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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, MA, US
Posts: 25

The US was overall a bystander, as they had done with the Holodomor. In our previous discussion on the Holodomor, I wrote that “troops and weaponry have empirically led to escalation, [broad] sanctions disproportionately hurt innocent civilians while allowing the government to scapegoat the US and diplomacy has failed thus far.” I think there are specific differences from the Holodomor and the Armenian Genocide that determine how the US could have stood up for justice.

First things first, there is a level of hypocrisy that must be acknowledged. Teddy Roosevelt critiqued the Committee on Armenian Atrocities for trying to collect donations to send aid, but ultimately “amount to nothing whatever if they are mere methods of giving a sentimental but ineffective and safe outlet to the emotion of those engaged in them…until we…are willing to risk something” (pg 11), essentially suggesting that the US should intervene militarily. We can look at the Roosevelt Corollary that justified US imperialism in Latin America with effects lasting to this day, notably the Panama Canal. Roosevelt not only allowed conflict and violence to exist, but rather provoked that conflict in the name of “helping humanity”.

Once again, however, not intervening at all enables the perpetrators to continue their crimes and the US has already intervened elsewhere and will intervene in the future. With that in mind, we have to correct our international credibility through two things. First, US foreign policy needs to change its priorities and motivations. If we want to “serve humanity” as numerous ambassadors and leaders mention in the reading, then they should make sure it isn’t convoluted with interests in money (from oil, weapons, trade deals, etc.) or to prove US hegemon status (Lyndon Johnson invading the Dominican Republic to prove his adeptness). Second, we need to change our strategies. We should focus on international, unified responses instead of forcing unilateral action from the US that demonizes the US, mostly through targeted sanctions and offering humanitarian aid, which Roosevelt ironically condemned as hypocritical. Aid allows people to actually survive and thus protect “humanity.” The next step is then to stop the crime, which targeted sanctions tend to have more success at. I think other political steps, such as forcing Turkey’s ally, Germany, to take action. Both of these strategies were planned and attempted, but never actually carried out.

If the US wants to step in, they have a duty to stand up for humanity as often as possible and when the victims desire US help! A constant critique of the US is that they are selective when they intervene and it shows that they only act when it affects their self interests. This is clearly seen by the US response to the Armenian Genocide when Morgenthau was trying to convince the embassy/government to act but couldn’t because it wasn’t “affecting US citizens.” A big part of successful aid and intervention is if the people/organizations in the country cooperate and wish for it. Otherwise, it may only antagonize the US more or aid will fail to reach the people in need.

Ultimately, all of the countries acted in a similar nature to how they responded to German South West Africa. Even after people were made aware of the atrocities, they published plenty in the media and governments collected intelligence. However, at the end of the day, they refused to implement any responses due to selfish, political and inhumane factors.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 26

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

The simple definition of a bystander is “ a person who is present at an event or incident but does not take part”, or “ a chance spectator”. So going by this definition the US was a bystander, in regards to not engaging to stop the conflict militarily. Several times in the article Power explains why this is the case. The main reason the US did not intervene militarily to help the Armenians is because “ the Turks had not violated the right of Americans..”. The Wilson administration “ was resolved to stay out of WW1”, because of this desire, Wilson did not want to get the US military involved to fight against the Turks. In general the US government believed that it had to” protect its own people”. This motive seems to be understandable, but I just don't think this can be applied when a Genocide is taking place, and you might have the ability to put an end to it.

One person in the US government that did not like American neutrality is Henry Morgenthau Sr. Morgenthau was the ambassador to the Ottoman empire. He was receiving visits from desperate Armenians and Missionaries about the evil acts being committed against the Armenians. Power describes how “ The ambassador did what he could, continuing to send blistering cables back to Washington and raising the matter at virtually every meeting held with Talaat”. Morgenthau consistently “ pleaded with his superiors to throw protocol and neutrality aside and to issue a direct government-to-government appeal ‘ on behalf of humanity’ to stop the killings. Unfortunately many of his efforts were turned down because of his lack of power and the US’ resolve to stay out of the war. It is also important to note also that Roosevelt was opposed to the US neutrality in the matter.

