This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Crass Opportunism of Unfettered Greed

"As a president who successfully passed health insurance reform, it's an issue of great importance to him. President Obama will deliver speeches from time to time. Some of these speeches will be paid, some will be unpaid, and regardless of venue or sponsor, President Obama will be true to his values, his vision and his record."
"I'd just point out that in 2008, Barack Obama raised more money from Wall Street than any candidate in history -- and still went on to successfully pass and implement the toughest reforms on Wall Street since FDR."
Eric Schultz, Obama senior adviser

Well, that's all right, then, isn't it? Having raised funding out of Wall Street, and then in turn as president of the United States of America, passed legislation that continued to enrich Wall Street at the expense of the have-nots within his society, this former social worker and passionate black activist leftist is entitled to extract munificent sums from corporations more than willing to have the man who was once in the position of the most powerful human on Earth, anoint their enterprise with the blessing of his presence.

Well worth paying for in prestigious ego-stroking.

Of course the former president is not staking out new ground in signing up for those executive-level speech deliveries to those who can afford his luminous presence. A former Grade B actor who also made president took $2-million in payment for two speeches he delivered on request in Japan after he stepped down. At that time he was, of course, in the still-early stages of Alzheimer's Disease.

And it is not only Barack Obama who has qualified for speaking rounds of high-dollar intake, but his wife, as well, the estimable former First Lady Michelle Obama, who has just recently announced she will not, after all, make her own run for high political office. "Hi, everybody, it's good to get out of the house", she quipped gracefully, sitting for a politics-free round of questions at the American Institute of Architecture annual conference.

As former First Lady she would, needless to say, have much to say of interest to that professional group.

The very same day that Michelle Obama graced that profession's annual conference with her elegant and svelte presence, her husband addressed a closed-door session to employees of the A&E cable network, alongside historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. There is money to be made, and this power couple means to own as much of the stage and the profits from occupying that world stage, as they can manage.

A speech to a health-care conference scheduled for September, and sponsored by investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald, will gain the former president $400,000. Word on how much the couple charges for private speaking engagements is held tightly, not to be divulged to the nosy public. They performed their public duty in leading the free world to the best interests of the United States, and they deserve the fallout of their sacrifice; respect and admiration and cold, hard cash.
"As private citizens [the Obamas] are pretty much free to give speeches in their personal capacity [but at a potential cost to their popularity and future political influence]."
"It’s not a question of whether it’s legal. It’s a question of whether someone in a political environment can make an argument that it was unethical."
Richard Painter, law professor, University of Minnesota, former chief White House ethics lawyer

Obama secures $800,000 for two speaking engagements
Former U.S. President Barack Obama © Kamil Krzaczynski / Reuters 

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Oops! Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!

"On my first deployment to Kandahar [Afghanistan] in 2006, I was the architect of Operation Medusa where we removed 1,500 Taliban fighters off the battlefield ... and I was proudly on the main assault." (April 18, New Delhi)
"What I should have said was that our military successes are the result of the leadership, service and sacrifice of the many dedicated women and men in the Canadian Forces. I regret that I didn't say this then, but I want to do so now." (April 28, Ottawa)
"Every military operation our Forces undertook in Afghanistan, including Operation Medusa, relied on the courage and dedication of many individuals across the Canadian Forces. My comments were in no way intended to diminish the role that my fellow soldiers and my superiors played in Op Medusa."
Canadian Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan inspects a Guard of Honour prior to meeting with his Indian counterpart earlier this month in New Delhi. A speech Sajjan gave in India has stirred anger in military circles from those who thought the former soldier had overstated his role in Afghanistan.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan inspects a Guard of Honour prior to meeting with his Indian counterpart earlier this month in New Delhi. A speech Sajjan gave in India has stirred anger in military circles from those who thought the former soldier had overstated his role in Afghanistan.  (MONEY SHARMA / AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

The first sentence above relates to how the Honourable Member of Parliament of Canada and Minister of National Defence portrayed himself to an admiring audience in India when he visited  New Delhi on April 18 and spoke before a group of security experts. Minister Sajjan obviously got carried away and let fly statements that he deliberately embroidered to portray himself in a heroic light to impress his audience. That he is Minister of Defence in the Liberal Cabinet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau obviously didn't burnish his credentials sufficiently.

