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Genocide Prevention

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Poster by Rouben Malayan calling upon the recognition of the Armenian genocide of 1915,, 2003

AGHET: Ein Volkermord (English)

AGHET, produced by NDR (German public television), is an award-winning documentary made by German filmmaker Eric Friedler compellingly proves the truth of the genocide of the Armenian people. Using the actual words of 23 German, American and other nationals who witnessed the events, and armed with archival materials. AGHET incorporates never-before-seen footage and documents – making it one of the best researched and presented documentaries on the Armenian Genocide. More than just a historic retelling of the Genocide, the film also delves into the ongoing campaign of denial that the Turkish government has mounted since these events occurred in World War I.

About the Armenian Genocide

From 1915 to 1917 the Young Turk regime in the Ottoman Empire carried out a systematic, premediated, centrally-planned genocide against the Armenian people. One of the documents authenticated by the Turkish authorities in 1919 is a telegram sent in June 1915 by Dr. Sakir, one of the leaders of the secret organization that carried out the planning and implementation of the genocide. He asks the provincial party official who is responsible for carrying out the deportations and massacres of Armenians within his district: “Are the Armenians, who are being dispatched from there, being liquidated? Are those harmful persons whom you inform us you are exiling and banishing, being exterminated, or are they being merely dispatched and exiled? Answer explicitly…”[3]

The evidence of intent is backed also by the outcome of the actions against the Armenians: it is inconceivable that over 1,000,000 persons could have died due to even a badly flawed effort at resettlement. Moreover, the pattern of destruction was repeated over and over in different parts of Turkey, many of them far from any war zone; such repetition could only have come from a central design. Further, the reward structure was geared toward destruction of the Christian minority: provincial governors and officials who refused to carry out orders to annihilate the Armenians were summarily replaced.[4]

Armenian men were drafted into the army, set to work as pack animals, and subsequently killed. Leaders were arrested and executed. Then the deportations of women, children, and the elderly into the deserts of Syria and Iraq began. The American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau, immediately recognized that the forced marches into the desert, and the atrocities that accompanied them, were a new form of massacre “When the Turkish autorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were simply giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact.”[5]

The ambassadors of Germany and Austria, representatives of governments allied with Turkey, also quickly realized what was taking place. As early as July 1915, the German ambassador reported to Berlin. “Turks began deportations from areas now not threatened by invasion. This fact and the manner in which the relocation is being carried out demonstrate that the government is really pursuing the aim of destroying the Armenian race in Turkey.” And by January 1917 his successor reported: “The policy of extermination has been largely achieved; the current leaders of Turkey fully subscribe to this policy.”[6]

More than 1,000,000 Armenians perished as the result of execution, starvation, disease, the harsh environment, and physical abuse. A people who lived in eastern Turkey for nearly 3,000 years lost its homeland and was profoundly decimated in the first large scale genocide of the twentieth century. At the beginning of 1915 there were some 2,000,000 Armenians within Turkey; today there are fewer than 60,000.

Despite the vast amount of evidence that points to the historical reality of the Armenian genocide–eyewitness accounts, official archives, photographic evidence, the reports of diplomats, and the testimony of the survivors[7]–denial of the Armenian genocide by successive regimes in Turkey has gone on from 1915 to the present.[8]

The basic argument of denial has remained the same–it never happened, Turkey is not responsible, the term “genocide” does not apply. The tactics of denial, however, have shifted over the years.[9] In the period immediately after World War I the tactic was to find scapegoats to blame for what was said to be only a security measure that had gone awry due to unscrupulous officials, Kurds, and common criminals. This was followed by an attempt to avoid the whole issue, with silence, diplomatic efforts, and political pressure used where possible.

Before Victims Become Victims: Preventing Genocide and Mass Murder
January 15, 2008
W. Michael Reisman – Myres S. McDougal Professor of International Law, Yale Law School
Klatsky Seminar in Human Rights

