posts 1 - 15 of 17
Boston, US
Posts: 288

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 have been 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 current USAID chief, playing a significant role in help for Ukranian refugees) 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: 16
I think in the face of genocide, by doing nothing, you are supporting the murders. You are blatantly refusing to help innocent people as they are being slaughtered in cold blood. President Wilson tried to kind of cover up what was happening and hide it from the American people because he did not think it was a good idea to get involved in the war. I think this was a very cowardly move because he could have at least addressed the situation and tried to help but instead, he just stood by and turned a blind eye to the helpless Armenians. I understand the dangers of getting involved, especially in a country that has pledged neutrality for so long, but I think genocide is something you can absolutely never ignore. America could have teamed up with the rest of the Allies to try and defeat the Germans since the Allies thought by defeating the Germans and Central Powers would end the genocide indirectly. America could have offered its assistance, especially because America has always preached the ideas of freedom and safety. I think other nations in the Allies should have also intervened directly and tried to save the lives of the innocent slaughtered Armenians. Their thinking was that if they won the war, the genocide would stop but that didn’t help the people in time. I think the Allies just didn’t really care about what was going on in Turkey at all. They were only thinking of themselves when they refused to offer assistance to the Armenians. Even though eventually Roosevelt started to address the situation, it was too late, thousands of innocent lives had been stolen. The damage was done. Governments who knew exactly what was going on and turned away were basically siding with the Turkish murderers.

I think they did kind of behaved differently during the Armenian genocide. I think most of it was the religion and race of the people being slaughtered. Racism was prominent throughout both of these genocides and because the Namibian people were seen as less, no one cared about the genocide at all. Also because rubber was being exported, there was profit coming out of the country and supplied many countries with materials which helped give foreign countries another reason to not get involved. Since Armenians were also Christian, I think other countries and people saw them as kind of similar to themselves which caused them to be maybe more involved, even though it still wasn’t stopped. It definitely got more coverage around the world compared to the Namibian genocide. I think racism and religion really played a part in the response to both genocides.

Boston, Massachusetts , US
Posts: 17

The Armenian Genocide and Bystanderism

Countries like the United States should always take a stand against those that are trying to wipe out an entire ethnic or cultural or religious group. These countries should act by any means necessary to stop this crime. I understand the feelings of trepidation, but those need to be put aside for the good of the global community and the good of the people getting killed. In this and any other genocide, the US should at the very least accept those who ask for help, something the US did not do for Jews during the Holocaust. In a situation like the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust, we should have joined the wars. I understand that people do not want to lose their family members, but I have no sympathy for that argument. The US and other countries in positions of power should take an active role in preventing this. Genocide has been clearly defined by the UN and if it is happening anywhere on earth the US should always with no exceptions stop it.

To the question concerning the attention put on the Armenian genocide in comparison to the Namibian Genocide, it is clear that countries took the Armenian Genocide much more seriously. There are many reasons for this. More Armenians were killed than those killed in Namibia. It was closer to Europe so there was more of a lens on it in the eyes of other European nations and the US. There is a history that colonialism is violent and that is just a part of it. The biggest reason however is that those killed during the Armenian Genocide were Christian. If they were Jewish or another sect of Muslims or any other religion, countries in Europe and the US would not have shown as much attention to it and would not have sent the little aid that they did.

Boston, MA
Posts: 27

The United States government, and allies, definitely acted as bystanders during the Armenian genocide, but many individual Americans and American organizations, like the New York Times, tried their best to raise awareness and help any way they can. The United States should’ve done many things, but at least they could’ve used their influence as a world power to urge other countries to intervene, since Turkey was very sensitive to how the outside world perceived them, as referenced on Page 10. This would’ve led their neighbors, more specifically the German empire, which held a lot of power at the time, to hopefully intervene.

