Thursday, February 26, 2009

“St. John of Kennedy”

John Kennedy
The above is of course meant sarcastically. The cult around John Kennedy is in so many ways similar to the cult around Princess Diana Spencer.1 Reality may not intrude and fantasizing about a mythical iconic figure blows rational thought out the window and it is replaced by sentimental glop.

Other overrated and largely inexplicable icons have existed and will continue to exist and emerge from time to time. The cult around James Dean is a truly outstanding example. He stared in a mere 3 movies, although he had unaccredited roles in several more.2 Yes he was a good actor but to any remotely rational human being his iconic status is wildly out of proportion to his talent or to his actual acting career. Certainly when People magazine listed him has the 4th greatest actor of all time years ago they were capitulating to “iconitis” and nothing rational.3

The same is true of John Kennedy. Any rational analysis of his actual achievements would reveal that yes he was a handsome man, very photogenic, and a good speaker but his actual achievements were not exactly major. But of course here is where the myth making takes off. Worshipers of St. John wax eloquently about the great and wonderful things he would have accomplished if he had lived. Exactly what those great achievements would have been is basically expressed by a haze of sentimental hogwash.

The very word used to describe his term in the White House, “Camelot”, shows not reality but a craving for mythical, heroic fantasy and that is what Kennedy groupies provide in abundance. During his presidency Kennedy provided lots of airy flighty rhetoric but much less concrete action.

The myriad of Kennedy hagiographies is seemingly endless. The cult of Lenin in the former Soviet Union provides a useful parallel. It is clear that so many long to fall on their knees and adore a Monarch by divine right. One can find in book stores row upon row of books writhing in ecstasy about St. John and the Kennedy royal family. This myth making reached a height off absurdity with the frankly over the top coverage of the death of John Kennedy Jr. The absurd level of T.V. coverage, the massive number of magazine cover stories about it vastly exceeded any importance of the event. What the hell had John Kennedy Jr. done to merit such wall to wall coverage of his death? The answer is virtually nothing.4

It’s all part of the cult of the Kennedys in which hallucination replaces reality and mental masturbation acts like heroin on the mind.

Books or articles that disparage the Kennedy legend are few and far between and frequently get a hysterical response for the crime of lese majestie. St. John is immune from mere criticism.

Let us look at one particular mythos the idea that Kennedy was planning to withdraw from Vietnam before he was killed.5

The book that outlined that idea got rave reviews from Kennedy acolytes like Arthur Schlesinger who waxed eloquently about how convincing the book was and how he knew at the time that Kennedy was planning to withdraw.6 But Noam Chomsky, annoying party pooper that he is, bothered to check the sources and found out some very interesting things.

What Chomsky found out was that Kennedy was a “Cold War Liberal”, that yes he was planning to withdraw from Vietnam, but only when they, the Americans, had won. This, incidentally, was the position of Lyndon Johnson up to 1968. That Kennedy had supported a massive increase in American aid to Vietnam, including assisting troops and air attacks. Further Chomsky found that not a breath of this alleged withdrawal could be found in Schlesinger massive book A Thousand Days, 7 published before it became fashionable to attack America’s commitment in Vietnam. When Schlesinger says that he knew about the alleged plan to withdraw at the time he is simply not telling the truth. Further he did not turn against the war until 1968 and not earlier.8 This fantasy was subsequently used by Oliver Stone in his movie J.F.K. as the reason for Kennedy’s assassination by the “Military Industrial Complex”; which on Oliver Stone’s reading seems to include millions of people.

Carefully elided from the hagiographies is the involvement of the Kennedy administration in such things as Operation Mongoose, a terrorist campaign against Cuba in which many civilians were killed and much damage done. And in regards to Cuba Kennedy ordered carried out several assasination attempts against Castro. Basically the United States functioning has a terrorist state.9

Books like Gary Will’s The Kennedy Imprisonment,10 which criticize the Kennedy Administration for being all form and little substance and for being an exercise in macho posturing do not get much read or used. St. John of Kennedy is simply beyond serious criticism of any kind.

Of course the apogee of St. John worship is the movie mentioned above by Oliver Stone J.F.K. As a movie it is brilliant, entertaining fiction. As history it is a joke. Stone’s distortions and out and out falsehoods are incredible.11 He buys for example the St. John intending to withdraw from Vietnam mythos, and Stone’s portrayal of William Garrison is quite simply a lie. The movie’s view is that if Kennedy had not died, God’s one and only begotten son, (John Kennedy of course), would have ushered in the golden age. This is frankly a Fascistic view of the world. That conspiracies rule and that “Great Men” can save us and institutions, social arrangements make little difference because only a “Great Man” can save us.

Of course the key element in this cult is Kennedy’s assassination. The idea that a lone nut bar could have killed him is anathema to Kennedy’s iconic, mythic status. God’s one and only begotten son must be killed by a vast satanic conspiracy of the forces of darkness. St. John must be martyred by evil secret cabals who wish us ill. It just can’t be that petty insignificant people like Lee Harvey Oswald could do it. Of course it would be nice if the conspiracy fanatics could just make up their mind about who and why and how. But the flood of conspiracy literature will probably never end and vast numbers of people will waste vast intellectual resources on this sterile endeavor. Just who did it? It seems the list of participants, (from the Mob to the KGB etc.), is endless in length.12 I rather doubt that the “Military Industrial Complex”, was involved because Kennedy was their zealous servant, (Just see his increases in military spending).13

So in the end the cult of St. John of Kennedy is a typical savior cult with the young God who dies in order to save us from our sins combined with the idea of the fall from primordial innocence into a corrupt world due to the machinations of the forces of evil.

Kennedy was no such savior he was a typical politician of no earth shaking ability with a great deal of charisma that vastly exceeded his actual accomplishments and a remarkable ability to charm the intelligentsia. Lots of flash and little substance. Kennedy’s death put the seal on his deification and was the deus ex machina that created his iconic status. It is because of his iconic status that the cults most bizarre feature the conspiracy abscess that rots the minds of so many is considered to be so reasonable by so many. Only a vast conspiracy could take away the godlike savior who would have ushered in the golden age.

In the end St. John’s status is only of interest to students of mass psychology and hysteria. Kennedy’s accomplishments remain paltry compared to his publicity.

1. This particular cult of personality is particularly annoying given what a whinny little airhead Diana was. Feel free to disagree.

2. Wikipedia, Here

3. I’m working from memory here, clarification would be welcome.

4. For more about John Kennedy Jr. see Wikipedia, Here.

5. See Newman, John, JFK and Vietnam, Warner Books, New York, 1992, for a presentation of this fantasy.

6. Chomsky, Noam, Rethinking Camelot, South End Press, Boston, 1993, pp. 125-126.

7. Schlesinger, Arthur, A Thousand Days, Houghton Mifflin, New York, 1965. I checked A Thousand Days Chomsky is right there is no mention of withdrawal without victory. For Kennedy’s escalation of American involvement in Vietnam see, Chomsky, 1993, pp. 49-104.

8. Chomsky, 1993, pp. 105-127.

9. Chomsky, 1993, p. 145, See also Chomsky, Noam, Understanding Power, Edited by Michell, Peter R., Schoeffel, John, The New Press, New York, 2002, pp. 7-10, see also the Footnotes to Understanding Power, Footnote 21, pp. 12-14 available at Here. See also, Reitzes, Dave, The JFK 100: Oliver Stone's portrayal of John F. Kennedy, at Here.

10. Wills, Gary, The Kennedy Imprisonment, Mariner Books, New York, 2002. Originally published in 1982. Other examples of items critical of Kennedy and the Kennedy mythos are Vidal, Gore, The Holy Family, United States: Essays 1952-1992, Broadway Books, New York, 1993, pp. 809-826, (Originally Published in Esquire, 1967), and Hersh’s JFK, The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000, Vintage Books, 2001, pp. 220-237, (Originally Published in The New Yorker, 1997). A book that truly enraged the worshippers at the Kennedy shrine was Hersh, Seymour M., The Dark Side of Camelot, Little Brown, New York, 1997. Hersh's total failure to grovel before the shrine just infuriated the true believers.

11. See Reitzes, Dave, The JFK 100, Here See also Lambert, Patricia, False Witness, M. Evans and Co. Inc., New York, 1998, pp. 211-226.

12. For a demolition of conspiracy crap see Bugliosi, Vincent, Reclaiming History: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy, W.W. Norton, New York, 2007. This massive book of over 1600 pages goes over conspiracy fantasy like a glacier.

13. Chomsky, 1993, pp. 142-144, See also Footnote 9, Reitzes, Dave, The JFK 100, Oliver Stone's portrayal of John F. Kennedy.

Pierre Cloutier

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

J.F.C. Fuller, the Origins of the Second World War and Anti-Semitism.

J.F.C. Fuller

The brilliant military theorist and historian J. F. C. Fuller in his book A Military History of the Western World, v. 3, discusses the origins of the Second World War it is shall we say more than a bit of a mess.

Fuller is far too honest an historian to actually out right lie but he does have a curious habit of putting in interpretations that are belied / undermined by the facts he records. The origins of the Second World War are a case in point.1

Now its important to know in order to understand what Fuller writes to know that he was a member of Mosley’s British Union of Fascists (BU), for a time between the Wars and was still a member when war broke out.2 Fuller fails to mention this in his book or to mention that he was a guest of honour at Hitler’s 50th Birthday celebrations.3 From his book it appears he learned something about the bestiality of the Nazi regime but, alas, not enough. Before Fuller became involved in military affairs he was involved with the British mystic and all round weirdo Aleister Crowley. Which may explain some of Fuller’s later enthusiasms?

For example Fuller describes Hitler’s ideas has a struggle between ideas of “Heroic” man against ideas of “Economic” man, i.e., Capitalism and Marxism. I find this dichotomy fascinating although it is portended by Fuller’s discussion of the battle of Vittorio-Veneto has one of his decisive battles. It is also discussed in my opinion in a way to avoid the dreaded word “Fascist”, which is exactly what the so-called “Heroic” man idea really was.4

In retrospect Fuller describes Hitler as a “…Jekyll and Hyde, at one moment a normal human being and at another an inspired paranoic.”5 character. When Fuller knew Hitler in the 1930’s he seemed to have missed the “Hyde”, “paranoiac” bits.

