"The Ottoman War Machine" is a
two hour documentary spanning the reign of the Ottoman Empire, debuting in
August 26, 2006 on the History Channel. Narrated by Powers Booth (whose voice
was spectacular, as a Roman in ATTILA THE HUN), the film was also written by
Doc Jarden (who was a producer on "Court TV" and "The Tyra
Banks Show"), and directed by Robert Kirk...who also co-produced, along
with co-producers David Cargill and Rob Lihani.
According to the credits, this was a totally independent American production.
The only Turkish crew names, aside from one for visual effects, was from
segments shot in Turkey. "Researchers" were also Turkish.
Advance word was that this would be a refreshingly "fair" show, with
emphasis on historical facts, and not the typical bigoted sensationalism.
Indeed, when the show was postponed from early summer, some in the
Turkish-American community feared that Armenian & Greek extremist pressure
might have caused the History Channel to buckle under. If there is anything
"fair" about Turkey in the American media, these hateful groups are
always at the ready to try and shoot it
Yet the "Ottoman War Machine" did make
it to the airwaves, fairly and accurately documenting Ottoman history,
beginning with Osman's humble beginnings. When Constantinople was captured, we
were told that the city was renamed "Istanbul." We were told the
Imperial Harem was designed toward
reproduction of the royal line, and not sexual thrills. The onscreen
spokespeople, many whose names were new to me, came from the perspective of
legitimate truth and history. One accorded generous screen time was Dr. Heath Lowry, so I knew we were in good hands.
However, I remember the same feeling while watching PBS's "The Great War." Their first look
at the history regarding Turks, involving Gallipoli, was very well done. Then
Jay Winter and company pulled a fast one with their "Armenian
Genocide" segment. So as wonderful as "The Ottoman War Machine"
promised to be, I was filled with dread as to how they would handle the
There was only around fifteen minutes of the two-hour program (that's with
commercials) left before we started getting into the 19th century of decline.
I wondered with apprehension whether the producers Kirk, Cargill and Lihani
would dare to handle the Armenian chapter in the same manner of integrity as
with the rest of the show.
No such luck.
I could sense as soon as mention of the Armenians began, the very nature of the production
took a 180 degree turn. It was as though we were watching a psychological thriller or any
kind of a drama, and then we were hit with an incongruos comedy or cartoon. The
spokespeople, for one, vanished, and the script took over. The transcript of the Armenian
Some (in the Balkans) were successful in gaining independence from the Ottoman Empire.
But this was not the case of the Christian Armenian minority who had lived in the region
for 3,000 years. By early in the First World War, 1915, at a time when the Ottoman Empire
was shrinking and besieged from all sides, the ultra-nationalist group in power, known as
the Young Turks, was trying to restore the glory of their declining empire by uniting all
Turkish-speaking people in the empire and beyond.
The Armenians came under siege, when in the spring of 1915, the Young Turks ordered a
forced deportation of one-and-three-quarter million ethnic Armenians out of Anatolia into
Syria and Mesopotamia.
The story of why and what happened is, nearly a century later, controversial, emotional,
and hotly debated. To the Turks, the deportations were ordered because some Armenians were
allying themselves with Russia, Turkey's enemy to the east. To the Armenians, this was a
pretext. The deportations were ordered out of a desire to rid Turkey of Armenians forever.
During the evacuation, a forced march of hundreds of miles, hundreds of thousands of men.
women and children, died of starvation and massacre. Newspaper reports of the time tell of
horrific scenes of rape and murder. Henry Morgenthau, the American ambassador to Turkey
later wrote, "I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no
such horrible episode as this."
Estimates of total Armenian death in the period of the evacuations range from 300,000 to a
million-and-a-half. The Turks acknowledge that hundreds of thousands of Armenians died but
they and some historians maintain that these deaths were the result of war-caused
starvation, civil unrest, and ethnic conflict. To Armenians and many historians, the
actions were a clear action of genocide committed by the Ottomans, and today has been
recognized as such by many countries.
All Taken from the Armenian Propagandists' Handbook!
Before we examine why the folks involved might have taken such a serious detour
from the truth, let's examine the accuracy of their statements.
1) "...the Christian Armenian minority who had lived in the region for
The first record of Armenians comes from Darius, in 515 B.C.; even PBS's "The
Armenian Genocide" from 2006 stated some 2,500 years.