Honestly, I feel like the United States holds a moral obligation to take a stand when they see massive human rights violations like this happening. As Uncle Ben from Spiderman (and Voltaire) said “with great power comes great responsibility.” The United States, like many other major powers, has an obligation to use their great power for relative good, and intervene in human rights violations other countries commit. I would advocate for the United States to intervene in genocides, and not sit by and be non-responsive. Although the US offered aid to survivors of these genocides, the real problem lies in the fact they “leave those committing it alone.” (p. 14). Especially in the case of the Armenian genocide, Turkey was very aware and anxious of how they were perceived on the world stage, and despite the US’s influence, they chose not to intervene, and sit idly by, making them complicit in the genocide. When a nation holds power over the trade, the public perception of, and the international relations of another nation, they need to use that power responsibly, and use it to prevent things like the Armenian genocide.

The world nations behaved differently during the Namibian and Armenian genocides, but after the fact, these nations behaved quite similarly. With the Armenian genocide, people like Ambassador Morgenthau were very aware of what was happening and chose to advocate to world powers to end this genocide and spread awareness, whereas not many people were aware of what was happening in German South West Africa except for the perpetrators, who did not care what they were doing, and in the early 20th century many nations knew what was happening and chose to remain silent. But after the fact, world nations acted similarly, choosing to ignore what happened and keep moving, not acknowledging it till very recently. In the case of the Armenian genocide, after the Young Turks fell out of power, many nations were eager to befriend Turkey and decided to ignore what had happened only years earlier, not acknowledging the genocide, similar to how the Namibian genocide was only formally acknowledged by Germany in the 21st century, almost 200 years later.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

Did the United States act as a bystander during the Armenian genocide? Answering this depends vastly on how we define the "U.S." Speaking in terms of American society (or at least, elements of it), certainly not. Henry Morgenthau sent countless telegrams to Washington pleading with them to take action and would bring up the issue at every meeting with Talaat. In 1915 the New York Times published 145 stories on the genocide, which were unequivocal about the genocidal intent and actions of the Ottoman government (though of course the word “genocide” did not yet exist). Various churches, the Rockefeller foundation, and the Committee on Armenian Atrocities donated hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the private sphere, many American institutions and individuals alike did what was in their power to aid the Armenian people and condemn the Ottoman state.

However, the U.S. government, on the other hand, did very little to avert the atrocities. It

refused to even criticize the Ottomans out of a policy of neutrality and did essentially nothing to get involved. I don’t believe that the United States should have joined the war (perhaps at all, but especially at this point), especially if the people had voted Wilson into office specifically to avoid this—are we to abandon democracy and send our troops into every nation when it commits atrocities? When the Rwandan genocide occurred, should the United States have sent in an invasion force and conquered the country? Some intervention should take place in situations like these (and this is what U.N. peacekeeping forces are supposedly for), but a full-scale government invasion and installation of an America-friendly government seems to me not the right solution. However, in the case of the Ottomans no response at all took place. The United States should have condemned the actions outright and exerted all the moral influence it had to try to stop them. Additionally, once we had already joined the war with Germany, we should have joined in full force and fought against the Ottomans as well.

I think the same principle should apply here that is in a domestic setting called the “monopoly of violence”. If a person finds out that their neighbor is, for example, a killer, they might be morally right in making their own vigilante justice against them, but a society in which punishment and the law is meted out by any individual who so desires would be a dangerous one in which to live. In the same vein, I believe there should be international institutions, like U.N. peacekeeping forces, which do NOT act as puppets for western interests but are essentially politically neutral bodies which have the power to intervene in situations like these without worries of ulterior motives. After Britain defeated the Ottoman government, it quickly divided up its territory into colonial “protectorates”, and made peace with Atatürk’s new government for its own interests. This proves how fickle justice delivered by sovereign nations can be. In Germany, the resentment found after the Treaty of Versailles led (in part) to the rise of the Nazis and caused even more suffering in the future.

While the situation is not entirely comparable, as the Armenian genocide took place during the course of an already ongoing war, while the German one did not, I certainly think the response was different. The New York Times surely did not publish 145 major articles regarding the Herero and Nama peoples, nor did American organizations rally together to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars for them. This is very comparable to the situation we see in Ukraine today—when a white, Christian, European group is facing oppression, the world cries out for them, but when similar events take place in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, the world seems to care much less. The responses of Eastern European nations to Ukrainian refugees compared to Muslim ones from Syria and elsewhere are very telling. This may be a manifestation of the us-them mentality, as Europeans are seen as an “in group” whose suffering can be empathized with, while Africans are dehumanized and otherized such that their plights go ignored. Noticing and challenging this mentality remains as important today as it was then.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 22

