Armenian “genocide” movie panned by critics and flops at box office

“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

There seems to be some debate about whether it was Joseph Goebbels or Adolf Hitler who said it – or whether either of them did. Some people say Hitler claimed inspiration for his Jewish Holocaust from the Ottomans’ treatment of their Armenian citizens. That certainly, we know to be untrue.

MV5BYTI5NmI0N2UtOWQyOC00MDg2LWI5YWUtNWEwZTgyM2VlYThmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTk1MDM0OTc@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_A new film, The Promise, is attracting some media attention in the USA. It premiered last year but its producers waited until this month (April 21) to release it in the United States, for reasons that will become obvious. The New York Times and Time Magazine have published sympathetic reports – but the response from film critics and at the box office has been less positive:

“It is bombs away at the Friday box office. The $100 million movie is projected to earn $1.5 million-$2 million Friday from 2,251 theaters for a $4 million-$5 million launch – a sobering start considering the movie’s hefty budget.”

“’The Promise’ ends up feeling very old fashioned in a bad way. It’s bloated, it’s sweeping, there’s a love triangle, and there are four-too-many endings. But since there’s so much movie there, there’s also quite a bit that works – including lead performances from Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale, and Charlotte Le Bon. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to save the whole ship, and in the end, the film turns out to be disappointingly unremarkable.”

MV5BMTg3ZDVlMjgtNTM4Yi00ZTQ3LThmM2QtYzdjZmRjMTcxMTkzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDExMzMxNjE@._V1_UY268_CR2,0,182,268_AL_The NY Times piece leads the reader in gently, noting that the film’s “director Terry George figured there’d be weirdness around [it]. Gradually we learn that the subject of The Promise is the alleged “Armenian genocide” of 1915 – and the “weirdness” is the response it has elicited from Turkish ambassadors and others. One example of the “weirdness” is that another film, The Ottoman Lieutenant, dealing with the same historical events, appeared around the same time. Possibly the most interesting thing about the two films, neither of which seems destined for cinematic glory, is that the former was financed by a mega-rich gentleman of Armenian descent; the latter, allegedly by Turkish sources – probably true, although I have been unable to verify the claim.

The NY Times writer asserts that “The battle over these two new films represents just the latest front in Turkey’s quest to control the historical narrative.” We may think that claim debatable at least, given that the $100 million to make The Promise was provided by the late Kerkor Kerkorian, an American of Armenian descent featuring highly on the Forbes Rich List. The Wikipedia link to the production company, Survival Films, took me directly to the late Mr Kerkorian’s page. The company spokesperson is named as Eric Esrailian, and Kim Kardashian West has been tweeting enthusiastically about the film. The “genocide scholar” Taner Akçam, notorious for playing fast and loose with historical data, is also quoted; and the US release of The Promise was deliberately timed to coincide with the date chosen by the genocide lobby to publicise their cause. But it would be wrong, of course, to suspect the Armenian diaspora of trying to “control the historical narrative”.

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1923 – See it written there?

Nevertheless, the Times writer, Cara Buckley, seems all too ready to reiterate the one-sided arguments aimed at holding the modern Republic of Turkey responsible for a “crime” that took place eight years before it came into existence. She quotes people associated with the film as expressing “nebulous fears” about their safety, implying that sinister Turkish forces may try to silence them – breathing not a word about the 31 Turkish diplomats assassinated in the 1970s and 80s by Armenian terrorists pushing their own agenda. In the interests of fair play you may like to check out this report in the NY Times of 29 January 1982.

Fair play is not something you’ll get much of in Buckley’s article. The United Nations” she says, “the Roman Catholic Church, the European Parliament, historians and scholars have roundly recognized the atrocities as a genocide, the 20th century’s first.” In fact the United Nations has never recognised the “Armenian genocide”, nor has the United States government, despite incessant lobbying; and the French Constitutional Court ruled recently that their parliament did not have the authority to legislate on such issues.

Another gentleman Buckley quotes extensively is “Advertising executive-turned-documentarian Joe Berlinger.” Berlinger, maker of a recent pro-genocide documentary “Intent to Destroy” apparently worked closely with Promise director, Terry George. Well, I don’t want to belittle advertising executives in general, but  selling their services for a fee is what that business is all about I guess.

Auction_of_Souls_(1919)_-_Ad_8

Advertising poster for the 1919 Hollywood movie

Inspiration for The Promise is said to have come from a 1933 novel, “The Forty Days of Musa Daghbased on true events that took place in 1915”. According to the Wikipedia entry, the book “achieved great international success and has been credited with awakening the world to the evidence of the persecution and genocide inflicted on the Armenian nation during World War I.” A NOVEL, remember. An earlier production stirring up American emotions on the subject was the 1919 Hollywood movie “Ravished Armenia” or “The Auction of Souls”, stills from which are frequently passed off by pro-Armenian lobbyists as actual photos of Ottoman atrocities (see below).

The Time Magazine report is headed “The real history to know before you see ‘The Promise’“. The writer, Olivia B Waxman, seems to have sourced her “facts” from one Peter Balakian, a poet and translator of such balanced works of history as Armenian Golgotha and The Ozone Journal – based on the account of an Armenian survivor and a recent excavation of bones in Syria.

