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Centuries of Genocide

America and the Armenian Genocide of 1915
 

Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States (1901-09)


"...the Armenian massacre was the greatest crime of the war..."

Oyster Bay, May 11, 1918

To Cleveland Hoadley Dodge:

...So far from "being of assistance to the Allied cause by keeping on nominal terms of friendliness with Bulgaria and Turkey," I am convinced we are of the very greatest damage to the Allied cause by so doing. Moreover, I feel that we are guilty of a peculiarly odious form of hypocrisy when we profess friendship for Armenia and the downtrodden races of Turkey, but don't go to war with Turkey. To allow the Turks to massacre the Armenians and then solicit permission to help the survivors, and then to allege the fact that we are helping the survivors as a reason why we should not follow the only policy that will permanently put a stop to such massacres is both foolish and odious.

I have a most interesting letter on the subject from Einstein, formerly with out Embassy in Turkey. I will send it to you by George Perkins. Some suffering would be caused if we went to war with Turkey, just as some suffering was caused when we went to war with Germany. But the Americans now would suffer only as the English and French suffered three years ago, when their nations were doing their duty, and ours was shirking its duty. We have no business to expect the allies to do the fighting which alone will accomplish anything permanent while we play the utterly ignoble part of being neutral and hoping that somehow or other we can thereby both save our own skins and also accomplish something. The arguments advanced against our going to war with Turkey are on a par with those formerly advanced against our going to war with Germany and then with Austria; only they are not quite as good. The Armenian horror is an accomplished fact. Its occurrence was largely due to the policy of pacifism this nation has followed for the last four years. The presence of our missionaries, and our failure to go to war, did not prevent the Turks from massacring between half a million and a million Armenians, Syrians, Greeks and Jews the overwhelmingly majority being Armenians. Our declaration of war now will certainly not do one one-hundredth part of the damage already done by our failure to go to war in the past; and it will enable us to render service of permanent value for the future, and incidentally to take another step in regaining our self-respect.

We should go to war because not to do so is really to show bad faith towards our allies, and to help Germany, because the Armenian massacre was the greatest crime of the war, and failure to act against Turkey is to condone it; because the failure to deal radically with the Turkish horror means that all talk of guaranteeing the future peace of the world is mischievous nonsense; and because when we now refuse to war with Turkey we show that our announcement that we meant "to make the world safe for democracy" was insincere claptrap.

Elting Morrison ed., The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1954), p. 6328.

 


 
 
 
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