Gun Control and Genocide


Sunday, April 24th marked the 90th anniversary of the first genocide of the twentieth century: the Turkish government’s slaughter of over a million unarmed Armenians. The key word is “unarmed.”

The Turks got away with it under the cover of wartime. They suffered no greater postwar reprisals for this act of genocide than if they had not conducted mass murder of a peaceful people.

Other governments soon took note of this fact. It seemed like such a convenient international precedent.

Seventy-nine years after that genocide began, Hotel Rwanda opened for business.

The Hutus also got away with it. Ironically, at least a decade before – I wish I could remember the date – Harper’s ran an article predicting this genocide for this reason: the Hutus had machine guns. The Tutsis didn’t. The article was written as a kind of parable, not a politically specific forecast. I remember reading it at the time and thinking, “If I were a Tutsi, I’d emigrate.”

It did not pay to be a civilian in the twentieth century. The odds were against you.


The twentieth century, more than any century in recorded history, was the century of man’s inhumanity to man. A memorable phrase, that. But it is misleading. It should be modified: “Governments’ inhumanity to unarmed civilians.” In the case of genocide, however, this is not easily dismissed as collateral damage on a wartime enemy. It is deliberate extermination.

The twentieth century began officially on January 1, 1901. At that time, one major war was in full swing, so let us begin with it. That was the United States’ war against the Philippines, whose citizens had the naïve notion that liberation from Spain did not imply colonization by the United States. McKinley and then Roosevelt sent 126,000 troops to the Philippines to teach them a lesson in modern geopolitics. We had bought the Philippines fair and square from Spain for $20 million in December, 1898. The fact that the Philippines had declared independence six months earlier was irrelevant. A deal’s a deal. Those being purchased had nothing to say about it.

Back then, we did body counts of enemy combatants. The official estimate was 16,000 dead. Some unofficial estimates place this closer to 20,000. As for civilians, then as now, there were no official U.S.-reported figures. The low-ball estimate is 250,000 dead. The high estimate is one million.

Then World War I opened the floodgates – or, more accurately, the bloodgates.

TURKEY, 1915

The diplomatic game is always verbal. The G-word is verboten. Turks accept – though resent – “tragedy.” Hence, all official reports from government-funded sources all over the world – except Armenia – refer to the “Armenian tragedy.” This game of diplomacy has been going on since the end of World War I. Reagan was the only President to have used the correct term. President Bush diplomatically used “mass killings” in his a 2003 reference to the event. He also referred to “what many Armenian people have come to call the ‘Great Calamity.'” Many Armenians call it this? Really? Name two. He also said:

I also salute our wise and bold friends from Armenia and Turkey who are coming together in a spirit of reconciliation to consider these events and their significance. I applaud them for rising above bitterness, and taking action to create a better future. I wish them success, building on their recent and significant achievements, as they work together in a spirit of hope and understanding.

Again, name two.

Not being even remotely diplomatic in matters genocidal, I prefer to use the dreaded G-word. The Armenian genocide of 1915 had been preceded by a partial ethnic cleansing, which took two years, 1895 – 97. About 200,000 Armenians were executed.

This event served as the background for Elia Kazan’s great movie, America, America (1963), which was nominated for the Oscar in 1964. Kazan tells a fictionalized version of his Greek uncle’s emigration to America. Kazan’s family followed in 1913. The movie begins with a Greek and an Armenian, friends, who are warned by their former military officer, a Turk, of trouble coming. It comes. Turkish officials lock the Armenian along with other Armenians inside a church. Then they burn it down. The Greek sees this. He vows to get out of the Ottoman Empire and go to America. The movie traces his journey. America was a sanctuary. If ever there was a movie on America, the sanctuary, it’s America, America.

The Armenians were easily identifiable. Centuries earlier, the conquering Ottoman Turks had forced them to add the “ian/yan” sound to their last names. They were dispersed throughout the empire, so they did not possess the same kind of geographical concentrations and strongholds that other Christians did in Greece and the Balkans. They never did organize armed resistance forces. That was what led to their destruction. They could not fight back.