Well, my purpose here is not to make light of tragic events that undoubtedly happened during the twilight years of the Ottoman Empire, as its leaders struggled against forces within their borders and beyond determined to tear it apart. Justice is rarely served, however, by viewing historical events through the filter of narrow national interests. To anyone interested in a more balanced view of those years, I recommend the American historian Justin McCarthy. He, and others like Stanford Shaw have indeed received serious threats aimed at shutting them up.

Decide for yourself – but don’t believe something just because it is constantly repeated.

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CrucifictionYou’ll see this image again and again on sites arguing for the Armenian “genocide. Compare it with the film poster image above.

https://5165news.com/armenia/areg-galstyan-why-trump-should-recognize-the-armenian-genocide/

https://coercioncode.com/2016/08/09/erdogans-turkey-remembering-armenian-christian-genocide-1915/

This was one caption: “Taken by a German officer in 1915 showing a row of young women who had been hanged upon crosses in mockery of the Crucifixion of Jesus because they had refused to convert.”

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French MPs Can’t Rule on Genocide

I’m passing on this news item without comment. It was reported on the Turkish Coalition of America website:

French Constitutional Council Reaffirms that Crimes Against Humanity or Genocide must be Established by Competent Courts not Legislature

“On January 26, 2017, the Constitutional Council of France repealed a provision of the Law on Equality and Citizenship that aimed to criminalize speech that disputes genocides.

“The amendment, contained in article 173 of the Law of Equality and Citizenship, had been stealthily inserted into the reform package late last year through efforts by the Armenian French lobby. However, the Constitutional Council repealed the amendment on grounds that it violated France’s Law on the Freedom of Speech and Press and the French Constitution. The Council’s decision described the amendment as an unnecessary and disproportionate attack against freedom of speech.  The Council also reaffirmed its earlier decision that a crime against humanity or genocide must be established by a competent court, not by the legislature.

“Armenian French organizations have long lobbied to criminalize what they consider genocide denial in order to stifle debate and inhibit scholarship on the Ottoman-Armenian tragedy that does not agree with their one-sided perspective. Their efforts have repeatedly been pushed back by the French high court.”

Interestingly, I can’t find any reference to this decision of the French court in any mainstream Western media – even in French! It only seems to have been reported objectively in Turkish sources, eg The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and on Armenian blog sites, with their predictable slant on the business.

More Papal Palaver

The best form of defence is a good attack. It’s an adage applicable to a range of human activities, from chess to warfare – and even religious leaders, it seems, sometimes employ the tactic. The Catholic Church has a bunch of problems these days, from empty pews in its monumental temples, to those pesky accusations of paedophilia and other kinds of institutional child abuse that just won’t go away. So I guess if I were the Pope of Rome I’d probably take time off occasionally from excommunication and beatification duties to go after a soft target or two with the aim of distracting opponents and critics.

pope and noah

Two  old guys in fancy dress pouring water on Noah’s Ark. Are they for real?

And indeed, there he is, dear old Pope Francis, God bless him, visiting his tiny RC flock in Armenia, and taking time, while there, to reaffirm his recent support for Armenian genocidists. One thing he loves about Armenia, apparently, is that its people were the first to make Christianity their official state religion, way back in 301 CE. I guess in his position, he’d have to be a fan of rulers enforcing religious uniformity – though personally, I’m inclined to the view that that’s where most of the intolerance, persecution and violence starts.

Anyway, Francis is firmly of the opinion that the Ottoman Empire committed genocide on poor inoffensive Armenians a hundred years or so ago, that it was the first genocide of the 20th century, and one of its big three holocaustic events. By voicing these statements in his official capacity as leader of an estimated 1.27 billion Roman Catholics, he undoubtedly knows that he is giving powerful tacit support to those who want to hold the modern Republic of Turkey responsible.

Well, once again, I’m not going to get involved in the debate of who did what to how many of whom and when they did it. I do, however, want to take issue with the Pope’s jaw-dropping cultural arrogance in selectively focusing on the 20th century, and on Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia and the Ottoman Empire as the worst offenders. First off, that gentleman is boss and CEO of a trans-national organisation that has been persecuting, torturing, enslaving, war-mongering, genociding and paedophiling for most of its 2,000 year history. OK, they’ve done some good stuff along the way too, but come on! That’s not just a glasshouse you’re living in, Frank. It’s a monumental crystal palace built on a foundation of quicksand!

George Clooney

George Clooney was there – but the Kardashians couldn’t make it this time.

And then what’s the big deal with the 20th century? Why pick an arbitrary cut-off point like 1900 CE for your moralising? As if I didn’t know. As far as the world’s 1.57 billion Muslims are concerned (beating the Catholic’s best estimate by 30 million), it was the year 1416, dating from the Hijra of Muhammad and his followers to the city of Medina. The Year of Our Christian Lord 1900 equated roughly to 4597 in the Chinese calendar, and 5660 for those of the Jewish faith. Just another year, in other words. Remember the doomsayers forecasting worldwide computer failure, financial meltdown, and apocalypse now for the year 2000? And what happened? If there is a God out there somewhere, I’m fairly sure He/She doesn’t give a monkey’s whatsit for calendars, Christian, Muslim, Zoroastrian or whatever.

