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Armenian Issue Revisited

Angora and the Turks

By Arthur Tremaine Chester
Representative of U.S. Shipping Board in Istanbul.
Published in the New York Times Current History Journal, February 1923

Armenians Deported for Treachery

We hear a great deal about the deportation of Armenians from the Northeast of Turkey during the World War. The facts are that the Turks sent an army to the Russian border to defend their country against the threatened Russian invasion. The army consisted of Turkish subjects of all nationalities, being drafted just as ours are drafted. At the front the Armenians used blank cartridges and deserted in droves. This was bad enough, but the Armenians were not satisfied with this form of treachery. The provinces in rear of the army had a large Armenian population, and these people, feeling that there was an excellent chance of the Russians defeating the Turks, decided to make it a certainty by rising up in the rear of the army and cutting it off from its base of supplies. Let me draw a parallel imaginary case. Suppose that Mexico was a powerful and rival country with which we were at war, and suppose that we sent an army to the Mexican border to hold back the invading enemy; suppose further that not only the negroes in our army deserted to the enemy but those left at home organized and cut off our line of communication. What do you think we as a people, especially the Southerners, would do to the negroes? Our negroes have ten times the excuse for hating the whites than the Armenians have for their attitude toward the Turks. They have no representation, although they have an overwhelming majority in large sections of the South, and have nothing to say in the making or administration of the laws under which they are governed. South of the Mason and Dixon line they are practically a subject race, while the Armenians in Turkey have not only full representation but special privileges not accorded by any other country.

The Turkish Government ordered the Armenians deported from the districts they menaced. That they did not have railways and other means of transportation was not their fault, and the deportation had to be carried out on foot. That this was not done in the most humane manner possible is undoubtedly a fact, and the Turkish Government has condemned the unnecessary cruelties that occurred; but I feel confident that if America had been put in the hypothetical situation above referred to, it would have stopped that insurrection if it had to kill every negro in the South, and would not have gone to the tedious and laborious defensive act of deportation, in spite of our extensive means of transportation.

I chanced to meet not long ago, an Armenian who was, in 1899, the consular representative of Turkey in New York. He told me that at that time there was an "Armenian massacre." There was the usual hue and cry against the wholesale killing of Christians in Turkey. It became so intense that the Turkish Government decided to submit proofs that the "massacre" was the direct result of traitorous and revolutionary acts by the Armenians themselves. The consular agent, in his official capability, submitted these proofs to the State Department, and the evidence so overwhelmingly vindicated the Turks that the matter was immediately dropped. These records are on file at the State Department.

In the reactionary movement of 1909 the soldiers in Constantinople revolted and killed two hundred of their officers. Parliament, police and, in fact, every restraining force left the capital. For ten days the capital was in the hands of unofficered, unrestrained and irresponsible troops. They were free to do anything they desired and yet during that time not a woman was insulted nor a store looted. I can imagine no other race showing such self-restraint under similar lawless conditions.

There is no question that there have been instances where cruel individuals have done things against the Armenians and Greeks without provocation, and they should be condemned in the strongest terms; but it is safe to say that no massacre of any importance has occurred that was not the direct result of traitorous or threatening acts by the victims. It is a known fact that on several occasions Armenian leaders have intentionally instigated these massacres for the sole purpose of obtaining foreign sympathy and political aid.

It must be noted that in almost every case the massacres have been confined to either Armenians or Greeks, according to which race did the overt act that caused the massacre. No members of either of these races were killed because they were Christians any more than negroes are lynched because they are Methodists.

Our papers refuse to publish the account of barbarities and atrocities committed by the Greeks upon the Turks, although authenticated by unbiased foreign officials, including our own, and yet they are as inhuman and blood-curdling as any recorded in history.

I have yet to meet a foreigner living in this part of the world and unbiased by politics, religion or pecuniary benefits from condemning the Turks, who has not most empathically stated that of all the races represented in the population of the old Turkish Empire, the Turks by far are the best people.

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