Michael Gunter: He Blurbed A Book … Should He Then Have Reviewed I


History News Network

S ource: HNN Staff
Aug 17 2007

Historians in the News

Political Scientist Michael Gunter is defending himself from charges
of bad ethics in having agreed to review a controversial book about
the Armenian Massacres for which he had written a blurb. In his
review of Guenter Lewy’s The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey:
A Disputed Genocide, Michael Gunter praises the author for writing
a fearless book. The book takes the position that the Turks are not
guilty of the crime of genocide against the Armenian people.

The review appeared in the International Journal of Middle East Studies
(Volume 39 Issue 03 – Aug 2007). The journal’s editors were unaware
that Gunter had blurbed the book; it reportedly arrived in their
office sans cover.

After the review appeared two scholars objected to Gunter’s decision
to review the book. A contentious exchange ensued:


Michael Gunter should not have written a review of Guenter Lewy’s The
Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide for IJMES
or for any other scholarly journal, as he was intimately involved in
the prepublication review and promotion of the book.

The mere fact that he did so, however, indicates a significant
procedural failure on the part of the journal. Because these procedures
rely on the collegial, ethical, and professional behavior of those
asked to review books and articles for publication, it is Gunter
himself who bears chief responsibility for an act that has undermined
the credibility of IJMES and weakened its crucial position as the
journal of record for the Middle East studies community. He is a
senior political scientist at an established American university who
has published books, articles, and book reviews. Believing that he
was unaware of the ethical burden of conscientious review and the
need to recuse himself in the face of obvious conflicts of interest
is difficult, if not impossible.

Gunter’s apparently unethical behavior cannot and should not be
disconnected from the book he took it upon himself to review. Lewy’s
book is likewise the product of a series of ethical lapses, most
particularly, genocide denial the purposeful misrepresentation through
manipulation or misuse of the historical record of an episode of
genocidal violence to lessen the perception of its severity, to put
causal responsibility for genocide upon its victims or survivors,
or to reject altogether that genocide took place. Moreover, it is a
form of scholarly fabrication usually done in the hopes of promoting
a particular political or social agenda and is wholly unrelated to
the professional practice of historical revision. In this case, it is
the genocide of the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian citizens during World
War I that is at issue. However, regardless of the specific subject,
the project of genocide denial depends for its success, in large part,
on the subversion of established principles and systems of professional
scholarship and review. The way Gunter was able to subvert one of
those critical principles and place this review in IJMES mirrors
the larger vulnerabilities and potential failures of those systems
exploited in order to publish Lewy’s book in the first place.

Lewy is a retired professor of political science who specialized in
contemporary American politics. His recent writings on mass violence
including those on Native Americans, the Roma, and now the Armenians
indicate a belief that the Shoah was the unique genocide of the 20th
century, a position generally rejected by scholars of the Holocaust,
including Raphael Lemkin, the Polish jurist who coined the term
genocide in 1944.

Lewy’s underlying rhetorical strategy is to contend that because
there is no absolute agreement among historians of the Ottoman period
that genocide happened or that historians cannot agree on all of the
particular historical facts of the genocide one cannot conclude that
genocide took place. This pseudomorph of critical rational discourse,
inherently flawed though it may be, is the style employed most often
in Holocaust denial and is similar to the lazy and anti-intellectual
techniques used by policymakers to reject taking measures to combat
global warming and by fundamentalist proponents of "Intelligent Design"
who advocate the inclusion of the supernatural in high-school biology

It is important to note that the larger purpose of Lewy’s intellectual
output is less to exonerate contemporary Turkey from a genocide that
occurred at the beginning of the last century which I imagine is the
hope of some of the book’s supporters and elements of the Turkish state
that have bought hundreds of copies of this book for free distribution
than to construct a conceptual lattice for Holocaust exceptionalism
and defend political claims that might be derived thereby.

The majority of the postpublication reviews of Lewy’s work have
identified obvious and egregious errors of fact, interpretation,
and omission most of which presumably would have been caught had the
text been carefully scrutinized by competent and nonpartisan readers.

