Genocide cable ordering the
massacre of Armenians
Document Reveals Origin
Of The 20th
First Mass Atrocity
HUNDRED years later, the genocide by
the Ottoman Empire of
Armenian Christians during the First World War is still a volatile
topic. The Turkish government, headed by President Recep Tayyip
Erdogan, is in vehement denial that any planned, intentional,
systematic killing occurred, part of the definition of genocide.
After all, the world was engaged in a brutal war where many Ottoman
It was a war with Turkey on the wrong side.
The European Parliament in 1987 called on Turkey to
deal with its unresolved genocide legacy issue. Twelve of the
European Union’s 28 members have recognized the Armenian killings of
1915 as genocide. Pope Francis in April 2015, on the centennial of
this historic event, referred to it as “the first genocide of the 20th
century.” That reference enraged the Turkish government, even though
22 countries have formally recognized it as such. In fact, on June
2, 2016, the German Bundestag (parliament) voted to declare the mass
killings a genocide and acknowledge its indirect involvement in the
While the White House in April 2015 urged Ankara to
openly acknowledge that 1.5 million ethnic Armenians were wiped out
at the hands of the disintegrating Ottoman Empire, President Barack
Hussein Obama deftly avoided naming it genocide—reneging on a pledge
he had made as a presidential candidate to do so. He called the
killings of Armenian Christians “the first mass atrocity of the 20th
The American president, in tandem with the Turkish
president, refuses to utter the G-word.
A year later, on his first visit to Armenia in June 2016, Pope
Francis again labeled genocide the World War 1-era massacre of some
1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks.
Turkey continues to deny that that there was a systematic
plan to execute its Christian Armenians.
I discovered proof of that genocide during my visit
to Iran eight years ago.
That’s when I became aware of the Turkish expulsion
and extermination of its 2,500-year-old Armenian Christian community
in the crumbling Ottoman Empire during the First World War.
It was in the Armenian Quarter, in the majestic
Iranian city of Isfahan, where I learned of this horrific event in
Turkey’s history which has become a toxic topic.
The Armenian Quarter originated in 1604 when the
Persian Shah Abbas I transplanted the entire Christian population of
Jolfa in Azerbaijan to a section of Isfahan that was renamed New
Jolfa. He hoped the skilled craftsmen, artists, industrialists and
merchants would boost the economy and enhance the society of his
capital city. He was right. At one time 42,000 Armenian Christians
lived in New Jolfa under Muslim rule; today the community numbers
The imposing Vank Cathedral predominates in the
district. It was built between 1648 and 1655
It was in the Vank Museum, next door, where I
discovered evidence of the systematic Armenian massacre during the
waning years of the Ottoman Empire. At the entrance stands a bust of
Bishop Khachatur Gesaratsi, founder of the first printing press in
Iran. Among the objects in the two-story museum are 700 illuminated
manuscripts, Gospels from the 9th century, and the first
book printed in the country.
I peered into a glass showcase of a prominent
display of a people’s tragedy. It was a shock. The official cable
that generated the mass murder of the Armenians unnerved me. Under
the cable was a helpful English translation.
I saw documents and maps pinpointing relevant sites
of the extermination campaign in the eastern Anatolia region of
Turkey. They showed where thousands of Armenian men, women and
children were deported to Syria to drop dead in the desert, and
others to perish in concentration camps set up for that purpose. A
total of 1.5 million Armenians perished and their homes, businesses
and property confiscated.
Raphael Lemkin, a lawyer of Polish Jewish descent
who campaigned at the League of Nations to ban such “barbarity” and
“vandalism” as perpetrated against the Armenian people, coined the
term “genocide” in 1943. That is what the Armenian people faced in
1915 under Ottoman decree.
Here was official proof of the Armenian genocide.
The Ottoman Minister of the Interior (Mehmet Talaat Pasha) sent this
cable on September 29, 1915, to the governor of Aleppo:
informed earlier than this, per order of Jamiat, the Government has
decided to exterminate the entire population of Armenians in Turkey.
Those opposing the orders will not be considered Government
servants. Children, women and the sick are not to be spared. The
modes of extermination are not to be differentiated. Without
listening to the voice of conscious [sic] remove them all and put an
end to their existence.
The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau Sr.,
was moved to inform the State Department of the Ottoman campaign of
race extermination—but was rebuffed. He resigned in despair.
(Reminds me of efforts of Holocaust eyewitnesses who risked their
lives to alert Washington at the time, to no avail.)
The world did not care.
The Armenian National Institute in Washington
identifies Talaat as “the principal architect of the Armenian
genocide.” Its website notes that Talaat initiated a policy of the
Young Turks to evict the Armenians from their homes in an attempt at
“the Turkification of the Ottoman Empire.”
The postwar Ottoman government in 1919 convicted Talaat (and others)
for their role in steering the empire into war. He was sentenced to
death in absentia. Armenian vigilantes hunted down this architect of
genocide and assassinated him in Berlin in 1921. At the assassin’s
trial that year General Liman van Sanders, who commanded the German
forces in Turkey during the war, offered
an official apology for the
“historic responsibility of Germany” for the massacres (according to
Thomas de Waal in
Foreign Affairs, June 8, 2016). In 1943 Nazi Germany returned
Talaat’s remains to Istanbul for burial with full honors.
Museum gift shop
The First World War had its genocide of Turkey’s
Armenian Christians. That proved to be the precursor of the Second
World War’s German genocide of Europe’s Jews. If the world took
notice and prevented the first genocide of Armenian Christians, it
could have thwarted Hitler’s launch of the Holocaust. Due to the
world’s indifference, the 20th century is notable for its
genocidal bloodbaths (including Darfur, Rwanda, etc.).
What does the 21st century portend? A
third genocide? A nuclear armed Iran making good on its threat to
wipe the Jews of Israel off the face of the map?
In the Vank courtyard I stood before a pillar that
cautioned never to forget the Armenian catastrophe. It was erected
in 1975 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the
So far there has been neither a plea for forgiveness
nor an offer for reparations. And the American president, in tandem
with the Turkish president, refuses to utter the G-word.
An American Genocide
Mass Extermination Of
Indians In California
HE United States has yet to answer for the
state-sponsored killing machine that swept across California from
1846 to 1873 that reduced the Indian population in California from
150,000 to 30,000. The mass extermination of the tribes was
officially sanctioned by the state legislature with the backing of
the federal government.
All the gruesome details are documented in an
exhausting new book, An
American Genocide (Yale University Press, 692 pages, $38), by
Benjamin Madley, assistant professor of history at the University of
California, Los Angeles.
He writes that Congress readily funded these Indian
killing expeditions, turning them into a federal supported program.
Few whites were willing to stand up against the killing machine that
targeted California’s Indian people. In fact many names of those who
led killing militias were inscribed across the state; some were
Leland Stanford, a governor who funded an army
campaign to kill Indians and became a real estate mogul with the
theft of Indian land, later used some of his wealth (a donation of
$20 million) to found Stanford University. Is anybody agitating to
strip the governor’s bloodstained name off the university walls?
Is the U.S. prepared to acknowledge the genocide of
California’s Native Americans in this gory chapter of our history?
Will Washington apologize just as Presidents Ronald
Reagan and George H.W. Bush did in the 1980s for the internment of
Japanese Americans during the Second World War?
Should the government offer compensation to the
Indian heirs like Congress did to the Japanese Americans and their
heirs? Stay tuned.