posts 16 - 23 of 23
Posts: 27

The Armenian Genocide and Bystanderism

Earlier in the year, we discussed the role of bystanders. Or better yet what makes a bystander, what they do, and what they should’ve done. When asked, people do not like to admit that they are or have ever been bystanders. I remember when I first learned the word bystander in elementary school, it was more seen as a good thing. For some reason, teachers always seemed to explain the word by kind of interpreting that as a bystander you’re not involved. Slowly, as I got older, I learned that being a bystander does not mean you’re not involved at all. I mean, if you knew about a murder that was planned, you kind of have a certain responsibility to stop it. But history shows that the US seems to like being a bystander. I think the US (and allies) were definitely bystanders during the Armenian genocide. The US basically sat back and watched hundreds of people being killed for years without doing anything. Yes, the world was a hectic place then, and often in messy times, people feel hopeless. They feel as though there is nothing they could do to stop anything. However, as a whole nation, I feel like there is really no excuse to do nothing. If the US didn’t want to get into the war or the violence, they could have done other things. In Samantha Power’s book, she mentions that the Armenians were disarmed throughout the war. The US and its allies could have provided armor. The US and other nations should not have just let an entire population be destroyed. The US and our allies should have stepped in and tried to make peace between the conflicting countries. Power starts her novel with a horrific scene of an Armenian shooting someone and killing them—then says that he did it because their people killed his whole entire family. Because the war did not end in a timely manner (which doesn’t justify why it started to begin with), there is still so much hate and grudges held between the countries.

The main reason I think why the US didn’t step in is because everyone likes to protect themselves. The US did not want to put themselves into danger, especially because it was during the time of World War I. The right thing to do always is to help those who need to be helped, and hopefully you get that treatment back when you need it, but unfortunately a lot of our world works like a business transaction.

Posts: 29

Logic versus Morality

The United States took no action against the Armenian genocide despite knowing of the events occurring throughout the Ottoman Empire and Turkey. They turned a blind eye to the genocide, which, of course, is morally wrong and disturbing.

Power’s A Problem From Hell discusses what she believed to be the right approach: intervention. I agree with this method, especially since the US had the power to act against this genocide. Of course, it is not an easy feat to simply intervene. It requires a lot of people, supplies, and overall money to do so.

Taking a step back from morality and looking at politics, the US took the road that would benefit them. Ignoring genocide is just simpler, cheaper, and a safer option. Who knows what could’ve happened if the US intervened? The loss of men would be significant resulting in public outrage pushing towards a more isolationist attitude in terms of interacting with other countries.

The most logical approach to the Armenian genocide was to stay on the sidelines. Intervention perhaps would show to have more cons than pros. I understand why they did not intervene. Although it is an absolutely devastating thought to think about how many Armenian peoples were begging and praying for help around the clock, there’s no telling what US intervention might have resulted in. What if it would have only made it worse, biting off more than they could chew, resulting in even harsher treatment of Armenians? It is difficult to choose between logic and morality. Most of the time they oppose each other.

In terms of Armenian genocide versus the carnage in the Belgian Congo and German South West Africa (Namibia), I believe the attitudes were similar. There was no relief in both situations. However, as many of my classmates have said, the perception of Africans was more negative. Africans were still marginalized and used as coins for trade. They were not considered valuable people in any other aspect.

Posts: 38

kindness and generosity would be nice ....

This question is easy to answer on just a moral standpoint with no context OBVIOUSLY, people (nations) need to intervene when an entire population is being destroyed but it isn’t that easy. No matter what stance you have on politics, policies, and alliances this is something that nations have to worry about before choosing to do anything. While this might suck, it’s how our governments and nations have worked for a while. Regardless of the limitations, one should always do at least something to help. I personally think this idea of alliances and enemies is an old idea and we need to stop having we vs they and separating but I’m also not naive enough to know that is how the world is and I can’t change that. Regardless though being a bystander is the worst thing to do. Even it's something as sending troops to help or sending support or money: America needs to do its part. We preach that we are a nation of the people, of immigrants, home for refugees we need to enact upon those beliefs and do something (and to be mindful of policies something is better than standing by). When we stand by and watch, we are on the side of the criminals and while we might intend to be “natural” that’s not it.

Lol we’re heartless, although America does need to look out for their interest and people it does not been turning a blind eye to others. World nations turn a blind eye to what’s happening when it doesn’t directly affect them: their profits, their land or their people. I’d like to think that we’ve been more proactive since defining genocide and recognizing it but to say if we classified it earlier, it would’ve changed history is a lie. We are aware of genocide now and still take our time intervening or don’t even.

