Gallipoli Campaign: Act Two


By Edmond Y. Azadian

Ahmed Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, has laid his campaign plans to drown Armenian voices in 2015. Indeed, as Armenians prepare with their scarce resources to make the Genocide Centennial a turning point in history, Turkey, using its vast resources, has already taken the proactive stand to dampen the impact of those Armenian initiatives. This, of course, within Ankara’s “zero problem with neighbors” foreign policy. The Turkish foreign minister has already picked his topic to counter the Armenian onslaught: the centennial celebration of the Gallipoli campaign, which coincidentally began on April 25, 1915, exactly one day after the Armenian intelligentsia and leadership were arrested and marked for slaughter. The campaign had lasted until January 9, 1916. The Gallipoli campaign and Anzac Day are known better by name than by historic substance.

During World War I, Allied Forces, headed by Britain, were fighting the Central Powers headed by Germany. The Australians’ and New Zealanders’ Army Corps (Anzac), as British colonial subjects, were drafted in the British Army, and Turkey had joined Germany against the Allies. One of the significant battles took place at the Dardanelles, with the Allies trying to open a route through the Straits of Bosphorus to connect with their Russian allies in the East.

Today, Anzac Day is considered by the Australians as the dawn of their national consciousness, while for the Turks, the battle places Mustafa Kemal, then the head of Turkish forces, on a historic pedestal, having began the campaign for the Turkish “liberation movement” (in fact the continuation of the Young Turks’ war and extermination policy) which eventually led to the foundation of the modern Turkish Republic in 1923.

For Australia, which was a former penal colony and belittled as such for long, perhaps it should not be surprising to enshrine a military defeat as the beginning of “national consciousness.” On Anzac Day, the most sacred holiday in Australia, people come to celebrate their defeat and honor the “power of the Turks,” their murderers. Every year thousands of Australians and New Zealanders visit Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul, to celebrate the Anzac Day.

This mentality is similar to the treatment of Turks by the Austrians. The Ottoman Armies tried to occupy Vienna twice, once during the 16th century under Soleiman the Magnificent and in 1683 under Kara Mustafa. They were routed twice, yet in 1983, the Austrian government decided to celebrate the tercentennial of its victory over the Ottomans and invited the Turks to turn the celebration into a Turkish-Austrian friendship celebration, never mind that in both wars the Turks massacred their Austrian prisoners.

The Gallipoli Campaign remains one of the mysteries of history: the German-Turkish forces were being beaten on the Eastern front, they were being defeated in the Middle East (where volunteer Armenian Legionnaires were fighting along with the Allies), but they won the Battle of Gallipoli.

At that time Winston Churchill was the first lord of the Admiralty and he proposed a naval attack on the Dardanelles, based on erroneous reports on the enemy troop strength. Some historians even believe that those reports were deliberately given to the admiralty, and there are even reports that Allied attack plans were leaked to the enemy. Why would such a “treacherous” act be permitted to cause one’s own defeat? This does not sound plausible until we get to the heart of British foreign policy in the 19th and 20th centuries. Perennially the British have tried to  — and succeeded — to bar Russians from reaching the warm waters of the Mediterranean. In fact, when the Russian forces reached and occupied Adrianapolis in Turkey and the San Stefano Treaty was signed in 1878, British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli was alarmed and was able to convene a second congress to sign the Berlin Treaty that same year, which had tragic consequences for the Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire. Literally, Armenian subjects were left to the tender mercies of their tormentors.

Therefore, the British wished to demonstrate to their Russian allies that they put an honest effort toward occupying Istanbul but they failed there by denying once more to their Russian allies access to warm waters.

On the Turkish side, Mustafa Kemal was one of five Turkish commanders. At that time, the Ottoman Fifth Army was under the command of German Otto Liman von Sanders. Germany had armed the Turks with military hardware and battleships. In fact, Germany gifted the victory to Mustafa Kemal. And today, as Mr. Davutoglu prepares to celebrate the Gallipoli victory, the credit will be jealously guarded by the Turks and no one will mention that Ataturk played second fiddle to von Sanders during the battle.

But before the Turks face the Armenians in 2015, they have met some unexpected turbulence from the Australians themselves.

Davutoglu has already begun his celebratory campaign on the wrong foot by banning the participation of a New South Wales delegation from the Gallipoli ceremonies in Turkey because that Australian province happens to have adopted a resolution to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Australians are irate and fresh battle lines have been drawn.

Every action by the Turkish government to deny the Genocide blows up in the faces of their leaders. Turkey’s action is countered in Australia with calls for the Federal Parliament to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Mr. Davutoglu is planning his second blunder by sending discredited historian Justin McCarthy to “educate” the Austrailians about Armenian-Turkish historic relations. Many historians compare Justin McCarthy to British Holocaust denier David Irving. McCarthy is not too embarrassed as a scholar and as a decent human being to campaign against the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, countering the line advocated by the globally-respected International Association of Genocide Scholars.

The Australian parliamentarian Laurie Ferguson has managed to invite Professor McCarthy for a lecture in the Canberra parliament house, with a topic titled, “What Happened During 1915-1923.”

When the Turks try to derail any attempt by the legislatures of different countries by suggesting that the case be assigned to the judgment of historians, they are banking on hacks-for-hire such as McCarthy and his ilk, who are offered all-expenses-paid junkets by the Turkish government.

Prof. McCarthy’s long trip has already been overshadowed by a public debate; President of the Turkish Parliament Cemil Cicek has called for a repeal of Genocide recognition by the NSW parliament and has further threatened that Turkey’s relation with Australia may deteriorate to which Prime Minister of New South Wales Barry O’Farrell has declared that the threats of Turkey’s parliamentary president are inconceivable and reprehensible. In a written statement, he has also asked Turkish officials not to use the celebrations of the centennial of the Battle of Gallipoli for political purposes.

Politicians are astute. They are certainly aware of the weight of Turkish threats. Ankara has threatened before France and Switzerland, only returning to the routine of business as usual.

McCarthy will take advantage of the tolerance of freedom of speech and make his point, although had he tried to reverse his argument in his beloved Turkey, he would have found himself in jail for violating Article 301 of Turkish penal code. Freedom of speech, of course, works both ways. We hope Armenians in Australia will also use their voices to give appropriate treatment to the guest speaker who may earn his honorarium without necessarily convincing too many people.

Forensic psychiatrist and historian at Wollongong University NSW Prof. Robert Kaplan stated in his blog in the “Australian” newspaper: “In Australia there is tolerance of free speech and the Turkish bullying will only bring it closer to the day there is federal recognition of the first genocide of the 20th century. Hopefully this will occur before the first centenary of Anzac Day.” [From his mouth to God’s ear.

Now the battle lines are drawn for the second Gallipoli campaign. In the first act the Turks had Otto van Sanders and German battleships on their side to win the battle.

In the second act they don’t have the truth on their side.