- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2001

Controversy continues over Armenian 'genocide'

Aylin Direskeneli's Feb. 8 letter, "Armenian 'genocide' legislation is politically motivated," in response to your excellent Feb. 5 editorial, "Genocidal politics," exposed the disdain for learning through dialogue that guides those who deny the Armenian genocide. To counter your editorial position in favor of U.S. recognition of this genocide, she re-submitted a piece of "exculpatory evidence" that was already debunked on the same letters page only four months earlier.

Ms. Direskeneli pointed out that in an "Oct. 13 Commentary column, 'Genocide gyrations,' Bruce Fein pointed out the exculpatory evidence of Rear Adm. Mark L. Bristol," the U.S. high commissioner in Turkey after World War I: "'I see that reports are being freely circulated in the United States that the Turks massacred thousands of Armenians in the Caucasus. Such reports are repeated so many times that it makes my blood boil. The Near East Relief have the reports from Yarrow and our own American people which show absolutely that such Armenian reports are absolutely false.'"

Ms. Direskeneli should know that in an Oct. 18 letter, I had already documented the futility of using Adm. Bristol to counter the unimpeachable testimony of America's wartime ambassador in Istanbul, Henry Morgenthau. So for Ms. Direskeneli's benefit, I will say it again: Adm. Bristol's letter written in 1921 does not disprove that Armenians suffered a genocide, because it refers to the Caucasus in 1920, not to the time and place the great extermination occurred. The central scene of the crime was in the Ottoman Empire; the crucial years were between 1915 and 1918. Manipulating Adm. Bristol to deny the destruction of the Armenians twists the truth, because Adm. Bristol himself believed Ottoman officials ordered large-scale massacres.

Writing to the State Department in 1924, Adm. Bristol referred to "the most barbarous acts of the regime in power at the time of the Armenian massacres," to "the cruelties practiced upon the Armenians by Turks acting under official orders, and in pursuance of a deliberate official policy," for which "there can be no adequate excuse."

Adm. Bristol also wrote a lot of false and misleading letters because he motivated by economic interests was trying to "wipe the spot," as he put it, that stained Turkey. And now, Ms. Direskeneli is repeating Mr. Fein's failed effort to use one of those letters as a rag to polish Turkey's image. Their tactic is a shameful disservice to courageous Turks of decency who are struggling to elevate Turkey by acknowledging the facts of history.

It will be more difficult for Armenians and Turks to reach a mutually beneficial end to this conflict if we refuse to respect the written word and the probative value of the arguments advanced by both sides.

So if Ms. Direskeneli did not get it the first time, I suggest that she sit back with a cup of good Turkish coffee, relax, and read carefully, in order to learn the difference between falsification and fact: "In fact," Adm. Bristol admonished a Turkish reporter in 1919, "the massacres of the Armenians have made a spot which is difficult to eradicate. You ought not to have done such things, yes, you ought not to have done it."


Professor of History

Glendale Community College


Your Feb. 5 editorial ("Genocidal politics") assumes a lofty moral posture in convicting the Ottoman Empire of an Armenian genocide during World War I, yet it renders its stigmatizing verdict without the trappings of due process of law, an egregious moral dereliction recognized since the Spanish Inquisition. Equally misconceived is the editorial's exhortation of the United States government to adopt its brand of kangaroo court justice, and it laurels France and other nations for having done so already.

The editorial assembles one sentence to prove Ottoman genocide, including an unmistakable reference to the unreliable diaries of former Ambassador Henry Morgenthau. But does such bantamweight evidence against a wartime enemy which has escaped cross-examination and evaluation by an impartial fact-finder justify a genocide conviction, especially since U.S. Sen. Hiram Johnson warned that truth is the first casualty of war? A succeeding U.S. Ambassador, Rear Adm. Mark L. Bristol, discredited Armenian reports that Turks massacred Armenians in the Caucasus as "absolutely false" in a March 28, 1921 letter to Dr. James L. Barton of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. The highest British legal authorities ruled against prosecuting more than 100 Ottoman officials detained on Malta after the war on charges of Armenian massacres for want of reliable proof, not concerns of Realpolitik. No Ottoman official was ever prosecuted or convicted of anything close to an Armenian genocide by an impartial court following customary due process (while more than 1,000 Ottoman soldiers were prosecuted and punished during the war for killing and abusing Armenians), and Armenians have stooped to fabricating incriminating telegrams and similar bogus evidence in seeking to prove their case. Armenians have never sought a genocide ruling from the World Court.

The French Parliament's action, while celebrated by the editorial, exemplifies selective morality at its worst. While French politicians recently danced with moral grandeur in finding the Ottoman Empire guilty of genocide, they concurrently denounced any inquiry into French genocide in Algeria during its 1954-62 war of independence. During this brutal war, the French killed more than 200,000 Muslims and committed acts of routine torture and summary executions, as French officers who served in Algeria have openly admitted. One confessed to executing 20 Algerians personally. French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, however, have sermonized about the charge of an Algerian genocide by borrowing the Turkish government's sentiments regarding their Armenian counterpart: "In these sorts of events, the best thing is to stand back and let history do its work."

Non-frivolous evidence supports a charge of a United States genocide against American Indians, or at least some tribes. The gruesome 1864 Sand Creek massacre of helpless Indian women and children and Gen. Phil Sheridan's supposed statement "The only good Indians I ever saw were dead" are illustrative. But I would wager The Washington Times would react with moral indignation if the Turkish Parliament passed an American Indian genocide resolution and urged the United States to pay reparations for its crime against humanity.



Bruce Fein is Adjunct Scholar and Attorney for the Assembly of Turkish American Associations headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Faith-based programs more effective, less costly than federal programs

In his Feb. 12 Op-Ed "Oh, what a tangled web …", columnist Nat Hentoff argues that President Bush's new White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives will have the "unintended result of so entangling church and state as to regulate the free exercise of religion." The problem with Mr. Hentoff's argument is that under the status quo, millions of taxpayer dollars are being poured into government-run charities, and yet we have seen no results.

Take drug rehabilitation. Back when George Bush senior was president, he sponsored his "thousand points of light" program, which offered secular drug treatment. While the program cost $400 a day, it saw few success stories of people being able to kick their habits. The faith-based Teen Challenge program, on the other hand, cost $35 a day and had more than 60 percent of its participants drug-free by the end of the treatment.

I fail to understand why Mr. Hentoff thinks it is a greater danger to society that a man might turn to God and pray after receiving social services, change his life for the better, become responsible, start supporting himself, and leave his life of crime, than if he remains addicted, steals to support his habit, abuses his family, etc.

Let me pose the question this way: If you were walking down a dark alley one night and saw a group of men coming toward you, would it ease your anxiety to know that they had just come from a Bible study at a faith-based ministry? It would ease mine.

Christian faith-based ministries are about changed lives. And they benefit everyone.


Racine, Wis.

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