posts 16 - 20 of 20
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 18

The US was undeniably a complete bystander during the Armenian genocide. As Samantha Power references heavily, leading officials in the US were not ignorant to the crimes being committed, but rather purposefully chose not to act. America was fully committed to isolationism when World War 1 and the Armenian genocide broke out, and therefore wasn’t concerned with the status of peoples in other countries, at least not enough to be involved itself. US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau Sr. repeatedly and desperately relayed explicit evidence of the mass deportation and murder of Armenians. He reported frequently to Washington and used connections at The New York Times to spread the information more broadly. However his attempts were met with refusals to act. Even when Britain begged the US to intervene, it didn’t. Unlike the US, the rest of the Allies took at least some action. Britain and France publicized reports of the genocide, though decided that the best way to act would be indirectly by defeating the Triple Alliance in World War 1. While their intervention during the war was far from impactful, they at least sought retribution following the war’s end, though the US’s continued refusal to get involved stifled it. The US’s power to demonstrate the true horrors of the Armenian genocide by responding to them as a neutral-nation especially is what makes it’s failure to do so all the more disconcerting. By refusing to act, the US became an absolute bystander complicit in what Lemkin described as “double murder”

There is so much the US could’ve done to at least attempt to stop the massacre and deportation of hundreds of thousands of people. At bare minimum, the US should’ve issued a statement recognizing the actions for which they had very clear evidence. As Power points out, referencing the words of many critics of the US’s bystanderism, the US as a neutral-nation at the outset of the war had an especially large opportunity to make a statement about the atrocity of the Armenian genocide. That alone could’ve helped bring together other nations in addition to the Allies and lead to more serious action. However, I personally feel that general words alone are not enough and that the US definitely should’ve become diplomatically and militarily involved, especially after joining the war and after it ended. The US, through Morgenthau, had a clear opening to at least communicate with the Ottoman Empire directly and try to negotiate or at least make explicitly clear that it would not stand for Talaat’s actions.

I think the US and other countries always have an obligation to take a stand when a genocide occurs, no matter what. Geo-politics are obviously always complicated and nuanced, but I personally feel there is almost nothing which would outweigh the importance of intervention in preventing the destruction of an entire population. On the basis of shared humanity alone, those lives cannot go unrecognized. Especially following the Geneva Convention, I think countries at least have a responsibility to label these actions as genocide specifically as that gives it more weight, and gives the UN more power to intervene and prevent it. As a group, countries can then address the conflict collectively, which creates less political risk to a single country intervening, and allows more effective resource distribution and action. That said, I don’t think countries should wait for a resolution to be passed as an excuse for inaction. If it is clear that there isn’t mass support for intervention in a genocide, I don’t think that absolves a nation from at least making an attempt to prevent it.

I do think that world nations behaved differently towards the Armenian genocide compared to genocides in Africa such as that of the Herero and Nama peoples. News outlets in the US and Europe reported frequent evidence of the Armenian genocide, and while nations may not have been largely involved with preventing it, there were many groups which raised funds and advocated for intervention in support of the Armenians. Following the war, there was even an effort to prosecute those responsible. In contrast, there was little international response to the Herero and Nama genocide. While the British issued a report based on witness accounts, it didn’t take much action and mostly did so out of its own self interest due to its colonization of South Africa. In response to both, however, countries did little to respond to the genocide outside of actions which were in their own political or economic interest.

swiss cheese yeezys
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 8

Bystanders of Genocide

The United States role as a bystander to the genocide of the Armenians was deplorable from our current perspective. The failure to act in any way as a government with reports of the slaughter flowing in was a failure. However, even if the United States had decided to acknowledge the genocide, there was little that they would likely have been able to do. There were many conflicting reports flowing out of Turkey at the time, with the official stance from the Turkish government being that they were simply relocating the Armenians after an attempted uprising for the sake of national security, and that the deaths were an unintentional consequence of the chaos that was the war. In 1915, the United States also wished to remain as neutral as possible in the war so as to remain out of the fighting, and did not formally enter the war until 1917. There was grass roots efforts to help the Armenians in the for of supplies, investigations, and missionaries sent to protest the treatment of the Armenians. However, should the United States hypothetically have declared war on Turkey in an attempt to stop said genocide, Turkey is half a world away, surrounded by powerful allies whom the US wished not to formally enter the war against. There likely would have been little the US could have done to stop the murders, as it would have taken months not just to declare war, but also to mobilize troops and prepare an invasion route. We now look at it with the historical facts, but in the moment there would have been many in the US who would have opposed entering the war without a direct provocation to the US, as general policy at the time was to stay out of European affairs. This policy lines up with how the US entered both world wars, with Pearl harbor being the reason for entry into the second, and attacks on American commercial ships being the reason America eventually entered the first. On principle I think that ideally America and other nations should always intervene, but rarely does that happen. Even more recently than the Armenian genocide, the Rwandan genocide happened in full view of the world with no country intervening.

