Near East Relief
Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it.”
John D. Rockefeller (1839 – 1937) American industrialist & philanthropist
America and the Armenians
The Reno Evening Gazette U.S. / November 14, 1915 ;
“Having imposed upon a committee of well-meaning but admittedly prejudiced American missionaries, the same agencies that have been engaged in reporting Armenian outrages which never had been committed are now trying to mislead Christian charity in America and Switzerland into furnishing funds for the relief of the supposed victims of the unspeakable Turk.
It would not matter, so far as the country at large is concerned, but unfortunately there is danger that a self-sufficient person like President Woodrow Wilson will accept these stories of atrocities as truth, with no further evidence than the statements of Armenians who are directly interested in raising money for the support of themselves. Professional beggars who have bled their own countrymen for years are now trying to to induce kindly Americans to support them, not caring for whether the United States would or should not be imbroiled with Turkey and through Turkey with Germany. Ambassador Morgenthau appears to have fallen a ready victim to the same smooth rascals that, by apocryphal tales of outrages, have procured contributions from their Armenian countrymen abroad and in this country and have lived in luxury on the proceeds for the last 30 years.
The ambassador seriously notified the state department that the Turks had slaughtered “the majority of the Armenians of Asia Minor.” This “majority” now turns out to be 32,000 known to be hostile to Turkey and, therefore, dispossessed of their homes in Erzerum and Zeitun and interned in a district where they could be watched by Turkish troops — not killed, nor even dying. The English have done no more with German residents and even with English subjects of German birth and the Germans have done the same with English residents of the German states.
If this country, therefore, does not want to appear foolish before the whole world it will refuse to be duped by impossible tales and will let the Armenians severely alone.”
SECRET / ARAB BULLETIN No.39 CAB/24/143
Printed for the Committee of Imperial Defence
His Britannic Majesty’s Government
Savoy Hotel, Cairo, January 19, 1917
K. CORNWALLIS, Major, Director, Arab Bureau. p.32
The Zionists brought several new factors to bear. They established at Jaffa and Jerusalem the Anglo-Palestine Bank for financing the colonies, and at Jaffa an Immigration Bureau, called the Palestine Bureau in touch with the Zionist organizations in America and elsewhere. The most active people in these institutions are David Levantine, of Jaffa, the Director-General of the Bank, Isaac Levi, the Jerusalem manager, and Dr. Hoffien, a Dutch Jew, the Jaffa manager. These men are all keen Zionists, and act in concert with the head of the Palestine Bureau, Dr. Rupin. The present leader of the Zionists outside Palestine is Judge Brancleis, in the United States of America. America has become the principal source of Zionist support. Two of the most recent American Ambassadors to the Porte have been Jews, and the second, Mr. Morgenthau, may be regarded as an active Zionist. The Central Zionist Committee now meets in New York, and in 1916 no less than £3,000,000 were collected in America by Zionist organizations.
Born in Glassboro, N. J., 17 April 1868, Mark Lambert Bristol graduated from the Academy in 1887. During the Spanish-American War he served aboard Texas and participated in the battle of Santiago, Cuba. From 1901 to 1903 he served as aide to the Commander-in-Chief North Atlantic Fleet. He commanded Oklahoma (BB-37) during World War I and then served as United States High Commissioner in Turkey (1919-27). In 1927 Rear Admiral Bristol assumed command of the Asiatic Fleet. He died 13 May 1939.
Below are excerpts from his letter, dated 28 March 1921, to Dr. James L. Barton of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and also the Chairman of the Near East Relief Organization of which Ambassador Morgenthau & Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise are board executives along with other Jewish prominent bankers, businessman & former diplomats. As a U.S. diplomat living in Turkey, Ambassador Bristol talks about his experience and observations about the Armenian claims and how they relate to reality. (emphasis added by reviewer). Source: U.S. Library of Congress: ‘Bristol Papers’ General Correspondence Container #34.
On Board USS ST. LOUIS At Sea.
En route from Island of Rhodes to Constantinople, Turkey. 28 March, 1921
Dear Doctor Barton:
Your letter of 14 of January was duly received. Shortly after receiving your letter I started on a cruise to Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Cilicia. I have been gone over a month and we are at the present time entering the Dardanelles, and will be in Constantinople tomorrow morning.