Of Course Fuller quotes Churchill’s infamous statement, “If our country were defeated. I hope we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among nations”.6 Its of interest that Fuller does not give a page number for this quote or give a full reference, i.e., publisher, place of publication etc. Since however I have read about this quote in other writings I believe it is genuine. Fuller forgets that Churchill did not hold this opinion very long.

Briefly Fuller gives Hitler’s aims as follows:

Hitler’s goal was Napoleonic: to establish a German Continental System under the aegis of Germany. Also his means were not far removed from those of the great emperor: to liberate Germany from the shackles of international loan-capitalism, to unite all Germanic peoples into the Third Reich, and to establish in eastern Europe what he called the German Lebensraum (living space) which he considered as essential to the economic security of Germany as Napoleon had considered the Confederation of the Rhine essential to the strategic security of France.7

Where to begin? First Hitler was perfectly willing to live with “international loan- capitalism” whatever that is. So long as he controlled it; or it did his bidding. But then “international loan-capitalism” was often in Nazi propaganda nothing but a code word for “Jew”. The only “international loan-capitalism” Hitler wanted to get rid of was the “Jewish” part. Given what Fuller says later I strongly suspect that after the war Fuller decided to use code words to convey his real meaning in this case “Jewish”. Thus does Fuller begin to use the propaganda of the Third Reich.8

The phrase about uniting all Germanic peoples manages to avoid dealing with the fact that this would involve war, after all the Netherlands, Belgium, (the Flemish part), Luxemburg and Alsace-Lorraine and the German part of Switzerland were all inhabited by "Germanic" peoples. Just how were those various countries to be acquired except by war. Especially since in none of those cases did the peoples want to be part of Germany. I could of course add Norway, Sweden Denmark and England as “Germanic” countries. By endeavoring to unite all Germans Hitler was posing a threat to his neighbours.

The comparison of Hitler’s Lebensraum with Napoleon’s Confederation of the Rhine is ludicrous. The intent of the expansion to the east was to displace the people there by mass murder, mass expulsion and turning the entire remaining population into a subject “inferior” population slated for eventual disappearance. Further such an aim could only mean war because just how else were the populations of the east to be destroyed? Further German domination of Eastern Europe would mean the complete obliteration of the balance of power in Europe. Napoleon’s Confederation of the Rhine by comparison was utterly benevolent. But it’s obvious by making the comparison Fuller is seeking to make Hitler appear no more inhuman than Napoleon. An insult to the Emperor I think.

British policy for centuries had been to oppose the rise to continental dominance of any continental power, so to preserve the balance of power. Hitler’s aims clearly would violate that policy and so would make war against Britain inevitable. This paragraph by Fuller is also of interest because Fuller subsequently “forgets” it.

Fuller than goes into a series of rather bizarre statements. For example concerning the “gold standard”. Fuller’s idea is that Hitler rejected the gold standard and based the value of German currency on production not on the fictitious value of gold.9 Fuller then makes a series of statements of Hitler’s plans regarding German finances. Hitler plan was to 1, Refuse interest bearing foreign loans, 2, obtain imports by direct goods exchange, 3, put a stop to freedom of the exchanges and limit the ability to transfer private fortunes, 4 create money when men and material where available.10.

Fuller concludes:

Because the life of international finance depended upon the issue of interest-bearing loans to nations in economic distress, Hitler’s economics spelt its ruination. If he was allowed to succeed, other nations would certainly follow his example, and should a time come when all non-gold-holding governments exchanged goods for goods, not only would borrowing cease and gold lose its power, but the money-lenders would have to close shop.11

"Money-lenders" - just what might that be code for? Fuller then says that because of this threat and the brutality of the Hitler regime towards German Jews:

… six months after Hitler became Chancellor, Samuel Untermyer, a wealthy New York attorney, threw down the challenge. He proclaimed a “holy war” against National Socialism and called for a economic boycott of German goods, shipping and services.12

Well where to start with this farrago of nonsense? Firstly Fuller “forgets” his comments about Hitler’s aims of uniting all the “Germanic” peoples and his quest for “living space”, either aim meant Hitler intended a to fight a war. Both together were quite ambitious and highly dangerous to other European powers. Secondly his comments ignore what we do now know about Hitler’s economic policies and aims.

Bluntly from his accession to power in 1933 Hitler was gearing the German economy for war. His barter system, and aukratic intentions were designed with that in mind. The militarization of German society and economy during the period 1933-1939 where amazing and vast. To quote.

The military budget expanded rapidly, taking 17 percent of GNP in 1938-39. In the last peacetime year 52 pefennigs out of every mark the German government spent went on defence. These were not remotely moderate proportions. In 1913, at the height of the re-1914 arms race, the German government spent an estimated 3 percent of GNP, and devoted 24 percent of a much smaller state budget to defence purposes.13

Further Hitler’s “barter” and other methods were designed to conserve German foreign currency and gold reserves and designed quite deliberately to exploit and use other countries economies for German benefit. Particularly interesting in this regard is the way early Nazi fiscal policy screwed American investors who had invested billions of dollars in the German economy in the 1920’s and in effect expropriated them. Considering that these people had a powerful vested interest in the German economy doing well antagonizing them seemed rather pointless.14 And of course during the Nazi years all sort of American businesses did business in and with Germany so that business antagonism in America against Nazi Germany was always pretty muted and countered by significant American business interest in doing business with Nazi Germany.

Of course it should not escape attention that the man Fuller has declare “holy war” on Germany has a Jewish name to say nothing of the obvious coded reference to Jews in the term “money-lenders”. It does appear Fuller buys into the whole Nazi propaganda fantasy of “International Jewry” plunging the nations into war.

The evidence indicates quite conclusively that Hitler wanted war and was planning for it right from the day he took power. That was and remains the main cause of World War Two.15

Then Fuller allows for a reality to intrude for he says.

Besides this cause of war, [attacks against Hitler’s “barter” system] between 1933 and 1939 others helped to inflame the international situation, and of these the most important was the violence with which Hitler set out to carry out his program of German regeneration.16

The implication is obviously that all these efforts were “secondary” the main one being a war between two economic systems. Which exists largely in Fuller’s own head. Still Fuller is honest enough to record the facts. What follows is an accurate review of the facts and events, but with a twist. There is a distinct bias in his recording of events.

Rather surprisingly Fuller ignores here the rather obvious economic contest between Capitalism and Communism, which fits vastly better his idea of a economic battle between two systems. The point of fact is that Hitler’s challenge to international Capitalism was rather minor if that. Certainly Capitalists found Nazi Germany vastly more congenial than Communist Russia and American etc., business people and financiers continued to do business with Nazi Germany through out the 30’s even though trade contracted.17

To get back to Fuller’s overview of events leading up to the Second World War. Fuller repeats the old chestnut that League of Nation sanctions supported by Britain and France over the Abyssinian crisis threw Mussolini in with Hitler. This is a gross over simplification. Aside from a common implied view that the concerns of the Ethiopians did not and should not have mattered. This ignores the fact that the sanctions were deliberately ineffectual, that France and Britain and France recognized the conquest of Ethiopia a few years later and most importantly Mussolini had ambitions in Africa and the Mediterranean which France and Britain blocked. Mussolini wanted most of North Africa and to become the great naval power in the Mediterranean. The chances were zero that France and Britain would ever acquiesce to that. So Mussolini would naturally have tended to ally himself with a Germany that would allow him to try to carry out such fanciful dreams. Finally to be utterly blunt Germany treated its new ally very badly almost from the very beginning but Mussolini kept with it to the bitter end. Both France and Britain in a bid to win him over treated Mussolini much better, but since they could not satisfy Mussolini’s ambitions in the Mediterranean or North Africa he stuck with Hitler.18

Fuller than goes into a look at the Spanish Civil War and the Sudeten Crisis with a rather obvious bias. Czechoslovakia as a “pistol pointed at Germany”.19 There is further stuff about Bombing Germany from bohemian airfields. Fuller neglects to mention that the agitation in the Sudetenland was deliberately manufactured by Hitler. Neither does he mention that Hitler wanted a war against Czechoslovakia and was positively cress fallen and upset when it became clear his Generals weren’t eager for a war so that he accepted Chamberlain’s offer of mediation. This mediation amounted to imposing a settlement on Czechoslovakia without its participation. Fuller seems to argue that avoiding war was a good idea at this time because of lack of preparedness on the part of the Allied powers. Well we now know how poorly prepared Germany was at the time for a two front war. It would probably have been best that if war came it came then than a year later.20

Throughout Fuller ignores that if people were out to get Hitler why did they not stop him earlier, why for example were these groups of international financiers utterly unable to get France to march into the Rhineland in 1936 when Hitler occupied it. At little cost “International Finance” could have destroyed Hitler then and there and put a end to the alleged threat of “barter”. But then it is clear that such a contest only exists in Fuller’s mind.

Fuller than mentions the “violent propaganda against Hitler”21. Of course the possibility that bad press about Nazi Germany may have been a understandable reaction to Nazi brutality and acts and that much or most of this “propaganda” entirely accurate is not a thought Fuller entertains for a moment. Of course Fuller does not mention the violent, hysterical propaganda of the Third Reich, against one enemy or another, Czechs, Poles and of course the hysterical manic, anti-semitic propaganda of the regime.22 Instead Fuller says the following:

Foreign affairs lost all objectivity and became wrapped in explosive animosity which so perturbed Dr. Goebbels, the German Minister of Propaganda, that he appealed to the American Ambassador in Berlin, who replied that the “most crucial thing that stood between any betterment of American press relationships was the Jewish question”.23

Poor Dr. Goebbels, who shortly afterwards was to organize with Hitler “Crystal Night” and to take an active part in the Holocaust. My heart bleeds for him. Of course it is of interest that Fuller does not give a citation for this quote so is it in fact an actual quote or made up or a bit of Nazi propaganda designed to show how powerful the Jews are and how they control the American Media? I frankly suspect the Fuller’s intention is to set up in the readers mind the idea of unfair Jewish controlled American media attacks against Germany. Of course Fuller never bothers to mention how if Jewish influence is so great how come restrictions on the numbers of Jewish refuges entering the United States were so severe.