Thus, one can surmise that in the course of the editorial review
the text was sent to individual scholars whose own views would
ideologically cohere with those of Lewy’s thesis and not necessarily
to specialists in Ottoman history familiar with the archival evidence
in its original languages or cognizant of the larger historiographical
issues and context of the events of 1915 22. In addition, it is not too
great a leap to conclude that only with this corruption of the process,
in which editors and reviewers desperate to see this book come out
regardless of its inherent weaknesses and lack of scholarly value
were involved, would this work have been published by a university
press. In the end, IJMES compounded this abuse of the process albeit
inadvertently so when it ran Gunter’s review.

Denial of this sort is a constant feature of the historical study
of genocide, and Lewy’s work is not an especially unique example of
denial literature, either in form or substance. Still, seeking to
silence or criminalize denial, as is the case in parts of Europe,
is wrong. Ignoring it is usually a good strategy, but it has grown
increasingly difficult in a time when knowledge is so fragmented and
when the more traditional ways of evaluating the credibility and
quality of scholarship are disappearing in the face of Google and
Wikipedia. In the end, the way to deal with denial and collectively
protect ourselves and our reputations from its corrosive influence
is in public forums like IJMES. Here we can use consistent and
transparent professional standards of review, disciplinarily and
intellectually sound, to evaluate a work’s evidence, argument, and
overall scholarship. I am confident that, as Justice Louis Brandeis
once wrote, "[s]unlight is the best of disinfectants." Unfortunately,
we lost our initial opportunity to shed that much needed light on
this work.

I also worry that unless and until Gunter’s review is unambiguously and
unequivocally revoked, it will continue to bear the IJMES imprimatur of
legitimacy. Consequently, the journal is made an unwitting accomplice
to denial. What is worse is relegating to the back pages comments
by Joseph Kechichian and me and then providing the individual whose
actions visited this fraud upon the journal a chance to respond,
combining to give the false impression that we are merely dealing
here with a legitimate intellectual controversy and a difference in
historical interpretations.

We must be concerned about the erosion of our academic freedom and
freedom of speech and should take all measures necessary to protect
both. That means preserving even the right, as is often the case,
to be utterly wrong. Alongside that extraordinary category of rights,
we must work even harder to take academic responsibility and enforce
upon ourselves disciplinary rules and community-defined ethics. We
should never confuse that act with censorship, self or otherwise,
but rather see it as the fullest expression of our academic freedom.

Pierre Vidal-Naquet notes in his work on Holocaust denial, The
Assassins of Memory (1993), "It is not enough to be on the right side
of the issue. What is needed is ceaseless work, the establishment of
facts, not for those who know them and who are about to disappear,
but for those who are legitimately demanding as to the quality of
the evidence." I would add only that as we study a part of the world
where genocide denial has become an ugly and salient feature of public
discourse, we should redouble our commitment to that task.


Upon reading the proofs of this exchange, the writer wished to make

I have no objection to being labeled one of two Armenian gentleman,~B
but the Editor should note that I am of Northern European origin and
am not Armenian.


Perhaps inadvertently, IJMES rendered a disservice to its readers
by allowing Michael M. Gunter to review The Armenian Massacres in
Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide, by Guenter Lewy, because not
only the book but also the reviewer pose serious problems.

————————————— —————————————–

Perhaps inadvertently, IJMES rendered a disservice to its readers
by allowing Michael M. Gunter to review The Armenian Massacres in
Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide, by Guenter Lewy, because not
only the book but also the reviewer pose serious problems.

First, how is it that a person who has already praised a book on
its back cover is asked to review it in IJMES? Indeed, the words
of Gunter’s dust-jacket quote ("A very significant contribution
to a long-standing debate. There is no other comparable work that
so objectively, thoroughly, and meticulously reviews and analyzes
so many different sources on both sides of this bitterly divisive
issue") find their way into his review virtually unchanged: "This is
a very significant contribution to a long-standing historiographical
debate … there is no other comparable work that so objectively and
thoroughly reviews and analyzes so many different sources on both sides
of this bitterly divisive issue." Because the dust-jacket quote was
written prior to the book’s publication, there are serious questions
raised about the conditions under which the IJMES review was written
and the motives of the author. Is it not tantamount to support for a
promotional proclivity or, perhaps, even an example of blatant conflict
of interest that prefigures in the tone and texture of the review?

