09 05 2008 - A Birdís-Eye-View on the Phenomena of Genocide
|KHATCHATUR I. PILIKIAN
APRIL 24, 2008, GENOCIDE DAY CONFERENCE
Sponsored and Chaired by Andrew George M.P.
The Grand Committee Room of The House of Commons
In 1980, UNESCO celebrated the 1500th Birth Anniversary of the Armenian philosopher David Anhaghd, who taught that definitions are intrinsically linked with the process of understanding.
Why and When Genocide was defined hence coined, illustrates that link.
Raphael Lemkin, who first coined the word Genocide, tells us in his autobiography that he delved into studying history to understand what was happening in the world in 1915, when Germany invaded Warsaw, his residence at the time. It was there and then that he heard and read about the “bloody events in Armenia”. He wrote also that “truth reached us only after the war ... that in Turkey 1.200,000 Armenians were killed ... the nation was annihilated ... and those responsible for that crime were let free ...I was shocked.” Continuing his recollection Lemkin adds, “very soon contemporary variants of genocide emerged which were essentially similar to the 1915 massacres of the Armenians” To further focus his own definition of genocide, Lemkin had no doubt it was “what the Turks did to the Armenians, that the Germans did to the Jews.”
Distinguished linguist as he was, Lemkin was adamant why he had to find a new, more precise, politically pristine and religiously unbiased word denoting the ultimate inhuman act-- hence his trove: Genocide.
On December 9, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations approved of the UN Convention on Genocide. Neither the definition nor its five criteria mention the word Holocaust.
Etymologically, Holocaust means ‘whole-burnt’ and is intrinsically linked with the act of sacrifice--a sacrificial offering which is completely consumed by fire whereby cleansing from sins and ultimately purification is expected to be attained.
Does genocide ‘taketh away the sins’ of the murdered community whether massacred, gassed or burnt? Or does it perhaps cleanse the sins of the murderers for the bliss of purification? God forbid.
German Nazis, like their proto-models in Congo, Namibia, Ethiopia’s Italian Fascists and the ‘Young Turks’, committed the ultimate crime against humanity rightly expressed as Genocide.
Whenever and wherever it happened, and alas it still happens, genocide is always premeditated, conceptualised and its execution meticulously organised at the highest governmental levels.
Significantly, implementing genocide’s execution always demanded a world turbulence characterising each historical epoch.
During centuries of colonial expansions and endemic wars, genocide and slavery were the necessary masts of the pirating strategy for land and raw material conquest. All colonial powers were engaged in it.
At the dawn of 20th century, the genocide of at least 10 million Congolese, supervised by King Leopold of Belgium, became the first ‘collateral damage’ of the modern era, and that for the plunder of Congo’s rubber, the black gold of its time.
World opinion, still in its infancy, was no more than a feeble gesture. Between 1904-1909, Kaiser Wilhelm was indulging in Germany’s own colonial massacres in Namibia, today rightly defined as the genocide of the Nama and the Herero. The latter were named as the Hottentotte and defined as the “bastards of the human race” by The Kaiser’s proto-Nazi anthropologist Eugen Fischer whose racist theories were to find their direct references in Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
The epoch of Imperialism of the 20th century made a World War somehow the ‘prerequisite’ for any attempt of implementing the execution of genocide as a ‘final solution’. World opinion was starting to bite. The UN was founded and ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ had finally a name—Genocide, and an International Tribunal (Nuremberg) was set to condemn and punish its perpetrators.
But, even after World War Two, another epochal turbulence, the full-fledged Cold War epoch, ‘acted’ as a ‘shock absorbent’ for horrendous genocides in Cambodia, Indonesia, Timor, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. Towards the end of the 20th century and beginning the 21st, the Cold War finally melted away in the heat of the arrogance of the epoch of Globalisation, while Genocide persists to remain on the threshold of rampant conflicts in all corners of the world.
The new world turbulence is now labelled as the Long War, the latest neo-con synonym for War on Terror.