2) "...the ultra-nationalist group in power, known as the Young Turks, was
trying to restore the glory of their declining empire by uniting all
Turkish-speaking people in the empire and beyond."
If a couple of officials had mad dreams, that is a far cry from implementation of
official policy. Citing such as reason for the forced migration of the Armenians,
while ignoring the real cause of Armenian treachery, is a falsehood. Even the man
best known for pan-Turanism, Ziya Gokalp, stressed culture and not expansionism.
Fantasies of a large empire "ran counter to his entire inner cause,"
wrote Gotthard Jaschke. (See Guenter Lewy's "The Armenian Massacres in
Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide.")
Turkish-American actor Alex Demir appearing as
3) "The Armenians came under siege, when in the spring of 1915, the Young
Turks ordered a forced deportation of one-and-three-quarter million ethnic
Armenians out of Anatolia into Syria and Mesopotamia."
The ones who first came under siege were the Turks, not
the Armenians. If the Armenians had been loyal, there would have been no
"deportation." Admitted Armenia's first prime minister: "This was the terrible fact!"
There were some Armenians transported to other parts of Anatolia, it was not just into Arab regions. At
least the writer did not go overboard, and settled with a more reasonable pre-war
figure of 1.75 million. Most "neutral" estimates hover around 1.5 million.
4) "To the Turks, the deportations were ordered because some Armenians
were allying themselves with Russia."
Who cares what the "Turks" think? What matters is what real historians
who observe all relevant facts, and lack any propagandistic agenda, think. The
fact is, the Armenians were not just allying themselves with the Russians, but
with all of the Entente Powers, including France and Britain. Boghos Nubar stated
outright that the Armenians were "belligerents
de facto, since they indignantly refused to side with Turkey," and
the Entente press confirmed it with articles such as "Our Seventh Ally" ("Armenia
... is fighting on the side of the Allies.") Leon Surmelian made it clear
in his book that there were
practically no loyal Ottoman-Armenians. Even many of the loyal ones were forced to
choose sides. As the program noted, the empire was "besieged from all
sides," and the enemies were among the world's most powerful. Allowing
for a treacherous community to remain behind-the-lines would have been militarily
suicidal. The idea was to spread the treacherous community around, so that no area
would have more than 10%.
5) "To the Armenians, this was a pretext. The deportations were ordered
out of a desire to rid Turkey of Armenians forever."
If the idea was to get rid of the Armenians, the Turks would have truly
"deported" them outside the country's borders, just as Russia was doing
with its innocent Muslims, instead of temporarily sending the Armenians elsewhere
within the country. (Enver was in
favor of real deportation.) And certainly if the idea was to
"exterminate" the Armenians, the "genocide" would not have
"all but run its course" in 1916, as even Vahakn Dadrian has stated. (Talat, in fact, ordered the
"genocide" to cease in August 1915. Locals were out of control, so he
had to keep reissuing the same order until 1916. See Lewy's book.) Even before
war's end, Armenians were returning to their homes, as many were basically free to come and go; there were no
barbed wire enclosed concentration camps, or the like. At war's end, the refugees
returned in droves, as witnessed by missionaries. If the Ottomans' Arab lands were
not taken away by the victorious Allies, even more Armenians would have remained
"in" Turkey. As it is, in 1921, there were some 645,000 still remaining, nearly half of the pre-war
population. Hundreds of thousands had already gone to greener pastures, or areas
not controlled by Ottomans, on their own accord. Two treaties allowed these
Armenians to come back,
if they so chose. They didn't. Any more then today's diasporans are beating a path
to disadvantaged Armenia.
6) "During the evacuation, a forced march of hundreds of miles, hundreds
of thousands of men. women and children, died of starvation and massacre."
France's Turk-unfriendly newspaper, Le Figaro, conducted an investigation
in 1977 in response to the Armenian terrorism of the period, and concluded only 15,000 died of shootings, sickness and
deprivations of the march. We will never know how many Armenians lost their lives
violently, but of the half-million or so who died, we can be sure the great
majority died of the same reasons everyone else was dying from: famine, disease,
exposure, combat. Similarly, the bulk of over 2.5 million non-Christian-Armenians
died of the same causes. And the reason why Armenians were forced to march was
because this was the Sick Man, and there was no means of mass transport in the
east. Even soldiers were
"forced" to march, if they needed to get from Point A to Point B.
