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The evolution of quasi-legal “resolutions,” in various state and national legislatures
or court systems around the world, of genocide committed by the Ottoman government against
its Armenian citizens during (and after) the First World War has been an interesting, if
curious, phenomenon. Of course, the passing of a resolution has no legal force and
certainly does not demonstrate historical veracity as one cannot legislate the direction
or flow of historical events in retrospect. What resolutions do, however, is to attempt to
achieve a perception of events in order to increase the visibility and importance of a
community, achieve a specific political goal or to gain some sort of compensation.
Resolutions of the kind relating to the “Armenian Genocide” serve to enhance the
status and importance of the Armenian community in a cultural environment where victimhood
is a badge of honour. The fact that so many of these highly dubious documents have passed
through national and state legislatures is a tribute the tight knit, affluent and highly
clannish nature of the Armenian diasporas. In short, over many years they have shown
themselves adept and manipulating the sympathies and resources of their hosts in order to
further their own financial, political or cultural agendas.
The content of the resolutions or affirmations that have “passed” through legislative
systems can be viewed in a number of internet web sites or publications and they make for
interesting reading. While organisation is clearly evident from the beginning the
evolution of the format and content is quite informative as it demonstrates a growing
level of co-ordination and an increasing level of orthodoxy as the years have progressed.
From the start certain central claims have been made (1,500,000 dead for example) but
enthusiasm and zealotry made for the production of some quite startling “facts” — in
other words, although everybody was trying to sing from the same hymn sheet the chorus was
One of the earliest resolutions passed through the California State Assembly on April 15th
1968 and related specifically the establishment of the Armenian Martyrs Monument in
Montebello, California. However, it is not until terrorist campaigns conducted against
Turkish individuals and institutions got underway in the early 1970s that the flow of
resolutions began increase. The reasons for this should be obvious. Although terrorism
conducted against Turks was carried out by a variety of disgruntled or ill individuals and
by a variety of politically radical and extremist Armenian groups, they presented the
mainstream Armenian communities around the world, and particularly in North America, with
both an opportunity and a problem. High profile terrorist atrocities served to bring
Armenians’ sense of grievance to the wider public around the world- this was a great
opportunity. The problem was that the 1970s and 1980s was a period that was almost defined
by a terrorist driven crisis directed primarily against western targets and western values
and tied up in Cold War issues. All of these terrorist groups were left wing and extremist
in outlook and all had support from the Soviet Union, one of its dependencies or one of
its third world proxies. The numerous Palestinian factions are an obvious example but to
this we can add the IRA, the Red Brigades, Bhader-Mienhoff, Sandero Luminoso, the Japanese
Red army, the PKK and so on; all high profile, anti western and ruthless.
Into this complex political mix comes the Armenian terrorist, in various formats
revisiting the terrorism of the Armenian radicals of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The majority of people in the west viewed the Armenian terrorists with the same jaundiced
eye that they viewed all the other terrorists. This time round, unlike the “problem of
the Near East” in the late 1800s and early 1900s the Armenians had no rationale, no
viable agenda…….no value.
What were they murdering and mutilating for? There were no oppressed
Armenians in Turkey. There was no land or people to liberate. Their philosophy was
nihilistic and hate driven; an opportunity for publicity, but also a problem. How could
the mainstream Armenian community — whose leaders rarely unequivocally condemned the
terrorists, benefit from the publicity without tarnishing the carefully nurtured aura of
innocence? Part of the answer must have been in the campaign for “legal” recognition.
From the outset, the most consistent and uniform claim was the casualty figure- 1,500,000
— a figure that can not be changed since it is inscribed in stone, quite literally, on
the Martyrs Monument. Apart from this, things did vary, probably due to over enthusiasm.
Some of the embellishments are quite amazing, for example, part of the April 4, 1980 New
York State Assembly resolution claims in one section:
“The land (Armenia) became a vital trade route between East and West and was coveted by
the Persians, the Medes, the Mongolians, the Russians, the Greeks, the Romans and the
Arabs; however, the Christian Armenians were able to peacefully coexist with invading
armies until the birth of the Ottoman nation, when the Turks established dominion over an
empire stretching some one thousand five hundred miles from Vienna to the Caucusus
WHEREAS, The Turks could neither tolerate nor integrate the independent Armenians, who
spoke their own language and practised their own religion………..” and so on in
similar vein for another twenty sections.
