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Boston, US
Posts: 350

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?

Freight Farm Enjoyer
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

The Armenian Genocide and Bystanderism

The text given provides a pretty good description of how the United States acted during the Armenian genocide, which is that it was willing to provide humanitarian aid to those fleeing the atrocities, but was completely unwilling to do anything about the problem itself. The United States was, without a doubt, a bystander in this conflict, and it's pretty easy to argue that the United States, as well as some European powers, can be heavily faulted for allowing everything that occurred during those few years to take place.

We could have actively cut ties from Turkey, but instead, Turkey wound up cutting ties with us, after the United States had spent a good amount of time standing around with its metaphorical hands in its pockets. Whether or not genocide had been defined yet, and whether or not it was something which was a prominent idea in the eyes of the American public, any countries witnessing these events who have the power to help prevent them have a complete moral obligation to do so. Obviously not every country is always going to be able to make a difference in any given situation involving genocide, and it is possible that genocides can happen without a large portion of the world even really knowing about it. But in the case of the Armenian genocide, there was media outcry in Britain, the United States, and numerous survivors present to tell their stories. There was ample evidence that there was a genocide being committed in Turkey, and yet the United States still resolved not to do very much in response. Even worse, Germany remained steadfast in defending them all throughout the genocide, because they believed that the already existing alliances they were a part of took priority over actual loss of innocent human life. Given these things, all of these countries should have absolutely taken a stand against the prosecution of the Armenians. I think this same logic applies to any genocide being committed if the country in question has the power to send aid or bring major help in any way; the United States had the same obligations during the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, and the modern conflict in Ukraine, regardless of whether or not it actually followed through on them.

All I really ask is that the United States or any other country bearing witness to a blatant genocide like this acts as more than just a witness. As a massive global power with immense military strength which portrays itself as standing for freedom and human rights, it's completely unfathomable that anyone would think of it as anything other than massively hypocritical for the United States or any other comparatively powerful countries at that point in history to sit idly by and watch the mass slaughter of Armenian people just wash over Turkey. The creation of the word "genocide" shouldn't change anything about that.

Most world nations behaved completely differently during the Armenian genocide than they did during the genocide which occurred in Namibia. It's true that most of these nations weren't exactly eager to jump in and interfere with Turkey and its determination to essentially eliminate a race, but that doesn't mean there wasn't backlash. There were a number of journalists and articles in Europe and the United States pushing for the United States to do anything about what, such as Henry Morgenthau. Although the Germans were much more open about the atrocities they were committing in Southwest Africa, there seemed to have been relatively little backlash, heavily as a result of white supremacy. People in the United States could have seen Armenians as closer to them, especially given the large Christian population in this country, while the cultures of the Herero and Nama people were so far separated from those in the United States that most people here had probably never heard of them. These ideas last until today; although both the Armenian genocide and the Herero-Nama genocide were intensely horrifying atrocities, I had only heard of the Armenian genocide until this year, and up until recently, much less research was done into the genocide against Armenians in Turkey than the genocide against the Herero and Nama peoples in what is now Namibia.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

The Armenian Genocide and Bystanderism

I don’t necessarily think all nations acted as complete bystanders here. Many of the European nations, such as Britain and France, at least had an excuse to avoid confronting the problem. In the tense years that opened up WWI, they were preoccupied with war and, evidently, their own country’s well being. Germany, of course, is partly to blame for this genocide. Besides the fact that they were not an allied power—thus meaning they were pro-genocide by association, they also did nothing to prevent further brutality. In fact, they even went as far as to cover up Talaat’s campaign and echo Turkish claims that justified the genocide. Regarding ourselves—the United States—we completely acted as bystanders during this time. We chose to remain isolationist and avoid intervening in any of the war’s externalities, such as the Armenian genocide in this case. We often have the excuse that we were not diplomatically and militarily prepared to join the action and confront the brutality; however, the fact remains that we joined the war the very following year after making this statement. Because of that fact, it becomes evident that we were clearly prepared to intervene. Additionally, foreign ambassador Henry Morgenthau recorded countless efforts to convince President Wilson to intervene in the genocide because this was precisely a crime against humanity. Needless to say, these efforts went ignored.