His statement of ownership of the military plans designed to meet Taliban in combat and defeat them in the process went beyond inflated; obviously the boasting of a needful ego to elevate the esteem showered on him by proud Indians in the country of his heritage; a Sikh from India, running for parliament in Canada, and subsequently in brief order being named to the cabinet as Minister of Defence. Minister Sajjan, in fact, had a professional role as a Vancouver policeman. And he was a member of Canada's military reserves, called to duty in Afghanistan as an intelligence officer.

A post in which he distinguished himself, and was well liked and respected by enlisted men and officers alike. All of whom now have an opinion of this man at variance with their original; a situation that he has himself skewed and certainly not in his favour, since many are now calling for his resignation. "Making a statement like that (of being solely responsible as the architect of the battle plans of Operation Medusa in the summer and fall of 2006) is completely contrary to our military ethos", explained the former soldier who had initially characterized Minister Sajjan's remarks in New Delhi as "a bald-faced lie".

It is the retired military officers who have spoken loudly in disappointed condemnation of the govenrment's Minister of Defence, still preferring not to have their names released in public since they remain involved in a number of military projects. Yet Afghanistan veterans who had fought during Op Medusa claim to be completely astonished that this man who had been held in great esteem would now claim to have been the fulcrum that supported and designed that combat mission. Characterizing his statements in India as being "really quite outrageous".

He never had been involved in the command's decision-making process, according to the former officers now criticizing the Minister. He was a major in a liaison capacity with Task Force Kandahar. Then-brigadier-general David Fraser, Canada's task force commander, the International Security and Assistance (ISAF) commander for Regional Command South, along with his planning staff and his battalion commanders in Panjwaii were those who represented the battle architects of Op Medusa. That particular battle was the first and only occasion when Taliban forces faced off in their thousands for a battle against ISAF forces.

Minister Sajjan might be forgiven for his lapse in integrity and truthfulness. Cabinet ministers usually take their signals from the Prime Minister. And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is inordinately fond of burnishing himself in whatever way he can, to portray himself as extraordinary and entitled and entirely admirable, a selfie-taking, applause-seeking narcissist out to impress at any cost. No one has yet suggested that Justin Trudeau step away from office in reflection of his unremitting self-promotion, but calls certainly have gone forward for Harjit Sajjan to do so.

After all, if the Minister of Defence chose to soil his reputation in such a tawdry fashion, how can he expect to retain the loyalty of the military his political position places him in the position to represent?

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Baha'i Persecuted in the Islamic Republic of Iran

"One reason clerics in Iran have targeted the group with such zeal is the fact devout Muslims see the Baha’i faith as heresy and an insult to the teachings of Islam. The religion started in 1844 in the southern city of Shiraz when a man named Bab announced the coming of a messenger of God. In 1863, one of Bab’s followers named Baha’ullah declared himself to be the messenger and began preaching a message of unity among faiths. His followers were attacked and he spent years in exile, dying in the city of Acre, in what was then Palestine, in 1892."
"The Islamic Republic’s 34-year rule has hurt many religious and political groups in Iran, but one community has borne an especially heavy burden: the Baha’is, a religious minority viewed as heretics by some Muslims."
"Dozens of Baha’is were killed or jailed in the years immediately following the Islamic revolution in 1979. Billions of dollars worth of land, houses, shops and other Baha’i belongings were seized in subsequent years by various Iranian organizations, including Setad, the organization overseen by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei."
Reuters Staff
(Multiple pictures of Baha’i religious leaders arrested in Iran are seen during a protest at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro June 19, 2011. Picture taken June 19, 2011. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes)

The Baha'i assemble seven of their faithful as leading members of their religious community; they are called the Yaran, the "Friends" and represent the needs of Baha'is in Iran, for in their tradition there is no clergy and the Friends serve as a kind  of administrative group to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Iran. All seven of the current Friends are languishing in Iranian prisons. Previous groups were "disappeared" during the 1979 Iranian revolution under the Khomeinist regime. And in 1981 the last eight members of the Spiritual Assembly were executed by firing squad.

The current seven Friends were charged and tried singly for espionage, insulting religious sanctity, collaboration with Israel, propaganda against the regime and "spreading corruption on Earth". Convicted, they were sentenced to twenty years in prison, and have now been incarcerated for ten years. Baha'i originated out of a schism with Shia Islam and unlike Islam the Baha'i religion places its emphasis on human unity, equality between men and women, the alleviation of poverty, and respect for science.