During this trip I have had an opportunity to meet General Allenby, and our own representatives in Egypt, to have an audience with the Sultan of Egypt and meet some prominent Egyptians. This experience had given me a sidelight, from personal associations upon the affairs of Egypt.
In Palestine I came in personal contact with the new Jewish movement. I met Sir Herbert Samuels, Colonel Stores, and many others belonging to the Staff of the High Commissioner in Palestine. Colonel Deeds, who was with the British High Commissioner in Constantinople for some time, is the Chief Political Officer under Sir Herbert. Likewise, I was able to see our Delegate here, Consul Heiser, and his relief which arrived at the same time I did, Mr. Southard, who has just come from Aden. I had an opportunity to look over our different institutions at this place. I was surprised to find that the Near East Relief work at Jerusalem is practically a Jewish affair.
His Britannic Majesty’s Government
POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE DEPARTMENT,
FOREIGN OFFICE / October 30,1918.
Secret (declassified) CAB/24/68 Ref:0064
The American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief (with which, it is believed that, the American Committee for Palestine Relief has been amalgamated).
This Committee is by far the wealthiest and most influential private relief organisation for the Middle East. The list of its members (see addendum) shows the kind of men who serve on it.It is supported by the heads of the chief religious communities in the United States, by leading politicians and businessmen, by ex-Ambassadors to Turkey, and by the Evangelical and Presbyterian missionaries, who have a considerable hold over American public opinion.
The anxiety of the missionaries to carry on this relief work is the real reason of their opposition to a declaration of war on Turkey by the United States. If Turkey surrenders, their pro-Turkism, which proceeds solely for this motive, will no longer operate. It was this Committee which sent out the Judson Mission to Persia, and it is submitted that the utmost possible use ought to be made of them.
As in the case of Belgian relief, the requirements will probably exceed any possible private contributions even from America. But the American Committee may be relied upon to put up very large funds if the scope of their work is increased by the capitulation of Turkey and the co-operation with the British and American Governments. We may also have to rely very largely upon them for business organisers and relief officers—the leading men of the Committee supplying the former, the missionaries the latter. British Ministers, consuls, political officers, and military authorities in the Middle East will be so burdened with other tasks that it will bedesirable that they should delegate the work of administering relief as much as possible, while giving this work every facility,and keeping it under their ultimate control.
U.S High Commissioner Mark Bristol continues; “In Syria I had a very pleasant association with Comte de Caix who is acting as High Commissioner because General Couraud is away. Comte de Caix, is, of course, the power behind the throne, and I was most pleasantly surprised at his ability, frankness and optimism. At the same time he has no illusions in regard to the difficult work that he has before him. It was from him I first learned that the French had come to an understanding with the Kemalists and would withdraw the French troops from Cilicia.
Likewise, the boundary between Syria and Turkey will be established on lines that are much more sensible than the one provided in the Sevres treaty. He is very much opposed to any Armenian refugees from Cilicia being allowed to come into Syria. I quite agreed with him in regard to this, except that I do believe the French should guarantee the safety of the Armenians in Cilicia and should evacuate from Cilicia those Armenians that especially aided the French, and particularly the Armenians that were disbanded from the French Foreign Legion or were mustered out after serving in the French Army.
…I had a talk with Dr. Chambers, Mr. Applebee, Head of the Y.M.C.A. Dr. Chambers agreed with me in regard to the Armenians not evacuating Cilicia, and using all influence with the Turks for the benefit of the Armenians. If the Armenians started to run away this would encourage the Turks to attack them, not only on account of the fear shown, but probably with the hope of driving the Armenians out of the country. However, if the Armenians remained in Cilicia and the moral influence at least of Europe and America was brought to bear on the Turks, I believe that the Armenians would be all right, except for individuals that have been active in opposition to the Turks during the past year.