One of the world’s leading experts in international law, Professor Reisman will criticize the ex-post punishment approach that has been taken toward genocide and mass killing, instead of an ex ante effective policy of prevention. Examining contemporary case studies, including Darfur and Burma, he will discuss how international law and international institutions can be used to identify situations ripe for genocide and to intervene at an early stage before they devolve into mass atrocities.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to start with a very gruesome and terrifying note. That is the prospect of anyone of us being murdered. The taking of life is the ultimate and irrevocable violation of human dignity. And I think that for each of us it is the ultimate terror. Because each of us fears being murdered we all look to various communities for the protection of our individual lives. It was one of the reasons we have to have systems of law if that even the strongest and most powerful person sometimes has to sleep. I think that it is fair to say that the reson decra of the modern state and a mature purpose of the International law which stands behind them is the provision of security. Which means the protection of individuals and which means in each of our individual cases preventing individual murder. Yet, for all the urgency that each of us gives to this ultimate and most individualized form of personal security and for all the intensity of demand we make on our governments to guarantee it, there is little than any government even the most authoritarian and comforting can actually do to prevent single acts of murders’ violence. Democratic governments face even greater obstacles in fulfilling this guarantee because for important policy reasons they must resist pro-active preventions so they must look to other methods. One of the methods is long term socialization– trying to train people not to express the violence we are all capable of against group members in socially unimproved methods. But the recurrence of individual murder by group members against group members indicates that this particular strategy is far from perfect. Whether a murder is the result of a momentary impulse or of a covered premeditation, it is accomplished in a single instantaneous and irrevocable act. And by its very nature every individual murder can not have been prevented.
So, all than any governments dealing with security can do is to provide us with second best remedies. One of this remedies is apprehending the perpetrator after the fact, after the murder. And punishing him in a labored legal procedures and ceremonies. This may provide some satisfaction, some sense of vengeance, to those who love the victim. And it might provide some modern essentially irrational reassurance to the rest of us that by punishing that particular murderer, each of us is somehow other than it safer from suffering the same sort of crime. Those of you who study criminal law know that the debate rages over the determined value of punishment but even assuming that exposed punishments do in some statistical sense deter the future commission of many of the same sorts of crimes. That form of deterrence suffered from the problem with the individualization of all statistical projections. There can be no assurance that the punishments no matter how notorious they may be and how high the statistical probability will deter their commission in our case. In some traditional cultures a murder can be experienced by paying a blood money and we have a victim of crimes act which has some similar sort of updated type of sanction. But rational victim, prospective victim will think of compensations as an attract of swap. We all want avoid being murdered. Yet in terms of community remedies both punishment for murder and compensations of survivors are not real solutions- they are second best solutions. About the best we can expect.
Ladies and gentlemen, my subject today is mass murder and mass murder may seem to be a merely an accumulation of many individual murders but in terms of the preferred solution of prevention the solution which the submitted are unattainable for individual murders, mass murders are quiet different because many of the individual murders that comprise the individual murder are preventable. Unless the mass murder is accomplished with a single devastating weapon of mass destruction- a nuclear weapon, chemical weapons, the business of killing large group of people takes time, communications and organization. It requires assembling the victims, transporting them to the killing grounds, assembling and maintaining the killers and their tools and providing for the upkeep and arranging logistics, buying ammunition and transporting it to a selected destination, disposing of a bodies, all the greedy details that going to set about a murder of great number of people. But because mass murders are an organized social activity with a temporal extension that increases in proportions to the numbers of victims, others can quickly verify that the individual murders which had been perpetrated until that moment are only the beginnings of a series of a series which is going to be repeated and repeated, and repeated until the targeted group is annihilated to its last man and suckling babe.
This means that unlike individual murders, the vast majority which can only be punished after the fact, many of the individual murders that comprise a mass murder can be prevented. Prevention can be accomplished by arresting the mass murder process as soon as it becomes apparent that the mass murder is eminent or under way. Thereby restraining the number of victims from expanding to whatever totality the perpetrators are seeking. In short, if long term socialization, punishment and compensation are all a community can do when confronted with individual murders those manifestly second best remedies are not the only think that can be done for mass murder. Even if the mass murders are the beginning of the series can not be prevented, and may just as instantaneous and irrevocable as any other individual murder, the remaining deaths together comprise the mass murder can be prevented.
I have no objection whatsoever to prosecution and conviction of killers be they individual or mass killers, but if life is the most precious of things, then I ask you, should not acting before the fact to prevent as oppose to acting after to the fact to punish the international law’s primary technique for dealing with mass murder.
Genocide is one form of mass murder that is being considered especially hideous. Yet, from the time it was prohibited as a legitimate strategy and raised to the level of international crime, the global community preferred to invest efforts in punishment rather than prevention.

Notes and materials:

1. Sevane Garibian, Taking denial seriously: Genocide denial and freedom of speech in the French law

2. Israel W. Charny, The Psychological Satisfaction of Denials of the Holocaust or Other Genocides by Non-Extremists or Bigots, and Even by Known Scholars ; Israel W. Charny, Innocent denials of known genocides: A further contribution to a psychology of denial of genocide

3. Vahakn N. Dadrian, “A Textual Analysis of the Key Indictment of the Turkish Military Tribunal Investigating the Armenian Genocide”, Armenian Review, 44:1 (Spring 1991), pp. 26-27.

4. Vahakn N. Dadrian, “The Documentation of the World War I Armenian Massacres in the Proceedings of the Turkish Military Tribunal”, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 23:4 (November 1991), p. 560.

