28 April 2015

Uncommon Commentary #454: Turks Who Are Jerks

As this year marks the centennial anniversary of what has become known as the Armenian Genocide, there has been discussion, much of it pointless and even detrimental [v.i.], as to whether what took place in the northeast Ottoman Empire in 1915 can rightly be deemed genocide.  What happened was as follows.  During World War I, the Russian army invaded Ottoman Turkey across the border between the two countries, in which area lived the Armenians of the Turkish realm.  The Turkish authorities feared that the Christian Armenians would give aid to the Christian Russians, and so they ordered the massacre of Armenians serving in the Ottoman army and the deportation of the empire’s remaining Armenian population to places like the Syrian Desert, where these women, children, and male civilians perished in enormous numbers from exposure, thirst, starvation, and depredation.
“Genocide” was coined to describe the National Socialists’ “Final Solution” to the “Jewish Problem”, which solution was to attempt to exterminate all the Jews of the world.  The Ottoman leadership, by contrast, did not care whether the Armenians died so long as they were in no position to help the enemy.  What the Turks did to their Armenians may not, therefore, truly qualify as “genocide”, which my dictionary defines as “the systematic killing of, or a program of action intended to destroy, a whole national or ethnic group”; note the word “whole” in this definition.  It must also be acknowledged that the term “genocide” has been used far too loosely by many ethnic groups who have grievances against other nationalities.  To question whether there was an Armenian “genocide”, however, basing one’s question on a legal definition thereof, is to serve the purpose of the deniers who control Turkey’s government, which still refuses to acknowledge that what has been called genocide even took place. (The official lie is that the Armenian deaths were caused by their fellow Armenians in a civil war.) Nearly everyone outside Turkey admits that this country’s atrocities of a century ago count as war crimes, and so: Why quibble about words?