setta Heroian

Sarasota, FL

Oct 12 2007 - 1:44am

Web Letter

Having encountered this article on Yahoo!news, I had to come to the Nation site for the first time to register my disgust. (I wonder if this might have been part of the plan.)

This isn't an issue of advocating the Armenian side of some ongoing dispute about reparations or confiscated territory, it's about recognizing a historical fact that Turkey refuses to admit either to the world or to itself. Are there policy implications of recognizing the truth? Yes. But should the petulance of Turkey be allowed to dictate history? No.

If fascist leaders were elected in Germany, would we stop funding the Holocaust museum right away, or only if they threatened to stop trading with us first? Should we join the Chinese government in recognizing that nothing interesting has happened in Tiananmen Square in the past two decades, just to make sure they don't cause trouble with North Korea?

Truth is truth, and it shouldn't be hidden because it might make people uncomfortable. This is a principle I would expect The Nation, of all publications, to hold dear.

Monte Frankel

Washington, DC

Oct 12 2007 - 1:40am