Now comes Fuller’s piece de resistance the so called Potocki Report and it is clear that Fuller approves of this Report for he says:

The situation as it was at the end of the year is so illuminatingly described by the Polish Ambassador at Washington, Count Jerzy Potocki, in a report to the Polish foreign Office, dated January 12, 1939, that we will quote from it fully:24

What follows is a flood of anti-semitic propaganda and hysteria. Let me quote a few samples:

Above all, propaganda here is entirely in Jewish hands…

…their [Jewish] propaganda is so effective that people have no real knowledge of the true state of affairs in Europe…

…people are given the impression that Soviet Russia is part of the Democratic group of countries…

He had [Roosevelt] had a two fold purpose in mind: firstly, he wanted to divert American public opinion from difficult and complicated domestic problems ….

Secondly by creating a war panic …he [Roosevelt] wanted to induce Americans to endorse his huge program of armaments…

In this campaign of hatred individual Jewish intellectuals such as [follows a list] …have taken a prominent part in this campaign of hatred.

This particular group of people [Jewish of course] …are, in point of fact, linked with international Jewry by ties incapable of being torn asunder. For international Jewry –so intimately concerned with the interests of its own race- President Roosevelt’s “ideal” role as a champion of human rights was indeed a godsend. In this way Jewry was not only able to establish a dangerous centre in the New World for the dissemination of hatred and enmity, but it also succeeded in dividing the world into two warlike camps. The whole problem is being tackled in a most mysterious manner. Roosevelt has been given the power to enable him to enliven American foreign policy and at the same time to create huge reserves in armaments for a future war which the Jews are deliberately heading for.25

Just why should we take this “illuminating” document seriously? It contains all the usual riffs of anti-semitic propaganda. The vast “Jewish” conspiracy, media controlled by Jews, a campaign of hatred against poor Germany. In fact its similarity to Nazi Propaganda is so great that perhaps we should check the source. We check and we find the source is the German White Paper, of justification for their attack on Poland. Fuller buries it in a footnote in small script at the bottom of the page hoping, I guess, people won’t notice. In other words the source is piece of Nazi propaganda!26 The authenticity of the piece is dubious to put it mildly and apparently Count Potocki denied writing it. It supposedly was found in the ruins of a bombed out building in Warsaw by the Nazi in October 1939.27 It’s all rather dubious.

Even assuming it’s for real. It’s a collection of anti-semitic garbage.28 The campaign of hatred for example, do I have to mention the extreme hateful Nazi anti-Semitic campaigns. Projection anyone! Further does it have to be mentioned that Germany attacked Poland and that Germany declared war on America in 1941. So much for “International Jewry” arranging the war.

It’s rather obvious that by quoting this alleged document Fuller can give space to anti-semitic ravings while denying that these are his own ideas.

Fuller can’t deny Hitler’s aggressive moves regarding Poland or Hitler’s attack. Fuller could acknowledge the flood of vicious anti-polish propaganda that flooded the Nazi press before the outbreak of war. But Fuller says:
That by now had been decided on by others besides Hitler is clear:…29
Fuller then refers to an interview Karl von Weigand, an American journalist, had with an American official in Paris supposedly stating that the Americans were planning to enter the war after Britain and France.30 I will note that Fuller does not give a source for this quote. Fuller than quotes from The White House Papers of Harry Hopkins, the following:
…Winston Churchill told Bernard Baruch: “War is coming very soon. We will be in it and you (the United States) will be in it. You (Baruch) will be running the show over there, but I will be on the sidelines over here.”31
It is fascinating that despite the fact Fuller gives the source he neglects to give a page number. But the insinuation is clear that Jews run the United States.

Fuller than mentions the Nazi-Soviet pact, while of course neglecting to mention that if Jews controlled Russia how did that happen?

Then Fuller mentions Hitler’s attack on Poland and makes a reference to Hitler agreeing not to bomb unfortified cities. How nice of him. Fuller of course neglects to mention the savagery and brutality of the German invasion, i.e., lots of German atrocities has deliberate policy, or that this promise was widely breached.32

Fuller then at the end quotes Goring saying “If We lose this war, then God have mercy on us.”33 Quite designed to make the Nazi Leadership look more human, unfortunately it appears that this quote is a myth because Paul Schmidt’s entire account of these events is likely complete fiction.34

It is worth mentioning that in regards to the Potocki document that in the footnote35 giving the reference, (German White Paper a Nazi propaganda document) Fuller than states as follows after giving the reference:
Addressing the Reichstag on January 30, 1939, Hitler said: “ I want to-day once again to make a prophecy: If the international Jewish financers within and without Europe succeed once more in hurling the people into a world war, the result will be, not the Bolshevization of the World and the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.” This was to be only too true, for according to Goebbels: “About 60 percent. Of them will have to be liquidated; only 40 per cent. Can be used for forced labour” (Diaries, p. 103)36
Read in with the Potocki document that Fuller quotes it appears that he is not too subtlety blaming “Jewish” financiers for the Holocaust by starting World War II and Hitler’s infamous act has retaliation for that. Of course it is nonsense. Hitler intended war from the get go and he was making threats to mass murder Jews for years.37 Hitler was projecting his aims and desires on others. Also does it really need mentioning that Hitler attacked Poland and that Hitler therefore deliberately started the war. I further note that Dr. Goebbels comments don’t go well with Fuller’s implication that of Goebbels the poor man having to deal with an unfair American media. But then Fuller does put the comment in a footnote where it is more likely a reader will overlook it. For all those Holocaust deniers who have used Fuller’s work it is of interest that he was no Holocaust denier.

In a later book The Conduct of War: 17 89 – 1961,38 Fuller goes over the Causes of World War II again. The differences are interesting Hitler is noticeably more prominent and so is the odiousness of the Nazi regime. Greater emphasis is given to Nazi policies and aims in causing the war. There is a few pages on the so-called conflict over different economic systems i.e., Loan Capitalism v. Barter but it is less prominent. The Potocki document is absent and so largely are Jews as being involved in causing the war.39. It is indeed a change. Perhaps Fuller learned something in the meantime?

Fuller also refers to the expulsion of 15 million Germans of which 6 million were unaccounted for.40 The similarity of the 6 million figure here with the 6 million figure usually given for the dead of the Holocaust is not likely coincidental. Further Fuller waxes quite eloquent about German suffering after the war and is very indignant.41 About the mass death of the Holocaust Fuller is silent.

In an abridgement of Fuller’s three volume A Military History of the Western World,42 John Terraine the editor criticizes Fuller at various points; for example Fuller’s views of the causes of World War I. Terraine disagrees with Fuller’s contention that the causes of the war were Economic.43 It’s a little strange that although the entire section in which Fuller gives his version of the causes of World War II are printed in full in this abridgement,44 there is no criticism by Terraine. Thus allowing Fuller’s anti-semitic insinuations to go unchallenged.

None of this means that Fuller’s books are useless in fact they are insightful and frequently brilliant. Its just that here Fuller allows a rather ugly bias to distort his work fortunately its more like an occasional undigested lump than something that permeates the whole work even in the sections on the Second World War. Unfortunately Fuller’s words especially his use of the Potocki document have been used by various Neo-Nazi groups.45 It’s all rather sad.

1. Fuller, J. F. C., A Military History of the Western World, v. 3, Da Capo Press, New York, 1956, pp. 364-376.

2. See Answers.com, Here and Wikipedia, Here

3. IBID. Wikipedia.

4. Footnote 1, pp. 300-330.

5. IBID. pp. 367-368.

6. IBID. p. 368 quoting Churchill’s book Step by Step.

7. IBID. p. 368.

8. See Herf, Jeffrey, The Jewish Enemy, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MASS, 2006, pp. 50-91. For the similarities between Fuller’s views of the causes of World War II and Nazi anti-semitic propaganda.

9. It is of interest that here Fuller quotes Hitler but the footnote to the comment refers to a statement by Churchill and nowhere does it provide a citation for Hitler’s comment. Fuller, 1956, p. 368 & Footnote 1 on that page.

10. IBID. pp. 368-369.

11. IBID. p. 369.

12. IBID. p. 369. Fuller gives no source for this comment.

13. Overy, Richard, Misjudging Hitler, The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered, 2nd Edition, Gordon Martel, Routledge, New York, 1999, pp. 93-115, at. 109.

14. See Tooze, Adam, The Wages of Destruction, Penguin Books, London, 2006, pp. 67-134.

15. See Evans, Richard J., The Third Reich in Power, Penguin Books, London, 2005, pp. 612-664. Tooze, pp. 203-243.

16. Fuller, 1956, pp. 370.

17. See Tooze, pp. 87-88.

18. Fuller, 1956, p. 371. For an overview of the Abyssinian Crisis and its role in the road to war see. Sullivan, Brian R., More than meets the eye: The Ethiopian War and the Origins of the Second World War, The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered, 2nd Edition, Ed. Martel, Gordon, Routledge, London, 1999, pp. 178-203.

19. Fuller, 1956, p. 372.

20. See Shirer, William L., The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Simon and Shuster, New York, 1960, pp. 357-427, Watt, Donald Cameron, How War Came, Mandarin, London, 1990, pp. 26-31.

21 Fuller, 1956, p. 372.

22. Evans, pp. 208, 539, 549, 589, 668, 709. See Herf also.

23. Fuller, 1956, p 372.

24. Fuller, 1956, p. 372.

25. Fuller, 1956, pp. 372-374. quoting the Potocki document.

26. Fuller, 1956, p. 374 Footnote 1

27. See Randi Forum, Here

28. See Herf for a myriad of examples especially pp. 50-137.

29, Fuller 1956, p. 375.

