After years of procrastinating, the House of Representatives has finally stood up to Turkey and overwhelmingly supported (405-11) a resolution declaring that the killing of Armenian Christians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923 was an act of genocide.
Predictably, the Turkish government dismissed the resolution “as a meaningless political step” because “its sole addresses are the Armenian lobby and anti-Turkey groups.”
For over a hundred years, the Turks have been covering up and denying their crimes against humanity. To set the record straight, here’s a summary of the historic facts:
During World War I, the Turks joined forces with Germany and Austria against the British, French, and Russians. When declaring war, the Sultan proclaimed a jihad against what he labeled the infidel Allies.
After being beaten by the Czar’s forces — which included an Armenian division — at the battle of Sarikamish in 1914, the Turkish generals blamed their setbacks on Armenian traitors. In response, the Turkish government approved laws to confiscate the property of Armenian Christians, and one month later the Parliament approved the Tehcir legislation that authorized the forced removal of Armenians from their homelands.
These laws, historian G.J. Meyer points out, gave the Turks:
"….all the justification they needed for actions that in peacetime probably would have been unimaginable. They began in comparatively innocuous fashion, disarming their Armenian soldiers and assigning them to labor battalions. Then they proceeded to work, and starve, those battalions to death. Next, having eliminated the part of the population most capable of defending itself, they sent an army onto the plateau that had long been home to most of Turkey’s Armenians. In town after town and city and city, all males over the age of twelve were gathered up and shot or hacked to death en masse. Women were raped and mutilated, and those who were not killed were sold into slavery. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were marched off to the deserts of Syria and Mesopotamia. Many died of exposure, starvation, or exhaustion along the way, and others were murdered by their Kurdish escorts."
Henry Morgenthau, U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during World War I, wrote that the Turkish government knew that of the 1.2 million Armenians driven into the Syrian Desert “the great majority would never reach their destination and that those who did would either die of thirst and starvation, or be murdered by the wild Mohammedan desert tribes. . . . When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race.”
The distinguished British statesman and historian Lord James Bryce, who condemned the genocide in the House of Lords in 1915, argued that the Turks hatched a “plan for exterminating Christianity root and branch.”
Leslie Davis, U.S. wartime consul to Haput, who personally witnessed Armenian Christians being driven from their homes and the destruction of their communities, wrote: “Everywhere it was a scene of desolation and destruction, the houses were crumbling to pieces and even the Christian churches, which had been erected at great expense and with much sacrifice, had been pulled down. . . . The Mohammedans in their fanaticism seemed determined not only to exterminate the Christian population but to remove all traces of their religion and even to destroy the products of civilization.”
The murderous rampage expanded to northern Syria. Untold thousands of Chaldeans and Assyrian Christians were murdered. By the end of the war two-thirds of them were dead.
The slaughter did not stop, however, when the Armistice was signed in 1918. “The final convulsion,” historian G. J. Meyer has written, “would not come until 1922, when a new Turkish government took possession of Smyrna [on the Aegean coast of Anatolia], set the city afire, and systematically slaughtered its tens of thousands of Armenian and Greek inhabitants.”
It is estimated that between 1914 and 1923, when a new state in Turkey was established, 1.5 million Armenian Christians, out of a total population of 2.5 million, were murdered by Turkish Muslims. Sadly, no government or military officials were ever brought to justice for these crimes.
Condemnation has been long overdue for slaughtering over 60 percent of Armenian Christians.
And the additional legislation approved by the House calling on the president to impose economic sanctions on Turkey was another bold but justified move.
Now it's up to the Senate. One can only hope that Leader McConnell will quickly bring the resolutions to the Senate floor for a vote.
Justice demands nothing less.
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." He is chairman of Aid to the Church in Need-USA. Mr. Marlin also writes for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. To read more George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.
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