posts 1 - 15 of 26
Boston, US
Posts: 205

Read: Chapters 1 and 2, from Samantha Power, “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide (New York: Basic Books, 2001), pp. 1-29.

We will be looking at the Armenian genocide this week, so I would like you to break open your “virtual copy” of former UN Ambassador from the United States (and recently appointed US AID chief) Samantha Power’s 2001 book, “A Problem from Hell”: America in the Age of Genocide. Here’s the link to the reading.

Power begins her volume by talking about the Armenian situation before there was a word “genocide” in the English language. She the introduces Based on what you read in her account, I would ask you to consider the following, based on what you read in this chapter AS WELL AS what you see in the materials we look at in class. Make sure you support your observations with specifics. (In other words, vague generalities not accepted.)

Did we --the United States--and our allies act as bystanders during the Armenian genocide?

Admittedly, between 1914 and 1918, most of Europe was caught up in World War I; the United States joined the war in 1917, after remaining steadfastly isolationist in the preceding years. The Armenian genocide occurred between 1915 and 1923, with the bulk of events occurring between 1915-1917. Needless to say, folks were busy during that period. So maybe it’s unfair to ask this question.

But I’m asking it anyway.

What could we/should we have done? Should the U.S and/or other nations take a stand when an entire population is being destroyed? On principle? Wherever and whenever it happens? No matter what? Always? Sometimes? Rarely? (Whoa, quite a few question marks here…)

In short, what sort of role would you advocate for the United States and other nations witnessing this (and by extension, any other) genocide?

Do you think world nations behaved differently during the Armenian genocide than they did during the carnage in Africa—specifically what we saw in German South West Africa (Namibia)--in the late 19th and early 20th centuries? Why or why not?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17


The United States and our allies did in fact act as bystanders during the Armenian Genocide. An entire population was being destroyed yet the only major action the United States took was merely sitting on the sidelines. Talaat Pasha was the main driving force behind the Armenian Genocide. He claimed that there were no room for Christians in Turkey and justified the deportation of Armenians by saying it was necessary to suppress Armenian revolts. The violence and suffering that the Armenians experienced is unimaginable- family members were murdered in front of each other, many were relocated to camps in Syria that were never prepared, and countless died of starvation. In response to this, the international community did virtually nothing, deeming the United States as bystanders once again.

The United States and other nations should have taken a stand when they were witnesses to an entire population being destroyed. A key example of this is Henry Morgenthau Sr, who was appointed ambassador to the Ottoman Empire by President Wilson in 1913. At first, Morgenthau was skeptical about the severity of the atrocities committed against the Armenians, as he was told by Talaat that they were only acts of “mob violence”. Once he finally came face to face with the reality of the issue, he sent cables to Washington describing the Turkish campaign and the horrific persecution of Armenians. Unfortunately, Morgenthau’s hands were tied by legal restrictions. He was held by diplomatic protocol to stay out of business that did not concern U.S. national interests, essentially meaning that Morgenthau had no right to interfere with what were said to be Turkish internal affairs. This combined with resolution of the Wilson administration to remain neutral and to stay out of World War I made it extremely difficult for Morgenthau to enact change and provide aid to the Armenians. Time and time again, Morgenthau extended his efforts. He gave coverage to the Turkish horrors through his connection with the publisher of the New York Times in addition to raising money through donations from various organizations, such as the Rockefeller Foundation. He begged those in higher positions of power to “give this matter urgent and exhaustive consideration” and to “provide opportunity for efficient relief”. His requests were denied. The lack of initiative taken by the United States government caused Morgenthau to reach the end of his rope and he eventually resigned, as his “failure to stop the destruction of the Armenians” made Turkey a “place of horror” for him.

Thus, the United States should have followed Morgenthau’s lead and provided aid to the Armenians while also denouncing Turkish actions. We were adamant in our refusal to declare war and break off relations with the Ottoman Empire yet look where that got us. Being a witness to humanitarian crises demands involvement and ensuring accountability for those responsible. There is no justification for our lack of help when an entire population was being destroyed. The U.S. and other large nations should have publicized the issue further and ended their relations with Turkey. That much we could’ve done. Furthermore, we could’ve brought more attention to the issue instead of fearing drawing attention to these atrocities and inciting public desire for U.S. involvement. I believe the United States and other nations can all take a lesson from Morgenthau and start publicly speaking out against such violence instead of sitting, twiddling our thumbs, on the sidelines.