Second, it is critical to note that Gunter, the reviewer, occupies
a central place in the massive campaign-ardently promoted by
successive Turkish governments-to deny the Armenian genocide. For
decades he supported that campaign even though he has not produced
a single work with a focus on this subject. Gunter has published
two studies, Transnational Armenian Activism (1990) and "Pursuing
the Just Cause of Their People": A Study of Contemporary Armenian
Terrorism (1986), as well as several essays that examine alleged
Armenian "terrorism"-but none of his work was on the genocide, either
directly or indirectly. Such lack of specialized competence in and
of itself certainly does not, and should not, disqualify a reviewer
from engaging in a reasonably crafted assessment if everything else
falls into its proper place.

Unfortunately, this predicament is compounded, not mitigated, by
the attendant fact that Gunter has placed himself in the forefront
of a parallel campaign to promote, directly and indirectly and with
remarkable zeal, the "official" Turkish line of denial of the Armenian
genocide (resmi tarih). This is more significant when one considers
that a host of Turkish historians, free from the shackles of the
official line, are not only refusing to deny the genocide but in one
way or another are also recognizing its occurrence. They are led by
Fatma Muge Gocek (University of Michigan), Halil Berktay (Sabanci
University), Engin Deniz Akarli (Brown University), Selim Deringil
(Bogazici University), and, above all, Taner Akcam (University of
Minnesota). Gocek dismisses what she called the Turkish government’s
denialist "master state narrative"; Berktay unequivocally concedes
the truth of the "genocide"; Akarli concludes that the relevant facts
"invite the term genocide"; Deringil dismisses a key element in the
Turkish denial syndrome, namely, the bogus "civil war" argument; and
Akcam explicitly concludes, on the basis of a plethora of official
and authenticated Ottoman documents, that the wartime anti-Armenian
measures were genocidal in nature, intent, and outcome. Akcam’s latest
book, titled A Shameful Act (a quotation attributed to Mustafa Kemal
Ataturk denouncing the crime perpetrated against the Armenians),
is filled with authentic Turkish sources that remarkably are ignored
by Gunter.

In light of these views, Gunter’s exaltation of the volume-in such
terms as a hallmark of "academic objectivity and courage" and "no
other comparable work that so objectively and thoroughly reviews and
analyses"-calls for a closer examination of Guenter Lewy and his book.

One is dealing here with a book whose author admits a lack of
familiarity with both Ottoman and Turkish languages. Lewy declares
that he does not know Turkish at all and that he had to depend on
"two Turkish speaking persons" (p. 292, n. 112) as well as on others
"who have translated some important Turkish materials for me" (p.

xiii). However, departing from a very common standard procedure,
Lewy repeatedly avoids identifying those who, he says, helped him in
the matter of translation of numerous documents. Would it be unfair
to ask, under these circumstances, why go to such a highly unusual
act of withholding?

Oblivious to this serious problem, Lewy then proceeds to take to
task almost everyone who has published extensively on the Armenian
genocide. For example, Donald Bloxham, Richard Hovannisian, Taner
Akcam, and Erik Jan Zurcher are criticized for their emphasis on
the role of the Special Organization (p. 88); Ronald Suny, Robert
Melson, Leo Kuper, and Richard Hovannisian again for their rejection
of the Turkish argument of Armenian provocation (p. 17); Melson and
Hovannisian for their reliance on findings of the postwar Turkish
Military Tribunal prosecuting the authors of the Armenian genocide
(pp. 43, 78); and the late British historian David Lang and Melson
on the relative value of the Naim-Andonian documents (p. 66). Topping
this list is, of course, Vahakn N. Dadrian, who, Lewy admits, is his
special target (p. 282, n. 3), not only in two chapters as he claims,
but also throughout the book (see index, pp. 361-62).