30. Fuller, 1956, p. 375. Karl von Weigand was born in Germany and had known Hitler since 1921. He worked as a foreign correspondent for the vehemently isolationist anti-Roosevelt Hearst papers as a foreign correspondent. See also Lucas, John, American Heritage, Here See also Time Obituary Here

31. Fuller, 1956, p. 375. Bernard Baruch was subject to vicious Nazi propaganda attacks as part of the alleged “Jewish” cabal that controlled the United States. See Herf, pp. 128-130, 163-164.

32. Fuller, 1956, p. 375. For Poland see Megargee, Geoffrey, War of Annihilation, Rowman & Littlefield Pub. Inc., New York, 2006, pp. 10-18.

33. Fuller, 1956, p. 376.

34. See Weinburg, Gerhard L., Germany Hitler & World War II, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995, p. 91.

35. Fuller, 1956, p. 374.

36. Fuller, 1956, p. 374.

37. Dawidowicz, Lucy S., War Against the Jews, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1975, pp. 156-166.

38. Fuller, J.F.C., The Conduct of War: 1789 – 1861, Da Capo Press, New Brunswick NJ, 1961.

39. IBID. pp. 225-247.

40. IBID. p. 307. This figure is almost certainly a wild exaggeration.

41. IBID. p. 303-309.

42. Fuller, J.F.C., The Decisive Battles of the Western World, v. 1 & v. 2, Editor John Terraine, Paladin Books, London, 1970.

43. see IBID. v. 2, Editor’s Note 4, pp. 287-288.

44. IBID., v. 2, pp. 431-443.

45. See Storm Front, Here

Pierre Cloutier

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Propaganda
An example courtesy of an IRA Stooge

Front Cover

Nothing but an Unfinished Song,1 shows that once again the propaganda apparatus of the IRA has produced, indirectly in this case, a celebration of IRA terrorism and violence. We learn in the book in great detail about Bobby Sands upbringing, about his fears and wants, about what a good boy he was when he was younger. Much is made of his friendships and what a likable young man he was. We learn in excruciating detail about just how terrible his death was from hunger. We learn what a nice idealistic young man he was and how much he suffered and what a martyr he was for the cause.

We do not of course learn much if anything about the lives of those who were killed by the bombings he was involved with. Their hopes, fears, aspirations, what their childhoods were like. Who loved them. All that is absent. Neither are details of how unpleasant their deaths were. About what it was like to be blown to pieces to be horribly injured and die agonizingly of those injuries. The horror of being crippled, blinded, brain damaged for life are all ignored. Bobby Sands is in this world a worthy victim, his victims and other victims of the IRA are unworthy victims to which every effort must be made to forget. Such are the implications of this book.

The fact is the IRA deliberately hijacked the Catholic civil rights movement has part of a deliberate strategy to provoke a crackdown which would lead to British intervention. This would in turn lead to repression against Catholics and support for a terrorist campaign against the British and Protestants in Northern Ireland. Eventually the British would leave in disgust and the Republic of Ireland would intervene to save the Catholics in the North from savage Protestant attack. This leading to the unification of Ireland. Afterwards the IRA would target the government in Dublin for overthrow. The eventual aim being the establishment of a one party "Leninist" state in all of Ireland.2

One doesn't know how to react to such bald faced cynicism and gall. In 1969 the Catholics had a great deal to complain about in terms of their treatment in Northern Ireland; rightly called the "Orange State", dedicated to preserving and enshrining the Protestant ascendancy. A civil rights movement was an obvious response, but the IRA manipulated it for their own purposes deliberately hoping and acting so has to create an inevitable repressive response which would further, they thought, their long range goals.

In pursuit of its aims the IRA murdered, bombed and committed numerous vile atrocities. Including much killing within its own ranks of those who who "betrayed" the movement. Including those who got sick of the massacres. The possibility that Bobby Sand had no choice in going on the hunger strike, the alternative to doing so being death puts a new light on the matter. For over 25 years the IRA tried to terrorize the Protestants into accepting forcible unification and the British into abandoning Northern Ireland. Despite countless despicable outrages they failed.

What the IRA until the end never seemed to get was faced with the intractable opposition of the majority of the population of Northern Ireland their chances of success were slight. Further that their atrocities would only cement that opposition. The result was failure. The IRA was quite simply defeated as mentioned in the following review of the book examined in this essay:
This year marks the 25th anniversary of those awful months. Sands may have started his protest to vindicate republican violence, but the hunger strike's paradoxical effect was to bring the armed struggle to an end — and, ultimately, to persuade the IRA to accept the legitimacy of Northern Ireland, the state that Sands and his dead comrades had dedicated their lives to destroying.3
Nothing but an Unfinished Song, of course doesn't dwell on much less acknowledge that the end result was a defeat of the IRA and the binding of Northern Ireland even more firmly to Britain. Neither does the book mention in much detail how what was finally achieved could and would have come about, almost certainly, much sooner if it had not been for the violence, of which the IRA was so heavily involved. Instead the book surrounds with a haze of sentimentality and nostalgia the memory of the hunger strikers carefully ignoring so much and eliding the simple fact of failure. It was all such waste. Such reflections are not for this book which celebrates a fantasy of "success".

It is in the nature of so many terrorist movements and movements that use terrorism to create a rhetoric of heroic success even in the face of failure and this book buys into that rhetoric. Along with that is of course a basic hypocrisy of means.

The IRA and its supporters believed that they were entitled to commit myriad revolting outrages, while at the same time shrieking at the top of their sanctimonious lungs about the outrages of the other side. Thus Bobby Sands terrible death was somehow an outrage while IRA assassinations and outrages were somehow excusable. Like the murder of people in their beds. This book accepts this mindset implicitly and fully, by going on and on about Bobby Sands terrible death. Perhaps one could mention a few of the people crippled for life by IRA bombs and describe their current suffering?

The gall and hypocrisy were and are appalling. Bobby Sand was involved in outrages no doubt for a cause he considered good, just like the Protestants Ultras considered their cause good and their outrages permissible also.

The hunger strike was a huge propaganda victory for the IRA and served to attract many Catholic youths to the IRA cause. The Protestant generation is not part of the generation that the book talks about being ignited. But not being IRA believers their opinion doesn't count I guess. Various reviews talked about people from all sorts of backgrounds being politicized, by the hunger strikes just like it says in the book. Just like the book such reviews deliberately down play to the point of total erasure the fact of the sectarian basis for that support; that it was Catholic support that was galvanized not Protestant and if anything the hunger strikes and their effects further polarized the Catholics against the Protestants and if anything galvanized Protestant support against unification with Ireland and antipathy against both Catholics and unification and increased Protestant support for the continued link with Britain.

The result of this victory was more than a decade more of murder and slaughter by the IRA all to no useful end and fruitless.

No doubt many of those who had relatives and friends among the victims of Bobby Sand and his colleagues thought his suffering and death entirely well deserved.

One can't leave it at that, Bobby Sands did not commit his evil acts out of desire to be evil but out of a sense of idealistic outrage at real and perceived wrongs. It was his fate to be used and to continue to be used long after his death has a propaganda factoid. It was and remains a sadly tragic fate for a young idealist. This book is merely another part of the continued propaganda campaign.

The story of the myriad victims needs to be told, and not forgotten. But then books like this one are dedicated to the purpose of erasing the victims from history.

Perhaps the final word on this book should be given by a relative of Bobby Sands:
In response to an article headlined 'New Book is First Study of Bobby Sands', which appeared in a recent edition of the Andersonstown News, I wish to put the record straight.

According to the article, the author of the book, Denis O'Hearn, "thanks the hunger striker's sister Marcella for her help with the book." This suggests that I had "helped" or participated in some way in the compilation of this book and, therefore, endorsed it. This is misleading and untrue.

I wish to state categorically that neither I, nor any of my family, helped Mr O'Hearn with his book in any way, nor does my family endorse the book. Indeed, the opposite would be the case as his book contains numerous factual inaccuracies.4

MARCELLA SANDS
1. O'Hearn, Denis, Nothing But an Unfinished Song: Bobby Sands, the Irish Hunger Striker Who Ignited a Generation, Nation Books, New York, 2005.

2. Geraghty, Tony, The Irish War: The Hidden Conflict Between the IRA and British Intelligence, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2002.

3. Moloney, Ed, Review, Washington Post Book World, 2006, can be found at Powell's Books, Here

4. From Amazon, Here

Pierre Cloutier

Sunday, February 15, 2009

War of the Triple Alliance 1864-1870

Never heard of the above war? Not a surprise; this war is virtually unknown to North Americans. It was a war between Paraguay vs. Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. (Hence the term Triple Alliance).1

The war stated because of the rather boring and interminable political intrigues and diplomacy between the various powers in the region concerning who had influence in the region of the Rio de la Plata; the wide estuary between Uruguay and Argentina. Francisco Solano Lopez faced with problems with Brazil first declared war on Brazil and then when Argentina wouldn’t let him cross their territory to attack Brazil declared war on them. Uruguay having a new government that was pro-Brazilian soon declared war on Paraguay.2

Francisco Solano Lopez3 the Dictator of Paraguay had succeeded his father Carlos Antonio Lopez has leader (Dictator) of Paraguay in 1862 when his father died.

0
Francisco Solano Lopez

In 1853 while touring Europe in order to learn modern methods of modern adminstration and Military technique and also to get contacts in order to facilitate the export of Paraguayan products. Francisco meet the Irish courtesan Elisa Lynch in Paris and fell in love with her and brought her back to Paraguay where she swiftly became well hated by other members of Francisco’s family and also Francisco’s most important advisor.4

Elisa Lynch

Francisco didn’t help his post war reputation by indulging in various atrocities, (the extent to which is debated to this day), including the torture and murder of various foreigners, the execution of several of his brothers in law and eventually ordering the executions of his sisters and mother. All of this has given Francisco a well deserved reputation for cruelty.5

Aside from his cruelty for which there is amble evidence, although it is a reasonable speculation that his enemies exaggerated it for foreign and indeed propagandistic consumption. Even some of the contemporary accounts may be flawed by exaggeration and bias.6 However it does appear that Francisco Solano Lopez did to an incredibly, almost megalomaniac extent identify himself with his nation and certainly towards the end may have been close to insane.7 He seemed to have had a rather dangerous illusion that he and his nation / people were one, so that if he was overthrown his nation would be destroyed. Well this came stunningly close to actually happening. The war did not end until Lopez was killed in 1870.