I see that reports are being freely circulated in the United States that the Turks massacred thousands of Armenians in the Caucasus. Such reports are repeated so many times it makes my blood boil. The Near East Relief have the reports from Yarrow and our own American people which show absolutely that such Armenian reports are absolutely false. The circulation of such false reports in the United States, without refutation, is an outrage and is certainly doing the Armenians more harm than good. I feel that we should discourage the Armenians in this kind of work, not only because it is wrong, but because they are injuring themselves. In addition to the reports from our own American Relief workers that were in Kars and Alexandrople, and reports from such men as Yarrow, I have reports from my own Intelligence Officer and know that the Armenian reports are not true. Is there not something that you and the Near East Relief Committee can do to stop the circulation of such false reports? I was surprised to see Dr. McCallum send through a report along this line from Constantinople. When I called attention to the report, it was stated that it came from the Armenians, but the telegram did not state this, nor did it state that the Armenian reports were not confirmed by our own reports. I may be all wrong; but I can’t help feeling that I am not, because so many people out here who know the conditions agree with me that the Armenians and ourselves who lend ourselves to such exaggerated reports are doing the worst thing we possibly can for the Armenians. Why not tell the truth about the Armenians in every way? Let us come out and tell just what the Armenians are and then show our sympathy and do everything we can to make the future of these people what it should be for human beings. I am sure that the mass of people at home believe the Armenians are Christians in action and morals, and that they are able to govern themselves. You and I, and others that know them, know that this is not the case. We believe that they have been made what they are by the conditions they have been compelled to live under, and we want to get them out from under these conditions so they can become Christians and able to govern themselves. But I cannot believe that right is ever produced by wrong-doing. As I have stated to Dr. Peet and many others, I believe that so long as we don’t refute these false reports made by the Armenians, or don’t come out and state the true facts in regard to the Armenian question, we run the risk of being accused of being party to this information. Dr. Peet and I had a long talk about a year ago along this same line, and I think as a result of it he wrote to you. I don’t want to appear as being critical at all and you know that. But I do realize that we are human beings and when we realize the suffering of the Armenians our sentiments make us respond to our human instinct, and especially our American ideas of fair play, so that we forget, and even desire to conceal, the failings of the Armenians in order to obtain their release from the oppression of the Turkish rule. It may be that I am wrong in my idea that the best way to obtain this is by stating fully just what the Armenians are and what they are capable of and then tackling the whole job of cleaning up this Near Eastern mess.
I certainly was surprised to hear, from your letter, that there was a movement on foot to loan money to Armenia. I don’t think that the question of money, or the amount of money, should enter into the question of assistance to the Armenians, but I do think that any money loaned to the Armenians under the present conditions is wrong. I do not believe in the loan to Armenia to be used under an American Commission unless the United States is prepared to furnish the troops and the means to maintain Armenia as a country and protect it against all aggression from outside. We have already loaned Armenia over 50 million and that money is lost. I recommend against this loan at the time. Another loan would be simply putting good money after bad.
While the Dashnaks were in power they did everything in the world to keep the pot boiling by attacking Kurds, Turks and Tartars; by committing outrages against the Moslems; by giving no representation whatever to the Molokans which are a large factor in the population of the Caucasus Armenia; by massacring the Moslems; and robbing and destroying their homes; and finally by starting an attack against the Turks which resulted in a counter attack by the Turks, and then the Armenians deserted and ran away and even would not stand and defend their women and children. The acts of the Armenian army at Kars absolutely disgusted our Americans, including Yarrow. During the last two years the Armenians in Russian Caucasus have shown no ability to govern themselves and especially no ability to govern or handle other races under their power.
During over two years that I have been here in Constantinople I have had occasion to see nearly everyone of our Americans that have gone to, or returned from, the Caucasus, and I think I am safe in stating that I have never had one of them that believed the Armenians had any ability to govern themselves, and most of these Americans that have been working with the Armenians have come away disgusted.
…I do not believe the Armenians are able to govern themselves, and especially should not be allowed to govern other people; and certainly, if any of the other races here in this part of the country are under the Armenians, they are going to be submitted to oppression and outrage. I believe in helping the Armenians, but not in this way. I believe that if we come out and state all the facts regarding the Armenian question, and all combine, we can get the United States to help them. However, so long as we proceed along the present line I do not believe we will succeed because I don’t believe it is right.