Elsewhere, Armenians had the option to travel by rail. ("Armenians living
in areas served by the railway could buy tickets and travel safely, there were no
further attacks on Armenians who reached Syria — and Armenians living in
Istanbul and other Turkish cities far from the war zone were left
undisturbed," as Gwynne Dyer
7) "Newspaper reports of the time tell of horrific scenes of rape and
murder. Henry Morgenthau, the American ambassador to Turkey later wrote, 'I am
confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible
episode as this.'"
BOSTON, Nov. 1. — Four professors of the
Euphrates American College, founded by American missionaries at Harput, Armenia,
were tortured by the Turks before being put to death, according to a letter
made public here today by the Rev. Robert K. Smith of Westfield...
One of those very newspaper reports also told us, "No newspapermen are allowed to visit the
affected districts and reports from these are altogether unreliable."
That means everything was reported second or third-hand, what we would define as
"hearsay." The second of two clippings from the program, as may be seen
above, tells us of professors tortured and killed. (Armenian educators played an
important hand in stirring the local populace.) The sources were missionaries and the Armenians who
likely informed them, and the information comes from "Armenian
Propaganda-Land," Boston. (Note they refer to Harput as part of
"Armenia.") These are what we would call sources of tremendous
"conflict-of-interest," with a history of fabricating whatever fulfilled
their agendas. The network of American media, when it came to WWI news, was also
largely influenced by an arm of Wellington House (the British war propaganda
division) on U.S. soil. All of these hateful sources worked side-by-side, and for
a "legit" program in 2006 to refer to newspaper reportage as historical
proof is nothing less than heart-breaking. Diplomats and consuls, such as
Morgenthau, also received their information almost exclusively from missionaries
and Armenians (see first clipping; did the "Consul in Urumiah"
personally count the "6,000 Armenians Slain"? By the way, this story is
from May 18, before the "genocide" [i.e., "relocation"] began,
and the consul in question is Russian. You know, the Russians the Armenians
had allied themselves with, while taking over Van?And this Russian was reporting
all the way from Iran.) Morgenthau also had his own agenda, not to mention bigotry, and he concealed
facts not in keeping with his agenda. It is clear Morgenthau was not honorable
(One of the main historic authorities of this very program exposed Morgenthau), and for a
"legit" program in 2006 to refer to Morgenthau as historical proof is
nothing less than heart-breaking.
8) "Estimates of total Armenian death in the period of
the evacuations range from 300,000 to a million-and-a-half."
If the program has established the pre-war population as 1.75 million, how could
they consider the possibility of "a million-and-a-half" deaths, in
seriousness? That would mean only 250,000 Armenians would have survived, and even
hardcore propagandists concede the number of survivors was one million.
9) "To Armenians and many historians, the actions were a clear action of
genocide committed by the Ottomans, and today has been recognized as such by many
Recognition by politicians can be no substitute for history, particularly if the
politicians are ignorant, bigoted, fearful of Armenian intimidation, or swayed by
Armenian wealth. This is why Armenians are hoping to legislate history, with the
powerful allies they have made within the genocide industry. No politician wants
to be castigated as a neo-Nazi "denier" by these fanatical forces,
because everyone knows genocides are "bad." Why would a program
interested in real history even mention the stupidity of genocide resolutions, as though such could
substitute for historical fact?
That, and the fact that the producers referred to "many" historians who
are in agreement, versus "some" historians who "agree with the
Turks" (as they pointed out in their previous sentence) makes it clear that
the producers went out of their way to let it be known they were on the side of
"genocide." (Particularly when the "genocide scholars" that
the producers are primarily referring to are not really historians, but arrive at
conclusions first, "back-engineering" their theses. Real historians are
afraid to get mixed up with unscrupulous pro-Armenians, and the few
"real" historians who accept the word of genocide scholars at face value
are not real historians. Those who use propaganda as their source become
propagandists in turn. Here is the definition of a real historian.)
Than the Narrration, the Choice of Imagery Supported the Producers' Bias
If I were to reproduce all of the
"Armenian genocide" imagery the production went bananas on, this site would
resemble your typical genocide site. But we have a lot of the ugly photographs, like
decapitated heads and the like, the origins of which are unverified.
Now, remember. Not a peep in the show about Armenian crimes against fellow Ottomans who did not
fit into the Christian-Armenian prototype. Even the rare program that presents true
history about the Turks as this one had to tow the propaganda line, and consider the half
million victims of the Armenians as invisible.
Now, of course, we are all familiar with the "genocide poster
What a powerfully wretched picture of the human condition, isn't he? Used at every
opportunity by genocide propagandists, and for good reason.