They preach world peace, and unlike most other religions, including Islam that do likewise, world peace is their actual goal which they work assiduously toward achieving. As for religious devotion, it is meditation, teaching and good works that spur them to honour their religious dedication. An estimated six million faithful live around the world, half of whom live in India. Canada has 35,000 Baha'i faithful. Although Baha'i faithful originally came from Iran, an estimated 300,000 are left there and remain persecuted and despised.

Baha'i are considered under Iranian law to be "unclean". They are not permitted to work in specific employment categories and nor are they within the Islamic Republic of Iran legally persons; there their legal protections have been severely attenuated. Government services are withheld from them, marriages in the Baha'i religion are unrecognized in law, and their progeny are considered to be illegitimate. They may not enrol in post-secondary education. In short, these beleaguered people of peace live with unrelenting fear.

They are arrested and placed in jail for being Baha'i. Baha'i owned businesses such as toy stores, optometrist offices auto-body repair shops, stationery stores, etc., were shut down after it was noted by authorities that they were not open for business on Baha'i holy days. When Baha'i are picked up by police, their families are given no notice of their whereabouts, and tend to know nothing of their fate. Baha'i men are sentenced to prison for the crime of "acting against national security" through teaching the Baha'i faith.

The "moderate" president Hassan Rouhani's administration has overseen a worsening situation for Iranian Baha'i, along with Iranian journalists, gays, reformists and dissidents. The Baha'i World Centre is located in Haifa, Israel. There the faithful live in peace and serenity and security. They find haven in Israel, their centre located there where their holy figures lived and died. Perhaps because of the presence of the centre in Israel, Iranian authorities accuse them of collaboration with Israel.

Pictured to the right is the Seat of the Universal House of Justice and on the left is the International Teaching Centre building. Both are located on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, Israel. (Photo: Iain Simmons via Flickr)
Pictured to the right is the Seat of the Universal House of Justice and on the left is the International 
Teaching Centre building. Both are located on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, Israel. (Photo: Iain Simmons via Flickr) 

"The Baha’i Faith is entirely non-political and we neither take sides in the present tragic dispute going on over the future of the Holy Land and its peoples nor have we any statement to make or advice to give as to what the nature of the political future of this country should be."
"Our aim is the establishment of universal peace in this world and our desire to see justice prevail in every domain of human society, including the domain of politics."
"As many of the adherents of our Faith are of Jewish and Moslem extraction we have no prejudice towards either of these groups and are most anxious to reconcile them for their mutual benefit and for the good of the country."
 Shoghi Effendi, head of the Faith from 1921-1957

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Holding Out Hope for a Syria Accounting

"This is not some abstract human rights issue. This lies at the core of this conflict and of any possible solution or reconciliation. Hundreds of thousands of victims and their families need justice, remedy and assurance that the future will be free from such violations."
Laila Alodaat, lawyer, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

"Countries don't need this evidence -- they already know what's happening."
"There is no justice. And because there is no justice, there is no hope."
Abu Ali al-Hamwi, Syrian detained and tortured by the Syrian regime

"The problem as I see it is not so much what mechanism one can use to bring accountability, but how you actually get your hands on the people you want to prosecute."
Kevin Jon Heller, law professor, SOAS, University of London
Report title page
Syrian Accountability Project
Evidence abounds, of the human rights violations perpetrated by President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite-led regime in Syria. The level of sustained cruelty this regime has engaged in has few parallels in today's world, of a government committing to persecute, torture and slaughter its population representing a majority sectarian religion ruled by a minority sect fearful of losing its grip on power, using all the tools in its advanced military arsenal against rebel groups unequally armed to defend themselves, marks this conflict as a modern-day aberration.

Yet tribal and religious conflicts between national groups competing for influence and power are not that unusual; what sets this one apart is the level of barbaric viciousness displayed by a government against its people. This is a situation that the United Nations recognizes as threatening a segment of humanity at any given time, and which it took steps to guard against by committing itself to intervention through an obligatory protocol called 'Responsibility to Protect' (R2P). A theoretical invention which was incapable of venturing beyond theory.

Mostly because of the need for the UN Security Council comprised of permanent members, Britain, France, United States, China and Russia to full agreement in the imposition of sanctions and action to be taken to interrupt the slaughter. Russia, sometimes alongside China, casts the dissenting vote. Although figures range between 400,000 to 600,000 deaths so far in the Syrian Civil war displacing half of its 23-million population the carnage continues unabated with the regime using treaty-forbidden methods of mass murder.

