posts 1 - 15 of 24
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, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 22

The World Stood By During the Armenian Genocide

The United States, along with every other country around the world, acted as a bystander during the Armenian genocide. Samantha Power’s A Problem from Hell details how even when the American ambassador to what was then the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau went directly against diplomatic customs to raise awareness of the genocide. The chapters go into excruciating detail describing Morgenthau’s futile efforts to convince the United States government to act. He managed to raise millions of dollars from independent and religious organizations to give aid to Armenians and attempt to take them out of Turkey, a move blocked by the government. Ultimately, a guilt-racked Morgenthau, overwhelmed by his inability to singlehandedly prevent genocide, resigned, his career destroyed by his new reputation as a loose cannon. The United States’s policy of not recognizing the Armenian genocide lasted long after the end of World War I, however. The House only passed a resolution officially acknowledging that the genocide has indeed taken place in 2019 - over a hundred years after the end of World War I. In such cases, the United States directly has the power to save lives, and the least that could have been done would have been to formally condemn the actions of the Ottoman Empire. At minimum, when a country is committing such atrocious acts, nations have a responsibility to cease all trade and issue a demand for genocidal acts to immediately be stopped. Apartheid in South Africa was in large part ended due to a global embargo, where countries around the world refused to do any business with a nation that brutally oppressed the nation’s majority; such actions have been proven to have a strong effect without the need for additional violence. If a genocide is occuring anywhere in the world, the United States and other countries always have a responsibility to end it.

I do not think that the nations of the world behaved any differently in response to the Armenian genocide than they did during the genocides in Namibia. No country did anything to halt either genocide, allowing them to continue until almost all of the Armenians within the Ottoman Empire, and Nama and Herero in Southwest Africa, had been murdered. The only difference between the two was that most countries were much more aware of what was going on in the Ottoman Empire, but they still refused to act for a variety of reasons, largely because World War I was ongoing, with the United States choosing not to intervene in any international issues, the Central Powers refusing to condemn an ally, and the Allied Powers choosing to instead focus on the war. This refusal to intervene had more drastic consequences than even the deaths of one million Armenians, however. When Nazis began to plan for the interning and execution of several minorities, no one acted until it was too late, and millions more were murdered - without a precedent to intervene in cases of genocide, countries were unprepared to stop the Germans. In fact, the lack of response to the Armenian genocide may have been a root cause of the Holocaust - it is said that Hitler once said “Who now remembers the Armenians”, signifying that if any one nation could get away with genocide, it opened the door to innumerable atrocities.

Today, it is widely known that China is committing genocide on the Uighur minority group, through a combination of indoctrination, sterilization, internment and murder. However, China has in no way ceased committing these horrific crimes - after satellite pictures of the camp were published, they said they were re-education camps, and continued to persecute the Uighurs. Global condemnation alone has done nothing. But as a planet, we have a responsibility to help these people who are suffering, and if the past has taught us anything, it is that we must do all that is in our power to end the genocide of the Uighurs, and the atrocities occurring around the world, as peacefully as possible.

Charlestown, MA, US
Posts: 18

The Crimes of a Bystander.

The United States has once again acted as a bystander when the world needed them the most.

During the Armenian Genocide, familes were being torn apart, men, women and children were being ruthlessly murdered by the hands of Talaat Pasha, the perpetrator of these mass-killings. Talaat was infamous for his mission to eradicate the Armenian race and is still responsible for the deaths of one million innocent Armenians. And their reason for death? Being a Chrisitian in Turkey.

There is no justifiable reason to murder over one million people, nevertheless one person even, over their own beliefs in a religion. It shocks me how many times innocent people are constantly murdered for being who they are and that this has happened in society over and over again. It is shameful.

My perception of America has depleted after reading two chapters from Samantha Power’s A Problem from Hell. It is disappointing that one person begged America to intervene and to condemn the Armenian Genocide, but was constantly denied by his very own govenment. That man was Henry Morgenthau Sr. He was born a Jew in Germany and became ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in 1913. He despised the fact that America was so caught up in trying to maintain its neutrality, that it would sacrifice the influential position that we had on the world. He wrote to Washington about the mass-killings of the Armenian people in Turkey, but was denied help as they said that he “had no right to interfere with their internal affairs.” Nevertheless, he continued his efforts to stop the genocide in any way he can without the help from the US’s disappointment of a government. Ultimately, he spread the message that there were thousands dying in Turkey everyday, and raised millions of dollars to help the Armenian people, but no immediate effect from the government was granted to help the Armenian race.