In regards to the Herero and Nama genocides, I think that world nations behaved a bit differently in comparison to the Armenian genocides. There seemed to be more coverage surrounding the Armenian genocides, with various headlines in the New York Times and a general acknowledgement among the government. Many more people came to know about the Armenian atrocities through the efforts of Morgenthau, so much that Talaat had to begin hiding bodies because foreigners had obtained photographs of corpses. However, like the genocides in Namibia, there was a complete lack of interference from the United States and other nations. President Wilson and the U.S. government refused to cast away their neutrality and these actions had extreme repercussions. Overall, in both the Herero and Nama and Armenian genocides, the world nations remained consistent in their lack of aid and disregard to help those who were experiencing mass suffering.

West Roxbury, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

Regrettable Actions

What we should've done should've been to protect the Armenians from the genocide and fight for them against the Turks, but the U.S being neutral has more meaning to it. At the time, everyone was caught up in World War I and there had been many deaths between the Central Powers and the Allies. The United States were allies with the Allies side and eventually were called into the war for back up. However, the United States were hesitant to join because of unnecessary casualties. To add on, the noise coming from the Allies were likely much louder to President Wilson's ears than some Armenians getting wiped. However, this is no excuse as the cowardly actions of President Wilson resulted in many Armenians dying. To avoid the deaths of many Armenians, the United States should've done ignored the fighting going on about one archduke and should've prioritized saving a population.

If there was a role I would advocate the United States or any country to take in stopping a genocide, I would want the countries being involved as a peacemaker. The quicker someone steps in, the more innocent lives spared, however you shouldn't step in for to long as you don't want to get your resources depleted or experience too many casualties.

Looking more towards the Herero and Nama genocides, I believe that world nations did not treat the Herero and Nama genocides like the Armenian genocides. Overall, there was just more coverage of the Armenian genocide in sources such as the New York Times which likely led to some part of the acknowledgement of the general government. To add on, lots of people found out about the Armenian atrocities through the efforts of Morgenthau, to the point that Talaat had to begin hiding bodies because foreigners had obtained photographs of corpses. Similar to the genocides in Namibia, there was a complete lack of involvement from the United States and other nations. President Wilson and the U.S. government refused to cast away their neutrality and the results ended up being lethal. To conclude, in both the Herero and Nama and Armenian genocides, the nations of the world did not choose to aid either of the populations during their own genocides, and this resulted in mass sufferings that coul have been prevented.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 11
I think that these decisions are insanely difficult to consider. I’m a 16 year old white girl- I have no idea what it would be like to be in a leadership position during the first World War. It’s easy for me to say that we should have intervened in what was happening, but all countries had a host of other problems they were dealing with. From a moral standpoint, we should have intervened immediately, whether through military action or sanctions or any other type of action. There are similar things happening today as well-- like what’s happening in Myanmar. It would be ideal if we could intervene and stop it, but that also brings up a question as to whether US involvement in foreign matters that don’t concern us is helpful or not. We have no way of knowing if a hypothetical action taken to prevent what happened in Armenia would have actually helped, or if it would’ve just taken more lives from both sides.
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

The United States and its allies all acted like bystanders during the Armenian Genocide, a tragic historical event. During this time World War One was going on, starting in 1914, while the Armenian Genocide started in 1915, which somewhat justifies them not helping the Armenians.However, the United States joins World War One in 1917, which means that they had two years beforehand to help stop the genocide in Armenia. The current United States President at the time, Woodrow Wilson, was known worldwide for waiting and refusing to join WW1, but still didn’t take advantage of this time to help Armenia. It seems that the United States did not interfere with the Armenian Genocide because no outcome would truly affect the United States. When the USA finally joined WW1, they tried to be civil with Turkey, until Turkey finally stopped their relationship.

When an entire population is being destroyed, all other nations should take a stand and try to stop what could let to the end of that nation. Nobody deserves to die, no matter if they’ve committed a crime of any severity or not, and especially not by ruining everything about what they call home. The United States and all other nations should absolutely intervene in international situations concerning genocide. They did nothing to stop the Armenian Genocide, and I think that literally anything they could have done at all would have helped them. In order to end brutality, you must find a way to have peace with who is a victim of said brutality. Although these murders were eventually brought partially to justice by Britain and France, it took too long a time for it to happen. A declaration was made against these crimes, but several members of the governments barely even believed that it was real based on the lack of publication on it. It is believed that these government officials barely even cared about making up for not intervening during the genocide, they just wanted to make themselves look better in the public eye. Overall, nations did get involved in the ArmenianGenocide as much as they should have because “it was not their problem’.

