By Jirair Tutunjian, Toronto, 28 April 2021
Gwynne Dyer is a know-it-all Canadian who is an expert at international politics, military affairs, economics, COVID-19, shipping, aviation, environmental affairs, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, World War I and II, the Cold War, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and anything that pops up in the morning newspaper. For all we know, he might also be an expert at rain-making, predicting tsunamis, and when the Martians will land. There’s no subject under the sun, including the Armenian Genocide (he calls it “massacres”) that Dyer can’t bloviate about. The ex-pat Canadian has grown into a guru while sitting in his London, U.K. flat. The fact that what he assumes to know is spread thin like tin foil doesn’t bother the agenda-ridden wordsmith.
Dyer wants to make sure you don’t think he is a mere journalist. He says he is the AUTHOR of books, is a broadcaster, public speaker, historian, military historian, columnist, freelance journalist, and syndicated columnist… His website claims 175 papers in 45 countries reprint his columns. These numbers sound impressive until one realizes the newspapers are mostly such “heavyweights” as “Dawn” (Karachi), “The Rocky Mountain Goat” of rural British Columbia, the “Trinidad Express”, the “Salt Lake Tribune”, and scores of Third-world publications and of towns (Ballarat, Australia) few readers have heard about. And if these small-town papers use just one of his columns once a year, they still give the stationary foreign correspondent the right to claim the paper buys his column. As well, the columns are the bargain of the century: they are sold for a few dollars. it’s a financially efficient way to fill the blank space between ads.
Dyer is famously known for his mottled, greenish-brown leather jacket which he hasn’t cleaned apparently since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. He probably thinks it makes him look like a foreign correspondent who has just returned from some battlefront at the Khyber Pass. Dyer is a silly man. Desperately reaching for ill-advised humor, he says he was “created” on April 17, 1943. Under nationality, he says that until March 31, 1949, he was Newfoundlander and became Canadian the next day. He deems these trifling biographical data will give the reader a chuckle. Sometimes, Dyer’s silliness becomes harmful. One such instance is his belief that the Turks didn’t commit genocide of Armenians. Recently, he was offered the opportunity to distort yet again the truth about the Armenian Genocide. He must have thanked President Biden for giving him the opportunity to recycle old lies and deny the undeniable. To better understand Dyer, it’s important to know that the man apparently has an obsessive personality. More than one observer has commented on his attachment to his tattered leather jacket which he wears year-round. One doesn’t have to be a psychiatrist to see the similarity to a child’s attachment to his tattered blanket years after it has left the crib.
As Marc Mamigonian of the National Association of Armenian Studies pointed out recently: “Back in 1976, Gwynne Dyer wrote that Armenians and Turks had ‘long ago since fixed on the outlines of the arguments most favourable to their respective positions regarding the events now almost universally recognized (italics ours) as the Armenian Genocide.” What did Dyer learn since then to make him an Armenian Genocide denialist?
Dyer also claims that when jurist Raphael Lemkin coined the word ‘genocide’ he had the Holocaust in mind. Dyer’s research leaves much to be desired. As genocide scholar Steven L. Jacobs has pointed out: “…it should be evident that Lemkin was preoccupied not only with the fate of his own people but also with the Armenian Genocide itself.”
Mamigonian also asked: “Finally, it is unclear on what basis Dyer claims the authority to speak for ‘most Israelis’ who, he claims ‘feel that putting the Armenian massacres of 1915 into the same category [as the Holocaust] devalues the currency.’ This is an ugly slur, and one for which not a shred of evidence is offered.”
Below is the latest column Dyer up-chucked about the Armenian Genocide. Partial corrections follow his falsehoods.
“The Holocaust of the European Jews committed by the Nazis was the event that gave the word ‘genocide’ global currency, and many Israelis feel that putting the Armenian massacres of 1915 into the same category devalues the currency.”
Dyer is mistaken. The word ‘genocide’ was coined by Jewish-Polish jurist Raphael Lemkin to describe what the Turks had done to the Armenians. Jews describe their tragic experience as ‘Holocaust’ and not as ‘genocide’.
