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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Kasab Taburu (Butcher Brigade) Part Two

       "In ways that were similar and anticipated the Nazi race-hygeine ideology of the 1930s, which depicted the Jew as a 'harmful bacillus' and 'bloodsucker' infecting the German nation from within (Hitler called the Jew 'a maggot in a rotting corpse' and 'a germ carrier of the worst sort'), pan-Turkist ideology envisioned the Armenian as an invasive infection in Muslim Turkish society.  One Turkish physician, Mehmed Reshid, a staunch party member who was appointed governor of Diyarbekir in 1915--and would be responsible for the deaths and deportations of hundreds of thousands of Armenians--likened the Armenians to 'dangerous microbes,' asking rhetorically, 'Isn't it the duty of a doctor to destroy these microbes?'  Known as the 'executioner governor,' Dr. Mehmed Reshid tortured Armenians by nailing horseshoes to their feet and marching them through the streets, and by crucifying them on makeshift crosses.  After the Genocide Reshid confessed 'My Turkishness prevailed over my medical calling.'  Other physicians, like Dr. Behaeddin Shakir and Dr. Mehmed Nazim, both CUP leaders, also believed that Armenians were gavurs who had become 'tubercular microbes' infecting the state.
        {Ziya} Gokalp's pan-Turkism was bound up in grandiose romantic nationalism and a 'mystical vision of blood and race,' and was influenced by the German nationalism of Herder and Wagner, who were also key influences on Nazi Aryan ideology.  Gokalp believed that for Turkey to revitalize itself, it had to reclaim a golden age, which he defined as a pre-Islamic era of Turkic warriors such as Genghis Khan and Tamerlane.  It is ironic that Hitler also extolled Genghis Khan in his speech about the future of German world domination and his immediate plan to invade Poland.  Speaking to his elite generals eight days before invading Poland in 1939, Hitler praised the virtues of power and brutality, referring to how easy it had been to dispense of defenseless people like the Armenians.  'Genghis Khan led millions of women and children to slaughter--with premeditation and a happy heart.  History sees him solely as the founder of a state.  It's a matter of indifference to me what a weak western European civilization will say about me.'  And then the fuhrer asked rhetorically:  'Who today, after all, speaks of the annhilation of the Armenians?'
        For Turkey to be strong again, Gokalp believed, it had to emulate this great military past, and it had to be a pure, homogenous nation.  A nation, Gokalp wrote, must be 'a society consisting of people who speak the same language, have had the same education and are united in their religious and aesthetic ideals--in short those who have a common culture and religion.'
       Gokalp declared with passion that nationalism was the new religion in the twentieth century, and that loyalty to the nation must be, for the healthy state, unqualified and total.  'I am a soldier, it [the nation] is my commander/I obey without question all its orders.  With closed eyes/I carry out my duty,' his doggerel went.  Like Mehmet Reshid, he espoused the idea that non-Turks were invasive germs that threatened the health of the state.  'Greeks, Armenians, and Jews' were 'a foreign body in the national Turkish state.'  Believing the Armenians and Greeks to be parasites, Gokalp and the other pan-Turkists strove to rid their society of this Christian bourgeois element.  Gokalp's theory of national economy advocated a homogenous Turkish bourgeoisie, and during the Balkan Wars, a Turkish boycott of Greek and Armenian businesses was a major manifestation of the new xenophobia.  As Tekinalp put it, 'The rigorous boycott' created 'a feeling of brotherhood. . . in the hearts of people all over the empire.'   It was only a beginning, for as U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau put it, the boycott with its attack on Christians, especially the Greeks in this case, foreshadowed what would happen to the Armenians later.  Turkish rage at the gavur bourgeosie would explode in more extreme ways when the wholesale theft and pillaging of Armenian wealth became institutionalized during the Genocide.
        The Young Turk leaders, especially Enver Pasha, went beyond pan-Turkism and became obsessed with the idea of pan-Turanism, an ideology based on the hope of reclaiming the Caucasus and central Asia--an idea laced with some of the occultlike fantasy characterized by the Nazi belief about ruling the world for a thousand years.  For Enver it fueled his desire to wipe out the Armenians, whom he saw as an obstacle to Turkish expansion into the Russian Caucasus and then into central Asia, and it dictated some of his military strategy.  The pan-Turanist part of Gokalp's ideology made a special appeal to Turkish fantasies.  It was predicated on an irridentist idea that the Ottoman Empire could revive itself by achieving some sort of union among 'all peoples of proven or alleged Turkic origins,' both inside and outside the Ottoman Empire.'
       The idea encapsulated a dream of creating an empire among the Turkic peoples from Albania through Anatolia, into the Caucuses and then into central and east-central Asia.  As the Turks drove east, Gokalp believed, they would find the mythical origin of their culture,' a Shangri-La-like area in the steppes of Central Asia.'  By 1910, as the idea of Turkification became increasingly popular, the CUP decided to make the Turkish language compulsory in all schools throughout the empire, and it reiterated this at annual meetings in the ensuing years leading up to World War I.
       By 1914, as Turkey positioned itself to join Germany in the war, the Young Turk leadership was embracing various elements of pan-Turkism, pan-Turanism, and Turkification.  Obsessed with their mortal enemy, Russia, and angry about Russian rule of the Turkic peoples of central Asia, the Young Turks used pan-Turkic goals as a rationale for entering the war.  Throughout the press from Tasvir-i Efkar and Sabah to government organs such as Tanin, and opposition papers like Ikdam and Zaman, pan-Turkist propaganda was very much part of the zeitgeist.

