Letter: Teaching of Genocide is Spotty - 2002
Teaching of Genocide is Spotty
Commentary by C.K. Garabed
Published in the Armenian Weekly
July 6, 2002
[Ed. Note: The following article was published in the May 22, 2002 issue of the Teaneck Suburbanite, in response to a May 8 article by Ed Flynn, titled “Is there ever a time to forgive and forget?” Flynn’s article was a response to a letter from Steve Nigohosian of Ridgewood, whi is the grandson of Armenian Genocide survivors. Flynn argued that remembering the Genocide should not become official U.S. policy, as the possibilities to remember other atrocities are endless. Instead, he suggested a Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation to honor all of the martyrs of past massacres, and not to forget, but to “remember and forgive.”]
Regarding your opinion article, “Is there ever a time to forgive and forget?” in the Teaneck Suburbanite, one could write a veritable treatise in response. However, I will try to address the matter as briefly as possible with three points.
My first point has to do with that part of your article wherein you quote Steve Nigohosian: “The Armenian Genocide, unlike the Holocaust which followed it, is not consistently taught in school curriculums in America…” Based upon your subsequent conclusions, and to extend the logic of your argument, the Holocaust would also cease to be taught. Is this your thesis?
Secondly, you write, “Maybe what we need is an annual worldwide ‘Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation’ on which we can honor all of the martyrs of past massacres, shake hands with old enemies, and pledge to do better.” Before we propose anything worldwide, why don’t we get our own house in order? The Holocaust Museum in Washington memorializes events that took place outside America, perpetrated by non-Americans against non-Americans.
Meanwhile, the museum fails to adequately honor the memory of the people who should head the list of victims of genocide and massacre, and that is our own Native Americans. They were Americans who were slaughtered right here in America. The pecking order can then include Africans, Jews, Irish, Armenians, etc. And what’s wrong with opening up such a taxpayer-supported museum to all victimized peoples?
The latter part of your statement concerns your desire for old enemies to shake hands and pledge to do better. Here I must make a special pleading for the Armenians. Are you aware that the government of Turkey has established Chairs of Turkish Studies in major U.S. universities, where the occupants of these chairs are teaching courses and writing books that describe what befell the Armenians not as genocide, but as “the unfortunate effects of war?” Are you aware that this same line is repeated by the present government in Turkey? And that America doesn’t want, for political reasons, to offend Turkey, so the Turkish denial is permitted to stand?
Here then we have a vast crime that not only continues to go unpunished, but isn’t even acknowledged. So where is America’s gratitude to the Armenian warriors who turned the tide of battle to win World War I for the Allies? Sounds far-fetched, doesn’t it? Only to those who don’t know the complete history of that conflict. Permit me to fill you in.
With the outbreak of war in 1914, the Armenian people, who had made their homeland in Asia Minor for over 3,000 years, were divided between Russia and Turkey. Half the Armenians were ruled by the Russian Empire and half by the Ottoman Empire. Because Russia and Turkey were antagonists in that conflict, the Armenians would have fought against each other. But this did not happen because, although the Russians made good use of their Armenian subjects to augment their own armed forces, the Turks cut off their noses to spite their faces by separating the Armenian soldiers from the Turkish ones in order to liquidate them. Thus, there remained only the Russian Armenians to oppose Turks in combat.
The associated powers of England, France and the United States referred to Armenia as their “Little Ally.” And the magnitude of the achievements of the Armenian warriors has never been adequately recognized by the civilized world, despite strong evidence of such accomplishments that assured the allied victory over the central powers.
During one of the most critical phases of the war, the Turks with their German partners mounted a drive to secure the oil fields of Baku. They failed to do so in time, not because of the opposition of the British troops, who eventually retreated, but because of the Armenian legions that stood fast. The strategic importance of their resistance was ably attested to by no less a personage than General Ludendorff, Chief of Staff of the German Army, who stated that the delay in reaching the oil fields of Baku contributed directly to the collapse of the German Army in Western Europe for lack of fuel.
Finally, after three decisive engagements of the Armenians with the Turks at the battles of Bash-Abaran, Karakilise, and Sardarabad, the victorious Armenians, who were outnumbered two to one, proclaimed the First Free and Independent Armenian Republic. Unfortunately, this model republic lasted only two years. That was because of the conspiracy between the armies of the Russian Bolsheviks and the Turkish forces, led by Mustapha Kemal Ataturk, to take advantage of the refusal of the US Senate to ratify President Wilson’s plan for a U.S. mandate for Armenia.
Faced with certain annihilation by the murderous Turkish hordes, the Armenians accepted the lesser of the two evils by agreeing to the Sovietization of a greatly reduced territory of Armenia. That situation lasted for 70 years, when a crumbling Soviet Union enabled the Armenians to regain their national sovereignty by proclaiming the Second Free and Independent Republic of Armenia.
It may be that you are not aware of these facts. If so, how could you be? You were never taught them! See what I mean?