“Following in the path of 31 other countries, including Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Russia, and Brazil, the United States has at last “recognized” the Armenian genocide. Not that the United States ever denied it, but it officially avoided the word “genocide” for 106 years for fear of angering the Turks.”
As early as in 1951, the U.S. Congress and the State Department filed in the World Court statements calling it the “Armenian Genocide”. President Ronald Reagan also referred to it as genocide. The U.S State department later changed its posture and stopped using the “genocide” descriptive because it opposed land claims against Turkey–A NATO ally where the U.S. stored an unknown number of nuclear bombs.
“But there are hidden depths here, because Israel still refuses to accept the word “genocide” about the Armenian massacres. Every year since the 1980s, a resolution is introduced in Israel’s parliament demanding that Israel also call it a genocide, and every year, it is rejected. Why? In the past, it was largely to avoid infuriating the Turkish government, which was once Israel’s only friend and near ally among Muslim-majority countries, but that’s no longer true. Under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s thuggish rule, Turkey is no longer Israel’s friend, and Jerusalem now has lots of friends and near allies among the Arab dictatorships. So why does Israel still hold out?”
The Israelis are holding out recognition for four reasons:
A. They are calculating that Erdogan is not forever and according to tradition a friendly-to-Israel government will come into power in Turkey. So why antagonize the long-time friend with hurtful stabs?
B. Israel has ambitious plans to double its population. It can’t do so without plenty of water. The only country in the Middle East that has excess water is Turkey. The Israelis are hoping to pipe water from Turkey by way of the Gulf of Alexandretta.
C. In recent decades, Israel has become Turkic Azerbaijan’s closest friend after Turkey. Since Azerbaijan is hostile to Armenians and since Ilham Aliyev and Recep Erdogan describe Turkey and Azerbaijan as “two states, one nation”, Israel is circumspect about recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
D. Some narrow-minded Israelis consider the Armenian Genocide as a “rival” to the Holocaust in earning world sympathy and support.
Because the Holocaust of the European Jews committed by the Nazis was the event that gave the word “genocide” global currency, and many Israelis feel that putting the Armenian massacres of 1915 into the same category devalues the currency. The problem is that the meaning of the word “genocide” has now expanded to include many other evil deeds done to large groups of people sharing a common ethnicity or religion. For example, it is now used to describe China’s treatment of the Uyghur people of Xinjiang, but not many Jews would be comfortable ranking that with the Holocaust.
Whereas most Armenians really want the catastrophe that befell their ancestors to have the same status as the Jewish holocaust: an unprovoked, premeditated, systematic attempt to exterminate an entire people. But that’s not actually what happened to the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire, although what happened was bad enough.
A group of junior officers called the Young Turks seized control of the Ottoman empire in 1908, and their leader, Enver Pasha, foolishly took the empire into the First World War at Germany’s side in November 1914. He then led a Turkish army east to attack Russia, which was allied with Britain and France.
That army was destroyed in the deep snow around Kars—only one-tenth of it got back to base—and the Turks panicked. They scrambled to put some kind of defensive front together, but behind them in eastern Anatolia were Christian Armenians who had been agitating for independence from the empire for decades.”
Dyer shuffles the deck when describing the Russian/Ottoman battle at Sarikamish (he incorrectly calls it ‘Kars’). The Russian Army had Armenian soldiers because these soldiers were citizens of Russia. The Ottoman Army at Sarikamish had Armenian soldiers too because the Armenians were citizens of the Ottoman Empire. In fact, an Armenian saved the life of Enver Pasha, the commander of the Ottoman forces at Sarikamish. Enver acknowledged it publicly. But the acknowledgement didn’t stop him from supporting the implementation of the Armenian Genocide: he needed to explain his Sarikamish defeat by claiming Armenians had betrayed the Ottoman army. Ergo, the treacherous Armenians had to be eliminated. The fact is that the Young Turks had planned the genocide a few years earlier. There are scores of books and documents which provide chapter and verse information re the premeditated extinction of Armenians.
