Turkish Pride In The Armenian Genocide


April 24 2015

by James Zumwalt24 Apr 201512

As if on safari, the hunters proudly display their dead prey. But
the circa 1915 photograph depicts an undeniable horror. The hunters
flank a dozen or so human bodies, laid out upon a dirt mound. The
distinctive hunters’ uniforms identify them as Turkish soldiers of
the Ottoman Empire; their victims are Armenian Christians.

This photograph captured for eternity the 20th century’s first

April 24, 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of
an onslaught that, to this day, Turkey claims never happened. But
photographs of genocide don’t lie.

These photographs are eerily similar to others, that would appear
three decades later, of another human atrocity against victims only
persecuted due to their faith. The 1945 photographs show stacks of
emaciated Jewish bodies–victims of Nazi tormentors.

A telling difference exists as to why both sets of photographs
were taken.

The photographs of Nazi concentration camp horrors were the product
of victors seeking to document a vanquished enemy’s evils, lest future
generations doubt what had occurred there.

The photographs of the Armenian genocide were the product of Turkish
victors, not to record evil, but as a trophy glorifying kills made
in the name of Allah.

Turkey’s genocidal tendencies towards Armenians are historical.

The Armenians adopted Christianity in 301 A.D., prospering long as a
people and an independent nation–until Ottoman aggression absorbed
it in the 15th century. They became second-class citizens, forced
to pay an “infidel” tax Muslims demanded of all non-Muslims under
their control.

But when Armenians pushed for equality in the late 1890s, the sultan
ordered his army into action. Between 1894-1896, an estimated 200,000
Armenians died in what was known as the Hamidian Massacres.

With the turn of the century, the loss of parts of the Ottoman Empire
fed a wave of nationalism. Sensing a re-building opportunity with
the outbreak of World War I, the Ottomans allied with Germany against
Russia. Devastating losses trying to invade Russia caused the Turks
to blame Armenians, who had assisted the Russians.

On April 19, 1915, the Turkish governor of the city of Van trumped up
a claim to charge Armenians with rebellion and lay siege to the city.

After Russian forces intervened to save the Armenians, the Turks used
the Russian rescue to claim the Armenians were traitors. The genocide
began April 24th, when the Turks rounded up 250 Armenian community
leaders and executed them.

By year’s end, 75% of the Armenian population (1.5 million people)
had been killed.

Turkish hatred fueled a killing machine against the Armenians that
escalated from massacre to genocide speed in less than a generation.

Turkish inhumanity towards the Armenians was limitless. Young girls
were raped or crucified. Forced marches, in endless circles over
mountain trails, of the very old and very young–denied food and
water–sought but one final destination: death. As an ultimate slap
in the face, Armenians transported by train to death camps were even
required to purchase their own tickets.

A Turkish government that saw no evil by its actions against the
Armenians in 1915 still sees no evil in them today.

One would like to believe a century-long evolution of Turkish
leadership from dictatorship to democracy might have opened the
government’s eyes to admitting its role in this savagery. It has not.

This is unsurprising, based on the leadership of Turkey’s current
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Over the past several years, he has
belied a desire to return to the days of the Ottoman Empire, rolling
back domestic freedoms to get there.

In Erdogan’s Turkey, it remains a crime to mention the word “genocide.”

This denial by the Turkish leadership is not motivated by concerns of
possibly having to pay reparations by accepting responsibility for its
genocidal actions. It is fed by the belief today–just in 1915–that
any Muslim slaughter of Christians is a divine right granted by Allah.

Turkish intolerance for Christians continues today. As one critic
observes, “Sadly, Turkey, a NATO member since 1952 and supposedly a
candidate for membership in the European Union, has largely succeeded
in destroying the entire Christian cultural heritage of Asia Minor.”

Apparently, the Turkish government won’t allow what happened to the
Armenians to be given the negative connotation of “genocide,” for
such would insult Turkey, but will allow Turks to proudly celebrate
the genocide’s end result, to insult the minority Armenian community

Turkish intolerance has already manifested itself with the approach of
this important anniversary date in Armenian history as banners have
been unfurled in several Turkish cities proclaiming, “We celebrate
the 100th anniversary of our country being cleansed of [Christian]

Of course, it is difficult to criticize Erdogan when Western political
and Christian leaders have either refused or been slow to call the
Armenian genocide what it really was.

Just such a call was recently made by Pope Francis. “In the past
century, our human family has lived through three massive and
unprecedented tragedies,” the Pope said. “The first, which is widely
considered ‘the first genocide of the 20th century,’ struck your own
Armenian people.” Francis became the first leader of the Catholic
Church to call Turkey out on the genocide.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama, critical of then-President Bush,
stated in 2008 America “deserves a president who speaks truthfully
about the Armenian genocide.” President Obama has yet to deliver on
this promise, and few expect him to tomorrow.

He is not alone among presidents; only Ronald Reagan, in a 1981
proclamation observing the Holocaust, dared call the slaughter a

Reportedly both the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and Department of
Defense (DOD) again recommended against attaching the genocidal tag
due to concerns of impacting negatively on U.S.-Turkey relations.

DOD’s concern obviously stems from not wanting to upset a supposed
NATO ally who potentially can play an important role in Middle East
hostilities, although Turkey balks at doing so. DOS’s concern stems
from Obama’s inexplicably close friendship with Erdogan, regardless
of how far back the would-be dictator sets democracy in his country.

Most shockingly, Israel too has yet to make the call, unwilling to
damage an already strained relationship with Turkey.

The absence of Western voices aids and abets Turkey’s denial. It has
only encouraged Erdogan to threaten the few voices heard, warning
Pope Francis not to “repeat this mistake.”

On the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, we would do well
to reflect upon Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt’s words: “Denial
of genocide… is not an act of historical reinterpretation… but
an insidious form of intellectual and moral degradation.”

It is time for Western leaders to re-calibrate their moral compass.

Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.), is a retired Marine
infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the U.S. invasion
of Panama and the first Gulf war. He is the author of “Bare Feet,
Iron Will-Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields,”
“Living the Juche Lie: North Korea’s Kim Dynasty” and “Doomsday:
Iran-The Clock is Ticking.” He frequently writes on foreign policy
and defense issues.