Still, from Popey’s point-of-view, ignoring those previous 1,900 years allows him to erase some pretty horrendous demographic obliterations. Modern scholarship suggests that the pre-Columbian population of the Americas could have been up to 100 million. Admittedly not all of the deaths were deliberately caused by the Roman Catholic Church in particular and Western Europeans in general – but undoubtedly their actions directly and indirectly led to near total extinction – and the new-comers weren’t too unhappy to see them go.

He can overlook the Roman Catholic Inquisition and the ‘Reconquista’ of the Iberian peninsula that turned a scientifically progressive and culturally diverse multi-religious, multi-ethnic society under comparatively tolerant Islamic rule to an exclusively Christian RC preserve where Muslims and Jews were tortured, massacred or forced to migrate. Most of the survivors ended up in the Ottoman Empire whose Islamic government welcomed them with open arms.

Slave sale

Bucks and wenches – people, actually.

Well, maybe you think that’s going back too far in time. OK, let’s think about the contribution made by slave labour and the slave trade to the British Industrial Revolution and the emergence of the USA as an industrial power in the 19th century. According to Wikipedia the transatlantic slave trade uprooted and transported more than eleven million Africans between the 16th and the 19th centuries. Possibly four million more died after being captured and before they even boarded a slave ship. 1.5 million are estimated to have died on the journey, and many more died young as a result of the brutality of living and working conditions. From the 17th century, Britain became the main slave-trading nation, and industrial towns like Bristol, Liverpool and Manchester benefitted greatly from exporting goods such as guns to Africa, selling the slaves purchased, and importing the produce of slave-labour, such as sugar and cotton. Admittedly most Brits were C of E, and not Catholic, but it obviously suits the Western/European version of history to gloss over these realities – and African Americans are still waiting to be ‘paid for the work they done’.

That 1900 date cut-off also conveniently allows the omission of other war crimes and near-genocidal campaigns carried out by the British Empire during the 19th century: violent and punitive ethnic cleansing against the indigenous Maori in New Zealand, the Aboriginal tribes in Australia, the Zulus in South Africa – and the war of 1899-1901 where the Brits are credited with having invented the concentration camp to facilitate their aggression against Boer farmers. We can forget the ruthless brutality with which British rulers suppressed the Indian rebellion in 1857-59, calling it a ‘mutiny’. It has been estimated that more than 100,000 Indians died, most of them as a result of a ‘no prisoners, no mercy’ policy of revenge carried out by the British Army after the rebellion was defeated.

No event in history takes place in a vacuum. There are always reasons and causes not always acknowledged when the victors write their version of history. Ottoman rulers had learned, during the 19th century, what would happen to Muslims when parts of their empire and its hinterland were ‘liberated’ by ‘Christian’ Powers. Muslims were massacred or expelled when the Kingdom of Greece was established in the 1820s. The process was repeated as Imperial Russia expanded southwards into Crimea and the Caucasus – culminating in an event remembered by descendants of survivors as the Circassian Genocide in 1864.

But let’s accept Pope Francis’s arbitrary date for a moment, and consider how sincere he really is in looking for suffering peoples to sympathise with. Exception has been taken to his repeating of the claim that the Armenian tragedy was the first genocide of the 20th century. That honour apparently can rightly be claimed by Germany, and their ‘attempted annihilation of the Herero in South-West Africa (present-day Namibia) from 1904 to 1907’.

Algeria

Selective remembering – and forgetting.

Possibly Francis decided not to count official world wars in his brief list, but it seems a pity not to mention World War One, believed by many to have been brought about by an unholy alliance of European Imperialists and capitalist financiers. Seventeen million combatants and non-combatants died and a further twenty million were wounded. He may also have decided to gloss over France’s unsuccessful war to prevent Algerian Independence. Depending on which side you’re listening to, between 350,000 and 1.5 million died between 1954 and 1962, mostly Algerians.

Similar disagreement exists over how many Iraqis died as a result of the United States’ invasion in 2003. Estimates range from 151,000 to over a million – but possibly their importance is lessened by being of the wrong religion. We do seem to know with greater accuracy the number of US military personnel who lost their lives: 4,491. It’s too early to put a figure on the civil war in Syria. Again estimates vary widely, ranging from 140,200 to 470,000. Al-Jazeera claims that 10.9 million, or almost half the population of Syria, have been displaced and 3.8 million have been made refugees.

So it’s not surprising that there is disagreement over how many Armenians died back there in the early 20th century. Of course even the lowest estimate adds up to a terrible tragedy that should never be forgotten. On the other hand, selective remembering and forgetting of historical events almost always has a political purpose, and seekers after truth should be open-minded in their search. Photographs can be used to dishonestly stir emotions – even those taken in the days before Photoshop. Anecdotal evidence also has emotive power, but historians at least cannot rely merely on first-hand accounts of ‘survivors’.

Joseph Hirt

There’s the tattoo right there, see?

A recent item on CBS News highlights the danger. ‘A 91-year-old Pennsylvania man who has for years lectured to school groups and others about what he said were his experiences at Auschwitz now says he was never a prisoner at the German death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.’ The admission came after a New York high school history teacher made inquiries when his suspicions were aroused. Joseph Hirt had apparently gone to the extent of having a false prisoner identification number tattooed on his arm.