I do not think that world nations reacted similarly to the Armenian Genocide as they did in the Genocide in Namibia. It is known that world nations did absolutely nothing during the Armenian Genocide, but during the genocide of Namibia, European did something and created havoc. European colonizers came to Namibia with hopes to conquer their land and the resources and human on it. The native people wanted to keep their land and rebelled against the Europeans, but because they resisted Europeans were told to kill them. Instead of actively doing anything, good or bad, world nations did absolutely nothing during the Armenian Genocide so it is not similar to the response to the crimes in Namibia.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 19

Prioritizing the Global Community

Turkey entered World War I on the side of Germany against Great Britain, Russia, and France. Talaat Pasha was the Turkish interior minister at the time. In 1915, Talaat led the mass killing of over 1 million Armenians through bludgeoning, starvation, and firing squads. Talaat made it extremely clear that he was planning on executing the Christian subjects of the empire. He started by disarming Armenian men in the Ottoman army, executing Armenian intellectuals, and enlisting Armenian individuals as “pack animals” to transport Turkish supplies. Teachers were killed, schools were closed, and churches were desecrated. Additionally, Turkish authorities “posted deportation orders requiring the Armenians to relocate to camps prepared in the deserts of Syria” knowing “that no facilities had been prepared”. Over half of the deported Armenians died on the way. Talaat wrote, “we are ensuring their eternal rest.”

Turkish authorities tried to justify the mass relocation and execution of Armenians with the pretext of a “revolutionary uprising”, referring to the previous year when Russia had invited Armenians living in Turkey to rise up against Ottoman rule after Russia declared war on Turkey. Few agreed, most were just trying to survive under Ottoman rule. This is similar to the Germans claiming that the Herero and Nama people were a serious threat to their safety as a way to justify the war they were waging against them. In both cases, there were people trying to survive under oppressive rule or encroachment that were dehumanized.

Other countries, including the United States, did little to nothing to fight against or prevent the Armenian Genocide. While Germany was in the best position to act, they “generally covered up Talaat’s campaign, ridiculing the Allied accounts of the terror as ‘pure invention’ and ‘grown exaggerations’”. They even said that the Turks were acting appropriately in response to the “Armenian treason during wartime.” The Germans were determined not to “offend (their) ally”. Their lack of action and bystanderism is not surprising considering their own role in genocides, such as their role in the Herero and Nama Genocide in Namibia.

The United States did not endorse the violence, but they also did not actively try to stop it. President Woodrow Wilson decided that the United States should maintain neutrality in the war. The United States did not pressure Turkey or Germany and did not join the Allies. President Wilson was aware that drawing the attention of the public to the Armenian Genocide would stir up pressure by the public to get involved in the war. While Americans in the United States were complete bystanders, Americans in Turkey were not. An American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau Sr., pressured the United States to act. The problem was that Morgenthau was trying to act under almost impossible conditions, “first, the Wilson administration was resolved to stay out of World War I. Picking fights with Turkey did not seem a good way to advance that objective. And second, diplomatic protocol demanded that ambassadors act respectfully toward their host governments.” Similarly, American missionaries driven out of Turkey, such as William A. Shedd, a Presbyterian missionary, wrote to the U.S. Secretary of State,

I am sure there are a great many thoughtful Americans ...feel that silence on the part of our Government is perilous and that for our Government to make no public protest against a crime of such magnitude perpetrated by a Government on noncombatants, the great majority of them helpless women and children, is to miss an unusual opportunity to serve humanity, if not to risk grave danger of dishonor on the name of America and of lessening our right to speak for humanity and justice. I am aware, of course, that it may seem presumptuous to suggest procedure in matters of diplomacy; but the need of these multitudes of people suffering in Turkey is desperate, and the only hope of influence is the Government of the United States.

Others called on the United States to act too. Viscount Bryce, a former British ambassador to the United states begged that they used their influence with Germany, "If anything can stop the destroying hand of the Turkish Government,” Bryce argued, as did the missionaries who had appealed to Morgenthau,"it will be an expression of the opinion of neutral nations, chiefly the judgment of humane America." Despite all of the requests and proof, the United States still refused to take any real action, stating, “however much we may deplore the suffering of the Armenians, we cannot take any active steps to come to their assistance at the present time."Their solution was to tell Morgenthau to tell Turkish authorities that “that the atrocities would "jeopardize the good feeling of the people of the United States toward the people of Turkey". Eventually Germany was asked by the U.S. Secretary of State to “restrain Turkey”, but he still expressed an understanding for “Turkey’s security concerns” in 1916 writing, “I could see that (the Armenians'] well-known disloyalty to the Ottoman Government and the fact that the territory which they inhabited was within the zone of military operations constituted grounds more or less justifiable for compelling them to depart their homes." His obvious attempts to downplay the violence by using words like “compelling” and phrases like “depart their homes” adds to his bystanderism and in a way unites him with the perpetrators. The United States’s attempts to shield the public from the truth acts in the same way as Talaat Pasha’s attempts to keep everything quiet by censoring communication to the United States and even saying that it was simply “mob violence”. Even though Talaat made attempts to hide some of his actions, in response to U.S. statements saying that “Talaat and other senior officials would eventually be held responsible before the court of public opinion, particularly in the United States”, he also openly expressed his lack of care in statements such as, ‘“We don't give a rap for the future!’ It was evident that the ‘threats’ from the U.S. had no effect. Eventually in 1917, the United States joined World War I, two years after the Armenian Genocide started. In short, the United States acted as bystanders during the Armenian genocide. Nations act this way when they adopt policies that put their nation first with little to no concern for other nations. In other words, when nations don’t prioritize the wellbeing of humanity as a whole or when nationalism is separated from and prioritized over globalism. The United States should have directly intervened by sending troops to Turkey to combat the Turkish military. They also should have sent aid and relief to the Armenians. This would’ve marked the beginning of their role in World War I. If they did not do that, making relations with Turkey and Germany tense, then they should have at the very least pressured Germany into using their influence, as Viscount Bryce called for. Any action taken against the Turkish authorities would have been a better alternative than what they did.

