In recent years it has become routine to praise Turkey’s participation and assistance in Anzac ceremonies at Gallipoli Cove, to write glowing editorials about these erstwhile enemies having formed a “friendship under arms,” and (just occasionally) to wonder at Turkey’s apparently genuine eagerness to help raise the Anzac legend into some prominence.
One reason today's Turkey participates so willingly in all the modern myth-making around the invasion of their country is this: because 'tis better for their modern nation to be thought to have been born in bravery midst the furnace of arms at Anzac Cove than in their genocide of one million in Armenia that happened almost contemporaneously, and is today all but forgotten.
It should not be.
Modern Turkey was born just before the War, when the men who became known as the Young Turks ousted the fading lights of the failing Ottoman Empire, the “Sick Man of Europe,” leaving the Empire to splinter. (It is splintering still.)
When the Ottoman Empire splintered, explains Andrew Bernstein in a new article, “the loss of the European provinces, in effect, destroyed the multinational and multireligious character of the Ottoman Empire,” and encouraged in Turkey (as it did in the equally splintering Austro-Hungarian Empire) a rising Nationalism.
By the early decades of the 20th century, leading Turkish intellectuals and politicians condemned the old multicultural, multireligious empire, regarding it as a severe handicap. They held that the country’s strength lay in its “Turkishness,” in a purity of race and culture—and that such strength had been diluted and vitiated by establishment of a polyglot empire composed of mongrel elements. For them, the great restrengthening of the Turks consisted in excising the discordant components. Now, the nationalists held, the country could become truly and fully Turkish.
That new Nationalism very quickly had two hooks on which it could hang its hats.
One was the heroic defence of the Homeland by the man who became Kemal Ataturk, the first modern leader of the new Turkey. The other was the decision of these new Nationalists to send Armenians into a mass grave – the Young Turks frankly admitting to their new German allies “that the ultimate objective of the actions against the Armenians is complete annihilation.”
Is it any wonder then that Turkey would rather commemorate the heroic defence by the man who became their modern nation’s first leader, than the mass genocide carried out by his colleagues?
NB: I can thoroughly recommend Andrew Bernstein’s new article on the genocide, which “examines the history and motive behind this underreported atrocity, finding its cause to be a combination of mysticism (i.e., Islam) and collectivism (i.e., racism).” He concludes:
To take the declaration “Never Again” seriously, we must remember the innocent victims of the Armenian genocide—and learn its grisly lesson. The Turks held a caveman’s view that human society is composed of warring ethnic groups or tribes, that moral value or disvalue is bestowed by ethnic membership, that individual members of a rival or disfavoured tribe hold no value regardless of their intellectual achievement or moral stature, and that such “ethnic inferiors” or “tribal enemies” may be mercilessly and ceaselessly massacred.
What human beings around the globe can do to honour both the innocent Armenian dead and other guiltless victims of such barbarism is to repudiate the collectivist premise inherent in all forms of racism and tribalism; to recognize that human beings are individuals, unique and unrepeatable—that ethnic membership is morally irrelevant; and to advocate the individual’s unqualified and inalienable right to his own life, regardless of the ethnic group, nation, or tribe into which he happens to be born. If—and only if—we recognise this fundamental human right can we ensure that such atrocities as the Armenian genocide are never repeated.
Lessons of the Armenian Genocide – Andrew Bernstein, OBJECTIVE STANDARD
[Pic by Wikimedia Commons]