2017-09-13 / Features

WWI & The Ottomans Explored In Mattituck Library Book Discussion

By Catherine Tsounis

“We are experiencing today the results of WWI and the demise of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle WWI and the Ottomans Explored in Mattituck Library Book Discussion.WWI and the Ottomans Explored in Mattituck Library Book Discussion. East,” said Director Jeff Walden. “I assigned Eugene Rogan’s book ‘The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the MIDDLE EAST’ so we can learn about the past that has created 2017 life.” Thursday evening, August 10th, Book Club discussion, gave life to the Battle of Gallipoli, near the site of ancient Troy, that was a major Defeat for the British and their allies. The victory gave rise to General Kemal Ataturk, the father of the Turkish republic and the savior of his country from the western powers that were carving up its territories.

The book presents the Turkish perspective from primary sources and eyewitness accounts. Whether one agrees, there are two sides to every story. We are supposed to be a tolerant society. This book has flaws regarding the Armenian genocide and expulsion of Greeks from Western Anatolia in 1914 through WWI. It highlights the Western Powers greediness to get the oil rich lands of the Middle East, destroying the stable infrastructure of the Ottoman Empire.

The book tells the facts of a WWI Ottoman Empire bolstered by German money, arms and military advisors that promoted jihad in their Muslim colonies against the British, French and Russian forces. The Ottomans were victorious in Middle Eastern battles. England and their allies had a poor image of the Ottoman military power. The common British Empire soldier from England, Australia India and its colonies believed the Battle of Gallipoli would end quickly. Massive losses eliminated a significant percentage of Australia’s men.

Baghdad, Jerusalem and Damascus fell to the allies. The dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire began with armistice in 1918. The division of Arab lands formed the groundwork for the ongoing conflict in our time. “The Ottomans had Lost the Great War,” said the author in his conclusion.” It was a national catastrophe but not unprecedented. Since 1699, the Ottomans had lost most of the wars they had fought and still the empire had survived. Yet never had the Ottomans faced such a constellation of interests as they did in negotiating the peace after the “Great War. Caught between the conflicting demands of the victorious powers and Turkish nationalists, the Ottomans ultimately fell more because of the terms of the peace than of the magnitude of their defeat.”

WWI and the Ottomans Explored in Mattituck Library Book Discussion.WWI and the Ottomans Explored in Mattituck Library Book Discussion.

Author Rogan describes in detail the Ottoman war trials on the Armenian genocide in 1918. “After  months of deliberations, the courts passed death sentences on eighteen defendants for their roles in the Armenian massacres……With fifteen of the condemned tried in absentia, only three lower-ranking officials were ultimately sent to the gallows.  By August 1920, it was clear that the military tribunal was not going to bring the main perpetrators of the Armenian massacres to justice…. Unwilling to watch the young Turk leaders in exile escape justice, a group of Armenian militants from the Dashnak organization took the law into their own hands. Between March 1921 and July 1922, the Dashnaks ordered a series of assassination of key Young Turk leaders in a program known as “Operation Nemesis.” That is author Rogan’s final description.

The heroism and patriotism of Kemal Ataturk to defy the Armistice agreement is from a patriotic Turkish perspective. He does not mention the genocide of Greeks in Western Anatolia and Smyrna. He states “the Kemalists achieved total victory over all foreign armies in Turkey. The Turkish Republic was proclaimed on 20 October 1923...the acceptance of the draconian peace led to the fall of the Ottomans.”

Author Rogan describes one fact ignored in the western WWI history books. “The Ottoman front proved more influential in the first World War…. The battles in the Caucasus and Persia, the failed attempt to force the Dardanelles, the reversals in Mesopotamia and the long campaign through Sinai, Palestine and Syria diverted hundreds of thousands of men and strategic war material from primary theaters of operations on the western and eastern fronts. Rather than hastening the end of the conflict, the Ottoman front served instead to lengthen the war. Much of the Allied war effort in the Middle East was driven by what proved to be an unwarranted fear of jihad…After 11 September 2001 has demonstrated, Western policy makers continue to view jihad in terms reminiscent of the war planners from 1914 to 1918.”
“The First World War was itself tremendously influential in the making of the Middle East. With the fall of the Ottoman Empire, European imperialism replaced Turkish rule. After four centuries united in a multinational empire under Ottoman Muslim rule, the Arabs found themselves divided into many new states under British and French domination. …The boundaries were drafted to further Britain and French imperial expansion. Had the European powers been concerned with establishing a stable Middle East, one can’t help but think they would have gone about drafting the boundaries in a different way.”

The author believes “the Arab-Israeli conflict, more than any other legacy of the post war partition, has defined the Middle East as a war zone…. For the Ottoman front with its Asian battlefields and global soldiers turned Europe’s Great War into the First World war. And in the Middle East more than in any other part of the world, the legacies of the Great War continue to be felt down to the present day.” Director Jeff Walden presented a new outlook on 2017 Middle East by showing the present is a footnote to the past. “The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the MIDDLE EAST” by Eugene Rogan is published by BASIC BOOKS , New York, 2015.

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