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From: Irish Foreign Affairs: Articles
Date: April, 2010
By: Pat Walsh

Acts of Contrition Irish and Turkish

Who remembers the Armenians? That is the famous quotation attributed to Hitler - even though he may never have said it. But that is beside the point, surely, because it is just too good a story to discard because it does not stand the test of reliability or factual rigour.

If Hitler actually uttered those words he was terribly mistaken in his belief. The Armenians are widely remembered today. Much more so than the large and successful genocides that the Anglo-Saxon world achieved in the name of progress, but which are forgotten today because there is no one left to tell the tale.

Hitler was a great admirer of the British Empire and determined to emulate its racial theories and geopolitics. So it is surprising that he could not think of a better example of genocide than the Armenian case. But maybe he did and it was not reported, or else he kept it to himself in deference to his object of admiration.

But perhaps it was really because Hitler, himself, was a product of the world Britain made that he remembered the Armenians and forgot the others.

The remembering of the Armenians, or the Armenian genocide, to be more accurate, has returned to the news. A Congressional committee has recommended that Congress vote on it and this has caused something of a stir between Turkey and the US, after the stir between Israel and the Turks.

We can only presume after this event that the Armenians are a political matter because they keep turning up when Turkey becomes important to the West. So nothing really changes there.

It seems that a war on Iran is on the cards. And Turkish airspace will be greatly useful to those who wish to return Iran to the Stone Age by bombing. So, the Armenian genocide has appeared stage left in a congressional committee ready for the floor of Congress, if needed to twist the Turkish arm.

Turkey is a sovereign independent state and has been since the time of Atatrk. It has an independent mind and has managed its foreign policy with great skill. But it always has the Armenian allegations hanging over it since they were placed on the shelf after the Great War.

Robert Fisk, in a recent debate with Turkish historians, attempted strenuously to get them to admit the killings of Armenians during the Great War as being an act of genocide. The Turkish historians resisted, complaining that the West was trying to impose its own narrative on their history. Where have we encountered this before?

Chanak and the Treaty of Lausanne

Atatrk and the Turkish War of Independence produced the independent Turkish State with a mind of its own. This was the reality that the major power in the world at that time, Britain, had to take account of. After being at war with Turkey for a decade, England, after the humiliation of Chanak and the Treaty of Lausanne, had to forget all its propaganda and make friends with the country it tried to grind into the dust. And so it dropped its Greek allies with a bang and forgot all about the Armenians and their desire for a state. And it set its foremost historian, Arnold Toynbee, who had produced fierce propaganda against the Turks in the propaganda department of Wellington House, the task of rewriting the history of the region so that the Turks could be rehabilitated and the Greeks damned.

Toynbee was writing for the purposes of State - a thing that English historians do almost as a reflex. And, for reasons of State all concerns for the Armenians and talk about the Armenian genocide was dropped, put on a shelf somewhere, for another day, when it might be useful again.

Perhaps a dusting off is imminent.

We should be familiar with the rewriting of history here in Ireland. And we should be in a position to warn the Turks about it because we know, all too well, that whilst England urges the rest of the world to forget, it will always remember, despite giving the impression that it no longer cares.
During the last forty years there has been a conflict in Northern Ireland. That conflict has largely been the responsibility of Britains policy in 1920/1. However, somehow, the notion has developed in Ireland that it is primarily the Irish that are at fault for this state of affairs. And various Peace Pledges have been urged on us, and set in stone at the sites of the Great War killing fields, to chastise us for our sins and make us not be so bothersome to Britain again - so she can get on with her business in the world, undiverted.

Northern Ireland

The Northern statelet was created by Britain to establish leverage on the rest of the island. England thought this leverage was required when its influence seemed to be lost, with the development of an independent Irish mind from 1916. The Treaty was a partial recovery for England but Ireland then gradually set off in another direction after those who had opposed the Treaty recovered and came to power. For about half a century the leverage that England built into the system it established was largely undetectable because DeValera effectively resisted it by preventing the north becoming an obstacle to independent development for the south. But beginning with the Lemass overtures to the North in the mid-1960s the leverage began to do its work again, as it had been designed to do.

Since then this leverage has become all too apparent as Ireland has allowed its history to be rewritten by Britain as part of the great Act of Contrition that it has engaged in since the troubles.

The Catholic Church in Ireland is in meltdown today but the contrition it urged upon us is all the rage. The Act of Contrition that it is obligatory to engage in is now in the form of Remembrance and it has taken us (or at least our head of state, plus Imperialist entourage) again to the shores of Gallipoli.

Gallipoli, although an isolated and disconnected event in the memory of the Great War, due to the loss of context , is the connecting point between Ireland and Turkey.

But it should not be if Ireland knew its history, because there are much more substantial and progressive connecting points than the one which involved Irish men invading the land of the Turk and attempting to kill him. However, it is a measure of how we understand the Great War now that Gallipoli is the only connecting point between Irish and Turk that lies in view.