A typical and, quite frankly, revealing blunder in this respect,
probably due to his lack of Turkish, is Lewy’s handling of
Special Organization Chief Esref Kuscuba[sdotu ]i’s confession of
his involvement in the wholesale elimination of Armenians. In his
personal account of an exchange with wartime Grand Vizier Said Halim
Pa[sdotu ]a in Malta, when both were detained by the British, Kuscubai,
referring to his involvement in the matter of Armenian deportations,
identifies himself "as a man who had assumed a secret assignment"
[hadisenin ic yuzunde va[zdotu ]ife almi bir insan]. Not knowing
Turkish, Lewy in an endnote (p. 292, n. 112) admits that he consulted
two "Turkish speaking persons," whose identities are, as noted above,
suspiciously withheld and who evidently misled him.

Dadrian not only quoted this item separately and identified it in an
extra separate endnote ("Ottoman Archives and Denial of the Armenian
Genocide," in ed. Richard Hovannisian, The Armenian Genocide:
History, Politics, Ethics [New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992],
300-310, n. 72), but also provided in italics the Turkish original
text of that very quotation. This single case of distortion, if not
outright falsehood, illustrates the level of scholarship present in
the work. Incidentally, this is the same Dadrian whose three separate
monographs-presumably scrutinized by several anonymous reviewers as
IJMES protocol requires-were published in this journal (18:3 [1986],
23:4 [1991], and 34:1 [2002]).

For all of these "accomplishments," Lewy has been amply rewarded by
Turkish authorities in Ankara and abroad through the launching of a
massive campaign to distribute his book free of charge to libraries
and to select groups of diplomats. Equally noteworthy, Lewy has
been decorated at a special ceremony in Ankara with, ironically,
the Insanliga Karss i Islenen Suclar Yuksek Odulu (High Award for
Fighting in Opposition to Crimes Against Humanity) by the Avrasya
Stratejik Arasstirmalar Merkezi (ASAM or, in English, the Center for
Eurasian Strategic Studies). It may be worth noting that ASAM is a
well-known organization whose mission includes the systematic denial
of the Armenian genocide through propagandistic and partisan research
and publications; the organization is sponsored and underwritten by
the Turkish government. Again, none of these facts is indicated in
the review as Gunter chooses not to disclose them.

Superseding in import all these tribulations is, of course, the
fundamental issue of the scholarly value of the book and the related
matter of the competence of its author. Taking full advantage of
the fact that the voluminous corpus of Turkish Military Tribunal
files mysteriously disappeared following the capture of Istanbul
by the insurgent Kemalists in the fall of 1922, Lewy in monotonous
refrain repeats the standard argument-"the original is missing"-as if
every single reference to all these documents was a deliberate and
malicious fabrication. A case in point is the detailed narration of
the organization and execution of the Armenian genocide by General
Mehmet Vehip, the commander-in-chief of the Turkish third Army. The
bulk of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire was subject
to the military jurisdiction of that army, and the most gruesome
and inexorable aspects of the genocide were inflicted upon that
population-prior to Vehip’s taking over the high command. The
general’s detailed account is not only prima facie evidence of the
great crime, but it is also testimony to the uprightness and decency
of a Turkish military commander-unfortunately a rarity of rarities in
the all-consuming atmosphere of state-sponsored denials. Even though
the original is missing, the full text was read into the record of
the court-martial proceedings on 29 March 1919, with portions of it
having been published in Ta vim-i Va ayi[hamza ], the government’s
official gazette (no. 3540, 5 May 1919 and no. 3771, 9 February
1920). This entire text was also published in the April 1919 issues
of the French-language but Turkish-owned newspaper Le Courrier de
Turquie, as well as in Va it, a Turkish daily, on 31 March 1919.

Without mincing words, this vaunted Turkish general declared that
the central committee of the ruling monolithic political party of
Ittihad (the Union and Progress Party, otherwise identified as CUP),
in line with the terms of "a resolute plan" (mu arer bir plan) and
"a definite prior deliberation" (mu[tdotu ]la bir a[sdotu ]d ta[hdotu
]tinda), ordered "the massacre and extermination" ( atl ve imha[hamza
]) of Armenians and that governmental authorities [ruesa[hamza ]-yi
[hdotu ]ukumet] meekly and obediently submitted to this CUP order.

