By Dean J. Argiris*
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.” Granted when these words were spoken he was talking about the institution of segregation and racism that plagued America, yet this quote is applicable to the Anatolian Genocide 100 years ago.
The Anatolian Genocide is an all encompassing term that not only includes the Armenians but the other victims of the Ottoman Turks reign of terror; the Greeks, Assyrians and Kurds. The murder of 1.5 million Armenians is tragic enough but the term Armenian Genocide leads the world to believe it was only one group that suffered. That is not to say we should detract from the plight of the Armenian people, but there is more weight, in demonstrating the Turks indiscriminate killing of the ethnic and religious minorities of Anatolia.
There was much disappointment over President Obama’s failure to use the word genocide but the reality is that this was to be expected. The Turkish lobby runs deep in the United States. A 2009 ProPublic report showed that Turkish lobbying groups spent over $3 million, combined, and made 2,268 contacts with members of Congress in an effort to defeat a resolution that would call for recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Then there’s the geopolitics; the access to Bosporus, Turkey’s recent engagement in the fight against ISIS. These are all used, unfairly, as leverage by Turkey to mold the will of the United States.
In the end the result is the same, justice is denied and the second genocide is committed. There are always two genocides. The first is the physical act and the second is the denial. It diminishes those lives to nothing more than casualties of war. Yet the truth is the victims of the Anatolian Genocide were no more casualties of war than the victims of ISIS. Those who understand the history look at ISIS and see a carbon copy of the events that took place a century ago.This makes it harder for Turkey to make the “casualty of war” argument and strengthen the genocide argument.
There is no denying that this was genocide. The events were chronicled in detail by U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr., who witnessed them. His desk was flooded with cables from Americans living throughout Turkey. He noted how Germany, who has now officially recognized the genocide, walked the Ottomans through how to carry out the genocide. They laid out how to use the trains to move Turkey’s victims from the cities to death camps. Ironically and sadly, this was the blueprint for the Jewish holocaust drawn up by Berlin and Ankara in 1915. Were it not for his book, the attempt to eliminate Turkey’s ancient populations would have more than likely died with Morgenthau in 1946.
We say Never Again when it comes to the Holocaust. It serves as a reminder that if we turn our backs on genocide whenever and wherever it occurs, we increase the likelihood that it’ll happen again. Recognizing the Anatolian Genocide helps us insure that never again, really means never again.
*Dean Argiris is a former political consultant and current Aldermanic staffer with the Chicago City Council. He is a member of the Hellenic American Leadership Council and has been featured as an Op/Ed columnist in several online blogs and media outlets, including previously in the GreekStar.