In the six years the war has raged, no path to peace has yet presented itself. Syrian human rights groups claim over 200,000 people are missing, while tens of thousands remain in government custody where prisons are geared to torture and kill opponents of the regime. Others who are eventually released speak of torture, fear, hunger, deprivation, health declines, filth, disease and overcrowded conditions where humanity is totally absent.
Destruction at a hospital room in Khan Sheikhoun. April 4, 2017
Getty Images : Witnesses said clinics treating the wounded were subject to air strikes
As for evidence: an estimated three tons of Syrian government documents sketching out a gruesome catalogue of of war crimes committed by the state are being held in Europe, provided by a Syrian police photographer who had photographic evidence of 6,000 dead Syrians, tortured and slaughtered by the state; documentation which he had fled Syria with, with a view to sharing them with the world, hoping to see justice done.

Instant communication through the use of smartphones and the Internet have provided more than sufficient evidence from direct, on-site accounts by survivors of the perpetrators of state barbarism. Yet only one war crimes case against Syrian officials filed in Spain exists and no prospective cases have been sent on to the International Criminal Court, since Syria was never a signatory. And while the United Nations Security Council has the capacity to refer a case to the court, Russia's veto power ensures it will not.
A Syrian victim receives treatment after an alleged chemical attack at a field hospital in Idlib province, 4 April 2017
Russia clashes with other world powers over chemical gas deaths in Syria : BBC

The Syrian government and Bashar al-Assad are adamant that the conflict has resulted from an international conspiracy to destroy his country; all opposition represents a coalition with foreign-backed terrorism, and nor had his regime committed atrocities. In March of 2011 a dozen boys wrote on the wall of their village school "It's your turn, Doctor"; that Assad would represent the next Arab leader to fall in the Arab Spring. The boys were speedily arrested, imprisoned, tortured and signed 'confessions'.

Arrests, torture, killings began in earnest thereafter, as did aerial bombardments and chemical attacks.

A United Nations Commission of Enquiry, along with human rights groups, described the regime's assault against its civilian populations as representing an industrial scale massacre. In one prison facility alone, thousands of prisoners have been executed, according to Amnesty International studying Saydnaya prison close to Damascus. People disappear and are never again seen. People have no hope left.

Still, activists, lawyers and others within Syria document atrocities taking place there, in the hope that one day justice will be seen. Among them are experienced war-crimes prosecutors building cases against the president and his government officials. The non-profit group Commission for International Justice and Accountability has been acquiring captured government documents, with over 750,000 government documents holding hundreds of thousands of names of regime enablers.

The look of this father carrying his two children after the chemical attack in Syria encompasses all of the injustice of this world ... Kareem Shaheen/Twitter

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Nameless Ciphers in Genocide

Hungarian Jews arrive in Auschwitz, 1944
Yad Vashem, Israel
"These people [Holocaust survivors] are dying out. We won't be able to access the information they have in their minds."
"Members of the family [of those who were murdered] don't remember the names of small children. Cousins who lived 60 kilometres away never knew those newborns [whose young lives were obliterated]."
"[Children or grandchildren call Yad Vashem to ask] 'Maybe you can talk to my grandfather and convince them [to recall]'."                                                       "The difficulty is compounded by the fact that sources can be in 30-40 different languages, most are handwritten and can be in different scripts, such as Latin, Hebrew and Cyrillic. Our staff not only need to be linguists but they need to know calligraphy,"
Alexander Avram, director, Yad Vashem, Hall of Names
A visitor pauses under photographs of Jewish victims of the Nazis in the Hall of Names at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial  in 2005.
David Silverman / Getty Images   A visitor pauses under photographs of Jewish victims of the Nazis in the Hall of Names at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in 2005.
"I thought I should leave this evidence behind. For me they are not just names, there are faces behind these names."
"It's all etched into your memory: their faces, they will always be there."
Vera Schiff, author, Holocaust survivor, Toronto
The World Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Jerusalem's staff has managed through patient effort to identify most of the six million victims of the Holocaust; their names, ages, genders, where they lived, who their relatives were who died alongside them. Anything relevant about each of these victims of genocide that would help to put a human face, a life, an existence to a dead memory. To ensure that their presence is not lost in a dead zone of forgetfulness. They lived, and their lives should be documented as much as can be possible.