Furthermore, the general disclosed that countless convicts were
released from the empire’s various prisons for massacre duty;
he described them as "gallows birds" (ipten ve kazikdan kurtulmus
yaranini) and "butchers of human beings" (insan kasaplari) (as cited in
Taner Akcam, A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of
Turkish Responsibility [2006], 154, and in Dadrian, IJMES 34 [2002],
85, n. 111).

The utterly partisan thrust of Lewy’s book has proven to be its
very undoing as revealed by the countless factual and historical
errors punctuating it. This deplorable fact is amply documented in a
ten-part Turkish-language serial analysis undertaken by Akcam. Point
by point and item by item, Akcam depicts these errors, at the same
time expressing his amazement as to why a person with such limited
knowledge of the subject would want to venture into such a project.

Still, the errors in the Lewy volume are not only factual and
historical but also include mistranslations and misquotations (see
the Istanbul weekly Agos, June, July, and early August issues in 2006).

Finally, in his review, Gunter notes that "Lewy finds most
valuable…the consular reports…of Leslie A. Davis, the wartime
American Consul in Harput. Of special importance are accounts of his
visits to several mass execution sites, one of the few such reports
available from any source." Nevertheless, with remarkable abandon,
he joins Lewy in glossing over the damning conclusion this American
diplomat, a rare eyewitness to mass murder, reached when he reported
to his superiors in Washington, D.C. In that pungent summary report,
Davis "estimated that the number is not far from a million," when
giving an approximation of the magnitude of Armenian victims. He also
emphasized that the massacres were not all perpetrated "by bands of
Kurds," as so emphatically claimed by Lewy (pp. 167, 173-74, 182),
but by government-appointed and government-directed "gendarmes
who accompanied" the deportee convoys. Confirming General Vehip’s
disclosure, Davis directly implicated "companies of armed convicts
who have been released from prison for the purpose of murdering the
Armenian exiles." The American consul’s conclusion is compressed in
this single statement: "The whole country is one vast charnel house,
or, more correctly speaking, slaughterhouse" (Davis, The Slaughterhouse
Province: An American Diplomat’s Report on the Armenian Genocide,
1915-1917 [1989], 156, 158, 160).

FURTHER COMMENTS Upon reading the proofs of this exchange, the writer
wished to make clarifications.

"I mailed a letter to IJMES which was shared with Professor
Watenpaugh. The reader may assume that we coordinated our letters,
which we have not, and it may be important to point that out."


I would have preferred not to reply to these scurrilous attempts
at academic character assassination by Joseph Kechichian and Keith
Watenpaugh, but silence might have been misconstrued as somehow
agreeing with them.

The main argument these two try to make against me is that I did not
agree with their interpretation of what happened to Armenians during
World War I and that I did not have a right to write my review of
Guenter Lewy’s The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed
Genocide in the first place because I praised the book on its back
cover. The two even declaim that by publishing my review IJMES
"rendered a disservice to its readers" that has "undermined the
credibility of IJMES" because I am guilty of "unethical behavior,"
"fraud," and so forth. They also lecture IJMES that, although it should
publish their five pages attacking Lewy and me, the journal should not
publish any reply that I might choose to make. Perhaps noticing that
I live in Tennessee, the two even hurl the proverbial kitchen sink my
way by accusing me of using "lazy and anti-intellectual techniques"
employed "by fundamentalist proponents of ‘Intelligent Design’
who advocate the inclusion of the supernatural " What incredible,
self-righteous, pompously ignorant arrogance!

First, there is no academic rule that someone who pens a few words of
praise for the back of a book cannot later write a review of it. If
there were, a number of good reviews never would have been written.

Clearly, my review should stand or fall on its merits, not some
alleged rule invented by my two detractors.

Second, neither Guenter Lewy nor I deny the terrible suffering
imposed upon the Armenians. Any objective reading of Lewy’s book
and my review will make this obvious. What we do not agree with is
the interpretation many Armenians and others make that what befell
Armenians constituted premeditated genocide as defined by Armenians
and their many supporters. My two critics notwithstanding, Lewy and I
are not alone in this contention. Indeed, Edward J. Erickson’s review
of Lewy’s book in the Middle East Journal 60 (Spring 2006) finds much
to praise about it and concludes, "I highly recommend this book to
anyone who is interested in the question of what really happened to
the Ottoman Armenians in 1915" (p. 379). Writing in the prestigious
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 23 March 2006, the distinguished
German scholar of comparative genocide, Eberhard Jackel, also praised
Lewy’s book. A number of years ago IJMES also published a heated
exchange between Richard G. Hovannisian and the late Stanford J.

