Home Opinion Mike Scruggs The Greco-Turkish War

The Greco-Turkish War

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Allied Betrayals and Turkish Genocides

Part 12 of a Series on Islamic Doctrines

The Greek Army was demoralized by this news, but following a visit from Constantine and a new Prime Minister, Dimitrios Gounaris, in June 1921, the morale of the troops was rejuvenated and the Greek Army went on to several key victories during the summer of 1921. By September, they had reached the Sakarya River only 62 miles from the Turkish capitol of Ankara.

Many historians consider Constantine’s support for the Greek cause in Turkey an enigma, because he favored Greek neutrality in World War I. However, Constantine’s neutrality in 1917 was based on his close family relationships to German royalty. His wife, Sophia, was the Princess of Prussia and the sister of the German Kaiser. Sophia also had mixed loyalties. She was the granddaughter of the English Queen Victoria. Constantine had also been a successful Greek Field Marshall in the Balkan War victories in 1912 to 1913 and was able to identify with common Greek soldiers. The 1920 plebiscite that returned Constantine to the Greek throne was 99 percent favorable. Furthermore, his 38-year-old younger brother, Andrew, Prince of Greece and Denmark, was a Greek Army officer who had proven himself in formidable actual responsibilities. Andrew’s identification with Greek soldiers and the Greek cause was undoubtedly also an influence on Constantine. Andrew was the grandfather of Prince Phillip, husband to Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

A tremendous influence on Constantine, Andrew, and the Greek Army, however, had to be their first hand knowledge of the Turkish genocide being visited primarily on Armenian Orthodox Christians but also Greek Orthodox and other Christian minorities. Estimates of the number of Armenians systematically exterminated by the Turks vary, but the Knights of Vartan Armenian Research Center at the University of Michigan at Dearborn estimates that approximately 1.5 million of 2.5 million Armenian Christians in the Ottoman Empire were deliberately exterminated in the 1915 to 1916 genocide, which was extended by smaller atrocities through 1923. Previous Turkish genocides from 1822 to 1909 had killed 228,000 Armenians, 75,000 Greeks, and 55,000 other Christians—mostly Assyrians and Maronites.

On April 24, 1915, 300 Armenian political, clerical, professional, and intellectual leaders were rounded up and murdered in Constantinople (Istanbul). Another 5,000 Armenian Christians were butchered in their homes or in the streets.

The Young Turk Committee for Union and Progress (CUP) orchestrated the whole process. The next step was to disarm Armenians in the Army and transfer them to labor battalions. They were then killed.

In a village by village process, Armenian Christians were first asked to turn in their weapons, although as second class citizens, none were allowed to own firearms.

The next step was to announce the “deportation” of Armenians to other areas. The Armenians were then called together to their nearest village. The men were first divided from the women and children. The men were then tied together by ropes, and the roped chain of men were marched to an acceptably distant and more remote place and slaughtered.

The women and children were then started on death marches to die by exhaustion, heat stroke, sickness, starvation, thirst, or the brutality of rifle butts and bayonets. This could take several weeks. During that time the women were preyed upon as sexual booty, the usual Muhammadan custom documented in all three doctrinal standards of Islam: the Koran, the Hadiths (sayings) and the Sira (biography) of Muhammad. The last two are usually called together the Sunna—the words and example of Muhammad, which is doctrinally binding to all Muslims. This is acceptable because non-Muslims are unbelievers and infidels judged by a completely different standard in Sharia Law than Muslims. Non-Muslims could be treated generously, fairly, or cruelly as it suited the advantage of Muslims. They had the status of cattle to be used or disposed of for the benefit of Muslims. Their homes and persons were always subject to robbery and looting.

In Trebizond on the Black Sea, the Turks varied the routine. They loaded the Armenians on barges and sank them out at sea.

The Armenian Genocide was directed by a Special Organization (Teshkilati Mahsusa) set up by the Young Turk CUP, which created special “butcher battalions,” many of whom were violent criminals released from prison.

Thousands of Greek Orthodox Christians had been massacred previous to 1919, but the principal target under both Sultan-Caliphs and Turkish Nationalists had been Armenian Christians. Muhammad’s way was to eliminate one major enemy at a time. As the number of Armenians was fast dwindling in Turkey, the next target for major attrition would be Greek Christians, who numbered over 500,000 in the Smyrna area.

The Italians maintained several military garrisons in southwestern Turkey under Allied auspices but signed a written treaty with the Turkish Nationalists on March 21, 1921, and continued to supply them with arms and munitions. The French had maintained several garrisons in southeastern Turkey under allied auspices. Despite a near massacre of a French garrison at Urfa in April 1920 by Turkish Nationalist forces, in which 179 French soldiers were killed, French sources began to supply Turkish Nationalist forces with arms and ammunition. On October 20, 1921, the French signed a written treaty to supply the Turks with arms.

On August 5, 1921, the Turkish Parliament replaced their Western Commander, General Ismet Inonu, with Mustafa Kemal and made Fevzi Cakmak Chief of the Turkish General Staff. On August 23, the Greeks launched a major attack across the Sakarya River that lasted for three weeks and exhausted both sides. They had come within 40 miles of Ankara but failed to encircle it. Russian supplies helped save the day for the Turks. Also running low on ammunition and supplies, the Greeks made an orderly withdrawal to their original positions. For their leadership in the Battle of Sakarya and saving Ankara, the Turkish Parliament promoted both Mustafa Kemal and Fevzi Cakmak to the rank of Field Marshall (five-stars). No Turkish officer has ever held the rank since then. The two opposing armies lasted out the winter and remained in stalemate until August 1922.

The decisive increase in Turkish capabilities came during the stalemate. On April 29 1922, the Soviet Union supplied enough arms, ammunition, and equipment sufficient for three Turkish Divisions. On May 3, the Soviets also delivered generous quantities of gold and extended credit. Yet the Greeks were still low on ammunition and supplies. Their supply and communication lines were uncomfortably extended, and they were located in unfriendly Muslim territory. They sat waiting for a British war loan that never came. To be continued.

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