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TURKEY : THE BLIGHT OF ASIA
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THE TURKS ARRIVE
ON THE morning of the ninth of September, 1922, about eleven o’clock, frightened screams were heard. Stepping to the door of my office, I found that a crowd of refugees, mostly women, were rushing in terror upon the Consulate and trying to seek refuge within, and that they were very properly being kept out by the two or three bluejackets assigned for the defense of the consular property.
One glance from the terrace which overlooked the quay made evident the cause of their terror. The Turkish cavalry were filing along the quay, on their way to their barracks at the Konak at the other end of the city. They were sturdy-looking fellows passing by in perfect order. They appeared to be well-fed and fresh. Many of them were of that Mongolian type which one sees among the Mohammedans of Asia Minor.
From the fact that not all the troops of Mustapha Khemal were provided with the smart uniforms of his picked troops, much has been made by Turkish apologists of the difference between "regulars" and "irregulars". Any one who saw those mounted troops passing along the quay of Smyrna would testify, if he knew anything at all of military matters, that they were not only soldiers, but very good soldiers indeed, thoroughly trained and under perfect control of admirable officers. And any one who knows anything of Turkish character will testify that the Turk is essentially a soldier, extraordinarily amenable to the orders of his superiors. The Turk massacres when he has orders from headquarters and desists on the second when commanded by the same authority to stop. Mustapha Khemal was worshipped by that army of "regulars" and "irregulars" and his word was law.
As the Turkish cavalry was entering Smyrna on the morning of the ninth, some fool threw a bomb. The Turkish officer commanding the cavalry division received bloody cuts about the head. All the testimony is to the effect that he rode unconcernedly on. That is what a Turk would do, for of the courage of the race there is no doubt. It has been stated that this bomb was thrown by an Armenian, but I have seen no proof of the assertion, nor can the statement that the throwing of this bomb precipitated the massacre of the Armenians, be reconciled with the Turkish claim that their troops were so exasperated with the atrocities of the Greek army that they could not be restrained when reaching Smyrna. Armenians are not Greeks, and the fury of the Turks burst first upon their usual victims.
On the evening of the ninth, the looting and killing began. Shooting was heard in various parts of the town all night, and the following morning native-born Americans, both men and women, began to report seeing corpses lying about in the streets in the interior of the town. Nureddin Pasha, the Turkish commander-in-chief, issued a command that everybody was to go peacefully about his business and that order should be preserved. This caused a momentary feeling of security among a certain element of the non-Mussulman population, so that a number of shops that had been closed were reopened.
But this confidence was not of long duration, for the looting spread and the savagery increased. At first, civilian Turks, natives of the town, were the chief offenders. I myself saw such civilians armed with shotguns watching the windows of Christian houses ready to shoot at any head that might appear. These had the air of hunters crouching and stalking their prey. But the thing that made an unforgettable impression was the expression on their faces. It was that of an ecstasy of hate and savagery. There was in it, too, a religious exaltation, but it was not beautiful, it was the religion of the Powers of Darkness. One saw, too, all the futility of missionary work and efforts of conversion. Here was complete conviction, the absolute triumph of error and the doctrine of murder and pitilessness. There was something infinitely sad in those pale writhing faces on which seemed to shine the wan light of hell. One could not help pitying those men even while they were killing. One thought of lost souls and the torments of the damned. Those killers were unhappy.
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