Shaw, "Forum: The Armenian Question" (IJMES 9 [1978], 379-400). Such
distinguished scholars of Ottoman history as Bernard Lewis, Roderic
Davison, J. C. Hurewitz, and Andrew Mango, among others, have all
rejected the appropriateness of the genocide label for what occurred.

I guess this makes these other major scholars and publications also
guilty of "fraud" and other related sins by daring to publish such

Joseph Kechichian furthermore incorrectly opines that "Gunter, the
reviewer, occupies a central place in the massive campaign-ardently
promoted by successive Turkish governments-to deny the Armenian
genocide … even though he has not produced a single work with a
focus on this subject." As anyone who knows my work on the Kurdish
and Armenian questions realizes, I often have taken critical stands
against the Turkish government. (Maybe the Turkish government has
hired me to throw its critics off the scent!) In contrast, Joseph
Kechichian and Keith Watenpaugh clearly are spokespersons for the
longtime, massive Armenian campaign to trash any scholars who dare
to disagree with their own particular version of history. Indeed,
in France, Armenians have even succeeded in making it a crime to
criticize them. In 1995 the highly respected scholar of Turkish studies
Bernard Lewis was actually fined for questioning the Armenian version
of history. Despite their pious denials, it is clear that my two
critics would like to extend the French system to the United States.

As for Kechichian’s erroneous assertion that I never "produced a
single work with a focus on this subject," I would like to call to
his attention a lengthy article I wrote (in an Armenian journal no
less) on "The Historical Origins of the Armenian-Turkish Enmity" in
a special issue on "Genocide and Human Rights" (Journal of Armenian
Studies IV, nos. 1-2 [1992], 257-88). A shorter, slightly different
version appeared as "The Historical Origins of Contemporary Armenian
Terrorism" (Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies 9
[Fall 1985], 77-96). He might also note my short piece, "Why Do the
Turks Deny They Committed Genocide against the Armenians?" published
in the leading German journal on Middle East politics and economics
(Orient 30 [September 1989], 490-93).

Moreover, my being asked over the years to write five separate reviews
in the two leading journals on Middle Eastern studies in the United
States has further recognized my objectivity on this subject.

In IJMES I reviewed (1) Merill D. Peterson, "Starving Armenians":
America and the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1930 and After (May 2005) and
(2) Richard Hovannisian, ed., The Armenian Genocide in Perspective
and Akaby Nassibian, Britain and the Armenian Question 1915-1923
(August 1989). In the Middle East Journal I reviewed (3) Vahakn N.

Dadrian, German Responsibility in the Armenian Genocide (Autumn
1998), (4) Jacques Derogy, Resistance and Revenge: The Armenian
Assassination of the Turkish Leaders Responsible for the 1915 Massacres
and Deportations and Ephraim K. Jernazian, Judgment unto Truth:
Witnessing the Armenian Genocide (Spring 1991), and (5) Kamuran Gurun,
The Armenian File: The Myth of Innocence Exposed (Winter 1987).

Furthermore, my book "Pursuing the Just Cause of Their People": A
Study of Contemporary Armenian Terrorism (1986) opened with an entire
chapter comparing differing Armenian and Turkish positions on what
happened in 1915. It received some of the following positive reviews.

"This is in every respect a splendid book, which every university
library and individual interested in the contemporary Middle East
ought to purchase" (Middle East Studies Bulletin 21 [December 1987]).

"Professor Michael Gunter’s study of contemporary Armenian terrorism
is … carefully chronicled, and there is much material which helps
to explain subsequent developments. … Well documented. … Gunter
has made a notable contribution" (Middle Eastern Studies 25 [October

"The book is an important one for anyone requiring a systematic account
of a terrorist movement that began attacking Turkish officials and
offices" (Christian Science Monitor, 10 March 1987).

