Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The fate of Zeitoun

The ghastly fate of the Armenian enclave of Zeitoun, mentioned in the foregoing post, raises the question of why the Zeitounlis of 1895 were able to thwart their Muslim antagonists while those of 1915 succumbed to them utterly. In an essay published in 1916 that may be seen here, the British historian Arnold Toynbee revealed three reasons:

1) Most men of military age (intially ages 20 to 45 and eventually 18 to 50), including Armenians, had been mobilized for military service in the fall of 1914 as part of a general levy after the Ottoman Empire's entry into World War I. A call-up of Armenians aged 18 to 50 would have removed not only Zeitoun's young men, its natural defenders, but veterans of the earlier fight who would have become their leaders. Armenians in the Ottoman army were later reorganized into unarmed labor battalions and as the genocide began in 1915, Toynbee noted, these units “were surrounded by detachments of their combatant Moslem fellow soldiers and butchered in cold blood.”

2) The Ottoman army of 1915 was far better organized than that of 1895. Most of the planning and staff work was being done not by Turks but by German officers serving with them. Indeed, in his “History of the Armenian Genoicde,” Vahakn Dadrian noted that the chiefs of staff of the Ottoman High Command included Major General Bronsart von Schellendorff, who spoke of “the Armenian” as “just like the Jew, a parasite,” and who himself ordered that Armenians be deported through “severe” measures, and Lieutenant General Hans von Seeckt, later to become the architect of the post-World War I force that formed the nucleus of Hitler’s Wehrmacht. Commenting on the annihilation of the Armenians, Von Seeckt airily declared that “The requirements of the war made it necessary that Christian, sentimental, and political considerations simply vanish.” The presence of such men explains the “Prussian thoroughness put into the execution of (the Turks’) scheme,” making “the margin of ineffectiveness," as Toynbee noted, “narrow. ... In towns such as Zeitoun, ... where we have sufficient testimony to cross-check the estimates presented, the clearance, by deportation or massacre, seems to have been practically complete.”

3) Even with most of the men of fighting age removed from Zeitoun, the Turks were taking no chances with a place that had given them such trouble a generation before. They preceded their roundup of the remaining male Zeitounlis with “a formidable concentration of troops in the town” during a campaign to confiscate weapons from the Armenians – a gun-control effort whose description by Toynbee is worth quoting at length:

“A decree went forth that all Armenians should be disarmed. The Armenians in the Army were drafted out of the fighting ranks, re-formed into special labor battalions, and set to work throwing up fortifications and constructing roads. The disarming of the civil population was left to the local authorities, and in every administrative center a reign of terror began. The authorities demanded the production of a definite number of arms. Those who could not produce them were tortured, often in fiendish ways; those who procured them for surrender, by purchase from their Moslem neighbors or by other means, were imprisoned for conspiracy against the Government. Few of these were young men, for most of the young had been called up to serve; they were elderly men, men of substance and the leaders of the Armenian community, and it became apparent that the inquisition for arms was being used as a cloak to deprive the community of its natural heads. ...
[on] the 8th April, the date of the first deportation at Zeitoun ... the public crier went through the streets announcing that every male Armenian must present himself forthwith at the Government Building. ... The men presented themselves in their working clothes, leaving their shops and work-rooms open, their ploughs in the field, their cattle on the mountain side. When they arrived, they were thrown without explanation into prison, kept there a day or two, and then marched out of the town in batches, roped man to man, along some southerly or south-easterly road. They were starting, they were told, on a long journey — to Mosul or perhaps to Baghdad. It was a dreadful prospect ... But they had not long to ponder over their plight, for they were halted and massacred at the first lonely place on the road.”

In “The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam” (Pages 196-197), Bat Ye’or describes the fate of the women and children who remained:

“The deportations consisted of transferring certain populations, particularly women and children, from Armenian villages to the desert of Dayr al-Zur, between Syria and Iraq.
“Convoys were pushed on foot over interminable routes through difficult country, where dearth of water, food, and shelter at night increased the suffering. All along the way, the corteges of women and children were subjected to rape, robbery, and cruelties by brigands, plunderers, villagers, and by their exclusively Muslim escorts. In every town and village they passed through, the Armenians were massed in front of the town hall and displayed to the Muslims, who alone could choose slaves from among them. In some cases, women with their children were able to escape death or slavery by their conversion to Islam, ratified by an immediate marriage to a Muslim. Those who survived the ordeals of the journey – the hunger, thirst, exhaustion and rape – arrived at Dayr al-Zur. Informed of a convoy’s arrival, Arab and Kurdish tribes lay in wait to inflict the final outrage. The corpses were abandoned in the desert.”