I think it’s pretty straightforward that we should have intervened. When we—as the human race—see an entire population slowly get destroyed, we must take a stand, whenever, wherever, no matter what. It is our duty to ensure that everyone is guaranteed the first universal human right—the right to life. The only understandable exception to this is if a country is already experiencing troubles on their homeland or preoccupied in other dangerous diplomatic situations. It is then that a country can focus on their own well being; however, once that problem is solved, it falls on their responsibility to take action to protect the human race. Even if the said population is deemed as “bad” people, I still feel as though they deserve some sort of life. With that being said, they should not be freed just to be released back into society and wreak terror on the world; they should be held accountable for their wrongdoings in an appropriate way.

Regarding action, I think it starts with the people. In order for America to take appropriate action, the people must advocate for justice and force the government into intervening. Examples of this can be evident in the Russian-Ukrainian war. Although not everyone considers this a complete genocide, justice started when the people began using mass media as a platform to spread the message and advocate for action. Once this takes place, the United States must take military action to prevent any further brutality. I’m not exactly sure what this might look like, but at the very least sending troops over to fight for the justice of whichever population is being discriminated against.

I don’t know how comparable the two events were. The carnage of Africa was not a very highly published situation. It was precisely just those European powers working together amongst themselves to divide up Africa without a whole ton of press exposing their plants. On the contrary, the Armenian genocide was globally known. With respect to just America alone, foreign ambassador Morgenthau wrote back numerous times calling for a need to take action. Additionally, the New York Times published countless articles and new stories detailing these very actions. In both cases though, there was not enough reverse action taken to save the human race and most certainly not enough action taken by America in specific—a nation who prides themselves in spreading democracy and freedom throughout the globe.

Boston, Massachusetts , US
Posts: 18

The Armenian Genocide and Bystanderism

In “A Problem from Hell” by Samantha Powers, she explains that. the Armenian Genocide was initiated by the Ottoman government in 1915, as part of its overall plan to cleanse the empire of its ethnic and religious minorities. The Armenian population was subjected to mass deportations, forced marches, and mass killings which resulted in the death of about 1.5 million Armenians. Despite the severity and scale of the atrocities, the international community failed to intervene and stop the genocide. Power also highlights the role of the American government in the events of the Armenian Genocide. Despite being aware of the ongoing massacre, the American government chose not to take any action, due to its strategic interests in the region and fear of alienating the Ottoman Empire. The lack of action by the American government was seen as a failure of leadership and a disregard for human life.

I think that the United States and its allies did act as bystanders during the Armenian Genocide. Despite being aware of the atrocities committed against the Armenian people, the US did not take really any action to intervene or prevent the genocide. I believe it is the responsibility for nations and the international community to take action when a population is being subjected to widespread violence, persecution, or genocide. Such actions could include diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions, or military intervention, but the specific approach depends on the circumstances and should consider the potential consequences of each option. The objective should be to protect human rights and prevent mass atrocities while also seeking to resolve the underlying conflict in a peaceful and sustainable manner. Despite this belief, the question of whether other nations should intervene depends on a lot of factors. While it is tempting to say that all nations should intervene to prevent harm to innocent people, the reality is a bit more nuanced. First, there is the issue of sovereignty, because countries have the right to determine their own internal affairs. Interference from other countries may be seen as a violation of that sovereignty, and may not necessarily lead to a resolution of the conflict.

In some cases, intervention may be necessary to prevent mass atrocities and protect innocent people, but in other cases, intervention may not be the most effective solution and may even worsen the conflict. While I do think it is important to consider all of the factors from a logical point of view, I do not think that there is any viable reason that any nation should turn their back on the decimation of a population. In my mind, helping to end the suffering of innocent people should come before any potential conflict that intervening might cause.

In situations where they do help, I think applying diplomatic and economic pressure to end the violence and bring those responsible to justice. Along with this, in the aftermath, providing humanitarian aid to those affected by the violence and working to establish a lasting peace through post-conflict reconstruction efforts can also play an important role. Reconstruction after a genocide is an effort that not many realize is so important.

The response of world nations to the Armenian Genocide and the carnage Namibia was vastly different. While the Armenian Genocide was widely recognized as a tragedy and a genocide, the response to the events in Namibia was more muted and the incidents were not widely recognized as a genocide at the time simply because the abuses suffered by African countries during this time werent, and haven't been talked about.

Posts: 20

More genocides...