We need more people who are willing to help despite the whole government being against you. Morgenthau was an inspirational figure that should be known to all about his efforts to save the Armenian people. Furthermore, the US and other large nations should be held responsible when it comes to the annihilation of an entire population. There is absolutely no reason for them not to. They have the power and the influence to convince others that slaughtering thousands for just being themselves is unacceptable and extremely dehumanizing. In addition, where or when the crime scene happens should not matter. What matters is trying to stop these mass-killings from happening as quickly as possible and to save human lives from being ruthlessly taken at the hands of a minister determined to eradicate their race. Having the courage and the power to openly speak about their thoughts and opinions on a country is very difficult as it might ruin their international relations, but remaining neutral during a genocide is much more detrimental.

The United States of America has a duty to condemn any eradication of a race or groups of people for just being who they are. They have the resources, the money, the power and the influence to persuade other apprehensive countries to join us in the fight to end the humanitarian crisis that is happening right now. Any excuse to deny this invitation to ending genocides is intolerable and unreasonable.

There is a clear difference in the way that the world leaders dealt with the Armenian Genocide as compared to the Namibian Genocide in 1904. One distinction would be the amount of exposure this has reached between the nations. I remember hearing about the Namibian Genocide for the very first time just a few weeks ago when we first talked about it in class. Prior to this, I have never even heard about the Herero people or what struggles they faced at the hands of the Germans in Namibia. However, I have heard about the Armenian Genocide before in my World History class as a freshman. This slight and simple distinction symbolizes how most countries were not exposed to the realities of the Herero people in the 20th century as they weren’t even aware of the mass-killings happening everyday. For the Armenian people; however, more countries around the world heard about the Turkish minister but were just apprehensive about confronting them. Furthermore, since there were more victims of the Armenian Genocide, this might have also caught more attention in the media, regardless of Talaat’s efforts and his consuls to cover up the atrocities that had happened. Large nations with great power have a duty to stop genocides as quickly as possible, and it is crucial for us to hold these countries accountable when they fail to do so.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 28

How Can You Be a Bystander When An Entire Race is Being Annihilated?

I believe that the United States and our allies acted as bystanders during the Armenian genocide to protect relations with other countries which is absurd when a whole race is being eradicated. Henry Morgenthau, the United States ambassador to the Ottoman Empire at the time, flagged to Washington from the very beginning something very awful was happening to the Armenians in Turkey. The U.S. was too caught up with how relationships with other countries and its neutrality. As Samantha Powers said in A Problem from Hell, the U.S. had two issues with intervening, “First, the Wilson administration was resolved to stay out of World War 1. 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 government. U.S. diplomats were expected to stay out of business that did not concern U.S. national interests.” The U.S. government could’ve done something about the genocide happening before their eyes but chose instead to think more about their reputation. Armenian families were being ripped apart, men shot, women raped, and the U.S. was worrying about neutrality, how awful is that.

Soghomon Tehlirian was a victim of these crimes against humanity, his sisters were raped then killed, his brother’s head split open right in from of him, Talaat took his family away from him (Samantha Powers, A Problem from Hell). Talaat set out to kill as many Armenians as he could, he wasn’t looking for deportation, he wanted annihilation. I would also be furious if the man who tried to kill my entire race was not being persecuted. No one was on the side of the Armenians, they were helpless.

The U.S. could’ve and should’ve done so many things to stop the genocide of the Armenian people. They should’ve told Germany more firmly to confront the Turks about what was going on, instead of worrying about their neutrality. If that didn’t work they should’ve gone directly to Talaat Pasha and told him what he was doing was immoral and he will be persecuted for what he has done. Then if he didn’t listen then have U.S. troops enter Turkey and aid the Armenians. Other countries should’ve done the same thing. I believe that when an entire population, like the Armenian’s, was being threatened or destroyed countries have a moral obligation to step in no matter what. It doesn’t matter at all if there are cons to it, the only thing that matters is saving lives.

I would advocate for intervention from the United States during a genocide. I believe this because it is never justified to kill mass amounts of people and those leaders that are trying to destroy an entire population need to be held accountable for their actions. From Talaat to Hilter, they all need to be stopped immediately because what they have done will NEVER be excusable.