After delving into this dreadful history, I can only repeat the deathless vow of the late great Jeff Cooper in his stinging 1972 rejoinder to then New York Police Commissioner Patrick Murphy’s call for the disarmament of Americans:

“The man who attempts, plans, or even wishes to disarm me must be regarded as my mortal enemy. ... I, for one, will not be disarmed. Not while I live. Mark that well.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Of dhimmitude and defiance

Ninety-two years ago today, the Turkish Interior Ministry ordered a roundup of Armenian leaders and intellectuals, most of whom were soon killed. This is widely recognized as the opening of the Ottoman Empire’s genocidal campaign against the Armenian people – but in fact, the slaughter began even earlier, as Vahakn Dadrian noted in his 1999 book “Warrant for Genocide” (Page 152):

“It is significant that before the Ittihadists in 1915 formally embarked upon the destruction of the Ottoman Armenian population at large, they targeted and eliminated first and foremost the Armenian population of Zeitoun and its environs.”

Why Zeitoun? Because during an earlier series of massacres of Armenians in 1894-1896, the residents of that city mounted so spirited a resistance to its Muslim assailants that, according to Dadrian, “the ranks of the Turkish Fifth Army Corps, consisting largely of Circassians, officered by Turks, were decimated. In the words of the British consul at Aleppo, Henry Barnham, the Corps ‘suffered a very heavy defeat, with at least five thousand killed.’” This was accomplished against a force of 50,000 by some 6,000 Armenians “[r]elying on old flint-locks and muzzle loaders” and edged weapons, which a French observer reported that “they handle ... with an unbelievable dexterity.” (Page 80)

Several factors favored the Zeitounlis in their 1895 resistance, including the region’s mountainous topography and homogenous population, and their martial spirit. But all of these would have come to naught had it not been for their “ongoing love affair with their weapons.” As Dadrian relates, “Describing the rifles, knives, and swords decorating the walls of every home, a chronicler in 1887 portrayed these abodes as little ‘garrisons rather than homes,’ with people running around in the city always armed, and every male and female over ten being capable of using an assortment of firearms.” Moreover, Zeitoun was a community of enthusiastic hunters, “and the skills acquired in hunting ... were easily transferred to the type of warfare in which Zeitoun Armenians distinguished themselves ... they lurked and lured, and when they struck, they rarely missed.” (Page 79)

So severe was the punishment they inflicted on the Turks that by late 1895 and early 1896, Sultan Abdul Hamit actually requested the intervention of the European powers “with a view to ending the fight. ... virtually begging for the cessation of hostilities so as to spare the terrible losses and suffering of his troops” (Page 81). Thus were the Zeitounlis able to avoid the fate of upwards of 200,000 of their fellow Armenians who fell victim to the Muslim onslaught.

The “Muslim” characterization of the attacks is made advisedly – for, as Andrew Bostom has pointed out,

“Contemporary accounts from European diplomats make clear that these brutal massacres were perpetrated in the context of a formal jihad against the Armenians who had attempted to throw off the yoke of dhimmitude by seeking equal rights and autonomy. For example, the Chief Dragoman (Turkish-speaking interpreter) of the British embassy reported regarding the 1894-96 massacres:
‘…[The perpetrators] are guided in their general action by the prescriptions of the Sheri [Sharia] Law. That law prescribes that if the "rayah" [dhimmi] Christian attempts, by having recourse to foreign powers, to overstep the limits of privileges allowed them by their Mussulman [Muslim] masters, and free themselves from their bondage, their lives and property are to be forfeited, and are at the mercy of the Mussulmans. To the Turkish mind the Armenians had tried to overstep those limits by appealing to foreign powers, especially England. They therefore considered it their religious duty and a righteous thing to destroy and seize the lives and properties of the Armenians ....”

The Zeitounlis in particular violated yet another aspect of their putative status as dhimmis by having the temerity to keep and bear arms. Under the original dhimma (pact of “protection” for conquered non-Muslims), drawn up by the second caliph, Umar ibn al-Khattab, and quoted in the tasfir (Quranic commentary) of Ibn Kathir, the conquered Christians agreed (among much else) that “We will not ... collect weapons of any kind nor carry these weapons.” (This is cited by both Robert Spencer in “Onward Muslim Soldiers” [Page 141] and Andrew Bostom in “The Legacy of Jihad” [Page 130]). This rule is repeatedly mentioned throughout Bat Ye’or’s histories of dhimmitude; for example its application in 1454 in Cairo, where its strictures included “not possessing any weapon” (Page 114, “Islam and Dhimmitude”). And it was still in force against Christian Armenians in Turkey in the 19th century, as Dadrian noted in “Warrant for Genocide” (Page 9) when writing of “the denial to them of the right to carry arms in a land full of outlaws armed to the teeth.”