Well, for one, the United States was not even a part of the Allied Powers during the time of the Armenian Genocide––they refused to join. Yet, this want to stay neutral, is their first act of bystanderism. They were ordered to stay out of external affairs, and decided they should “stay out of business that did not concern the U.S. national interests,” even though they had already entered the war. Even after hearing the news about the genocide––on multiple accounts––making them perpetrators. Although one can argue that they were “busy with the war,” it eventually comes down to a question of morality. Those who were up against Germany and Turkey, really did not do much either. The British, especially, were extremely unwilling to speak out about it. Samantha Power points out that Sir Edward Grey, a British foreign minister, in multiple accounts expressed how “futile” any attempts to intervene would be. Their final solution was to issue a joint declaration to condemn the crimes of the Turkish government. In short? Pushing the problem under the table. I don’t know if there was any active aid in preventing the genocide from continuing.

As for what we should have done, the answer is a bit more complicated. I believe the U.S. should have been more open to joining the Allied Powers, and as a whole, we should have prevented this from happening. Although the United States was extremely worried about international relations, like I mentioned above, if they had already become involved in the war, what was the reason for not helping? This is a matter of morals as well as principle. If one nation is completely abusing their power, it is our duty, as inhabitants of this earth, to come together and defeat that evil. This goes for anything: the war in Ukraine, the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, the Namibian genocide, the Armenian genocide. Afterall, we are all human beings, and every single life is valuable. It is so easy to sit and watch from a distance, but we (every nation) need to break this habit.

I think world history has properly exposed us, internationally, to what a genocide is, and it’s kind of shocking that our governments still don’t know how to act. Of course, we, as a younger generation, can try our best to protest, and get media coverage, but it does start with those above us––and a part of that starts with voting. If a government is instilled with morals, it sensitizes our nation to begin with. Our current principles, and the principles of other nations around us, have only carried us so far. I don’t see any reason why we cannot have peaceful relations with one another, and still continue to engage in conflicts.

The carnage in Africa feels different to the Armenian genocide. For one, we need to take into consideration that this occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries––where most countries were instilled with deep and inherited racism for generations. The reason no one advocated for Namibia is the same reason the genocide is widely unknown today. Unfortunate as it is, why would a racist nation want to help another country they care nothing about? The Herero and Nama people were treated dispensably, as if they were far from human, while the Armenians were victims. Both groups are victims of genocide, however, only one group was deemed important enough.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

Without a doubt the United States and its allies acted as bystanders during the Armenian genocide. The most harrowing and difficult truth to ignore is how publicized the slaughter was from the perspective of the Turkish government and how easily disseminated news of the genocide was across the Axis and Allied nations. The Gilded Age of American politics was corrupt and profoundly conservative despite the rising “progressivist” movement founded by President Roosevelt in the early 1900s. The New Freedom political theory in the United States during the Great War pledged to restore unfettered opportunity to individual achievement in America, while the age of imperialism persisted to shape the country’s foreign policy for the next several decades. The non-intervention principles upheld during the early years of the Wilson administration resulted in the U.S. turning a blind eye to the plight of foreign nations despite continuing to perpetuate the colonial acts of imperialism in Latin America and Asia that all Americans vilified. In my opinion, too much hypocrisy existed among the Allied governments who fought for ideals of freedom and liberty while exploiting the lives, labor, and virtue of their colonized subjects to absolve them of bystanderism during the Armenian genocide. The argument can certainly be made that even after the sinking of the Lusitania and the U.S. intervention in the war, the United States was unprepared to launch an invasion of Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean in an effort to end suffering wherever it existed. Even after WWII, despite being a leading industrial power, the United States military was sizably unequipped to maintain imperial control beyond the Western Hemisphere. Nonetheless, affirmative action was well within their reach to be taken. No one was asking for a full-scale liberation of Turkey, but with the resources the Allies did have, it is unreasonable that military aid was not provided until it was too late.

It is easy to judge and say that the United States and other nations witnessing this (and any other) genocide to practice what they preach. Is that really too much to ask? Unfortunately in this modern age, the answer is always yes. Foreign policy during wartime has always been such a polarizing topic in the U.S. In some scenarios, as we saw with the first two World Wars, war has been a catalyst for national unity and increased economic and social reform. However, from Vietnam on, the dissenters during times of war in this country have been empowered by larger audiences and more effective means of communication. There are of course, positives and negatives on both sides of the political debate, and it is the beauty of such debate that allows our country to maintain its respect during national crises. However, regardless of political affiliation, as humans, with every drop of empathy in our bodies, must condemn genocide in all manifestations. Again, arguments to intervene or remain neutral are valid, but often seem to be fought in vain. The longer we continue to stay silent, more lives are lost, and the longer these perpetrators act under the impression that they are untouchable and may never be held accountable for the atrocities they commit.