Remembrance commemorates the common cause of Imperial expansionism, in whose service Irish Catholic and Ulster Protestant died, but it ignores the common struggle of Ireland and Turkey against Imperial rule. There are much more relevant connecting points to the history of Ireland and Turkey but they have been wiped from memory, like other events that disrupt the British narrative of history.

Some Irish Republicans were great admirers of Atatrk. The Catholic Bulletin, a periodical that supported the Republican cause, and whose editor was close to Eamon DeValera, took a great interest in events between the end of the Great War and the successful conclusion of Turkey's war of independence. It supported Turkey in its struggle against Britain and the other imperialist powers and also defended the Turkish position in relation to the Greek irredentism that acted as British catspaw, when most of the Western Christian press were pro-Greek.

The Catholic Bulletin publicised Atatrks great achievement in defeating the British Empire and saw it as an inspiration to other countries in the world resisting the great powers. It was particularly impressed with the Turkish negotiating skill at Lausanne and contrasted it to the Irish failure in negotiating with the British in the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921 that left the country part of the British Empire. The Turks had successfully achieved independence and The Catholic Bulletin described Atatrk as the man of the year and the only cause for optimism in the world.

The Catholic Bulletin drew attention to the many parallels between the experience of Ireland and Turkey between 1919 and 1923. Turkey had agreed to an armistice (ceasefire) with Britain at Mudros in October 1918. But that armistice was turned into a surrender when British and French Imperial forces entered Constantinople and occupied it soon after. Turkey found its parliament closed down and its representatives arrested or forced on the run, at the same time as England meted out similar treatment to the Irish democracy. Then a punitive treaty (The Treaty of Svres, August 1920) was imposed on the Turks at the point of a gun, sharing out the Ottoman possessions amongst the Entente Powers. Along with that, Turkey itself was partitioned into spheres of influence, with the Greek Army being used to enforce the settlement in Anatolia, in exchange for its irredentist desires in Asia Minor.

The Catholic Bulletin warned through the 1930s that the war of independence was not over. And it was not speaking of the north. It argued that the war of ideas continued and Ireland needed to keep up its guard against British attempts to rehabilitate itself in the country. Various members of our current academic establishment laughed off its crude combativeness in this area. But who can really argue that it wasnt correct?

Gallipoli does have one important connecting point between Ireland and Turkey that has been lost to the memory. That connecting point is the Armenians. That is because it was the arrival of the Irish and the rest of the British Empire in the invasion force at Gallipoli that helped set off what happened to the Armenians.

The Rebirth of Turkey

The Rebirth of Turkey by American journalist, Clair Price, published in 1932, provides food for thought about what happened to the Armenians. Most of all, it provides context, something that our modern historians have sought to eliminate from history.

In a chapter entitled The Armenian Deportations of 1915 Price provides a picture of the Armenian population in the region:

The Armenian population before the late war consisted of about 1,500,000 in the Ottoman Empire, about 1,000,000 in the Russian Empire, about 150,000 in Persia and about 250,000 in Egypt, Europe and the United States. Although small colonies of them were to be found in all parts of the Ottoman Empire, the bulk of them lived in the eastern provinces, a mountainous tableland on which, with their Turkish neighbors, they formed a sedentary peasantry among a nomadic population of Kurds.

In none of these eastern provinces did they constitute a majority of the population and in this respect they differed sharply from the Greeks and Bulgarians of the old Balkan provinces. This was not due to the Ottoman conquest, for the last of the independent Kingdom of Armenia Major had disappeared in the Seljuk invasion of 1079, and the Egyptians put an end to Armenia Minor in Cilicia in 1375. It was not until 1514 that the Ottoman Sultan Selim I, in his campaign against the Persians, occupied the modern eastern provinces and brought their tangled populations into the Ottoman Empire. In accordance with the tolerance which distinguished the great Sultans, the Gregorian Church to which the Armenians belonged, was made a recognized community in full enjoyment of its ecclesiastical and cultural liberty. Unlike Greeks and Bulgarians in Europe who did possess majorities and who consequently had within themselves all the elements of nationhood, the Armenians enjoyed in their community institutions the only degree of autonomy which they could have enjoyed. It was comparatively easy for Greeks and Bulgarians, once Western ideas of nationalism had reached them, to enlarge the autonomy of their own community institutions into territorial independence, but any attempt to transfer Armenian autonomy from a religious to a territorial basis was quite another matter. The population of the modern eastern provinces was such that a resuscitation of the old Armenian Kingdom was impossible and it would have remained impossible until some means had been discovered of re-writing ten centuries of history. (pp.78-9)


When the Great War began, the Armenians and Turks had been living together for around 800 years. The Armenians of Anatolia and Europe had been Ottoman subjects for nearly 400 years. And the Armenians did well, on the whole, under Ottoman rule. In every Ottoman province the Armenians were better educated and more prosperous than the average Moslem and with the Greeks and Jews formed what then existed of an Ottoman bourgeoisie. They were one of the non-Moslem groups that the Ottomans entrusted many important positions to in their Empire a thing that England saw as a generosity that was tantamount to race suicide.

