Eric Bogosian’s Operation Obfuscation

Book review by Lucine Kasbarian
New Jersey, 1 June 2015

The following passages are only the introductory portion of the book review. To read it in its entirety click on Eric Bogosian's Operation Obfuscation (C).Editor

 

Seven years after starting his research about one of the most dramatic episodes of 20th century Armenian history, actor, playwright, and novelist Eric Bogosian has written Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot that Avenged the Armenian Genocide (Little, Brown & Co.; April 21, 2015).

Much was expected of this widely publicized book whose author is fairly well-known to the American public.  Many Armenians hoped that the work would bring into focus the fact that a group of Armenian patriots executed Turkish leaders who had escaped court-ordered death sentences for planning and carrying out the Armenian Genocide.

However, while serious students of the Armenian Genocide may be merely disappointed in this book, others could be misled.

Bogosian’s account of Operation Nemesis—the post-WWI Armenian execution of Talaat and other Turkish genocidists—does not start until one-third of the way into this 300-page book. Readers first learn about the events that led up to the Genocide. Much later in the book, the author provides information irrelevant to Nemesis.  Even if this was ostensibly done to provide context, the title Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot that Avenged the Armenian Genocide is misleading because it gives the impression that the book is solely about Operation Nemesis

Book review by Lucine Kasbarian
New Jersey, 1 June 2015

The following passages are only the introductory portion of the book review. To read it in its entirety click on Eric Bogosian's Operation Obfuscation (C).Editor

 

Seven years after starting his research about one of the most dramatic episodes of 20th century Armenian history, actor, playwright, and novelist Eric Bogosian has written Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot that Avenged the Armenian Genocide (Little, Brown & Co.; April 21, 2015).

Much was expected of this widely publicized book whose author is fairly well-known to the American public.  Many Armenians hoped that the work would bring into focus the fact that a group of Armenian patriots executed Turkish leaders who had escaped court-ordered death sentences for planning and carrying out the Armenian Genocide.

However, while serious students of the Armenian Genocide may be merely disappointed in this book, others could be misled.

Bogosian’s account of Operation Nemesis—the post-WWI Armenian execution of Talaat and other Turkish genocidists—does not start until one-third of the way into this 300-page book. Readers first learn about the events that led up to the Genocide. Much later in the book, the author provides information irrelevant to Nemesis.  Even if this was ostensibly done to provide context, the title Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot that Avenged the Armenian Genocide is misleading because it gives the impression that the book is solely about Operation Nemesis

Moreover, “Assassination Plot” implies a sinister or unjust political motive, which is definitely not the case for the Armenians of Nemesis. Call me fastidious, but a more appropriate title for these events would be Operation Nemesis: The Secret Plan to Execute the Guilty Perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide.

His bibliography indicates that an incredible amount of research material was at Bogosian’s disposal to produce this book. But the selectivity he exercised in the use of that material is apparent. Bogosian’s choice of words, phrasing, style, tone, and reasoning—as well as certain insertions and omissions of information—will often bewilder and disorient knowledgeable readers as well as those new to this history. 

In the opinion of this reviewer, the result obfuscates the significance of the Nemesis operation and the gravity and persistent dangers of Turkish ultra-nationalism.  One winces reading many of the author’s passages. In our opinion, this book disingenuously brings the Turkish reputation up a few notches while subtly bringing that of Armenians down at least that many. Having read both the pre-publication and published editions, we have noticed that a few of the more egregious passages have been modified or removed in the published edition.

Perhaps Bogosian is following today's so-called 'conflict resolution' paradigm.  That is, in exchange for Turkish acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide, the victim group must sacrifice truthful aspects surrounding this crime against humanity and concede that the Ottoman Turkish Empire simply found itself under siege in WWI, had an anxiety attack, and, unfortunately, struck out against ‘rebellious’ Armenians.  

*****

After reading Bogosian’s book, one comes away thinking that the literary, educational, and political establishments of the West would be very pleased if young people, including Armenians, who read Operation Nemesis, conclude that Armenians are partly responsible for the Genocide, and decide that it is best to leave the past alone.

