Nearly 1.5 million Armenians died at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in 1915, during World War I. Turks by and large do not believe mass killings were planned.
CUNGUS, Turkey — The crumbling stone monastery, built into the hillside, stands as a forlorn monument to an awful past. So, too, does the decaying church on the other side of this mountain village. Farther out, a crevice is sliced into the earth, so deep that peering into it, one sees only blackness. Haunting for its history, it was there that a century ago, an untold number of Armenians were tossed to their deaths.
“They threw them in that hole, all the men,” said Vahit Sahin, 78, sitting at a cafe in the center of the village, reciting the stories that have passed through generations.
Mr. Sahin turned in his chair and pointed toward the monastery. “That side was Armenian.” He turned back. “This side was Muslim. At first, they were really friendly with each other.”
A hundred years ago, amid the upheaval of World War I, this village and countless others across eastern Anatolia became killing fields as the desperate leadership of the Ottoman Empire, having lost the Balkans and facing the prospect of losing its Arab territories as well, saw a threat closer to home.
Worried that the Christian Armenian population was planning to align with Russia, a primary enemy of the Ottoman Turks, officials embarked on what historians have called the first genocide of the 20th century: Nearly 1.5 million Armenians were killed, some in massacres like the one here, others in forced marches to the Syrian desert that left them starved to death.
The genocide was the greatest atrocity of the Great War. It also remains that conflict’s most bitterly contested legacy, having been met by the Turkish authorities with 100 years of silence and denial. For surviving Armenians and their descendants, the genocide became a central marker of their identity, the psychic wounds passed through generations.
“Armenians have passed one whole century, screaming to the world that this happened,” said Gaffur Turkay, whose grandfather, as a young boy, survived the genocide and was taken in by a Muslim family. Mr. Turkay, in recent years, after discovering his heritage, began identifying as an Armenian and converted to Christianity. “We want to be part of this country with our original identities, just as we were a century ago,” he said.
Today it’s taken for granted that people of all ethnic groups should be treated equally in the armed forces and elsewhere. But as Leslie Gordon Goffe writes, during World War One black officers in the British armed forces faced a system with prejudice at its core.
When war was declared in 1914, a Jamaican, David Louis Clemetson, was among the first to volunteer.
A 20-year-old law student at Cambridge University when war broke out, Clemetson was eager to show that he and others from British colonies like Jamaica — where the conflict in Europe had been dismissed by some as a “white man’s war” — were willing to fight and die for King and Country. […]
Two years before, in 1915, he became one of the first black British officers of WW1. This was despite the provisions in the 1914 Manual of Military Law which barred, what it called, “negroes and or persons of colour” from holding rank above sergeant. […]
History has long recorded another black soldier, British-born Walter Tull, as the first to become an officer. But by the time Tull became a 2nd lieutenant in the Middlesex Regiment on 30 May 1917, Clemetson had been an officer for going on two years. There is a distinction — Clemetson was in the Yeomanry, part of what was then the Territorial Force, rather than the regular Army. […]
Another candidate for the first black officer is Jamaican-born George Bemand. But he had to lie about his black ancestry in order to become an officer. Bemand, whose story was unearthed by historian Simon Jervis, became a 2nd lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery on 23 May 1915, four months before Clemetson became an officer and two years before Walter Tull. […]
Following the Pope’s lead:
The European Parliament backed a motion on Wednesday that calls the massacre a century ago of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces a “genocide”, days after Pope Francis triggered fury in Turkey by using the same term.
Pope Francis sparked a diplomatic row last Sunday by calling the killings “the first genocide of the 20th century”. His remarks prompted Turkey to summon the Vatican’s ambassador to the Holy See and to recall its own.
The European Parliament sprang to the pope’s defense, commending the message the pontiff delivered at the weekend.
I like the “sprang to the pope’s defense” part.
More (from Reuters): European Parliament votes to call 1915 Armenian killings genocide
Most of these maladies seem ridiculous now because modern science has told us so. However, the fight over women’s bodies, voices and minds have continued to be waged, in part, by men. With an anti-abortion bill in Arizona that would require doctors to tell women that drug-induced abortions can be reversed, to a Supreme Court ruling that restricts a woman right to choose based on her employer’s religious freedoms, there’s no doubt that women are still being limited through medicine.
Long article, much more at link, including support for the renaming of southern military bases that are currently named for Confederate officers. There are a lot of these: Benning, Hill, Lee, Gordon, Bragg, and several more.
I would add that more should be done to commemorate southern Unionists. Many of the latter died for their resistance to the Confederacy yet these patriots came to be vilified as “scalawags” in the corrupt mythology of the “Lost Cause.”
150 years ago this week, Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union. Let’s celebrate it—every year.