The Armenians, who did not live in a distinct geographical area in the Empire, were treated in the only way they could have been by the Ottomans and in most respects enjoyed a favourable status within the Empire. Price notes that any hardships the Armenians might have complained about under Ottoman rule were experienced in much the same way by the other peoples of the Empire, including the Turks themselves.

But the position of the Armenians was complicated toward the end of the nineteenth century by the Russian expansion into the Caucasus:

Having broken through the barrier of the Caucasus Range and established its provincial administrations in Trans-Caucasia, Russia had transferred large numbers of Armenians from Ottoman to Russian sovereignty, had stripped them of the autonomy of their community institutions and had kept them in order with an iron hand. In the Russo-Turkish War of 1876, its Armies had halted their march toward Alexandretta at Kars whence they over looked the Ottoman Armenians in the eastern provinces. The Treaty of San Stefano which closed the War of 1876 was quashed and in the Treaty of Berlin of 1878, Russian provision for reforms to be applied to the Armenians was agreed to by all the signatory Powers. In the Cyprus Convention of 1876, however, Great Britain had bound itself to maintain the Sultan's realm against Russia, and the eastern provinces, now the most difficult and the most important provinces in the outer Empire, became the theatre of directly opposed British and Russian policies. But Russia, despite its resentment at the loss of the San Stefano Treaty, had won at Berlin. The Armenian clauses in the Berlin Treaty reinforced the Armenian disposition to secure redress of their wrongs independently of their Turkish neighbors who were equal sufferers with them under the Hamidian regime. This tendency presently found further reinforcement in the Nihilist movement which developed in Russia after the Russo-Turkish War. The persecuted Armenians of Russian Trans-Caucasia joined the Nihilist movement, but their headquarters at Tiflis were stamped out by the Czar's police and the Armenian revolutionists fled to Switzerland, Paris, London and New York.

Relations between Turks and Armenians in the Ottoman Empire had thus far been generally peaceful and even when Westernism was alienating the Bulgarians in Europe, the Armenians in the eastern provinces were still the loyal community. But the Armenian revolutionists in the West, instead of confining their work to Russian Trans-Caucasia, sought to raise funds in the Ottoman Empire as well, and the ancient Turco-Armenian relationship began to be poisoned. Armenian committees succeeded in giving the Turks the impression that the loyal community was no longer loyal (pp.81-2)


This complication would not have been a problem for the Armenians if England had held to her traditional policy of blocking Russian expansionism as part of the Great Game.

Price notes that it was Englands strategic re-orientation, in acquiring Russia as an ally during 1907 - in the project to encircle and destroy Germany - that placed the Armenians in an ambiguous position in relation to the Ottoman State:

In 1907, the eastern provinces became the scene of an about-face in Anglo-Russian relations. Under the Anglo-Russian Treaty of that year, the two Powers effected an immediate partition of Persia and envisaged a future partition of the Ottoman Empire in which the eastern provinces would go to Russia and Mesopotamia would go to Great Britain So Russian annexation of the eastern provinces became the common program of Great Britain and Russia alike, and from that date Russia adopted a policy so liberal toward its Armenians in Trans-Caucasia that a small Russian annexationist group soon appeared among the Armenians in the eastern provinces. The fact must be emphasized that there has never been any Russian population in these provinces and that the Armenians constituted Russia's only ground for intervention and eventual annexation. (pp.81-2)


So the 1907 agreement produced a situation whereby both England and Russia required the loyal community of Armenians to be a fifth-column within the Ottoman State so that a justification for the conquest of Moslem lands by the Christian Powers could be made.

However, at that moment an unwelcome development occurred which required a response from the Powers and interests looking to break up the Ottoman Empire. It involved a progressive development which the Western Powers had always called for but was, now, against their interests:

The Anglo-Russian Treaty of 1907 was quickly followed by the Young Turkish Revolution of 1908. Turks and Armenians alike rejoiced at the downfall of the Hamidian regime. An Armenian bloc was formed in the new Parliament and the Committee of Union and Progress entered into apparently amicable relations with it. The bulk of Armenian opinion in the Empire seemed to be willing to work the revived Constitution and to begin, in common with its Turkish neighbors, the reforms of which all the Ottoman races stood in the direst need. But the Armenian revolutionaries in the West had already planted independence committees in the Empire and drilled them in the technique of revolution. (p.82)


According to Price there was still considerable goodwill between Turk and Armenian when Russia and Britain declared war on Turkey and began military operations against the Ottoman State. This was despite a Turkish/Armenian conflict that occurred in Adana in 1909, when Armenian revolutionary groups, encouraged by the signals coming from the Anglo-Russian entente, had risen up in the hope of provoking Western intervention. This event should have acted as a deterrent both to the Armenian revolutionaries and the Western Powers in demonstrating the precarious position of the Armenians in the event of a Christian assault on the Ottoman Empire. But it didnt and it undermined Armenian efforts to preserve the stability of the Empire that gave them their security:

It may be assumed that the Armenian deputies in the Parliament were still willing, despite the disappointments of the Enver regime, to work the Constitution with the Turkish deputies. The independence committees, however, found their inspiration in the West and their program was electrified by the professed concern for Armenian independence with which the Allied Powers began the war. The Russian annexationist group was similarly affected. In their view, Russia's opportunity to liberate the eastern provinces was at hand.

