The Cost of Denial

Linked with The International Association of Genocide Scholars IAGS.

Published on International Association of Genocide Scholars, by Dr. Gregory Stanton, 23 April 2008.

… Again the United States surrendered to the ninety year campaign of denial by the government of Turkey.  The State Department and the White House have continued the cowardly policies of every Secretary of State since Lansing, who have considered it more important to placate the Turkish government than to be truthful about history.

The tactics of genocide denial are predictable, and the Turkish government has used them all.  Question and minimize the statistics.  Attack the motivations of the truth-tellers.  Blame “out of control” forces for committing the killings.  Claim that the massacres don’t fit the legal definition of genocide, even though over a million Armenians were killed!

Today, the Turkish government has three favorites: 

Blame the victims.  Claim that the killings were in self-defense against people who were disloyal to the Ottoman Empire during World War I.  In fact, very few Armenians joined the Ottoman Empire’s enemies, and certainly none of the women and children could have.  But they were murdered nevertheless.

Claim that Muslim Turks also suffered many deaths.  The problem with this argument is that the deaths were in battles with European troops, not at the hands of the Armenians, who were deported like sheep into the desert.

Finally, claim that the deaths were inadvertent, due to lack of food and water, not due to intentional destruction.  The falsehood of this claim is amply proven by the thousands of pages of eye-witness reports from Armenian survivors (three of whom are with us in this room), American consular officers, missionaries, and even by the archives of the Ottoman Empire’s allies, Germany and Austria-Hungary, as well as by the records of the Ottoman Courts-Martial of 1918-1920.  This was intentional mass murder by starvation. It wasn’t an unfortunate by-product of a “deportation.” 

So why can’t a resolution telling the truth about the Armenian genocide pass Congress? …

… Denial harms the rights of every human being:

By passing the resolution, the U.S. Congress would pay tribute to America’s first international human rights movement. The Foreign Service Officers and prominent individuals such as Theodore Roosevelt, Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, and Cleveland Dodge, who did so much to help the Armenians, exemplify America’s legacy of moral leadership.

Ambassador Morgenthau’s career with the State Department was over.   But he inspired his son, Henry Morgenthau, Junior, who became FDR’s Secretary of the Treasury and was a tireless advocate for rescuing Jews during the Holocaust and helped found the War Refugees Board that saved thousands of lives.  The spirit of the Morgenthau’s lives on.

Let us today commemorate those who died in the Armenian Genocide, but also Ambassador Henry Morgenthau and others who had the courage to tell the truth about it.

Let us remember Ambassador Morgenthau’s words when he met with Talaat Pasha, who asked him:

“Why are you so interested in the Armenians anyway?  You are a Jew, these people are Christians.”

Morgenthau replied:

“You don’t seem to realize that I am not here as a Jew but as the American Ambassador….I do not appeal to you in the name of any race or religion, but merely as a human being. (full long text).

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