The US did bring attention to what was happening to the Armenians. One avenue in which the US citizens were aware about what was going on was due to the publications in the New York Times. Power relates that the NYT published, “ 145 stories in 1915” that described the Turkish horrors. Powers also records how Morgenthau received help from outside the US government. She records that Congregationalist, Baptist and Roman Catholic churches made donations. During this time a new committee was created by a notable American which was named “Committee on Armenian Atrocities”. In total “ The committee raised $100,00 for Armenian relief and staged high-profile rallies, gathering delegations from more than 1,000 churches and religious organizations in NYC to join in denouncing the Turkish crimes”.

This quote really captivated me and is a truthful, yet sad quote to finish off this question. “ he United States would offer humanitarian aid to the survivors of “ race murder” but would leave those committing it alone”.

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 my opinion I think that the US government should have gotten involved militarily. It is understandable why Wilson did not want to get involved but regardless the US could have done more. Part of me thinks that this is easy for me to say because I wasn’t born at the time when this was occurring. The notion of “protect your people first” is a common one, and is a response that I believe can be found in anyone, but until the US and people across the world move past this kind of “instinct” humanity won’t make any progress. When an entire population is being destroyed, nations should all seek to help in the best way possible, wherever and whenever.

The US did not do absolutely nothing, but part of me wonders if the U.S and its allies were more involved than would the situation have occurred differently. Doing something, I would say, is better than doing absolutely nothing. But until the US and other nations can get past the truth behind this upcoming quote, many more injustices will continue to occur.

Raphael Lemkin, a man who was researching on the help given to the Armenians by the British, notes that “ the state would rarely pursue justice out of a commitment to justice alone. They would do so only if they came under political pressure, if the trials served static interests, or if the crimes affected their citizens``(Power 19).

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

I would advise a more proactive role for the US and other nations witnessing the Armenian Genocide. Making the event known is very important, and so is raising money. Something that would be more helpful would be to forcefully stop the Turks from committing these acts. Another thing that could have been done was to enter Turkey, help and save Armenians from walking in the desert during marches. I understand that these are more easily said than done but these actions could have saved many more lives.

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?

Sadly, I don’t think the world nations would have reacted differently. The nations would have the belief that “ if it is not our people, it is not our problem”. Specifically the US, which used chattel slavery by African people to make profit, the racist and people in support of slavery would have not seen a problem in German South West Africa.

boston, Ma, US
Posts: 25

The Armenian genocide and bystanderism

I do believe that the United States acted as by standards during the Armenian Genocide as well as after. We know that during the Armenian Genocide Americans wrote back to Washington DC to let them know what was happening as they had categorize it as a wipeout of a race since genocide was not a word used before. Fast forward years our presidents have acknowledged that it is a genocide however they refuse to speak and act on it considering how important Turkey's relationship with the United States specifically with the military is. The United States knows that if they were to rightfully bring justice to the people of Armenia it would cut ties with Turkey and ruin a lot of relationships that are too important to ruin. I understand that some relationships that we have with Turkey are very vital to our survival and protection as well as deployment of our military and serving people, however it is not to say that we should overlook what happened. Although one can argue that at the time of the genocide there were important things going on such as World War I, I believe that there could have been a balance of helping people in war as well as helping those who were suffering from the genocide.

I think that we should have used our power since we are fortunate enough to hold a position in which our nation’s influence of power is great to intervene. Being said we could have made it clear to the rest of the world of what was happening as well as sent our soldiers to try and help. I think that the genocide was successful because the Armenian people were silenced and probably didn't have the resources to advocate and spread the word of what was happening in the hopes that other nations would help. With this being said if the United States had done what was needed then maybe even other nations could have contributed to the stop of genocide. Although world war II is much more complicated then jst this, it is an example of how when a genocide is occurring the United States has the capability of stopping it or intervening to at least help stop it. Unfortunately even after learning how turkey views The Armenian Genocide to this day it is a genocide that unfortunately is not spoken about and to a sense erased from our history. I'm grateful for classes like Facing History which revealed the uncensored version.

I don't believe that it is just the United States responsibility to intervene when a genocide is occurring around the world but it is every nations responsibility to. Because whether or not you are affiliated with the oppressed group, the Injustice and inhumane treatment of other human beings should never be overlooked. It is all our responsibility to make sure we are all safe.