Under the 1908 Constitution, the Enver Government had a right to mobilize Armenians of military age as well as Turks, but armed opposition broke out at once, notably at Zeitun, a town of Armenian mountaineers who had long enjoyed an almost complete local independence. Along the eastern frontier, Armenians began deserting to the Russian Armies and the Enver Government, distrusting the loyalty of those who remained, removed them from the combatant forces and formed them into labor gangs whose commissariat, to put it mildly, worked even more decrepitly than that of the combatant troops.

With this situation in his rear, Enver Pasha crossed both the Russian and Persian frontiers but in January, 1915, he was thrown back behind his own frontier by the Russian victory at Sarykamish. This victory fired the annexationist hopes and armed bands of Armenian volunteers began operating behind the Ottoman Armies. In April, Lord Bryce and the Friends of Armenia in London appealed for funds to equip these volunteers, and Russia also was presumably not uninterested in them. Seeing that both Great Britain and Russia were at war with the Ottoman Government, it would have been surprising if so obvious a move had been overlooked. These volunteer bands finally captured Van, one of the eastern provincial capitals, late in April and, having massacred the Turkish population, they surrendered what remained of the city to the Russian Armies in June. The news from Van affected the Turks precisely as the news from Smyrna affected them when the Greeks landed there in May, 1919. The rumour immediately ran through Asia Minor that the Armenians had risen.

By this time, the military situation had turned sharply against the Enver Government. The Russian victory at Sarykamish was developing and streams of Turkish refugees were pouring westward into central Asia Minor. The British had launched their Dardanelles campaign at the very gates of Constantinople, and Bulgaria had not yet come in. It does not seem reasonable to assume that this moment, of all moments, would have been chosen by the Enver Government to take widespread measures against its Armenians unless it was believed that such measures were immediately necessary. Measures were taken. The provincial governors in those parts of the Empire which were exposed to the enemy, like the eastern provinces and the Mediterranean coast where British and French men of war were maintaining a patrol, were ordered to assemble their Armenians and march them south into the Arab country for internment. If these deportations were to be carried out in an orderly fashion, the strongest and most reliable police arrangements were necessary but these arrangements the Enver Government either could not or would not make. In general, the deportations only gathered the Armenians together and exposed them without protection to a population alarmed and angered by the news from Van. They broke down into a dreadful business in which Armenian men of military age were shot down in batches and the remnant of women, children and old persons who had not already made their way as refugees into Russian Trans-Caucasia, were finally interned in Mesopotamia and Syria under conditions of the direst want. This business deprived Russia of its sole claim to intervention in the eastern provinces, and the British Foreign Office which shared in the Anglo-Russian program of partitioning the Ottoman Empire as Persia had already been partitioned, has naturally made the most of it. Lord Bryce's estimate of the number of Armenians who died in the course of it was 800,000. (p.86-8)


I make no claim to know the truth of the Armenian issue - one way or another. All I can do is point out the context of it, as Clair Price attempted to do. During the Great War and the Allied invasion of Turkey, the infrastructure of life in the Ottoman Empire, which had been seriously weakened as a result of the conflicts in the Balkans, was almost completely destroyed.

In the process of this destruction up to one third of the population of the Ottoman Empire perished (Further information on this can be found in a book by Justin McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks). In the main war zones, in Macedonia and Thrace, western Anatolia, the north-east and south-east, that percentage was as high as two thirds - a much higher amount of fatalities suffered than in any other country that was involved in the War.

In the decade between 1912 and 1922, as a result of the effects of Allied pressure on the Empire and ethnic cleansing and massacre resulting from it, in the areas seceding from it, the Ottoman Empire was deluged by millions of Moslem, Jewish and even Christian refugees coming into the State. These people were fleeing the pure nationalisms that the Western Powers encouraged in the Balkans as a means of destabilising the Ottoman State. And the effects of this process were compounded by the Great War.

It should be understood at this point that it was in the interest of the Ottoman State to preserve the peace and stability of its multi-ethnic Empire whereas the powers that sought its break-up were determined to break it apart through promoting ethnic conflict within it.


The British Blockade of the Empire

The British blockade of the Empire, which began even before the formal declaration of war, was carried out with the intention of starving Ottoman citizens to force them into surrender and encouraging a general collapse of Ottoman society into anarchy. A similar blockade was organised against neutral Greece to encourage regime change and her enlistment in the Allied ranks. The spread of typhus and cholera was one of the major reasons for the high level of Armenian and other deaths and food also became very scarce in Eastern Anatolia.

