|Thursday, 30 March 2023|
The King-Crane Commission Report, August 28, 1919
III-REPORT UPON NON-ARABIC SPEAKING PORTIONS OF FORMER OTTOMAN EMPIRE
III CONSIDERATION LOOKING TO A PROPER DIVISION OF THE TURKISH EMPIRE
But if a selfishly exploiting division of the Turkish Empire is not justified it may be asked: Why is it necessary to divide Asia Minor, at least, at all? For: such a division there are at least two, great reasons: First, the hideous misgovernment and massacres of the Turkish rule- and second, Turkey's utter inadequacy to the strategic world position in which she is placed.
I. In the first place. there cannot be left out of account the hideous mis-government of Turkey for centuries, even for citizens of the Turkish race.
(1) One may recognize fully the agreeable and attractive personal qualities of the Turks that commonly make them the best liked, probably, of all the peoples of the Empire, and that almost unconsciously turn most foreigners who stay long in the country into pro-Turks. One may recognize, too, that there has long been in the Turkish Government a kind of negative, indolent tolerance of other peoples, that allowed them much of the time to go on in their own ways, though constantly despised, robbed, oppressed. It may be granted, also, that the Turks have been successful in keeping, through long periods, widely scattered areas together and giving them a sort of unity, by the method of "divide and rule," of leaving regional governments pretty largely to themselves so long as the Turkish revenues were obtained, and of using other races very largely as officials. It is only fair, also, to remember the very considerable amount of demoralization caused by the perpetual intriguing of European powers in Turkish affairs.
(2) But while all this may be freely admitted, it must still be clearly seen that the Government of the Turkish Empire has been for the most part a wretched failure, in spite of generally good laws. For that Government has been characterized by incessant corruption, plunder and bribery. It might almost be called a government of simple exploitation. So that Ramsay, who judges the Turk leniently, feels obliged to say: "The Turk is not naturally a good officer or a good official.... Bribery is the universal rule." And he speaks of the deep-seated mingled hatred and fear on the part even of the Turkish peasantry for government officials. In fact it is hardly too much to say that Turkish history shows gross neglect of the most ordinary and essential duties of a government in the Empire as a whole.
(3) And the treatment of the other subject races has been still worse than that of the Turks. For them nothing has been secure-whether property, lives, wives, or children. To all this have been added the horrible massacres of the Armenians, especially since Ab-dul-Hamil's time, and somewhat similar deportations of the Greeks. Both races have proved themselves abler, more industrious, enterprising, and prosperous than the Turks, and so have made themselves feared and hated doubtless not altogether without some provocation on their part in certain cases. And these massacres have been due to deliberate and direct government action, in which the Turkish people themselves have been too willing to share. They have not been crimes of the passion of the moment. And they have involved cruelties horrible beyond description.
For it must not be forgotten that this thing was not done in a corner. The evidence for few events in history has been more carefully gathered, sifted and ordered. The Bryce report upon "The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915-16," leaves no room for doubt of the essential facts. It is idle to attempt to deny it, or appreciably to mitigate its force.
Lord Bryce, himself a trained historian, says of the report: "Nothing has been admitted the substantial truth of which seems open to reasonable doubt." And in estimating the value of the evidence, he calls attention to these Facts: (1) "Nearly all of it comes from eye witnesses", (2) "the main facts rest upon evidence coming from different and independent sources"; (3) "facts of the same, or of a very similar nature, occurring in different places, are deposed to by different and independent witnesses," -including Danish and German witnesses; (4) "the volume of this concurrent evidence from different quarters is so large as to establish the main facts beyond all question"; (5) "in particular it is to be noted that many of the most, shocking and horrible accounts are those for which there is the most abundant testimony from the most trustworthy neutral witnesses. None of these cruelties rest on native evidence alone." And, he adds: "A recollection of previous massacres will show that such crimes are a part of a long settled and often repeated policy of Turkish rulers.... The attempts made to find excuses for wholesale slaughter and for the removal of a whole people from its homes leaves no room for doubt as to the slaughter and the removal. The main facts are established by the confession of the criminals themselves.... The disapproval of palliations which the Turks have put forward is as complete as the proof for the atrocities themselves."