In regard to loaning the Armenians money without Armenia being under a mandate I believe this is an unjustifiable waste of money. For two years we have expended money in relief work for the Armenians and we supplied them flour on a loan covering over 50 million dollars. What is there to show for all this vast expenditure? There is nothing to show except ingratitude, and when an emergency arose, one of the greatest friends Armenia ever had and the one that had been working and giving his best efforts for relief work amongst them, had to depend upon the Turks for his own personal protection. It is a well known fact that in the beginning of our relief work flour and provisions turned over to the Armenian Government for the starving were taken by the high officials of the Government and sold for their own benefit. Then finally Armenia turned Bolshevik and repudiated all her debts; and one of these debts was for the flour we had furnished on their word of honor to repay, because they certainly had no security to offer. It was a sentimental loan based on faith in a people, and they have gone back on us…
… I am afraid you have more faith in European countries than I have. Thus far the European countries have protected none of the races in this part of the world. The fact is, in my opinion, the plans that they have been carrying out have resulted in greater harm to the so-called Christian races than if nothing at all had been done. I cannot imagine anyone believing that the European countries would do anything to protect the boundary of Armenia fixed by Mr. Wilson unless it was to their selfish interests to do so, and I do not see what selfish interests would be involved by our loaning money to Armenia. As regards the United Staes guaranteeing the protection of that boundary from within, I cannot imagine the United States ever consenting doing this. Such an undertaking would certainly be the best possible way of involving America in European entanglements; and still more, in my opinion such entanglements would not be justified…
I believe in starting a campaign and placing the Armenian and Greek situation before our people in the United States squarely and fairly, telling both sides of the story. The Greek propaganda in the United States has given our people a wrong idea entirely in regard to the Greek question. The European countries lend themselves to this misleading propaganda. The difficult situation that the European Powers have got into the Near East is due in my opinion to basing their action upon wrong-doing. There was no justification for putting the Greeks in Smyrna and this was borne out by a report of investigation which was as fair and square an investigation as was ever made. This report is in the State Department. The Greeks keep contending they have got a majority of population in the parts of Asia Minor that they occupy. You know, and we all know this is not true. Those who know the Greeks out here know that they are not in any way representative of the ancient Greeks that we all admire. In fact, they are just the opposite. I don’t believe there is a single representative of a European Country in Constantinople that does not deprecate the occupation of Asia Minor by the Greeks. There is no doubt in the world that the support of this is simply upon the old principle of maintaining a balance of power in the Near East. I don’t think there is any doubt in the world that if our people at home were made to realize this that they would rise up against any support of Greece by money or moral influence.
Dr. Barton’s reply to Admiral Bristol. Dr. Barton talks about the Armenian lobby in the United States and their claims, which he believes are far from reality. In fact, Dr. Barton literally fools the US High Commissioner as we will see below, Dr. Barton’s prior statements completely contradict his response to the Admiral. (emphasis to excerpts added by reviewer)
May 6, 1921
My Dear Admiral Bristol,
I want to express my high appreciation of your letter of the 28th of March, just received, discussing with such thoroughness those fundamental questions which lie so near the hearts of both of us and to a great multitude beside, namely, the Near Eastern question as relates to Turkey and Armenia. I was especially interested in the results of your observations on your important trip to Egypt, Palestine and Syria, and particularly your observation of the attitude of the French in Syria toward the American institutions.
…With reference to the false reports that come through reporting massacres of the Armenians by the Turks, there is no one who can deprecate this more than I do. But there is a situation over here which is hard to describe. There is a brilliant young Armenian, a graduate of Yale University, by the name of Cardashian. He is a lawyer, with office down in Wall Street, I believe. He has organized a committee, so-called, which has never met and is never consulted, with Mr. Gerard as Chairman. Cardashian is the whole thing. He has set up what he calls an Armenian publicity bureau or something of that kind, and has a letterhead printed. Gerard signs anything that Cardashian writes. He told me this himself one time. Cardashian is out with his own people and with everybody else, except Gerard and perhaps one other leading Armenian who was in London a month ago, Pasdermadjian. Not long since Cardashian came out with a pamphlet in which he charged the Near East Relief and the American missionaries as being the greatest enemies Armenia has ever had, claiming that they, in cooperation with President Wilson, had crucified Armenia, and a lot of other matter of this character. He claims to have the latest and fullest information out from Armenia and keeps in pretty close touch with Senator Lodge, the President, the State Department, and others in Washington. He has Gerard’s backing. We have had many a conference with Armenian leaders as to what can be done to stop this vicious propaganda carried on by Cardashian. He is constantly reporting atrocities which never occurred and giving endless misinformation with regard to the situation in Armenia and in Turkey. We do not like to come out and attack him in public. That would injure the whole cause we are all trying to serve, because people would say that we are quarreling among ourselves and would lose confidence in the whole concern. We have tried in the New York office to give publicity to nothing we did not have every reason to believe to be correct. We are therefore trying to keep controversial matters out and only keep before the public the actual needs in Armenia.
