Saturday, August 23, 2014
The Murder of a Nation
During her last shift she spotted this book in the glass case where rare books are displayed. The back cover is blank.
She brought it to one of our meetings and we had fun with the cover, throwing out all kinds of ideas about the book's subject.
The contents is more interesting than any of our wild speculations. It's a reprint of 125 pages from a 1918 book, Ambassador Morgenthau's Story and the story he tells is being written in Iraq today. Much of the world is acting the same way it did 100 years ago.
Henry Morgenthau was the US ambassador to Turkey from 1913 to 1916, during the Armenian genocide. His book describes what the Turks did, why they did it and how he knows what they did. He also writes about his efforts to intervene and why they failed, as well as why foreign aid wasn't allowed to reach the suffering Armenians. Mr. Morgenthau, a Jew, was ambassador to Turkey during World War One, when the Turks and the Germans were allies. His chapters on the German reactions to the genocide were downright creepy because they not only didn't oppose it, they actively supported the strategy of cleansing territories of selected ethnic groups. We all know where that led a mere 20 years later.
In a book full of horrifying stories, it's the cold-bloodedness of the Turkish government that creeps one out. Like this one: The Minister of the Interior Talaat "made what was perhaps the most astonishing request I had ere heard. The New York Life Insurance Company and the Equitable Life of New York had for years done considerable business among the Armenians. The extent to which this people insured their lives was merely another indication of their thrifty habits. 'I wish,' Talaat now said, 'that you would get the American life insurance companies to send us a complete list of their Armenian policy holders. They are practically all dead now and have left no heirs to collect the money. It of course all escheats to the State. The Government is the beneficiary now. Will you do so' This was almost too much and I lost my temper. 'You will get no such list from me,' I said and I got up and left him."
We see this same callousness in members of ISIS/ISIL. The Yazidis are chased across the desert just like the Armenians were. There isn't much difference between the pictures of the refugees on TV and the ones in Morganthau's book. This time, though, the Americans did more than protest to the government and we are glad we did.