The researchers in Jerusalem have an estimated 1.3-million dead whose backgrounds, whose family names have yet to be revealed, for lack of testimony that would identify them and bring them back to life through recognizing their identities. They hope yet to be able to persuade reluctant survivors to document whatever little they may know of extended family members to enable the researchers to make that vital identification of individuals. Understandably, Holocaust survivors would prefer not to remember the horrors that marked those traumatizing years of suffering and death.

The Center has so far recorded 4.7-million names of Jews whose lives were extinguished in the Final Solution of Nazi Germany's death camps. That gigantic task was initiated in 1950 and has been carried on ever since, but is still far from completion. And it will not be completed until every last Jew who was murdered by order of the Third Reich is documented properly. Archives containing victims' names through a collection of over 2.5 million "pages of testimony", single-page forms containing whatever is available of the personal details identifying a person represents the last-stage resource.

Each was completed by a survivor of the Holocaust, by a descendant of the dead, or by a friend whose memory of the dead has been invaluable in the documentation process. Where the person was born, lived, married, how they made their livelihood. Holocaust survivors are declining steadily in numbers after the passage of so much time. And those who are left may or may not wish to divulge what they are reluctant to recall of painful times and memories that torment them still.

The issue of child victims who died while other family members managed to survive is another complicating factor. There were one-and-a-half million Jewish children alone murdered during the Holocaust, and of that number an estimated half have been named. "It's one of the saddest things, we have reports where parents are named with say three or four children, unnamed. They were little children and people just don't remember", says Dr Avram

"Filling out this page of information saying this was my father, mother, grandfather, nephews and nieces - you cannot bury your relatives who perished but you can remember them in a way that will commemorate them forever, so this is very important and also therapeutic for many survivors", explained Dr. Martin Auerback, at Amcha, a support service for Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem.

Beyond the death camps that gassed Jews to death with Zyklon B, then moved their bodies into giant crematoria where dense black clouds of smoke covered the skies and rained down particles on the land below, the stench of burning flesh and bones making no secret to nearby residents in various Nazi-occupied countries of Europe of what was occurring, there were other methods employed by the Third Reich to rid Europe of its Jews.

Mobile killing squads called Einsatzgruppen shot an estimated 1.5-million Jews to death after the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. And in Ukraine, at Babi Yar, 33,000 Jews from the capital Kiev alone were shot to death and toppled into a ravine in 1941, half of whom are awaiting identification. Yet other Jews died from starvation, disease, or slave-labour-related exhaustion in ghettos and in labour camps, or killed in the extermination camps with which the work camps were twinned.

They were seen by their killers, and treated as sub-human ciphers to each of whom a number was assigned as their identification, the infamous branding of human beings as a means of keeping records. Naming them, elaborating as much as possible on their identities with details of their existence can be viewed as a gesture to restore a modicum of dignity to them in their appalling deaths, a restoration of sorts denied them by their murderers.

Bar chart of number of identified victims

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Monday, April 24, 2017

I Am A Jew

"Not all Jews practise Judaism. Traditionally, anyone whose mother is Jewish has been identified as Jewish, but that condition is not necessary for Jewish identity, either. Presently, many Jews are citizens of the modern state of Israel, but a majority of the world's Jews do not fit that description. Who is a Jew? It's a complex question."
The Holocaust Chronicle; A History in Words and Pictures

Who is a Jew? Me. I am a secular Jew. The history, the heritage, not particularly the culture, but most certainly an indefinable sense of being, view of the world, feeling for humanity, knowledge of right and of wrong, all elements that I acknowledge to be Jewish in origin and in being, are mine. To greater or lesser degree I share all this and more -- and less as well -- with millions of other human beings around the globe.

Had I been born elsewhere than in North America I might not have lived to see eighty years of age, which I now am. Had my parents not left Russia and Poland they would have perished as the extended members of their family had, and I would have been born, in 1936, in Poland or in Russia. My fate would have been sealed.

Instead, I can recall as a child whose family's poverty denied me childhood toys yet somehow managed to find me books, being aware of something monumental and evil happening, something that gripped my parents' perceptions, something that was mentioned often in hushed discussions with friends, but not neighbours. I can recall reading bleak, black accounts, of a type much too dismal and frightening to be shared with a child. I can remember navigating my own search for reading material unsupervised by my parents, at a time when a heightened awareness existed which no one in my hearing gave a name to.

