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Guenter Lewy’s The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey Taner Akçam ‘‘Listen Muhittin, let them say whatever they want to say. The fact is that I know what I am doing. We are engaged in a war for life or death. Had we been at that time defeated by the revolution and the Russian army, today one would be able to count the Turks in Anatolia with one’s finger. We were not defeated at that time as it was our duty to ensure our right to live. I performed that duty. Perhaps everybody today, and even you, may be blaming me, however, at a later time the Turks with relish will remember my name. Nobody is responsible in this matter; the entire responsibility relative to the severity of the applied methods belongs to me.’’ Thereupon, I raised my doubts whether he, Talaat, in spite of everything and everybody could have been as brutal in the implementation of the [Armenian deportations] as Dr. Bahaeddin S  akir, who is being mentioned as one of those who have sought such brutality. He responded as follows: ‘‘As far as the law is concerned I am the one who is responsible. When promulgating the law, I certainly, proceeded in accord with my colleagues. When it comes to the matter of enforcing that law, however, I assume full responsibility for the severity applied . . . notwithstanding the fact that plenty of time has elapsed since, I absolutely don’t regret my deed.’’1 The dust jacket of Guenther Lewy’s The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide2 features Norman Stone’s assertion that this book, ‘‘which has Olympian fair-mindedness as well as thorough knowledge of the various sources, now replaces everything else.’’ Lewy claims, in his book, to be situated outside the parameters of what he describes as ‘‘the Turkish view’’ and ‘‘the Armenian view.’’ Having positioned himself as being above such partisanship, he also claims that his book ‘‘subjects the rich historical evidence available to the test of consistency and (as much as the state of knowledge allows) attempts to sort out the validity of the rival arguments’’ (x). A book that did not shy away from interpreting the opposing views of the events of 1915, one grounded in a solid knowledge of the historiography and the relevant documents, would indeed prove useful to individuals and circles not knowledgeable about the subject. One could even argue that, with respect to the vast field that is called conflict resolution, the preparation of such an inventory might be considered one of the principal tasks. But Lewy has failed to perform this task, and instead pursues a highly contentious one. Tessa Hofmann of the Eastern Europe Institute of the Free University of Berlin has revealed that in the summer of 2000 a retiree, resting on my couch, expressed a strange intention. Guenter Lewy, the retired American political scientist, wanted to subject ‘‘the Armenian massacres’’ to a similar revision as he had done before with respect to the Sinti and the Roma. That revision, argued Lewy, had shown that even though their fate in World War II proved tragic, it did not represent a ‘‘real’’ genocide, as there were no centrally organized and state-sponsored premeditation and genocidal intention.3 Taner Akçam, ‘‘Review Essay: Guenter Lewy’s The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey.’’ Genocide Studies and Prevention 3, 1 (April 2008): 111–145.  2008 Genocide Studies and Prevention. doi: 10.3138/gsp.3.1.111 The Central Thesis of the Book One of Lewy’s main theses is that ‘‘the Armenians can hardly claim that they suffered for no reason at all. Ignoring warnings from many quarters, large numbers of them had fought the Turks openly or played the role of a fifth column’’ (109). Perpetrators always have some reason to justify their actions. It is natural, therefore, that the Ottoman authorities felt there were ‘‘logical reasons’’ for the annihilation of their own Armenian citizens. Throughout his book, Lewy explains why the Ottoman authorities felt compelled to exterminate the Armenians wholesale. After a brief historical introduction, Lewy defines the central problem as follows: The key issue in this quarrel . . . is not the extent of Armenian...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1911-9933
Print ISSN
1911-0359
Pages
pp. 111-145
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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