By Henry R. Hattenbach
In a very real sense, Professor Vahakn Dadrian is a lone warrior in the oft-frustrating struggle to have the Armenian genocide recognized as history. Not that Dadrian is the sole scholar of this genocide that ushered in the 20th century, tirelessly grappling with those denying its historicity. Professor Richard Hovannisian immediately springs to mind. Yet no one has so single-handedly and single-mindedly literally devoted his academic time, talents and energy than has Dadrian.
His definitive The History of the Armenian Genocide (Berghahn Books, 1995) might have sufficed. Instead, this work was followed by a steady barrage of publications that systematically have taken the wind out of the deniers’ sails. In the last two years, Dadrian has produced a number of additional publications that demonstrate the power of the pen and betray a cool though passionate dedication against the anti-intellectual assaults of those who irrationally seek to destroy the past.
Two of these were lengthy articles in the University of West Los Angeles Law Review in 1998. The first “The Armenian Genocide and the Legal and Political Issues in the Failure to Prevent or to Punish the Crime” traces the serious consequences fostered by the lack of accountability. Not to bring the guilty to trial sets major precedents for future genocidists. For the genocides to come, Dadrian advocates the principle of humanitarian intervention as an international obligation with respect to the suppression of genocide. In the second article, “The Armenian Genocide and the Evidence of German Involvement,” Dadrian follows a significant thread of evidence extracted from German sources, namely, the degree of knowledge and involvement on the part of the Imperial government regarding the Turkish government’s war of extermination against its Armenian citizens. That article later became a book, German Responsibility in the Armenian Genocide, published by Blue Crane Books.
In a third article which appeared in 1998 in The Yale Journal of International Law, “The Historical and Legal Interconnections between the Armenian Genocide and the Jewish Holocaust: From Impunity to Retributive Justice,” Dadrian focuses on the absolute need for the rule of law, however imperfect the application of that principle. Civilization rises and falls on the insistence on or failure to respect the primacy of law.
What is so amazing about Dadrian’s work is that he does not repeat himself unnecessarily. That means new themes and new sources. Just when it looks he must have exhausted his materials; he unearths more and uses it to good ends, always maintaining strict scholarly discipline.
Most recently, Dadrian produced what seems his opus magnum Warrant for Genocide, a title he openly and purposely borrowed from Norman Cohn’s earlier book about the Holocaust. However, Dadrian modifies it with his own subtitle, “Key Elements of the Turko-Armenian conflict,” which is not a happy wording. Nevertheless, the book is a superb study of the international character of the Turkish policy to annihilate the Armenian population in its fading empire. Again he steeps himself into new sources and comes up with renewed proof of the genocide, thereby further limiting the space for those who continue to prevaricate and deny for nothing but base political reasons.
His most recent work, published this fall by the Zoryan Institute, is The Key Elements in the Turkish Denial of the Armenian Genocide: A Case of Distortion and Falsification. The 83-page booklet rebutts point-by-point the Turkish government’s allegations that genocide did not take place against the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire.
This should be the last nail in the coffin but obviously it will not be because biased politicians are not swayed by honest historians. Policy made to preserve stubborn self-interest will not bend to the voice of reason. Thus, Dadrian’s work will never be done if his goal is only to discredit the deniers. But it is not. His dedication lies with history and its most accurate depiction according to authentic sources. His is the crusade of a dedicated craftsman, who miraculously shuns partisanship and unsubstantiated subjectivity.