THE TERRORISM that small bands of Armenians direct against Turks has its special aspects. The killers are commonly young men two or three generations removed from any personal knowledge of the experience that supposedly motivates them--Turkey's massacre of a million or more Armenians in 1915. Also, the killings, being commonly done in the name of vengeance, are rarely if ever aimed at any specific political result, such as the establishment of an Armenian national home. In a word, Armenian terrorism has made a point of earning the characterization applied to terrorism in general: mindless. It represents sheer hate.

But, unfortunately, it exists and it persists. In recent years, some 50 people have died at the hands of Armenian terrorists, including 20 Turkish diplomats, year in, year out the special target. One victim died in Boston last year. In the latest incident, the wife of a Turkish diplomat and a Portuguese policeman died in an assault on the Turkish Embassy in Lisbon in which five terrorists were also killed. The most active phase of the movement came in international terrorism's bountiful decade, the 1970s, a period in which the Palestine national movement in Lebanon provided Armenian killers, among others, important help. Now they seem to operate out of different places. 4 It is said by people meaning to protest the new violence that, by making people think of Turks as individual victims of the Armenians, the terrorists will make people stop thinking of Armenians as collective victims of the Turks. Certainly what happened in World War I is of the essence. The Armenians plausibly charge, and the Turks deny, that official "genocide" caused the mass death and dispersion of Armenians in the disintegrating Ottoman empire.

What stands out in official Turkish statements, however, is not so much the refusal to accept historical responsibility as the cold, utter refusal to countenance that Armenians have any grievance at all. Nothing so enrages a people as a failure to have the dimensions of its historical tragedy acknowledged.

No one can promise the Turks that a more respectful attitude toward Armenian grief would produce a respite from Armenian terror. It is not inconceivable, for instance, that Moscow got into running the Armenian operation in the 1970s as part of its larger, long- term plan to destabilize Turkey, in which case the operation will end only when Moscow turns it off. Still, the Turks have better reason than anyone to try to allay a savage grievance that is doing them so much harm.