Daily Trojan, University of Southern California
Nov 15 2004
Balakian discusses genocide
Best-selling Armenian author discussed the links between United
States, the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust.
By Danielle Datu and James R. Koren
Peter Balakian, author of the best-selling book “The Burning Tigris:
The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response,” spoke about the issues
presented in the book at Doheny Memorial Library Friday.
The event, sponsored by the USC Armenian Student Association, was
just one stop for Balakian on a two-month-long tour to promote his
book, which was released last September.
Balakian spoke not only about the Armenian Genocide but also about
its historical relevance to World War I, the United States and the
first discussions of international law.
“One of the things that I’m most focused on in my tour is the issue
of education and how this history, which has been left out of the
curriculum, which has been left out of the common carillons of
education, is now a moment to be reclaimed and rediscovered and put
in where it belongs in any teaching of the 20th century,” he said.
Balakian said the Young Turk government exploited World War I for the
purpose of genocide in the same way that Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Party
did in World War II.
He said that no history of the United States is complete without a
discussion of the genocide because the American relief effort for
Armenians was the first U.S. international human rights movement.
American icons such as Mark Twain, Henry Adams and Clara Barton spoke
and took action against the massacres.
“The New York Times alone in 1915 published 145 articles on the
Armenian massacres,” Balakian said.
Giving the event a greater global context, Balakian said the Armenian
Genocide led directly to the Holocaust because of the precedent it
set and because of close ties between Germany and Turkey.
“One of Adolph Hitler’s closest friends in the early period of the
Nazi Party witnessed dozens of deportations and massacres and wrote
back about that,” he said.
The genocide of 1915, which has not been officially acknowledged by
the Turkish government or by the United States, comprised the killing
of approximately 1.5 million Armenians by the Young Turk government.
The Turkish government disputes claims of genocide.
According to the Turkish Embassy’s Web site, approximately 600,000
Armenians were killed between 1912 and 1922, and they were killed
because of “violent political aims,” not because of their race or
The Web site also states that, in the same period, about 2.5 million
Muslims died. “The years 1912-1922 constitute a horrible period for
humanity, not just for Armenians,” the site said.
In a resolution passed in 1984, the House of Representatives called
the massacre of Armenians by the Young Turk government an act of
genocide, but the U.S. Senate has taken no such action.
In 1981, President Ronald Reagan used the word “genocide” to describe
the event, but no president since has done so.