World nations did not behave much differently during the Armenian Genocide than they did during the carnage in German South West Africa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Nations acted as bystanders as groups of people were dehumanized and executed. In what is now Namibia, the Herero and Nama people were executed, forced into the desert where they starved, taken prisoner in concentration camps, and forced into labor. This is similar to what happened in Turkey. World nations did not intervene. One difference is that there seemed to be more attention in the media, such as in The New York Times, and more pressure from individuals to act during the Armenian Genocide.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 16

Genocide and International Intervention

The United States and allies did act as bystanders during the Armenian genocide. I think the main perspective that was taken by the U.S. was that it did not affect them or the American citizens, so why intervene? Without pressure from the public, the U.S. wasn’t going to do anything to prevent the Armenian genocide in order to “maintain it’s neutrality in the war”, according to Samantha Powers. Henry Morgenthau, at the time the American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, made outstanding efforts to put a stop to the atrocities being committed in Turkey but ultimately he couldn’t make lasting change. Because of the United States “neutrality” (which is arguably contributing to the issue) and laws in place that prevented diplomats and governments from interfering with international affairs, nothing was being done on behalf of the U.S. to help Armenians. One one hand I find this shocking, while on the other hand I don’t, because I think it is awful that despite efforts by those like Morgenthau, the U.S. would rather remain “peaceful” than save the lives so many innocent people but I also see that the U.S. was only acting off of their own interests and didn’t want to potentially harm themselves in some way.

As for what I think should have been done, I believe the U.S. should have allied with other countries, putting external pressure on the perpetrators of these crimes like those in Turkey or even Nazi Germany, but I also know that action like this is easier said than done. But despite that, I think that something should have been done. I think “maintaining neutrality” while standing back and watching an entire population of people being destroyed is extremely wrong and that, like Lemkin stood for, “the physical and cultural existence of groups had to be preserved.” So much was at stake, not only the lives of many individuals but the mere existence of their population and culture, and to stand back and let that happen is awful, and I think could arguably be deemed a crime. Although there was lots of media coverage of the Armenian genocide at the time, simply knowing about it isn’t enough, I feel it needed to be the government officials and more people in power taking action.

The world didn’t treat the Armenian genocide much differently than they did the genocide of the Herero and Nama people in Namibia. As Samantha Powers discussed in “A Problem From Hell”, the Armenian genocide did recieve a fair amount of media coverage. There was some action being taken by people in the U.S., it just lacked real traction within the government. In the genocide in what is now Namibia, there was little to no media coverage, let alone real intervention. But what stands out to me is that even currently it isn’t heard about as frequently. Germans themselves have only made some efforts at reparations, as well as Turkey in regards to Armenians.

Earl Grey Tea
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

The Armenian Genocide and Bystanderism

It was especially difficult reading about the Armenian genocide realizing the United States was aware of what was going on and chose not to step in. The descriptions of the genocide from the reading were very tough to take in. Tehlirian recounts having seen his brother’s head being split by an ax and his mother shot. Many others probably had similar experiences.

Henry Morgenthau Sr., America’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire warned Washington that there was a systematic plan to crush the Armenian race. He had met with Talaat a number of times. One time he explains how Talaat became infuriated with him, asking why he cared so much about the Christians since he was a Jew. American consols provided Morgenthau with countless pieces of evidence, and he officially took it upon himself to ask Washington to intervene. When given the opportunity to intervene, the American government chose not to. They were merely spectators. When asked why he cared so much about the Christians, Henry Morgenthau Sr. said that as an ambassador, he put his religion and everything else aside to focus on humanity. The United States was not able to put their own nationality and interests for their own country aside to help other humans being murdered for no reason.

