You can't see any welts on my legs and knees, but I stepped into a terrible trap in this space just one week ago! I call it the "Hitler built good highways" (or "Mussolini made the trains run on time") trap.
I wrote rhapsodically last week about the dazzling accomplishments, a little over 100 years ago, of the Turkish leader Ataturk, who gave women the right to vote, removed the veils from their faces, built a hundred schools, made elementary education mandatory and, above all, discarded the Arabic alphabet and brought in an alphabet based, like English, on the Roman alphabet.
I couldn't think of a more dramatic example of unconventional political leadership, and I said so.
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Several readers were nice enough to let me know what a horrific sin I had inadvertently committed in telling the laudable side of Ataturk and letting it go at that. It's not widely known (a fact which granted me some moral cover), but there's far more to tell about Ataturk than new schools, veil-less women and the daunting task of changing the entire written language over to a modern alphabet.
Circa 1915-1916, as an officer in the Ottoman army, Ataturk spearheaded the slaughter of 1 and a half million Armenians. And, in 1922, he oversaw the final exile and eradication of Armenians from Turkey. That turned out to be only the down payment on another act of barbarity, that which became known as Adolf Hitler's Nazi German Holocaust! That horror was enabled by the earlier atrocity of the Armenian Genocide. In fact, the very term "genocide" was coined to describe the inhumanity perpetrated upon the Armenians.
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Hitler's more cautious comrades tried to warn him that the world would intervene and would hate Nazi Germany forever once word got out that he was actually carrying out the deliberate wholesale extermination of particular elements of the German populace.
Hitler won that argument by pointing out that the Armenian Genocide was well-publicized while the Turks were annihilating the Armenians, and yet the world did absolutely nothing. The Nazi Holocaust was green-lighted based upon the Turkish-Armenian example.
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Historians estimate that Adolf Hitler was directly responsible for the murder of over 90 million people. The Ottoman Turks are charged only (!) with the massacre of 1 and a half million Armenians, and not with pursuing militarily aggressive expansionism and world domination. So, maybe we can infer that the world will continue to smile upon you if you limit the number of your victims to a mere 1.5 million? Not nice, not pretty, but what alternative message might we deduce? There may be a more pleasant (and less cynical) message in there somewhere, but one doesn't spring readily to mind!
To me, history is beloved and military aggression abhorrent. And I've always been annoyed by people who write wrongly, act wrongly, speak wrongly, and then think they're back in everyone's good graces merely by declaring, "I apologize if I offended anyone!" I want to give the Armenians, and by logical extension the entire world, my unconditional, resounding, stomp-down apology!
You may be sure that if I ever again praise Ataturk for jerking Turkey from the Middle Ages into the modern world, I will give equal time to what Paul Harvey taught us to call "the rest of the story"!
This story, however, has a whale of a pro-American kicker to it. You can't lie about things like this. They have to fall into your lap and be totally authentic. The "man in the office upstairs" who decides whether or not a given column will run with or without a disclaimer and whether or not an offending writer will continue to be a columnist on his payroll just happens to be a stand-up, first-generation Armenian-American whose family needed no history books to learn about the Ottoman Turkish massacre of Armenians. Plenty of his close relatives were lost in that earlier Holocaust. His name is David Kupelian, and not only would the thought of exacting reprisals against me not apply, the thought would never even occur to David until he reads this right here!
That's just one reminder of why it's ground-kissing time in America! There are too many millions of such reminders to cover adequately in the space allotted to me. God Bless America!