The Armenian Genocide is similar to the one we saw in West Africa in the early 19th century because they are both recognized to a certain level nowadays but ultimately no action has been taken to recognize and give back to those who were affected. Like I had mentioned before, I don't think it is specifically one nation's responsibility other than the nation who committed these acts of violence but as a whole all of our nation's should come together to at least fight for the recognition of what happened. A lot of it has to do with the connections that have been established between different countries and how much power these connections hold. Without many of them countries across the world would suffer greatly and be in great danger however it is not an excuse to not at least be aware and educate others of what happened in hopes of it never happening again.

boston , Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

The Armenian genocide and bystanderism

The United States was a bystander during the Armenian genocide, they claimed that they were neutral in the whole situation, and staying neutral is chosing the side of the oppressor. The things that happened to the Armenian people was without a doubt a genocide, it was meant to happen and the Turkish people knew what they were doing. In the beginning of the first chapter it says that, “Back then you would not have known to call the crime genocide, the word didnt exist yet”, so people were not as quick to call it a genocide as they are today. But then again, we learned in class there are Turkish people to this day that still don’t and will never call it a genocide, in fear it will make them look inferior or it will give them a flaw that makes them look terrible. Even so, we also talked about how Germany to this day is still remembered for the Holocaust and how awful and unspeakable that was, yet they don’t cover it up. Some examples of just a couple things that happened was “Teachers who refused to Islam were killed”, which is literally a hate crime and murding a group of people for not agreeing with your religious beliefs. Also, when the Armenian people were being sent to the Syrian camps, Turkish authorities knew the camps were not prepared”, and they still continued to bring them. Many died from this, like on the journey there. The US 100% could’ve done more, “The United States determined to maintain its neutrality in the war, refused to join the Allied declaration”, President Woodrow Wilson did not want to draw attention to the US, and by getting involved apparently it would do so. It was claimed “Turkish authorities had informed me that I have no right to interfere with their internal affairs”... this is almost like an excuse saying, they told him to not get involved so I guess we can’t get involved. NO! Obviously the Turkish government is going to do everything they can to make sure no one interferes unless it is on their side and they don't want allies for the Armenians. When a genicide is happening the majority of the time, you need to get involved and do as much as you can to help, not help the oppressor and hater but help the victims. Dejamal Pasha, the minister of public works, “justified the wholesale deportation of the Armenians by claiming it was necessary to suppress Armenian revolts”, which shows different people had different opinions and still to this day people make up excuses for a reasoning as to how it wasn’t genocide. Something that really stood out to me was this, “Unless it directly affected American lives and American interests, it was outside the concern of the US government” . This quote in itself speaks volumes and shows the snobbiness and privilege just saying this has. That if it doesn't involve or affect the US it is not one US Government’s business. That is something a selfish person would say who doesn’t care about anyone else around them and only themselves… However the US did help to a little degree, “Morgenthau worked around the neutrality, he “offered to raise 1$ million to transport to the US the Armenians who had escaped the massacres”, America helped by taking these people in”, even though by doing so it was still going “around” the neutrality that the US stood by. Also, “The united states would offer humanitarian aid to the surviors of “race murder” but would leave those commiting it alone”, which isn’t helping the problem but it is helping some part of the cause. “I think nations tend to act relatively the same way when it comes to situations like this, going back to the earlier saying of how if it doesn't involve them they won’t get concerned. Towards the end of the reading it says “Americas nonresponse to the Turkish horrors set the stage for the us government to repeat this same act, they would say they were neutral in atrocities”, meaning the government is all the same in the way they act and because of this it kind of “set it up” to be like that.

Boston, Massachusetts , US
Posts: 24

The United States hasn’t had a war for a while and hopefully never will again but I feel it’s still our responsibility to help those struggling and facing oppression in other countries as best as we can. We have our own internal conflict that needs lots of attention to work out but as humans and a country that has oppressed, it should be a moral obligation to help people who are being unfairly persecuted. Obviously there are things to factor in like our own safety and the economy but if anything, the US should offer support through resources that we can supply. In the Armenian genocide, Armenians were targeted by not being allowed to fight in the Ottoman army which escalated to the Hamidian massacres. Turkish nationalism caused government corruption of power and something should’ve been done to stop the three leaders who were later assassinated by Armenians. The word genocide was coined because of the Armenian genocide and then WWII by a Polish Jew so the world was watching. The fact that Turkey continues to deny that this was a genocide shows how much needs to be done and can be learned from each other as nations and people. The citizens are shown propaganda and falsified information like the intent of the Turkish government and deserve to know what happened in their history. I get that it’s scary because then you’re admitting to be labeled as something horrific but the Armenian genocide is a loss that should be felt and ignoring it without reparations or acknowledgement is not a good way to avoid a genocide happening again. Yes, this happened and we should acknowledge it and grieve it because it’s saying that people are important and giving security to the people that they are safe in their own homes. I think war is completely stupid and there are ways for things to be worked out without involving tons of innocent people and placing blame on others. If an entire population is being wiped out, I think the world should be accountable for doing something and as people, uniting to help others is what life should be about and by helping, it unites our country.