They were envied because they were rich and better educated than the ruling society. They were the businessmen of the Ottoman Empire. The same was true in Russia. The same resentment existed in Russia, though not with the intensity of the resentment in Turkey.

Non-Turkish estimates range from 800,000 to 1.5 million Armenians killed. Most of these deaths were low-tech but high efficiency. The army rounded up hundreds or thousands of civilians, drove them into wilderness areas, and waited until they starved to death.


It is still the official position of the Turkish government that this was not genocide; it was a relocation for military reasons. You see, there was a revolt being planned by Armenians and Russians in the border region of Van. This was the explanation provided in 1915 by the Turkish Consol General in New York, in a statement published in the October 15, 1915 issue of the New York Times. An autonomous republic was set up in Van, which was run by someone named Aram. (We read it here first.)

Then, somehow, things just got out of hand. The government was powerless. You know: just like all other governments during wartime with respect to the activities of officials in defense of the nation. Helpless. What’s a government to do? Therefore, in recent days, a minor official for the Turkish government has apologized.

“We apologize to the Armenians for us and our ancestors not having been able to prevent the Genocide.” These are the words of Jashar Arif, representative of the International Exchange Confederation, who is a Turk. He has arrived in Armenia together with several other Turks to take part in the events of the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

The Turkish government still maintains that the rulers had expected the Armenians to join with Russians to fight Turkey. As recently as April 24, the Philadelphia Enquirer reported that Yasar Yakis, the head of the Turkish Parliament’s European Union Affairs Committee, explained the reasons for the relocations. “The Armenians were relocated because they cooperated with the enemy, the Russians, and they . . . killed Ottoman soldiers from behind the lines.”

Armenians were systematically killed all over the Empire, not just on the Russian border. Relocation to a camp usually means providing food, shelter, and basic amenities. It doesn’t mean letting people starve in the wilderness.

The written text of the government’s order is controversial. It was a state secret. One version was smuggled out of Turkey in 1916. It is posted online. As with all such secret orders, it should not be accepted automatically. But it serves as a starting point for full-scale research: open archives openly arrived at.

Our fellow countrymen, the Armenians, who form one of the racial elements of the Ottoman Empire, having taken up, as a result of foreign instigation for many years past, with a lot of false ideas of a nature to disturb the public order; and because of the fact that they brought about bloody happenings and have attempted to destroy the peace and security of the Ottoman state, and the safety and interests of their fellow countrymen, as well as of themselves; and, moreover, as they have now dared to join themselves to the enemy of their existence [i.e., Russia] and to the enemies now at war with our state – our Government is compelled to adopt extraordinary measures and sacrifices, both for the preservation of the order and security of the country and for the welfare and the continuation of the existence of the Armenian community. Therefore, as a measure to be applied until the conclusion of the war, the Armenians have to be sent away to places which have been prepared in the interior villages; and a literal obedience to the following orders, in a categorical manner, is accordingly enjoined on all Ottomans:

First. – All Armenians, with the exception of the sick, are obliged to leave within five days from the date of this proclamation, by villages or quarters, and under the escort of the gendarmerie.

Second. – Though they are free to carry with them on their journey the articles of their movable property which they desire, they are forbidden to sell their lands and their extra effects, or to leave the latter here and there with other people, because their exile is only temporary and their landed property, and the effects they will be unable to take with them, will be taken care of under the supervision of the Government, and stored in closed and protected buildings. Anyone who sells or attempts to take care of his movable effects or landed property in a manner contrary to this order, shall be sent before the Court Martial. They are free to sell to the Government only the articles which may answer the needs of the Army.

Third. – Contains a promise of safe conduct.

Fourth. – A threat against anyone attempting to molest them on the way.