There are many similarities between the Armenian and Herero genocides, in the sense that no country intervened and there was only mild international pushback, at least on a government level. However there were more calls to action for the Armenian genocide, at least in the US with many major news outlets writing several pieces on it and many citizens pushing for the government to intervene. Contrarily, there Herero genocide went almost unnoticed, with no real calls to action by any country. I feel that race played a large part in this, as the Armenians were not only more white presenting, but also christians that had many cultural similarities to Americans at the time, causing for a sense of connection between the two. Contrarily, the Herero would not have been viewed in the same way, with many in America, in the midst of Jim Crow segregation, probably would not have generated the same outcry as the Armenian genocide.

Posts: 13

Because of the notion of sovereignty, America and other nations could not simply just "interfere" with the actions of the Turks. Essentially, "mind your own business" was a reasonable reason for nations who were part of the problem to continue a genocide, and for other nations to justify their inaction. President Woodrill Wilson was hesitant to send aid to the Armenian genocide because America during WWI was neutral, and the genocide did not threaten the lives of the American people. Getting involved would force America to send troops, and to be involved in a war that would have caused the loss of money and people. In addition, Talaat, the main perpetrator of the genocide, questioned the U.S. ambassador and his concern of the genocide, saying that he and the Turks "treat the Americans all right too." Therefore, why must the Americans interfere? Although, as a human rights violation, the U.S. and other nations should take a stand if whole populations are destroyed. This is why the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is so important---it unifies countries under humane and morally right conditions, and allows nations to keep each other accountable for the infringement of such conditions. But back then, there was no universal humanitarian law. Therefore, I don't think it would have been possible for the U.S. to fight against the Armenian genocide unless they were fighting against the Turks in WWI, thus giving up their neutrality. Now, because such universal laws are in place, nations should take a stand to genocide, if they have the resources to do so while still being able to keep their country safe. It would be unreasonable to send troops when a country is already in trouble such as in the case of a civil war or a revolution, but nations should still strive to stand up against human rights violations because it will set a precedent that genocides and mass killings are intolerable, across the world.

I would advocate for the U.S. and other nations witnessing this genocide (and other genocides) to really consider their morals and the impact they would have if they were to get involved. For example, America has held and is still holding the reputation of a just and free nation. If America chooses to send aid or to call out a genocide while it is still happening, it will gain mass attention, and other nations would likely join in and reconsider where they stand. According to Samantha Powers, if "humane America" got involved, it must be important and worth fighting for. But America, with the exception of helping Armenian survivors immigrate, did not call out the Turks who were enacting the violence and eradication of a peoples. Thus, the Armenian genocide did not gain the attention it needed, and the Armenians did not receive the support they needed. And so, witnessing genocide, America and other nations should consider supporting the oppressed people either through immigration and providing supplies, while fighting against the oppressors with their troops, as they caused the oppression in the first place.

World nations did behave differently during the Armenian genocide than they did during the carnage in Africa. In the carnage of Africa, nations such as Germany, France and Britain carved up the continent up into squares, and negotiated and split up these squares for colonization. Because all these nations partook in colonization, they cared a lot less about what others were doing, because that would be a critique on themselves. Despite the disregard for African tribes, culture, and peoples, world nations could not say anything because it would have been highly hypocritical. So, they did not do anything. In the Armenian genocide, world nations like America also chose to disregard the genocide in favor of their self-interests. But despite this, the Armenian genocide still gained more traction within other nations because it was white and Christian people who were being oppressed. The African colonization and genocide might have even been more large-scale, given that it was enacted upon almost on an entire continent, but even as the Armenian genocide was less known, it was a lot more publicized than the genocide of Africa. In terms of care and sympathy, the Armenian genocide surpasses the African genocide despite that the two genocides were almost similar. America provided immigration services to the survivors of the Armenian genocide, while those in Africa receive zero aid and zero publicization. This is likely due to racism, as world nations at the time were all white and likely Christian. Social Darwinism and white supremacy also likely further justified the killings of African people, while the Armenian genocide seemed less justified.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 16

The Armenian Genocide and Bystanderism

To a certain extent, I can understand the responsibilities that the president and the government have for protecting their own country and people. However, the U.S. and our allies do not have an excuse for being bystanders to the mass annihilation and deportation of hundreds of thousands of Armenians. American news sources were informing the American public of this atrocity, and individual Americans and non-government American organizations were very vocal about their outrage and support of the Armenian people. However, despite this, President Wilson maintained America’s “neutral state”, despite the overwhelming evidence of genocide taking place in Turkey. Something that really stuck with me from the reading was when Lemkin said, “It is a crime for Tehlirian to kill a man, but it is not a crime for his oppressor to kill more than a million men?” He goes on to say, “Sovereignty cannot be conceived as the right to kill millions of innocent people.” I completely agree with Lemkin, and I think that it is outrageous that this way of thinking was used as an excuse for bystanderism and a lack of interference. Despite the efforts of individuals like Morgenthau and donations from the Rockefeller family, this is simply not enough to help all those that were victims of the Armenian genocide. The US and the Allies had the potential to use their power to put an end to the horrors that were taking place in Turkey, and yet they allowed it to continue and even today do not hold the Turkish government accountable for their actions.