Nations did act differently in my opinion to the Armenian genocide than to the genocide in German South West Africa during the 19th and 20th centuries. During the Armenian genocide, many countries knew it was going on and did nothing about it. A lot of people were advocating for Armenians in America and in other countries. For example, private groups in America would raise money for Armenians like the Committee for Armenian atrocities and other organizations that help raised money like the Rockefeller Foundation that raised $290,000 in 1915 alone ((Samantha Powers, A Problem from Hell). But it was very different from the atrocities in South West Africa because the Herero and Nama people had no one advocating for them. Other nations didn’t really know what was happening to them except for maybe the British because they had people from German South West Africa come onto their land seeking refugee. In short, no one tried to stop the Germans from annihilating the Herero and Nama people when some tried to (not very well) stop the Turks.
boston, massachusetts, US
Posts: 22


The United States definitely was a bystander to the Aemenian Genocide. By holding on to our selfish and centralized idea of neutrality we turned our heads to the genocide that was happening across the sea. Although there were slight acts of wanting to help the Armenian people we did nothing to stop what was happening to them. Instead, we just sent them financial aids and watched from the far as they were driven out of their homes and killed. The reason why they didn’t get involved was because this wasn’t a matter that was directly affecting the US, an idea that seems extremely selfish and inhumane. I understand that we want to protect our own people but how much suffering can we just and watch without trying to help? Indifference is a dangerous game which is clear throughout history. You can’t just not take a stance when human lives are on the line.

This brings us to the question on what we could’ve done to help. The US holds a lot of power and authority in this world and I think that breaking our silence would be something that would be very important here. To start we could publicly go against the genocide and say how unacceptable these actions are. Although this puts us on the line it is worth it because sitting down and going against genocide makes a staement on future actions. If we had publically said we disagreed with these actions we could have a conversation with the leaders in charge of the genocide and push them away from continuing. With a little bit of pressure we could’ve made at least a slight change in what went on here. Even if we sent a few reinforcements over to Ottoman states to try to help the Armenian people, we could’ve broke our indifference in the discrimination and whiping out of a population.

When dealing with genocide I think that it is important to always get involved. If a nation gets away with killing a group of people this action seems like it is okay. It is not an acceptable stance to not get involved because it doesn’t involve you because if you were in the shoes of the Armenian people you would expect other people to help you. In moments like these the victims of the genocide have very few people on their side, which is something that is really hard to live with. Even their own cops and those who they trusted to protect them have turned their backs on them. This is why other nations need to get themselves involved to help because they are these peoples only hope. Country lines and borders don’t define us, our humanity does. We are all connected by the fact that we are all human and it is our job to protect our people from such horrors and sufferings.

Nations silence during genocide is very telling of humanity. This is what connects the Aemenian Genocide and the Nambian Genocide, the disappointing reactions of different nations. Both of the genocides were basically ignored by other parts of the world. America didn’t intervene or try to stop either of the genocides. However they are slightly different because I believe the Aemenian genocide got more coverage as well as attention compared to that of the Nambian Genocide. People were slightly less indifferent when it came to the Aemenians, however they still didn’t stop or intervene. Therefore these reactions are very similar and disappointing.

Chestnuthill, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 21

Ignored Genocide

With all of their resources that the United States has, aid was not more difficult than other things that the nation has done. Other nations as well should stand for those being “cleansed” and murdered by the tens of thousands. They knew what was going on, specifically the United States through Morgenthou, but stood by and did nothing. In this situation and others that are similar, nations should take a stand to protect these people. They have the moral obligation to help those who don’t have the power to stop the oppression and murder of them.

Since the Genocide occured, the Turkish deny that it ever occured. Turkey is a large ally of the United States, leading to the US and other western governments being slow to condemn such a tragedy. Only in 2019 was the Armenian genocide was recognized, which plays into the current discrimination against Armenians, which could be seen as denial of the genocide or belief in conspiracy. Countries should not wait so long to recognize tragedies, as it could lead to what is now happening where people are denying the Armenian genocide.

Nations did behave differently with the Armenian genocide than they did with the one in Namibia. The cause of the Armenian Genocide was a mix between fear and blame. The Turkish blamed the Armenians for not being loyal, primarily after the Ottoman Empire fell. The genocide on the Herero was caused by racism and a want for land and power.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 26

The Bystander that was (and is) America

It has become increasingly apparent over the course of this year that the US is very rarely willing to act in the best interest of humanity, and is more than willing to stand to the side and do nothing as people are murdered and have their rights stripped away from them. The lack of American action during the Armenian Genocide demonstrates this truth. As hundreds of thousands of Armenians were being murdered in Turkey, the US and many other countries did essentially nothing to prevent the massacres. The few upstanders that did exist, such as Henry Morgenthau, were often prevented from doing their work to save lives by the US, because other Americans believed that it wasn’t an important issue, or that the US should just stay out of it.

