A Way to Help the Armenians

By William T. Ellis

[The Independent; January 24, 1916]

The apparent hopelessness of the case of the Armenians now suffering "deportation" has been the last touch of horror to a situation perhaps without equal in the world's history. There has seemed almost nothing that could be done to aid them. Civilization has stood helpless. The Turkish Government has turned a deaf ear to all appeals. It shuts the doors of the land against all relief expeditions. Missionaries are not allowed to assist the suffering with food and raiment, except in the most limited and local way. What can be done?

There occurs to me one plan that should be practicable. Since Red Cross and missionary relief work are interdicted, why should not the United States Government do in this case what it did in Europe immediately after the outbreak of the war—so enlarge its consular and diplomatic staffs that the exceptional needs of the sufferers could be met? The splendid company of tactful, efficient, resourceful young men who have passed the examination for the consular and diplomatic service are uniquely qualified to meet this condition. By drawing upon consulates and embassies which are not especially crowded, and by utilizing the waiting list, the State Department can at once marshal a force adequate to administer relief within the respective zones of the consulates and embassies.

Prompt action would save tens of thousands of lives. Great-hearted America has already given, or will quickly give, to these national representatives, all the relief supplies that can be administered. Turkey will doubtless extend the privileges which she has already granted Ambassador Morgenthau; Persia and Russia would not think of objecting to the enlargement of America's representation in the regions of distress. Even now at several consular cities there are camps of Armenian refugees numbering many thousands, with no one to administer relief. Does not this seem to be clearly one of the higher obligations of humanity devolving upon American diplomacy?

The possible centers for this service are familiar to the State Department and to all who have followed closely the Armenian tragedy. Aside from additional help at Constantinople and Teheran, the most obvious points, now maintaining consulates, where immediate and important relief work can be done are Aleppo, Alexandretta, Harput, Urfa, Brusa, Mersina, Trebizond, Samsun, Smyrna, Bagdad, Bassorah, Damascus, Jerusalem, Beirut, Tripoli, Haifa, and Jaffa and Tabriz. In addition Konia, Afion, Kara Hissar, Van, Aintab, Mosul, Bitlis, Diarbekir, Urumiah and Hamadan at present call for the oversight and assistance of accredited representatives of the United States Government.

Even if there were no precedent for this special service, the situation is unprecedented and calls for red blood rather than for red tape.

Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013

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