Sunday, January 13, 2008

In order to prevent genocide, we need to learn about it

The Kingston Whig Standard Forum
Posted By Alan Whitehorn
This article gives a compelling reason why the genocide course taught in schools must include the Armenian genocide as a watershed event in history needed to explain other genocides that followed.
It is impossible to study modern history without understanding key political concepts, such as revolution, war, totalitarianism, genocide, freedom and security. Indeed, one would not seek insight into the modern history of many prominent countries without some reference to key concepts. For example, for France, we explore the causes and consequences of revolution; for Europe, we observe the enormous impact of world wars; to comprehend the Stalinist Soviet Union or Hitler's Nazi Germany, we carefully study despotic totalitarianism; we draw the important linkage between the end of slavery in the United States and the quest for freedom for all; and to assess postwar Germany, we need to comprehend the immense impact of the Holocaust.

Similarly, to understand genocide, we draw insight from the pioneering and heavily cited case study of the Armenian genocide of 1915.

The accounts of the Armenian genocide exist in considerable detail. More than nine decades ago, in 1915, the Toronto Globe, along with the New York Times, dutifully reported events as the shocking news, often drawn from clergy and neutral embassy officials, circulated around the world. Amongst the troubling headlines were the following: "Extermination the watchword"; "Million Armenians wiped out by Turks"; and "Million Armenians massacred by Turks." In confidential consular reports back to Washington and later in his wellpublicized memoirs, Henry Morgenthau Sr., the American ambassador to the Otttoman Empire's Young Turk regime, described with enormous despair the persecution, massive deportations and horrific massacres of the Armenians. American president Woodrow Wilson's visionary Fourteen Points for the post-First World War world included Article 12, relating to Armenians' suffering.

The inability of the legal terminology of the day to address the magnitude and scope of the Armenian massacres was a catalyst for Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin to give the wardevastated world of the 1940s the ominous term "genocide." Lemkin also convinced the newly formed United Nations to pass the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It was a landmark development in international law and the quest to foster global justice.


Genocide is a pressing global concern. The past can serve as a warning. We must not shove aside the evidence. We need to be solemn public witnesses to the fragments of the scarred bones of countless genocide victims. We must resist the "sin of indifference." Today, all of us need to honestly and frankly acknowledge what took place. We need to speak up in place of those who have been brutally silenced. Genocide must stop. Genocide denial must cease.

The first step to a better future begins today. We need to teach what happened. We need to analyse why genocide occurred. We need to listen to the victims and somehow comprehend what terrible deeds happened to them. We need to understand their quest for closure. A wide and full education on genocide is a key component in building the foundation for a more just and secure world. Without such an education, we learn too little too late, and too often with tragic consequences.


Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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