I do believe that the US and our allies acted as bystanders during the genocide. We were all aware of it happening considering the mass amount of news coverage on it, but the situation during WWI made it difficult for anyone to say anything. The Ottomans were some of the most influential in the Middle East, and ruining the bond between them and other countries would be harmful during such a destructive war. And even though the politics kind of played a lot more into it, it wasn’t right for the US and many other countries to see genocide, and not do anything about it. I believe that the US and other nations should announce the genocide as a genocide, considering the tons of evidence supporting it, and request the acknowledgement of it from modern day Turkey. I think that on the anniversary of the genocide, nations should express some sort of solidarity with Armenians, and Turkey should not only apologize for their ancestors committing these crimes, but also for denying it and teaching the Turkish citizens that it never existed. I think that they should be more involved in situations where there are literal genocides by offering aid to the targeted groups and trying to stop the governments decisions of committing genocide. I do think that there was a slightly similar response in not focusing on either of the genocides, because many people were aware of the situations, but no other nations tried to help or intervene.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 18

It is imperative that when atrocities like the Armenian Genocide occur, the United States, and other world powers must take action. It can be hard to say ‘yes absolutely, all of the time’, but in this case I think that is necessary. The extent of what the US does could potentially differ, but to sit and say nothing is just not acceptable. To not help the victims of senseless acts of violence when it was fully in their power to do so, at the risk of ‘upsetting’ their ally is the textbook definition of being a bystander, and is made even worse by the fact that the US claims to be a beacon of justice, yet did nothing. In these chapters, former President Roosevelt criticized the American government for the inaction, sharing my sentiment that it is full of hypocrisy, and in his words their inaction was ‘foolish and odious’. Specifically he was speaking about money going towards victims, instead of towards solving the problem- which again I entirely agree with, as insisting that you are a just and human government, all the while maintaining ties with a government that is actively committing genocide is appalling.

At the very least, the United States has to use their influence. On the global stage the US has power, and can influence other countries, so if they were informed of a genocide occuring then the bare minimum would be for them to actively condemn the actions of the perpetrators. More then that though, The US largely has the money and resources to provide actual aid- to the victims, and to stop the ones committing the genocide. I understand that it isn’t as simple as just saying that, and there would need to be careful thought and consideration put into what effects the actions taken would have, but those actions should without a doubt be taken. Only providing money to victims while ‘leaving those committing it alone’ is just entirely not enough, and sends the message to the world that genocide is an acceptable thing. The US does have a history of helping to ‘preserve democracy’ in foreign countries, while actually destabilizing the country for years to come, so their imperialistic ways should most definitely not be disregarded but inaction is not an option. I also don’t think that it should be just the United States. I think it would be more beneficial for some sort of organization to be formed to ensure that help is given when needed, and support is also provided after the fact. It also would exist to prevent further violence- the aftermath of WWI essentially caused WWII, and this pattern of ‘solving’ a problem, only for others to be caused by that same solution has happened all too many times, so this organization would (hopefully) enact solutions that do not cause any further conflict.

This genocide was absolutely treated differently than what happened in Namibia. Morgenthau was absolutely right in his outrage and trying to bring attention to what was happening- but the Herero and Nama did not get 145 articles written in the New York Times about what happened to them. They did not get hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Rockefeller Foundation. Granted, the foundation didn’t exist at the time, but the point still stands that there was a committee made with the specific intention of financing aid for the Armenians, aid that the Herero and Nama did not receive. Comparing atrocities such as these seems detrimental, but it is still important to acknowledge the disparity between the responses. I think that this is entirely based on race and religion. The Armenians were Christian, a very dominant religion, so more attention was paid to them. Had this group not been Christian, I really don’t think the outcry would have been the same. In addition to this the Herero and Nama people were African- and at the time, racism likely kept people from caring too much about a people that they viewed as inferior. This seems eerily similar to today- Ukrainians, who are largely white and Christian, have the sympathy and support of a huge part of the world, while the Middle East has been under attack for decades and its people have not received an ounce of the compassion showed towards Ukrainians. Again, this comparison is not meant to take away from Ukraine- what is happening is without a doubt appalling, its just frustrating that the response to Middle Eastern lives being lost is not the same, and is indicative of a larger pattern that is similar to the response to the Armenian genocide.