The successful destruction of civil society caused by the blockade and by the invading Allied armies was the major factor in turning the position of Armenians and other Christian groups from one of mainstays of the commercial infrastructure of the Ottoman Empire and the loyal community into a malevolent element within it. And since the objective of the Allies was the destruction of the commercial life of the Ottoman State through invasion and blockade what future, indeed, had the Armenians in it?

Thousands of people moving around as refugees from the invading armies of Britain and Russia and the Royal Navy blockade, in chaotic conditions, with the transportation system collapsing, with bandits preying on them under the collapse of order, with the general shortage of food and with primitive sanitation conditions leading to famine, hunger and disease, inevitably resulted in a general reverse to a state of nature in much of the outlying areas of the Empire, particularly in Eastern Anatolia, the war zone between Russia and the Turks.

It is not clear whether more Turks and Kurds died at the hands of Armenians and their Russian backers than Armenians died at the hands of Ottoman Moslems. The only comparable situation I can see would be in the Nazi invasion of Eastern Europe during 1941-2 when society there was reduced to its elements, when people did not know under what authority they might live the next day, and different groups did what they had to for the purposes of sheer survival.

The invading Russian armies brought with them Armenian groups armed with Allied weapons whose main purpose was to kill Moslem Turks and Kurds - which they proceeded to do. British and Russian agents circulated amongst the Armenians behind Turkish lines and provided them with weapons and money to enable them to create general disorder. In the Armenian capture of the city of Van and the general massacre of Moslems that followed Ottoman soldiers were diverted and prevented from reaching the front to fight the invading Russian forces. All these factors must have influenced the Ottomans to relocate the Armenian population from the area.

And along with the Armenian relocation there was also a relocation of up to 800,000 Moslems from the war-zone. But when the Ottoman authorities moved various peoples out of the war zones they became prey to other groups with scores to settle, such as the Kurds on the Armenians. Moslem civilians faced similar problems as they fled the attacking Russian armies only to be harassed by armed Armenian bands. And I have seen figures of up to 500,000 Moslems killed by Armenians, with extensive lists of names and modes of death recorded by the Ottoman authorities.

The Armenians in cities in the west, like Smyrna, Constantinople and Ankara were not subject to the same relocations because the Ottomans only wished to remove those in the general area of the war-zone and Russian penetration.

A decade and a half before the Turks relocated the Armenians the British relocated the Boers and Africans away from the war-zone in the Transvaal into concentration camps. It did so in stable conditions, controlling the seas around South Africa, under no pressure of blockade, with plentiful food supplies, in a localised conflict fought in a gentlemanly way by their opponents. And yet they still managed to kill tens of thousands of Boer and African women and children in the process.

It was called methods of barbarism at the time but I have never seen it called genocide (except perhaps by Michael Davitt and John Dillon at the time).

It was the object of Britain to win the Great War, no matter what the consequences. That is why it lasted so long and why it was so destructive. It was spread across the world when there proved to be no way through in Europe and the Russian Steamroller ran out of steam. The fact that other peoples were caught up in it was neither here nor there for England. If they could be used to win the war, or if their deaths could add to the propaganda that would help win it, all the better. In the end they counted for nothing in Britain and were dropped when they had served their usefulness.
If the deaths of Armenians are seen as genocide the power that was most responsible for it was Britain. In the interests of destroying Germany and conquering the Ottoman territories it made the Ottoman State an impossible place for Armenians to live in the space of a few months after they had lived in it peacefully for centuries.

This was all part of the British tactic of breaking up multi-national Empires of rival powers by sowing the seeds and cultivating the harvest of nationalism in them (whilst repressing it closer to home). So the clearance of Armenians from eastern Anatolia can only be seen, within the British scheme of things, as a progressive development, since it was the culmination of the general process that England encouraged with regard to the Ottoman territories and elsewhere in the world, in its nation building'.

And they were probably happy to see the Armenians suffer in the process to create propaganda in the United States that would bring that country into the war a war that the Entente were in danger of losing without Americas help.

Lord Bryce had been for neutrality at the outbreak of War and had only become an enthusiast for British participation when he read accounts of the violation of Belgium written by Tom Kettle, the Redmondite propagandist, amongst others. He became the British Ambassador to Washington and had many connections in the American political elite. But he was merely a figurehead for the real authors. The writing of his book, The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire (more widely known as The Blue Book), was actually done by Arnold Toynbee and it was issued as a companion volume to the Report on German atrocities in Belgium.

Toynbee himself was the named author of three books on the Armenian issue: Armenian Atrocities - The Murder Of A Nation, The Murderous Tyranny Of The Turks and Turkey: A Past And A Future. The Bryce Report and Toynbees books became the basis for Wellington House propaganda against the Turks that constructed the lasting negative image of the Turk in the Western mind.