Turkish authorities had told the US not to intervene but not doing anything and staying silent is the worst thing someone could do because it means they’re letting genocide happen. The Armenian news was published in papers and compared to King Leopold’s conquest for rubber because the government thought people would be too scared at the news. Morgenthau seems to be in the right because he encouraged aid for refugee Armenians and a direct government-to-government appeal because this was against humanity. He got help outside of the US government like people donated money and committee’s were made for Armenian relief but it’s sad that the US didn’t feel more responsible for sending aid to a population, some of whom lived in the US, because it didn’t affect them. I think when it comes to genocide, knowing all the information on a clear and concise level is difficult and makes decisions harder but instead of looking at the present like “the Armenian cause doesn’t affect us”, we should’ve been looking ahead as well to think about the kind of relationship we wanted to have with the Armenian people and that a little bit of help goes a long way. I mean, I can’t help but wonder if we did everything we could to help, like possibly even getting involved in war, if it still wouldn’t have been enough and we’d still have a conversation about how the US and other countries could’ve done more. What is the limit? The US pours so much money into the military and national security, money that could be going to other things, but it’s our responsibility to have an opinion and act on that as a united nation, and if not united then do what’s best for the safety of the people.

These people were just killed by the Germans and Turks for being themselves, and they didn’t even get to know them but make assumptions. In both cases, the genocides were covered up by a change in leadership. In both genocides, nobody did enough to stop it and even today, the disparities are shown in the same areas with the same people. Some steps that were taken is the acknowledgement of the Nama and Herero people genocide as a genocide whereas Turkey still denies it. People still aren’t doing enough to teach the real history and everyone is worried of being seen negatively but the US has in the most recent wars just chose to not do anything or have an opinion to protect themselves. But people still suffered and there was genocide so clearly in both cases, people didn’t do enough. In the moment, there were so many alliances and the struggle for power and colonization was seen as beneficial so I don't think nations stepped in enough since it wasn't directly affecting them.

no name
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 18

Armernian genocide

  1. Individuals like Lemkin or Morgenthau did not stand by however were powerless compared to the allies The world as a whole have a moral obligation to intervene always in genocides, not just the US under universal jurisdiction as the US isn't strictly the world police. Nobody should be immune to international crimes just because of “state sovereignty” or any other excuses. (Fun fact the US has this very strange law passed 20 years ago called the Hague Invasion Act on the topic of war crimes). We should’ve taken the warnings of Lemkin seriously, but nobody believed him or his horror stories in war torn Poland or inside the US government even down to the last minute that Hitler’s main objective would never exterminate an entire race because it was “again logic, against life itself”. The US in both situation adopted patience, which Lemkin tagged it perfectly as double murder, it is truly appalling how so many could stand by as thousands were dying on the principle of "patience" . Another fact could have been that Wall Street was tied to much of the Nazi industry and help Hitler rise to increase their profitability. Restructuring the international organization could make it much easier for example taking action against Israel ethnic cleansing for example. The US government providing aid to Armenians is useless while they were being exterminated by the Turkish government compared to what they could've done, it was like a bandaid on a fatal wound. The double murder is only helped by American nationalism and hyper Turkish Nationalism.
  2. They acted much quicker because they were simply projecting, the same nations that condemn these atrocious actions were using this to move the spotlight further onto the Ottoman’s crime of barbarity. Just in how we are taught now, very few people in our class knew what the Herero and Nama genocide was, however finally the German government has been taking steps to amend their denial. Meanwhile Turkey is rather staying in a hole not listening to anybody.
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 23

The Armenian genocide and bystanderism

The United States and our allies most definitely were bystanders during the Armenian genocide. Overall, the US chose not to interfere and stay neutral at all cause unless it hurt any Americans. This was consistent through the presidencies of William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. When Morgenthau first sent information about the beginnings of the “race murder” he replied by saying to stay out of business that didn’t concern with US nation interest. Even when Morgenthau got coverage with what was going on in the New York Times, the U.S. government stayed steady in their position of not doing anything. Morgenthau’s articles had headlines like “800,000 Armenians Counted and Destroyed” which followed two months later with “Millions of Armenians Killed or in Exile.” The New York TImes in 1915 alone did 145 stories on the Armenian Genocide. But even with the public knowing about this still didn’t get the U.S. out of their bystander seat.