During the carnage in Namibia, there was always a dissociative factor contributing to the lack of intervention by foreign nations in German South West Africa. The European colonies in Africa were always treated as separate entities of greater empires whose primary concern rested on the sustainability of the mainland. The existence of these colonies was acknowledged by European powers, although the goings on within the territories were often overlooked and disregarded by extreme brutality and deep-seated racism. For lack of a better euphemism, “what happens in German South West Africa stays in German South West Africa.” It is extremely unsettling, but the truth is, the lack of modern development in Namibia and across other European colonies in Africa instilled a sense of entitlement in the European powers that news of their crimes against humanity would forever remain unrecognized and that no one would dare speak out. However, in Armenia, the harsh realities of imperialism and genocide were brought directly to the continent of Europe and could not be overlooked. In response, European nations were forced to react with disgust and contempt despite refusing to take affirmative action as previously mentioned.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

The Armenian Genocide and Bystanderism

We should have done something, literally anything. The U.S was a complete bystander and did nothing to help anyone during this time. In Samantha Powers "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide" she claims that "The United States, determined to maintain its neutrality in the war, refused to join the Allied declaration.", and this was completely true. We didnt even consider joining the allies simply because we did not want to get involved and we didnt want to end our relationship with turkey/make enemies with the country. It was honestly such a shame, as the outcome maybe coulvde been different if the americans just decided to help out a little bit. I think that in the case of an entire population being destoryed, other nations (including the U.S) should at least try their best to take a stand no matter what. Being a bystander helps nobody. I think that although it may make enemies and more problems could possibly ensue, doing the right things and helping out to save countless human lives is more important than a reputation or almost anything other factor to be honest. If other nations/countries cannot see that taking a stand and helping out is the most humane and respectable thing to do, then we must question their humanity and even the way those countries govern. Watching as others commit pointless genocide on entire populations is extremely cruel and disrespectful. We are all human here on earth, we all deserve to live, and we can't let bad things like this happen again.

There is no way else to explain the United States role as simply just negligent and extremely careless. The US played the bystander role. They did nothing except sit and watch as thousands of people died. I would advocate for them to be the role of a helping hand. They should help be protectors of human rights and human life. If you are allied with a country tha is committing these disgusting acts, you should no longer be allies with that country. It all comes down to humanity and empathy, and we need more humanity and more empathy in the world. I would advocate for genocide not to happen in the first place, and if it does, i would advocate for literally any other country to try their best to put an end to it.

I think that they acted in relatively the same way, as they didnt do anything to stop either of these scarring events from happening. Nowadays, i think that they definitely behave differently in remembering the events. Namibia and german south west africa is hardly talked about at all. hardly anybody ever hears about it. At least with the armenian genocide, we do get conversations out of it and i would like to believe that most people have at least heard about it before.

Posts: 18

I absolutely think the US and their allies were bystanders to the Armenian genocide. The American foreign policy of remaining netural is nothing new, it has been around since the beginning stages of this country, however, I do not believe that that is correct in a situation like the Armenian genocide. I think that Great Britain perhaps made an attempt with their National Foreign Office. However, did it do anything? No.

I think the United States needed to interfere with Turkey directly. Any of the Axis powers in World War I were known for having strong military powers. In some honesty, to this day, I still think that the fight in World War I seems so dumb. I associate the Holocaust with World War II, and communism with the Cold War, but I’m not sure what goes with World War I. If the war was about the fight against the Armenian genocide, I think this would’ve greatly changed world history. To me, it also seems like the United States was doing its best to remain neutral on conflict because they didn’t want to be in the chaos and mess. However, losing a specific group of people and simply when life and death are on the line among many other wrongdoings, there is no question than to interfere. I think it is especially important for any nation, as powerful as the United States or not, to act immediately when another country is committing a crisis like genocide. This is not only life and death, but also the survival of the targeted people. We have lost a vast number of many groups in the past, like the Indigenous people of North America, and also the Namibian genocide. Life or death comes first for the individual human, and if other nations can keep each other in checks and balances for that, genocides and other horrible atrocities won’t happen. The explanation that both the American and British government use at first in A Problem from Hell: America

in the Age of Genocide is absolutely inexcusable, and frankly I think the nations both care about their own ego more than the Armenian people.