caramel washington
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 15

In my opinion, it is always the job of any country to take a stand against the destruction of human life, especially when it is as targeted and at the scale of the Armenian genocide. A country cannot claim to have a value system based on morality and helping those in need if it is unwilling to have that same policy no matter what the circumstances are. The United States, Britain and Germany were currently fighting in a war, and I understand that this stretched their capacities rather thin, but that doesn't mean that at a bare minimum condemning the actions of Turkey and offering support to protect the Armenians would have been too much effort. When British officials argued that "the most expedient way to end the killings would be to defeat the German-Austrian-Turkish alliance" they made their motives clear. This was a time and place where they prioritized their own military interest over the general wellbeing of humanity. When the United States prioritized its political neutrality in the war over a declaration condemning crimes against humanity, it became obvious that they were approaching this atrocity with entirely the wrong perspective, an attitude that continues today as relations with Turkey prevent addition steps from being taken to recognize this genocide.

I understand that when presented with an accusation as serious and Morgenthau's statement of "race murder", a country's first instinct is to take it with a grain of salt, and fact check. The United States and their allies were understandably hesitant to take definitive action until they had all the information, but when presented with first hand testimony, photographic evidence, and numerous reports, I feel like they still chose to drag their feet. Additionally, countries might face the obstacle that they technically are not allowed to interfere in the internal happenings of another sovereign country, but in history this has clearly only been an obstacle when it is convenient. The United States has a long past of invading places when they believed they could get something out of it, but refusing to take action when it is simply the morally right thing to do.

In my opinion, the world as a whole served as a bystander in this genocide. Based on news reports from the New York Times, which covered these events in great detail, people knew about this. Americans, despite the ongoing war, held protests and fundraisers in an attempt to help the Armenians, but the reality is that individual or collective efforts have very little impact on such a large-scale horrific event. Really, governments around the world should have sent in aid, targeted the officials behind the operation, and been willing to get involved enough that it would actually have an impact. I doubt this would have prevented all of the killings, but letting over a million people die while the world watched could have been avoided to a significant extent.

As little as was done with the Armenian genocide, arguably even less was done to help those in Namibia. There are a few major reasons that I see for this. First of all, although it wasn't that different in the grand scheme of history, the Namibian genocide was a few decades before the Armenian genocide. During that time, journalism and photography became much more widespread, and information access increased immensely, which was partly why there was so much more coverage of the Armenian genocide.Additionally, Europe was significantly more accessable and more widely covered by journalists at the time than Namibia. We still see this in events happening today, where things in Europe get more coverage and reporting than tragedies elsewhere. Finally, while the Germans were trying to avoid broadcasting what was happening in Namibia, and actively avoided acknowledging it, Talaat in Turkey would brag about and take pride in his killings. He liked to tell friends, "I have accomplished more toward solving the Armenian problem in three months than Abdul Hamid accomplished in thirty years!" When no one is making an effort to hide information, the world is more likely to know about it.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

I think that the government of the United States and our allies acted as bystanders during the Armenian genocide. The U.S. government wanted to main neutrality in the war and would not join the Allied declaration. However, the actual people of the U.S. did do a lot within the realms of their power to stand up to the atrocities being committed in Armenia. Henry Morgenthau Sr., the U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, recognized the nature of the ‘war’ was different and constantly brought the matter to Washington’s attention. News outlets like the New York Times consistently covered the genocide, which was an upset to the Turks, who were attempting to keep the genocide a secret.

The US at baseline should have taken a stance against the Ottomans in the war. Getting physically involved in the war might not have been a great route, but providing more support to the Armenians definitely should have taken place. Condemning the Ottomans may have actually had an effect because the Turkish government was at the time not facing any opposition besides the Armenians themselves. I think that the US and/or other nations should one hundred percent take a stand when an entire population is being destroyed. On a basic moral level, it is hard to argue with that statement. Obviously, other factors come into play, but I do think that the US government in particular is in a position of power that both allows them and requires them to stand up when genocide or something to that degree is occurring.