I remember the shocking mumblings of my parents, after the war had ended and the "Greenies" began to enter Canada where we lived and a special, quiet regard of sensitive horror, of gratitude and of empathy was borne in the presence of survivors, that not only did refugees enter Canada, but those who walked the streets of Toronto whom the survivors recognized from another place where humanity was totally absent. That is what I remember.

What I have no need to remember is the stark awareness that has stalked my life, that the lives of Jews and their ill fortune was a curiosity to those not Jewish; sometimes an irritation, sometimes an embarrassment, something to be avoided in polite company. The knowledge of that desolation, of that muffling death through suffocation when a pesticide became the extermination tool of a deaths head regime that gloried in solving the problem of a worldwide pestilence with a solution no one else had yet devised because it had awaited the precise time and bureaucratic finesse of an ideology so well fitted to the task.
"Jews trace their origins to the biblical patriarch Abraham, who lived almost four thousand years ago. Judaism, a distinctively monotheistic religion is rooted in the exodus of the ancient Hebrew people from Egyptian slavery and in experiences they shared under Moses' leadership at Mount Sinai. The early Jews' ritual laws and ethical rules distinguished them from other groups."
"Eventually occupying the Mediterranean coastal land of Canaan, the Jews established the kingdom of Israel. Unable to sustain the unity and autonomy it enjoyed from about 1000 to 922 B.C.E., the kingdom was split by internal divisions, besieged, and occupied by a variety of conquerors. In 70 C.E., the Romans ruthlessly put down a sustained Jewish rebellion. Most of the surviving Jews were dispersed to various parts of the Roman Empire. Exiled Jews have lived in European lands for more than 2000 years."
"Whether their outlooks are secular or religious, their homes in Israel, Europe, the United States, or anywhere else in the world, Jews are not a race but a people unified by memory and history, culture, tradition and religious observances that are widely, if not identically, shared."

1934: "Twenty-Five Points of the German Religion" are issued in Germany by Professor Ernst Bergmann. It holds that Christ was not a Jew but a Nordic warrior put to death by Jews, and whose death spared the world from Jewish domination; Adolf Hitler is the new messiah sent to Earth to save the world from Jews. Heinrich Himmler is given responsibility for police in Prussia, making him the chief of police forces throughout the Reich. The Institut fur Erbbiologie und Rassenforschung (Institute of Hereditary Biology and Race Research) is founded at the University of Frankfort am Main by Dr. Otmar Freiherr von Versechuer to study racial and hereditary issues."

The Holocaust Chronicle; A History in Words and Pictures

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Turkish Armenian Genocide

"Until recently, the smoking gun was missing. This is the smoking gun; an earthquake in our field [historical genocide. The discovery of which should remove] the last brick in the denialist wall."
"My firm belief as a Turk is that democracy and human rights in Turkey can only be established by facing history and acknowledging historic wrong-doings."
"The past is not the past in the Middle East. This is the biggest obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East."
Taner Akcam, Turkish historian, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts
Picture of the crumbling Surp (Saint) Garabed Church in Çüngüş, eastern Turkey
The archways of the crumbling Surp (Saint) Garabed Church in Çüngüş, eastern Turkey, hint at the former heights of Armenian culture here. Many old churches have fallen to ruins or been converted into mosques in the former Armenian heartland. But grassroots attempts at reconciliation, often led by Turkey’s minority Kurds, have also helped rebuild one of the largest Armenian churches in the Middle East, in the city of Diyarbakır.

As a prelude to the Armenian genocide, hundreds of thousands of Armenian men, women and children were murdered between the two years of 1893 to 1896 by the military of the Ottoman Empire tasked by their leaders to rid the world of Armenians who would not accept Turkish demands that they must integrate themselves completely into all aspects of Turkish life and identity, surrendering their entire heritage; geography, language, religion, social customs and aspirations for an independent Armenia.

There is a startling resemblance between the Turkish-Armenian polarization of over a century earlier to that which now faces Kurds living in Turkey whom the government of Turkey has for generations insisted they surrender their identity, culture, heritage, geography, language to that of Turkey. The current Islamist government of Turkey following in the tradition of an earlier era arrests, charges and imprisons political Kurds as enemies of Turkey, while attacking and killing militant Kurds who return deadly fire. And in the tradition of the Ottoman war on civilian Armenians, the Turkish military targets civilian Kurds.

