In an op-ed in the Boston Globe, reprinted in the IHT, Charles Fried describes the mass murder of the Armenians in 1915-1916 as “Ataturk’s genocide”.
Since the official position of the Turkish government, followed by most Turks, is that the genocide never happened, they can’t defend Kemal Atatürk against this slur. But I know of no evidence he was directly responsible. During WWI he was a (very good) fighting general. According to this Armenian genocide website – hardly a pro-Turk source – he “stayed out of politics until 1919”.
Atatürk, a member of the Young Turk movement, was a commander in Diyarbekir in 1916 and the Caucasus front in 1917, so he must have known what his bosses – Enver and Talat – were doing, It’s conceivable he contributed as executant, though he wasn’t SFIK charged in the postwar Turkish and British trials. The same site does accuse him of war crimes against Armenians in the battles of 1920-1922, when he had risen to power. Atatürk must also carry responsibility for the institutional denial by the Republic he created, so he’s hardly a total innocent. It is still a grotesque distortion to pin his name to the genocide as prime mover. Should we call the extermination of the Sephardic Jews of Salonika in 1943 Waldheim’s genocide ?