I think that genocide needs to be prevented at all costs, and I find it really problematic and selfish that government leaders are able to let an entire population to be targetted and killed to protect themselves and just not get involved in other countries’ affairs. The US and other nations witnessing this genocide had several approaches available to them to aid Armenians, and yet very little was done. The US could have offered military assistance, or even tried to negotiate with the Turkish government to find some kind of agreement. I understand the argument of wanting to protect your own country, but the US and other nations don’t have a history that can back up this reason for their lack of involvement. The US has interfered with foreign affairs that it wasn’t involved in, and the US response to the Armenian genocide shows that these countries that preach the importance of human rights are not actually able to follow through with what they stand for. At the very least, there is still the issue of the US and many other nations not even formally acknowledging the Armenian genocide, and I think that it is important to recognize the victims of such devastating events like genocide to both hold the perpetrators accountable and avoid condoning the message it is excusable for nations to commit genocide on their own people.

World nations behaved similarly during the Armenian genocide than they did during the carnage in Africa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in that there was very little action taken to help the suffering populations. However, I think that the differences between the two lie most in the media coverage and response of other nation’s people, as the Armenian genocide did receive a lot of attention from the world. The Armenian genocide was covered in the New York Times, and this type of published news coverage sparked more of an international outcry against the deliberate killing of the Armenian population. In German South West Africa, there was significantly less recorded evidence of the atrocities that occurred, and even today resources can be difficult to find. There were no efforts of aid, unlike the Armenian genocide, and there was a significant difference in recognition of the events taking place in Africa. I think that both of these groups were wronged by the lack of interference from other nation’s governments, however the Armenians did receive slightly more support from individuals from world nations.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 11

In a perfect world, everyone should have come together, and told Turkey to stop their actions against Armenia at risk of invasions. Everyone would take a break from WW1, stopping for a few months, until Turkey could prove that they had ceased their genocide. However, this is clearly an almost impossible outcome. As a singular country, the US could have clearly done much more. They could have at least pressured Turkey, economically and politically, without needing any sort of military force. However, the actions that the US actually took were woefully inadequate. Even while knowing much of what was going on to the Armenian population, we did close to nothing, turning a shoulder on a group of people being targeted just for being a part of said group. This is because of multiple reasons. Firstly, most Americans probably didn’t care much about Turkey, a country halfway across the world from them. They probably read the newspaper, and thought about how terrible it was, but never really thought about intervening. The second part is the difficulty in intervening in other countries' affairs. The US has ping ponged back and forth in foreign policy from drastic influence in other countries’ affairs to completely closed off isolationism, and so at this time, when many Americans didn’t want to enter a war, there would be very little political power to actually intervene and help. Now this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have intervened.

While intervening can be a slippery slope, there is definitely a good argument for intervening in cases like the Armenian Genocide, when there is a group purposefully being attacked for their characteristics. However, it is really difficult to decide exactly what to do, as the actions could range from economic sanctions to full on invasion. Generally, full on invasion should never be used unless it is completely necessary, like with the Nazis in WW2. Some current examples might be Russia. They are clearly invading Ukraine and commiting many of the traits of a genocide against the Ukrainian people and culture, but the US hasn’t had any sort of military involvement, correctly, because that would create larger problems and a bigger conflict. However, they are supporting Ukraine with weapons, funding, and information against the Russians, almost to the point of being fully involved in the war. An example of where the US is doing almost nothing is with the Uyghur people in China. There are also clear human rights violations and other tell tale signs of a genocide against them by the Chinese government, but the US is doing very little, continuing on with trade with China, as they are massive part of our economy. This does show how many factors can add into whether the US does anything about human rights violations in the world.

As for what countries should do immediately, in situations like the Armenian genocide, is to document what is happening. From there, immediate sanctions would be required to begin placing pressure on these countries, and if that doesn’t work, a conjoined group of different countries would band together to help those being attacked. This is all very unlikely, but it seems like it would be the best way to solve this sort of problem.

Finally, I do think that there was a different reaction to the Armenian genocide then what was going on in Numibia. It seemed like after information came out about the concentration camps in Namibia, many countries, including people from Germany, were outraged and wanted them to close, but little was actually done to help those affected. In the Armenian genocide, while almost nothing was done to halt the actual genocide of the Armenians, there was some humanitarian help, though it did not stop Turkey from continuing to destroy Armenian people and culture.

posts 16 - 20 of 20