Mr. Moorfield Storey, ex-president of the American Bar Association, records the natural verdict of one skilled in the weighing of evidence, when he writes to Lord Bryce: "In my opinion, the evidence which you print is as reliable as that upon which rests our belief in many of the universally admitted facts of history, and I thins it establishes beyond all reasonable doubt the deliberate purpose of the Turkish authorities practically to exterminate the Armenians, and their responsibility for the hideous atrocities which have been perpetrated upon that unhappy people."
It is not pleasant to call these dark facts to mind, but unfortunately there is only the slightest evidence that the Turkish Government of people as a whole have recognized or repudiated the crime of the Armenian massacres, or done anything appreciable to set them right. Some small groups of Turks have characterized these crimes aright, but there is almost nothing to show repentance or the fruits of repentance on the part of the great majority of the people or of their leaders, or to give reasonable hope that the massacres might not be repeated; though there is doubtless some excuse for the comparative indifference with which these massacres have been regarded by the Turks, because of a certain amount of revolutionary activity on the part of Armenians in some cases, and because of the widespread wretchedness and want and sufferings of the whole Turkish population in ten years of war and disorder.
Now these crimes-black as anything in human history-cannot be simply forgotten and left out of account in seeking a righteous solution of the Turkish problem. If the rankest conceivable wrongs are not to be passed over in silence, it is inevitable that any just solution of the Turkish problem must contain that small measure of justice which it is now possible to render in this case.
It is strange that Lord Bryce in reviewing all the evidence concerning the Armenian massacres of 1915-16 should feel compelled to say: "The record of the rulers of Turkey for the last two of three centuries, from the Sultan on his throne to the district Mutessarif, is, taken as a whole, an almost unbroken record of corruption, of justice, of an oppression which often rises into hideous cruelty.... Can anyone still continue to hope that the evils of such a government are curable? Or does the evidence contained in this volume furnish most terrible and convincing proof that it cannot longer be permitted to rule over subjects of a different faith?"
Is it strange that he should be unable to shake off the conviction that these facts are inevitably knit up with a proper solution of the problem of Turkey? "It is evidently desirable," he writes, "that the public opinion of the belligerent nations-and, I may add, of neutral peoples also should be enabled by knowledge of what has happened in Asia Minor and Armenia, to exercise its judgment on the course proper to be followed when, at the end of the present war, a political re-settlement of the Nearer East has to be undertaken."
Surely the Peace Conference was justified in its resolution: "more particularly because of the historical mis-government by the Turks of subject peoples and the terrible massacres of Armenians and others in recent years, the Allied and Associated Powers are agreed that Armenia must be completely severed from the Turkish Empire."
That the formation of a separate Armenian State is the deliberate intention of the Peace Conference seems further indicated in the later actions of the Conference concerning Armenia, like the appointment of Colonel Haskell as High Commissioner in Armenia on behalf of the four Great Powers, and the appointment of Major General Harbord by President Wilson to investigate conditions in Armenia. Many incidental things also indicate the general expectation on the part of the Allies that an Armenian State will be formed.
(4) The great and primary reason for this decision by the Peace Conference, is undoubtedly to be found in the Armenian massacres which have just been reviewed. But it might still be asked whether the situation created by the massacres could be met only by the formation of a separate Armenia. For such a separation it must be admitted, involves very difficult problems. Why, then, is it necessary to set off an Armenian State? What are the reasons?