Battle of Riachuelo

Popular accounts of the war often give absurd figures for Paraguay’s losses, for example: supposedly at the end of the war Paraguay’s population which had been 1, 337,000 in 1864 had been reduced to 221,000 of which only 29,000 were adult males or that the population had been 1,400,000 in 1864 reduced to 221,000 of which 106,000 were women, 86,000 were children and 29,000 were men.8

Among the more reasonable scholars there has been debate. Certainly no one who has looked into the matter takes any population figure for Paraguay in 1864 of a million or over the slightest bit seriously. In fact the usual figures are usually given has follows 285,715 – 318,144 thousand9, 372,543-574,850 thousand based on different projections of population increase,10 and 420,000 – 450,000 thousand.11

Losses were subject to debate one author contended that the huge losses indicated in various accounts were false and ideas that Paraguay lost c. ½ her population were false. Instead the estimate was for between 8 – 17.9% of pre war population estimated to have been between 285,715-318,114 thousand. (Which works out to 21,257 – 54,079 losses). In fact the author contends that the lower figure and percentage is much more likely.12 this was disputed. It appears a lot of this was based on an implicit argument from incredulity.

It appears that in fact the debate about whether or not the losses of the Paraguayans were catastrophic has in fact been settled conclusively and the results are indeed mind blowing. In the late 1990’s a census was discovered in the Paraguayan Ministry of Defence which had been conducted in 1870.13 the figures recorded are terrifying. For example they give a total of 14,266 adult men, 50,977 adult women and 39,334 children out of a total of 116,351 total.14. These figures are incomplete and miss certain regions of the country and certain categories and there was probably some undercounting in the areas covered making the actual total of somewhere between 141,351 – 166,351. Given that the figure of 285, 715 for 1864 is almost certainly too low.15 and a figure of 420,000 – 450,000 for 1864 is more reasonable it appears that Paraguay did in fact experience a truly terrifying demographic disaster. Something on the order of 60 – 69%!!16 In fact just looking at the ratio of adult men to adult women has indicated in the census, (14,266 to 50,977, which works out to 3.57 adult women to 1 adult man), this if nothing else indicates a severe demographic disaster.17

Not quite has extreme as the first two figures quoted but pretty bad!

The above makes Lopez look pretty bad for dragging his country into such a war and then prolonging it past the point of any sense. However things are not quite so simple. After Lopez had so foolishly gotten himself ringed with enemies the Allied powers formalized their alliance by treaty; said treaty contained secret clauses (16, 17, 18) by which the allied powers stated clearly that their goal wasn’t simply the removal of the Lopez regime and securing river access to the interior but the satisfaction of their maximum territorial claims, which amounted to more than ½ of Paraguay!. The allies may have dressed up their aims for public consumption as a liberal and high minded fight against Dictatorship and “Barbarism”, but sheer naked imperialism played a very powerful role. The Argentineans for example discussed in secret with the Brazilians the idea of completely eliminating Paraguay and dividing it between Argentina and Brazil, most going to Argentina. Not surprisingly the Brazilians refused to go along with this.18


Map of Paraguay 1864.

To quote:

However, word of the treaty’s contents leaked after several months. The result, as Octaviano and his colleagues had foreseen, was that Paraguayan resistance stiffened in every way, for now the Paraguayan people saw that more than simple politics guided the ambitions of their enemies: Paraguay’s survival as a nation, as a community, was at stake. Given that fact, it mattered little that the marshal was irresponsible. [Lopez] The Paraguayan people would follow him, if necessary, down the long, painful trail to Armageddon.19
During the war there were various negotiations between Lopez and the allied power but frankly it is hard to disagree with the following appraisal.

For, from his point of view, he was never offered anything better than abject surrender, humiliating expulsion, and a reputation as the man who allowed almost half his country to be swallowed up by foreign powers. Few leaders would have found this an acceptable basis for peace, and few of his people did either.20
After the war the Domingo Faustino Sarmiento the Argentinean President wrote:

Providence decreed that a tyrant should cause the death of the Guarani people. [Paraguayan] It was necessary to purge the earth of all that human excrescence.21
Not quite an edifying, clear struggle against tyranny. Of course the Paraguayan people survived.

In fact the above comment, however disgusting, touches on several important facts about Paraguay and its people. That the great majority of the population is mestizo, i.e., of mixed Spanish and Indian ancestry and that the great majority of the population spoke Guarani, an Indian language, as their main language, and said language had a sort of official recognition at the time. These facts have had and continue to have a powerful influence in how Paraguayans see themselves. A distrust of their neighbours created by years of slave raids for Indian slaves and the thinly or not at all disguised contempt many had for the “Indian” Paraguayans also played a role and prepared them to fight hard.22

Among the enemies of Lopez were the well intentioned Brazilian Emperor Pedro II and the highly talented Argentinean diplomat / politician Mitre, who was instrumental in finally unifying Argentina. Perhaps I will discuss them in more detail another time.


Pedro II (Left) Bartolome Mitre (Right)

The war was characterized by savage battles, much suffering, and the incredible bravery of the Paraguayan people, soldiers and civilians alike. To quote one author:

The words “Paraguayan” and “courage” have mentioned so often together in this history that they have become synonymous…23

Battle of Avahy

In the end Lopez was finally killed, march 1870, leading a staving band of 500 ill equipped men, accompanied by perhaps 1000 starving civilians. His last words were “I perish with my country!” His body was buried near by at Cerro Cora in Paraguay, until it was moved to a much more lavish burial place in the capital Asuncion in the 1930’s.24

Elisa Lynch was sent into exile after the overthrow of Lopez, she returned to Paraguay in 1875 in a desperate effort to get back land that Lopez had given her, much expropriated from Lopez’s enemies in the last part of the war. It is hard not be either impressed by her courage and desperation, considering how hated she and her former lover were hated in Paraguay and blamed for the disaster that had fallen upon Paraguay, or be appalled by her sheer unmitigated gall in trying to regain possession of property, much of which had been gained by torture, execution and brute force. Elisa lynch died of stomach cancer in Paris in 1886. In the early 1960’s she was reburied with honours as a national heroine in Asuncion.25

In one of the ironies of history that by holding out so long, Paraguay enabled Argentina and Brazil to fall out with each other so that in the end although Paraguay lost a sizable chunk of territory, (c.¼ of its whole territory) but not all that the allies were planning to take from her in the beginning. Further the animosity between Brazil and Argentina so great Paraguay was able to regain some real independence.26

Paraguay emerged as a shattered broken society and people, with a stunningly lopsided sex ratio, unusual social arrangements and a devastated economy.27

Its interesting to contrast the almost insane determination of Paraguay to fight to the last with the American Civil War. Certainly in comparison the considerable Union and Confederate effort seems almost pathetic against the almost superhuman Paraguayan effort. It seems that to the Paraguayans a lot more was at stake and accordingly their effort was proportionally vastly greater.28

In the end the only real heroes in this whole sorry mess were the Paraguayan people whose endurance and courage in this war and its aftermath are amazing. It’s a pity this story isn’t more well known; if it was in a work of fiction it might be labeled has too unbelievable!


Paraguayan Mother and Child c. 1870

1. For books on the War of the Triple Alliance in English look for Kolinski, Charles J., Independence or Death, University of Florida press, Gainesville, 1965, Phelps, Gilbert, Tragedy of Paraguay, Charles Knight & Co. Ltd., London, 1975, To the Bitter End, Leuchars, Chris, Greenwood Press, London, 2002, Whigham, Thomas L., The Paraguayan War, vol. 1, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln NB, 2002. For Aspects of the war see, Kraay, Hendrick, and Whigham, Thomas L., Editors, I Die with my Country, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln NB., 2004, For contemporary accounts of the war see Burton, Richard Francis, Letters from the Battle-fields of Paraguay, Tinsley Brothers, London, 1870, (the Edition I have is an Elibron Classics Replica Edition),It can be found at Google Books, Here Washburn, Charles Ames, The History of Paraguay, two volumes, Lee and Shepard, Boston, 1871, (The Edition I have is an Elibron Classics Replica Edition in four volumes).It can be found at Making of America Books, Here Thompson, George, The War in Paraguay, Longmans, Green and Co., London, 1869, It can be found at Google Books Here. Masterman, George Frederick, Seven Eventful Years in Paraguay, Sampson Low, Son, and Marston, London, 1869, It can be found at Google Books, Here McMahon, General M. T., Paraguay and Her Enemies, Harper’s new monthly magazine, vol.40, Issue 237, (1870), pp. 421-429, which can be found at Cornell University Library Making of America, Here by the same author The War in Paraguay, Harper’s…, vol.40, Issue 239, (1870) pp. 633-647. can also be found at Making of America, Here, Bulfinch, S.G., Paraguay and the Present War, The North American review, vol. 109, Issue 225, (1869), pp. 510-543, can also be found at Making of America, Here.

2. For the causes of the war please see, Bethell, Leslie, The Paraguayan War, Institute for Latin American Studies, London, 1996. (Whole book is devoted to the causes) and Whigham, pp. 77-161, pp. 165-254, Phelps, pp. 84-102, Kolinski, pp. 64-95, Leuchars, pp. 21-53.

3. See Whigham, pp. 63-73, 89-92, 105-117, for some detail on Lopez and assessments of his character. Saeger, James Schofield, Francisco Solano Lopez and the Ruination of Paraguay: Honor and Egocentrism, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc, New York, 2007, for a very caustic but generally accurate portrayal of Lopez. It is also the only serious biography in English of Francisco Solano Lopez.