I would advocate for the United States and other nations witnessing a genocide to at minimum have an obligation of condemning it. Depending on the nation and the position that countries are in, I also think that providing support to victims of genocide wherever possible is necessary. Whether that means providing refuge, sending in food, money, etc., sending troops when appropriate, other nations should have a responsibility to step in when a human rights violation of this extent is occurring.

The world nations definitely behaved differently during the Armenian genocide than they did during the carnage in Africa. Much more attention was shown to the Armenian genocide and I think that can be attributed to the fact that the victims of the genocide were white, compared to the black victims of the Namibian genocide. Religion was being discriminated against in the Armenian genocide and other world powers, especially other Christian countries, prioritized those people over the Namibians, who they did not have a direct connection to, regarded as an inferior race, and were profiting off of through rubber production.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 25

The question of whether the US should have intervened in the Armenian genocide and other events like it is incredibly layered. For one, we did “interfere,” raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring relief to Armenians. However, we were unable to politically and officially declare our stance. Personally, I think the donations made, and, more importantly, the press coverage were both enough for the US to consider itself an upstander.

The USA and other nations should not always be expected to take a stand against atrocities in other countries, because it is not always in their control. Just like Morgenthau, we may find ourselves internally frustrated that there is truly nothing we can do to help.

This is why the Armenian genocide is an example of the correct form of intervention, even if it ended up being somewhat fruitless. Broadcasting the atrocities to newspaper readers nearly every day is what ultimately made a difference in the progress. The photograph shared in the times of dead bodies especially spoke to the power of journalism and photojournalism, as more money for relief rolled in, and Talaat ordered for the bodies to be hastily buried.

Good Christian Americans read at home from their couch, and saw people just like them getting murdered by the masses. They had to chip in whatever they could. Through this process of extensive journalistic coverage and donations through faith-based groups, aid was provided to the Armenians, while all government officials could do was sit in their offices and attempt to reason with the Turkish president telling them that “Armenian country men… have attempted to destroy the peace and security of the Ottoman state.”

One huge reason why Americans did not feel the same way about the Namibian genocide is the race and culture of the people involved. When a group is being colonized, and in turn, Chrisitanized, it was suddenly much harder for US citizens to empathize with the West Africans, even though similar mass killings and torture were happening to them as well.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

The United States had a moral obligation to at least attempt to stop the Armenian genocide, especially since the US was painfully aware of it. In the US’ period of neutrality, the US were in a position to intercede with the Ottomans. The US decided on taking a much more formal approach to stopping the Armenian genocide, however, their formality was not enough to stop the cruelties of the Turks. The Department of State threatened the Ottoman Empire that the regime would be held accountable for their crimes against humanity, but their empty threats were never fulfilled. When the US declared war on Germany, it also broke relations with the Ottomans but it never engaged with the Turks. The US took on a stance against the mass murders being committed in Armenia, but it never followed through with its beliefs. A strong stance needs to be rooted in action. Because of this, I believe that the US’ bystanderism was actively harming the Armenians further. It was important as ever for the US to take a firmer initiative in this struggle, yet their hesitation just led to the continuation of the genocide.

Obviously, with WWI going on, the US had their hands full already. To be honest, I’m not really sure what should have been done, but there’s no chance that the US couldn’t do anything. To have not been able to have at least done ONE thing seems impossible. At times like the Armenian genocide (ESPECIALLY when nations have been painfully aware of it), I believe that there is an obligation to take a stand against it. The crime against humanity can not be ignored just because of war or outside obligations. I think during war, there’s more of a need for nations to stand against the murders. Nations must always protect those who are being murdered on mass because those with power must protect those without. Nations like the US should have taken a much more aggressive approach to assistance. This does not necessarily mean attacking the Ottomans, but creating pressure and holding the oppressors accountable. In terms of the US, it was important that the US followed through with their threats against the Ottomans. If the US says that the Ottomans will be held accountable for their actions, then the US needs to hold them accountable for their actions. Oppressors won’t just stop because someone told them to. There’s action that needs to be taken and pressure that needs to be enforced, but despite the inability to act, the response to the Armenian genocide was a whole lot better than the response to the Namibian genocide. In terms of America, the US was generally more aware of the Armenian genocide than the Namibian. This awareness led to relatively more action/advocacy compared to the Namibian genocide. The US, although it was the smallest bit of action, took more action against the Armenian than the Namibian genocide. Even still, in both genocides, nations took a stance as a bystander and actively ignored it and tried to move on.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