In publishing this book, an opportunity was squandered to let the world know that the Armenians got a raw deal after their attempted annihilation; that valiant Armenians stepped in only after the 1919 Turkish Military Tribunals did not follow through on their verdicts; and that a century later the legacy of a great unpunished crime against humanity begs to be resolved.

Perhaps Bogosian will consider the above issues if he publishes a second edition of this book.

 

 

21 comments
  1. Operation Nemesis

    About 20- 25 or so years ago a book called Nemesis was published.Unfortunately I do not remember neither the author's or publisher's name. I checked my library but could not find it. The entire book explained how the plot was hatched and executed .
    Anybody out there remembers this book?

    1. Operation Obfuscation

      You may be referring to Jacques Derogy’s book “Operation Nemesis; Les vengeurs armeniens” (Operation Nemesis; the Armenian avengers), prefaced by Gerard Chaliand and published in 1986 by Librairie Artheme FAYARD. Derogy, a biographer (full name Jacques Julien Weitzmann) was born in 1925 at Neuilly-sur-Seine and died there in 1997. I am not sure whether or not the book was translated into English. The author details the operation from inception to execution, as he had researched extensively all available archives. The book is a political thriller.   

      In addition, on the occasion of the centenary there was a documentary “La vengeance des armeniens – le proces Tehlirian” (The vengeance of the Armenians – the Tehlirian trial) directed by Bernard George, written by Laurence Chassin and Bernard George, produced by ARTE TV France and CINETEVE France. The 52-minute documentary was telecast in France on April 27, 2015. It will be released in DVD format in six months with English subtitles.

      I have not read Eric Boghossian’s version. However, I find Najarian’s comment surprising…that "There is no doubt that many Armenians are uncomfortable with the knowledge that Tehlirian lied at his trial.” It is common knowledge among Armenians that the purpose of Tehlirian’s readiness to be arrested and the testimonies of the witnesses presented were to describe the Armenian massacres, thus the trial was to accuse the Ottoman government in a German court. Tehlirian did not lie.

      1. More on “Nemesis”

        Hello Jirair,
        Thank you for your information. Now I am sure Derogy's book was translated into English. I distinctly remember even the color of the jacket of the book which was yellowish buff.

        Regards.

  2. Operation Nemesis

    Thanks Lucine,
    You are sooooo  very very Right. 
    My Disappointment is indescribable.
    He could have been  very helpful to the Armenian cause.

  3. Review of Operation Nemesis

    I thought this book was brilliant. I won't go into all of the details, but will just make a few comments. First — I think Ms. Kasbarian read the negative parts and focused on them. What I read was a balanced presentation of a complicated history. I came away with a new understanding of what actually happened. Bogosian clearly points out that the Great Powers and the Young Turks used the Armenians–used the political parties for their advantage and then betrayed them. Second– Bogosian clearly describes the growth of the ultra-nationalist Turkish identity in the face of the destruction of the Ottoman Empire and how the three pashas used it to exterminate the Armenians and later other Christian minorities. Third, Bogosian describes in detail how the current regime has rewritten history for the Turkish people. It is the first time that I have understood the depth of the brainwashing that has happened and how ingrained in Turkish life hatred of Armenians  and Turkish version of events is.  

    There is no doubt that many Armenians are uncomfortable with the knowledge that Tehlirian lied at his trial. But Bogosian redeems him and the others in the last part of the book. If we want the world to believe us–then the truth must be told. Bogosian has done just that. No one reading this without prejudice can come away with any other conclusion than that there was a well-planned genocide perpetrated against the Armenian nation by the rulers of the Ottoman Empire and that the group who planned their revenge were clever, determined and, I might add…. justified.   

    1. You All Have Good Points

      I first read the review with much skepticism, because I thought Mr. Bogosian's book was very well written, especially coming from someone who is not a scholar on the topic. However, the reviewer does bring up many points that require consideration, at the least. Please click at the top to look at the full review and each of Ms. Kasbarian's rebuttals.