The propaganda against the Turks utilised the American missions in Armenia, who concentrated their activities on converting the Armenians to Protestantism, and whose work was threatened by the Russian/Turkish conflict. Nearly half the sources used by Bryce and identified as foreign residents were, in fact, unnamed American missionaries. But they were not identified as such, leading readers to believe they were simply independent and trustworthy foreigners with no interest in the matter. The American missions then helped the process in two ways: they provided the information for the propaganda and helped distribute it in America.

The other sources for The Blue Book, presented as those of objective individuals, were largely collected from Armenian nationalist organisations, with axes to grind against the Ottomans.
England latched on to the fact that anti-Turkish feeling already existed amongst some sections of the American public due to the pre-War accounts of their missionaries in Armenia. These people had characterised the Turks as persecutors of Christians (when the Ottomans had, in fact, rather liberally, tolerated the presence of these proselytising and disruptive Christian missions in their Empire). The Christian missionaries had often been presented as long-suffering martyrs in the American media and Britain saw a chance to utilise the sympathy they engendered in the public to use as a lever to help bring America into the War.

There never was a formal retraction by the British Government of the contents of The Blue Book, even though Toynbee later described it as propaganda in his Western Question in Greece and Turkey (p.50) - in 1922 when the issue was dead, the Greeks had been cast adrift, and the British were keen to make peace with Atatrk.

A British historian, Trevor Wilson, recently put it like this:

Bryce did not have the choice of telling the truth or telling falsehood. If he proved so scrupulous in his investigations that he might have to deem the tales of sadistic crimes unproven - then, inadvertently but inescapably - he would be helping to propagate a much larger untruth: that the whole notion of deliberate and calculated atrocity by Germany on Belgium was unfounded. (Lord Bryces Investigation Into Alleged German Atrocities in Belgium, Journal of Contemporary History, July 1979, p.381)


Liberal propagandists for the War felt it was their duty to publish unfounded tales in the service of the War effort because not to do so would nullify the reasons for the War itself - and their own support of it. By telling lies about the Germans and Turks in the service of the State they were salving their own Liberal consciences about having become warmongers.

But the British Government did attempt to try 144 Ottoman officials interned in Malta during 1920/1 on the basis of its evidence. After a two year investigation the Prosecutor released the prisoners due to the lack of concrete evidence, even though the information on the sources used in The Blue Book was readily available to the prosecution.

It was, however, important that England convince the American public that Ottoman rule was the most murderous and despicable in existence because the U.S. was not enamoured by the idea of British or French Imperialists extending their rule into the Near East. America had to be persuaded that the advance of Imperial armies into the area was a moral imperative and the establishment of Colonial administrations was immensely preferable, and indeed an altruistic act, on the part of Britain. Especially when whilst England cried out for American help in its war for civilization against Germany it was itself diverting its own armies away to conquer land in the East.

After the Great War, Britain had it in her power to bring about an Armenian state and to try those it had accused and detained in connection with the Armenian genocide. But, despite attempting many things in the world that were immensely more difficult at the time it decided not to follow through with these two measures, as if it did not take the claims it made against the Turks as seriously as it pretended to, during the war.

And the U.S., which joined the Great War on Germany in 1917, and which had substantial connection with the Armenians through its missionary activity amongst them, did not even feel it important enough to declare war on the Turks or take the mandate for organising an Armenian state, after Britain had tried palming it off to them. It evidently felt that its war for civilization did not need extending to encompass the Turks. There is, in fact, another event that occurred around the same time that has a much greater right to be called 'genocide than what happened to the Armenians - but it is as little known about in the world as the Armenian one is well known.

The Great Famine and Genocide in Persia, 1917-1919

Dr. Mohammad Gholi Majd in his book, The Great Famine and Genocide in Persia, 1917-1919 exposes what he calls an Iranian holocaust where 8 to 10 million Iranians perished as a result of British policy in the latter stages of the Great War. A large proportion of Iranian crops were seized by Britain and used to feed their occupying forces leaving Iranian people to die from hunger, malnutrition and disease. Gholi Majd argues that the British Government were the main cause of this famine and genocide that occurred by preventing food imports from neighbouring Mesopotamia and India, which were under its control, and where there was an abundance of grain. (Now that sounds familiar!)The Great Iranian Famine of 1917-19 is almost unknown despite being possibly the largest genocide of the twentieth century. According to documents in the U.S. Persias population in 1914 was 20 million and as a result of the famine it was reduced to 11 million, by 1919. About 40% of the Iranian population died in the space of two years during the military occupation of Persia by Britain.

At the same time Britain had the huge revenues of Persian oil at its disposal, to pay for food imports for the starving people. But these funds were diverted to the British Treasury instead to subsidize military operations elsewhere in the world.

By all accounts Dr. Mohammad Gholi Majd had great difficulty in getting his book published (and even laminated) in the U.S. and whilst other publications dealing with genocides were eagerly put on the market (such as that in Rwanda), the subject of an Iranian genocide produced by British agency was considered untouchable by the same publishers.