I advocate for the United States to be proactive. I think it was cool how the New York Times focused some journalism on this tragedy, however, that’s not enough. Educating American citizens on what’s happening around the world, isn’t enough, when a country like the United States is powerful enough to influence and interfere with other nations. It is not enough to only remain domestic practices when the genocide is an international event.

I think world nations both would behave differently and the same when addressing genocides. Same, because the nations who committed the genocide don’t want to recognize the trauma they have caused. This is indicative in both Namibia with Germany, and Turkey and Armenia, both we talked about in class. However, peopl also behave differently, and I think that was because the Namibian genocide was on black people. There was a way to “justify” the Namibian genocide more via white supremacy, which I agree with Freight Farm Employer on this sentiment. We can even look at a media standpoint, and how the Armenian genocide is decently well-known, to the point where we learned a little about it in AP World, and just about no one knows about the Namibian genocide just as much.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 14

I think that the United States and our allies did act completely act as bystanders and watched the Armenian genocide happen. In the text it explicitly said “the United States would offer humanitarian aid to the survivors of the “race murder” but would leave those committing it alone” (14) and also, which to me seems very much like a bystander, watching the incident unfold, and only coming to their aid afterwards and letting the perpetrator go by. Although the United States tried to justify their actions by saying that they didn’t want to stand up because they didn’t want to ruin their relationship with Turkey, I still think that they should have done something besides sit and watch.

I don’t know for sure what we should have done, but I know that we could have stepped in, especially since our relationship with Turkey would be damaged later on anyways. However, I think that it is important to note that the United States didn’t formally recognize the Armenian Genocide until 2019. I think that this really shows how we continued to fail Armenia in order to maintain a relationship with Turkey. The US and other nations should take a stand when a population is being destroyed unjustly. One quote in the reading was “because the Turks had not violated the rights of Americans, Wilson did not formally protest” (5), which reminded me of one of the poems read during a human rights day presentation that went something along the lines of “first they came for (group of people), but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t (part of that group)” and ended with “then they came for me and by that time there was no one left to speak up.” I feel as though we would want someone to speak up for us if we were going through something as horrible, but just as the poem and the reading says, no one is willing to stand up, which is also evident by this statement: “he believed a double murder was being committed-- one by the Nazis against the Jews, and the second by the Allies, who knew about Hitler’s extermination campaign but refused to publicize or denounce it” (28).

I think the Armenian genocide and the Namibian genocide both show how other world nations are bystanders when it comes to genocides. However, the fact that the Namibian genocide isn’t as well known as the Armenian genocide suggests that there was another factor. I think that that factor was racism and the unfortunately popular belief at the time that the people of Namibia were inferior to the white Europeans and the Europeans used that reasoning to justify their crimes.

Posts: 18

The United States was without a doubt a bystander during the Armenian genocide. While our allies also did little to nothing for the Armenian population, the text mentions a joint declaration given by Allied governments in May of 1915. It condemned “crimes against humanity and civilization” and warned Turkey that they would be held responsible. However, the United States refused to take part in this declaration, determined to adhere to its neutrality policy. Britain and France were at war while this was all happening, but the United States did not join the war until mid-1917. Even then, President Wilson refused to break relations with the Ottoman Empire. It was Turkey that broke ties with the United States. There is no excuse for the United States and its lack of response to this genocide. This also does not just apply to the Armenian genocide. Power indicates that time and time again history will repeat. The U.S. government will cling to neutrality and will be hesitant to do anything about these massacres. The United States would offer aid to survivors, yet do nothing to the perpetrators. While there were advocates such as Morgenthau that stirred the public, Washington was not swayed. It is absolutely not unfair to ask these questions. While most of Europe was occupied with WWI, when most of the events of the Armenian genocide took place, the United States did not yet enter into the war, and could have done something, anything, but they didn’t. We didn’t.