When Turkey committed in the First World War alongside Germany it was with a declaration that they were engaged in jihad against the infidel and mass arrests of the Armenian intelligentsia and professionals took place with many being hanged. Systematic death marches were carried out killing Armenian men, woman and children, marched into the Syrian desert to die of exhaustion and starvation and disease. An estimated one and a half million Armenians died during these death marches or were executed en route.

Turkish historian Taner Akcam published The Young Turks' Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire, in 2012. Accessing Turkish archives he was able to prove the deliberate, planned, coordinated genocide of the Armenian people for which the government and military of Turkey were responsible. Over the decades since, Turkey has always denied anything remotely resembling a deliberate genocide took place, insisting that during the war years, unfortunate deaths on a wide scale, simply occurred.

Turkey may have joined Germany in its conflict against Allied nations, but Turkey's exploit in slaughtering a million and a half of Europe's Armenians, killing children, raping women, executing their men, and generally leading them toward certain, excruciating death by whatever means were possible, most certainly must have impressed Adolf Hitler who had his own extermination plans for the near future in the elimination of European Jewry. Building on Turkey's exploit, Germany ambidextrously waged a massive war effort and launched an equally massive genocide.
Armenian orphans evacuating from Turkey, 1922
A group of Armenian orphans evacuating from Turkey, 1922 - See more at: http://www.genocide-museum.am/eng/online_exhibition_18.php#sthash.LMWEOylL.dpuf

Historian Akcam has studied the Armenian genocide for decades, patiently putting together a damning jigsaw of documents sourced from around the world to prove state complicity in the killings. An original telegram that came out of an archive held by the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem from the post WWI trials came into his possession recently. Which elaborated on a Ottoman Empire official in the Turkish city of Erzurum sending a telegram in secret code to a colleague.

Details were asked relating to the deportation and slaughter of Armenians in eastern Anatolia. Eventually a copy of the telegram, deciphered, helped in the conviction of the official, Behaeddin Shakir, who was involved in planning what historians have acknowledged and Turkey continues to deny, as the well organized extermination of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Empire leaders, representing the first 20th Century genocide.

Mr. Akcam, diligent scholar and historian that he is, argues that attribution for a great deal of the chaotic misery roiling the Middle East of today resulted from distrust between the various communities relating to historical wrongs no one is interested in admitting to, much less to confront, discuss and understand. Which is certainly a refreshing change from the usual claims made by self-interested Middle East entities who trot out continually the accusation that the existence of Israel is to blame for all that goes awry in the Middle East.

"He has piled clue upon clue upon clue", stated Eric D. Weitz, history professor at City College of New York. Naming Mr. Akcam as "the Sherlock Holmes of Armenian Genocide". Turkey will never, certainly never under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accede to an admission of responsibility. Genocide is not a word nor a concept that Turkey is prepared to admit to; for as they insist, the chaos of a world war produced the Armenian deaths, and the Turks suffered difficulties, as well.
Near East Relief Society Armenian Orphans
Children taken in by Near East Relief
Collection of Near East Relief Society
Maria Jacobsen, DIARY 1907-1919, KHARPUT, TURKEY
Tessa Hofmann & Gerayer Koutcharian
Armenian Review, Spring/Summer, 1992, Vol. 45, No. 1-2/177-178, p. 119, Fig. 56
- See more at: http://www.genocide-museum.am/eng/online_exhibition_3.php#sthash.aYj0TVVa.dpuf

The Armenians were traitors, as Turkey would have it, planning to fight Turkey in concert with Russia. This is a version that Turkish culture values, long a standard explanation published in Turkish school curricula, supported by a vast majority of the Turkish population. "My approach is that as much proof as you put in front of denialists, denialists will remain denialists", stated historian Bedross Der Matossian, at the University of Nebraska, author of Shattered Dreams of Revolution: From Liberty to Violence in the Late Ottoman Empire.

Picture of villagers picnicking at the border town of Bagaran, Armenia
Picnicking at night beneath apricot trees—and a giant cross shining defiantly into Turkey—villagers in the border town of Bagaran, Armenia, belt out songs of memory, cultural endurance, and survival. The bitter dispute between Armenia and Turkey dating back four generations has paralyzed economic, diplomatic, and political progress in the region. The ancient crossroads between Turkey’s eastern highlands and the Caucasus remains in the thrall of ghosts.

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