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A view of Armenian-Turkish conflict

Pursuing the Just Cause of Their People: A Study of Contemporary Armenian Terrorism, by Michael Gunter. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. 182 pp. $29.95. In this otherwise valuable study, Michael Gunter has repeated the objections being raised by many pro-Turkish American scholars regarding the actual facts of the Armenian genocide of 1915-16, while ignoring the traumatic consequences of the massacres on the Armenian consciousness.

Still, the book is an important one for anyone requiring a systematic account of a terrorist movement that began attacking Turkish officials and offices - usually outside Turkey - during the late 1970s but has lain dormant since 1985.

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There is, in effect, a campaign currently underway to scale down, explain away, and rationalize out of existence the Armenian genocide. It may well be that the customary figure of 1.5 million Armenian deaths is exaggerated (1 million might be more accurate); that no precise order was issued from Constantinople (nor did Hitler explicitly order the Holocaust); that the Turks of eastern Anatolia also suffered terribly during World War I; that the Armenians hated Turkish rule, and so on. On all these factual issues honest scholars may honestly disagree. The bottom line, however, for Turkophile scholars, is a sustained counterattack on the Armenian position.

One doesn't have to go far for reasons why the Armenian position has a bad press. There is raison d''etat: Turkey is a solid American ally, NATO's eastern anchor, a bridge to the Muslim world, and the site of American air and intelligence bases. Younger British and American scholars, having studied on the spot, often see the Turks as victims of Western imperialism, rather than simply oppressors of Christians. That the Turks could play both roles simultaneously, and that the Armenians were something more than merely Russian fifth columnists, becomes lost in the argument. And those who contend that the Turks were struggling for their very survival as a nation during and after World War I are prepared to countenance the Armenian genocide as a ``historical necessity,'' more or less ``inevitable,'' if Turkey itself was to survive.

Can anything be done? Gunter rightly suggests that an official acceptance of responsibility from Turkey, perhaps an apology, would satisfy most Armenians, who harbor no dreams of regaining the homeland.

For the State Department to cease describing the genocide as ``alleged'' might also help.

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