So, Pope Francis – I am suspicious of your motives.

German MPs label the 1915 massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire a “genocide,”

german-lawmakers-risk-erdogan-ire-with-armenia-genocide-vote

Ms Merkel, apparently, had pressing business elsewhere. We call it ‘having a dollar each way.’

Well done, the Germans! I hope it makes you feel better in some way. No doubt you have all done exhaustive research on the issue, listened to both sides of the story, weighed up the political implications of what you are doing, and decided that your vote here is somehow going to make the world a better place for all of us.

Sad to say, however, I suspect not. I suspect you are just going with the flow, listening to the loudest voices, kidding yourselves that you are sensitive new-age humanitarians, and picking on a country you think is a soft target.

I’m not going to argue the alternative view here. It is available on-line for anyone with a genuine interest in learning the truth. Just a quick summary:

129_the_persecution_of_the_French

French massacres of Algerians. The hypocrisy is breath-taking!

Apart from the exaggerated numbers, the fact that the Ottoman Empire was not Turkey, and numerous other lies and distortions, there is the matter of selective morality. Is it only Jews and Christians who can be genocided? What about the 1.5 miilion Algerians killed by France ? What about the Native Americans virtually wiped out by deliberate US Government policies? What about the Australian Aborigines? The Russian ethnic cleansing of the Caucasus? How many Muslims and Jews lived where modern Greece now is before the modern Greeks took over? How many innocent civilians have died and continue to die in Iraq? Afghanistan? Syria? Killed by whom, with weapons manufactured where?

I read that Turkey’s government is trying to ‘blackmail’ Europe on this matter using the refugee agreement. Of course the issues are entirely separate, but this vote in the German parliament does seem pretty stupid at a time when Europe desperately needs Turkey’s self-sacrifice to stem the flood of refugees.

02armenia-web-master768

One of many Armenian cemeteries in an up-market part of Istanbul. Check the dates on the gravestones. Then ask what happened to the historic Jewish cemetery in Greek Salonika.

There are already 2.7 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, placing an enormous financial and social burden on the country’s resources. A similar number have escaped to Jordan and Lebanon. None of these countries is to blame for the chaos that is causing this ongoing human disaster, and rich Western governments whose thirst for oil is the fundamental cause have refused to respond to United Nations’ repeated appeals for assistance.

Western Europe does not want these poor displaced people. They want Turkey to deal with the situation so they can get on with their self-indulgent lifestyles. They offered Turkey a package involving visa-free travel and fast-track entry to the European Union. In fact they will never deliver on either of those promises. All that’s left is a bribe of a few billion euros to their poor neighbour to close their borders and keep the refugees out of sight and out of mind.

They may learn to their cost that Turks are proud people. George W Bush offered a large bribe back in 2003 for Turkey to join the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ in ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom.’ The USA desperately wanted a Muslim country in there with them to dispel the criticism that this was another Christian Crusade. Turkey’s Government in the end turned down the bribe and kept out. Probably there are other, less independently-minded countries who now wish they had done the same.

George Clooney, The Aurora Prize And Hope In Armenia – Hate masquerading as peace

I want to pass this on to you. It is the most articulate response I have read to the barrage of attacks mounted against the people of Turkey in Western media over something that happened over a hundred years ago.

150312071331-orig-oth-george-clooney-power-couple-zef-00011718-large-169

Without the shades, you might see some of the world’s real problems

I can’t tell you who wrote it. It was submitted as a comment on the Forbes website to an emotive article about the Hollywood actor George Clooney’s recent visit to Armenia.

Please. You are not Kim Kardashian or George Clooney. You are a journalist. Do some research on both sides before you write some piece to “feel all the feels”.

What is conveniently not mentioned in these “feel all the feels” articles is this: Guess which country has had the most diplomats and ambassadors murdered? Turkey. All of them, by Armenian terrorists. And you don’t have to go back 100 years to research it. And it all took place in Western countries. You know why you never heard of it? Because Western media bows down to special interest Armenian lobbying and censors the news. You know what else? All those murderers have already been released and are free and walking the streets.

gunpoint-Sari-16

Armenian terrorist holds hostage at gunpoint

Did you know that in the 1980s, an Armenian priest in Turkey burned himself publicly to protest and to stop his own people from murdering Turkish diplomats? No? Because the Western media suppressed that bit of news also. Did you know that there are more than 60 Armenian schools in Turkey for Armenian citizens to send their children to, if they’d rather their children go there? Do you know there are numerous famous Armenian writers, musicians, actors, and artists in Turkey? Do you know Turkey allows its own Armenian citizens living in Turkey, who have been influenced by Armenians in Western countries, to freely meet and post on social media all their vengeful feelings about 100 years ago?