Illustrating the egregiously shocking way he interprets facts,
however, Joseph Kechichian pontificates that my book deals with
"alleged Armenian ‘terrorism.’" Alleged? If this is how Kechichian
views recent Armenian terrorism, how can one trust his version of
earlier events?

Finally surfeiting themselves with their badly conceived ad hominem
attacks on my academic ethics and qualifications, these two Armenian
gentlemen next turn their self-righteous diatribes against the accuracy
of Lewy’s book. Although they make some valid points regarding the
Armenian massacres that neither Lewy nor I deny, the two also commit
several blunders and possibly outright falsifications in their haste
to preach to the choir. For example, they maintain "that a host of
Turkish historians" are now agreeing with the Armenian version of
history. Kechichian manages, however, to name only five. Although
their position provides food for thought, it hardly amounts to a
mass conversion of Turkish scholars to the Armenian line. Indeed,
the claim by one of the five (Taner Akcam) that Kemal Ataturk
accepted the Armenian version of history is simply not true. Rather,
Ataturk criticized the incompetence of the Ottoman government for
not alleviating the sufferings of both Armenians and ethnic Turks.

Kechichian further faults Lewy for not being able to read Ottoman and
Turkish and for relying on two anonymous Turkish-speaking persons
and others for translating important documents for him. Seeking to
draw negative implications from this anonymity, Kechichian declaims
that their names have been "suspiciously withheld." This, of course,
is simply another red herring because the translations will stand or
fall on their accuracy, not on who made them. What probably really
bothered Kechichian here is that Lewy illustrates several times how
pro-Armenian sources cite Turkish sources out of context or simply
juxtapose them with ellipses to create different meanings. Vahakn N.

Dadrian, often cited as one of the leading contemporary Armenian
scholars of these events, is listed by Lewy as one of those who
sometimes engages in these practices.

It is also interesting that inability to read Turkish does not prevent
Kechichian from praising as genocide experts Donald Bloxham, Robert
Melson, and Leo Kuper, among others, who also do not know Turkish. In
addition, if Kechichian and his supporters understand Ottoman so well,
why do some of them continue to tout as genocide evidence such obvious
forgeries as the so-called Naim-Andonian documents and the supposed
secret Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) meeting of February 1915
described by Mevlanzade Rifat? They weaken their own case by adding
such spurious sources.

Kechichian makes Esref Kuscubasi’s statement that he was "a man who
had assumed a secret assignment" read to be a confession of genocidal
guilt, but as a head of the Special Organization, Kuscubasi naturally
dealt with secret assignments. Taking that as a genocidal confession
is the real distortion. General Mehmet Vehip’s statements are hardly
decisive. If the Ottoman government had been behind an extermination
plan, Vehip was not in a position to know, as he was not part of the
inner circles of power. At the most, Vehip was simply providing his
own opinion, as he also did when he foolishly opined that Ataturk’s
war of independence was ruinous for the country. Leslie Davis was
"not a rare eyewitness to mass murder." What he saw was corpses. How
those people died and who killed them are matters open to debate.

Davis relied entirely on his Armenian assistants and missionaries
for information. When he wrote that convicts were released for the
purpose of murdering Armenians, that was his opinion. There was a
severe shortage of manpower during a desperate war, and making use
of convicts is not an unusual practice. Lewy’s lamenting of missing
originals would be a concern of any objective scholar. If the postwar
puppet Ottoman government was corrupt, the fact that some trial
material was reproduced in the official newspaper of that government
is not what one would necessarily call reliable evidence.

If Lewy’s book may have been distributed free to a few libraries,
it does not demonstrate that his book is somehow illegitimate. The
fact that Lewy was presented with an award by the Center for Eurasian
Strategic Studies (ASAM), a Turkish think tank, does not prove that
he is lying and in the service of the Turkish government. An author
does not control such matters. Kechichian’s claim that ASAM’s "mission
includes propagandistic and partisan research and publication" is an
apt description of the Armenian Zoryan Institute that has published
some of Taner Akcam’s work. Erik Jan Zurcher received the Medal of High
Distinction from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, although he
concluded in Turkey: A Modern History (1993) that "while the Ottoman
government as such was not involved in genocide there was a centrally
controlled policy of extermination, instigated by the CUP" (p. 121).

