Armenian News Network / Groong


Armenian News Network / Groong
April 12, 2010

By Kay Mouradian, EdD

May, 1914

The next morning as Morgenthau was having breakfast, he noticed Jemal Pasha entering the dining room. Jemal's gait was quick and heavy and Morgenthau immediately knew the Turkish Minister of Marine was upset.

`You must stop the sale of those dreadnoughts!' Jemal demanded even before he greeted the American ambassador.

Morgenthau looked into Jemal's beady eyes, observed his clean uniform and wondered why he still looked shadowed. `Please sit down and have a coffee.' Reaching for a piece of toast, he said, `Would you like an omelet?'

`No. Just coffee.'

`I understand your dilemma,' Morgenthau said as his own quagmire surfaced. He had a real fear the Turks would retaliate against the Americans in Turkey. `I will telegraph my Secretary of State and tell him I don't think the sale to the Greeks is in the best interests of America.'

`I don't trust the Greeks!' Jemal was irate. `They have their eyes on Constantinople and Smyrna. If their sea power is stronger than ours, they will start a war.'

Morgenthau casually leaned back in his chair. `How many Greeks are in your empire?'

`Maybe 2 million.'

`Would a war with Greece put the Ottoman Greeks in jeopardy?'

`Most certainly!'

`I think the Greek government knows that.' Morgenthau leaned forward and slowly ate some of his omelet. He reached over for the apricot jam and spread it on a second piece of toast. `Relax, Jemal. Greece is the last country you need to fear. Now, what I suggest you do is have your ambassador in Washington present your country's objection to the sale.'

`Wouldn't your objection be stronger?'

`Jemal, my objection will be considered, but the sale of the ships must be approved or disapproved by the United States Congress. No one person has the power to say yes or no.'

`I don't like that. If I say no, it's no!' Jemal straightened his back and squinted. His displeasure was intense.

Morgenthau, his lips slowly widening into a thin smile said, `I admire your sense of good judgment.'

Jemal, surprised and disarmed, laughed. `I like you Morgenthau Pasha.' Still laughing as he walked out of the room he turned to the American ambassador and said, `I will cable my ambassador today.'

Morgenthau followed him into the foyer and watched Jemal's bodyguards usher him into a car. Then he went directly into his office. Standing by the bay window as the rays of the morning sun warmed him, he gazed out at the Golden Horn. He loved watching the ferries and ships moving through the water. A knock disturbed his musing. He sighed and said, `Come in.'

Schmavonian entered accompanied by three men. He introduced the Ambassador to the European inspector-general of Armenia and two Armenian parliamentarians, Krikor Zohrab and Vartkes Serenkulian, the most famous Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.

`Please call me Zohrab.'

`And I am Vartkes.'

The men sat down and Morgenthau offered them cigars. The aroma of Turkish tobacco filled the room.

Observing the men Morgenthau thought Vartkes looked very Jewish with his large nose, olive complexion and dark brown eyes. His black hair was neatly coifed; his black mustache waxed and turned up at each end, typical of mustaches German men wore.

Zohrab, very distinguished and a little portly, with salt and pepper hair, a bushy mustache and bushy dark eyebrows was wearing an expensive Italian suit. A writer and journalist, Zohrab was also a prosperous attorney serving a large European clientele.

The European, a tall and blond Hollander, looked to be in his early forties. `Congratulations on your appointment, Mr. Westenenk,' Morgenthau said. `I understand you will administer and supervise the Armenian provinces.'

`Only three of them. The other three will be administered by a Norwegian.'

`Mr. Ambassador,' Zohrab said, `Do you understand the complexity of Turkish Armenia?'

`Yes. Mostly in eastern Anatolia, I think, near Russia.'

Schmavonian asked Zohrab a question in Armenian.

Zohrab nodded yes, answered in Armenian and reached for his briefcase. He pulled out a map.

Morgenthau noticed a physical resemblance between Zohrab and Schmavonian. `Are you two related?'

`No.' Schmavonian smiled. `I'm honored you might think so.'

