The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2009-11-16
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications

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A "New York Times" bestseller, this masterful history of the Armenian massacres of the 1890s and the genocide of 195 is told from the view of American involvement in what was the first major international human rights movement in American history.

Author Biography

Peter Balakian teaches at Colgate University, where he is a Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xiii
The Emergence of International Human Rights in America: The Armenian Massacres in the 1890s
A Gathering at Faneuil Hallp. 3
"There in the Woods"p. 13
Yankees in Armeniap. 23
The Sultan and the Armenian Questionp. 35
Killing Fields: The Massacres of the 1890sp. 53
Humanity on Trial: Clara Barton and America's Mission to Armeniap. 63
Walking Skeletonsp. 81
"The Tears of Araxes": The Voice of the Woman's Journalp. 93
The Ottoman Bank Incident and the Aftermath of the Hamidian Massacresp. 103
"Our Boasted Civilization": Intellectuals, Popular Culture, and the Armenian Massacres of the 1890sp. 117
The Turkish Road to Genocide
The Rise of the Young Turksp. 135
Adana, 1909: Counterrevolution and Massacrep. 145
The Balkan Wars and World War I: The Road to Genocidep. 159
Government-Planned Genocidep. 175
Van, Spring 1915p. 197
April 24p. 211
American Witness
The Ambassador at the Crossroadsp. 219
The News from the American Consul in Harputp. 225
Land of Deadp. 241
From Jesse Jackson in Aleppop. 251
"Same Fate": Reports from All Over Turkeyp. 265
America's Golden Rule: Working for Armenia Againp. 277
The Failed Mission
Wilson's Quandaryp. 299
The Rise of a New Turkish Nationalism and the Campaign Against Armeniap. 319
Turkish Confessions: The Ottoman Courts-Martial, Constantinople, 1919-1920p. 331
The American Mandate for Armeniap. 349
The New U.S. Oil Policy in the Middle East and the Turnabout on the Armenian Questionp. 363
Epilogue: Turkish Denial of the Armenian Genocide and U.S. Complicityp. 373
Notesp. 393
Photograph and Map Acknowledgmentsp. 435
Glossaryp. 437
Selected Bibliographyp. 441
Acknowledgmentsp. 455
Indexp. 459
About the Authorp. 476
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


The Burning Tigris
The Armenian Genocide and America's Response

Chapter One

A Gathering at Faneuil Hall

Ah, Mrs. Howe, you have given us a prose Battle Hymn.
-- Frederick Greenhalge,
governor of Massachusetts

The light in New England in late fall is austere and clean and rinses the white steeples of Boston's Congregational and Unitarian churches, the red brick of the State House, and the gray stone of the Back Bay town houses. Even the gold dome on the white cupola ofFaneuil Hall reflects its luster. It's November 26, 1894, the Monday before Thanksgiving, a windy and clear evening, as men and women file into Faneuil Hall from all over Boston and from the suburbs of Cambridge, Watertown, Winchester, and as far out as Quincy and Andover. They havecome to this public meeting place near the harbor to talk about the most pressing international human rights issue of the day.

Schooners and sloops and oyster scows make a grid of rigging thatglows in the sunset. The sound of squawking gulls. Buckets of cod andhaddock on the docks. The outline of the giant masts of the USS Constitutionfading in the twilight of the Charlestown Naval Yard. Across the streetthe stalls of Quincy Market are closed, the awnings rolled up for the night.

Faneuil Hall was known as the Cradle of Liberty because SamuelAdams and James Otis and the Sons of Liberty had met here in the decadebefore the American Revolution to form their opposition to the sugar tax,the stamp tax, and other forms of British oppression. The Boston TeaParty was conceived here. The space itself was made even more dramaticwhen the architect Charles Bulfinch redesigned it in 1805. Even after government by town meeting ended in Boston in 1822, the hall continuedto be the main forum for political and social debate. Here in the 1840sWilliam Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Charles Sumner, and FrederickDouglass gave some of their most important antislavery speeches to overflowingcrowds.

By 1873 women were speaking from the podium, and suffragists LucyStone and Julia Ward Howe were among the first to address the movementfor woman suffrage on that stage beneath George A. Healy's dramaticpainting of Daniel Webster exhorting, "Liberty and union, now andforever" on the Senate floor. In keeping with that spirit of reform, a groupof prominent New Englanders filled Faneuil Hall on that blustery late-Novemberevening.

All that summer and fall, news of the massacres of the Armenians atthe hands of the Turks in the Ottoman Empire reached Americansthrough news reports and bold headlines in the New York Times, the WashingtonPost, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle,and in the nation's leading magazines -- The Nation, The Century, and Harper's. The news came from American missionaries who were teaching Christians at missionary colleges all across the Anatolian plain of central and eastern Turkey; it came from American and British diplomats stationed in the Armenian provinces of the Ottoman Empire, from European and American journalists, and from Armenian survivors and refugees. And recently it came by way of a new invention -- the wirelesstelegraph.

The outrage over the Armenian massacres emerged in a culture that was just beginning to look outward to the international arena in which the United States would define a global identity in the coming decade. In the first years of the 1890s, there had been a near war with Chile over thekilling of two American sailors in Valparaiso, and U.S. involvement in a border dispute between British Guiana and Venezuela that brought jingoism to a new level. Americans such as Theodore Roosevelt began to broadcast their feeling that the country needed a war. The question of annexing the Hawaiian Islands dominated a tug-of-war between the imperialists and anti-imperialists that lasted throughout the decade.

Americans also expressed great sympathy for the Cubans in theirstruggle for independence from Spain. By 1895, when Cuban rebels roseup against the deplorable conditions to which they were subjected by their Spanish rulers, the Cuban crisis became a Western Hemisphere liberationcause for Americans. By 1898 the Cuban struggle would lead tothe Spanish-American War -- the war that consummated the jingoist spiritand launched the United States as a colonial force in the world. With thedefeat of Spain, in a war that lasted ten weeks and gave Cuba its independence,the United States acquired Puerto Rico, the Philippines, andGuam, giving the nation a rising sense of global power.

The 1890s were a transformative time for U.S. foreign policy -- adecade in which it would embrace imperialism and assert itself, at times,with a rhetoric of Protestant Anglo-Saxon superiority over the "backward" peoples of the world. The Armenian Question emerged, in some ways uniquely, as a humanitarian project at a time when imperialist designs were governing most American international interventions.

Sultan Abdul Hamid II, the Turkish caliph, had begun to implement hissolution to what was now internationally known as the Armenian Question.In short, the Armenian Question revolved around the issue of much-neededreform for the oppressed Armenians -- the largest Christianminority living under Ottoman Turkish rule in Anatolia. As the Britishjournalist and longtime resident of Constantinople -- Sir Edwin Pears -- put it, all the Armenians "desired was security for life, honour, andproperty." But, the sultan's lifetime friend and confidant, the Hungarianscholar Arminius Vambery, wrote, the sultan had decided that the onlyway to eliminate the Armenian Question was to eliminate the Armeniansthemselves. The means would be government-sanctioned mass murderon a scale never before seen.

The Turkish massacres of some fifteen thousandBulgarians in 1876 (a response to the Bulgarian uprising for independence) had been an unprecedented act of state-sponsored mass murderthat riveted Europe and the United States ...

The Burning Tigris
The Armenian Genocide and America's Response
. Copyright © by Peter Balakian. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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