Turkey takes the higher road and doesn’t get into the lies and the sensationalism so you end up with misguided celebrities feeding the fire. Did Armenians join with the world to help relieve the refugee crisis? Did the Clooneys or Kim Kardashian do a single thing to help a single refugee? Did they ever say anything about the more recent Rwandan or Serbian genocide? Did they ever stop their vengeful navel gazing to help anyone else in the world? Do you know how many refugees Turkey took in? Millions and millions. And Turkey did it while being harassed nonstop by these bullies giving in to the sensationalized lobbying. In Western countries currently, there is a great amount of harassment, bullying, bigotry, and discrimination towards Turkish citizens perpetuated by Armenians. 

kim-kardashian-3-600x800

Well known historians, Kim and Khloe on their photo-op in Armenia

Don’t fool yourselves. American and Western universities, schools, workplaces are not places of Equal Opportunity. You only hear about the racial and religious discrimination because those are eventually unearthed. This other type of nationalistic discrimination by Armenians toward those with Turkish origins goes on and on every single day and is never even brought to light. Why would you even say Turkish people are denying it? Like Turkish people were alive and in their 20s and 30s in 1915 and they all happened to be right there wherever this battle / march / genocide happened and they witnessed it or outright took part in it and then they all miraculously lived to be 120 and 130 years old and deny it? I personally did not hear a single word about it growing up in Turkey and I was caught off-guard by all the harassment and bullying I experienced once I came to the U.S.

Just the way police coerce people into false confessions, Armenians won’t rest till they use their hysteria, sensationalism, and special interest lobbying to get the whole world pressuring Turkey to make a false confession. How about the world telling Armenians to stop rehashing World War I nonstop for a zillion years?

Why would you be stuck in what an empire, that the Turkish Republic put an end to itself, did more than 100 years ago? Why would you bring it to a level where you have this unquenchable personal vengeance toward people who had nothing to do with what happened 100 years ago? All of a sudden, the whole world is on this vengeance and hatred bandwagon with Armenians against Turkish people who have done nothing. Why would you not choose peace? Why would you perpetuate vengeance and hatred? Even our grandparents were not even born in 1915. If the world wants to have an enemy because they just can’t be peaceful, they should find some real perpetrators because this whole thing is the single most obnoxious thing I have ever seen. You all continue to swing your sword at the windmills like Don Quixote. You are conducting the Salem witch trials all over again. Why can’t you say, “Peace begins with me,” instead of creating hatred and vengeance?

recently renovated Vordvots Vorotman Armenian Church in Istanbul

Recently renovated Vordvots Vorotman Armenian Church, Istanbul

There are numerous Western historians who have studied events around that time in that region of the world and unequivocally said, “I will not call this genocide.” If you want anecdotes just like the Armenian anecdotes, there are numerous anecdotes of Turkish families being tortured and murdered at the hands of Armenians who joined with the Russian forces. But of course, in our topsy-turvy world where Western media is censored by lobbying bullies, you rarely hear the truth. Please satisfy the requirements of objective journalism before you write a piece to fan the flames of vengeance.

 

Anzac Day and the Armenian ‘Genocide’ – What’s the connection?

Visitors from Australia and New Zealand attend a dawn ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli, at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli

2015 Anzac dawn service, Turkey

Tomorrow, or today, depending on your time zone, thousands of New Zealanders and Australians will gather for a dawn service on the beach of Anzac Cove beside the Dardanelle Strait in the Republic of Turkey. Most of them will then participate in organised tours around the battlefields and cemeteries of what we like to call the Gallipoli Peninsula.

I’ve been there several times myself. It’s a moving experience, reminding us antipodeans of our shared heritage, and providing us with a date on we can celebrate the emergence of a national consciousness.

Although I live in Turkey, I haven’t actually attended one of those 25 April commemorative services. My first visit was with a party of Turkish high school students and teachers, there for their own day of remembrance on 18 March. My most recent was with a couple of visitors from New Zealand on a quiet day in May.

I have, I guess, an unusual perspective on the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915. I grew up imbued with all the legend and mythology associated with its memory in New Zealand. My years in Turkey have shown me another side to the story. Interestingly, both countries trace aspects of their origins to that tragic, bloody and ultimately futile conflict.

One factor, however, that has kept me from joining my fellow New Zealanders on their annual pilgrimages, is a feeling that we are not quite as appreciative as we might be of the hospitality the people of Turkey show in welcoming their former invaders, and allowing us to celebrate our national identity on their soil. What were our boys doing there, after all, 17,000 kilometres from home, invading the land of a people they barely knew existed, who certainly had not done them any harm?

Politics - Winston Churchill and Kaiser Wilhelm II

Winston Churchill with German Kaiser Wilhelm, 1909

However brave our lads were, and that is beyond debate, they were in the wrong – or at least their military and political leaders who sent them were. I sometimes half seriously ask my Turkish students who they consider their country’s ‘Number Two Man’, after Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. They show considerable surprise, even anger, when I offer my nomination of Winston Churchill for the title.

Certainly Mustafa Kemal was the victor of Gallipoli/Çanakkale, and the founder of the Republic. However, my contention is that, without the outrageous provocation of the British Empire, and Churchill in particular, the spark that ignited the struggle for liberation and independence might never have been struck. His was the grand plan to force the Dardanelles and the surrender of the Ottoman government, and to assist Imperial Russia in attacking Germany from the east, thereby relieving pressure on the Western front. Undeterred by failure, the British encouraged the Greek army to invade Anatolia in 1919 as part of their plan to divide and destroy the Ottoman Empire once and for all. When the Greeks too were driven out, Churchill’s final affront was an ultimatum calling on Turkish nationalists to refrain from attempting to liberate Istanbul from occupation. His bluff was called, and the modern Republic of Turkey came into being on 23 October 1923.