The US should have put more pressure on Turkey to stop the genocide, and if Turkey did not give in, the US should have joined the war and sent a large number of troops to defeat the Ottoman forces that were massacring the Armenian population. After the war and the genocide were over, the US also should have participated in the trials of the leaders responsible for the genocide, and it should have provided financial support to survivors of the genocide, because they had suffered immensely. The US, and all other nations, must take action when genocide is happening anywhere in the world. It doesn’t matter how small or seemingly insignificant the genocide is, relative to genocides of the past, because it is an abhorrent crime against humanity and must be stopped as soon as it is first known about. All politics and other concerns must be put aside, and the genocide must be addressed, because preventing crimes against humanity and punishing those responsible for the crimes should be the first priority when it comes to international policy. If even a few of the nations of the world agree to put aside their differences and unite to defeat genocides, such terrible actions would occur less frequently, as potential perpetrators would know that they wouldn’t be able to get away with it.

The US must play the role of the upstander in this example of genocide, and all other examples throughout history, as well as genocides that are happening now or may happen in the future. The US is an incredibly powerful country, and it must use that power to help the innocent and the oppressed in other nations. It is a responsibility that must be remembered at all times, because if we forget, many innocent people may be killed. Even taking action to stop one genocide would help prevent others, because the world would be reminded that genocide should not and will not be ignored.

Unfortunately, world nations didn’t behave very differently during the genocide in Namibia. Many politicians believe that they should only try to expose or stop genocides and other crimes against humanity when they think that they or their country can gain from it. For example, Britain was willing to report on the genocides because Germany was its direct competitor, and making Germany and its allies look bad was helpful for Britain in the quest to be the most powerful nation in the world. It truly is a shame, because these various countries had many opportunities to be upstanders and fight for the rights and lives of the innocent, but they chose not to, because they didn’t think it was particularly valuable or important. It is time that the nations of the world recognize the responsibility they have to fight back against injustice and prevent any and all genocides from occurring.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 20

Do we hold bystanders accountable?

With WWI raging on, many people hold the view that the powers of the early 20th century were simply “too busy” to pay attention to a genocide. This I do not understand.

The US and many other countries perfectly knew that Christian Armenians were in danger in Turkey under the Young Turks, as their leader, Talaat, had proclaimed just in 1915. The US wasn’t in WWI yet, and essentially wasn’t for the majority of the Armenian Genocide (1915-1917.) Honestly, I don’t believe that there could have been an excuse on the part of the US for their lack of action. People being ethnically cleansed is far more grave than the United States’ worries if they entered the war. Especially given that the Armenians were Christian, one would expect Americans, a large portion of which are also Christian, would have more empathy for the Armenians than Jews or Hereros. Since the US was not yet in the war, though was certainly facing the consequences of it, the government should have still made the same effort to reveal the atrocities in the media as Britain and France did, who were facing much more chaos already due to the war. The Allied Powers felt that the way to stop these crimes against humanities was to defeat the German-Austrian-Turkish Alliance. This effort and plan is certainly admirable, though it did little to distract the Turkish officials already massacring Armenians. Still, the Allied Powers revealed these atrocities and made them known to their people, rather than hiding them as Woodrow Wilson did, claiming that he didn't want the American public to be eager to join the war. If it weren't for the New York Times’s connections to Ambassador Morgenthau in Turkey, the American public would have known little about this. Frankly, I believe that President Wilson should have faced punishment for doing so. As a world leader, he should have felt some kind of sense of duty to help others, rather than just Americans.

In the case of any genocide, countries should report it to their people. The more people who will talk about something, the more will fight. Though, it is understandable that this information was hard to get due to the Turkish officials claiming that any images given to Morgenthau about the atrocities were just wartime or mob violence. Yet it is through listening to the actual stories that Morgenthau finally realized that action needed to be taken, which is exactly why more needed to be published about this genocide. Yes, the war was the most pressing issue, but people are being murdered for simply existing which merits action on moral principles, regardless of possible diplomatic or economic consequences. The US bounced back from the war, as did all the other countries, yet did so at the expense of millions of Armenians, who they knew were being murdered. Even when the US entered the war, we showed no attention to Turkey and the Armenian genocide, which is beyond absurd. We owe a lot to Ambassador Morgenthau who sought for private sources after being quite literally abandoned by his own American government in his efforts for justice. Who knows what would have happened if the Ambassador to Turkey was another person, lacking any sense of morale and decency? Still, Morgenthau was powerless.