5. Henry Morgenthau, Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page; 1918), p. 309

6. Dadrian, “The Documentation,” p. 568

7. Here we can cite only a few of the many works that document the Armenian genocide. Among the contemporary accounts, see: Leslie Davis, The Slaughterhouse Province An American Diplomat’s Report on the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1917 (New Rochelle, NY Aristide D Caratzas, Publisher, 1989); Henry Morgenthau, Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story (Garden City, NY Doubleday, Page; 1918); and Arnold J. Toynbee, ed., The Treatment of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire: Documents Presented to Viscount Grey of Fallodon, Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1916). The Armenian Genocide in the U.S. Archives, 1915-1918 (Alexandria, VA: Chadwyck-Healey Inc., 1990) provides 37,000 pages of documentation in microfiche. For recent studies, see 3 articles by Vahakn N. Dadrian, “The Secret Young-Turk Ittihadist Conference and the Decision for the World War I Genocide of the Armenians,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 72 (Fall 1993), pp. 173-201; “The Documentation of the World War I Armenian Massacres in the Proceedings of the Turkish Military Tribunal,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, 23:4 (November 1991), pp. 549-576; and “Documentation of the Armenian Genocide in Turkish Sources,” in Israel W. Charny, ed., Genocide A Critical Bibiographic Review (London, Mansell Publishing, New York, Facts on File, 1991), Vol. 2, Ch. 4; Tessa Hofmann and Gerayer Koutcharian, “Images that Horrify and Indict’. Pictorial Documents on the Persecution and Extermination of the Armenians from 1877 to 1922, ” Armenian Review, 45:1-2 (Spring/Summer 1992), pp. 53-184, Robert Melson, Revolution and Genocide: On the Origins of the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992); and Donald E. Miller and Lorna Touryan Miller, Survivors: An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993). For an extensive bibliography on the Armenian genocide, see Richard G. Hovannisian, The Armenian Holocaust: A Bibliography Related to the Deportations, Massacres, and Dispersion of the Armenian People, 1915-1923 (Cambridge, MA Armenian Heritage Press, 1980). On the availability of the survivor testimony in the form of oral history, see Miller and Miller, pp. 212-213. Most of the oral histories are in Armenian and have not been translated, on the other hand, many survivor memoirs exist in English: among the more detailed are Abraham H. Harutunian, Neither to Laugh noe to Weep: A Memoir of the Armenian Genocide (Boston: Beacon Press, 1968) and Ephraim K. Jernazian, Judgement Unto Truth: Witnessing the Armenian Genocide (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1990).

8. There is a substantial literature on denial of the Armenian genocide. See, Rouben Adalian, “The Armenian Genocide: Revisionism and Denial,” in Michael N. Dobkowski and Isidor Wallimann, eds., Genocide in Our Time. An Annotated Bibliography with Analytical Introductions (Ann Arbor, MI: Pierian Press, 1992), Ch. 5, Marjore Housepian Dobkin, “What Genocide? What Holocaust? News from Turkey, 1915-1923: A Case Study,” in Hovannisian, ed., The Armenian Genocide in Perspective, Ch. 5; Richard G. Hovannisian, “The Armenian Genocide and Patterns of Denial,” in Hovannisian, ed., The Armenian Genocide in Perspective, Ch. 6; Clive Foss, “The Turkish View of Armenian History: A Vanishing Nation,” in Richard G. Hovannisian, ed., The Armenian Genocide: History, Politics, Ethics (New York St. Martin’s Press, 1992), Ch. 11; Vahakn N. Dadrian, “Ottoman Archives and Denial of the Armenian Genocide,” in Hovannisian, ed., The Armenian Genocide, Ch. 12; Vigen Guroian, “The Politics and Morality of Genocide,” in Hovannisian, ed., The Armenian Genocide, Ch. 13; and the following articles by Roger W. Smith, “Genocide and Denial: The Armenian Case and Its Implications,” Armenian Review, 42:1 (Spring 1989), pp. 1-38; “Denial of the Armenian Genocide,” in Charny, ed., Genocide, Vol. 2, Ch. 3, and “The Armenian Genocide: Memory, Politics, and the Future,” in Hovannisian, ed., Armenian Genocide, Ch.1. See also the wide-ranging discussion by Israel W. Charny, “The Psychology of Denial of Known Genocides,” in Charny, ed., Genocide, Vol.2, Ch. 1

9. See, for example, Hovanissian, “The Armenian Genocide and Patterns of Denial”, in Hovanissian, ed., The Armenian Genocide in Perspective, pp. 115-131; and Roger W. Smith, “Genocide and Denial,” pp.15-20

Read skanned articles from New Yourk times about the Armenian massacres:

New York Times, Armenian Acquitted for Killing Talaat. Defense Introduces Accounts of Grand Vizier’s Brutality in Conducting Massacres

New York Times, Treaty of Sevres Sacred

New York Times, The Armenians. Turkish Government Has Part in Massacres in Adana

New York Times, The Armenian Massacres. Compared with the Shocking Bulgarian Atrocities of 1876. Treaty of Berlin and Its Result. Broken Promises-A Long Array of Outrages-Armenian Unrest-The Sultan’s Kurdish Cavalry


Written by garabedyan

January 30, 2012 at 20:20

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