The U.S. must have chosen not to draw attention to the atrocities partly because they didn’t want the American public to get stirred up and begin demanding U.S. involvement. As the reading reasons, “Because the Turks had not violated the rights of Americans, Wilson did not formally protest.” They were bystanders in this way.

It is important to consider that the United States and other countries were caught up in World War I. That’s part of the reason why Wilson didn’t do anything about the Armenian genocide.The United States wanted to maintain its neutrality in the war, and that meant refraining from pressuring the Germans or Turks. But I do think the United States and other nations should have taken a stand when an entire population was being destroyed. This is something that shouldn’t have to be written anywhere; intervention should have happened based on moral principles. I think in any situation like this, when a country has knowledge of atrocities committed on an entire population, the only appropriate thing to do would be to take a stand. I would advocate for any nation capable of taking action to speak out against genocide and use their military if necessary.

Although both the Armenian and the Herero genocides are to this day not known by many, the Herero genocide has been hidden more. It seems that more people around the world, not necessarily the leaders of other nations, attempted to do something about the Armenian genocide while it was happening. For example, Morgenthau did try to get the United States government to do something about it. I think the circumstances during the Armenian genocide, with World War I going on, held other nations back from intervening because they feared putting their own nation in a dangerous place. The Herero genocide, on the other hand, happened during a period of this horrible colonization of Africa. I think less nations cared about taking any action because many other nations were caught up in their own colonization, disregarding human rights in the process. For example, Belgium treated indigenous people horribly in the Congo. Overall I think there was more of an effort from other nations to stop the Armenian genocide than there was for the Herero genocide, but the devastating outcomes of both make them hard to compare.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

America's Lack of Response to the Armenian Genocide

In 1915 Turkish interior minister Talaat Pasha ordered and presided over the killing of almost a million Armenians in Turkey, a horrific crime which would come to be known as the Armenian genocide. The Armenian genocide was one of the many times in history in which the U.S. stepped back and acted as bystanders. For the sake of remaining neutral and because the Armenian genocide did not directly affect Americans, the U.S. refused to take action to stop the genocide of nearly a million Armenians and that decision led to the loss of far more lives then if we had intervened. We knew that these atrocities were being committed, yet we still stepped back when faced with the chance to intervene. Refusing to offend anyone, we did not even cut ties with Turkey until they ultimately cut ties with us years later. The U.S. government did next to nothing and organizations such as the Committee of Armenian Atrocities tried to emphasize peace in an attempt to avoid confronting the growing issue at hand, and their words did not accomplish any change on the behalf of the Armenians in Turkey.

We should have taken action and intervened, and I believe that whenever an entire population is being destroyed it is always necessary for the U.S. and other nations to take a stand, neutrality is never enough when it comes to the loss of human life. Yes, we were in the middle of trying to stay out of World War II at the time, but that is no excuse for not taking a stand when a whole population is being brutally killed. We could (and should) have taken action by challenging Turkey and by taking military action as a next step, as clearly denouncing the genocide was not enough.

One of the most horrifying parts about the U.S. being such bystanders during the Armenian genocide is that we knew what was occurring, and we knew the level of the atrocities that were taking place. Morgentheu, an American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, heard accounts of these atrocities, describing them as a “race war”, and reported them to the U.S, but still we did nothing with this knowledge. Morgentheu found that as an ambassador, rules and protocol essentially required that he only act on the behalf of the American people and of the American government, as the rest of the country was behaving. It is yet another example of the America first mentality, where the Armenians’ lives were not seen as worth saving because the Armenian genocide did not affect Americans. However, while it did not directly affect us at the time, we will still be remembered for being bystanders while hundreds of thousands of Armenian lives were lost.

I think that both the U.S. and other nations have the obligation to intervene when a genocide is taking place, and given the nature of the crime, I think that it is expected that intervening will not result in any sort of neutrality and will likely escalate to military conflict, but that is completely necessary. During the Armenian genocide other nations such as Britain and France took a stand more than the U.S., but their stance did not result in much action. The allied governments delivered a declaration that condemned “crimes against humanity” and said that they would hold the Turkish government “personally responsible” for their crimes. However, in the future while their was momentum for holding countries accountable for the crimes committed in WWI, the momentum was quickly lost and hardly anything resulted, not to mention that the allied governments did not physically intervene while the genocide was occuring. The U.S. did not even take this stance by supporting the declaration, and was in the true role of a bystander, when nations should have been upstanders and taken on the role of intervening and taking tangible action against the genocide, even if that meant sparking military conflict. By not holding the perpetrators of such crimes responsible, not only are we taking a part in the destruction of an entire population, but we are also setting a precedent for the future, saying that there are not consequences for such horrific violence and that the only lives that matter are the lives of those within our country's borders.