Ultimately though, little praise can be given to the Allied powers with regards to ending the genocide. As soon as things got complicated with post-war Turkey, the Allies dropped any mention of prosecution. While the fate of captured British soldiers was certainly important, the Allies left survivors without any justice for decades. This is not acceptable. Complications always arise, and we elect leaders who can adapt to change. Any country’s leaders should be able to work towards justice, even if it isn’t a quick process, because that is their duty as humans and as leaders, which shouldn’t extend only to Americans as the American government believes, but to all. And those who later fought for justice, like Raphael Lemkin, were too often silenced by the affairs of their countries.

The Armenian Genocide is more well-known than the genocide by Germans in Namibia. This probably has a lot to do with the different attitudes during these different time periods. Each county dealt with its own colony, and each cared little for their indigenous peoples, whether Native American, Asian, or African. They cared so little that efforts made by the Herero and Nama to publish their stories upon fleeing to South Africa gained little attention, because of the growth of eugenics and the belief that black people could face more pain, in addition to being sub-human. The Armenians were considered human, which was already a better start leading to more overall attention. Still, the similarities are there in the lack of initial response and accountability by nations.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21


I believe that whenever a human life is in harm’s way, we as fellow human beings need to stand up to save that life. When a whole population is at risk of being destroyed then it takes a powerful country to stand up to stop the destruction from happening. It is imperative that we help out when it is needed so that if something were to ever happen in America we would know that we had allie’s who could be of help.

America has always been a strong country economically, and politically. With this being said we have the means to save people that need saving. What good is “the best military in the world” if you are not going to put it to use when it is needed. Because nothing was done you could say that America was a bystander of the Armenian Genocide. The least we could have done would be to have spoken out against it and denounced it. By not denouncing it America sets a precedent that it is acceptable and with “fly under the radar”.

Even though groups in America were raising money for Armenia during the genocide the government and the president as a whole needed to do something. While some people were advocating for the Armenians no one was advocating for the Herero. This is another instance in history when and where the United States could have been a part of the solution but instead they were part of the problem. In terms of responses from other countries the Armenian and Herero genocides were not that different considering outside countries did not intervene in either of the genocides.

I think that the reason the United States helped out of intervening in all of the genocides was because they were fearful that they might be attacked. This seems so selfish because an entire population was being destroyed. I wish that we could go back in time and reverse this bystanding. But, because we can not, we have to use it as a learning experience for the future. But, hopefully this experience will not be needed in the future and genocides will be no longer.

Posts: 18

Stand up to Genocide

When any nation or population is being attacked or destroyed in any way, other nations should stand up. Nations need to stand up to this, especially when that they are aware of a nation getting attacked and they know the problem. The killings of millions of people should never be justified and will never be justified. Genocide needs to be stopped and it starts with others standing up to it. One of our basic everyday human rights for people to be safe. Everyone should live life knowing they won't be killed for something like representing your culture and beliefs. I noticed the Armenian genocide got more attention by other nations in the world than the Genocide in Namibia, but even though it got more, I thought it didn't get the attention it should have gotten with the damage and deaths that were caused.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

Common Humanity

Yes, I do think that the United States and our allies were bystanders during the Armenian genocide. As I learned in US History class, Woodrow Wilson in particular was at first isolationist to the point of being a bystander during World War I. From what I read in A Problem from Hell,” America and our allies generally had the attitude that the Armenians and their protection was outside their jurisdiction. “Not my country, not my people, not my problem.” But then who would be responsible for the safety and rights of this group of humans whose government was intent on annihilating them? There were certainly people who did care, but governments failed to actually take sufficient action.