Fifth. – Since the Armenians are obliged to submit to this decision of the Government, if some of them attempt to use arms against the soldiers or gendarmes, arms shall be employed against them and they shall be taken, dead or alive. In like manner those who, in opposition to the Government’s decision, refrain from leaving or seek to hide themselves – if they are sheltered or given food and assistance, the persons who thus shelter or aid them shall be sent before the Court Martial for execution.

What happened subsequently was fully consistent with this order.

The Turkish government said in 1989 that the archives regarding the non-existent genocide were now open. But, as it turned out, they were not open to Armenians studying the non-existent genocide.

What the archives prove, according to the Turkish government, is that the Turks were the victims of mass murder by Armenians. Yes, it’s hard to believe. But that’s what the archives show. We can take the Turkish government’s word for this. On April 25, a report appeared on the website of the International Relations and Security Network which is partially funded by the Swiss defense agency. Here, we read:

Armenians say at least 1 million of their ethnic kin died between 1915 – 17 as a result of a deliberate policy of extermination. They say the policy was initiated by the Committee of Union and Progress (Ittihad ve Terakki Cemiyeti), or CUP, which then ruled over the empire. Ankara claims the death toll is grossly inflated and that 300,000 Armenians died during these years. It also says the deaths were the result of negligence, interethnic strife, or wartime operations. It says the CUP leaders – also known as the Young Turks – had no intention of wiping out the empire’s largest remaining Christian community. While admitting to the massive deportations of 1915 – which followed the massacre of 200,000 Greeks – Turkey’s official historiography says the transfers were aimed at preventing Armenians from collaborating with Russia. Tsarist Russia was then at war with the Ottoman Empire and its German ally. Turkey’s official historiography also asserts that more than 500,000 Turks died at the hands of Armenians between 1910 – 1922.

On April 25, 2005 – hot off the site – we learn of that ruthless counter-genocide.

Turkish Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy leader Onur Oymen said on Monday, “if you must express grief about Armenian casualties, you also have to talk about more than half a million Turks who were killed in the same incidents.”

In a written statement, Oymen said that the decision of the U.S. president Bush not to use the term “genocide” represents the reality.

We must not be too happy about Mr. Bush’s statements, told Oymen. “We know for sure that 513,000 Turks were butchered by Armenians. Don’t we have a right to ask for sympathy for the murdered Turks?”

“If you are going to mention these incidents and express grief for the Armenians who lost their lives in those incidents, it is our right to expect a word of sympathy for more than half million Turks in the same incidents.”

All right, his story is a bit scrambled. It’s now up to 513,000 Turks in 1915 – 17, rather than 500,000 Turks 1912-22. But it’s all there. In the archives.

We are also assured by a spokesman of the Turkish Ministry of Justice that Turkey has had enough of this genocide nonsense. Quite enough. On April 25, 2005, posted this story.

Turkish Minister of Justice and Government Spokesman Cemil Cicek has indicated that, after many years of leaving the issue of so-called genocide to historians, it is now high time for Turkey to start disproving all allegations in various countries.

High time, indeed! Those historians, tied as they are to misleading primary source documents, simply cannot be trusted. They do not pay sufficient attention to primary source documents of official Turkish assurances for 90 years that nothing was happening or had happened, preferring instead to cite unreliable eyewitness accounts of what did happen. Armenian political influence is behind this.

Cicek noted that Armenians influenced the parliaments of the countries in which they are powerful and succeeded in obtaining parliament decisions in their favor in 15 countries.

Ah, yes: the well-known Armenian International Network, which dominates parliaments around the world.

As Turks, we wished that, instead of turning incidents of the past into a topic of hatred and anger, they should be brought to daylight by the historians with an approach looking at the future. . . .

Based on our archives and confidence in our history and culture, we can say that no genocide took place.


What has stuck in the craw of the Turkish government for almost 90 years is an official report issued by the British government, The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915–1916. If you don’t think governments stick by their official versions of history, consider this April 22, 2005 story in London’s Financial Times.