4. The number of useless “Biographies” in English of Elisa Lynch, which are in effect nothing more than novels crammed with sentimental hogwash and nonsense is annoying. The only English biography worth reading for real information rather than has an amusing piece of fiction is Rees, Sian, The Shadow of Elisa Lynch, Headline Book Pub., London, 2003. Do avoid Women on Horseback, by William Edmund Barrett, Frederick A. Stokes, New York, 1938, Empress of South America, by Nigel Cawthorne, William Heinemann, London 2003, Madame Lynch and Friend, by Alyn Brodsky, Cassell, London, 1976, unless you want to read heavily fictionalized novels. For a novel that bills itself has a novel and not a “Biography” try Tuck, Lily, The News from Paraguay, HarperCollins, Pub., New York, 2004. It won the National Book Award and is more historically accurate than either Barrett’s, Cawthorne’s, or Brodsky’s so-called “Biographies”.

5. For contemporary accounts of these atrocities see Bulfinch, Washburn, vol. 2, pp. 350-457, Thompson, 318-325, Masterman,144-158, 161-170, 240-304. For a more skeptical look at these atrocities see Burton, pp. xi, 128, 330. See also McMahon, both items. For more modern views see Leuchars, pp. 181-184, 188, Phelps, pp. 210-233, Kolinski, pp. 157-162, Washburn’s objectivity has been heavily questioned with good reason and it appears that Washburn may in fact have been involved in a real conspiracy against Lopez. For a collection of testimony and an investigation of the torture and imprisonment of foreigners in Paraguay, along with some pertinent questions involving Washburn's activities and the credibility of some of the testimony see Paraguayan Investigation 1870, A Report of the Committee On Foreign Relations (Report no. 65), Government Printing Office, Washington D.C., 1870. A copy can be found at Internet Archive, Here. See also Phelps above. Still that and later atrocities during Lopez’s retreat make for gruesome reading. See Leuchars, pp. 225-227, Kolinski, pp. 184, Phelps, pp. 252-255. Lopez’s sisters and mother survived.

6. See Ibid. Phelps.

7. See Footnote 3.

8. The first set of figures is from Vagts, Alfred, A History of Militarism, Revised Edition, The Free Press, New York, 1959, p. 470. The Second set of figures is from Dupuy, Ernest R., and Dupuy, Trevor N., The Encyclopedia of Military History, Harper and Row, Pub., New York, 1977, p. 911.

9. Reber, Vera Blinn, The Demographics of Paraguay: A Reinterpretation of the Great War, Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 68, No. 2, (1988), pp. 288-319, p. 307.

10. Williams, John Hoyt, Observations on the Paraguayan Census of 1846, Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 56, No. 3, (1976) pp. 424-437, p.436.

11. Whigham, Thomas L., Potthast, Barbara, The Paraguayan Rosetta Stone: New Insights into the Demographics of the Paraguayan War, Latin American Research Review, Vol. 34, No. 1, (1999), pp. 174-186, p. 179.

12. Reber, p. 307.

13. Whigham & Potthast, pp. 179-180.

14. Ibid. pp. 182-185, Table One. The figures for Adult Males, Adult Females and Children do not add up to 116,351 because some of the figures for various locations are total population figures and are not broken down by sex or age.

15. See Ibid. pp. 175-179.

16. Ibid. p. 185.

17. Calculation done by Pierre Cloutier

18. For a copy of the Treaty see Kolinski, pp. 219-222. For more of the discussion of the Treaty see Whigham, pp. 276-281.

19. Whigham, p. 281.

20. Leuchars, p. 190, Phelps, pp.164-168, Kolinski, 124-127.

21. Galeano, Eduardo, Memory of Fire: II Faces and Masks, W.W. Norton & Co., New york, 1978, p. 204.

22. Whigham, pp. 3-21, Phelps, pp. 1-14.

23. Leuchars, p. 201-202.

24. Leuchars, pp. 225-231, Kolinski, pp. 181-187, Rees, pp. 286 – 291, 317-318.

25. Rees, pp. 309-313.

26. Leuchars, pp. 233-236.

27. See Warren, Harris Gaylord, Paraguay and the Triple Alliance: The Post War Decade, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1978, Chapter, The Stricken Nation, pp. 29-46.

28, See Beringer, Richard F., Hattaway, Herman, Jones, Archer, Still, William N., Why the South Lost The Civil War, The University of Georgia Press, Athena GA., 1986, pp. 440-442, for the comparison.

Pierre Cloutier

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cathar Council of St. Felix-de-Caraman
(now called St. St.-Felix-Lauragais)
The St. Felix Document

View near St. Felix-Lauragais

This Cathar council is believed to have been held in the town of St.-Felix-de-Caraman now called St.-Felix-Lauragais in c.1167 C.E. In order to settle issues of regarding the proper sanctity of Cathar Hierarchy and to settle issues arising from possible boundary disputes between different Cathar communities. Our sole source for the details or even the fact of such a council is from Guillaume Besse, who in a book he published printed a document, in Latin, supposed to be a pr├ęcis and summary of what happened and what was decided at said council.1 The authenticity of the document has been disputed ever since, especially since the alleged original that Besse allegedly copied has never been found since. The fact that Besse forged a number of documents in his book hasn’t helped.

View of St. Felix-Lauragais

Despite the problems with Besse has a source the consensus seems to be that the document is authentic although possibly Besse muddled it when copying from the original. It appears that this document is in fact fragments of three documents put together of several meeting of the Cathar hierarchy. The first being a report of the consolamentums performed by Nicetas. The second being part of a sermon by Nicetas and the third being an agreement concerning boundaries between different Cathar Churches in Southern France.2 In 1999 there was a conference in Nice which came down heavily on the side of the authenticity of the document and Council.3

View of the Castle of St. Felix Lauragais

The document goes has follows:

In the month of May in the year of the Lord's incarnation 1167:4 at that the Church of Toulouse brought papa Niquinta5 to the castle of and a great multitude of the men and women of the Church of Toulouse and of the other neighbouring Churches gathered there to receive the consolamentum6 which the lord papa7 Niquinta began to administer. Afterwards Robert of Spernone, Bishop of the Church of the French,8 came with his council; and also Mark of Lombardy came with his council; and Sicard Cellarier, Bishop of the Church of Albi, came with, his council, and Bernard the Catalan came with the council of the church of Carcassonne; and the council of the Church of Agen was also present. And since they were all gathered there in such numbers, the men of the Church of Toulouse wished to have a bishop, and chose Bernard Raymond; and likewise Bernard the Catalan and the Church of Carcassonne, being requested and required to do so by the Church of Toulouse, and on the advice and with the agreement and permission of the lord Sicard Cellarier, chose Gerald Mercier; and the men of Agen chose Raymond de Casals. After that Robert d' Espernone received the consolamentum and was consecrated bishop by the lord papa Niquinta, so that he might be Bishop of the Church of the French; likewise Sicard Cellarier received the consolamentum and was consecrated bishop, so that he might be Bishop of the Church of Albi. In the same way Mark received the consolamentum and was consecrated bishop, so that he might be Bishop of the Church of Lombardy; likewise Bernard Raymond received the consolamentum and was consecrated bishop, so that he might be bishop of the Church of Toulouse; and likewise Gerald Mercier received the consolamentum and was consecrated bishop, so that he might be Bishop of the Church of Carcassonne; likewise Raymond de Casals received the consolamentum and was consecrated bishop, so that he might be Bishop of the Church of Agen.

After this papa Niquinta addressed the Church of Toulouse: “You have asked me to tell you whether the customs of the primitive Churches were burdensome or light, and so let me tell you that the seven Churches of Asia9 were separated from each other by boundaries, and as a result none of them did anything to the detriment of any of the others. And the Churches of Rome and Dragometia and Melenguia and Bulgaria and Dalmatia10 are separated by boundaries from each other and none of them does anything to the detriment of any of the others, and so they are at peace with each other. You should do the same”11

The charter or the official report of conciliation and demarcation follows.

The Church of Toulouse chooses Bernard Raimond, Guillaume Garsias, Ermengaud de Forest, Raimond de Baimiac, Guilabert de Bonvilar, Bernard Guilhem Contor, Bernard Guilhem Bonnerville and Bertrand d'Avignont, to define its territory. The Church of Carcassonne chooses Guiraud Mercier, Bernard Cathala, Gregoire, Pierre Caldermas, Raimond Pons, Bertrand de Mouly, Martin de la Salle et Raimond Guibert, as divisors of the church of Carcassonne. So being joined together in council and having deliberated, they said that Church of Toulouse and Church of Carcassonne would be divided up according to the [Catholic] bishoprics.

So that the bishopric of Toulouse and archbishopric of Narbonne are separated in two places, with the bishopric of Carcassonne at St. Pons were the mountain, comes between the castle of Cabaret and that of Hautpoul, to the boundary between the castles of Sissac and of Verdun, passes between Montreal and Fanjeaux the boundary between the other Bishoprics, similarly, at the boundary of Razes just as far as Lerida: that is the territory that is in the care and administration of the church of Toulouse.The church of Carcassonne as herein created has in its capacity and administration all the Bishopric of Carcassonne and Archbishopric of Narbonne and the remainder of the territories boundaries are right to the sea as far as Lerida. So That these churches are given boundaries as been said above, so that they will have peace and concord between them and none will do anything against the rights of the other.

Those listed here are witnesses and guarantors of this: Bernard Raimond, Guillaume Garcias, Ermengaud Forest, Raimond de Baimiac, Guilabert de Bonvilar, Bernard Guihem Contor, Bernard Guilhem Bonneville and Bertrand d'Avignont.

For the Church of Carcassonne: Guiraud Mercier, Bernard Cathala, Gregoire, Pierre Caldemas, Raimond Pons, Bertrand de Mouly, Martin de la Salle and Raimond Guibert.

All organized, accepted and said to Ermengaud de Forest to write and put into effect for the Church Toulouse similarly it is organized, accepted and said to Pierre Bernard to write and put into effect for the Church of Carcassonne and thus it was made and carried out.

Monseigneur Pierre Isarn made this copy of an old charter having the power to set boundaries of the various Churches that he wrote in a better hand the Monday the 14th of August in the year [1167?].