Yep, there was famine and disease throughout the empire, no question
about it. But instead of savagely hitting below the belt here, making it seem as though
these children were purposely starved, no one ever talks about all the non-Armenians who
starved to death, no less than this miserable boy. (Who hopefully recovered, and lived out
his life.) Even thousands of Turkish soldiers
died from the same condition this boy was suffering from, and one of the segment's primary
witnesses, Ambassador Morgenthau himself, bore witness to the thousands of Turks dying
daily. (Above link.)
But you know what caught my eye about the "genocide poster boy"?
In the generally unseen angle of this motion picture footage, you can see that what we
have is not a candid "documentary" shot (as what appears to be most of the
photography of Armin Wegner), but an
obviously "posed" picture. The kids evidently were instructed to remove their
clothing (what are those piles in the foreground?), to emphasize their malnutrition. What
caught my eye was the condition of the women in the background. Who are these women? Are
they fellow Armenians? If so, why are they looking pretty healthy? Another possibility is
that they might be missionaries, or Near East Relief personnel. (The woman at center could
be a missionary, but the one at right doesn't look very "American.") Obviously,
the cameraman must have been with the Near East Relief or similar organization, so we
don't even need to know whether the women were pro-Armenian westerners. What is obvious is
that this is not an honest picture. These propaganda personnel dug up the worst-looking of
the lot and lined them up, with the express purpose of toying with our emotions.
here for a shot of a Turkish lad who survived a murderous attack from Armenians,
who tried to light a fire on the kid's stomach. (As documented in the Archives of the
Department of Military History and Strategic Studies, Turkish General Staff.) Take note of
his equally bony body. The racist Near East Relief folks, or whomever was responsible for
the above propaganda, did not care to take shots of this other boy.
As we got away from the archival material, concentrating on the
politics of today, one of the other juxtapositions that caught my eye was this shot of
Armenians, somberly commemorating their genocide. The idea was to contrast one group
against the other, and one flag-carrying picture they chose to designate the Turks with
was the one below.
hauntingly holding a "genocide" vigil
I don't know what the context of this shot was, but it looks like
instead of conducting a religious ceremony, the Turks here are having a parade, perhaps
celebrating their national pride. The occasion almost certainly has nothing to do with
"genocide," either as countering the Armenians' false claims (which most Turks
would not give a rat's hair for; if anything, Turkish-Americans would go out of their way
to avoid such an episode, for fear of offending their "Armenian friends," and
the indifferent Turks in Turkey have much more important things to do), and if the Turks
were to gather over genocide in a similar vein, you'd think they would do so to mourn the
some 11 million killed or expelled from their own cataclysm
(in the century ending after WWI.) But that kind of thought wouldn't even enter most
Turks' minds. "Shit happens," is their philosophy, and they would say let's get
on with life already, instead of dwelling on outdated poisons. In conclusion, of course
the producers needed an image to offset the ones of the boo-hoo'ing Armenians, but the
ones they chose existed in an entirely unconnected universe.
Why Did the Producers Buckle?
It's possible the producers did not buckle, and
that they have been hoodwinked into believing genocide claims, as so many other
smart and reasonable people. Armenian genocide propaganda is so prevalent, after
But I don't think that is what happened. These men who were in charge must have been
largely free of anti-Turkish prejudice, as tney allowed themselves to look at
genuine history. There could have been plenty of opportunities elsewhere in their
program to have introduced elements of "Terrible Turk" propaganda, but
they did not. (And they didn't show the Turks as angels either. They performed a
fair and commendable job overall and, frankly, their treatment was rare and
Almost all of the other Ottomanists were unfamilar to me:
Donald Quataert, Leslie Peirce, Gabriel Piterberg, Molly Greene, Cornell Fleischer,
Carter Findley, Bogac Ergene, Gabor Angoston, and the only Turkish academic from
Turkey, Ayduz Salin. The only one I was familiar with, besides Lowry, was the
brainy Norman Itzkowitz; and I had also heard about Caroline Finkel, without
knowing much about her, except that she was criticized by Armenians. I can't say
where my "unknowns" stand on the Armenian "genocide," but I
couldn't argue with anything any of them said otherwise, and they all appeared to
have their heads screwed on pretty straight. I wouldn't be surprised if none of
them were suckered by Armenian genocide claims.
