In late 1921, the deportation and massacres of the Greeks in Pontos by the Kemalists attracted the attention of the U.S. press and Greek-American organizations. The latter believed that the United States Government would use its moral influence on the Turkish Nationalists to stop the outrages perpetrated on the Christian minorities in Pontus.
The Greek-Americans were active in their attempts to get the United States Congress and Government to become involved in the Pontian issue. Alexander Kehayas, the President of the Greek Pontus League and also a member of the Kehayas Trading and Finance Corporation, had received a letter from the Central Council of Pontos in Athens outlining the executions of prominent Greeks in Bafra and Samsoun. He outlined that “the Greeks of New York, waving aside their political affiliations plan a mass meeting in protest, at which Congressmen and Senators will be invited to speak. We Greeks of Pontus as good American citizens will urge the civilized nations of the world to put an end to these horrible massacres.” At this time the Greek-American community was divided into Royalist and Venizelist factions, thus reflecting the political divisions existing in Greece.
On November 21, the New York Times and the New York Tribune reported a meeting that had taken place in the Synod Hall of St. John the Divine with the speakers addressing an audience of 700. The main speaker, Dr. Blanche Norton, previously connected with the Near East Relief, recounted her experiences in helping to relieve “the sufferings of the peoples of Asia Minor and the conditions in Pontus and Kerasund.” D. Christoforides, the editor of the National Herald “accused France of aiding the Kemalist Government in the massacres of the Greeks by signing the Franco-Kemalist treaty.” Other speakers included the former U.S. Consul to Greece, Frank W. Jackson, Samuel P. Goldman, Frank E. Hipple, and Kehayas. The meeting passed a resolution which was then forwarded to President Warren Harding in Washington.
Displaying unanimity, the Greek American Pontus League, the League of Greek Liberals in America, and Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople submitted a memorandum titled ‘The Turkish atrocities in Pontus and Anatolia’ on December 13 to U.S Secretary of State Charles E. Hughes. This document provided an overview of the persecutions of the Greeks and Armenians from the time of the Young Turk revolution in 1908 through to the signing of the Franklin-Bouillon agreement in October 1921. France’s action gave de-facto recognition to Mustapha Kemal’s government in Angora.
While it mentioned the flight of some 150,000 Greeks and Armenians from Cilicia due to the signing of the Franklin- Bouillon agreement, however, its main emphasis was on the Pontos region. It described the concerted action of Monsignor Nicholas, Archbishop of Caesarea and Locum Tenens of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, exhorting the Great powers and League of Nations to save the Christians of Pontos. The Greek-American organizations sincerely expressed that “we trust that this glorious country [the United States], which contains in its heart so many priceless treasures of Christian sympathy and humanism, will raise its voice against the atrocities now perpetrated in Asia Minor, against the remainings of the once flourishing Christianity there.”
The Greek- American organizations were certainly doing their utmost to elicit the support of the US Government to do something for the Christians in Pontos. However, the United States was focused on the Washington Naval Conference dealing with the issues of the Pacific Ocean.
Nevertheless, the Greek-Americans found a champion in Senator William King of Utah, who was staunchly anti-Turkish and pro-Greek. On December 14 Senator King presented a resolution to the U.S. Senate “condemning the persecution of the Greeks of Pontus by Ottoman Turks and requesting the President to bring the matter to the attention of European powers.”
This resolution [S.Res 193] was then referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations on December 21, 1921, for its consideration. Senator King used the floor of the U.S. Senate to argue quite strongly that if the European powers were not prepared to help the Greeks of Pontos, then the United States had a moral obligation to do so. He believed that the American people, churches, and philanthropic individuals would raise such a strong voice, that the civilized nations would be awakened from out of their lethargy thus forcing the Kemalists to halt the deportations and massacres of the Greeks of Pontos.
On March 15, 1922, the West Virginian newspaper reported that King requested the atrocities should be brought to the attention of the League of Nations. He argued that if the United States had declared war against the Ottoman Empire, then she would have had a voice in the Treaty of Sevres, but King thought his resolution would be rejected. Atrocities under the Kemalist regime were more “deadly and violent than before,” however.
He received reports of cities, towns, and villages that were destroyed with the population “either slaughtered or driven into the wilds of Anatolia to perish.” Churches and monasteries didn’t escape being pillaged and plundered with women and children “butchered or burned in the flaming buildings.” King hoped that Harding would appeal for the intervention of the League of Nations to stop the bloodshed and massacres. Such an appeal would fail as the United States was a non-member of the League, as this world organization was an exclusive Anglo-French club. Also, the Anglo-French had their agendas in Asia Minor and dealings with Kemal.
The Committee on Foreign Relations suppressed the preamble in Senator King’s resolution. On April 22, 1922, Charles E. Hughes’ informed the Foreign Relations Committee “that no resolution should be passed suggesting action on the part of the President or of [the State Department].” He confidentially informed them that Admiral Bristol, the U.S. High Commissioner, and the Allied High Commissioners’ in Constantinople were applying their diplomatic skills towards “both Turk and Greek to ameliorate the situation of non-combatants in Asia Minor.” Hughes concluded, “short of armed intervention [by] both the Allies and ourselves have done all that is possible on behalf of the Christian inhabitants of the Pontus region.”
The United States’ non-intervention in the affairs of Asia Minor can be best understood in the context of its isolationist foreign policy in the post-1919 period and also having never declared war on the Ottoman Empire in 1917.
The Greek-American organizations and Senator King’s efforts to arouse the interest of the U.S. Government to assist the Greeks of Pontos were unsuccessful. Washington did not wish to become embroiled in a conflict with the Turkish Nationalists.