Nor is the Islamic imperative to disarm the infidel a thing of the past. As recently as 2002 Ibn Kathir’s proscription was repeated almost verbatim in a sermon at a Mecca mosque by Sheikh Marzouq Salem al-Ghamdi, who specified “conditions” for resident infidels requiring that they “do not ... arm themselves with any kind of weapon ...”.

In this context, the remonstrances of Muslim commentators in the wake of the Virginia Tech killings, such as the editorialist for the Saudi “Arab News” who decried Americans’ “obsolete right to carry guns” bear a particularly malign aspect. In view of such inimical elements of Islamic belief as verse 9:29 of the Quran, which mandates that infidels are to be fought until they “feel themselves subdued” – and in view of the grim fate that the Zeitounlis were able for a time to forestall – they deserve from Americans nothing but defiant scorn.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The price of passivity

Having decided at long last to join what Associated Press Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll last year called the "mad blog rabble", I initially thought to open my own with a lofty statement of purpose. Things being as they are today, though, it’s as well to just jump in:

On the op-ed page of this morning’s Arizona Republic, blogger Joanie Flatt reacts to yesterday’s ghastly massacre at Virgina Tech (no link): "My brain just screams at me, ‘Why? Why? Why?’" While the creatures who engage in this kind of thing do indeed seem to be from a different planet, their motivation is not difficult to discern. It is a consuming greed for total personal power; a power so absolute as to be worth yielding the remainder of one’s life to enjoy a brief spell of it. In one of Fjordman’s reports at Gates of Vienna, he cites an interview conducted by the Swedish sociologist Petra Akesson in which immigrant thugs described a similar sensation:

"‘Power for me means that Swedes shall look at me, lie down on the ground and kiss my feet.’ The boys explain, laughingly, that ‘there is a thrilling sensation in your body when you’re robbing, you feel satisfied and happy, it feels as if you’ve succeeded, it simply feels good.’"

But there is another reason "Why, Why, Why" these atrocities occur – a reason Mark Steyn put his finger on in a column in Canada’s National Post six days after 9/11:

"The airline cabin is the most advanced model of the modern social-democratic state, the rarefied version of trends that, on the ground, progress more slowly. There is no smoking. There is 100% gun control. You are obliged by law to do everything the cabin crew tell you to do. If the stewardess is rude to you, tough. If you're rude to her, there'll be officers waiting to arrest you when you land. The justification for all this is a familiar one – that in return for surrendering individual liberties, we'll all be collectively better off. That was the deal: Do as you're told, and the FAA will look after you.
"On Tuesday morning, they failed spectacularly to honor their end of the bargain – as I'm sure the terrorists knew they would. By all accounts, they traveled widely during the long preparations for their mission, and they must have seen that an airline cabin is the one place where, thanks to the FAA, you can virtually guarantee you'll meet no resistance."

As the Roanoke Times’ quote from a Virginia Tech official hailing the defeat of a bill to enable concealed-carry permit holders to bear their arms at Virginia institutions of higher education indicates, the same paradigm is in effect on university campuses. And this involves not merely a proscription against being armed materially, but a requirement that one be unarmed mentally. Per Max Weber’s dictum, the state must enjoy a monopoly on force; to subdue miscreants is the job of its functionaries. Your job as a mere civilian is to flee if it is possible and to submit if it is not.

If this sits ill with you, the late great Jeff Cooper, father of the Modern Technique of the Pistol, propounded a far better idea in his "Principles of Personal Defense". Emphases original:

"We often hear it said – espcially by certain police spokesmen who, it seems to me, should know better – that in the event of victimization the victim should offer no resistance, for fear of arousing his assailant. Perhaps we should ignore the craven exhortation to cowardice made here. ‘Honor’ may in truth be an obsolete word. So let us consider only results. The Sharon Tate party did not resist. The Starkweather victims did not resist. The LaBiancas did not resist. Mitrione did not resist. The next time some ‘expert’ tells me not to resist I may become abusive.
"Apart from the odds that you will be killed anyway if you submit to threats of violence, it would seem – espcially in today’s world of permissive atrocity – that it may be your social duty to resist. ... If violent crime is to be curbed, it is only the intended victim who can do it. The felon does not fear the police, and he fears neither judge nor jury. Therefore what he must be taught to fear is his victim. ...
George Patton told his officers, ‘Don’t worry about your flanks. Let the enemy worry about his flanks. It is high time for society to stop worrying about the criminal, and to let the criminal start worrying about society. And by society I mean you."

Words to live by – and let any potential adversary, be he criminal, terrorist or tyrant – be in no doubt that I do live by them.