I think the U.S. is overly worried about having friendly relations or at least neutral relations with other nations and are very careful with their military use. I think this is rightful since the U.S. is such a great military power. For example, one of the reasons why the U.S. didn’t provoke or actively help the Armenians is fear of losing Turkey’s relations. They only gave verbal warnings through Morgenthau but were too cowardly to take real action. This is supported by how when the U.S. did join the war and was against Germany, they have yet to make Turkey their enemy. And in the end, it was Turkey who broke off ties with the US.

Overall, I think countries should have united and dealt with crimes against humanity together. I don’t know how exactly, especially with a war going on. Something like the UN would have helped a bit, although the UN had yet to be formed before this.

I think ideally countries should stand up no matter what or “always” but there are sometimes going to be hard action to take, especially if countries fear being the only one standing up and fear losing power or being attacked. In short, I think countries should almost always stand up with words but be more careful with military support especially today because of nuclear weapons and various extremely dangerous military weapons.

I think the world nations behaved very similarly in the Armenian Genocide and Genocide in Namibia. When it was happening, nations were usually somewhat aware through messages but chose to not care or take action because it has nothing to do with them. I don’t know if German South West Africa’s genocide had as much media coverage to the public as the Armenian, but either way they were both acknowledged extremely recently by other countries. For example Germany accepts responsibility for genocide in Namibia in 2021.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 26

Yes, the United States and our allies acted as bystanders, as they stood by and allowed this genocide to take place without any intervention. Even in the midst of a world war there are crimes that cannot go unpunished, such as war crimes that we collectively avoid, and this could’ve been treated in the same way. Instead, the west extensively reported on the conflict, yet did not intervene. A bystander allows a conflict to unfold, with full knowledge of its issues, and the power to intervene, yet does nothing. This perfectly encapsulates what the US failed to do in such a crucial moment in our history, a moment that went on to in fact inspire the creator of the term “genocide,” Raphael Lemkin, to come up with the word in the first place.

What makes this situation worse is that the US knew of the grave danger of the Armenian people before WW1 was fully underway, and before the deportations started. As Samantha Power outlines, “When Turkey entered World War 1 on the side of Germany against Britain, France, and Russia, Talaat made it clear that the empire would target its Christian subjects.” This leadership was clearly hellbent on making Turks reign supreme in a country of diverse ethnic groups, and intervention in the west could've simply come in the form of protecting some of the rights of minority groups in Turkey before this genocide even took place.

Some of the actions that could’ve been done when the genocide was underway are as follows. We could have threatened to prosecute Turkish leaders like Talaat, Pasha or Djemal under international war crime laws, we could have frozen the assets of the government, and cut them off from trade in the rest of the world (much like we are doing now with Russia). We could have even taken less potent measures, such as publicly denouncing the Turkish leaders, and even referring to it as a genocide (or as something similar as the word did not exist until later). It is absolutely our prerogative to act when an entire population is being massacred in cold blood, and this will be true far into the future. A crime against humanity is a crime that is against the very nature of humans themselves, and we should spare nothing to stop such heinous crimes from ever taking place. There is not an option for a “rarely,” here, even a “sometimes.” Those with the power and resources to do something, anything at all, must act, as it is their duty as a citizen of this earth.

Adding to the imperative of our country and the others at the time, was the overwhelming body of evidence supporting this conflict at the time (evidence that continues to pile up, yet be denied by the Turkish government). Like Ms. Power’s book mentioned, the Ottoman ambassador, Henry Morgenthau, was skeptical of such an atrocity for a time, but by 1915, as more and more evidence piled it, it was clear he was witnessing a “race murder”. These reports however, were stifled by the neutrality of the United States at the time, and our unwillingness to act.

I would advocate on international law not just defining the term genocide, and the nature of such a crime, but mandating action from member countries that had the resources to interveen. Just like the genocide we studied in Namibia, the US and other countries failed to bat an eye, let alone actually substantively intervene. Like Samantha Power mentioned later in the chapter, “America’s nonresponse to the Turkish horrors established patterns that would be repeated. Time and again the U.S. Government would be reluctant to cast aside its neutrality and formally denounce a fellow state for its atrocities.” This outlines the precedent of inaction, and the world’s inability to act when it in fact matters the most.

South Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

The Armenian Genocide Bystanderism

The U.S. should have intervened, we claim to be this "melting pot" of people as some sort of role model for the rest of the countries, and we have one of the strongest militaries in the world. All of militaries latin mottos mean something along the lines of free people, protect the innocent(something along those lines) however when people were being murdered by the thousands no one came to there aid. America should have definitely intervened on principle, we are definitely NOT a perfect country (far from it), BUT we have the means to save people who need it. I would love to say whenever an atrocity like this happens America needs to intervene if that means saving peoples lives, however relationships with countries are so complicated because of allyships, government, resources, and the global market. Unfortunately due to these, it sometimes takes preference over human lives, but there is also the situation in which America doesn't want to start a war which would cause more death(we can see this with Ukraine and Russia, Americans want to help the Ukrainian people and have been taking steps to, however starting a war with Russia would mean a nuclear war and no one wants that).

Something Americans tend to do when handling global affairs, is approach it as an American Savior rather than someone who wants to help. Americans will go overseas with no concept of another country's culture, relationships with other countries, government ect. It's incredibly hard to help people without at least an understanding of these things. With all this being said no country should stand idle as a group of innocent people are being killed.

Another complication during this time was ww1 was going on, and a lot of the world was focused on this. During this time people tend to function in the mindset that they want their family, community, city, country to be safe first then help others, this is a primal instinct you naturally want yourself to be safe first before you can start helping others, governments would probably function within this mindset as well they want their country to be safe before they take action. WW1 was something the world has never seen before there were human deaths by the millions (both civilian and military personnel). So I would like to make it clear I don't think the other countries have an excuse for the thousands of Armenians who were killed at the hand of the Turkey government that should not have happened and a government should have intervened in that, however the political environment at the time was so heightened it is hard to say what countries should've done during this time.

I would advocate because the United States has the means, to intervene in genocides America needs to, the governement can not stand by and watch a group of people get murdered. Now as I said America has the means to help, the government needs to take a good look at the means it has before doing something (like activating the military because sending 18, 19, 20 year olds whose prefrontal cortex isn't developed into that environment is a bad idea) America needs to do everything in its power to avoid war because then that even more damage (in terms of human lives, government, environment) but the U.S. can not stand idle while innocent people are killed.

Compared to what Germany did in the late 19th, and 20th centuries the political environment wasn't as heightened because there wasn't a world war going on, however everyone turned a blind eye to what was happening in Africa, but this seemed more out of benefit because Germany's economy was doing well so everyone seemed to ignore the situation. Both the Armenian genocide and what happened in Africa, have somehow been forgotten in the history books and we need to learn about both events.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

The Armenian genocide and bystanderism

Children, elderly, and all different types of people were killed during the Armenian genocide. As over 1 million people were starved and brutally killed, nobody attempted to help them. Other countries were a little preoccupied with the atrocity of world war 1, however the way that everybody instantly chose to be a bystander is unacceptable. I definitely think that the U.S and other countries should have gotten involved. If they had gotten involved, than this genocide would not have been able to get swept under the rug. I think it should go without saying that other countries should step in and put a stop to something when they know it is wrong (unless it is bound to start a world war).

I believe that the United States should have provided at least some aid. I don’t think getting involved with a full military and physically would not be a good idea seeing as this would cause more conflict and war. I think at the very least the United States or any other country should have called them out or threaten. By being a bystander throughout the entire genocide we’ve allowed for this tragedy to become forgotton and denied by the Turkish government. I think the best course of action should have been to pair with allies in order to put a stop to it. I don’t believe that none of them knew this was going on. What was really needed is that nations needed to come together in order to stop this tragic genocide of millions of innocent people. This should not be allowed to go unnoticed.

I do think that nations behaved differently. The Armenian genocide, people in power were definitely aware of what was going on they actively chose to be bystanders they did not care to help innocent people whether this was because the difference in race or maybe religion. However not many people were aware of what was happening in German South West Africa except for the people executing this genocide, it was kept very secretive. In the early 20th century many nations knew what was happening and chose to remain silent. A somewhat similarity, is that people knew what was going on but chose not to react. I do think there is a line between not getting involved because you don’t care, or not getting involved because you do not want to get started in a war. Many countries wanted to become allies with Turkey, not acknowledging the genocide, similar to how the Namibian genocide was only acknowledged by Germany in the 21st century. In the future this is something that cannot continue and something must change if this continues.

