Recourse to Genocide 

More than any other form of capital crime, genocide, if undertaken by a state organization, requires detailed preparations in order not only to ensure optimal success, but also to conceal or camouflage intent and outcome. During post-World War I Turkish court-martials it was ascertained and recorded in the respective official judicial gazette that the wholesale destruction of Armenians was premeditated (ta'ammuden) and that deportations were but a vehicle toward that end. In his affidavit prepared for that court, Third Army Commander General Vehip, when attesting to this fact of premeditation, used the term (kasden by prior deliberation). Moreover, the respective official documents of imperial Germany and imperial Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire's wartime allies, confirm the incidence of such premeditation.

 Within weeks after the outbreak of war, while Turkey was maintaining a position of "armed neutrality," the newly formed brigand units (gete) of the Special Organization (Teskilat'i Mahsusa) began a campaign of harassment and terror against the Armenian population in eastern Turkey. When plans to encircle and destroy the Russian Caucasus Army disastrously failed in the aftermath of Turkey's intervention in the war, these brigand cadres were assigned a new and definitive mission: They were to be redeployed as killing units to attack and massacre the countless Armenian deportee convoys. Behaeddin Sakir, the head of the Special Organization East, with headquarters in Erzurum, in eastern Turkey, undertook a special trip to the Ottoman capital, where he sought and obtained the sanction of the CUP's omnipotent Central Committee to proceed with this mission. By way of a sweeping and reckless generalization, the Armenians were hereby expediently vilified as traitors and accordingly targeted as the so-called internal foe. Sporadic Armenian acts of desertion, espionage, and sabotage, common among other Muslim groups, especially Kurds and also Turks, in the service of the enemy Russians, and the coincidental Armenian Van uprising, were treated as welcome opportunities. They were conveniently and adroitly exploited as justifiable excuses for indiscriminate massive and lethal retaliation.

 In order to streamline the mechanisms for implementing the projected extermination mission, the CUP leadership first suspended the Parliament, thereby transferring all state authority from the legislative to the executive branch. In short order, the executive began to run the country through the enactment of temporary laws as provided under Article 36 of the Ottoman Constitution and Article 12 of the CUP's party statutes. Accordingly, on May 13 and 26, 1915, Interior Minister Talaat railroaded through the Ottoman Cabinet the Temporary Law on Deportation that entailed the wholesale uprooting and eventual destruction of the empire's Armenian population. The gradual liquidation of able-bodied Armenian males, who through the General Mobilization decree had been conscripted months earlier, was already in progress.

 The organization of the genocidal field of operations was entrusted to a number of agencies and groups. Foremost among these was the military. The coordination of the dual tasks of marshalling the logistics of the deportee convoys on the one hand, and their subsequent massacre through ambushes by the Special Organization gangs on the other, was entrusted to Staff Colonel Seyfi, head of Department II in Ottoman General Headquarters. These gangs were largely comprised of bloodthirsty (kanli katil) convicts, who had been especially selected and released from the prisons of the empire for such massacre duty, and led by young active and reserve officers. Three army commanders likewise played key organizational roles. The military and civilian jurisdiction of General Mahmud Kamil, Commander of the Third Army, encompassed the largest concentration of the Ottoman Armenian population identified with the provinces of Sivas, Trabzon, Harput, Diyar-bekir, Erzurum, Bitlis, and Van. It was this general who, through a prearrangement with the CUP Central Committee, was appointed to that post and shortly thereafter demanded (talep) authorization from General Headquarters to order the wholesale forcible deportation of this huge block of Armenians. General Halil Kut, Commander of Army Groups East, and General Ali Ihsan Sabis, Commander of the Fourth Army, inexorably liquidated all Armenians belonging to their respective armies and ordered the wholesale massacre of the civilian Armenian populations of the regions under their command. The details of the empire-wide deportations were handled by a special category of powerful party functionaries, mostly ex-army officers, who were carefully selected by the party leadership. Dubbed in ranking order as responsible secretary (kdtibi mesul), delegate (murahhas), and inspector (mufettis), they had superor-dinate authority, including veto power over the decisions of provincial governors. These omnipotent "commissars" were assisted in their task by members of local CUP party cells.

 Beyond the levels of premeditation, decision making, organization, and supervision, the ultimate level involved the actual execution of death and destruc-tion—the crux of the Armenian Genocide. The primary executioners in this respect were the tens of thousands of convicts of the Special Organization described above. They were assisted by a number of irregular units of the Ottoman Army that included several Kurdish cavalry formations, and squads of gendarmes and homefront militia, who served as convoy escort personnel. Frequently, large mobs were mobilized from surrounding areas to deal with bulky convoys; they willingly participated in the butcheries given the ever-present lure of plunder and spoils. One of the most distinguishing, if not singular, features of the Armenian Genocide is the array of methods and instruments employed. To spare powder and shells, for example, the perpetrators mostly used daggers, swords, scimitars, bayonets, axes, saws, and cudgels, as attested to by wartime U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau. Then, there were mass shootings primarily applied to thousands of disarmed Armenian Labor Battalion soldiers, who were always tied together with heavy ropes in fours and fives, before being executed. The inordinate gruesomeness of the Armenian Genocide is revealed most hauntingly, however, in the next two methods used. One of them involved massive drowning operations, whereby the tributaries of the Euphrates River, crisscrossing Turkey's eastern provinces, several lakes, and in particular, the Black Sea, covering the Samsun-Trabzon coastline stretch, became the fathomless graveyards of tens of thousands of women, children, and elderly men. The other concerns the fate of untold other multitudes, who were systematically burned alive in haylofts, stables, and large caves in such areas as Harput province, the deserts of Mesopotamia, but especially in Mus City and the Mus Plain in Bitlis province, where no less than sixty thousand Armenians were torched. In a rare act of condemnation, Turkish Army Commander Vehip, who during an inspection trip had observed the charred remains of women and children in Tchurig village, north of Mus City, one of those spots of that area's Armenian holocaust, decried what he called this evidence of "atrocity and savagery that has no parallel in the history of Islam" (Dadrian, 2002, pp. 84-85).

 When warning Turkey of the dire consequences of the genocide then in progress, the entente powers— France, England, and Russia—on May 24, 1915, introduced the legal term crimes against humanity, which was later codified in Article 6c of the Nuremberg Charter and the Preamble of the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Even though no exact statistical figures are available, based on an average of German, British, Austrian, and U.S. estimates, about 1.2 million perished in the genocide, while another half-million dispersed to all corners of the world as refugee survivors. While "the dire consequences" trumpeted by the victorious Allies dismally failed to materialize, the crime of the Armenian Genocide not only still remains negatively rewarded by way of impunity, but also official Turkey, past and present, with little hesitation, still persists in denying that crime.

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