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The Armenian Propaganda in the United States and Ambassador Ahmet Rüstem Bey (English Summary of the Turkish Article)

Retired Ambassador, Dr. Bilal N. ŞİMŞİR*
Armenian Studies, Issue 2, June-July-August 2001


This paper gives us information on the attempts made by the Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Rüstem Bey to prevent the Armenian propaganda against the Ottoman Empire in the US.

In 1914 Ahmet Rüstem Bey was nominated as Ambassador to Washington, where he started his duty on the 24th of June with the presentation of his confidence letter to the US President Woodrow Wilson. He was the first Ottoman Ambassador in Washington. Only four days later Archduke Ferdinand of Austro-Hungary was assassinated in Sarajevo and WWI started. In the summer of 1914 the US and Turkey were still outside the war. As soon as Ahmet Rüstem Bey took the office he had two shocking news.

The first one was that Britain refused to submit the two Ottoman arships, which were built in Britain for the Ottomans, despite the fact that they were paid fully.

The second shock came from the United States. Ambassador Ahmet Rüstem Bey got to know that the US navy was about to sell the two warships, ‘Idaho’ and ‘Mississippi’ to Greece. The Turkish Ambassador immediately acted to prevent this sale and he even reached President Wilson to express his concern. Ambassador Ahmet Rüstem Bey stated that the sale of the warships to Greece would instigate Greek aggression against Turkey and damage the peace. Nevertheless, he could not manage to stop the US to sell the two warships to Greece. President Wilson claimed that Greece would not use the ships for war. At the end, the US Senate voted in favour of sale and President Wilson approved it.

Ahmet Rüstem Bey was shocked by the campaign in the US press demanding the humanitarian intervention of the US navy in Turkey to protect the Armenians.  Ahmet Rüstem Bey realized that Britain and France were in behind the campaign. They tried to gain the US public support for the involvement of the US in the First World War. Ahmet Rüstem Bey successfully struggled against this campaign by using the same tools: he wrote articles and gave interviews. In an interview to the Evening Star, dated 8th of September in 1914, he stated that Britain and France spread that Armenians were murdered, which is completely untrue, in order to get public support in the US. He accepted that in the past some Armenians had rebelled against the Ottoman Empire and they were suppressed in a way any nation would do. He also asked what the US would do if a community in the US collaborated with its enemy. He criticized the French and British activities in Algeria and India. Ahmet Rüstem Bey also mentioned ‘Water Cure’, a kind of torture used by the US against natives in the Philippines and lynches in the US.

President Wilson, who didn’t do anything to end the anti-Turkish campaign, which was intending to damage the reputation of the Ottoman Empire among the Americans, got extremely angry when he read Rüstem Bey’s interview. President Wilson first wanted to declare the ambassador persona non grata, even Wilson thought to break diplomatic relations with the Ottoman State. However, Bryan, Secretary of State and Robert Lansing, his deputy, calmed down the President and persuaded him not to do so. For Bryan and Lancing, such a problem with the Ottomans when the Great War erupted in Europe would damage the American interests. On the 11th of September, the US Secretary of State asked officially Ahmet Rüstem Bey whether the words published in the newspaper were the correct interpretation of his interview or not. Ahmet Rüstem Bey sent a memorandum on the 12th of September in which he stated ‘the interview published in Evening Star had expressed my own ideas. I am aware of that this may seem as an unusual way to explain personal ideas for an ambassador. However, the propaganda campaign in the press against the Turkish and the American interests is not usual. Turkey has been exposed to the systematic attacks from the US press… Turkey in these campaigns has been shown as the only responsible for all the problems. Although the similar problems and radicalism had been seen in many countries, all this is being used consciously against Turkey. As a result of these campaigns Turkish race was named as “unspeakable”… It might be true that I did not fully obey the diplomatic rules. Yet, I believe that the situation we are confronted with is not usual and this does not only tolerate such an attitude but also legitimates an extreme reaction. I think I did my duties towards Turkey, USA and to all humanity.

’The Turkish ambassador’s response did not conceive the Americans, but even increased the tension. After the official corresponding and consultation, the American authorities asked the ambassador to apologise. If Ahmet Rüstem Bey would have apologised from President Wilson he would have stayed in Washington, and the friendly relations between Turkey and the USA would have continue as usual. Yet the Turkish ambassador refused to apologise and he informed Sait Halim Pasha, Ottoman Prime Minister, that he would leave the USA. He also wrote another memorandum to the US Secretary of State and stated that he is not in a position to apologise. His Washington duty as ambassador lasted only three and half months and Ahmet Rüstem Bey left the USA on the 9th of October in 1914. In other words, the Armenian propaganda ended an ambassador’s carrier. After the Ottomans entered the war the Armenian propaganda dramatically increased and then Morgenthau, the American Ambassador to Istanbul, also joined the Armenian anti-Ottoman propaganda campaign.

* Historian -
- Armenian Studies, Issue 2, June-July-August 2001
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