One of the most touching memories for me of the 1915 tragedy is the extract from a speech delivered by Atatürk, addressed to the families of the Anzacs who left their mortal remains on the battlefields of Gallipoli:

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

We shouldn’t forget, when we visit Turkey, that we are there as guests of a sovereign nation. The British Government back then underestimated Ottoman resistance, duped by their own rhetoric about ‘The Sick Man of Europe’. Our grandfathers paid a high price for that. Short-term visitors to Turkey cannot be expected to learn the local language – but we might make some effort to learn a little history and geography. ‘Gallipoli’ is in fact a town in Southern Italy. The Turkish name for the peninsula is Gelibolu, a corruption of the ancient Greek town called Kallipolis. Turks refer to the campaign as Çanakkale (Chunnuck-kaleh) a name they also apply to the strait we choose to call the Dardanelles. This latter word derives from another ancient Greek town named for the mythical son of Zeus and Electra.

Who cares, you may ask? But I’m arguing that we, New Zealanders of all people, should care. For some years we have been starting to realise that many of our own place names arrogantly replaced meaningful words assigned by the indigenous Maori people – Aotearoa, Taranaki/Mt Egmont, Aoraki/ Mt Cook, and so on. The Republic of Turkey will celebrate its 93rd birthday this year. Perhaps its time we consigned that Greek mythology to its rightful place on library shelves.

NPG 142; George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron replica by Thomas Phillips

Lord Byron in ‘Albanian costume’ – I never even liked his poetry

After all, we owe much of our ‘knowledge’ of ‘Greece’ to a controversial, aristocratic English poet, Lord George Gordon Byron. A few words from his Wikipedia entry:

“Byron was both celebrated and castigated in life for his aristocratic excesses, including huge debts, numerous love affairs – with men as well as women, as well as rumours of a scandalous liaison with his half-sister – and self-imposed exile. He was living in Genoa when, in 1823, while growing bored with his life there, he accepted overtures for his support from representatives of the movement for Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire. Byron spent £4,000 of his own money to refit the Greek fleet.

Byron planned to attack the Turkish-held fortress of Lepanto, at the mouth of the Gulf of Corinth. He employed a fire-master to prepare artillery and took part of the rebel army under his own command, despite his lack of military experience. Before the expedition could sail, on 15 February 1824, he fell ill. He developed a violent fever, and died on 19 April. It has been said that if Byron had lived and had gone on to defeat the Ottomans, he might have been declared King of Greece. However, contemporary scholars have found such an outcome unlikely.”

Thwarted by Byron’s untimely death, the British government arranged for the installation of a German prince from the Bavarian Wittelsbach family as King Otto I of their new puppet state.

Well, I’m not here to talk about Lord Byron and the past sins of Imperial Britain – rather to warn that we need to exercise caution in deciding what to believe, especially when that belief may lead to actions with unintended and undesirable consequences. The 16th century French essayist, Michel de Montaigne, observed that Nothing is so firmly believed as what we least know’, and the passage of time has not detracted from the truth of his words.

Western news media are presently full of articles and opinion pieces referring to the so-called ‘Armenian genocide’. The reason is that the global community of Armenians chose 24 April as the day to commemorate another tragic event of 1915. The issue, as I’m sure you are well aware, is whether the expulsion and deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire at that time should be labelled a ‘genocide’ – and whether the modern Republic of Turkey should accept responsibility.

Clooney-invite

If you can afford $33,400 to $353,400 for a ticket

The Catholic Pope has apparently come out in support of the Armenian claim, and I read of a church service being conducted by a Catholic cardinal in a cathedral in Boston. George Clooney, better known as a Hollywood actor, has also announced his support for the Armenian cause. President Obama, meanwhile, has angered Armenians by soft-pedalling on the issue, despite earlier promises on the campaign trail.

Well, I’m not going to engage in diversionary arguments about whether the Catholic Church has any right to take anyone else to task for human rights abuses. Nor attack Mr Clooney and his wife for their ‘obscene’ financial support of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

I would, however, like to express my sadness and disappointment over an article published in the New Zealand Herald today. Admittedly it’s an opinion piece, and possibly doesn’t reflect the position of the owners and publishers of the paper. However, it’s a sensitive issue, and they should give some thought to the warning of M. Montaigne.

The writer, James Robins, has chosen to make a connection between the Anzac involvement in the Gallipoli Campaign, and the current campaign to have the Armenian tragedy recognised as a genocide. He claims that New Zealand soldiers actually witnessed events proving that a genocide, the systematic and near-complete destruction of a people’ took place. Robins asserts that For centuries the Armenians had been second-class citizens in the Ottoman Empire.’ In fact, Armenians, along with Orthodox Christians and Jews had been given the right to build schools and churches, speak their languages, practice their religion, bury their dead, hold high positions, and live rich and comfortable lives in the Ottoman Empire.

The article contains a picture of a desecrated and destroyed Armenian cemetery. I can take Mr Robins to many Armenian churches and cemeteries occupying fabulously valuable real estate in modern Istanbul. If he has any Greek friends, he could ask them to show him mosques or synagogues in Athens or Salonika, cities that once had large Muslim and Jewish populations. And good luck with the search.

