The evidence presented in the British Blue Book on the Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire shows that this explanation is correct. The Armenians were not massacred spontaneously by the local Moslems; the initiative came entirely from the Central Government at Constantinople, which planned the systematic extermination of the Armenian race in the Ottoman Empire, worked out a uniform method of procedure, despatched simultaneous orders to the provincial officials and gendarmerie to carry it into effect, and cashiered the few who declined to obey. The Armenians were rounded up and deported by regular troops and gendarmes; they were massacred on the road by bands of chettis, consisting chiefly of criminals released from prison by the Government for this work; when the Armenians were gone the Turkish populace was encouraged to plunder their goods and houses, and as the convoys of exiles passed through the villages the best-looking women and children were sold cheap or even given away for nothing to the Turkish peasantry. Naturally the Turkish people accepted the good things the Government offered them, and naturally this reconciled them momentarily to the War.
Thus in the Armenian atrocities the Young Turks made Panislamism and Turkish Nationalism work together for their ends, but the development of their policy shows the Islamic element receding and the Nationalist gaining ground.
"After the deposition of Abd-ul-Hamid," writes the German authority quoted above, "the Committee of Union and Progress reverted more and more to the ex-Sultan's policy. To begin with, a rigorous party tyranny was set up. A power behind the Government got the official executive apparatus into its hand, and the elections to Parliament ceased to be free. The appointment of the highest officials in the Empire and of all the most important servants of the administration was settled by decrees of the Committee. All bills had to be debated first by the Committee and to receive its approval before they came before the Chamber. Public policy was determined by two main considerations: (1) The centralistic idea, which claimed for the Turkish race not merely preponderant but exclusive power in the Empire, was to be carried to its logical consequences; (2) The Empire was to be established on a purely Islamic foundation. Turkish Nationalism and the Panislamic Idea precluded a priori any equality of treatment for the various races and religions of the Empire, and any movement which looked for the salvation of the Empire in the decentralisation or autonomy of its various parts was branded as high treason. The nationalistic and centralistic tendency was directed not merely against the various non-Mohammedan nationalities - Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, and Jews - but also against the non-Turkish Mohammedan nations - Arabs, Mohammedan Syrians, Kurds, and the Shia element in the population. An idol of 'Pan-Turkism' was erected, and all non-Turkish elements in the population were subjected to the harshest measures. The rigorous action which this policy prescribed against the Albanians, who were mostly Mohammedans and had been thorough loyalists till then, led to the loss of almost the whole of European Turkey. The same policy has provoked insurrections in the Arab half of the Empire, which a series of campaigns has failed to suppress. The conflict with the Arab element continues" - this was written in 1916 - "though the 'Holy War' has forced it to a certain extent into the background."
"The conflict with the Arabs" - that has been the worst folly of the Young Turkish politicians, and it will perhaps be the most powerful solvent of the Empire which the Osmanlis have misgoverned so long. It is the inevitable consequence of the camarilla government and the Pan-Turkish chauvinism for which the Committee of Union and Progress has come to stand.
The Committee consists by its statutes of Turks alone, and the election even of one Arab was vetoed. Tekin Alp informs us that
"The portfolio of the Minister of Trade and Agriculture, which has been in the hands of Greeks and Armenians since the time of the Constitution, and was lately given to a Christian Arab, has at last been handed over to the Constantinople deputy Ahmed Nasimi Bey, who joined with Ziya Goek Alp in laying the foundations of the Turkish Movement immediately after the proclamation of the Constitution. With one exception the members of the Cabinet are all imbued with the same ideas and principles."
The Armenian deportations gave the Committee an opportunity of tightening its hold over the provincial officials as well. Valis who refused to carry out the orders were superseded if they were strong-minded enough to persist; but more often they were browbeaten by the leaders of the local Young Turk organisations, or even by their own subordinates, and let things go their way. Ways and means of packing the administration with their own henchmen had been discussed by the Committee already in their congress of October, 1911, and they had defined their policy then in the following remarkable resolutions:
"The formation of new parties in the Chamber or in the country must be suppressed and the emergence of new 'liberal ideas' prevented. Turkey must become a really Mohammedan country, and Moslem ideas and Moslem influence must be preponderant. Every other religious propaganda must be suppressed. The existence of the Empire depends on the strength of the Young Turkish Party and the suppression of all antagonistic ideas....