Lemkin had also deployed the term Cosmos to explain that the philosophy of Genocide Convention of 1948 was based on the “formula of the human cosmos”. Characteristically, he was very explicit, saying that: “The cosmos consists of four basic groups: national, racial, religious and ethnic”.
With the benefit of hindsight and all due respect and honour to all concerned, I firmly believe that Lemkin’s ‘formula’, hence Article II of the Genocide Convention, needs an urgent amendment. Meaning, that the ‘human cosmos’ should now be reflected to consist of five basic groups: national, racial, religious, ethnic and political. The simple and obvious reason is that most atrocious acts of violence, including genocide, have been planned and executed to eliminate ‘political groups’ in opposition to, but mostly not tolerated by, the ruling powers of the day.
General Franz Ritter von Eck who led Kaiser Wilhelm’s colonial army in Africa, later became a kind of ‘godfather’ of the Nazi party, heading the Freikorps of Münich. “It was under him [von Eck] that I first learned to speak”, confessed Hitler.
Having thus learned to ‘speak’ as a colonialist, the Nazi ruler boasted: “How fortunate it is for rulers that men don’t think for themselves”. He ordered his non-thinking men, on August 22, 1939, to annihilate the Poles, “men, women and children”, pinpointed he, while granting them as their Fuhrer his Nazi assurances, tinted with an ironic argument: “Who after all speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
Its obvious, I think, that Hitler was emulating Talaat Pasha, the Young Turk’s Interior Minister, who had telegraphed his order to the Governor of Aleppo, on September 15, 1915, saying:
“The Government has decided to exterminate entirely all the Armenians living in Turkey […] Without pity for women, children and invalids […] without heeding any scruples of conscience, their existence must be terminated.”
As a gesture of Nazi good will, Hitler restored Talaat’s ashes to Turkey in 1942. Kemal Ataturk’s Turkish Republic is now honouring the remains of Talaat, the ‘fallen hero’, on the Hill of Liberty in Istanbul. Perhaps it is hoped, ideally with NATO’s blessing, to enshrine, in the mausoleum, the remains of other ’Young Turk heroes’…After all, on his 50th birthday, in 1939, speaking to some Turkish generals, the Fuhrer had eulogised having in mind an ex-leader of the Young Turks: "Ataturk has two great students in this world--Mussolini and me."
The question is: how to specifically reflect on the Armenian experience of Genocide.
Deep in my heart I wish Armenians had no such experience to talk about. Indeed I feel perhaps I would even have been a happier human being if peoples all over the world also had no such terrorising experience. But most importantly, I truly believe that our precious and only world will be a much better place to live, and die for that matter, if that ultimate state terrorism is banished out of existence for all times to come. Wishful thinking? So be it.
A bird’s eye view on the chronological history of the genocide of the Armenians reveals the following:
a) PREMEDITATION & CONCEPTUALISATION
Kâmil Pasha (1838-1912) was to become Sultan Abdul Hamid’s Prime Minister four times over. A statement penned by Kâmil Pasha was cited in the prestigious Armenian periodical of the time Pordz (Trial, Attempt), in Tiflis=Tbilisi, in 1879. It graphically confirms a premeditated genocidal concept, even, mind you, before the emergence of the Armenian political parties, later accused by the Young Turks as the Casus Belli=war involvement, of their genocidal deed. The Ottoman Grand Vizier stated:
“Thus, we must eliminate, leave behind no traces of that Armenian nation. And to accomplish this task, we are lacking in nothing; we have all the means we need--Kurds, Cherkez, governors, judges, tax-collectors, police, in short everything. We can declare a religious war--waged against a nation that has no arms, no army, and no defender, whereas, in contrast, we have one of the greatest and richest states of the world as our comrade-in-arms and the guardian of our Asian world.”
b) PRELIMANARY IMPLEMENTATIONS
Kâmil Pasha’s conceptualised genocidal premeditation was put into an operational program during 1894-1896 at Sassun, Van, Zeitun and Diarbekir, resulting in the massacre of 300,000 Armenians, 3000 villages were burned and “tens of thousands were forced to flee their native land into all corners of the earth...”