Turkey challenges genocide ‘fraud’

By Vincent Boland in Ankara

Published: April 22 2005

The Turkish parliament was yesterday preparing to ask the UK to repudiate a historical document that is considered to form the basis of the claim that Armenians were victims of genocide by Ottoman Turks during the first world war.

The initiative comes on the eve of Sunday’s 90th anniversary commemorations among Armenians of what they regard as the start of the massacre of up to 1.5m people.

The move is likely to exacerbate the bitter dispute between Turks and Armenians. Supporters of the Armenian cause, particularly in France, are lobbying for the European Union to delay the start of Turkey’s accession talks for EU membership until Turkey acknowledges a “systematic extermination” in 1915.

Turkish MPs completed and signed a letter to both houses of the UK parliament arguing that the document was “a fraud based on fabrications, half truths and biased reports and perceptions” of what happened and “a masterpiece of propaganda and tool of deception”.

The document, The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915-1916, was written by the British historian Arnold Toynbee and included in a publication known as the Blue Book, by Viscount Bryce, a British diplomat. It was an official Westminster document, which is why the Turkish parliament wants the House of Commons and House of Lords to act.

Turkey rejects the charge of genocide. It insists that the true death toll among Armenians was about 600,000 and that many died from the effects of civil war, starvation and deportation. It says the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Turks at the time are overlooked.

The letter, which was made available yesterday by the Turkish parliament in the original Turkish and in English translation, will be sent to London imminently.

The letter says British propaganda in the first world war aimed to portray the destruction of the Ottoman Empire as a key aim of the war, to “render British colonialism in Anatolia and Mesopotamia palatable”, and to encourage the US to join the Allied side. The Ottoman Empire collapsed into many nations after the war. Its Anatolian heartland is now Turkey.

The British embassy in Ankara declined to comment on the letter. Some Turkish historians say the document has stood the test of time; others say Mr Toynbee later distanced himself from its findings, which were based on eyewitness accounts.

The official UK position is that the massacres were “an appalling tragedy” but that the evidence is not “sufficiently unequivocal” to categorise them as genocide under the 1948 United Nations Convention on Genocide.

The letter says British propaganda in the first world war aimed to portray the destruction of the Ottoman Empire as a key aim of the war, to “render British colonialism in Anatolia and Mesopotamia palatable”, and to encourage the US to join the Allied side. The Ottoman Empire collapsed into many nations after the war. Its Anatolian heartland is now Turkey.

The British embassy in Ankara declined to comment on the letter. Some Turkish historians say the document has stood the test of time; others say Mr Toynbee later distanced himself from its findings, which were based on eyewitness accounts.

The official UK position is that the massacres were “an appalling tragedy” but that the evidence is not “sufficiently unequivocal” to categorise them as genocide under the 1948 United Nations Convention on Genocide.

Viscount James Bryce was a master historian. His book, The American Commonwealth (1888), is still read by American historians as a primary source document regarding educated English opinion about America. He served as Ambassador to the United States from 1907–13.

The name Arnold Toynbee may ring a bell. By the 1950s, he was one of the most prominent historians on earth. His 12-volume study (1934–61) of 26 civilizations is unprecedented in its breadth. The Treatment of Armenians was his first major publication.

Why some Armenian organization has not bought a copy of Adobe Acrobat Pro 7 and scanned in the full volume, with the documents, remains a mystery to me. The book is in the public domain: pre-1923. But Toynbee’s summary is online. This section, which appears in Part VI, “The Deportations of 1915: Procedure,” is enlightening. Read it carefully. It is the crucial aspect of the entire genocide. The government confiscated their guns.

