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What A Mess

A few days ago Juan Cole asked the question: Who Lost Turkey? He discussed the situation and wonders why the current Turkish government is so resistant to admitting a crime of the Ottoman Empire. The current Republic of Turkey arose after a revolt against the Empire, which was collapsing as a result of being on the losing side of World War I.

If you don’t know, the principle criminal was Enver Pasha, the Ottoman minister of war. He had command of the Ottoman troops on the Caucasian Front in World War I and was soundly defeated by the Russian forces which included Armenian volunteer units. At the Battle of Sarıkamış his forces suffered 80% losses, approximately 75,000 troops. As a military commander he made Ambrose Burnside look like George S. Patton.

Rather than accepting the blame for the disaster, Enver Pasha trotted out the Dolchstoßlegende, the “stabbed in the back” defense, and even though there were Kazaki [Cossacks] and Turkmeni in the Russian force, he selected the Armenians as his scapegoats and took steps that led to the massacres. [For students of the Nazi era: Enver Pasha had close ties to Imperial Germany, fled to Germany at the end of the war, entered the war at the behest of his German friends.]

The Ottoman Empire court-martialed Enver Pasha for getting the Empire involved in World War I and for his actions against the Armenians. He was found guilty in absentia and sentenced to death. He was the minister of war and commander in chief of the military, and he was held accountable. First the Germans, and then the Russians helped him after the war.

As near as I can tell, the Turkish position is, given that the crime was acknowledged and the guilty identified and punished [to the extent possible at the time] and given that the government that committed the crime is no longer in existence, this is about the ethnic hatred of Turks by the Armenians and the persecution of Armenians during World War I is the excuse.

Meanwhile – Turks Bombard Northern Iraq

(AP) Residents in northern Iraq called for U.S. intervention after officials said artillery and rocket fire struck hillsides near villages in Iraq’s border area with Turkey over the weekend.

Iraqi army Col. Hussein Rashid of the border guard forces said Turkish troops fired more than 250 artillery shells and at least 10 missiles on three areas inside Iraqi territory late Saturday. But, he said, the shelling caused no casualties or damages as it hit only abandoned areas in the mountains.

AP Television News footage shot from the village of Inshki, 20 miles from the Turkish border, showed a hillside dotted with balls of fire, terrifying residents below.

“We condemn the Turkish bombardment of Kurdish areas,” Salih Kaka Ameen told APTN in Irbil, a city in the Kurdish-controlled north 217 miles north of Baghdad. “We demand that American intervene to put an end to this crisis.”

The Turkish military said Saturday that its troops have heavily responded to armed attacks from northern Iraq and will continue to do so but did not give details.

The Turkish government, meanwhile, decided to send a motion to Parliament seeking approval for a military operation against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, a government spokesman said.

And, in case you missed it – Turkish general on genocide resolution: ‘U.S. shot its own foot’

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s top general warned that ties with the U.S., already strained by attacks from rebels hiding in Iraq, will be irreversibly damaged if Congress passes a resolution that labels the World War I-era killings of Armenians a genocide.

Turkey, which is a major cargo hub for U.S. and allied military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, has recalled its ambassador to Washington for consultations and warned that there might be a cut in the logistical support to the U.S. over the issue.

Gen. Yasar Buyukanit told the daily Milliyet newspaper that a congressional committee’s approval of the measure had already harmed ties between the two countries.

“If this resolution passed in the committee passes the House as well, our military ties with the U.S. will never be the same again,” Buyukanit was quoted as saying.

“I’m the military chief; I deal with security issues. I’m not a politician,” Buyukanit was quoted as saying by Milliyet. “In this regard, the U.S. shot its own foot.”

Of all of the issues on which the Democrats decide to take a stand this is insane. Impeach Cheney and Bush, get the troops out of Iraq, and then pass special legislation for any damn special interest group you want. I want to see a little more courage for those who are still alive in 2007, before I worry about the dead of 90 years ago half a world away.


1 Cookie Jill { 10.15.07 at 10:09 pm }

Wussycrats. They’re doing things that make one go “hhhhmmmmmmm…..”

You would think at least ONE of them would stand up and say “this is a really crappy time to do a resolution on this…”

You would think at least ONE….but, alas, it doesn’t seem so. Impeachment is “off the table” but throwing kerosene onto a middle eastern fire is okie dokie.

2 ellroon { 10.15.07 at 10:19 pm }

I had a rather interesting discussion going on with the same post about the Turks and the Armenians. Thanks for the history lesson which really helps put it into context.

That said, why the hell is Congress talking about the Armenian genocide NOW? WTF?

3 Bryan { 10.16.07 at 12:13 am }

I just don’t understand it, Jill. If Turkey shuts its border, troop withdrawal times triple. It makes no sense at all, and it does threaten our position in Iraq – the Turkish general is correct.

If this is about borders, the Armenians need to take that up with the Bolsheviks, who were replaced by the Soviets, who were replaced by the current government, because the borders were established by treaty. First, though, the Armenians need to start negotiating with the Azeri over their borders and see if something can’t be done about the continuing cycle of violence that continues over Nagorno-Karabakh.

If that area was so important, the Armenians should have said something when the Soviet Union was devolving, instead of turning to violence after the lines were drawn.

If the Armenians are pushing to change borders, they can forget it. The borders were established by Ataturk, and nothing Ataturk did can be questioned in Turkey.