We, at the very least, should’ve put pressure on the Turks politically and diplomatically. The United States should have joined the Allied declaration denouncing the horrific acts committed by the Turks, though that is far from enough. The U.S. government should have listened to Morgenthau, should have cut ties with Turkey as soon as, if not before, we entered the war. I think the U.S. and/or other nations should always take a stand when an entire population is being destroyed from a moral standpoint. Sometimes intervention can be tricky due to alliances or fear of war and even more losses of life. Sometimes it can worsen the issue. But completely standing by as an entire population is being wiped out is inexcusable and unacceptable. If military intervention is not a viable course of action, a nation should pursue other ways to aid, such as military aid and providing resources, politically, economic blockades, etc. It’s ironic that the United States markets on the idea of freedom and liberty while doing absolutely nothing while another population is being systematically killed off and deprived of their basic human rights. We were nothing but bystanders during this genocide.

Yes, I do think world nations behaved differently during the Armenian genocide than they did during the carnage in Africa, specifically Namibia. In the end, not much was done about either issues. However, there was a lot of publicity on the events happening to the Armenian peoples in Britain, France, and the United States. The New York Times covered the atrocities happening in Turkey. The British Foreign Office displayed photographs of the Armenian victims and refugees, and advocates like Morgenthau pushed for government action and helped to stir the public. Other figures such as Bryce, former British ambassador to the United States, and Roosevelt, former president, also voiced their opposition to the United States’ decision to do nothing. Christian churches and organizations also gave donations to Morgenthau in advocating for his cause. All of this may have been because the motivation behind the genocide was Christianity, which many Europeans and Americans could have sympathized with. As for the genocide in Namibia toward the Herero-Nama people, it was a conflict that was more distant from them, so it was easier to ignore, as cruel as that sounds. There were also not such ambassadors and people with political influence to speak up for help to the people of Namibia.
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

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

Yes, all of the Allied Powers acted as bystanders during the Armenian genocide, no doubt. There was surmounting evidence of Armenians getting killed, deported, and their livelihoods getting desecrated. The New York Times published articles about it, the US ambassador stationed in Turkey (Henry Morgenthau) reported on it numerous times, and Britain reported on it as well. Everyone was a bystander to the tragic genocide, not just the US. The US at least provided aid to those fleeing from Turkey, but they did not help to fix the problem at all because they feared that acting directly on the problem would result in them losing neutrality during WWI. They wanted nothing to do with the war, and decided to not intervene, because the issue had nothing to do with them and their interests… and was not labeled under the name of a crime. The US kept using those same excuses in order to not interfere with Turkey and join the war… but they ended joining in it anyways… so this was just an awful plethora of decisions.

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

The US, along with other nations, should have banded together to help stop the killing of Armenians. They could have added more diplomatic pressure towards the Ottoman Empire, and could have intervened with their military. The US and other nations should take a stand when a whole group of innocent people are being hunted down just for existing. I believe that this should happen no matter where or when it takes place, so that countries don’t think that they could just get away with killing off whatever group of people as they please. It sets more of a precedent for them to follow. I advocate for the United States and other nations to act together to fight against these murderous plots of civilians, and to not remain isolationist on this topic. I also believe they should fight strategically as well by making sure they have enough power along with other nations to produce positive results.

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?

The Armenian genocide received more publicity than the carnage in Africa did, despite there being clear signs, letters, and evidence of a genocide happening there. Africa was detached from the eyes of the press in general, so many Germans committed atrocities in Namibia because they were able to fabricate all of their stories to the press (and make them look like the “good guys”). Because there was no war happening in Africa at the time that risked the US getting involved and Britain, no one really cared about what the Germans were doing to the people of Africa. The Berlin Congress split up the sovereignty of Africa to powerhouse countries, which made Africa be seen as more of a resource that could be exploited rather than as an actual country. The world nations definitely acted differently during the carnage in Africa than during the Armenian genocide. Both tragedies ended in the same way, however, with a group of people almost being wiped out completely because countries didn’t get involved.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

The Armenian Genocide and Bystanderism

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…)