The nations definitely behaved differently during the Herero and Nama genocide than during the Armenian genocide, although the U.S. was ultimately a bystander in both. The Armenian genocide had much more publicity internationally and today is much more acknowleged. In the case of the Herero and Nama genocide there was little to none publicity, with the exception of what the perpetrators made public, and there is still little publicity today. Not only was there less publicity, but there just seemed to be a lack of attention towards it in general, and there still seems to be a sense of indifference, as people are tourists in the spaces that the Herero and Nama genocide once took place. In both the U.S. did nothing and countless lives were lost. The main difference is that both in the past and the present, the Armenian genocide is recognized far more than the Herero and Nama genocide, despite occuring relatively near each other. As for how other nations behaved in comparison to their response to other carnage in Africa, their response was completely different. First of all, many of the European nations took part in dividing Africa up to become colonial powers, and it was done without any respect for already existing divisions, borders, or nations. Second, many of these nations including the U.S. committed atrocities in Africa, and were also a part of the slave trade, yet still hide from that truth. One thing I thought was interesting however, was that the Armenian genocide was compared to King Leopold’s actions in the Congo to try and explain the gravity of the situation to Americans, which shows that it was somewhat known of. Ultimately however, the U.S. and many other nations remained bystanders during genocides and in the face of carnage. As Powers said, “America’s nonresponse to the Turkish horrors established patterns that would be repeated”, but those patterns had been showing themselves for years, as we as a nation have acted not only as bystanders, but as perpetrators as well.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

Silence Is Complicity

Without a doubt, the U.S. and other allied nations were complicit in the Armenian genocide. Talaat Pasha, former Turkish interior minister that sought to rid Turkey of its Armenian population, presided over the murder of over a million Armenians. Churches were desecrated, teachers that refused conversion were killed, and deportation orders were posted for Armenians to relocate into Syrian camps. This was a deliberate attempt at eradicating a minority population within the Ottoman empire, and bystander nations like the U.S. played a role in allowing its continuance. Disregarding the U.S.’s neutrality during WWI, this humanitarian crisis should have called for the U.S. and other nations witnessing this, to intervene. No matter the location, religious affiliation, or country, it should be a moral obligation for all nations to take action and prevent atrocities anywhere anytime from festering.

There were many instances where the U.S. could have interfered and prevented the decimation of a civilian population. Henry Morgenthau Sr., American Ambassador, advocated for diplomatic intervention and pleaded numerous times to the Wilson administration to take action. Despite the blatant evidence of “race murder” of Armenians, the administration had resolved to stay out of WWI, as Americans were not directly harmed and neutrality during the war was of utmost importance. Morgenthau, aware of his position, understood that he was to not intervene with the host country’s internal affairs. He mentions that although he is a Jew, “as the American Ambassador… I do not appeal to you in the name of any race or religion but merely as a human being.” The decision to exterminate the Armenians was premeditated by a central body and garnered global interference. It is not permissible to eliminate a minority population in any nation’s jurisdiction. It is the responsibility of those involved, and those watching from the sidelines, to interfere when war crimes are being committed.

Considering the U.S. prides itself on a Constitution that promotes freedom in all aspects of life, it would’ve made sense for the U.S. to take preventative actions that halted the killings of innocent civilians whether they are American or not. The atrocities were acknowledged by several officials and non-officials as unparalleled in modern times. It was widely seen as immoral and barbaric, but what efforts were made to combat this abuse of power? Although easier said than done, the U.S. presided enough power to interfere in a manner that applied pressure to the Turkish government. Too much of an interference is also not beneficial, but public condemnation and a government-to-government appeal could have lessened the weight of the tragedy.

Similar to the genocide in German South West Africa, there was a failure by the nations involved to take adequate actions towards condemning the systematic killings. I think world nations acted very similarly towards the Armenian and Herero genocides. There was a lack of media coverage for both tragedies, more so for the Herero. In the case of the Armenian genocide, the crimes committed under the Turks weren’t necessarily unknown in the U.S. like the Herero in Germany, but inadequate steps were taken to minimize the effects of the Turkish government on innocent civilians. There were many opportunities available for bystander countries to inhibit the humanitarian crises.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

U.S. Being a Bystander

The United States was definitely a bystander in the Armenian genocide. The U.S. decided that remaining neutral during World War I was more important than speaking out about the erasure of an entire race. Henry Morgenthau Sr., U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, discussed with various sources to acquire an account of what was happening to the Armenians. Morgenthau was binded by diplomatic rules that forbid him to interfere in the internal affairs of the host country. He begged President Woodrow Wilson to take action against the Turkish government for the horrific acts done on the Armenians. Despite several pleas from Morgenthau, President Wilson nevertheless decided that the U.S. would not be taking action against Turkey and would therefore remain neutral. Officials in Washington, however, urged Morgenthau to seek help from private companies.