       Turkey's new alliance with Germany and partnership in World War I accelerated the empire's militarization program.  By March 1914 the Germans had become an entrenched presence in the empire and in the Ottoman military.  High-ranking German officers now found themselves holding commanding positions in the Ottoman army and navy.  Gen.  Liman von Sanders had arrived in Constantinople in December 1913 and was to become commander of the First Ottoman Army Corps, and also inspector-general of the Ottoman army, while Maj. Gen. Fritz Bronssart von der Goltz, Maj. Gen. Freidrich Kress von Kressenstein, Gen. Eric von Falkenhayn, Maj. Gen. Hans von Seekt all assumed positions of power in the Ottoman army.  The German rear admiral Wilhelm Souchon became commander of the Ottoman navy, as did his successor Vice-Adm. Hubert von Rebeur-Paschwitz.
       To the new American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau, the aggressive presence of the German army in Turkey seemed nothing less than evidence of the kaiser's plan 'to annex the Turkish army to his own.'  It was certainly no coincidence that Enver Pasha had been trained in Berlin, where he was military attache in 1909.  He worshipped German kultur, and in Morgenthau's view, was little more than ' a cog in the Prussian system.'  With the new German leadership, Morgenthau found himself witnessing changes in the Ottoman army.  'What. . . had been an undisciplined, ragged rabble was now parading with the goose step, the men were clad in German field gray, and they even wore a casque-shaped head covering, which slightly suggested the German Pickelhaube [spiked helmet].'  Of this the 'German officers were immensely proud,' for they felt they had transformed 'the wretched Turkish soldiers of January into these neatly dressed, smartly stepping, splendidly maneuvering troops.'
       By the summer of 1914, Morgenthau described the German officers as 'rushing through the streets every day in huge automobiles,' and filling 'all the restaurants and amusement places at night, consuming large quantities of champagne.'  In particular, General von der Goltz, who had accrued the title of pasha, drove through the streets in a flashy car 'on both sides of which flaring German eagles were painted,' and a 'trumpeter on the front seat' announced them as they barreled down the boulevards.
       Although the Ottoman Empire signed a secret treaty with Germany on August 2, 1914, many high-ranking Turks were still pro-British, including Yussuf Izzedin, the heir apparant to the sultanate, and Grand Vizier Said Halim.  Jemal Pasha was a Francophile, the majority of the cabinet were not pro-German, and public opinion was more pro-English than pro-German.  But Enver and Talaat had succeeded in engineering the German ascendancy, and this struck Morgenthau as ironic because England, not Germany, had been 'Turkey's historic friend.'
       By the summer of 1914, an aggressive German public relations campaign had coopted the Turkish press and fueled the new Turkish-German alliance.  German ambassador Hans von Wangenheim purchased the Ikdam, one of Turkey's largest newspapers, and began vigorously promoting Germany at the expense of France and Great Britain.  The Osmanischer Lloyd, one of Turkey's largest newspapers, and became an organ of the German embassy, and a new wave of censorship followed, in which the Turkish press was ordered to publish only pro-German sentiment.  Russia was portrayed as Turkey's chief enemy, responsible for Turkey's recent losses, and Germany as its ally.  As Morgenthau put it:  'The Kaiser suddenly became 'Hadji Wilhelm.''
       Trainloads of Germans from Berlin--some 3,800 of them--began landing in Constantinople.  Most of them were mechanics sent by the kaiser to work in ammunition plants and to repair Turkish destroyers for war.  Like the military officers, this new crew of Germans also filled the cafes at night and paraded through the streets 'in the small hours of the morning, howling and singing German patriotic songs.'  It was a movement in which the gradual erosion of British dominance seemed to have given way fully to German hegemony in Turkey.  To the close-up diplomatic eye of the American ambassador, it seemed that the British had not played the game properly.  British ambassador Sir Louis Mallet 'had not purchased Turkish officials with money, as had Wagenheim;  he had not corrupted the Turkish press, trampled on every remaining vestige of international law, fraternized with a gang of political desperadoes, and conducted a ceaseless campaign of misrepresentations and lies against his enemy.'  The Burning Tigris by Peter Balakian pgs. 164-166, 167-169.

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