Prof. Em. Dillon (1854-1933), the Irish linguist and journalist, visited Turkey in 1895. He asserted:
“It is already proven that the pillage and the massacres of Sassun is the deliberately organised act of the Sublime Porte, an act planned in advance meticulously and executed mercilessly . . .”
c) PREPARATORY/TACTICAL EXECUTIONS
Kâmil Pasha was still around, writing and publishing his “history” books when the massacres at Adana in Cilicia of April 1909 resulted in 30,000 Armenian deaths. The latter was indeed the ‘maiden performance’ of the Young Turks relishing in the prospects of their racist Panturanic vision. An eyewitness of the Adana massacres, Helen Davenport Gibbons wrote:
“This massacre was more terrible than those in the days of Abdul Hamid . . . Those Armenians who had succeeded in escaping the first carnage are now destroyed. Adana has become a veritable inferno.”
It was in Salonika that the conference of August 1910 of “Ittihad ve Terakke”, the party of the Young Turks, took the macabre decision to Turkify by brute force the diverse multi ethnic nations constituting the Ottoman Empire. On October 1911, the same party’s conference, again in Salonika, reconfirmed their ominous decision of racist cleansing of minds, and land cleansing by massacres.
On July 27, 1914, the government of the Young Turks started conscripting Armenians, before the First World War broke out, to deplete the Armenian nation of its able-bodied male population who were herded into amele tabourou=labour battalions, eventually to order them to dig their own mass graves…
On August 2, 1914, the Young Turks decided to create, out of its Teshkilati makhsusa=special formation, a new structure to deal with ‘interior matters’, to start and implement their proto-Nazi party conference decisions.
On August 6, 1914, a secret agreement between Turkey and Germany promised Caucasus (including Eastern/Russian Armenia) to Turkey.
Until December 1914, before Ottoman Turkey’s declaration of war on the Entente powers (November 5), 200,000 Armenian civilians, mostly women, the elderly and children already were uprooted and decimated, not counting the imminent tragedy prepared for the 300 thousand conscripted Armenian male population. Few thousand Armenians had managed to flee and reach Russian occupied Eastern Armenia. Many of them served in the volunteer regiments of the Tzar fighting in Western so called Turkish Armenia. An estimated 300,000 Armenians fought with the Entente powers in Europe and the Middle East including Palestine--a classic example of cannon fodder of 600,000 Armenians obliging their lives, country and all for the Imperialist appetites of both the Entente and the Central powers.
The First World War set the stage for the Final Solution.
d) STRATEGIC EXECUTIONS / FINAL SOLUTION
Kâmil Pasha’s faithful disciple Nazim Bey Selanikly (1870-1926), the executive secretary of the Young Turks Central Board, spelled out the Ittihadist genocidal creed to his comrades-in-arms, early in 1915, during a Central Board meeting presided over by comrade-brother Talaat:
“It is imperative that the Armenian people be completely exterminated; that not even one single Armenian be left on our soil; that the name, Armenian, be obliterated. We are now at war; there is no more auspicious occasion than this; This country must be purged of all non-Turk elements”.
On April 24, 1915, in Istanbul, around 300 Armenian intellectuals, of all professions, including the poet Levon Kirishjian, the renowned translator (in 1911) of the Holy Quran into Armenian, and the composer Komitas Vardapet, whose graduation thesis (in 1898/9) focused on Kurdish music, were all arrested and deported, and soon, nearly all of them butchered. Until mid May, the Armenian civic population was practically depleted of its intellectuals; 196 writers, 575 musicians, 336 doctors, 176 teachers and college professors, 160 lawyers, 62 architects, 64 actors...all arrested, deported, disappeared for good...
On June 15, 1915, twenty prominent members of the Armenian Social Democratic Henchakist Party were hanged in Bayazit square in Istanbul. The Henchakist stood in opposition to the Ittihadists. That was a mortal sin! The culminating act of the genocidal scheme was thus set in motion; the elderly, the women and the children, nearly the entire Armenian population of Asia Minor was ordered out, southward towards the deserts of Northern Syria.