In a speech one month ago, the first black president of the United States challenged millions of white Americans to resist the convenient allure of overlooking the country’s blemished moral record. It was a dual challenge, actually—first to the classical understanding of American exceptionalism, but also to America’s persistent critics, who abjure the concept of exceptionalism altogether.
“What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this?” President Barack Obama said. “What greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?”
This week provides an occasion for the U.S. government to get real about history, as April 9 is the 150th anniversary of the Union’s victory in the Civil War. The generous terms of Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House foreshadowed a multitude of real and symbolic compromises that the winners of the war would make with secessionists, slavery supporters, and each other to piece the country back together. It’s as appropriate an occasion as the Selma anniversary to reflect on the country’s struggle to improve itself. And to mark the occasion, the federal government should make two modest changes: It should make April 9 a federal holiday; and it should commit to disavowing or renaming monuments to the Confederacy, and its leaders, that receive direct federal support.
I came across this NY Times editorial via Nancy LeTourneau in a piece published at Washington Monthly. Definitely worth a read.
THE surrender of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House, 150 years ago next month, effectively ended the Civil War. Preoccupied with the challenges of our own time, Americans will probably devote little attention to the sesquicentennial of Reconstruction, the turbulent era that followed the conflict. This is unfortunate, for if any historical period deserves the label “relevant,” it is Reconstruction.
Issues that agitate American politics today — access to citizenship and voting rights, the relative powers of the national and state governments, the relationship between political and economic democracy, the proper response to terrorism — all of these are Reconstruction questions. But that era has long been misunderstood.
It was not economic dependency, however, but widespread violence, coupled with a Northern retreat from the ideal of equality, that doomed Reconstruction. The Ku Klux Klan and kindred groups began a campaign of murder, assault and arson that can only be described as homegrown American terrorism. Meanwhile, as the Northern Republican Party became more conservative, Reconstruction came to be seen as a misguided attempt to uplift the lower classes of society.
By the turn of the century, with the acquiescence of the Supreme Court, a comprehensive system of racial, political and economic inequality, summarized in the phrase Jim Crow, had come into being across the South. At the same time, the supposed horrors of Reconstruction were invoked as far away as South Africa and Australia to demonstrate the necessity of excluding nonwhite peoples from political rights. This is why W.E.B. Du Bois, in his great 1935 work “Black Reconstruction in America,” saw the end of Reconstruction as a tragedy for democracy, not just in the United States but around the globe.
Once the fighting started, a lot of people died, well over a million on our side alone. For the war to continue, a constant stream of new fighters had to join up, and they didn’t have the benefit of such luxuries as “functional equipment” or “the slightest idea what to do.” Over 90 percent of these new recruits were teenagers or younger. Many of them weren’t even particularly invested in the “cause” itself. Supporting Communism or the dream of a united Vietnam was less a motivator than wanting revenge for the death of a parent, loved one, or child. The Viet Cong (literally: the National Liberation Front or just “the front”) were just a means for securing that revenge.
Most of them were aware that Stalin and Mao each had movements named after them (Stalinism and Maoism), so they just assumed Socialism was named after a guy named Social and Communism was named after a guy named Commun. A distressing number of my co-soldiers still thought we were fighting France. They knew of Ho Chi Minh, but only in vague propagandistic terms, not the man’s actual history. When we told them we wanted a Socialist society, they just said yes because they were mostly poor, grieving peasants living through a shortage of damns, and thus had none to spare for politics.
That’s just the beginning. I don’t have words for the whole thing. I just don’t.
Here is an interesting article on one of Tail Gunner Joe’s sick witch hunts that has, unfortunately, been forgotten.
I try not to feel schadenfreude of the fate of McCarthy’s side kick, Ray Cohn, but I never succeed.
“I thought they invented the feminist movement. I’ve learned feminism disproportionately from black women,” Steinem says. “I realize that things being what they are, the White middle-class part of the movement got reported more, but if you look at the numbers and the very first poll of women responding to feminist issues, African American women were twice as likely to support feminism and feminist issues than White women,” she adds.
Steinem had close alliances with black activists such as the late lawyer Flo Kennedy and Dorothy Pitman Hughes, an early advocate of affordable child care. In the early 1970’s Steinem also published Alice Walker’s work in Ms. Magazine, making Walker one of the first black editors at the publication. (This is lo
James Grant Madison, the first president of the Kansas City-Leavenworth area chapter of the National 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association, or Buffalo Soldiers, died Monday in Kansas City. He was 92.
Madison was born in Marshall, Mo. He entered the Army in 1942 and served in the 10th Cavalry. When the Army disbanded the horse cavalry, Madison’s unit served in North Africa and Europe during World War II.
After the war, Madison worked for the U.S. Postal Service for more than 30 years.
The Buffalo Soldiers were members of the 10th Cavalry formed at Fort Leavenworth in 1866. They protected settlers during the westward expansion. The 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association was formed in 1966.