The Armenian genocide and bystanderism

The United States and our allies did act as bystanders during the Armenian genocide. While the world was distracted by the world war and unable to fully end the genocide, I believe that every country could have done more to end it and even help memorialize it so that the victims they didn’t save would be remembered. Eventhough civilians across the world raised supplies and organized efforts to help and relieve the Armenian populations, the governments did little to end the misery. They simply ignored the catastrophe and refused to act on the information provided by journalists and others to help save the poor innocent people that were killed for simply being who they were. The governments’ decision to act as bystanders allowed the Turks to expand their genocide and achieve their goals of killing millions of Armenians. The United States and other international powers should have stepped forward and condemned the Ottomans. The allies should have put more emphasis on pushing into the Ottoman territory in order to stop the forced deportations and save the poor innocent souls that were being slaughtered by the government that was supposed to protect them. In addition, neutral nations, such as the United States, should have put international pressure on the Ottomans for their war crimes and crimes against humanity. While the U.S was not involved in the war during the genocide, the country and its leaders knew of the atrocities occurring in the region and should have stepped up and pushed for other countries to condemn the Ottomans or any push any other efforts that may have been able to save civilians. I believe that nations have a moral duty to stand up and prevent other nations from committing genocides and slaughtering innocent individuals. No matter what country it takes place, or when the violence occurs, I believe that nations need to step out and save the lives of innocents. Without the protection and support of the international community, some populations and individuals may be completely wiped off the map as the governments that commit these horrendous actions to use the confusion of worldwide events to commit their plans. I believe that the United States and other countries should act as protectors and guardian angels. If one country is committing war crimes and acts of genocide, other international powers need to step in and should help end the hostilities. It is up to the international community to step in and protect a people when their national government turns against them. No, I do not believe that the world governments behaved differently in Africa than in Armenia. While the European governments and the United States may have been more centered and disgusted by the genocide that the Turks were carrying out, they did not act any different than they did in Namibia. After they conquered their enemies and took control of the regions, they documented the events, interviewed survivors, and codified the massacres, but they never used the information to go after the perpetrators. They simply let the perpetrators get away with their crimes, with very little ramifications. Meanwhile, the innocent people are left to try and piece together and fix the damage that had devastated and ruined their civilization. In both locations, the Allies simply confiscated the territory, transferred some land and control to the natives, and let them to their own devices without mentioning or memorializing the genocides that occurred. They could care less about any of the people that were murdered, whether that be in Turkey or Africa.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 20

We should have done more. Both because it is what is morally right and also because the preservation of life is always more important than any petty politics. Although I do recognise the political issues that might have resulted from such intervention, especially as the world was embroiled in WWI, it will always be wrong to sit around and simply let such atrocities happen. As the British said when they heard, "the most expedient way to end the killings would be to defeat the German-Austrian-Turkish alliance" — it is that hesitance to action that prevailed over our better nature, unfortunately. The same sentiment is evident in the American government’s actions statement that they would “leave those committing [genocide] alone.” The hope is that such things will not happen in the modern day, as the UN does exist, and they, as a governing body that has power internationally to enforce such laws that prosecute genocide and crimes against humanity. However, despite this, the wilful blindness of many in the US, and our preoccupation with our own lives, has meant that there are many genocides which have still happened with the silence of the international community. No matter what the circumstances of the genocide, and the political situation in the world, it is important that America and other countries with authority continue to stay engaged and involved in aid, and active efforts to stop the genocide. There is so much that governments could have done but did not. Recognising the sanctity of human lives, and understanding that that, above all else, is what matters. We can debate all day about the actual impact of intervention, and in many other cases, intervention by the US has resulted in worse results, but in cases where such crimes against humanity are taking place, everyone needs to take action. Roosevelt and American fundraising was too little, too late, and as a result, they all bear that responsibility to answer for their failure to act.