Documents from the British War Office relating to the occupation and famine in Iran/Persia are still being withheld from scholars by todays Government in Westminster.

We live in a world where successful genocides perpetrated by those who have the control over the writing of history are largely unknown and the facts of those that might be of use in the political scheme of things become the news. If the term genocide is bandied about as a tool of propaganda it becomes too good a term to be applied to the activities of the masters of the world in creating their own backyards.


Postscript: The Armenian Genocide the lost view of the first Armenian Prime Minister

After completing the article above an interesting document came into my possession. It is a report submitted by Hovhannes Katchaznouni, the first Armenian Prime Minister of the Armenian Republic (1918-19), and one of the founders of the Dashnags, the revolutionary Armenian group which organized the political and military activities against the Ottoman State.

It was issued to the Dashnagtzoutiun 1923 Party Convention to explain the situation and was something of an apologia, which must have taken great guts to deliver. At the point at which this report was given the Armenians had got a state, but it had been provided by the Bolsheviks, rather than the Anglo-French Entente. The Entente had abandoned the idea of an Armenian state in Anatolia when they failed to hold the Turks to the treaty of Svres, and the Armenians had to be content with autonomy under the Soviet State.

This report was actually published in a book in Tbilisi in 1927 - which was quickly banned in Armenia. Copies seemed to have been located and destroyed after that. However, a copy was rescued from the Lenin Library in Moscow and re-published in Turkish and English recently. It is entitled Dashnagtzoutiun Has Nothing To Do Anymore after the view of Hovhannes Katchaznouni that the Dashnags had exhausted their function and should be wound up.

The book has also a number of Armenian documents, one an account of the speech made by the military representative of the Party to the National Congress, held in Tbilisi during February 1915 (before the deportations). This speech was interesting in describing the objectives of the Armenian revolutionary groups in relation to the Allied invasion of Turkey:

As is known, the Russian government donated 242,900 rubles at the beginning of the war to make preparations to arm the Turkish Armenians and to incite revolts in the country during the war. Our volunteer units need to break the defense line of the Turkish forces and to unite with the rebels and to create anarchy on the front and behind the lines and by these means help the Russian armies pass through and capture Turkish Armenia. (Analiz Basim Yayin Tasarim Gida Ticaret Ve Sanayi, Dashnagtzoutiun Has Nothing To Do Anymore, pp. 17-8)


Katchaznounis account is mostly interesting because it also, along with Prices, places what happened to the Armenians in its real context - in this case, the efforts of Armenian revolutionaries to utilize the Great War and Allied forces invading Turkey in their own political pursuits. It evaluates the tragic incidents as instances of war and declares that the Armenians have been tools in the hands of foreign powers, been let down by them, and suffered defeat and disaster through their own miscalculations.

Katchaznounis account begins just before the Great War:

At the beginning of the autumn of 1914 when Turkey had not yet entered the war but had already been making preparations, Armenian Revolutionary units began to be formed in Transcaucasia with great enthusiasm and, especially, with much uproar

In the fall of 1914 Armenian volunteer units organized themselves and fought against the Turks because they could not refrain themselves from organizing and refrain themselves from fighting. This was an inevitable result of the psychology on which the Armenian people had nourished themselves during an entire generation: that mentality should have found its expression, and it did so.

The winter of 1914 and the spring of 1915 were the periods of greatest enthusiasm and hope for all the Armenians in the Caucasus, including, of course, the Dashnagtzoutiun. We had no doubt that the war would end with the complete victory of the allies; Turkey would be defeated and dismembered, and its Armenian population would at last be liberated.

We had embraced Russia wholeheartedly without any compunction. Without any positive basis of fact, we believed that the Czarist government would grant us a more or less broad self-government in the Caucasus and in the Armenian vilayets liberated from Turkey as a result of our loyalty, and efforts and assistance.

We had created a dense atmosphere of illusion in our minds. We had implanted our own desires into the minds of others; we had lost our sense of reality and were carried away with our dreams we overestimated the ability of the Armenian people, their political and military power and overestimated the extent and importance of the services our people rendered to the Russians. And by overestimating our very modest worth and merit, we were naturally exaggerating our hopes and expectations.

The deportations and massacres which took place during the summer and autumn of 1915 were mortal blows to the Armenian cause. Half of historical Armenia the same half where the foundations of our independence would be laid according to the traditions inherited by European diplomacy - that half was denuded of Armenians; the Armenian provinces of Turkey were without Armenians. The Turks knew what they were doing and have no reason to regret today. It was the most decisive method of extirpating the Armenian question from Turkey.

Again, it would be useless to ask today as to what extent the participation of volunteers in the war was a contribution to the Armenian calamity. No one can claim that the savage persecutions would not have taken place if our behaviour on this side of the frontier had been different, as no one can claim to the contrary that the persecutions would have been the same even if we had not shown hostility to the Turks.

This is a matter about which it is possible to have many different opinions.

The proof is, however - and this is essential that the struggle began decades ago against which the Turkish government brought about the deportation or extermination of the Armenian people in Turkey and the desolation of the Turkish Armenia.