Clearly, anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the relevant time periods and regions will
know that this is quite simply arrant nonsense and is laced with a racist subtext of the
kind that obscures much of what is written about Turkish history. One would have hoped
that an august body of legislators would know better.
first genocide of the 20th century"
possibly from the period in
question; see related news story, below
Governor Dukakis, in his proclamation of
February 19th, 1986 says that the Armenian genocide was “the first genocide of the
20th century..” Leaving aside the fact that such arbitrary chronological
parameters are meaningless devices intended to merely take out of context and frame
a particular event, he seems to be unaware of the extermination of the Herero people
carried out by German colonial forces in South West Africa between 1904 and 1907;
about 75% -80% of Hereros were exterminated by direct orders of the German colonial
commander Von Trotha. Possibly the reason for Governor Dukakis’ oversight may have
something to do with the fact that he did not have a Herero constituency to pander
The March 26, 1990 resolution by the Oklahoma State Legislature introduce a slightly
different and rather interesting variation on the theme; it compares the “deportations”
of Armenian with “Oklahoma’s own Trail of Tears,” presumably suggesting that
the authorities in Oklahoma and in the Federal government were guilty of their own
genocide prior to that magical chronological cut off point on January 1st 1900. It
is also a little unclear as to casualty numbers, straying from scripted 1,500,000
and only referring to “As many as one million Armenians may have died on this
death march from lack of water and food…” and goes on to observe that “the
number of Armenians killed at the hands of the Turks will never be known, but
estimates as high as one million eight hundred thousand have been quoted..” Quite.
Peter Torigian, Mayor of Peabody, Massachusetts, comes up with an interesting spin
in his proclamation on April 24th , 1990 when, while referring to the 1,500,000
victims of genocide says that the Armenians were deported to Der-El-Zor on foot
during which time more than 1,000,000 died or were killed. It is about this time
(late 1980s early 1990s) that we see the message evolving to include direct
reference to the Nazis and the Jewish Holocaust; Torigian refers to Armenians at
Der-El-Zor being held in “concentration camps………that resemble those of the
Holocaust of World War II.” Also, in a number of resolutions from this period and
onwards references are made to Hitler’s quotation from a speech at Obersalzburg
referring to the Armenians — a quote that probably was never uttered and is
often even misquoted.
By the mid 1980s Armenian terrorism was a spent force but the
process of accumulating resolutions had acquired and independent force of its own and
continued with a much greater degree of conformity — by 2000 they appear to working from
a standard text in some cases. For example, from the Main Joint Resolution June 3rd, 2001,
we find reference to:
“.. atrocities committed against the Armenians…..including the torture , starvation
and murder of 1,500,000 Armenians, death marches into the Syrian desert and the exile of
more than 500,000 innocent people”
This section is repeated almost verbatim in the California State Resolution of the 10th
April 2003 and with minor changes in the New York State Legislature resolution of April
19th 2002. The resolutions from Main and California also both use the now almost
obligatory reference to Adolph Hitler’s quotation and they also use the identical
quotation from Ambassador Morgenthau in which he states, among other things, that previous
massacres in history are “insignificant when compared to the sufferings of the Armenian
race in 1915.” All the stops are clearly being pulled out in order to put across an
emotive, tailored message that will appeal to people’s historical misconceptions and
ignorance. Armenians are unique; their suffering is unique and preceded that of the Jews.
This last California resolution is particularly interesting as it carries the mark of
Senator Poochigian, a lawyer and law maker of some repute in California — apparently.
Senator Poochigian has made the next logical step beyond resolutions
and has formulated a law. The law he has formulated, however, is significantly different
in form and scope from his resolutions. Firstly, it is limited in scope as it applies only
to the area of insurance claims held by Armenians in Ottoman lands, their heirs and
beneficiaries. It is modeled directly on a law covering insurance claims of Jews in German
occupied Europe of the 1930s and 1940s. Promulgation of law in this area is a logical
progression and appears to have been running, in this instance, in conjunction with
attempts made by a number of Californian Armenians, supported by Armenian community
groups, to cash in on insurance policies they either held or felt that they were entitled
to benefit from and which date from the late 1800s and early 1900s. According to an
article in The Fresno Bee in September, 2000 the value of these “lost” insurance
policies could run to as much as $3 billion.. Poochigian’s Law was formulated
specifically to aid these claims.
Poochigian’s Law is really quite fascinating and is remarkable because of the difference
in tone, scope and definition when compared to all the resolutions on the subject of the
Armenian Genocide- even the California resolution drafted by Poochigian himself. No
mention of numbers here. The definition of “genocide” in the context of the law is so
wide as to be meaningless in any real sense and the definition of who exactly is a “victims”
of the “Armenian genocide” is quite spectacular!