I realize that the idea of “hindsight 20/20” applies here, but I agree with Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Morgenthau that the United States should have taken a risk by ending its neutrality to “achieve righteousness for ourselves and others.” This would have meant action–military intervention instead of overcaution. This would not be acting in our own self-interest, but in the interest of humanity in general. Yes, nations should take a stand when an entire population is being destroyed wherever and whenever it happens. As humans it should be considered our duty to protect other humans when we are in a position of power and leverage. @alberic25 put it so nicely when they said, “Country lines and borders don’t define us, our humanity does. We are all connected by the fact that we are all human and it is our job to protect our people from such horrors and sufferings.” Ideally, I would say this always applies, but this can sometimes get complicated. For example, like @Wyveray mentioned, in the case of China, we should be taking more actions to stop what is happening to the Uighurs. But I don’t know how much real action the US alone can realistically take because war with China would probably be foolish. So, what it takes is broad cooperation of world powers to overcome the offending country. It is our responsibility.

And after the fact, we need to do the victims justice. How shameful that there was evidence of what the Turkish government had done to the Armenians, but Talaat Pasha was allowed by Germany to live “peacefully as a private citizen” and only faced justice at the hands of an unauthorized individual. This reminds me of what happened relatively recently in Spain. In Spanish class last year we watched a documentary about a recent amnesty law that included amnesty for those who committed atrocities on behalf of dictator Francisco Franco. Traumatized victims bravely described what had happened to them, and were disrespected by the decision to grant amnesty. I completely disagree with Lansing’s view that sovereign leaders should be immune from prosecution. Similar to what I said in the previous paragraph, it is the responsibility of world powers to work together to achieve justice.

In short, the United States and other nations witnessing genocide need to work together and use their combined power and influence as a world authority against genocide.

[Side note: There is something to be said about the hypocrisy of the United States being a global force against oppression and genocide, as this country was founded on oppression and genocide, but that shouldn’t be used as an argument against intervention to prevent genocide. Instead, we need to focus on our own problems while also recognizing the need to use our power in the most just way possible and not commit unnecessary violence. (Fighting genocide is necessary, of course.)]

I noticed that people seemed to know more about what was happening in Turkey than German South West Africa, because in German South West Africa, it took someone noticing empty and full ships for the extent of the carnage to be discovered. Additionally, inhabitants of the country responsible for the Herero and Nama genocide were outraged, notably in Berlin. Neither genocide was adequately responded to. I agree with @broskiii that, although it still doesn’t receive enough attention, the Armenian genocide does receive a bit more. Both genocides have been lost from common knowledge. I think it is because of this that these two genocides were factors in the Holocaust: the genocide of the Herero and Nama was a “practice,” and the genocide of the Armenians demonstrated that people do not pay attention to genocide and that it is possible for the world to “forget” an entire people.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

How Neutrality is harmful

I honestly don't think “bystander” is a big enough word to describe the disheartening negligence seen from the United States during the Armenian genocide. While they weren't the only country to turn a blind eye to these horrors, they directly ignored cries for help. They were so fixated on remaining “neutral”, that they practically allowed a million innocent people to die on their watch. Samantha Powers’ book “A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide” does an amazing job of detailing just how remiss America (and other powers) were in the face of genocide, and just how horrific this event was.

In my opinion, America’s need to stay “neutral” was pure laziness, as they didn't want to have to address another nation's problem, and more importantly, it may highlight similar events of injustice in their past that need attention brought to them. The negligent President Wilson believed that “it was better not to draw attention to the atrocities, lest U.S. public opinion get stirred up and begin demanding U.S. involvement. Because the Turks had not violated the rights of Americans, [he] did not formally protest” (Powers 5). This fits the definition of a “bystander” to a T. Since it doesn't affect the U.S., it doesn't matter. That is unbelievably harmful and quite honestly disgusting. To make matters worse, the U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire -Henry Morgenthau- saw these horrors in real-time, and sent cries for help to America, but his requests were denied. After many helpless Armenians came to him seeking help and recounting their “terrifying tales”, he knew he must ask America to break their neutrality and step in. However, America seemed to be “constrained” by two things “the Wilson Administration was resolved to stay out of World War I… U.S. diplomats were expected to stay out of business that did not concern U.S. national interests'' (Powers 6-7). Do I think that America has to do something about every single problem in the world all the time? No, obviously not, as that is virtually impossible. However, the U.S. knew they could stop the annihilation of an entire race, and they chose their “neutrality” instead. Staying neutral was equally harmful to committing this genocide. What I think America and the Wilson Administration should have done is publicly denounce Turkey’s actions, and offered aid to the Armenian people. While that would have been unlikely at the time I think it would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives if they did something about it early on. This would have also spread awareness and maybe even prevented future genocides from occurring. The Allied powers were the only ones who said anything (although they ended up becoming bystanders as well) and as ilikekiwis said “ If it weren't for the New York Times’s connections to Ambassador Morgenthau in Turkey, the American public would have known little about this.”