The U.S. should have taken action against Turkey immediately after learning what they were doing to the Armenians. There was a lot of news coverage on the situation, so it was not an event that was concealed from other nations, including the U.S. There is never any excuse for not standing up for victims in times of mass destruction — even if a war is happening. Taking a stand on the issue would break neutrality or alliance. Humanity is much more important than the political issues that might arise from taking a stand,which helps to prevent an entire population from being destroyed. The U.S. and other nations should have provided aid and refuge to help Armenians, instead of relying on private companies to do so.

I would advocate for the U.S. and other nations witnessing genocide to speak up and take a stand in helping the victims no matter what. Being a bystander, as the U.S. and many other nations have been during the Armenian genocide, will only cause more harm, and a bystander is indirectly committing and contributing to the atrocity.

I do not think that world nations behaved differently during the Armenian genocide compared to the carnage in Africa. In both cases, world nations remained relatively silent and did not provide aid to the victims. Even though the Armenian genocide received more media coverage than the Herero and Nama genocide in German South West Africa, the involvment of governments does not depend on the news coverages. Both genocides were allowed to continue on without any interference from any world nations.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 12

Lack of intervention when it comes to Genocide

I think that the United States acted as a bystander during the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian Genocide was happening during the time of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, and one of Wilson’s philosophies was to remain neutral, no matter what. He would also try to only align the country with other countries who shared the same morals and beliefs. As for the rest of the Allies, Russia had declared war on Turkey in 1914, and they even encouraged Armenians to stand up against the empire; Britain and France were at war with the Ottomans and made the atrocities public.

I think Wilson should’ve dropped his philosophy for this. Although I understand why he had it in the first place, maybe the country could’ve helped the Armenians a lot more if he dismissed it. The rest of the allies were doing the most that they could to stop this, but the U.S. just watched it all happen. Even though the genocide wasn’t happening in our country or even near it, we should’ve tried to stop the Ottomans. We should’ve spoken up about it more. This also goes for the present and the future. It isn’t right to not help. If the United States were to be in a situation like this, we would want help from other countries. With the age of social media, it can be a blessing and a curse: we can use our platforms to speak up about current events, but some people might try to share incorrect information.

Concerning the Herero and Nama Genocides, I think that the Armenian Genocide received more attention than them. The New York Times seemed to have multiple articles about the Armenians, and Ambassador Morgenthau publicly spoke out about it. The genocides in Namibia had no involvement from other countries. If President Wilson had dropped his “neutrality for all” policy, perhaps more could’ve been done. With that being said, the world has been mostly silent and tends to disregard foreign massacres such as these, and if they were involved, these terrible killings could’ve been prevented. This reminds of how the world is silent right now while there is a genocide in China of Uighur Muslims and no one, the U.S. included, seems to be stepping in.
Boston, Massachuesetts, US
Posts: 19

Neutrality Should Never Have Been An Option

The genocide of the Armenian people, done by Talaat the leader of Turkey and the Ottoman empire simply declared that there was no room in Turkey for Christians, and began routinely slaughtering the Armenian people. What did the rest of the world do to stop them? Well, the allied powers (At the time being England, France, Russia, Italy and Japan), were fighting against the Central powers, which was Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey. The United States selfishly stayed neutral, during this whole endeavor, being a bystander to the struggle of the Armenian people and many others affected by the evil of the Central powers. The United States did not enter the war until it personally effected them, during and after 1917, 3 years into the war and the war ended in 1918. How does this affect Turkey specifically? Well the United States had the man power, the army size and most importantly the capability to enter the war and fight against Turkey to save the innocent Armenian people, but did not do so, and that is why they are bystanders. They didn't even help the allied powers which fought against it atleast through publicizing the atrocities and fighting through press. Because Talaat's orders didn't affect the rights of the American people, Wilson chose to stay neutral and not pressure the Turks or Germans, and so that is why the United States was a bystander that could have done so much more.