That was the terrible fact!...

The second half of 1915 and the entire year of 1916 were periods of hopelessness, desperation and mourning. The refugees, all those who had survived the Holocaust were filling Russian provinces by tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. They were famished, naked, sick, a horrified and desperate flood of humanity, flooding villages and cities. They had come to a country which was itself in ruins and famished. They piled upon each other, before our own eyes, on our threshold dying of famine and sickness.

And we were unable to save those precious lives. Angered and terrified, we sought the culprits and quickly found them: the deceitful politics of the Russian government

Our volunteer units were naturally trying to capture Van and Mus without any waste of time. They headed for these places to save the Armenians. However, Russians did not only consist of Armenians and they had other intentions. This sluggishness and uncertainty to act which we evaluated as disloyalty is explainable by the customary ineffectiveness of the Russian command (which was witnessed many times on other fronts as well) or other general military conditions unknown to us now By extraordinary mental aberration, we, a political party, were forgetting that our cause was an incidental and trivial phase for the Russians, so trivial that if necessary, they would trample on our corpses without a moments hesitation.

I am not saying that we did not know the circumstances. Of course we knew and understood and so we started when it was necessary to explain the situation. Deep down in our hearts, however, we did not grasp the full meaning of that word formula; we forgot what we already knew and we drew such conclusions as though our cause was the center of gravity of the Great War, its cause and its purpose. When the Russians were advancing, we used to say from the depths of our subconscious minds that they were coming to save us; and when they were withdrawing, we said they are retreating so that they would allow us to be massacred


Katchaznouni then deals with the second opportunity that presented itself to the Armenian revolutionary groups - after Turkey had seemed defeated after the armistice in 1918, and was invaded and occupied by Allied armies.

But first there was a shock in store for the Armenians:

In November a general peace was declared. Germany and its allies lost the war. The German troops left Georgia in haste. Turks also receded back into their old territory. Towards the end of the month, British troops- the troops of our allies - entered the Batoum. We started to entertain new hopes. It appeared as if our situation in Transcaucasia would radically change, for the victorious and those which replaced the German troops in Tbilisi were our allies. We had fought against the common enemy. We certainly would attain the privilege of special friendship of the British, compared to the Georgians who had flirted with the Germans and the Azerbaijanis who had openly gone over to the Turkish side. We were once more wrong. The British saw no difference among us. They acted as if either they did not know that we had been their ally or had forgotten this. The generosity they showed towards the Georgians and the Azerbaijanis was unexpected and incomprehensible. We certainly did not like this attitude of the British and thought they were disloyal We contended that they were unfaithful and we were relieved. We did not examine the reasons for this unfaithfulness.


What is striking about his account is that Katchaznouni concedes that it would have been better for the Armenians to have made a deal with the Turks in 1920 than to have trusted in the military power of the Allies. In doing so Katchaznouni embraces the view of the conflict between Armenian and Turk as that of a civil war rather than what would normally be understood as genocide.

The Armenian-Turkish war which broke our back began in the fall of 1920.

Would it have been possible to evade it? Probably not.

The crushed Turkey of 1918 had recovered during the two years. There came forward patriotic, young officers who formed a new army in Asia Minor. They saw the necessity of attacking in the Northeast, and also in the Southwest against the Greeks which they could not do without first crushing their flank on the Armenian front...

Despite these hypotheses there remains an irrefutable fact. That we had not done all that was necessary for us to have done to evade war. We ought to have used peaceful language with the Turks whether we succeeded or not, and we did not do it this was the fundamental error. We were not afraid of war because we thought we would win. With the carelessness of inexperienced and ignorant men we did not know what forces Turkey had mustered on our frontiers. When the skirmishes had started the Turks proposed that we meet and confer. We did not do so and defied them.

I should point out that in Autumn of 1920 we were not a quantity negligible in the eyes of Turks. The terrible incidents of the past years were forgotten. Our people were well rested and our Army was well armed with British arms. We had sufficient ammunition. We were holding a very important fortress called Kars in our hands. Finally there was the Svres Treaty and it was not simply a piece of paper in those days, it was an important gain against the Turks. We could easily believe we could be heard, because Turks were considered the defeated party.

We did not make an attempt

We now see that if we had agreed on a settlement with the Turks directly (in spite of the Svres treaty) we might have gained a lot. But we could not see this at that point it is also a reality and an unforgivable reality that we did not do anything to avoid war but did just the opposite; we created excuses for it. What is unforgivable is that we had no idea about the military power of Turkey and neither did we know our own army

The war resulted in our indisputable defeat. And our Army was well fed and well armed and dressed but did not fight. The troops were constantly retreating and deserting their positions; they threw away their arms and dispersed to the villages.


In 1920 the Bolsheviks seized power in Armenia and Katchaznouni was arrested as a counter-revolutionary. He fled Soviet Armenia in 1921, but returned to live there until his death in 1938.