In the year 1232 of the incarnation of our lord. Pierre Poullain12 wrote all that is here accordingly as requested and ordered.13

A Medieval Building in St. Felix Lauragais

From what evidence we do have it appears that before the Council of St. Felix-de-Caraman the Cathars of southern France accepted a doctrine of mitigated dualism, in which evil existed since the fall of man into original sin and that sooner or later good would destroy evil. In this theology the material world was the creation of a lesser being, i.e., Satan, than God who would be eventually defeated. In effect Satan had created the material world, after his rebellion against God had failed, and also created Adam and Eve by imprisoning light in the matter he had created. Niquinta (Nicetas) seems to have brought over from Constantinople the more radical dualism of the church of Dragometia which postulated the existence for all time of two eternal principles, aspects, for clarity we can call them "Light" and "Dark" that are now unfortunately mixed up and that the goal of Light mixed up with matter a creation of the Dark was to free itself from matter so it could reunite with light completely and without contamination from Dark created matter. Eventually all Light would be free of matter and Dark completely separated from Light. Another matter seems to have been the validity of the consolamentum of various members of the Cathar hierarchy so that Niquinta (Nicetas) had to redo the ritual to make it valid again. Niquinta (Nicetas) had already visited Italy were he had redone various consolamentums and had introduced radical dualism.14 An Italian source written about 1200 C.E., says as follows:

In the early days, when the heresy of the Cathars began to increase in Lombardy, they first had a certain bishop named Mark, under whose rule all the Lombard, Tuscan and Trevisan [heretics] were governed. Mark was consecrated in the sect of Bulgaria. Then came to Lombardy from Constantinople a man called Papa Nicheta, who began to declaim against the Bulgarian consecration which Mark had received. This raised doubts in the minds of Bishop Mark and his followers; he gave up the Bulgarian consecration and accepted, at the hand of Nicheta himself, that of Drugunthia, and in this sect of Drugunthia he and all his associates remained for some time.15

Afterwards several of the Italian Cathar churches reverted to mitigated dualism although it appears that the Cathars of southern France remained radical dualists. The final issue seems to have been discord between the Cathar Churches in Southern France over jurisdiction and boundaries which Niquinta (Nicetas) helped to settle at this council.16

In the end the Cathars were crushed and only a scattering of documents like this one gives us much insight into their world.

View from St. Felix Lauragais

1. Besse, Guillaume, Histoire des ducs, marquis et comtes de Narbonne, Paris, 1660, pp, 483-486.

2. See Lambert, Malcolm, The Cathars, Blackwell Pub. Ltd., Oxford, 1998, pp. 45-59, & “The Cathar Council of S. Felix Reconsidered”, Archivum Fratrum Praedicatorum, v. 48, 1978, pp. 23-53, Roquebert, Michel, Histoire des cathares, Perrin, Paris, 1999, pp. 56-64, Moore, R. I., The Origins of European Dissent, 2d edition, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1985, pp. 212-217, Barber, Malcolm, The Cathars, Longman, Toronto, 2000, pp. 71-73.

3. see O’Shea, Stephen, The Perfect Heresy, Douglas and McIntyre, Vancouver, 2000, p. 272.

4. The date has been disputed on the grounds that it’s in error and the Council took place in the 1170’s. See also Moore above.

5. Niquinta or Nicetas seems to have been head of the Dualist, Dragometia, Church in Constantinople.

6. The ceremony of laying on of hands that consecrated someone into the Cathar or Dualist hierarchy by a sort of pasting down of sanctity.

7. “Papa” in the eastern Greek Orthodox faith simply means “Priest”; it does not have in any sense here the connotation of “Pope”.

8. Virtually nothing is known of this Church although there was some inquisitorial action against it in the late 12th and early 13th century. It seems to never have acquired the prominence of the Cathar Church in the South of France. See Lambert, pp. 122-125.

9. A Reference to St. Paul’s letters and the Book of Revelations that talk about 7 Churches in Asia Minor.

10. The Churches mentioned here apparently are all Dualist. The Church of Rome may be some sort of miscopying of the name of an Italian Dualist Church. Bulgaria, Dalmatia and Melenguia are Dualist Churches who seemed to have practiced a mitigated Dualism. Dragometia apparently practiced a radical Dualism and was the Church Niquinta was representing. Mitigated Dualism argued that God created the world and the conflict between light and dark had only existed since the fall. Radical Dualism believed that two forces / principles had existed from the beginning and would exist for eternity.

11. This part of the document to "The charter or the official report of conciliation and demarcation follows”, is from Hamilton, Janet & Hamilton, Bernard, Christian Dualist Heresies, in the Byzantine World, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1998, pp. 251-252. Unfortunately it doesn't contain the last half of the document. A full translation of the whole text into English is in Peters, Edward, Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe, University of Pennsylvania Press, New York, 1980, pp. 121-123.

12. This gloss is from a later time, 1232 / 33, when apparently the document was recopied. Pierre Poullain was the Cathar Bishop of Carcassonne.

13. This part is a translation from the French by Pierre Cloutier. The French text translated is from Duvernoy, Jean, L'Histoire des Cathares, Privat, Toulouse, 1979, pp. 217-218. For the full text in English see Peters, above in Footnote 11.

14. Lambert, pp. 45-59, 158-170, Runciman, Steven, The Medieval Manichee, The Viking Press, New York, 1961, pp. 72-77, 122-127, O'Shea, pp. 17-31, Moore, pp. 197-240, Barber, pp. 81-104, Oldenbourg, Zoe, Massacre at Montsegur, Phoenix Press, London, 1961, pp. 32-44, Moore, R.I., The Birth of Popular Heresy, University of Toronto Press, Toronto. 1995, pp. 122-127, 132-154, Wakefield, Walter L., Evans, Austin P., Heresies of the Middle Ages, Columbia University Press, New York, 1969, Item 23, pp. 160-167.

15. Wakefield, pp. 160-161.

16. See Footnote 14.

Pierre Cloutier

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

April 6, 1917

This is not a date that most people today remember but it is likely to be remembered has the most important date and event of the twentieth century. It was the day on which the United States declared war on the Central Powers in World War One and basically decided that Germany and her allies would lose, unless they very quickly won. Germany had in effect only a little over a year to achieve this result otherwise she was doomed to lose.

So just how did that epoch making event occur? In a few words it was the result of truly awesome stupidity, on the part of certain German leaders, directly related to their ignoring of Clauswitz’s dictum that war is a political tool and instead they subordinated politics to military “necessity”.

On February first 1917 the Kaiser as advised by his chief military advisers, who were in effect rulers of Germany, Hindenburg and Ludendorff, launched a campaign of unrestricted submarine campaign against Allied and neutral shipping. This was done despite knowledge that this would almost certainly get the United States in the war against Germany and her allies. So why was it done?


Hindenburg (Left) Ludendorff (Right)

At the time Britain was blockading Germany and her allies in an attempt to deprive Germany and her allies of essential materials. This caused significant distress and hunger in Germany and her allies and led to casting about for a way to retaliate, or counter blockade Britain.

Germany had tried at various times to use U-Boats to take / sink ships that were bringing goods to England during the early part of the war. There had even been various stabs at unrestricted submarine warfare, which led to such disasters as the sinking of the Lusitania, in which over 1100 people died including more than 100 Americans. This incident came close to starting a war between America and Germany and the Germans brought this experiment to an end.

Essentially submarine attacks on ships were a continuation of the old guerre de course, or privatering that European powers had engaged against each other during their past wars. In this case the u-boats were rather vulnerable to being rammed, or blown out of the water if they stuck to the recognized practice of stopping ships and searching them and enabling the crews to escape and then sinking them. This was highly dangerous. With torpedoes and deck guns there was, not surprisingly, a tendency to simply blow the ship out of the water without stopping it. Not only did stopping ships put the u-boat at risk but taking the time to search a ship put the u-boat at risk of being found in the meantime and sunk.

World War I U-Boat

Added to this was the problem that neutral vessels, especially American ships were sending war material to Britain and the other allied powers. Sinking such vessels, especially if you killed a lot of passengers at the same time, ran the risk of infuriating the neutral involved. In the case of the United States this involved infuriating a great industrial / economic power.

The U.S. was in the meantime doing excellent business with the Allied powers in terms of munitions and raw materials for war production. Also U.S. financial institutions played an important role in upholding allied finances and credit.

Not surprisingly the Germans were infuriated both by the Allied blockade and by the fact that America was aiding the allies in many ways. America was officially neutral and certainly President Woodrow Wilson made all the right noises about trying to arrange a sort of peace deal and was apparently fully sincere in wanting peace.

By then it was clear that if anything the Americans were pro-Allied, by reason of cultural and historical ties to Britain, and out of self interest. Although it must be emphasized the U.S. government and people did not want to be involved in a war. And frankly the American government wanted the war to end before it possibly interfered with American interests. A peace that in effect returned things more or less to the situation of early August 1914 before the war started was one that the American government found most appealing.

Americans were emerging only recently from a long term foreign policy direction of trying to isolate themselves from the politics and struggles and internal competitions of the European great powers. Traditionally American policy had concentrated on issues involving the Western Hemisphere with the proviso that America would not interfere with the great European powers if she was left alone in the Western Hemisphere. That had begun to change with such developments has the Spanish American War, which led to the conquest of the Philippines and acquiring of an American colonial empire. Further developments such has the acquiring of the Panama Canal Zone and the building of the Panama Canal, (opened 1914) also signaled a change indicating the emergence of the United States as a world power. In 1905 Theodore Roosevelt mediated the end of the Russian / Japanese war. All this signaled that the U.S. had arrived as a major player on the world scene.

Despite the above America was still profoundly leery of foreign entanglements and isolationism was a powerful force in the United States. Interestingly in the 1916 Presidential elections the main slogan of Woodrow Wilson’s campaign was “He kept us out of war!” Despite the fact that, if anything, Americans in general and Wilson in particular favored the Allied powers America did not want to be involved in the war. Given this how did it happen?