I think that the world nations behaved somewhat similar in both of these horrific genocides. Little was done, and many blind eyes were turned. However, in German South West Africa, there was even less coverage and fewer people seemed to care, and as coral27 said “it took someone noticing empty and full ships for the extent of the carnage to be discovered.” There is a persistent theme of bystanderism in the world, especially in America. I understand America does not have this God-like power to save any and everyone and resolve every problem, but I think it is important that administrations do their best to stand up when they can and constantly be working to prevent genocide or any other devastating event from happening. We need to learn from our history, not repeat it.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 13

Playing Devil's Advocate

If I'm being perfectly honest I could answer the question as it is, but that would just be saying the same thing that everyone else is saying. so I'll rapid fire that and then got onto the main thing I wanted to talk about. What could we/should we have done? Intervened I mean how can you justify not intervening in a known genocide? 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? This question's wording kind of implies the answer that you should give and I agree. We should intervene with any genocide anywhere because it's the right thing to do, if we choose to cherry-pick which ones we want to intervene in, it blurs the actual justification of intervening. In short, what sort of role would you advocate for the United States and other nations witnessing this (and by extension, any other) genocide? Intervention. 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 southwest Africa (Namibia)--in the late 19th and early 20th centuries? Why or why not? The wording is kind of weird so I'll just assume you mean did Turkey act the same way towards Armenians as Europe did to Africa. No, what happened in Africa wasn't a scapegoat, I doubt Europeans used Africans who don't even live in their country as scapegoats for their nation's decline.

Now onto my title "Playing Devil's Advocate". I don't think it's fair to say we should have intervened in the Armenian Genocide because of how America was back in the 1910s. You have to keep in mind America was seriously considering joining the Central Powers in WW1 it's not like we already had any real allies, we were an isolated nation. Recognizing the Armenian genocide would also recognize literally every other nation's crimes around the world as well (which we were also guilty of with Native Americans) Alienating all of Europe (including the allied powers). Another thing you also have to note America hadn't even really been established as a world power yet. Britain and Germany still had bigger navies and we had smaller armies than both as well. It would be the same as Canada recognizing the treatment of Uighurs in China, yeah it might get other nations to also join in but would China really care? Probably not. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights hadn't been created yet, the League of Nations wasn't established, America wouldn't be able to actually do anything about the genocide in the first place. It would be the same as every time the league of nations condones an action a country does, it basically means nothing.

Summary: I don't think it's fair to say that America should have done more to stop the Armenian Genocide because it ignores the role America had in the world at the time while also ignoring the political landscape of that time period.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 16

An Attack On Humanity

I believe all the other nations held a similar mindset when it came to interfering with the Armenian genocide. “If it didn’t harm our nation, then we should turn a blind eye on it”. The United States and its president at the time, Woodrow Wilson, was determined to stay out of the war and act as bystanders during the genocide because it didn’t pertain to their national interest.

Looking back at it now, it’s easy to say that the U.S was powerful enough to prevent the entire genocide and the casualties that resulted from it because we can never fully put ourselves in their place. We can’t go back in time to experience what it was like to live in the United States during the WWII and feel so powerful when brought against other world powers for comparison but at the same time, so powerless because people(an example being Henry Morgenthau Sr.) who wanted to do something about the Armenian genocide, couldn’t because their nations wanted nothing to do with it. However, I do agree that the U.S and other nations should take a stand when an entire population is being destroyed. All lives are lives, and all humans deserve the same rights and attention. As fellow human beings, we should do everything we can to ensure that everyone is given a fair chance at survival, especially if we have the power to do so, which they lack. The responsibility shouldn’t fall on one particular nation but instead all world nations should work together to serve justice because an attack on one specific race is essentially an attack towards humanity if we ignore it.