Our Committee itself is hampered by the attitude taken by the Executive that we must not do anything that could be called political. In the literature we have given out we have never suggested that America should take a mandate of Armenia or of any part of Turkey. That is politics. We have simply spoken need and have tried to interest the American people in the need there in the country. I am to have a meeting of the Executive next week called to consider whether the time has not come for us to go a step further. People are saying, “For years you have kept these suffering people alive, while on the other hand political conditions have prevented their being restored to their homes and have contributed to increasing the number of refugees and orphans. Why do you not do something to remove the cause of the trouble?’ Our answer has been, “That is politics. We are a relief organization.’ At the same time they come back at us and say, “What better relief or more effective can be carried on than to remove the cause and let these people go back to their homes in peace and quiet and there become self-supporting.’ I do not know what attitude the Executives will take. If they are favorable, we shall prepare a statement and send it through our organizations all over the country, trying to get pressure brought to bear upon Washington to do exactly what you so fully outline in your letter,take a hand in the settlement of affairs in the Near East.
When I was in London a little over a month ago, several of the leaders like Lord Bryce expressed their conviction that if the United States would be willing to loan money that some European nation would step in and take a mandate over some section of the Turkish Empire into which the Armenians could be gathered and thus established a safety zone. There is no doubt that now with the temper of the Turk stirred up by the fact that the Armenians fought with the French in Cilicia against the Turk is a very severe threat to the Armenians. Many of the Armenians are still full of revolutionary spirit and I cannot but believe that in Cilicia we have all of the elements which might precipitate another series of atrocities on both sides, for I know that the Armenians have not refrained from acts of atrocity when they had the power in their hands, and that is one of the reasons why the Turks are so incensed at the present time. Dr. Martin in Aintab has recently written that the Turks in the market place have threatened that when they come back into power, as they expect soon to do, they will rebuild the destroyed mosques and minarets with Armenian skulls. I fear that while we are waiting to get the United States to take a large view of the Near Eastern situation and a large part in its solution the Armenian element may be largely, if not wholly, eliminated.
I probably have suffered as much from the lack of appreciation on the part of Armenians as anyone. For twenty-five years I have worked for them. I doubt if there is anyone in the country that has been more frequently attacked than have I, from Cardashian down. Some -and this number is not few- have remained absolutely loyal and appreciative. But they are a peculiar people. They have a great faculty of making themselves disliked wherever they go and by most people who move among them, and yet we must remember they are human beings with capacity for education, development and reform. I feel intensely sorry for them and am ready to work on. I would not be in favor of putting the Armenians into power anywhere without having some restraining influence among them that would prevent their ill treatment of any subject races under them.
In my previous letter to you I spoke of Armenia at the time when the loan was considered and established fact. I referred of course only to the Armenia in Russia which had been recognized in Washington to the extent that it was willing to accept the signature of its officials as guarantee for the repayment of the loan. I think the same was true in England. I was not, of course, referring to any Armenia in Turkey outlined by the President.
I am sending you under another cover a copy of the May number of the Missionary Herald with an article by me which may interest you. I have had this reprinted and am sending copies to officials in Washington and to the members of the Foreign Relations Committee of both the Senate and the House. There has got to be a system of far-reaching education in this country before Congress will be brought to take any action whatever with reference to the Near East or its relation to an association of nations. Senator Lodge and his group are absolutely and irrevocably opposed to America’s taking any kind of mandate anywhere.
I have about the same feeling for the Greeks that you have. They have, however, one of the best publicity bureaus in the world and are working it to the limit here in the United States.
Mr. Dodge and I are planning to stand by the Near East Relief through this year, but we do hope that before another twelve months rolls around something will be done that will make the sending of continuous relief into that country unnecessary, apart from the care of the orphans.
You refer again to the subject of caring for the children and of giving relief to others than Armenians. In the reports that I see from all over the field that seems to be what is being done. The Red Cross people have seemed to be fully satisfied with the way their contributions have been used in this respect. The most dissatisfied people we deal with are the Armenians who say that we are diverting money intended for them.
But I did not mean to run on at such length. I want again to say how deeply I appreciate your letter. I am letting others in the Rooms read it. I understand that none of it is for publicity, although I may take the liberty of reading a few words from it at the meeting of the Twentieth Century Club where I speak tomorrow afternoon.
Please remember me most kindly to Mrs. Bristol, and believe me, my dear Admiral Bristol.
Very faithfully yours,
James L. Barton
to be cont.