The old America wanted to bring daylight to others. Now the US president believes his country should be paid to intervene militarily in the Middle East – and then paid to leave
By the time Donald Trump was condemning environmentalists as the “perennial prophets of doom” in Davos, his impeachment trial was opening in Washington. But quite by chance, at that very moment, I was reading a new edition of a book by a child survivor of the 1915 Armenian Holocaust which, hauntingly and poetically, said more about America than anything Trump – or Congress – could ever utter.
Leon Surmelian lost both his parents in 1915 and, just after the Second World War, he published I Ask You, Ladies and Gentlemen with the kind of horrific detail that only accounts of the Jewish Holocaust, a quarter of a century later, normally include. He remembered the naked and mutilated body of a young woman in a Turkish river – “her long hair floated down the current” – and “a human arm caught in the roots of a tree” and “a long, long band of frothy blood clinging to [the river] banks”. No wonder Israeli Jews speak today of the Armenian “Shoah” – the Holocaust, in Hebrew – which first struck the Christians of Ottoman Turkey.
But it was Surmelian’s salvation when he travelled later to Constantinople and visited the US-run Robert College, on a hill near Istanbul’s Castle of Rome, that caught my attention in his book. The college, now 154 years old and still perched between the two Bosporus bridges, coeducational and independent, deeply impressed the young Armenian whose dream was to go to America.
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