These problems, of course-and overly pious Turkish denials of any
wrongdoing-do not prove or disprove what really occurred. Thirty years
ago Gwynne Dyer aptly expressed the state of the disorderly discourse
between most Armenian and Turkish exponents when he titled a revealing
short analysis "Turkish ‘Falsifiers’ and Armenian ‘Deceivers’:
Historiography and the Armenian Massacres" (Middle Eastern Studies 12
[January 1976]). Guenter Lewy also finds that "both sides have used
heavy-handed tactics to advance their cause and silence a full and
impartial discussion of the issues in dispute" (p.

238). However, his attempt to demonstrate this is denounced as a
"fraud" by his Armenian critics.

Why then do most scholars accept uncritically the Armenian version
of these events and demonize those who object? Why do Turks continue
to maintain their innocence in the face of so much evidence? One must
realize that the Armenian massacres in 1915 did not occur out of the
blue but followed decades of Armenian violence and revolutionary
activity that then elicited Turkish counterviolence. There are a
plethora of Turkish sources documenting these unfortunate events.

However, much more accessible to Western audiences are the studies
by such eminent scholars as William L. Langer, The Diplomacy of
Imperialism: 1890-1902 (1935) and Arnold J. Toynbee, The Western
Question in Greece and Turkey: A Study in the Contact of Civilizations
(1922), among others.

Armenians also have documented well that they sometimes gave as good
as they received. See, for example, Louise Nalbandian, The Armenian
Revolutionary Movement: The Development of Armenian Political Parties
through the Nineteenth Century (1963), James G. Mandalian, ed.,
Armenian Freedom Fighters: The Memoirs of Rouben der Minasian (1963),
and Garegin Pasdermadjian (Armen Garo), Bank Ottoman: Memoirs of Armen
Garo (1990), among others. The Armenians, of course, present themselves
as freedom fighters in these earlier events, but the objective scholar
can understand how the Turks saw them as revolutionary and treasonous
and may thus hesitate to characterize their response in 1915 as

Moreover, throughout all these events, Armenians were never more
than a large minority even in their historic provinces. However, they
exaggerated their numbers before World War I and their losses during
the war. Indeed, if Armenian figures for those who died were correct,
there would have been few left at the end of the war. Instead, the
Armenians managed to fight another war against the emerging Turkish
republic following World War I for mastery in eastern Anatolia. After
they lost, many Armenians in time came to claim that what had occurred
after World War I was simply renewed genocide. Conversely, the Turks
saw it as part of their war of independence and understandably hesitate
to admit sole guilt for all these events.

Furthermore, as Christians, Armenians found a sympathetic audience
in the West. Muslim Turks, by contrast, were the historic enemy of
the Christian West. In addition, Armenians were much more adept at
foreign languages than Turks and thus able to present their case
more readily to the rest of the world. When the events in question
occurred, Turks were again the enemy of the West and the object of
Western propaganda. Of course, none of this excuses the horrible
abuses that occurred, but these facts put what happened into a more
accurate context and begin to explain why Turks feel that the term
"premeditated genocide" is unfair to describe what occurred, especially
when Armenians deny any guilt.

Moreover, Armenian willingness to employ unwise violence continued into
more recent times despite the attempt by Joseph Kechichian to term the
murder of numerous Turkish diplomats in the 1970s and 1980s as merely
"alleged Armenian terrorism." Several of these murders occurred in
the United States. In addition, Armenian activists demanded that
Cambridge University Press withdraw Stanford Shaw’s History of the
Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey (1977) because they did not agree
with some of its findings; they threatened the noted UCLA history
professor and even bombed his house in Los Angeles.

Furthermore, one of the first things newly independent Armenia did upon
winning its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 was to attack
Turkic Azerbaijan and conquer some 16 percent of its territory. To
this day, Armenia claims large sections of eastern Turkey. However,
those who point out such inconvenient facts are denounced as "genocide
deniers" who should not even have the right to express themselves. No
wonder Turks are hesitant to confess to genocide as defined by their