Norman Itzkowitz; he looks like
a great guy
If my instincts are correct, why would the producers have
ignored the opinion of their panel of experts, when it came to this controversial
topic? As mentioned before, the program suddenly went bi-polar in nature, and the
absence of an onscreen expert during the genocide discussion was extremely
conspicuous. It could have been none were interested in revealing themselves to go
against the grain of this matter, as they all have precious reputations to
protect. The below-the-belt smear
tactics of extremist pro-Armenians is by now a dreaded and well-known
phenomenon. Earlier this year, Peter Balakian demonstrated his lack of ethics on a
PBS "debate" show, by attacking the character of Justin McCarthy. (And this bad
behavior came from a "respected professional." Imagine the fury of the
unrestrained rank and file Ar-Maniacs out there.)
In fact, by ignoring their own historical authorities, in a way, the producers
were telling us nothing else they were claiming could have been the truth, either.
If the majority of the historical experts disagree with the genocide thesis, after
all, in contrast to what the producers were telling us, how could we trust
anything else that they had to say?
Kemal Ataturk, from filmed footage
i think the producers made a conscious decision to go
against the grain of their beliefs. (Perhaps it is unfair to blame this on the
producers. It's very possible that it was the network laying down the
genocide condition. This might also explain the unusual postponement of the
program; perhaps the History Network received a barrage of intimidating letters
from ANCA and the like.) They didn't want to generate heat, so they took the
cowardly way out. Better to join 'em, if you can't fight 'em.
If such is the case, the "Armenian
Curtain of Fear," as Heath Lowry termed it (in the days before that curtain came crashing down
on him), is alive and well. Even legitimate historical documentaries are now too
afraid to speak truth regarding the genocide matter.
It would have been preferable if the producers had avoided the Armenian chapter
altogether (or with a passing sentence or two), instead of turning their otherwise
good show into a tool of propaganda. (Assuming they were not forced to follow
possible network "orders.")
The only way to break the stranglehold of the unethical pro-Armenians is for
"mainstream" people to find the courage and go against these genocide
lies. In the same manner that Edward R.Murrow found the spine to confront Senator
Joseph McCarthy's communist witchhunt.
the Other Hand...
After penning the above, I indirectly received an August 27 communication from one of the
Ottomanist talking heads from the show. The historian began by warning of "the
pitfalls of engaging in such endeavors."
"Despite my best efforts and those of my colleagues who appeared on the program, the
presentation was the same old tired Ottoman history that so many of us have been working
"In the final film presentation, we learned of the ten energetic sultans who made the
empire great, only to see it fail because Kanuni Suleyman had the audacity to break
Ottoman tradition and marry rather than breed sons in the harem. Further, we learned that
once war booty dried up, the empire was doomed."
"Indeed, it was only 90 minutes into this 120 minute presentation that the film
makers left the empire in 1566 and rushed through the remainder of the Ottoman era."
"The presentation of these centuries of decline included film makers' statements
about the Ottomans' lack of an economy, political order and culture, not to mention the
absence of any social formation."
"The final product, to understate the case, is a major disappointment. It adds
virtually nothing to our knowledge of Ottoman history and perpetuates the stereotypes that
plague our field. The film makers seem to have relied on Kinross' The Ottoman
Centuries, with a few, minor, additions from more recent scholarship."
After paying note to how well financed the production appeared to be, the writer concluded
with the idea that cooperating with such productions would still be the responsible thing
to do, although preferably there should be some say in the outcome of such productions.
Now isn't this interesting. I was actually grateful with the way the production handled
Ottoman history (sans the Armenian chapter, needless to say), accustomed as I am to
deliberate negative portrayals. The production could have easily concentrated on the
mediocre or crazy sultans, to show how rotten the Ottoman Turks were. But here is a
genuine historian, a professional who knows better, and is aware of the relatively rotten
job the production did, anyway.
What does this boil down to? My speculation that the producers or network purposely
presented a false picture of the Armenian chapter because of pro-Armenian pressure is only
speculation. It is very possible that the producers were intent on pushing Armenian
propaganda anyway; either because they are brainwashed ("pure" reasons) or
because they have had other influences ("impure" reasons).
"Unfortunately, if something is shouted loud enough, there are always those who believe
it..." When powerful forces who can influence the media, or within the media,
have a sinister agenda to fulfill... and when the targeted victim has little means to
respond (assuming the brainwashed many would be open to listen, pummeled with propaganda
as they have been), then even heroes can be made out to appear as villains.