The first section of the law sets out its perameters:
Section (a) The Legislature recognises that during the period from 1915 to 1923 many
persons of Armenian ancestry residing in the historic homeland then situated in the
Ottoman Empire were victims of massacre, torture, starvation, death marches and exile.
This period is known as the Armenian Genocide.”
This is innocuous stuff — the number 1,500,000 (always given in numerical form in
resolutions for greater impact) is substituded for the word “many”. This could apply
to anybody who had the misfortune to live in the region including Turks, Kurds,
Circassians, Jews and Greeks since all were subjected to starvation, expulsions, disease
and massacre by someone. In fact, Armenians and Russians perpetrated atrocities and
massacres of their own on Muslim communities before, during and after the relocation of
Armenians occurred. However, at this point he restricts himself to Armenians.
The bill goes on to state that many Armenians and their descendants live in California and
deserve an expeditious resolution to their claims because they have suffered enough. In
fact, any further delay would represent an ”undue, unreasonable and unjust hardship on
Armenian Genocide victims and their heirs.”
It is Poochigian’s definition of who is an Armenian Genocide victim that is most amazing
of all. In Section 2) subsection 1) the bill states the following:
“Armenian Genocide Victim” means any person of Armenian or other ancestry living in
the Ottoman Empire during the period of 1915 to 1923, inclusive, who died, was deported,
or escaped to avoid persecution during that period.”
One hardly needs to highlight any part of this definition; it is amazing in both in its
scope and its departure from the many resolutions passed through state and national
legislatures. Why could this be? The answer is quite simple- a resolution is meaningless
and free of political and monetary costs because its victims are Turks who, as yet, are
only a small and relatively insignificant minority with little lobbying power. A law on
the other hand, can be tested in court therefore it was necessary to frame the law as
broadly as possible in order to ensure that challenges over facts and figures did not risk
the outcome. This law is an admission that the basic facts to be found in every Armenian
Genocide Resolution are unsafe.
According to the definitions in this law —
anyone (literally anyone) who was living in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and wasn’t
living there in 1923 is an Armenian Genocide Victim — a Turk who died of
influenza, a Kurd who fell of his horse, a Greek who left to live in Greece, and
Armenian who had a stroke on his sofa in Istanbul or a British POW who died of
typhus……. Anyone. Using constructions like this we could produce all sorts of
ridiculous scenarios — Sudeten Germans expelled by the Czechoslovak government
after WWII because they collaborated with the Nazis could conceivably claim to have
been victims of a “genocide.” In fact, some are demanding apologies and even
How successful has the law been? Well, not very successful so far, in spite of the
majestic breadth of its vision. Have any Armenian individuals, suffering or
otherwise, benefited from a just and speedy resolution of the claims? Well, no; not
exactly. What has happened has been a class action suit, settle out of court between
Armenians and New York Life. What about that estimated £3 billion The Fresno Bee
mentioned? Well, not really. What actually happened- as reported by the Armenian,
Assyrian and Hellenic Genocide News (!) — was that New York Life agreed to donate
£3 million to Armenian civic organisations. New York Life avoids going to court and
incurring costs and possible embarrassment and gains praise and a considerable
amount of business from a wealthy, clannish and grateful community. The Armenian
lobby gets to tick a box and something they will try to portray as an endorsement of
their position. Everyone is a winner- until you scratch the surface and have a look
Poochigian’s Law contains no reference to numbers of dead in any way substituting
instead the word “many” because the Armenian lobbyists know that they can not
prove their statistics. The law makes no reference to Hitler or his words because
such references are not provable. The law contains no preamble portraying Turks as
worse than such legendry despoilers of civilisation as the Mongols of popular
western myth because such references are demonstrably false and clearly racist. The
law does not make reference to the “first Genocide of the 20th century” because
this is as false as it meaningless. This law does not refer to the Armenian Genocide
as being similar in “ratio” to the Jewish Holocaust as the two experiences are
qualitatively and demonstrably different.
In short, Poochigian’s Law is a pale shadow of the genocide resolution because it
cannot risk the light of day.
Tying in with reference to the Hereros above, it's interesting to provide one example
of how a related topic was covered in the American press, when it was covered at all:
A German Garrison Annihilated.
"Beaufort, West Cape Colony, Nov. 2. — It is reported that the German garrison
at Warmbad, in German Southwest Africa, has been annihilated by the Hottentois[?].
Warmbad is a mission station in Great Namaqualand."
Daily Kennebec Journal, Nov. 3, 1903
"Genocide Resolution" in America Almost Passes
Importance of Genocide Resolutions