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Armenian cemetery in Şişli, one of Istanbul’s most expensive neighbourhoods

Robins quotes the ‘historian’ Taner Akçam – much of whose ‘research’ has in fact been called into question. A Turkish historian, Haluk Şahin, has just published a book, ‘Anatomy of a Forgotten Assassination Plot’. Şahin refers to the murder of two Turkish diplomats in Santa Barbara, California, on 27 January 1973 by an American citizen of Armenian descent – the first killing in an orchestrated programme that caused the deaths of 90 Turkish diplomatic staff and members of their immediate families.

I have in front of me an article from Al Jazeera dated 5 April, about the ongoing conflict between the country of Armenia and its neighbour Azerbaijan. The subheading reads: ‘The international community has consistently deplored the occupation of the Azerbaijani territories’. The article refers to the 1993 incident where Through the Armenian aggression and ethnic cleansing policy, 20 percent of the internationally recognised Azerbaijani territory (Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven adjacent districts) were occupied by Armenia, and more than one million Azerbaijanis were expelled from their ancestral lands.’

I’m not interested in taking sides on these issues. We New Zealanders have unsavoury and still unresolved events in our own history. The Roman Catholic Church likewise. I do hope, however, that the Herald’s correspondent, James Robins, represents a minority point-of-view when he asks, ‘Can New Zealand state officials stand on a platform with Turkish officials at Gallipoli knowing that they actively refuse to acknowledge the truth of what happened to the Armenians? Knowing now that New Zealanders risked their lives for the survivors?’

Just remember who looks after those Gallipoli cemeteries from one Anzac Day to the next; whose government gives New Zealanders free visas to enter their country, and whose people welcome us like family when we’re there. Are you really so sure of your facts that you want to jeopardise those privileges?

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Other posts on this issue:

Who killed the Armenians?

Armenian Massacres and the Nationalism of Hate

In Search of Solutions

History at 10,000 metres

Reality buttocks, papal infallibility and the Armenian issue

Selective Amnesia

Who hijacked the left?

Who Hijacked the Left? Armenians?

I remember the 1970s. There was a sense of idealism in the air that I fear is sadly lacking from the lives of young people in this cynical post-modern world. Back then I and a group of like-minded friends scraped enough money together to purchase a small run-down farm in a remote area in the far north of New Zealand. The aim was to set up a self-sufficient community away from the capitalist, imperialist, war-mongering, consumer-driven, crassly materialist society we saw all around us. The dream didn’t last, sad to say, though one of my friends, more committed and determined than the rest of us, is still there, doing his thing.

vote-puppet-on-the-left-puppet-on-the-right-choose-your-puppet-disclaimer-if-voting-could-truly-change-the-system-it-would-be-illegalSome of us had worked for the election of a Labour government in 1972, naively believing they would work to help us build a better world. They didn’t. From the disillusionment emerged a party calling itself ‘Values’, forerunner of today’s Greens, espousing policies aiming at a more egalitarian society based on sustainable use of natural resources. It was a trend common to most ‘developed’ nations at the time – though European reformers, for example the Germans, with more representative electoral systems, unlike New Zealand, did manage to gain some representation.

But something went wrong. Germany’s Greens, originally springing out of the environmentalist and peace movements, opposed to pollution, nuclear power, militarism and exploitative industrialisation, in 1993, after national re-unification, joined forces with ‘Bündnis 90’ (Alliance 90), an alliance of three non-Communist political groups in East Germany’. Well, I’m no big advocate of Communism, but subsequently Germany’s Greens seem to have lost their way. The latest evidence of this is their sponsoring a resolution to the Bundestag calling on the German government to support the ‘Armenian genocide’ lobby.

Now I have no problem with Green’s leader Cem Özdemir believing whatever he likes on any issue – but I do question whether the 1970s peacenik environmentalist founders of his party would have considered championing this dubious cause to be a useful way of advancing their goal of a more socially and environmentally friendly world. I know you’ll tell me there are many high-profile people in the world supporting this Armenian genocide business – Kim Kardashian and Amal Clooney to name but two. But I have to say in response that I have cause to question the leftist credentials of these no doubt well-meaning ladies.

Leaving Mrs KK West aside, for self-evident reasons, Mrs Clooney probably has claims to be taken more seriously. Nevertheless, pro-Armenian lobbyists’ disparaging opponents for being in the pay of Turkish interests seems a trifle hypocritical when they see no problem is hiring a lawyer like Mrs Clooney to advance their own case. Of course, you wouldn’t expect anyone to front up to a meeting with a world leader like Angela Merkel dressed in a hemp sweater and jeans, but Amal Clooney’s fashion website gushed that their icon was, for the occasion, wearing Versace, Oscar de la Renta, Dior etc gear to the value of more than $8,000.

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Innocent Armenian maidens crucified naked by barbaric Turks

Still, I don’t want to be accused of mounting a purely ad hominem (or worse, ad mulierem) argument here. I pay regular visits to the Yahoo news website while checking one of my email accounts. They dip into international news media, and I occasionally find snippets of interest. I have been getting increasingly annoyed, however, at the seemingly endless recycling of an item entitled ‘The Forgotten Genocide: Why it Matters Today.’ This piece is dated April 24, 2013, and the significance of that date is Armenian lobbyists chose it as their day for holding demonstrations around the world in support of their cause. THREE YEARS! Can I be excused for wondering whether the people at Yahoo have a vested interest in pushing this particular issue?