      One thing no one can argue against: Genocide cannot be apologized against in any way shape or form. The removal of the Armenians from nine-tenths of Armenia, the killing of millions of people, the destruction of culture, and the variety that made this a great nation has denied the Armenians the opportunity to live and thrive, to nurture and extend their legacy. 

      There is no question that Armenians are endangered today because of what the Turks have done.  

      Operation Nemesis resulted in the death of a few people. Armenians lost their nation. I don't think anyone can argue against any of this. 

      1. Reply to comment

        You are absolutely right…. we lost our land and are at risk for becoming extinct. But the Turks lost only a few people.  

        My dad makes the observation in his memoir (Avedis's Story) that as he and his family (c1916), with thousands of other refugees were forced farther and farther into Russia to escape from the advancing Turks, he realized that the Turks were succeeding in pushing Armenians forever away from our homeland with no hope of ever returning — part of their overall plan to annihilate the Armenian people.

         I would suggest to anyone who questions Bogosian's book, to read from page 300 to the end.  It will tell you everything you need to know about how Bogosian feels and how he sees recognition of the Armenian Genocide.  

        1. Furthermore

          Furthermore, I would challenge any one of us to do as Mr. Bogosian has done and to take the time and risk to complete a project such as this. We are so quick to criticize each other.

          In the end, I am glad we have this book. I also thank Mr. Bogosian for touring with it and creating a forum at bookstores, on the radio and various interviews to discusses these topics. If you listen to him speak, you will clearly see what side he is taking: It is your side.

          If some think that Bogosian might have stopped short of some of our goals, then please consider that as an opportunity to step forth and extend and improve upon it.

  4. Sacred Justice

    Are you thinking of "Sacred Justice: The Voices and Legacy of the Armenian Operation Nemesis" by Marian Mesrobian MacCurdy and Gerard Libaridian?

  5. Take it at Face Value

    I’ve read Mr. Bogosian’s book. It is very well written and all-encompassing with a lot of research. Having said that, I have to agree with Ms. Kasbarian’s comments that the book seems to be insinuating/interrogating what has been insinuated/interrogated already. Yet it leaves the reader with no new revelations or conclusions as to what is the point that is being made, if any.

  6. Did Not Like Book

    I read Bogosian's book and the review here. Bogosian has fallen for a lot of Western and Turkish propaganda. The reviewer notes many of these. Bogosian frets over the legality of what the Armenians in "Operation Nemesis" did, but does not ask about the legality of what the average Turks did (murdered and tortured Armenian children during the death marches). Those Turks have never been held to account.  

    I am glad someone has pointed out the many faults of the book. It is not right that people go to hear Bogosian speak and think that the book is worthwhile just because he is an actor.

  7. Bogosian

    Bogosian on Tavis Smiley's PBS show openly acknowledged his debt to Derogy's book. Nemesis, by the way, is also the title of a brilliant book on U.S imperialism by Chalmers Johnson.

  8. Not Totally Right

    I do not totally agree with the critique by Lucine Kasparian.

    Even tough some of her comments are to the point and valid, I strongly believe "Operation Nemesis" is a must read.  Eric Bogosian has done extensive research which has revealed many facts that were unknown. The book also lays the foundation for further in-depth research in the archives of Britain and Germany, their involvement with the Young Turks to perpetrate the Genocide, and then to cover it up.

    We should also remember that Bogosian admits that he was a happy-go-lucky typical American teenager, and did not know or was aware of the Genocide, other than the tidbits he had heard from his grandfather. His dedication and resolve to complete the research and publish the book should definitely be recognized and applauded. The pluses definitely substantially exceed any minuses.

    Admittedly, it is sad that most of the survivors of the Genocide were so deeply traumatized by their experience that they were unwilling to talk about it. I went through that growing up with my grandmother (readers may take a look at my article "A Document that Cries Out" (Armenian Weekly, Jan. 23, 2015).

    Vart Adjemian
     

    1. Kasbarian and Bogosian

      Vart,

      Your statement about Eric may very well apply to Lucine. I bet she also was no less "a happy-go-lucky typical American teenager" whose efforts we must equally applaud. 

      Should Bogosian consider the points she raised and have a second edition? That is what the debate is or should be about.
       