The only possible substitute for a separated Armenia is a general mandate by one of the Great Powers over all Asia Minor, which should ensure equal rights to all elements of the population-to all races, and to all religions. If such a mandate were honestly carried out, we should certainly hope for a far better government on modern lines. But under the proposed mandatory system of the League of Nations, it is intended that the mandate shall be for a limited period. Even if that period were considerably prolonged, what would happen when the Mandatary withdrew ? It is impossible to be sure, if the Turks still constituted the majority, that the state would not slump back into many of its old evils including oppression of other races. The history of the Turks, unfortunately, gives all too small reason to hope for more.
The reasons for a separate Armenia then, may be said to be because of the demonstrated unfitness of the Turks to rule over others, or even over themselves; because of the adoption of repeated massacres as a deliberate policy of State; because of almost complete lack of penitence for the massacres, or repudiation of the crime-they rather seek to excuse them- because practically nothing has been done by the Turks in the way of repatriation of Armenians or of reparations to them-a condition not naturally suggesting a repetition of the experiment of Turkish rule, because, on the contrary, there is evidence of intense feeling still existing against the Armenians, and implicit threatening of massacre, because there has been sufficient proof that the two races cannot live peaceably and decently together, so that it is better for both that they have separate states, because of complete failure of the strong clauses of the Treaty of 1878 to protect the Armenians; because the most elementary justice suggests that there must be at least some region in Turkey where Armenians can go and not have to live under Turkish rule, because nothing less than that could give to the Armenians any adequate guarantee of safety, consequently, nothing less will satisfy the conscience of the world upon this point; because in this day of opportunity for small nations under the League of Nations, the Armenians have surely earned the right, by their sufferings, their endurance, their loyalty to principles, their unbroken spirit and ambition, and their demonstrated industry, ability and self-reliance, to look forward to a national life of their own; because such a separate state would probably make more certain decent treatment of Armenians in other parts of Turkey; and because there is no adequate substitute for such a state. In the interests of the Armenians, of the Turks, and of the peace of the world alike, the formation of a separate Armenian State is to be urged.
II. But the reasons for some righteous division of Turkey do not lie simply in that "historical mis-government." which justly challenges her rule over any other people; but also in her utter unfitness for the strategic world position in which she is placed. The very fact of her age-long misrule, coupled with her occupation of territory of critical significance to the world, constitutes her a "menace to the freedom and security of all nations," and makes unusual restriction in her case necessary, for the greater good of the world and of her own subject peoples
(1) For Turkey is held, as Dominian has said, by "a people whose incompetence to convert nature's gifts into use or profit is historically patent."[ Dominian, "Frontiers of Language and Nationality In Europe," p. 236.)] But striking as has been their economic failure, the failure of the Turks has been far more than merely external or material. She has acted rather as a kind of blight upon all the peoples she has conquered. As Ramsey-possibly too strongly-puts it: "The action of the Turks in every department of life has simply been to ruin, never to rebuild.... They destroyed the intellectual and moral institutions of a nation, they broke up and dissolved almost the entire social fabric; they undermined every educating and civilizing influence in the land, and they brought back a great part of the country to the primitive simplicity of nomadic life.... There is hardly a social institution in Asia Minor, showing any degree of social constructiveness, that is not an older Anatolian creation, Moslemized in outward form, and usually desecrated in the process."[ Ramsey, "Impressions of Turkey " pp. 264.]
(2) Now the evil of this blighting influence of Turkish rule is vastly increased because of the critical significance of the territory which she occupies. First of all, in the words of another, "Turkey is before everything else a roadway-a bridge-land.... No solution of the political problem involved can be attained without full consideration of its geographic aspects.... Turkey has been a highway of commerce and civilization between Europe on the one hand and Asia and Africa on the other.... The through roads converging into the Turkish territory are probably the oldest commercial routes of the world. At any rate they connote the sites on which the most ancient civilization rose."
By position, then, Turkey lies "at the junction of three continents, and therefore on the main field of history," and is "the site of convergence of the main avenues of continental travel"; and becomes, thus, in a peculiar degree, "the meeting place of races which are generally associated with the three continents which the country unites. Aryan, Tatar, and Semitic peoples therefore are strongly represented in the land."