What I particularly object to, however, is the large picture on the page showing eight young naked women crucified on wooden crosses on a desolate landscape. This evocative image frequently appears on websites arguing for the recognition of an Armenian genocide, purporting to exemplify the inhuman atrocities carried out against innocent Armenians by barbaric Turks.

Well, I’m not going to delve into questions of how many Armenians died, what their people had done to justify punitive action, whether there was a deliberate and concerted attempt to wipe out an entire nation, and whether Turks were/are responsible for whatever happened. Simply I want to draw your attention to posters and newspaper articles that appeared in 1919 promoting a Hollywood movie entitled ‘Auction of Souls’. The film was based on a book, ‘Ravished Armenia’ purportedly written by Arshaluys (Aurora) Mardiganian about her personal experiences in the ‘Armenian Genocide’.

Auction_of_Souls_(1919)_-_Ad_7According to one poster, ‘Society people, adults only, paid $10.00 [$143.00 in 2016 dollars] per seat in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago to see this remarkable motion picture.’ Thousands were reportedly turned away, not surprising, perhaps, given the ‘adults only’ tag, and the prurient advertising:

‘Along the Trail of the Unspeakable Turk’

‘Not a picture for children’

‘The Armenian beauty who escaped to America after two years in the hands of Kurdish slave traders and Turkish harems’

‘You’ll see what they went through before and after they were sold’

‘A film that will make the blood of American women boil’

‘Sole survivor of half a million Armenian girls’ who had been ‘sold in Turkish slave markets’, ravished in the desert by ‘wild Turkish bandits’, buried in desert sands by their desperate mothers ‘to save them from the attacks of brutal Turks’, and more. This particular magazine article presents eight stills from the move, all of which feature young beautiful ‘fearful’, ‘helpless’, ‘unwilling’ Armenian girls, with not a red-blooded Armenian male in sight to stand up for them.

Auction_of_Souls_(1919)_-_Ad_8

Does that image look familiar?

Later on, ticket prices dropped to more reasonable levels at reruns in Cleveland and elsewhere as the film travelled around the county. Unfortunately, no complete copy has survived, but extracts can be seen on Youtube, and, perhaps more interestingly, stills from the movie, including the one of the naked crucified maidens, keep turning up on websites arguing for the ‘truth’ of the Armenian genocide. I wonder if Cem Özdemir and his German Green Party friends are aware of this monumental con trick.

The saddest thing, however, is how these self-styled leftist politicos keep getting away with throwing crumbs in support of trendy issues to gullible young (and not-so-young) voters, while propping up the financial/military/industrial complex that condemns billions of human beings world-wide to lives of virtual slavery and misery.

Bernie Sanders may be a wonderful man, and perfectly sincere in his socialist beliefs. Certainly his Wikipedia page presents a glowing testimonial, and I have no desire to disillusion American voters who see him as one capable of returning a semblance of reality to the American dream. Unfortunately, I remember a similar sense of euphoria surrounding the election of Barack Obama back in 2008. Subsequently he took responsibility for a $700 billion bailout of Wall St, and showed scant sympathy for the ‘Occupy’ movement of 2011. According to an article in The Independent, President Obama has authorised the bombing of seven countries, none of whom his government has actually declared war on – and launched eight times as many drone strikes as his predecessor, George Dubya. Apparently he is still trying, eight years on, to fulfil his promise to close the US torture facility at Guantanamo in Cuba – but don’t hold your breath. According to some sources, he has been running the most hidden, most clandestine and most secrecy-obsessed administration in American history.’ To be fair to Armenians, though, they have as much right as everyone else to feel aggrieved, given that Mr Obama promised, prior to election, that he would give official recognition to the Armenian genocide – but is unlikely now to get around to it.

obama_puppet2It’s a sad business. I read an article in The New Zealand Herald the other day bewailing the state of the country’s education system, and ascribing blame to Prime Minister David Lange’s Labour government that held the reins of power from 1984 to 1990. The writer is absolutely right, and he could have gone a good deal further. Sweeping to power behind Lange’s glib friend-of-the-people rhetoric, his government implemented economic and social ‘reforms’ beyond the wildest dreams of contemporary right wing ideologues, Margaret Thatcher in the UK, and America’s own free market wizard, Ronald Reagan.

That Labour government’s election win was facilitated by the brief appearance on the political scene of a party founded and funded by a multi-millionaire property tycoon. Bob Jones’s party was credited incorrectly at the time with engineering the defeat of New Zealand’s traditional conservative party (National). National’s leader was almost universally unpopular, and the party would have lost anyway. What the property tycoon succeeded in doing was bringing about the political extinction of the Social Credit Party whose chief platform was monetary reform, and ensuring that the ‘Labour’ government had an absolute majority to rule alone – a mandate which they proceeded to egregiously abuse bysurprisingly for an ostensibly socialist party, implement[ing] free market reforms’.

As far as I know, none of those involved were Armenians.