4 hipparchia { 10.16.07 at 2:21 am }

nothing Ataturk did can be questioned in Turkey.

but i thought one of the problems with the new somewhat-more-islamist government in turkey is that they are daring to question ataturk, at least in its somewhat-more-islamist views.

5 Bryan { 10.16.07 at 8:27 am }

That is exactly the reason the military keeps talking about “adjusting” the government. Secularism is a founding principle of Ataturk.

6 Kevin Hayden { 10.16.07 at 1:37 pm }

Isn’t it possible that this is being used as either:

a) a backdoor way to shut down the Iraq War, or

2) a thorn in the side of Bush’s war plan that can be used as leverage to compel Bush to concede something in return for Pelosi backing off?

7 Bryan { 10.16.07 at 2:55 pm }

The problem Kevin, is that Bush doesn’t negotiate. That’s the problem with the whole administration, they don’t cut deals, they make demands. This could have been dealt with in a way to keep Turkey happy by the wording of the resolution. It wouldn’t have been this big a problem if the US had made good on its pledge of a billion dollars for Turkey’s losses in the first Gulf War, but that didn’t happen, which is one of the reasons the attempted bribe at the beginning of this war wasn’t even considered – the Turks said the last Bush screwed us, this one doesn’t get to do it.

If they negotiated there wouldn’t have been a North Korean nuclear test, there wouldn’t be a stand off with Iran, there wouldn’t be tension with Syria, Putin and China wouldn’t be spending billions to update their military, there wouldn’t be an occupation of Iraq.

If Congress thinks that this will force Bush to negotiate, they are brain-dead or have been asleep for the past seven years. They will blame future problems on the Democrats losing Turkey. It is a cheap excuse with some truth. The Hedgemony don’t care about solving problems, they just want someone else to take the blame.

8 Goddess { 10.16.07 at 5:04 pm }

Looks like Prof. Cole is a little uninformed about this matter when he wonders why the current Turkish government is so resistant to admitting a crime of the Ottoman Empire.

It is quite simple, really: It doesn’t end there.

“After opening remarks by Prof. Richard H. Dekmejian, Director of the Institute, Sarkis Bezelgues, an international lawyer and doctoral candidatein law at the Free University of Berlin, presented a paper on “International Liability and State Succession: the Responsibility of the Turkish Republic for the Armenian Genocide.” He stated that the Republic of Turkey is liable for themassive deaths and destruction inflicted upon the Armenian population, because the modern state of Turkey is a continuation and not the successor to the Ottoman Empire. According to Bezelgues, Turkey can be held responsible for the Armenian Genocide since a complete transmission took place of the Ottoman Empire’s rights and duties.”


And these duties are?

Restitution, reparations and more…


More of what?

1. Armenia wants all EU member states to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide during WW1 as crime against humanity.

2. Armenia wants EU to investigate the transfer of monetary funds owned by Ottoman citizens of Armenian origin to European banks and their return to the heirs of the survivors of the genocide.

3. Armenia wants NATO and EU to enforce the legality of Sevres treaty on Turkey before any membership talks.

4. Armenia wants restitution of all possessions (movable and immovable) on the territory of Republic of Turkey that were confiscated and/or in other ways disposed by the successive Turkish governments during and after the Genocide.

5. Armenia wants Turkey to acknowledge and apologize for the Genocide to all Christian subjects in the Ottoman Empire and make the necessary amends in her history books.

6. Armenia wants Turkey to return confiscated historical relics with religious or historical value to Armenia.

7. Armenia wants Turkey to liberalize her laws about the cultural and religious rights of the minorities including their right to cultural autonomy and self determination without any cohesion from the government.

8. Armenia wants Germany and other contracting parties to the Sevres treaty to adhere to the norms and the spirit of the international law.

9. Armenia wants special visa regulations with EU member states for Armenian citizens due to the blockade imposed by Turkey (a candidate member state) and privileged work permit regime for citizens of Armenia wiling to work in EU countries.

You are all a little more informed now, no?

9 Bryan { 10.16.07 at 5:30 pm }

Scholars are free to write papers and the Armenians are free to make claims, but that doesn’t settle the argument. The Ottoman Empire was composed of many modern states, but only one of them is being tasked. Why not go after the other member states, many of whom, like Saudi Arabia, have much greater resources?

10 Goddess { 10.16.07 at 6:35 pm }

Because they are not called “Turks” — would be my guess.

11 Badtux { 10.17.07 at 12:00 pm }

Next up: The English ask for reparations from France for the Norman Invasion of England in 1066.

I mean, c’mon. Acknowledging that a genocide happened in the past is one thing, but to go from there to saying that a nation that doesn’t even have its capital in the same city as the long-defunct Ottoman Empire is responsible for said genocide and should thus pay reparations is something else entirely. Modern-day secular Turkey is no more the same nation as the defunct Islamist Ottoman Empire than modern-day Russia is the same nation as the defunct Soviet Union.

– Badtux the Snarky Penguin

12 Bryan { 10.17.07 at 12:41 pm }

So, Goddess, this isn’t about what a government did, but about the ethnic animosity between two groups. There is no legal claim, only hatred, about which the world can do nothing.

Actually, Badtux, the French would claim that the Normans were, in fact, originally invaders from Scandinavia, and, therefore the claim should be made against Sweden et al.

Nationalism is alive and festering in the world.