Woodrow Wilson

Well it was because America was heavily trading with the Allied powers, in munitions and raw materials and trade in other items. Trade with the Central Powers was virtually impossible due to the British blockade, so that there did not emerge a interest group in favor of keeping up trade with the Central Powers but there did emerge a interest group in favor of unimpeded trade with the Allied powers, which was proving to be highly beneficial to U.S., financial, trade and manufacturing interests. Further there was the simple fact that attacks on U.S. ships were obviously direct threats to the lives of U.S. citizens. Obviously attacks on British ships could be explained and justified on the grounds that British ships were ships of an enemy of Germany and therefore legitimate targets. However what about neutral vessels that were importing into Britain war material? Were they not targets? Here things get dicey if only because such vessels were from powers not at war with Germany and hence not real targets, but they did contain munitions and war material! The further complication that the rules governing such transactions in past wars involving European powers allowed the stopping and searching of neutral vessels bound for belligerent ports, especially with war material and allowed for confiscation of cargoes etc., also specified that crews would be saved and ships sunk only under very rigid circumstances. The existence of deck guns and torpedoes which allowed ships to be sunk on sight were not envisioned by these rules, neither was the fact that the “privateers” in this war, (u-boats), being so vulnerable to being sunk, made sinking ships on sight very tempting. The result was a series of mishaps and diplomatic disasters.

The Lusitania crisis was a prime example. This started after the Germans had declared an unrestricted submarine campaign in the waters around the British Isles. Due to a series of mistakes involving what the Germans thought was the prime purpose of the Lusitania. The ship was sunk by torpedo and over a thousand passengers were killed, including over 100 Americans. The idiocy of large elements of the German press in celebrating this “achievement” didn’t help. It nearly resulted in war between Germany and the U.S. It appears that the Lusitania was carrying war material, which was frankly in violation of the then current war rules. This fact and the fact that Germany rescinded the unrestricted campaign and U.S. didn’t want war prevented war from happening then.

Given the fact that the United States was by 1900 was the greatest industrial power on the planet, with huge financial, trade and raw material resources etc; war with her was an obviously iffy proposition to be engaged in only if there was little choice. Further by 1900 the United States had a larger population than any European power, with the exception of Russia. In effect the United States was second only to the British Empire in terms of overall power world wide. The British Empire was a fairly ramshackle affair that had great difficulty using / concentrating it's power in any one particular area, so that its effective power was less than adding up its resources, population would indicate. It was just common sense not to want war with the U.S.

Here however is where human idiocy / stupidity enters the picture. Simply a look at basic U.S. figures of population, industrial output etc., would have made it clear to any German statesmen that however annoying American trade during wartime with the Allied powers was, under no circumstances should Germany do anything to provoke America into a war. One should never underestimate the power of wishful thinking and sheer dumbness however. Despite the facts Germany's leaders stupidly did in fact provoke the United States into a war! It went as follows.

By the early winter of 1916 the war had entered its third year of bloody stalemate. Millions of soldiers on both sides were dead. Economies were straining at the end of their tether and Germany was going through a period of severe shortages due to the blockade, of food and other materials. The population was angry, and the generals were seeking a way out of the stalemate; for a quick easy solution. The desire to strike back at Britain was very strong so that as the winter went on pressure built up to strike at Britain through a counter blockade enforced by unrestricted submarine warfare.

Here is where the stupidity came into it. The fact is anger and rage are not conducive to clear thinking in terms of policy goals and how to achieve them, and in this case the various German generals, specifically Ludendorff and Hindenburg, who by this time had established what was in effect a Military Dictatorship over Germany dedicated to winning the war, had come to believe that Britain must be driven out the war by the quickest means possible. So various studies had been done and these studies had determined that sinking 800,000 tons of shipping per month for a period of 6 months would reduce Britain to famine and starve Britain of war material. So that Britain would be driven out the war in 6 months. The military studies done by the various elements of the German armed forces, especially the Naval department were characterized by distortion and a huge amount of wishful thinking and stunning over the top optimism of the prospects of unrestricted submarine warfare. Individuals like Admiral Tirpitz pushed for unrestricted submarine warfare with blind optimism and a cavalier disregard for alternatives or the possibility of failure.

In fact it should have been obvious that failure was not simply a distinct possibility it was a virtual certainty. The U-boats of the First World War had very slow underwater speeds, their torpedoes were very poor and their ability to coordinate operations with other U-boats virtually non-existent. Thus the vast majority of ships sunk by U-boats in this war were sunk by the deck guns of U-boats; and the vast majority of ships sunk were sailing alone. Given their technical limitations their ability to damage ships sailing in convoy was very limited. It should have been obvious that should the British convoy ships unrestricted submarine warfare would fail. A few escort or one escort ship per convoy would be enough to sink or drive off U-boats the great majority of time. This was both obvious and clear at the time. Further the time table for this too work was absurdly optimistic even if it had worked.1

At the same time it was clear by the fall of 1916 that Russia was in the process of internal collapse. The possibility of Russia falling apart or leaving the war was enormous, and in fact in February 1917 a popular insurrection overthrew the Tsarist regime and Russia’s ability to prosecute the war already visibly declining disintegrated further. This would give Germany the prospect of transferring troops etc., to the western front and enable them to either attack in an effort to gain victory or to secure a favorable peace.

So given the facts above why under those circumstances did the leaders of Germany embark on this foolish venture? To add America has their enemy just when Russia was collapsing meant replacing one enemy with a far more powerful enemy. The simple fact is many of the German leaders were prey to delusions. The fact that many in the German government thought that America's entry on the side of the Allies inevitable, if only for the Americans to help recover the huge sums they had loaned to the allies, made many people in the German government think that if America entered the war sooner rather than later it would make little difference. Of course this was nonsense the sensible policy would have been to put off American entry into the war has long as possible to the point where American help to the allies would have made no difference. Another delusion was that submarine warfare would work, ignoring the skeptics who pointed out the obvious problems. That American intervention would only add more supplies / financial aid to the Allied war effort. That any American expeditionary force would be small and so forth. In other words a stew of wishful thinking. Further America was simply underestimated and Ludendorff and Hindenburg remained quite happily ignorant of American economic power. It was pointed out that the American army was by European standards absurdly small, but ignored that given American economic power a huge Army could be created in less than two years. It was claimed that U-boats would sink troop ships and therefore prevent any substantial number of troops coming over the Atlantic. These fantasies, which is what they were, clouded clear thinking it was what Ludendorff, Hindenburg and their cortege wanted to hear so they heard it.2

The fact that since the war began the British Admiralty, in a fit of bull headed idiocy had utterly refused to institute convoys for various empty headed reasons had helped to reinforce German delusions about the efficiency of submarine warfare. In fact only if the British refused to institute convoys did the plan have even a ghost of a chance of working and frankly counting on the British being so stupid to the bitter end was foolish in the extreme. The fact that Lloyd George, who became British Prime Minister in 1917, was pressing for adoption of convoys made adoption a virtual certainty. Faced with this constellation of circumstances i.e., Russia leaving the war, unrestricted submarine warfare almost certainly to fail, and the U.S. entering the war if unrestricted submarine warfare was declared. The sensible option would have been not to do so but to sit tight.

The results were predictable, the fact that Germany allowed certain of their diplomats to make foolish moves like encouraging Mexico to attack the United States and offering an alliance with Mexico directed against the United States were mere infuriating icing on the cake. The United States simply did not want war with Germany but with great foolishness German leaders infuriated the U.S. government, citizens and businesses, (by trying to end their profitable trade with the Allied powers). It is by any standards one of the greatest examples of plain stupid policy making in world history.

The effects shaped the world we have today, even more than the Russian Revolution. America entered the war. Britain adopted the convoy system. Submarine warfare, despite the idiotic reluctance of the British Admiralty to adopt convoys, didn’t even come close to driving Britain out of the war.3 It simply failed. Replacing America with Russia ensured allied victory. More than 2 million American troops were sent to Europe and less than 50 were killed by U-boat attacks. The U-boats proved spectacularly ineffective in attacking convoys or sinking troop ships. Germany’s had to attack in the west before American troops arrived en mass. The chances of the attack working were not good and frankly any chance of Germany victory had evaporated by June 1918 and any reasonable chance of German victory had probably evaporated by the time the first German western offensive was launched in March 1918.

After the war both Hindenburg and Ludendorff helped to manufacture the stab in the back legend i.e., that politicians, liberals, Socialists etc., had betrayed Germany and caused the loss of the war. This was nonsense, it was their own single minded and foolish choices has military men that lost Germany the war, but blaming the politicians who had to clean up the mess they created was more psychologically satisfying I guess. This was part of a wholesale campaign by various people within German society to undermine the Weimer Republic. Thus did the men who lost the war for Germany help pave the way for Hitler.

In world terms this marked the establishment of the United States has the worlds predominant power, in finance, trade, culture etc., a dominance that only recently in a very Americanized world has began to fade. It appears that Communism for example, was mainly a bump that disguised the predominant fact of the twentieth century, the large scale westernization of the world through the medium of American power and culture.

And that is why April 6, 1917 is so important.

1. Blair, Clay, Hitler’s U-Boat War: The Hunters, 1939-1942, Modern Library, New York, 1996, pp. 9-22. This is a brief section that briefly surveys German U-Boats in World War I.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

Books consulted.

Fuller, J.F.C., A Military History of the Western World, vol. 3, Da Capo, New York, 1956, pp. 265-275.

Stone, Norman, Europe Transformed 1878-1919, Fontana Books, London, 1983, pp. 355-358.

Keegan, John, The First World War, Vintage Canada, Toronto, 1998, pp. 350-360.

Epstein, Klaus, Gerhard Ritter and the First World War, in The Origins of the First World War, Ed. Koch, H. W., Taplinger Pub. Co., New York, 1972, pp. 298-303.

Zechlin, Egmont, Cabinet versus Economic Warfare in Germany, in Koch, pp. 206-214.

Craig, Gordon A., Germany 1866-1945, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1978, pp. 378-390.

Hart, Liddell, History of the First World War, Pan Books Ltd., London, 1934, pp. 214-216, 308-312.

Pierre Cloutier