With this advantage of position her remarkable topography combined to "create Turkey's relation with the world beyond its borders." "This relation was facilitated by the admirable set of natural routes which lead in and out of the country", by the Mediterranean Sea, Aegean Sea, Turkish Straits, and the Black Sea, "the shores of which are closely dotted with the terminals of great avenues from northeastern Europe as well as all of northern and central Asia . . . and by 'the rift Valley of Syria."' Hence "the Eastern question is as old as the history of civilization on this particular spot of the inhabited world"-always "this momentous international problem of determining which people or nation shall control the Straits between Europe and Asia, who shall get toll from the enormous transit trade of the region." [See Dominian, pp. 248, 222, 228 230, 231]
Now under the new conception of a League of Nations, and of mandatory powers who are to think of the "well-being and development" of peoples temporarily placed under their care as a "sacred trust of civilization," it is proposed to change this age-old Eastern question from one of a selfish scramble among the nations to one of recognizing here a great and distinctly international or world interest; to make definite provision for this world interest, and yet not only with full justice to the Turkish people more immediately concerned, but to their greater advantage. For, except for a practically all-powerful nation, a position like that of Turkey, makes the land inevitably a perpetual prey of warring powers, so that Dominian could say quite truthfully of Turkey: "The land staggers under the load of misfortune which its central position in the Eastern Hemisphere has heaped upon it" The situation has been inevitably one of exceeding difficulty for Turkey.
Is it not high time, then, in this crisis of the world's history, and after the immeasurable sacrifices of the Great War, that intelligent men should recognize the stupid futility of the old method of incessant political and commercial national strife, and face this age-long Eastern question in a totally new spirit?
(3) But because Turkey has been so markedly a "bridge-land," it became also "the debatable land"; so that Ramsey can say that at the present day the central movement in Asia is, what it always has been, a conflict between the Eastern and Western spirit. "About 1070, most of Asia Minor became Oriental in language and in Government." "For near]y eight centuries the Oriental element reigned supreme, in Asia Minor and swept far into Europe.... But step by step Asia has been driven back, and in Asia Minor the old struggle has recommenced." "On the west coast of Asia Minor the Greek element has increased enormously in strength while the Turkish element has grown weaker." The Oriental element "dies out in these parts by a slow but sure decay." "A revival of Orientalism" was planned and directed by Abd-ul-Hamid and by the later Young Turk movement." "But even in the Eastern part of Asia Minor, the Oriental spirit is doomed." "Orientalism is ebbing and dying in the country."[Ramsey, "Impressions of Turkey," pp. 127, 129, 131, 157, 158.]
Ramsey's analysis is probably correct and important. But is there not something far greater to be looked for, than that gradual driving out of the "Oriental spirit" in Turkey? In one sense, doubtless, that spirit is doomed and must go. We are to be done with Oriental domination in Turkey, it may be hoped, when we get states which know in their citizens no privileged and unprivileged classes, but only equals before the law. But are we not also to he freed from Occidental domination? Was it not one of the greatest of the convictions of the Allies in the war, that no nation, no "Kultur," however great and fine it might be, was good enough to blot out all others ?
Are there not priceless Oriental values, gratefully to be recognized and sedulously to be preserved? And may not Turkey, just because she has been, through the ages, "bridge-land" and "debatable land," become in some rich and high sense mediating-land as well between the Occident and the Orient, teaching the nations how to combine the quietism of the East, and the pragmatism of the West; the religious dependence of the East, and the scientific mastery of natural forces of the West- the mental and spiritual fellowship of tie East, and the mental and spiritual independence of the West?
