Radical Islam is escalating a campaign of murder, beheadings, kidnappings, torture, the burning of churches and the targeting of Christians for extermination. In his recent speech at a prayer breakfast, U.S. President Barack Obama told those who would criticize such actions to get off their high horse because of the crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and Jim Crow in the United States. Dennis Prager called this “moral idiocy,” and more of the same is now appearing.
Consider “Flowers to remember: Honoring Japanese Americans and Armenians,” by David Mas Masumoto in the February 15 Sacramento Bee subtitled “Never to forget atrocities against Japanese and Armenians.” Masumoto is a UC Berkeley grad, peach farmer, author of Wisdom of the Last Farmer, and a nominee for the James Beard Award for Writing and Literature. He draws a parallel between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese Americans, launched by Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, and the Turkish effort to exterminate the Armenians in 1915, during the First World War.
“During World War II, Japanese Americans had been rounded up, forced to evacuate their homes and were interned in relocation camps,” writes Masumoto. “My family spent years behind barbed wire because they looked like the enemy.” Growing up in California’s central valley, Masumoto says he knew many Armenians. Consider his take on their experience.
“During the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the early 1900s, the Young Turk movement seized power and sided with Germany during World War I. Armenians were deemed the enemy because they had supposedly sided with Russia in that war. A campaign of mass executions and massacres unfolded for almost a decade.” So Masumoto links this campaign entirely to World War I and says nothing about the Turks’ Islamic motive for genocide.
As Peter Balakian noted in The Burning Tigris, the Turkish campaign against the Armenians began in the 1890s, long before World War I, and it continued because the Turks found they could kill, torture and displace the Armenians with impunity. The Young Turks, actually the Committee for Union and Progress (CUP), were Islamists who believed the Turks could only revive by getting rid of non-Muslim elements, the Christian Armenians most notable among them.
Under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, the Armenians had been marginalized, with no legal rights and no recourse in Islamic courts. The CUP perceived them as a kind of infection. CUP leaders Behaeddin Shakir and Mehmed Nazim, both medical doctors, called Armenians “tubercular microbes” infecting the state, and physician Mehmed Reshid likened them to “dangerous microbes.” So the Turks proceeded to disarm, loot, and exterminate them.
Masumoto explains that Turkish actions marked “the first genocide of the 20th century,” and that “1.5 million Armenians were murdered, in addition to the rape and beatings of countless others.” That is true but the UC Berkeley grad gives no clue of the extensive documentation of this reign of terror by prominent Americans.
“I do not believe the darkest ages ever presented scenes more horrible than those which now took place all over Turkey,” wrote U.S. ambassador Henry Morgenthau. U.S. consul Leslie Davis, a former attorney and journalist, wrote that “We could all hear them piously calling upon Allah to bless them in their efforts to kill the hated Christians.” Around Lake Goeljik, Davis wrote, “thousands and thousands of Armenians, mostly innocent and helpless women and children, were butchered on its shores and barbarously mutilated.”
That’s not much like the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The only people with an experience similar to the Armenians would be the Jews, whom Matsumoto neglects to mention. He might have noted Hitler’s comment, “who remembers the Armenians?” and the inspiration he drew from the Armenian genocide.
Matsumoto urges readers to “acknowledge history so that it may never be repeated” but he sees no sign that it is. The closest parallel to the 1915 Turkish extermination campaign is the current savagery of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, which Matsumoto also fails to mention.
The Berkeley grad seems to understand that the U.S. internment of Japanese Americans, launched on February 19, 1942, did not outlast World War II, has not been repeated, and has been fully acknowledged by the United States. As Mr. Masumoto notes, his own family received an official letter of apology from the U.S. government and President George H.W. Bush.
There is no parallel to that in the Islamic world, which still denies the Armenian genocide. To equate that Islamic extermination campaign with WWII internment is moral idiocy on a par with the president’s prayer breakfast speech.
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