Posts: 34

There was more international media coverage for the Armenian genocide than during the carnage in the Belgian Congo and in Namibia. Governments themselves seemed much more aware of the atrocities of the Armenian genocide, from the reports of diplomats, missionaries, and survivors, yet very reluctant to take action. The countries aware of the Armenian genocide at the time seemed to give more thought to the moral responsibility of a country, compared to during the carnage in the Belgian Congo and Namibia when people more easily turned a blind eye.

I believe that we the US did act as a bystander to the Armenian genocide. The evidence of mass, systematic killings was overwhelming. Henry Morgethau fought heavily for American intervention, yet it was not given. Under the leadership of president Woodrow Wilson, the United States focused on a limited interventionist policy which would keep the country at peace and out of war. The genocide of any group is something worth breaking neutrality and although the word genocide itself wasn’t coined yet, it was apparent that the Turks were targetting a specific group of people.

I indeed think that powerful nations should take a stand when an entire population is being destroyed, because everyone’s human, and deserves human rights.

Posts: 37

Government vs. Genocide

The biggest issue regarding bystanders and genocide is that it's a political issue as well as a humanitarian one. The annihilation of the Armenians was completely a political strategy to eliminate Christians and a "military enemy" from the Ottoman Empire. The Turks turned a deep rooted humanitarian issue into a political one during WWI to distract other countries such as the United States and the allies from revealing an ugly truth. People such as Morgenthau, however, saw through the lies and uncovered the truth to the world. It is unfair to say that all Americans were bystanders because people like Morgenthau and other journalists and activists were aware of the genocide and pleaded to their respective governments to weigh in on the issue and save the lives of innocent Armenians. The United States fully acknowledged there was a genocide whether they said it out loud or not, but their actions did not match their conscience. In the eyes of Americans the genocide was something untouchable because it interfered with the ongoing war and America wanted no part in this for the sake of "neutrality." Thus far we were seen as the good guys, the last hope, but what grand deed did we really contribute if we couldn't save the Armenians from this foreign and catastrophic "race murder." Humanitarian issues were suddenly shrouded by politics and government. Morgenthau tried his best to persuade our government and President, but to no avail. The U.S. was insistent about staying out of Turkish affairs and made little to no actions against the Turkish aggressors. I think the false mindset that plagued all bystanders during the war was that if they defeated the Turks and the Germans the genocide would end. Nothing like this had ever happened before, let alone during a world war. This does not justify the neglect that the genocide received, but it puts into perspective why no one was willing to help. Still, I find it frustrating that because there was a war going on people failed to see the humanitarian crisis that was happening around them. It was almost as if all humanity was lost during the war. Did people become numb to emotion? But this doesn't make sense either because the only people desensitized were those at war. Government officials and ambassadors at home could've easily interfered; it all came down to a question of whether or not they wanted to.

From the first couple pages of Samantha Power's account it was clear that the U.S. was in a position to have done something. At one point U.S. borders were even open to Armenians seeking asylum. The U.S. offered the option of having Armenians deported to America rather than Syria or sent straight to the grave. At first the Turks agreed, but then drew away from the situation. This is where Americans should've persisted, but it was practically as if Morgenthau was running a one man show. No one in the government was following through with his proposals or listening to his pleas. The only people who listened were the citizens; the people who donated money and helped fund Morgenthau's attempt to raise money against the genocide. This is a common American trend that we see in history and even today. The government refuses to take action, so the people employ their own devices and resources to bring about change. The only problem is that even within a democracy it is hard to gain recognition and have a significant impact on an issue when you don't have official authority. Morgenthau tried just as many citizens today try to single handedly combat institutionalized racism or climate change. It simply cannot be done without the help of big governments, and that is why the United States failed to prevent a genocide even if they were fully capable. This puts into question: what are the priorities of a government? Is war really above loss of innocent human life. Is ignorance bliss? Does the government have any remorse for ignoring a "race murder" that was right under their noses? What excuse could they possibly have to fail to listen to Morgenthau's advice? It just doesn't make sense to me. All I can really think of is that human life was not a concern to these people, so what will get their attention in the future? It was easy for us to turn a blind eye when we were on the outside, but it was just as easy for us to cover it up when we were the perpetrators ourselves in our own country. People need to get over the uncomfortableness of standing up. Giving up our pride or putting aside a feud or alliance for the sake of saving precious human life.

Posts: 29

not my problem!

It’s the age-old saying: “Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.” - when you are succeeding, everyone shares in your success, but when you fail, you’re on your own. Though war accounts for - or, in other opinion, is blamed for - a large portion of conflict-based casualties, there can be no denying that the killing of Turkish Armenians in the early 20th century was genocidal. The U.S. simply did nothing to fight for the rights of the Armenians, fearing it was out of the country’s boundaries - ‘not my problem!’ - and another result of the war. If we look at the facts: America did not involve itself in WWII until 1917. The Armenian Genocide began around 1915. What was happening there? Even if we’re going to say that the U.S. was so occupied with war that it could not do anything, what about the years before we entered the war? Britain and France (allies of the United States) “publicized the atrocities…[digging] up photographs of the massacre victims and the Armenian refugees in flight.” (Powers 5) Even if there was no existing definition for genocide, the killing of any person on the basis of ethnicity should be reason for alarm - and yes, for interference.