If there is knowledge of a genocide actively happening, or the steps to genocide occurring, it is certainly necessary for intervention to take place. Presently, I believe that the UN is the most well poised to intervene, as a governing body not constrained in the same way as many countries. I am hesitant to say that we should declare war, as that causes further harm, but it may be necessary. Although war is always harmful, and usually fought by people who did not decide to be there, I think it may be necessary to stop crimes like genocide. Certainly if the US had intervened, there would have been war. I think the same question we discussed about Ukraine applies here too: is supplying protective gear the same as providing weapons? As Teddy Roosevelt critiqued the Committee on Armenian Atrocities, saying anything they did was useless unless they were “willing to risk something”, I believe the same is at least somewhat true about most types of aid. If we use aid simply as a balm for our conscience, as a way to pat ourselves on the back and say that we tried to help, I think that is the most insincere and least useful type of aid. If we can’t even empathise with the suffering of other people, separated from us only by circumstance and distance, what right do we have to say that we ‘did our best?’

I hope that there might have been some way to stop the genocide from occurring without resorting to war, but ultimately if pressure from the US and other influential Western countries failed, then military intervention may have been necessary. In the case of a natural disaster, we would not hesitate to help; why should the presence of a hostile government prevent us from helping however possible? Woodrow Wilson, in general, was very indifferent to personal rights and the wellbeing of individual citizens, promoting the idea of small business instead, which may explain his behavior. However, the American government is made of more than just the president, and as such, more people should have spoken up, in light of the 145 stories that the New York Times published on the matter. In addition, the right-wing idea of states’ rights has certainly impacted opinions around intervention, but we’ve seen later on that the US has no issue with using military intervention to “prevent the spread of communism.” In the end, I believe that although individual nations witnessing genocide have the responsibility to intervene, they are likely to all stay out of it for various political reasons, and as such, that is why organisations like the United Nations, and other international bodies like the ICC, are so important in preventing future genocides.

Both the genocide of the Herero and Nama peoples and the Armenian genocide certainly were both atrocities and crimes against humanity. I personally believe that the world reacted very differently to the two events, both because they likely considered the Herero and Nama an “other” and also due to the sparsity of the coverage in major news outlets. The first likely influenced the other, as we see today in Ukraine. Yes, the invasion of Ukraine likely has more ramifications on the political stage than the crisis in Syria, but the world’s reactions to these two different events is very telling. Especially in the western world, we consider the events in Ukraine to be closer to us, and likely it raises more instinctual fear, as we might all fear that the same happens to us. In addition, the publicity raised around the Armenian genocide was likely also influenced by the way it simply happened later, and in a place where other countries had diplomatic embassies. The disorganisation, and the way that the Armenian genocide involved many more deaths caused by other civilian aggressors/bystanders likely also contributed. However, this is still no excuse for ignoring the voices who were trying to raise awareness of the Herero and Nama genocide; although the aid provided during the Armenian genocide was nowhere near enough, it was still something, and many did make an effort to help those that did escape to resettle in other countries.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

The United States government and people should have spoken up about the Armenian genocide. It is not a political stance to raise awareness for an issue. They downplayed the effects of the genocide, and the very least they could have done was to take it seriously. They need to stop thinking about what we can get from an alliance with Turkey, when people are being killed and dying from hunger, malnutrition, exhaustion, and more every day. The US is aware of their power and by using this power for exploitation, rather than helping people, it is truly a disappointment.

They did not play an active role in the genocide, but that is where the role of the bystander comes in. When one is watching a genocide happen and simply decides to sit back and watch, they become almost as guilty as the oppressor.

Every country should take a stance on genocide, no matter their relations with the other nation. Government is not always about business deals. It is about actual human beings and their lives. It is their job to make sure that everyone has what they need to survive and prosper in peace.