- Before I answer this question I just want to state how these types of questions force you to question your moral compass. Both sides have reasonable explanations. Some would say not to help and this could be deemed as selfish but you could also help them and choose the more selfless route but that also means putting your people at risk. So with this question it further divides the US the more conservative people tend to pick the more selfish option instead of fighting off danger for others they choose their own safety. The more liberal people would choose to put themselves on the line to help. We also have to think about doctrines that are set in place like the Monroe doctrine which was later modified to the Corollary. It is put in place to prevent the US from interfering with foreign affairs which can end in a world war, this would be disastrous for everyone. This is especially seen in "US diplomats were expected to stay out of the business that did not concern the US national interests". Since the the Armenian genocide started and ended before the corollary was abandoned I'm assuming that it was hard to get these people the help that the needed. "Technically, he noted to himself, I had no right to interfere. According to the cold-blooded legalities of the situation, the treatment of Turkish subjects by the Turkish government was purely a domestic affair; unless it directly affected American lives and American interests it was out side the concern of the American government" (page 8). I think this was a selfish decision by the US government. It is understandable to want to protect your people but the blatantly refuse help to people being massacred because it doesn't directly effect you is beyond immoral. The US should've helped regardless of what could've happened. As for the question of helping no matter what and always? No it is impossible to help everyone yes we should definitely give when we can but, I can't imagine the possibility of helping every time a country is in need. I know it sounds selfish but I mean helping as being directly involved in the warfare and not sending over food and machinery. This could also open up to agreements similar to the Anglo-American loan agreement and the Lend-Lease agreement.

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

- For a situation as serious as the endangerment of other people the US should've directly been involved. Sitting back and watching this situation play out is the wrong thing to do. It isn't always about the money or the benefits the US would get out of fighting for another group of people because standing there and watching it happen should never be an option.

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?

- yes they behaved the differently. With the Armenian genocide they were reluctant to react because it didn't "directly affected American lives and American interests it was out side the concern of the American government". When it came to Namibia the World Nations did help them fight for their independence. I am assuming its because of difference of time. The Armenian Genocide started in 1915 and ended in 1923 all while the US was still under the Corollary while the situation in Namibia happened at a much later date. There is probably more that goes into why these situations prompted for a difference in reactions but I doubt that its only for the reason that I stated. There had to have been some sort of exchange.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 13

The Armenian Genocide and Bystanderism

Throughout history, during times of unrest, most nations have preferred to act as bystanders as long as they themselves remain unaffected. The U.S. is no different. Despite the many many attempts made by Henry Morgenthau, ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, to convince the American government to intervene in the Armenian genocide, they refused. There was plenty of evidence of what was going on, including testimonies from Armenians and even boasts from Talaat Pasha, the man behind the Armenian genocide, yet in an effort to maintain neutrality, the government ignored it all. Even in WWII, the U.S. refused to take part until Pearl Harbor was bombed. But because of the U.S.’s “neutrality,” Morgenthau was forced to try to help Armenians escape himself, but there is only so much one man can do, and Turkey was not going to cooperate with one man who had no power.

I think it is very clear that what the U.S. and other nations should have done was listen to Morgenthau’s pleas and stepped in to stop the genocide. Even by applying some sort of diplomatic pressure onto Turkey to stop could’ve made Turkey reconsider their actions. If that didn’t work, other countries should have used military force to stop the genocide. During WWI, the Allies had enough power to defeat the Axis Powers, and if they’d intervened and stopped the Armenian genocide, potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives. Doing nothing allowed Turkey to not only continue the genocide, but to believe that what they were doing was okay and that since no one seemed to care about what was happening, they would be able to get away with it without punishment. And they did.

By refusing to interfere, the U.S. and many other countries essentially let Turkey get away with the murder of over a million innocent people solely because of their ethnicity. Even now, it is illegal to use the term “Armenian genocide” in Turkey. If someone had stopped the genocide or the international tribunal to prosecute Turkish leaders had happened, Turkey would not be able to get away with the complete denial of the Armenian genocide as they are doing now. This denial further harms the Armenian people as they will never be able to get justice as long as it continues. The trauma felt by the Armenian people and their descendants could have been greatly lessened by the interference of other countries. As Elie Wiesel once said, “What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander.”

I think that in every case, if a country is able to stop any sort of genocide, they should. Genocide is an massive violation of human rights, where people are being stripped of everything simply because of their existence. Every single person in this world has the right to live and when that is being taken away, we must intervene. It is ridiculous to sit by and watch as entire populations are murdered simply because it isn’t your people. We all coexist on Earth and that should be respected. No one has any more right to live than anyone else.

