The blunt instrument of a penal code will never have much to say about writing style, and there's plenty of evidence that the Times' sympathy with the Armenians -- a sensibility widely shared by Americans at the time -- was genuine. But somehow the expressions of pity for the Christian peoples of a far-off land seem perfunctory; it's only in denunciations of the Turks, or as the board preferred at the time, "the Turk," that those nameless, faceless writers of yore rose to anything like poetry. Or actually, that's only half-true: The wartime eds are brimming with couplets and quatrains and someties whole stanzas from Lord Byron, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the Bible and occasionally the doggerelists of the ed board themselves, and I'm making it my mission to work more Byron into future editorials. Anyway, let's go to the tape:
THE END OF TURKEYFeb. 26, 1918:
There is as much cause for including Turkey and Bulgaria in our declaration of war as there is for including Austria Hungary. There are as good reasons for the extinction of the Ottoman empire as there are for the overthrow of the government of the Kaiser. For 500 years the Turks have been a curse to Christendom, engaged in war after war and massacre after massacre. During the early middle ages there was built in the Balkans large and prosperous cities on the ruins of the civilization of Rome. The Turks found there a fertile and cultivated country. The cities which they seized became ruined and deserted villages. "Wherever they have trodden," said Henry Cabot Lodge, "trade, industry, commerce and the arts and civilization have withered away..." [...]
At least half of the Armenian people have been slaughtered in cold blood and the remnant is only preserved now because a large part of Armenia has falled under Russian control and the other Armenians have taken refuge there.
MARTYRED PEOPLESMarch 3, 1918:
When a peace of victory is finally achieved Germany must answer for her inhumanities in Belgium; Austria for the depopulation of Serbia, and Turkey for the almost total annihilation of the Armenians. [...]
If the war continues for another year with Serbia in possession of its arch enemies, it will be impossible to repatriate the Serbian people, for it will have ceased to exist. The same is true to an equal extent with Armenia; but the slaughter has been greater there because the population was greater. In six years the native population of Armenia has sunk from 16,000,000 persons to less than 800,000. Those who have approved this policy of extermination must be made to settle. The German, Austrian and Turkish peoples have approved and taken part in this wholesale murder; they should be forced to pay a huge indemnity.
THE STAND OF UNCLE SAMNov. 10, 1919 (apparently a West Coast first-reaction to the Armistice):
When the President said the peoples should not be bartered about from sovereignty to sovereignty, he had in mind the combined force and intrigue by which Germany holds Alsace-Lorraine today, by which Austria continues to dominate and enslave Hungary, and by which Turkey is depopulating Armenia and Arabia. [...]
When President Wilson declared that all well-defined national aspirations must be accorded the utmost satisfaction that can be accorded them, he indicated clearly that Armenia must be relieved of the crushing yoke of Turkis oppression...
THE HAND OF GODIt's in the postwar settling up, however, that things begin to get murky. A tone of unease seeps into the ed board's wartime bravado. From May 28, 1919:
When we think of Armenia, safe after more than a thousand years from the incessant butchery of the filthy and unspeakable Turks, [...] we behold miracles not less than any told in holy writ.
Therefore, the inevitable conclusion must be that God is still in his heavens. His hand is still upon us.
CAN OLD WRONGS BE RIGHTED?That second paragraph may not ring any bells, but it's the opening of an interesting seesaw campaign for the editorial board. The postwar debate over the Armenian mandate (described by Wikipedia in one sentence: "There was even consideration of possibly making Armenia a mandate under the protection of the United States") seems inconsequential now, but while it was live the issue cost the Times years of foment, and led to a variation on the great American debate between pragmatic non-intervention and reckless idealism. On June 6, 1919, the ed board is all for the mandate:
Armenians for centuries have been ceaselessly disinherited and destroyed. So today even in Armenia proper they are hopelessly outnumbered by the Turks and Kurds. Either these Turks and Kurds would have to be violently deported or some stronger nation would have to keep a permanent army of occupation in this inhospitable country to insure the Armenians against daily revolutions. In the first case you are writing one injustice by perpetrating another. In the second you are passing a decree on the young men of a country that was wholly innocent of the original wrong.
Europe, in a dubious compliment to the United States, has picked our self-sacrificing country as the mandatory power for the new Armenia. But our young Americans who would have to be drafted into this large army of occupation (for no American would willingly leave the United States to go and dwell in distant Armenia) might have something cogent to say about the justice of such an arrangement.
SHOULD ACCEPT THE ARMENIAN MANDATE