Boston, Massachussetts, US
Posts: 27

The United States could have done so much more to help the Armenian population during this time. They did not intervene while the Armenians were experiencing a geneocide, making the US bystanders. I think it can be a tricky thing to take a stand when a population is being destroyed, however, enough is enough. At the time, many US citizens were donating to organizations such as the new Committee on Armenian Atrocities and the Rockefeller Foundation. Though these attempts were appreciated, it wasn’t as powerful as what the government could have done, yet didn’t do. Sometimes, intervening could cause more harm than good. While I have no idea what it was like to experience the bystander side of it, I think that the US could have at least tried to do something about the Armenian geneocide.

I would personally advocate for a role of immediate interventionism so that the geneocide could have been prevented from being as bad as it was. The reason why I said before that sometimes intervening could be harmful is because at a certain point, after a geneocide has gotten worse and a leader gains more power, said leader could cause worse consequences to happen. While this is true, tackling the geneocide from the beginning could have been safer and potentially successful because the leader probably wouldn’t be as powerful yet. The US should have stood up for human rights and the morals that they claim to value.

I think that the geneocide in Armenia was absolutely treated differently then what happened during the carnage in Namibia. The New York Times wrote 145 articles about what was going on for the Armenians, but did not write about the Namibian people. There were no foundations for the Herero and Nama, which meant they received no donations. I don't mean to diminish the struggles of the Armenians by saying this, but they received so much more help than the Namibians in Africa. This is partially probably because of race, religion, and location. Since Armenia is closer to Europe, they are more in the eyes of Americans. Also, mostly all Armenians are Christian, which Americans probably appeal to. There was a lot of attention on that because a large population of the world is Christian.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 14

The Armenian Genocide & Bystanderism


The late Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice,

you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Although these are strong words, I think it reflects the actions, or more aptly, the inaction of the U.S. and our allies during the Armenian genocide. These sentiments are also reflected by Presbyterian missionary William A. Shedd, in Samantha Power’s book when he writes that silence on the part of the American government, “is to miss an opportunity to serve humanity.” As illustrated in Power’s book, the U.S. and its allies did miss this opportunity and acted as bystanders. The U.S. was determined to remain neutral and stood by the notion that Turkish actions had not violated the rights of Americans. This was despite the fact the New York Times had published more than 100 articles around the death of Armenians at the hands of the Turkish government. The U.S. also failed to take action despite U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau Sr.’s repeated notices of the “race murder” of the Armenians. Although Morgenthau was somewhat successful in getting private donations to support the Armenian cause, he was never able to get full government backing to address the Armenian genocide in Turkey and eventually stepped down from his role. While the allies did publicly identify the killing of Armenians as “crimes against humanity,” their focus was on winning the war. Sadly, they believed that the death of innocent women and children is one of the casualties of war.


I believe that the U.S. and its allies should have taken more strategic steps to punish “crimes against humanity.” First the U.S. and its allies should establish that all crimes against humanity are a threat to U.S. justice and the American people and should be punished accordingly. Essentially, the U.S. should have established that genocide is essentially an act of war. Although punishment for war crimes was later established after World War II (Nuremberg) the murder and genocide of Armenians justified the U.S. and allied nations to take specific actions against the Turkish government. This could have been done by establishing trade embargos with Turkey, providing more humanitarian aid to the Armenians, and allowing Armenian refugees to emigrate to the United States, and imprisoning members of the Turkish government. While some aid was provided to the Armenians via private donations organized by Henry Morgenthau, the aid was minimal. Although the U.S. and its allies served as bystanders, the genocide in Armenia was covered extensively by the New York Times and received direct attention by the Ambassador Morgenthau. This differs from the genocide in Namibia, which was barely covered by the news media and was considered America’s “dirty little secret.” In 2004, the German government formally recognized the atrocities committed and issued an apology. Ten years later Turkey also acknowledged the inhumane consequences, but never characterized their actions as genocidal. Regardless, neither Germany or Turkey was willing to pay reparations for the victims of genocide.