  9. Kasbarian’s Review

    I am glad Lucine pointed out all those items. I hope Eric Bogosian listens. Perhaps he should learn Armenian and read the available literature, including the testimonies of our heroes, in order to appreciate their spirit and idealism.
    Vrej-Armen

    1. ‘literary complementary”

      I have never considered history as a science or a historian as a scientist. We all agree on the happening (apple falls) and the reason for its falls (gravity). In case of history we have to make a choice, not for the happening of course, but for its cause.

      I read Eric Boghossian’s book. It was apparent that he had not made his firm choice on whose team he was playing. However, in conveying the crux of the matter –  organizing and carrying the assassination of Talaat –  he did a good job  .

      There appears to be a new trend in Armenian-American literature. I name the trend as ‘literary complementary” claiming to have an “objective” view of a historical happening that there are two sides of a happening. I am sure this trend is not necessarily set by the writer, but more so by his publisher, as publishing is selling books and making a profit and in order to assure profit one needs to have as much a large audience as possible.

      Unless we revert to our time honored way of publishing a book with a mecaenas (մեկենաս) sponsoring an author, we will see this trend getting bolder by the day as publishers are jumping on the wagon as Turkey is becoming a market for selling Armenian  related books.

  10. Operation Nemesis

    To complement Kasbarian's excellent review, —

    Had these heroes plotted to kill 1.5 million Turks, perhaps THAT would qualify as "avenged the Armenian Genocide," as expressed in the title of Bogosian's book. The perpetrators had been found, by a legally authorized Turkish government, to be guilty of the planned murder of an entire segment of its population, and sentenced to death. All that remained was for the death sentence to be executed, and that is what these brave men did.

    Moreover, if the Armenians provoked the Turks, as Bogosian suggests, why did the Turks take it out on the Assyrians and Greeks, as well?

    Consistency is a virtue.

  11. Operation Nemesis

    So many excuses are being made for Bogosian's less-than-scholarly treatment of the subject that one wonders why anyone should have such low expectations from such a prominent and accomplished person; that is, unless Bogosian's sins of omission and commission were done purposefully ….and his apologists know it.

  12. Missing the Point?

    Operation Nemesis WAS a secret, but is no more, thanks to Eric Bogosian, who has revealed it as a complex and ennobling story for all humanity and a fruitful field for future scholarship.  That is in large part what the history of Armenians is, isn't it?  It's gratifying for me to see this recognized and promoted by an Armenian American.

    So I understand from listening to Mr. Bogosian's on-line interviews that there is an extensive ARF archive in Massachusetts which is closed to researchers.  What's up with that?  Also, the Tehlirian family is holding onto their ancestor's written memoir – perhaps a document of singular importance.  I used to have beloved auntie's who reveled in the veiled drama of their martyred ancestors.  Their responses to my questions always ended with a hushed, "we'll never know."  This may have been true for them.  I used to believe it, but I don't anymore.  We can know and we can and should understand the details.  Every book does not need to be a bomb.  And for those readers who prefer the military paradigm, Mr. Bogosian's book may not have been a direct hit against Turks or anybody else, but in the long run it will probably prove to be a score for Armenians.

    1. Jacques Derogy wrote about Nemesis

      Jacques Derogy wrote about Nemesis years ago. Bogosian is new to the Armenian community and things Armenian.  He started his research only 7 years ago.

    2. Bogosian didn’t blow the lid off Nemesis

      People who are not habitual readers may be impressed by Bogosian’s appearance of breaking ground where no one else has gone before.  Ara gives Bogosian credit for being the one to reveal the secret group that Nemesis was. Bogosian did no such thing. Evidently Ara is unaware that more than 10 books about Nemesis were published before Bogosian’s book came along.

      As someone who has read Bogosian’s book, I can tell that Bogosian went out of his way to prop up Turkey’s image and whitewash many of its actions while unjustifiably putting down, diminishing, and maligning Armenians, the Nemesis group, and the ARF. His book does not advance the Armenian Cause.

      Has Ara read Bogosian’s book? Or even the extended book review by Kasbarian?

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