During the German colonization of Namibia, there was much less news and outrage about the situation than there was for the Armenian genocide. In fact one of the most shocking things about the Armenian genocide is that there were so many reports about what was going on yet still the genocide continued. But while sovereign governments remained silent, people did not. Morgenthau did everything in his power to stop the Armenian genocide. The Committee on Armenian Atrocities raised money for relief and held rallies to protest against what was happening in Turkey. The New York Times published 145 stories about the genocide in 1915 alone. In the case of Namibia, there was no news and no reaction from the world. There was no Morgenthau, no Committee on German South West African Atrocities, and there were not 145 stories written about what was happening in Namibia, while it was happening. I think a lot of the reason why boils down to race. Armenians were European Christians and thus, much more likely to gain sympathy from majority-white populations like the U.S. On the other hand, Black people were seen as less than human so when horrible atrocities were committed against them, it didn’t matter as much to the rest of the world. At the same time, many other European countries had colonized other parts of Africa, so the dehumanization of Africans was likely seen as more normal, even if not to the same degree.

Posts: 20
I think there is no denying that the United States acted as a bystander to the Armenian Genocide, even if they had their own problems this country still allowed for the massacre, murder, execution, and genocide of the Armenian people. Powers states that the U.S. and its allies were aware of the danger that the Armenian people were facing from Turkey but still nothing was done. The U.S. chose to “stay out of the war” even if it meant lives were being lost. The U.S. ambassador Morgenthau was the only one advocating for the Armenian people but his pleas were not taken seriously. He was told that what the Turkish government did to their subjects was none of his concern unless “ it directly affected American lives and American interests”. That is the definition of a bystander.

It is hard to say what the U.S. should have done but for one they should have taken a stance from the beginning of the war and not sat silently while people’s lives were in danger. I believe that America put business and profit with Turkey above saving the lives of humans. The U.S. should have come out publicly and broken its relationship with Turkey and condemned its treatment of the Armenian people. I think the U.S. could have worked harder to provide aid for survivors and welcome refugees into their country if needed.

The biggest role that other nations can play while witnessing this or any other genocide is to not be silent and to speak out against the actions of the nation committing the genocide. Other nations need to condemn the genocide publically so that it is a topic of discussion and not just "swept under the rug”. I think it is also important for nations to be welcoming to refugees that are fleeing violence and be open to offering them aid and support.

The world nations behaved differently during the Armenian genocide compared to the carnage in Africa because at least some people cared about the Armenian genocide enough to talk about it and acknowledge it. The carnage of Africa, specifically the genocide in Namibia, is rarely mentioned to this day. The Armenian genocide was by one specific group while the carnage in Africa was done by many different nations, each committing and allowing brutal crimes and murder to take place on the soil they stole and wrongfully claimed as their own. There was no war that the U.S. could use as an excuse for the multiple genocides they allowed and watched in Africa, racism and pure hate was enough of an excuse for them.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 16

The American Genocide and Bystanderism

We(The U.S.) could have talked to Germans, about trying to stop the genocide in Turkey against the Armenians, but they wanted to remain neutral. A lot more could have been done, peace at any cost when 800,000 people have been killed for no reason, makes no sense. Yes the U.S. and other nations with influence and power should take a stand when entire nations are being destroyed and killed, based on principles and morals. How can anyone watch people being killed and be okay with it? Feel no remorse? I also do think that life isn’t black and white, sometimes there are gray areas, and if it puts the U.S. and those other nations at risk, then they shouldn’t really interfere. But whenever they have the capability to help they should.

It is difficult to assign what role the U.S. and other European nations should have played because this was happening during and after the world war, most countries were focused on winning the war, and their resources were depleting, I don’t think they really had the time to think about what was happening in another nation. In a more Ideal situation, the U.S. loves to interfere in other countries business, they should have done the same this time, when it was actually needed. They should have used their influence to take a stand, get Germany to talk to Talaat, so he can stop the killings, or be an upstander and interfere with Turkey and Talaat themselves. Other European countries should have interfered, and used their influence, to help the Armenian people.

The government of the nations behaved relatively similarly in both genocide, but the people and the foundations in America that gave aid to the Armenian people never did that to the people of Congo. Even after people found out what was happening to them, no European Country really offered aid. Although both genocides aren’t talked about much, the Armenian genocide still gets a lot of coverage and is more known than the genocide in Congo under king Leopold.

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