Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot That Avenged the Armenian Genocide
reviewed by Jolie Velazquez

Operation Nemesis: 
The Assassination Plot That Avenged the Armenian Genocide
by Eric Bogosian
Little, Brown and Company, 2015

The Technique of Genocide: An Armenian Deportation Caravan Driven into the Desert

Eric Bogosian is not an historian or a journalist, the two callings that specialize in creating historical narratives, fact-checked and peer-reviewed. Bogosian is a playwright, director, and actor best known for his work on the New York stage and TV's "Law and Order" franchises, so he does know a thing or two about how to tell a compelling story. More important for this book, however, is the fact that he is Armenian,and that he found something new to relate.

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Even America-born Armenian descendants continue to live in the shadow of the calculated destruction of their families that began in 1915 at the hands of their Turkish rulers, and, as anyone who has ever created a related search algorithm on knows, there are hundreds of books about the Armenian Genocide in print. The latest narratives have the advantage of archival and government materials that have become available only in recent decades that substantiate personal memories.

A few Turkish scholars have also weighed in on the side of truth-telling, a serious risk for them under Turkish law. When Bogosian stumbled upon this little-known story about genocide survivors who organized to take revenge on the Turks, he recognized a tale that needed to be told. We have known through books and documentaries about the Jewish agents and lone wolves who sought out Nazi perpetrators after the Holocaust for retribution, but I, for one, had never heard the story of Armenian payback. Bogosian did his due diligence in amassing facts, checking sources, and asking advice of professionals to make sure his work would meet academic standards, and his concentrated course in historiography paid off with this engrossing and profound narrative.

To inform the general reader, the first chapters synopsize the history of the Armenians and their relationship with the Ottoman Empire, and tells the story of how the Young Turk government used the excuse of the Great War to realize their program of eliminating Armenians from within their borders. The information is a bit thick and much more like a standard history book, but the author sets the stage well.

The rest of the book reads like the best kind of crime drama. Rather than repeat all the horrors of systematic massacres, Bogosian concentrates on the stories of the men who survived their own harrowing experiences, so the reader directly connects to the victims. The author uses all the memoirs, letters, and related conversations he could find to provide vivid character studies of the Nemesis agents. When these men realize that the administrative perpetrators of these crimes were not going to be adequately punished, we understand their motivation for revenge. The author takes us to many countries and through many tense moments as the avengers plot and carry out their plan to gain satisfaction, all in the deepest secrecy and requiring personal sacrifice.

Whatever the reader thinks about vigilante justice, the Nemesis story engages us at a level we can all experience through this work. If you root for them to complete their mission, there is a muted sense of satisfaction in the results, but no one comes away unscathed from the aftermath of this historical crime, least of all, the reader. [Warning: gruesome and graphic details may be disturbing to some readers.]

Jolie Velazquez


  1. Jolie and Mike: The lurid details of the "Genocide" mask some very pertinent facts about that event. Turkey came into the war on the side of Germany, which instantly make Russia an enemy and combatant. The well organized Armenian minority then chose that opportunity to rise up in revolt. Their militias fought pitched battles with the Turkish army, some of which they won. The eastern Turkish city of Van was conquered and occupied by the Armenian's for a month. They were greatly assisted by the Russians in the north with recruits, training, armaments and money. The Armenians, a large minority throughout Turkey, were detested by the Turks and considered outright traitors. As a policy decision, the Turkish government, after putting down the revolt with great difficulty, decided to move some of the large village populations of Armenians out of the eastern provinces as a security measure. That's how it started. The native Turks were not nice to the Armenians as they trudged westward. Hence, genocide. Tell the whole story.

    The Armenians, then and now, are a wealthy, cohesive community in the Near East. They made sure that not a single Pasha, four of them, associated with this event, after the war, would die a natural death.
    Robert Warwick

  2. "Go ahead, kill without mercy. After all, who remembers today the Armenian Genocide?" -- Adolf Hitler
    By arresting Turks that even raise the issue or seek to investigate it, makes it true for Turkish history. Only thru sunshine and investigation can the truth be told, and the Turkish government seeks to strenuously avoid this.
    I think most countries that seek to nationalize their group as the only nationality in a region, have experienced a mass killing or genocide. Even the United States had one, little remember today. We sought to exterminate the aboriginal population of this continent as we expanded west for the manifest destiny of the white man. Yes we had a genocidal policy toward native americans. Someday Turkey will have to face its history, not glorify it for fascist purposes. "You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free."