The United States (and other countries), should have stepped in, as the United States claims to spread liberty and freedom, it should therefore intervene when a genocide is occurring against a group of people. It is the duty of other countries and people around the world to protect each other, we are one race of people, the human race, we are not other species competing for domination of the planet, I believe that it is everyone's goal to look out for each other whenever able, and the United States was certainly able. I would at least hope that each and every country would condemn the actions of the country committing the genocide, and either make it clear that you are okay with it, or say you are against it and stop being allied or friends with that country.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 18

We Can't Be Silent

The United States and its allies definitely acted as bystanders during the Armenian genocide. I have strong opinions against war, but although intervening could lead to more conflict, I believe that the fact that the Armenians' lives were in danger should be enough incentive for someone to intervene. It is understandable that the situation was quite difficult to handle since the United States joined the war in 1917, but the genocide did begin two years prior and lasted for nearly a decade, all of which the United States government never did anything to address the genocides. After the Ottomans invaded the Russian and Persian territories and continuously murdered Armenian locals, it quickly escalcated to genocide after the Battle of Sarikamish in the beginning to 1915. Simarly to the Holocaust, the Armenians were scapegoated. False narratives by the Ottomans were spread around to justify the murders of the Armenians. Even Armenian soldiers fighting alongside the Ottomans, and were in the Ottoman army, were disarmed and murdered. Although some people like Henry Morgenthau (US ambassador to the Ottoman Empire) made some efforts to stop the unjust murders of these people, no results ever came to fruition. Before they joined the War, the United States remained isolated and neutral. I believe thag this neutrality is comparable to committing the act and I know that is a bit a of reach since bystanders aren't the ones committing the act, but they might as well be. athe US government made absolutely no effort to address the Armenian genocide, which allowed the Ottomans to continue their atrocities because who was going to stop them? It's absolutely false to those who think that neutrality is good because it simply allows the perpetrators to continue. Willing neutrality and bystanderism is extremely selfish because it pushes the idea that if one doesn't participate in the act, then they are innocent, when in truth, their spectatorship IS their participation and shows nothing but apathy.

So what should have been done? I believe that instead of doing nothing, the United States should have maybe allied with other countries or done something that puts the pressure or threatens the Ottomans in Turkey. It is possible that this could have led to more conflict but if the United States had a lot of allies or a strong military force, they would definitely had the power to overcome the Ottomans and prevent the genocide from ever happening. Although the "what ifs" or hypotheticals wouldn't really get us anywhere with addressing these horrendous crimes, it really makes one think and observe the patterns behind these genocides and why they keep happening. One big factor to this is indifference to prejudice. Another is neutrality to hate crime and massacres. The least that could have been done is for the governments of all nations to properly address the massacres, which would put pressure on the perpetrators. I'm honestly not sure what else could have been done, but it's always important that no matter where massacres, genocides, or any sort of heinous act is happening, it must be addressed and have action done towards it. The idea that the event would not affect yourself is selfish because what if it was you? I would hate it if people in my demographic were being targeted and no one cared or even acknowledged our existence or erasure from existence.

I think that the world nations behaved similarly during the Armenian genocide as they did with the Herero and Nama people in German Southwest Africa. While both the genocides received some media coverage, with the Armenian genocide receiving much more coverage than the genocides in Nambia, and had action action by US citizens, there was no word from the government. Although Germany and Turkey have made some reparations towards the Herero/ Nama people and the Armenians respectively, I think that it is not enough and more must be done. Reparations shouldn't be merely money compensation or acknowledgement from the government, but it must include things that actually begin to pay back for the years of suffering and oppression. Such things include but are not limited to memorials, laws that protect these oppressed groups of people, legislation that begin to repair the social and economic disparities, acknowledgement from the government in a way that doesn't sugar coat the horrible events that occured, and etc.

Posts: 18

Stepping in to help those in need

Being that the United States did not want to get involved with many international issues until 1917, they were indeed bystanders to the Armenian genocide. Our allies were also bystanders, but being that they were in a whole war, we cannot fault them entirely for not helping the Armenians. Since the genocide happened mostly in 1915-1917, the United States should’ve confronted the Ottomans and send aid to the Armenians. When a whole population is getting killed because of who they are, the US and other nations must stand up for what is morally correct. It needs to always happen in order to stop future genocides from happening.

President Wilson’s unwillingness to help the Armenians makes the US a bystander. Americans were not fighting anyone and had the ability to relocate resources somewhere else. Those resources could have gone to help the Armenians. Woodrow Wilson clearly knew about the Armenian genocide either. Henry Morgenthau was continuously advocating and explaining what he saw. Even with the knowledge of the mass murders of Armenians, the US decided to choose neutrality, only to enter WWI a couple of years later. If the US and other nations were to speak up and take action against these atrocities, fewer Armenians would have died.

I think world nations didn’t behave differently during the Armenian genocide than during the carnage in Africa and Namibia. World nations did not bring any help to stop the genocides from occurring. Although the Armenian genocide was more well known, people during the time still knew about both genocides. Countries could have at the very least economically disincentivize the Ottomans and Germany from committing genocide by stopping trade, but they didn’t. There was no profit for world nations to stop the genocides, so they decided to be bystanders.

posts 1 - 15 of 26