Tag Archives: Treaty of Sevres

Book Review: A Shameful Act (2006) by Taner Akcam

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on June 9, 20151

This is the complete review. It has previously been posted in three parts: Part 1 on the question of whether the 1915-17 massacres constitute genocide; Part 2 on the post-war trials and the Nationalist Movement; and Part 3 gives some conclusions on what went wrong in the Allied efforts to prosecute the war criminals and the implications for the present time, with Turkey’s ongoing denial of the genocide and the exodus of Christians from the Middle East.

A Question of Genocide

The controversy over the 1915-17 massacres of Armenian Christians by the Ottoman Empire is whether these acts constitute genocide. Those who say they don’t are not the equivalent of Holocaust-deniers in that while some minimize the figures of the slain, they do not deny that the massacres happened; what they deny is that the massacres reach the legal definition of genocide. Their case is based on three interlinked arguments:

  • Unlike the Nazi Holocaust when a defenceless population was murdered only for its identity, the Armenians were engaged in a massive armed revolt, and this is why the Ottoman government decided to deport them.
  • The intent of the Ottomans was not massacre but the removal of the Armenians, who had sided with one foreign invading power (Russia) and who were showing signs of collaborating with another (Britain), from the militarily sensitive areas as Turkey suffered a two-front invasion in early 1915.
  • While terrible massacres, plus starvation and the cold, took maybe a million lives during the deportations, when the Armenians reached their destinations in Syria and Iraq, which were also part of the Ottoman Empire, they were well-treated and allowed to rebuild their lives, which would not have been the case had the Ottomans intended their destruction.

Taner Akcam’s A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility presents evidence to undermine every one of these arguments. Continue reading

Book Review: A Shameful Act (2006) by Taner Akcam, Part 2

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on June 4, 20151

The First Phase of the Trials

On October 30, 1918, the Ottoman Empire signed its final treaty of defeat. The Ottomans’ long decline began in 1683, and by the 1830s the Empire was referred to as the “sick man of Europe”. The armistice was a near-total surrender, allowing the occupation of any area the Allies deemed necessary for their security. Unfortunately, it was neither the end of the war nor the end of the massacres against the Armenians.

The Allies—Britain, France, and Russia—issued a declaration on May 24, 1915, saying:

In light of the crimes against humanity and civilisation committed by Turkey, the allied powers warn the Sublime Porte that members of the Ottoman government involved in the mass murder will be held personally responsible for these crimes.

Not coincidentally, within days of this an official deportation law was passed through the Ottoman Parliament and would thereafter be issued by the Interior Ministry as legal cover for the CUP’s actions. This was a first introduction of the concept of crimes against humanity, and of individual responsibility that extended to senior Generals and Heads of State. The Russians fell to the Communists and for reasons of realpolitik the French and Italians soon dropped their demands for punishing the Turkish war criminals, but the British were relentless. Continue reading

To Save Iraq from ISIS: Get Rid Of Maliki, Support The Kurds And Syrian Rebels

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on June 20, 2014

The Peshmerga (those who face death): the people's army of Iraqi Kurdistan

The Peshmerga (those who face death): the people’s army of Iraqi Kurdistan

President Obama met with Congressional leaders on Wednesday to brief them on a “comprehensive approach” to Iraq, which for now will not include airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) inside Iraq, “in part because”—as previously reported—”U.S. military officials lack sufficient information to hit targets that would shift momentum on the battlefield.” Obama has let this drag out so long that the Sahwa (Awakening), the Sunni Arabs who rose up against ISIS’s previous incarnations, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), are now either eliminated or mixed back in with ISIS and—crucially—other locally-focussed Sunni Islamist insurgent groups, notably the Sufi-Ba’athist Jaysh an-Naqshbandi. Defensible as this is, there are stronger reasons why the decision not to strike is correct.

Continue reading