Vandalism, rape, extortion, sadistic torture, starvation, murder raids and all ad infinitum. The rest is...the scream of humanity at its most infernal.
When serving as Editor in Chief of Documents on British Foreign Policy, Prof. W. N. Medlicott, Stevenson Professor of International History, University of London, tried to assess the enormity of the Armenian cultural loss. On September 14, 1974, Prof. Medlicott wrote:
“Hardly less tragic than the actual destruction of life has been the disruption of an age-long cultural and religious heritage and the loss of an ancestral home tenaciously defended for over 2000 years. It is well that these events should be recorded and that we should pay a tribute to the courage of the survivors of the massacres and their descendants, scattered though they now are throughout the world.”
It’s worth remembering that Lemkin had argued that the Genocide Convention was there to protect those basic groups of the human cosmos, “not only by reasons of human compassion, but also”, he insisted, “to prevent draining the spiritual resources of mankind”.
The basic question remains. Few months away from the 60th anniversary of the UN Convention on Genocide and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, what kind of a world are we living in?
For decades, UNESCO has been warning the world that the greatest shame of the current civilisation is the fact that thousands of children die of hunger every single day. Today that number has reached the staggering 14.6 million per annum. In other words 44,000 children die of hunger alone each day of the year. Can there be any doubt that this is also the unmentioned genocide of humanity, ongoing and an authentic one at that, which surely is the outcome of our own socio-economic and industrial military system, now coined with cynical panache as Globalisation, whereby tens of thousands of nuclear warheads, each averaging at least 20 times the destructive power of a Hiroshima bomb, are already in deployment all around the world.
Meanwhile billions pour into the pockets of the warmongers of modern metropolises. These warlords of Mammon would eventually thrive in an ‘Inorganic Paradise’—a ‘paradise’ void of universal human rights and sustained by legalised torture; glorification of violence geared towards maximising profit at any cost; xenophobic state terror protected with religious fervour. And, topping as if the macabre orgy, genocide has been already tested, for decades now, to become the collateral damage of its inorganically modernised and sweat-shopped ‘global village’ of hunger and debt.
When genocides, torture, poverty and wars are justified as “human nature” or as a historical and economic necessary evil, nay even as historical inevitability of “so called” clashing civilisations, then and there silence acquires an obscene eloquence in support of inhumanity-sheer Barbarism of Total Terror.
In the words of Nazim Hikmet, the Turkish poet laureate of UNESCO 2002:
Insanlar ey, nerdesiniz? Nerdesiniz?
Where art thou, oh, humanity? Where art thou?
Unless, of course, humanity at large will ‘rage against the dying’ of its dreams and refuse to become cannon fodder for the ‘Profane Patrons’ of Genocide: Mammon, Racism and Terror, thus guarding its deeds of tolerance and justice, fair share and good care, compassion and conscience—the true wealth of the world, hence the health of nations.
Khatchatur I. Pilikian. Sometime university professor of music (USA), Pilikian is a performing musician, painter and writer. He has studied art and music at the Fine Art and Music Academies in Rome and Siena. “Leonardo da Vinci on voice, music and stage design” was the title of his research as a Fulbright scholar at I.U. School of Music. In 1976, he designed and directed, at Wayne State University, the public radio WDET-FM series HARC-The Heritage of Armenian Culture. In 1984, he published Refuting Terrorism - Seven Epistles From Diaspora (in English and Armenian). He has contributed the entry Music and Turner in the Oxford University Press encyclopaedic publication titled THE TURNER COMPANION. The Spokesman for the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation published his paper for the 2005 European Network for Peace and Human Rights Conference, The Spectre of Genocide as Collateral Damage is Haunting the World. His most recent book is UNESCO Laureates: Nazim Hikmet & Aram Khatchaturian (Garod Books of the Gomidas Institute).
KHATCHATUR I. PILIKIAN