The Armenian genocide got a lot of publicity, specifically in the New York Times, while the carnage in Africa got little press. This goes to show the racism and selectivity of the media when it comes to what they want to share. They think that the lives of Armenians are more important than those of Africans, and therefore do not share their stories.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 25

The Armenian Genocide and Bystanderism Post

I think that we did act as a bystander because although there were many reports, newspaper articles, and pleas from Americans living overseas in the Ottoman Empire, little to nothing was done by the government to put an end to the atrocities. The main reason for the US’s hesitation was being apprehensive about joining the war efforts in WWI, and Wilson and his administration feared that intervening in a politicized, premeditated massacre of an entire ethnic group would jeopardize their neutrality. I feel that we as a nation had a responsibility to step because we knew that flat out annihilation was imminent: we saw the beginnings of systematic killings, starting with Armenian intelligentsia, then the men were taken away and forced into labor camps, and the women and children were threatened with deportation. This should have been the time the government chose to step in to prevent a massive human rights violation from taking place, but they did not. We should have intervened after several ambassadors stationed in the Ottoman Empire began writing back to the US about what was being done to the Armenians, and Morgenthau’s accounts of his meetings with Taalat Pasha should have been the absolute, deciding factor that this was a government-driven, purposeful massacre of an entire enthnic group, yet the American government did nothing. Wilson and his administration were entirely America-focused and viewed the situation with a view that no harm was coming to Americans, so it did not deserve their attention. Not only did they believe that the Armenian genocide was none of their business, they even believe that Taalat Pasha and his other ministers should be absolved of any blame for the atrocities they committed, and Wilson’s Secretary of State Robert Lansing even stated: “The essence of sovereignty is the absence of responsibility”. Not only did they allow the massacre of over 1 million people to continue, they saw no fault in the actions of the perpetrators.

I think that interfering is always risky, however when a blatant human rights crisis or genocide is happening in front of our eyes, I do not think there is any excuse for nations (especially powerful ones like the United States) to not make an active effort to put a stop to it. The US has made some bad intervention decisions in the past where were maybe shouldn’t have stepped in (e.g. Vietnam) or where we should have stepped in (e.g. Rwanda), however the difficulty of making any decision to intervene is that the correct course of action usually only becomes apparent with hindsight. Even so, the moral obligation that nations have to protect the lives of other human beings, regardless of nationality, overrules any political motives and on principle the US and other nations of our world should step in when an entire population is intentionally being wiped out. In practice this is slightly more complicated, however, as intervention could lead to extreme retaliation from the perpetrating nation, as well as the loss of life of those not involved in the process of ethnic cleansing. Yet I do not think these factors, while important, outweigh the risk of losing an entire enthic/racial/religious etc. group to the genocidal intentions of a certain government.

I think there are definitely clear differences between how the US (and the entire western world) reacted to the Namibian genocide versus the Armenian genocide. These differences can be clearly seen today as the Armenian genocide is taught in many classes and across curriculums, while this class was the very first time I was even aware that a genocide took place in Namibia. The Armenian genocide is also widely regarded as Hitler’s inspiration for his horrifying attempts at annihilating the Jews of Europe, which is true in part, however the actions of the very nation he controlled are entirely overlooked even though he had access to all of the meticulous records of deportation, concentration, and forced labor that took place in the then-German controlled Namibia. I have no doubt that this was in part due to the fact that the victims of the Namibian genocide were African and still seen as “savage” in many parts of the world at the time, but it does not explain why it took so long for the genocide to be ruled as such and for Germany to begin to make reparations. It could also be that the western world was more willing to vilify the Ottomans, as they were non-Christians massacring a Christian minority. However, what I think the main difference between the reactions was that the Armenians had advocates while the Namibians (and other African peoples) did not. The Armenians were seen and supported and fought for by many ambassadors and fellow Christians that (albeit with some resistance from governments) forced the story onto the front pages of newspapers and took pictures and wrote detailed accounts of what was taking place. Although the genocide is still denied by Turkey and it took a long time for it to be fully seen for what it was, there are many survivors to tell the tale, who people are willing to listen to. But in Namibia, as in the Kongo, people were far more willing to turn a blind eye, thus leaving many of the atrocities perpetrated by western powers largely forgotten and records of what took place were never actively sought out. One thing for certain though, is that acknowledgement of genocide came far later than it should have both in the case of the Armenians and the Namibians, which raises the question of whether this world’s leaders care more about the recognition of the annihilation of entire peoples or the economic, social, and political ties that they have to the countries that carries out these atrocities.

posts 1 - 15 of 17