The world nations behaved no differently during the Armenian genocide than they did during the Namibian genocide in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Just like how eager nations were to quickly grab a slice of the cake known as Africa for themselves, they were just as quick to turn their heads at the Armenian genocide once there is no gain to be reaped for them. Although the Armenian genocide was known by more people and more media outlets were covering it than the Namibian genocide, there was still not enough done to warn the world about the atrocities Turkey and Germany committed. The Holocaust followed after the steps of both genocides was a clear demonstration that the world learned nothing from the prior genocides and shows how quickly humans can forget about others suffering since it doesn’t concern them.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 27

Where to Draw the Line

I believe that the United States and our allies did act as bystanders during the Armenian genocide. As many of my classmates have pointed out, the least we could’ve done was publicly denounce the genocide and ceased trade with Turkey until the human rights violations stopped. We even had the chance to simply attach our name to the joint declaration delivered by the Allied governments on May 24th, 1915, that condemned crimes against humanity and warned that the Turkish government would be held responsible for the massacres. Yet, President Woodrow refused to join. I think that is absolutely disgraceful. A world leader couldn’t even say that crimes against humanity were bad? To me, that is the bare minimum, and we couldn’t meet that. I also say that our allies acted as bystanders despite their putting out the declaration because even though they claimed they would hold the Turkish government responsible, they never really followed through on that claim. Granted, it was because they were busy fighting their own war, but I think that because they released the statement, it became their responsibility to stay true to their word.

I was also flat out embarrassed that when the Allies did try to hold perpetrators accountable after the war through international war crime tribunals for people such as the kaiser, his officers, Talaat, Enver Pasha, and others, American representatives like Robert Lansing dissented and wouldn’t take part. It absolutely blows my mind that someone could argue that the laws of humanity vary from person to person when they’re simply being asked to denounce genocide. Like I said, the bare minimum. Similar to @coral27, I completely disagree with the idea that sovereign leaders are immune to prosecution. I think that is an extremely dangerous sentiment, and one that opens the floodgates to the kind of ideas that would let democracy die.

Despite our country possibly being busy with ideas of war (given that we weren’t even part of it for most of the Armenian genocide), I believe the least we could’ve done is support the Allied declaration and support the international criminal tribunals.

When first reading about international relations during this time, I was actually surprised that the Allies and the United States didn’t do more about the genocide. Although the American stance was that we shouldn’t intervene unless America is directly affected, @ilikekiwis brings up a good point about how Americans should’ve been able to relate to the Armenians due to the similar religious makeup. A large portion of both populations were Christian, so if the United States was going to step in in any genocide, I’d think it’d be this one. Henry Morgenthau even tried this argument on the government when he urged the US to convince the German kaiser to stop the Turks’ “annihilation of a Christian race.”

However, it wasn’t enough to convince the leadership to stray from their policy. Like Morgenthau, I find that policy absolutely maddening. That’s like saying your neighbor’s house is on fire, but you’re going to let it burn because at least it’s not your house, regardless of the fact that the fire will probably come to your house next.

Rationally, we can’t fight in every war in the world, but there are some places where you have to draw the line. I think the United States and other nations equipped to handle it have the moral responsibility to take a stand when entire populations are being destroyed. I also think it’s important to point out to people who use that argument that we don’t have the resources to join every war that there is a difference between war and genocide. While I agree that our presence isn’t necessary or even wanted in every global conflict, a war where both sides are armed and able to conduct warfare amongst themselves is not the same as entire, defenseless populations being wiped off the face of the earth for the sole purpose of hate. It is in those kind of situations that I believe we have the responsibility to intervene every time.

As for the role I would advocate for the United States and other nations when that kind of situation does arise, I think it is reasonable to start with negotiation or peace talks. However, it should be pretty clear pretty quickly whether or not those will amount to anything. If it looks as if peaceful negotiation will be successful, then great. But if not, as history has shown they so often aren’t, other countries should be prepared to step in with military force. While war is an atrocious and regrettable matter, there are some things worth fighting for, and I think defending innocent people against genocide is one of them.

I also think world nations definitely behaved differently during the Armenian genocide than they did during that of the Herero. For one, the world acknowledged the Armenian genocide at the time. A group of extremely powerful countries issued a declaration saying the genocide was wrong and that the Turkish government should be held accountable. To my knowledge, there was no such statement regarding the Namibian genocide at the time. Germany didn’t recognize it until decades later. I think one reason for this could be that the Herero genocide was easier to ignore. I think of the phrase “out of sight, out of mind.” The Armenian genocide being in Europe probably forced the Allied countries to take notice of it, whereas Africa was a little more removed from international affairs apart from in the sense of what it could do for European nations. I also think race definitely played a role in how the genocides were treated. Like @ilikekiwis says, “The Armenians were considered human, which was already a better start leading to more overall attention.” When most Europeans at the time believed in racist ideas like eugenics or social darwinism, it would probably be hard for them to consider the genocide of Africans as bad as the genocide of Europeans.

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