A decree went forth that all Armenians should be disarmed The Armenians in the Army were drafted out of the fighting ranks, re-formed into special labour battalions, and set to work at throwing up fortifications and constructing roads. The disarming of the civil population was left to the local authorities, and in every administrative centre a reign of terror began. The authorities demanded the production of a definite number of arms. Those who could not produce them were tortured, often in fiendish ways; those who procured them for surrender, by purchase from their Moslem neighbours or by other means, were imprisoned for conspiracy against the Government. Few of these were young men, for most of the young had been called up to serve; they were elderly men, men of substance and leaders of the Armenian community, and it became apparent that the inquisition for arms was being used as a cloak to deprive the community of its natural heads. Similar measures had preceded the massacres of 1895 – 6, and a sense of foreboding spread through the Armenian people. “One night in winter” writes a foreign witness of these events,” the Government sent officers round the city to all Armenian houses, knocking up the families and demanding that all weapons should be given up. This action was the death-knell to many hearts.”

I own a copy of The Treatment of Armenians. Or, rather, my wife does. In it, there are two accounts of events in Van, which is where the Turks say a revolt broke out, thereby justifying the forced relocation. These reports were written by Y. K. Rushdooni (as it is spelled in The Treatment of Armenians), my wife’s grandfather. They are extremely detailed: street by street activities. Some might think they are just too detailed. Not so.

Y. K. Rushdoony had a photographic memory. Once, his son Haig caught him in his easy chair in front of the fire, head down, eyes closed. “You were sleeping,” Haig kidded him. “I was meditating on what I have just read,” he replied. “Come on,” Haig said. “You were asleep.” He handed Haig the book. “Ask me anything about the pages where the book is open to.” Haig did. He said that his father began answering each question, word for word, by what was on the page. He went on for two pages. Haig told me this story 50 years later and confirmed it yesterday. “It was the only time I ever challenged him.” When, in his old age, Y. K. began to lose his eyesight, he memorized dozens of psalms, so that he could read them at family gatherings. If his sons knew, they did not tell him. Haig, a Ph.D. in geography, has a good memory. Rousas John, his older brother, was also generally regarded as no slouch in the memory department – a master of the footnote. Ask him a question after one of his lectures, and you might get another lecture. (His dying words, after he had briefly exposited a passage that his son had read to him on his deathbed, were these: “Are there any questions?“) But, compared to their father, they both said, they were outclassed.

On her way home in 1915, his pregnant wife came across her father’s remains in the street. He had been hacked to death. Y. K. took her, his young child, and a £100 sterling note that had been given to him when he graduated from Edinburgh, and fled across the border into Russia. The boy drowned in the escape. The money – hard currency – got the two of them across Russia to Archangel, and from there they bought passage to the United States. Rousas was born in 1916 in New York City.


Lenin disarmed the Russians. Stalin committed genocide against the Kulaks in the 1930s. At least six million died.

The model for 1968 Gun Control Act – even the wording was taken from Hitler’s legislation of 1938, which was a revision of the 1928 law passed by the Weimar government. A good introduction to this politically incorrect history of American gun control is on Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership.

When Mao’s troops took a village, they would kidnap rich people. They would then offer to return the victims in exchange for money. The victims would be released upon payment. Then they would be kidnapped again. This time, the demand was for guns. Then they would be released again. This made the deal look reasonable to the families of the next victims. But once they had the community’s guns, the mass arrests and executions began.

The idea that the individual has a right of self-defense is written into the U.S. Constitution: the second amendment. Carroll Quigley, who taught Bill Clinton history at Georgetown, was an expert in the history of weaponry. He wrote a 1,000-page book on medieval weaponry. He argued in Tragedy and Hope (1966) that the American Revolution was successful because the Americans possessed weapons that were comparable to those possessed by British troops. This, he said, was why there were a series of revolts against despotic governments in the eighteenth century. When government weapons became superior, the move toward smaller government ceased to be equally successful.

There is a reason why governments are committed to disarming their citizens. They want to maintain the monopoly of violence, no matter what. The idea of an armed citizenry is anathema to most politicians. After all, what’s a monopoly for, if not to be used?


Genocide happens.

It doesn’t happen whenever the would-be targets own guns.

April 27, 2005

Gary North [send him mail] is the author of Mises on Money. Visit He is also the author of a free 31-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible.

Copyright © 2005 Gary North