Letters: The slaughter of the Armenians

Slaughter of the Armenians was no Holocaust
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The Independent Online

The reason some object to applying the word "genocide" to the 1915 slaughter of the Armenians (letter, 5 May) is that to do so obscures important distinctions between that and other cases of state-led mass killings.

Armenian diaspora lobby groups want people to think that Turkey did to the Armenians pretty much what the Nazis did to the Jews 25 years later. Pushing this line has won them valuable ideological points in US public opinion. Use of the word genocide has been central to this.

But to represent the Ottoman Armenians as victims in the same sense as the Jews under the Nazis is wrong. Jews in Germany or Poland had never engaged in political assassinations or terrorist bombings of civilians. They had never attempted to resist the government, destroy neighbouring villages, or to welcome invading enemy forces. The same could not be said of the Armenians. Their actual or aspiring leaders, grabbing at the new European invention of ethnic national identity (just as the Turks later would under Ataturk), posed genuine military and political problems. The Young Turk authorities were desperately, and incompetently, trying to hold together an ancient Empire that had been falling apart for a century.

But even then, they never developed a strategy for a "final solution" on Nazi lines. The Armenian case is fundamentally different from the Holocaust. And to that extent it may be best not to bundle them together under the same label.

This is not of course to justify the mass slaughter of Armenian civilians with which the Ottomans eventually ended up. Nor is it to endorse the nationalistic myths which Turkish schools and the hopelessly uncritical media still pump out (there are monuments commemorating the genocide of Turks by Armenians). But the tragi-comic nature of the Turkish state doesn't mean that the Armenian lobby has right on its side.

This is not a tussle over what really happened in history, so much as a clash between the beneficiaries of one or other myth of ethno-national victimhood today.

Professor John Lovering

Cardiff University

Mistakes in MPs' expenses claims

So Gordon Brown "inadvertently" claimed for a plumber's bill twice and Jack Straw likewise claimed the full cost of his council tax, despite a 50 per cent rebate ("Labour rocked by expenses revelations", 8 May).

It really is one law for the rich and another for the poor. There is no defence of having inadvertently overclaimed benefits if you are unemployed. On the contrary, you will be subject to the full force of the law, interviewed under caution and as likely as not prosecuted. You will also be demonised if you are poor and unemployed, with television and radio adverts informing "benefit thieves" that the authorities are on to them.

A failure to declare a change of circumstances to the authorities can count as fraud.

Bankers are rewarded for the consequences of their own gambling, MPs are able to draw up rules allowing them to get away with what many would see as expenses fraud, but the poor are penalised for the slightest error. And New Labour wonders why it is unpopular.

Tony Greenstein

Secretary, Brighton & Hove Unemployed Workers Centre

Harriet Harman says that any dubious expense claims by ministers were made "in good faith". I wonder whether an individual who finds themselves in front of magistrates, accused of claiming Jobseekers allowance while also being in full-time employment, can also count on Ms Harman's support?

Chris Kyle

Bognor Regis, West sussex

I am tired of reading that MPs kept within the rules of claiming expenses, but what really annoys me is the big lie – that MPs are paid around £65,000 a year. We are learning that they are able to live at a rate (at public expense) that a non-MP could achieve, after tax, only if on a salary of about four times that.

I can live with them being paid (effectively) ten times the national average wage (there aren't that many of them, and the harm they can do is limited), but I object to the fiction that their pay is much lower.

P J Cresswell


We have for weeks now been hearing ministers tell us that the rules on expenses do not work and must urgently be changed. Yet practically every minister challenged has justified his or her own claims by telling us that they were within the rules.

When making their claims, did ministers believe that the rules did work and did not need to be changed? Or were they aware of the flaws in the system but took advantage anyway?

Sam Macdonald

Barley, Hertfordshire

Noting that the Prime Minister claimed £6,577 for two years' cleaning of his flat, might an estimate be brought forward for the cleansing of the Augean mess within No 10 Downing Street for a similar period? Urgently.

John Axon

Petts Wood, Kent

How do I use the Freedom of Information Act to find information on where the Daily Telegraph obtained information on MPs' expenses?

Mark Kermode


Palm oil supports small farmers

Martin Hickman is right to push for greater use of certified palm oil ("The guilty secrets of palm oil", 2 May). The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil has indeed taken too long to get up and running. But it should be remembered that this initiative, (established jointly by manufacturers such as Unilever, environmental groups and palm-oil producers), works on a voluntary basis. Developing workable certification takes time.

For manufacturers to restrict purchases to certified production at this stage would be to exclude sustainable output from tens of thousands of native smallholders, and condemn them to poverty. My native friends in the Labuk Valley in Borneo, who have given up their blow-pipes and are now making a living from their oil-palm smallholdings, would be amused by the caricature Mr Hickman paints of "gun-toting security guards" prowling the forests.

During the 50 years I have been involved with oil palms, development, in Malaysia at least, has been strictly controlled, and grown only on previously logged land officially zoned by the Government for agricultural development, or on land converted from other crops.

As a committed environmentalist, I am convinced that the only way to save the tropical rainforest is to encourage the most efficient use of agricultural land. The oil palm produces 10 times more vegetable oil per hectare than the soybean and employs 20 times more labour. If Malaysia was to follow Brazil's example and plant soybeans, they would need to fell virtually every remaining hectare of jungle to produce a similar quantity, and they would have huge problems of unemployment.