As Powers mentioned, President Woodrow Wilson “chose not to pressure either the Turks or their German backers. It was better not to draw attention to the atrocities, lest the U.S. public opinion get stirred up and begin demanding U.S. involvement.” (Powers 5); My knee-jerk reaction is to say ‘wait a minute, we should be ‘stirred up’ by this’, but I know it’s harder to face the reality that interfering in war-torn countries is not always the cure-all solution. It is seemingly impossible for a government to find that balance: do I endanger my own citizens to protect the citizens of another country? Is the life of one of my citizens more important than another country’s? Should it matter? Though I do think that the protection of a government’s own citizens should rank above others, a massive humanitarian crisis with photograph and testimony evidence should rank far above “not wanting to draw attention.” Even if a government is being over-protective of its citizens, there is quite a big difference between 4 deaths and 400,000.

And, although the Ottoman military was well-established at the time, and allied with other strong militaries, I doubt that they would see the United States military as an ‘easy target’. U.S. interference might have simply looked like a formally-issued warning or small-scale invasion that would send the message to the Ottomans - who knows. That could at least be a starting point.

Finally, I do not see many differences between the Herero/Nama and Armenian genocides. In both cases, much of the atrocities were attributed to the wartime climate or something similar, and in both cases world nations chose not to get involved, despite obvious outright murder. And I see patterns of this reminiscent in our country’s tendency to perceive potential humanitarian issues - uighur, syrian refugees, immigration crisis - and do little to interfere. The difference now, I think, is that people will receive this information, via media, regardless of the government’s intent to interfere. I think it is truly up to us to tell our government what is important to us, or these beliefs will not be represented.

Posts: 35

The Armenian Genocide

The U.S. and their allies, although aware to the events occurring in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey, enacted no actions in an effort to eliminate these heinous crimes. America seems to act as bystanders each time a treacherous event such as this one occurs, and no efforts are ever made to reverse these tendencies. This nation turns a blind eye when others such as victims of the Armenian genocide, call for help, yet demand for assistance when their own people are at stake. Similarly to America, other nations seem to take part in similar actions and turn a blind eye to people who are in need of help.

America may be able to say we took part in war, yet the nation joined in the ending products of its destruction. War became the main priority at the time, and people decided to dismiss the idea of genocide all together. The thing about this question is that at this time, genocide was a lose term, and people did not necessarily classify such tragic acts as such. I believe there is no difference between the Armenian and Congo and German Genocides, since both instances showed o efforts from others willing to lend assistance in the relinquishing evil towards targeted people. When an entire population is being destroyed it is the United States and other nations' job to intervene and take a stand, no matter what country it is and what it was founded on. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that these powerful nations will continue to ignore this inevitable destruction, and rather turn their attention to their own needs. Furthermore, they will continue to sit back and watch destruction unfold, until it is unavoidable and they are forced to take part.

Joe Student
Posts: 28


When an unfathomable event such as the Armenian genocide occurs, it is not very easy to figure out how to hold those accountable. When the New Turks rose to power in the Ottoman Empire and decided to promote a muslim majority, this resulted in the massacre of over 1 million Armenians from 1915 to 1923. It is understandable that countries like the United States would not get involved in a major conflict and suffer a number of casualties, but it has been known for being the police force of the world, so I’m confused as to why the US wouldn’t immediately maintain their reputation and jump into action. They chose to essentially act like nothing was happening as innocent people were losing their lives across the globe. There is no doubt that the loss of human life is a side effect of war, and that I believe is a huge reason why most countries other than the United States would hold back from getting involved in a major conflict or preventing it from snowballing into something much larger. In addition to this, most countries would prefer to prioritize their personal interests over the preservation of human life, so it is not surprising that any nation would turn a blind eye to a crime being committed against humanity. The Herero genocide of the early 1900s was the result of an imperialist power murdering,displacing, and exploiting the natives people due to a massive greed for their resources. In what was known as the Belgian Congo, the native Congolese people were forced to harvest resources under terrible conditions, and they would often have their hands cut off if they failed to meet the needs of the colonizers. Time and time again, human rights have been restricted with the entire world knowing about it. Maybe if the major world powers had walked a mile in the shoes of an Armenian during the early 20th century, a Jew in the Holocaust, or even a Uighur Muslim(a genocide of which is still ongoing!), then they would recognize that human life is at stake and put forth their best effort to prevent it from happening ever again.
posts 16 - 23 of 23