Posts: 15

the Armenian genocide and bystanderism

The US should have taken a stand because even though it was not a distinctly American issue, it was an issue of human rights and where we see injustice, we should do as much as we can to combat it. There should not have been this opposition to intervening in the conflict or keeping it away from public opinion in order to prevent pressure to get involved because we should intervene. When an entire population is being targeted and killed, there is no excuse to do nothing about it. It doesn’t matter if it’s not in your country because the people being targeted clearly do not have the power to protect themselves from a corrupt government. There are issues with American foreign policy and the way and time our government decides to intervene. Despite these problems, I think, though there was not much done at the time, there has been acknowledgement of it now from the US, even if not from Turkey.

I would advocate for the US and other nations witnessing any genocide to take an active role of combatting the mistreatment and killing of the victims. This could be supplying humanitarian aid or by sending military to protect the people, depending on how far they need to go and how drastic the situation is. The best place to start would be to stop the people committing the genocide by calling them out for it or forcing them to address it and stop them. Something so extreme like a genocide should be obvious that help must be given to the people being killed. Although it happened during WWI, there must have been something the countires in that war could have done, or at least the US since we did not get involved in the war immediately. Morgenthau says in A Problem From Hell, “Why are you so interested in the Aermians anyway? You are a Jew, these people are Christians… What have you to complain of? Why can’t you let us do with these Christians as we please?” I think this demonstrates the problem with turning your back to an issue that might not necessarily be about you, but still does tremendous harm to others. Morgenthau simultaneously denies the Amrenian genocide and implies that the Turkish government should be able to treat Christians however they want, even badly. The belief that a Jew should not care because they are not Christian is appalling because any human being should be upset about the mistreatment of another human being.

I believe world nations behave similarly during the carnage in Africa because they ignored what was happening and it continues to often go unaddressed still today. Despite evidence and generations of hurt, there is still a lack of awareness and recognition of the events. The Armenians were Christian while the Turks were Muslim and I think helped the rationaliazation of the genocide and how they could single them out so easily as well as being a sentiment backed by the government. Similarly, what happened in Namibia was able to happen easily because it was easy to distinguish between them since they were Black and the Europeans were white. They were also different because the Germans colonized Namibia and wanted to take the land of the Herero and Nama people, whereas the Armenians were pushed out of Turkey because the Turks didn’t want them in the country. The genocides have similarities and differences but there is definitely a correlation between the denial and ignorance of the atrocities that were committed.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

The Armenian Genocide and Bystanderism

The United States and our allies, along with our enemies, did act as bystanders during the Armenian genocide. On page 6 of “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide, it explicitly states that the U.S, at the time led by President Wilson, had no intention of intervening with Turkey, or the mass-killings against the Armenian people led by the Turkish government. President Wilson did not want the news of the genocide in Turkey to become public because he did not want the people of the U.S to push for the government to help the Armenians. The definition of a bystander is someone who is witnessing an unjust situation and has the ability to help resolve it, but chooses not to. That is exactly what was going on with the U.S and their allies, even if their allies were in the middle of World War I, the countries knew what was going on and refused to step in. Not only that, but at the time, when the news of the beginning of the Armenian genocide hit to the United States, we were not apart of World War I, and we chose to obstain from an conflict that was going on in Europe and the Middle East.

I think we should have intervened when we heard of the news and I also think Wilson should have shared the news with the public, maybe if the news was brought to public attention sooner we could have stepped in against Turkey. Maybe we could have stopped the genocide from getting as bad as it did. I don’t think it matters the place, the race of people, or the government that is committing the crime, we should ALWAYS step in the prevent a genocide, and so should other nations. I think it is our job as people to protect all of humanity on this planet, and I don’t think politics should get in the way of that. Even though it is rare for countries to completely follow human rights, and even though the Declaration of Humans Rights were created after WWII, I still believe that we should step in at the early stages of genocide (like what’s happening in the Ukraine right now).

I believe that nations did act differently towards the Armenian genocide compared to the Namibian genocide because unlike the Armenian genocide when other countries knew about the atrocities that occured in Turkey, no one really knew much about the Namibian genocide. I think that it has a great deal with European countries and the U.S not caring much about what happens to the people in Africa. The U.S government tried to avoid getting into a war as much as possible when it came to possibly getting involved with Turkey, but when it came to Namibia whether they knew at the time or not, I think they would not have gotten involved because I don’t believe that the American government would have cared enough to. It’s sad and disgusting to say, but I think that there was a large difference between the involvement of countries in both of the genocides, even though countries did not intervene to protect the people who the genocides were against.

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