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No People Have an Exclusive on Suffering (or Brutality)

Ethnic Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their forebears were killed in a 1915-16 genocide by Turkey's former Ottoman Empire.  (Archive photo: AFP/Getty)

It’s good and right that we commemorate the mass killing in the Ottoman Empire during World War I of between 500,000 and 1.5 million Armenians.   


Many nations now call the slaughter of 1915-1916 as “genocide.” This week the 100th anniversary of the notorious event was observed.   Pope Francis and the European parliament called on Turkey to recognize the killings as genocide.


Turkey, successor to the Ottoman Empire, admits many Armenians were killed in WWI, but rejects the label of “genocide,” saying their deaths occurred in the confusion of war, not by design.  The United States, a very close ally of Turkey, avoids  the “g” word. Interestingly, Israel does too, perhaps not wanting to detract from the genocide Jews  suffered in WWII. 


Armenians insist the Ottoman authorities were determined to eradicate the ancient Armenian people. Turks claim that Armenian guerilla bands known as “dashnaks” acted as a fifth column for their bitter foe, Russia, which was attacking the crumbling Ottoman Empire.  Large numbers of Armenian civilians were herded from their homes in eastern Turkey, across the mountains, and into the wastes of northern Syria.


The greatest loss of life occurred on these “death marches,” a fact that Turkey accepts.  What is rarely stated by either side is that Kurdish tribesmen inflicted a significant number of deaths, pillage and rape on the helpless Armenian deportees.


Modern Turkey is determined to avoid being branded with the shame of genocide because it tends to demote the bearer to a second-rate nation forever begging forgiveness, like eternally cringing Germany.   


But what really galls the Turks is being singled out as genocidal mass killers when so many other similar perpetrators are ignored.  


Begin with Spain, which wiped out its Muslim population then inflicted mass murder on West Indian native islanders, then in its Latin American colonies.   No one even remembers the Arawak Indians, for example, wiped out by the Spaniards, British, and French.



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In the United States, the mass killing and ethnic cleansing of its  native people is a horrific crime rarely talked about today.  Here, the historic record is loud and clear, unlike that of the chaotic Ottoman Empire.  White-men’s diseases finished off what bullets and starvation failed to accomplish.


Why don’t we commemorate Stalin’s ghastly solution to independent-minded Ukrainians?  During 1932-33,  the Soviet secret police murdered by bullets and famine six million or more Ukrainians – the Holdomor.  


Not long after, Roosevelt and Churchill allied themselves to the author of this historic crime, Stalin, who killed four times more people than Adolf Hitler. His crimes against Jews and other peoples are widely recognized and commemorated.  No one today in the West commemorates Stalin’s murder of many millions of Soviet citizens.


Nor is the plight of East Europe’s ethnic Germans recalled. Between 1945-1948, 12 million were expelled at gunpoint from their ancestral homes, 500,000-600,000 being killed in the process. The majority came from former German territory annexed by Poland, the USSR, and Czechoslovakia.


Largely unknown was the genocide of the Soviet Union’s Muslims. Some four millions were murdered or starved to death under Stalin’s orders.   Stalin, a Georgian or Ossetian, hated Muslims with the same ferocity that Hitler hated Jews – but he was a US-British ally. 


Next, the  “Mfakane.” During the 1820’s,  the Zulu moved south into what is today South Africa,  slaughtering 1-2 million local tribesmen.  It’s worth noting that the Dutch-Flemish Boer inhabitants of the Cape were there long before the Zulu, who dominated today’s South Africa.  Belgium’s mass murders in its Congo colony are branded genocide by some historians.


A million or more Cambodians were slaughtered by the demented, Maoist Khmer Rouge.    The details of the murder of up to one million communists in Indonesia during a 1965-1966 US-backed coup  remain obscure.


History is filled with forgotten genocides – all part of our inhumane tribal culture.   So blame the Turks, but don’t forget all the other mass killers.

Eric Margolis

Eric Margolis

Eric Margolis is a columnist, author and a veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East. Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq. His latest book is American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World.

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