As illustrative of the spiritual values still resident in Islam, for example, may be mentioned the remarkable and inspiring achievements of the Senussi sect, in establishing a vast state in a most barren, unpromising land, and in up-lifting, organizing, and harmonizing a most backward and degenerated population in the heart of Africa within a comparatively few years, and under influences purely Moslem. Such a state should not be needlessly encroached upon. It rather affords ample warrant for expecting that under new democratic processes and in due time the Moslems will prove themselves able to build up and manage their own states in the Arabian and Anatolian peninsulas. If the Entente powers are sincere in their declarations not further to harass the Moslem world and so give excuse for a pan-Islamic movement, they should also at once definitely and publicly renounce all further political encroachments on that world, and outline a clear policy of uplifting the Moslems, already subject to their control, by enlarged opportunities both in education and in public service.
(4) With the vision of such larger possible goals for this "bridge-land" and "debatable land" of the Eastern Hemisphere, one approaches the problem of the control of Constantinople and the Straits in a different spirit. The situation is so unique, the relations so complex and far-reaching, the responsibilities so heavy, and the possibilities so enthralling, that no one nation can be equal to the task,-least of all a nation with Turkey's superlatively bad record of misrule. No situation in the world demands so compellingly international rule-not only to put an end here to the selfish scramble and perpetual intrigue of the nations, but also, above all, to rise to the possibilities of this strategic opportunity, for the benefit of all the race.
This calls for a Constantinopolitan State, directly and permanently vested in the League of Nations, but best managed probably through a single mandatary as trustee, steadily responsible to the League and removable by the League.
Such a solution, at first sight, will undoubtedly be unwelcome to most Turks. But Turkey is simply not conceivably equal to a great world responsibility- and the larger world interests must prevail. Moreover it is certainly better for Turkey herself to be delivered from this intolerable responsibility, and to have her own government taken out of the midst of what has been through the centuries a center of boundless intrigue. The common people of Turkey would lead a much happier life in a state freed from outreaching imperialism, and at liberty to devote itself to the welfare of its own citizens.
III. If one turns aside now for a moment from the immediate problem of Asia Minor to that of the former Turkish Empire as a whole, other reasons for division of the Turkish Empire may be suggested.
(1) For one thing, there would be real danger, even under a mandate, in keeping intact the Turkish Empire as a whole-the danger of a later revival of the Turkish Empire and a repetition of its past history, on account of the often revived jealousies of the Powers. That danger is not to be lightly regarded.
(2) The Turkish Empire, too, as it has existed, is not truly a unit from any point of view,-certainly not the Arabic and the non-Arabic-speaking portions. Its interests-except those of good government-are not one. It is hardly too much to say that however much the land has been a single unit with reference to intercontinental travel and trade, the fact remains that it has been clearly subdivided within itself. There would probably be distinct gain. consequently, in similarly dividing its problems, and seeking separate solutions for them. Syria, Mesopotamia, and Arabia, for example each has a kind of unity of its own.
It was natural, therefore, that the Peace Conference should have resolved that Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, and Arabia should be completely severed from the Turkish Empire. The first three have already been dealt with in the preceding reports of this Commission. It may be briefly pointed out here, however, that these areas are naturally cut off from Turkey, because of their different language, customs, and civilization that the people do not wish further connection with Turkey, but were rather greatly rejoiced to be freed forever from the Turkish yoke; and that there is opportunity in the Arabic-speaking portions of the former Turkish Empire for at least two strong national states- Syria, including Palestine, and Mesopotamia, in accordance with the hopes of the Peace Conference and the desires of the people themselves. Both Syria and Mesopotamia should be, of course, under mandatories for a time.
IV. The considerations now dealt with looking to a righteous division of the Turkish portion of the former Ottoman Empire, clearly involve the setting off of an Arabian State, and of a Constantinopolitan State; but as clearly imply the continuance of a distinctly Turkish State, with guarantees of justice to all its constituent peoples. The resulting problems, now to be considered. therefore, naturally become: The problem of a separate Armenia; the problem of an international Constantinopolitan State; the problem of a continued Turkish State, the problem of the Greeks and of other minority races.
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