Datuk Leslie Davidson

(Retired Chairman, Unilever Plantations International)

Ditchling, East Sussex

It is not correct to say that Duchy Originals food is responsible for deforestation ("How Prince's food is destroying rainforests", 2 May). Only 3 per cent of our products contain any palm oil at all, and only then in minimal quantities. All palm oil used is from a sustainable certified organic source.

Andrew Baker

CEO, Duchy Originals Twickenham

Wrong city to open the ID card farce

Manchester seems an unlikely place to introduce ID cards, the Government's panacea for crime. Perhaps Jacqui Smith has been prejudiced against this comparatively law-abiding city by viewing too many episodes of Shameless? Liverpool or Glasgow would benefit more.

John Eoin Douglas


How can anything claim to be an ID card that doesn't include a DNA sample? I have in mind a card made of suitably compacted toe-nail clippings, from which a clipping could be taken, in the manner of a ticket inspector. This could then be matched against a freshly taken sample. Alternatively, the whole scheme could be scrapped, along with Jacqui Smith.

Colin V Smith

Rainford, Merseyside

Thatcher: the case for the prosecution

Margaret Thatcher has left an indelible mark on British, European and world history, but it is not the sort with which a civilised person would choose to associate themselves. Bruce Anderson's paean (Comment, 4 May), when relieved of its spaniel-eyed devotion, does make passing note some of the more glaring lacunae in Thatcherism and yet fails to enter them properly in the butcher's bill.

If Thatcher had not taken the Friedman/Hayek delusional bizarrerie as gospel and proceeded to crucify our country according to its dictates, we would not have gone on to Blair and Brown. There is a direct link; we are now experiencing Thatcher's second recession.

Anderson fails to mention Thatcher's ghastly love-in with Pinochet, a mass-murdering dictator. If Thatcher's government had been awake, Galtieri would be unlikely to have invaded the Falklands. If Thatcher had not indulged Maynard and Clarke's back-of-a-fag-packet fundholding wheeze in the NHS, we could now be well-advanced with a 21st-century system instead of mired in a demoralised, managed to death, massively wasteful pseudo-market of our country's sick and injured. If Thatcher had balanced the destruction of defunct industry with the active development of 21st-century manufacturing . . . If Thatcher had invested the oil revenues in Britain's future . . . .

The fallout from Thatcher's period in office will pollute most of this century and cripple not only our generation's chances but also our children's.

Steven Ford

Haydon Bridge, Northumberland

It was the mass non-payment campaign, not riots, that defeated the poll tax and led to Thatcher's resignation. Non-payment was first put forward by supporters of Militant (now the Socialist Party), with one million people in Scotland refusing to pay by the end of 1989.

Simon Assas' account ("The prime of their lives", Independent Life, 30 April) was unfortunately typical of the mainstream media's "history" of the poll tax, focusing on the riot while not mentioning non-payment.

The poll tax became, in the word of John Major, "uncollectable".

Bob Severn

Socialist Party, London E17

There is one human factor that both Margaret Thatcher and Bruce Anderson have overlooked: the social (or moral) obligation of those who by good fortune were blessed with the attributes necessary to achieve success in life to help those who by bad luck were not so endowed.

Julien Evans

Chesham, Buckinghamshire

National saviours

I suggest saving time and money by sacking the current administration, avoiding a general election and simply offering the reins to a coalition of Ms J Lumley (Prime Minister) and Mr V Cable (Chancellor). I believe this would have considerable popular support. All those in favour say "Aye."

Mark Ogilvie

Malpas, Cheshire

Welcome to the G20

We are a country that puts on a great show, and this is what we did at the recent meeting of the G20. I for one do not object to the £500,000 it cost to feed the leaders and all others mentioned in your report (7 May). It is good manners to offer good food and drinks to one's guests. And please remember it was for Great Britain and not the Prime Minister, so stop moaning about every little expenditure. A small price to pay for the positive global publicity we as a nation received.

Omar Vaja

London W1

Lone voice of sanity

I was a small shareholder in the Halifax Building Society and voted against demutualisation when it merged with Bank of Scotland. Having lost that vote I then became a small shareholder in HBOS. I voted against the merger of HBOS and Lloyds/TSB, sensing a train crash in the making. Agan I lost, and now find myself a small shareholder in Lloyds Banking Group. I have received a shareholder voting form asking me if I wish to retain the services of Sir Victor Blank, the architect of the train crash. Any suggestions as to how I should vote?

Steve Poole


Over the top

According to the Sport in Brief column (6 May), Simon Gillett said of the 2010 British Grand Prix at Donington, "We are 110 per cent committed to make it happen." Surely if someone is 110 per cent committed, then he is over-committed, trying too hard and therefore more likely to make a mistake than if he was merely fully committed. On that basis his "100 per cent", certainty that the event will happen should be revised downwards.

Peter Groome


Taboo busters

A simple solution for the producers of the remake of The Dam Busters, agonising over whether to remain faithful to the original and name Wingco Guy Gibson's dog Nigger (report, 7 May). Follow the example of countless rappers and many other movies: spell the dog's name "nigga".