Opening the map on Morgenthau's desk, Zohrab glanced over to Schmavonian and smiled. They did have similar features. Zohrab leaned over the desk and marked Armenian areas with a pencil and said, `The area is quite vast. These are the provinces.'

`So, there are really two Armenia's in Turkey,' Morgenthau said.

`Yes, Lesser Armenia is in Cilicia. The six Armenian provinces the Europeans will supervise are in eastern Anatolia. That supervision will not cover Cilicia, not yet, anyway,' Zohrab responded.

`I understand Turks and Kurds also live in those provinces,' Morgenthau said.

`Yes,' Zohrab answered. `That is part of the problem.'

`The Armenian Question has dogged the Turks ever since the Treaty of Berlin,' Vartkes said. `That's when Europeans insisted on reforms for Armenia.'

Walking back to his chair Zohrab said, `The Sultan said yes, yes, yes to the Europeans, and then proceeded to engage his Kurdish cavalry in 1895 to massacre three hundred thousand of our people.'

`That was his solution to Armenian reform,' Westenenk said. `We feel a moral obligation to protect the Christian population. `As you can imagine, Ambassador Morgenthau, I am not welcomed by Turkish officials.'

`Yes, indeed, I know that for a fact. The Turks are tired of what they call European interference.'

`The memory of those barbaric acts under Abdul Hamid keeps us Europeans involved.'

`And continues to leave a negative image on Turkey,' Morgenthau said.

`Ambassador,' Vartkes added, `do you know that Abdul Hamid managed to have another thirty thousand of our people in Cilicia killed just seven years ago? That negative image is not unworthy!' His face began to turn red with anger.

`Yes, yes, Schmavonian told me of the horrific massacres.' Morgenthau's compassionate tone calmed the agitated Armenian.

`There needs to be a common bridge between the Christian and Islamic religions,' Westenenk said. `The relationship of the Armenians and the Turks has been like that of oil and water. They don't mix.'

`Have you had experience with Moslem populations?'

`Yes. My last assignment was in Sumatra. It was good preparation.'

Morgenthau smiled. The Hollander was still young enough to have energy and hope. He would need both to foster justice for all the people in eastern Anatolia.

`Ambassador Morgenthau,' Zohrab said, `Because you are showing interest in the Armenian question, the Turkish hierarchy will pay more attention to our needs. For that we thank you.'

`Sir,' Vartkes, now calm, said, `there already has been some progress. Out of 300 deputies in the Ottoman Parliament we have 15 Armenian representatives. But we cannot be naïve about the Young Turk philosophy of liberty, justice, and fraternity for all Ottomans.' He raised his voice again `We have a fear that Ottomanization really means Turkification.'

`We have lived under Turkish occupation for six hundred years,' Zohrab added. `That's a long time to live under the thumb of a conqueror and still maintain our identity.'

`Sir,' Vartkes continued. `Many in the Mohammedan faith resent the idea non-Moslems could be equal to those who live by the Koran.'

`There is no easy solution,' Zohrab continued. `All we ask is that we are able to live without fear of being attacked. Kurds are still threatening our communities.'

Morgenthau heard their voices. They spoke as one. `If you need my help,' Morgenthau said to Westenenk, `contact me through one of the American consulates in your provinces.'

`Thank you,' Westenenk responded.

`Your interest in the Armenian question is deeply appreciated,' Vartkes added.

After shaking hands with his three visitors, Morgenthau noticed as they left his office that Vartkes had a limp. He watched Schmavonian close the door and said, `The more I see of your people, the more I see Jewish traits.'

Schmavonian smiled.

Professor Kay Mouradian is a health and physical education specialist
retired from the Los Angeles Community Colleges. Her publications
include Reflective Meditation: a Mind Calming Technique, A Guide for
Those Teaching Yoga in the Community Colleges, and she has also
contributed publications in several magazines and newspapers. Her
first novel, "A Gift In The Sunlight: An Armenian Story", now in its
second edition, was inspired by her mother's remarkable survival of
the Armenian Genocide.
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