These are the facts. After 600 years of living as third-class subjects and as infidels (“gavoors” in Turkish), Armenians, through their Patriarch in Constantinople began to appeal to the sultan (s) for equality. The sultan (s) ignored the peaceful representations of the Armenians and the raids, the plunder, intimidation, and persecution of Armenians continued. After forty years of undiminished oppression in a little town called Zeitoun, Armenians took up arms to defend their families and homes against Ottoman violence and plunder. That’s what Dyer prefers to call “agitating for independence”. According to him, a handful of Armenian civilians (badly-armed, untrained, without funds, without means of communication or medical care and scattered over a vast territory) who demanded an end to Ottoman persecution were actually demanding independence from an empire that had 700,000 soldiers plus German military “advisers” and the latest in German weapons. That’s the fable Dyer sticks to although it would be a hard sell even in Hollywood.
“Various revolutionary Armenian groups, Dashnaks and Hunchaks, had been in touch with Moscow, offering to stage uprisings behind the Turkish army when Russian troops arrived in Anatolia. Some of them now assumed the Russians were on their way and jumped the gun.”
Dyer provides no information as to the identity of the Dashnaks or Hunchaks who were supposedly in touch with the Russians. While individual Armenians fought in the Russian army (see above), most Armenians didn’t trust the Russians who had publicly declared, through no less than their foreign minister that Tsarist Russia wasn’t interested in Armenians and that its interest was confined to Armenia–a land of strategic importance to Russia (Aleksey Borisovich Lobanov-Rostovsky).
“Other Armenian revolutionary groups, near the Mediterranean coast, were in contact with the British command in Egypt and had promised an uprising to coincide with planned British landings on Turkey’s south coast. Later, Winston Churchill switched the landings much further west to Gallipoli, but again, the Armenian revolutionaries didn’t get the message in time and rebelled anyway.”
This is again incompetent if not, biased, journalism. Who were the Armenian revolutionary groups? Who were their leaders who negotiated with the British? Armenians were in contact with the British and the French… but after the Ottoman Turks launched the Genocide.
“The Young Turks panicked: if the Russians broke through in eastern Anatolia, all the Arab parts of the empire would be cut off. So they ordered the deportation of all the Armenians in the east to Syria—over the mountains, in winter, on foot. And since there were no regular troops to spare, it was mostly Kurdish irregulars who guarded the Armenians on the way south.”
So it’s the Kurds who should be blamed for the Genocide. Turkey is absolved. The Ottomans were busy fighting on many fronts and couldn’t stop the Genocide. And the moon is made of cheese.
“The Kurds shared eastern Anatolia with the Armenians, but the neighbours had never been friendly. So many of the Kurdish escorts assumed they had free license to rape, steal and kill, and between that, the lack of food, and the weather, up to half the deportees died. To the extent that the Turkish government knew about it, it did nothing to stop it. More Armenians died in the sweltering, disease-ridden camps they were held in once they arrived in Syria. It was mass murder through panic, incompetence and deliberate neglect, but it was mostly over by 1916, and most Armenians in other parts of the empire survived the war. Indeed, they are the ancestors of the Armenian diaspora today.
The best estimate is that 800,000 Armenians were killed during the mass deportations from eastern Anatolia to Syria in 1915, at least a third of the Ottoman Empire’s entire Armenian population at the time. But in its lack of planning, its chaotic execution, and its limitations in time and space it was very different from what happened to Europe’s Jews in 1941-45.”
“The best estimate” according to what source?”Why is it the “best estimate”? There were close to 3 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, according to various Western sources. Dyer’s Turkish friends reduce the number for obvious reasons. A good case can be made that there were more than 3 million Armenians because some Armenians–hoping to evade the oppressive taxes–didn’t register during the census. Of the 3 million, Turks killed 1.5 million. The rest were driven to the Syrian and Mesopotamian Deserts. The survivors and the rest fled to Russian-occupied Armenia, Europe, and the Americas thus forming the Armenian Diaspora and a substantial percentage of Armenia’s population.
Dyer says the genocide [he calls it ‘mass murder’] was mostly over by 1916. The genocide continued well into 1923.