The question is whether the deaths and atrocities amounted to a policy of deliberate genocide. While I have read a certain amount about the period, it’s not a question I feel competent to settle, since it is at heart a legal rather than a historical one. Defining a particular set of killings as genocidal goes beyond semantics. A series of juridical consequences flow: the matter can be lifted from the courts of the state concerned to supranational level, and the argument can swiftly move on to reparations.
As I say, I am not competent to pronounce definitively about 1915.
Of course the view that the events of the period need to be clarified by specialists is exactly the one propounded by the Turkish government - as if it was all a great mystery waiting to be unravelled.
Hannan writes as if he was on their payroll. In fact, I sometimes wonder whether he is.
They were tangled and tragic events, and historians have wrangled ever since about precisely what occurred.
Hannan acknowledges that "guiltless Armenians perished" but artfully remains vague about the role of the government in this; and insinuates that anyway it was half-justified by Armenian support for Russia.
When the Ottomans joined the First World War, and fighting began along the Caucasian frontier between the two empires, many Armenians threw in their lot with the Russians. The Young Turks, at war on two fronts and foreseeing the overthrow of their regime, feared that their entire Armenian population would rise in revolt. Brutal repressions ensued, with arrests, executions, evacuations, forced marches and at least some deliberate pogroms.
No one, not even the most hardline Turkish nationalist, denies that guiltless Armenians perished. Similarly, no one, not even the most vengeful diaspora reparationist, denies that many Armenians died in Tsarist uniforms.
But there really is no uncertainty about whether this was a deliberate programme of mass murder orchestrated by the government or a spontaneous popular outpouring of nationalistic rage during wartime. At the time a British diplomat called Clifford Heathcote-Smith obtained a secret Turkish government document that was being circulated around the country, with orders to destroy it after it had been read.
One remarkable document was discovered and translated in early 1919 by British ofﬁcials in Turkey, who labeled it “The Ten Commandments.” It is a blueprint of the Armenian extermination operation and appears to have been the centerpiece of a secret party meeting, which took place sometime in late December 1914 or in January 1915. The document was obtained by Comm. C. H. Heathcote Smith, the right-hand man of Adm. Somerset Calthorpe, the British high commissioner in Constantinople. Fluent in Turkish, Smith had served as British consul in Smyrna before the war, and he ﬁrst learned of the “Ten Commandments” from the former British intelligence agent Percival Hadkinson, in Smyrna.Source: The Burning Tigris
The document (along with several others) came into British hands through Ahmed Essad, the wartime head of the Ottoman Interior Ministry Department II, Intelligence. Essad had served as secretary at the conference at which the “Ten Commandments” were issued—a conference presided over by Talaat Pasha, the minister of the interior, and Drs. Nazimand Behaeddin Shakir, the masterminds of the Special Organization.
The document is described below in an extract from the book Paradise Lost by Giles Milton:
It was this draft document that Heathcote-Smith managed to acquire. It was entitled ‘The Ten Commandments of the Comite Union and Progress [sic]’ and was the minutes of a secret conference attended by the Minister of the Interior, Talaat Bey, and four of his senior officials in the winter of 1914.Source: Paradise Lost by Giles Milton
Commandment One set the tone for the entire document. It called for the arrest of all Armenians who were working against the government and their ostensible deportation to Baghdad or Mosul. Once they were on the march, their Turkish guards were to ‘wipe them out either on the road or there’. Commandment Three called on officials to excite Muslim opinion in Van, Erzeroum and Adana ‘[and] provoke organised massacres’. Commandment Five was to ‘exterminate all males under 50, priests and teachers, [and] leave girls and children to be Islamised’. Commandment Eight called for the murder of any Armenians still serving in the army, while Commandment Nine ordered that ‘all action . . . begin simultaneously, and thus leave no time for preparation of defensive measures’.
By casting doubt on the Armenian Genocide, Daniel Hannan has stooped to holocaust denial in service of his Turkish masters. Shame on him.