Tuesday, 1 January 1980

Crescent and Iron Cross

Non-fiction ~ history/politics
Published 1918 (an expanded version of the earlier Deutschland über Allah)
Approx. 49,000 words

When the Young Turks came into power, they proclaimed that they were going to weld the Ottoman Empire into one homogeneous and harmonious whole. But by a piece of brilliant paradoxical reasoning, says Mr. Benson, Germany determined that it was she who was going to do it for them. He proceeds:
In flat contradiction of the spirit of their manifestoes, which proclaimed the Pan-Turkish ideal, she conceived and began to carry out, under their very noses, the great new chapter of the Pan-Germanic ideal. And the Young Turks did not know the difference! They mistook that lustyTeutonic changeling for their own new-born Turkish babe, and they nursed and nourished it. Amazingly it throve, and soon it cut its teeth, and one day, when they thought it was asleep, it arose from its cradle, baby no more, but a great Prussian guardsman who shouted, “Deutschland über Allah!
Mr. Benson concludes that in Turkey "there is no God but backshish and the Deutsche bank is his prophet." Turkish youths are now sent to Germany instead of France for education. Mr. Benson adds: "Certainly, Prussian Gott is nearer Turkish Allah." Aside from the book's chronicle of how Turkey has practically become a German colony, another feature distinguishes it—the author's position concerning Germany's part in the Armenian massacres. He asserts that Germany did not
want these massacres. "She wanted more agricultural labor, and I think that, if only for that reason, she deprecated them. But she allowed them to go on when it was in her power to stop them, and all the perfumes of Arabia cannot wash clean her hand from that stinking horror."
~The Outlook (US), 05/06/1918
Concerned with Eastern affairs, but rather with things political than with things military, is E. F. Benson's Crescent and Iron Cross [...]. Of Turkey the author maintains that the famous phrase of Nicholas I, "Turkey is a sick man," is no longer true. "Turkey is not a sick man," he says; "Turkey is a sickness." And he continues: "Turkey, the rodent cancer, has been infected by another with greater organization for devouring; the disease of Ottomanism is threatened by a more deadly hungerer, and Prussianism has inserted its coal-pincers into the cancer that came out of Asia." It is these phenomena, and their reaction upon the subject peoples of Armenia, Syria, and Palestine, that Mr. Benson here examines, with the result that he sees a brighter future for Turkey He feels that the Turkey of the future is to be for the Turks; not for the persecuted Armenians, nor for the Arabs, nor for the Greeks, and assuredly not for the Prussians.
~The Nation, 09/11/1918
Between America and Turkey there has been a severance of relations, but no war. Nevertheless,
when on January 8, 1918, President Wilson, in reply to the Russian challenge, set forth with detail and precision the fourteen conditions which are now ostensibly the basis of the peace to be made with the Central Powers, the liberation of the subject peoples of the Ottoman Empire was coupled with 'self-determination' for the Turks. That Turkey, in reply, did not immediately declare war was a
sign and a portent. For Turkish foreign policy was dictated from Berlin, and the future of Turkey had been determined in Berlin. A declaration of war on the part of Turkey would have added the United States in an 'internationally-legal' way to the powers sharing against Germany the potentiality of determining the fate of Turkey. And it was not to imperial Germany's interest that this should be so. Turkey was the base of the economic arch of Mittel-Europa, the keystone of the military arch of the contemplated hegemony of. Asia and Africa. The German over-lordship of Turkey had hence to be preserved by any and all means—by the massacre of the Armenians, by the
abortive assaults on the 'Arabs' and the Jews, by the economic penetration of the unhappy Ottoman Empire.
Mr. Benson does not say this. His work is largely a survey of the established dominion of the Germans in Turkey, particularly of those aspects of it which have developed during the war. It is well written, with a power of phrase unusual in works of this type, but also with a passion and a somewhat infantile irony that greatly detract from the force and persuasiveness of his narrative. The mere data of this are sufficient. To any one acquainted with the programme of Mittel-Europa they make clear immediately that the pan-Germans had been preparing in Turkey for after the war. They make clear immediately why this high sovereign power, the Ottoman Empire, failed to resent the 'deadly insult' levelled at it by the chief magistrate of a nation with which it was offcially at peace. They make clear immediately why the chief magistrate found it necessary to make this 'insult' one of his explicit conditions of a peace settlement.
The Young Turks, Mr. Benson points out, reversed the policy of the 'Old Turks.' Those had impressed the youth of their subject-populations into their armies, had Moslemized them and had then used them to misgovern the peoples of their own blood. The Young Turks, on the other hand,
used their armies to kill out these non-Turkish peoples. They did it with the connivance of the Germans. They did it to the Armenians, and they were prevented from accomplishing it upon the Jews and Arabs. They planned it, and carried it out as a part of the programme of Turkish nationalism; to establish the numerical supremacy of the Turks in the empire, the dominion of the Turkish language and Turkish culture. They were encouraged by the Germans because the Turks are the most inferior people in the empire; because German control might meet competition among Syrians and Armenians, but could meet none among Turks. To ensure control they had since the war
added to their already great concessions in railroads, harbors and irrigation, the control of most of the railroads in the empire, the control of the coal mines at Rodesto and of the copper mines at Arghana Maden. By treaty, January 11, 1917, they acquired control of the whole reorganization of the economic system of Turkey, and already in 1916 they had it arranged that German law might
replace the Shuriat. They had undertaken the Germanification of young Ottomans by means of the schools and of all industries by means of concessions. But their most astute operation was the bankruptcy of Turkey, which gave them, victorious or defeated, a stranglehold on the land. They did it by taking away all the Turkish bullion and replacing it by German paper notes to the amount of about seven hundred and fifty million dollars. This paper is to be redeemed in gold, at par, two years after the end of the war. To this paper they added more, in the shape of a loan, just after failure of the Gallipoli campaign, and then they added further loans. As it had been made a criminal offence to hoard gold, German paper had to circulate. Soon, however, it had to be used as a 'reserve' and fresh paper was issued with the old paper as its guaranty. The result is that all German paper has depreciated so that the Turkish gold pound, which is worth 100 piastres in silver, is worth more than 280 piastres in German paper. In all, Turkey has received from Germany in paper just about 142 million pounds. She is to repay this, at par, with interest of course, in gold. Turkey will never, as the German financiers and the astute Young Turk rulers of Turkey know, be able to do this. Germany will collect her claim by appropriating the natural resources of that rich land, kept a desert for a thousand years through misgovernment.
Prior to the war the most serious rival of Germany in the exploitation of Turkey was France. England had interests, since greatly expanded, but France was foremost. Mr. Benson suggests—and his suggestion smells of an official understanding, a secret treaty in fact, between the powers of the Entente—that the solution of the Turkish problem would be the formal establishment of a French
protectorate in Syria, the concentration of the Turks in Anatolia, and so on. The proposal is in complete harmony with the tradition of the old imperialism. It is entirely contrary to the President's. That demands clearly and explicitly freedom and security for all the peoples in the Turkish empire, the Turks included. Between the real Turks in Anatolia and the offspring of the Janizzaries in Constantinople there is no community, either of blood or of speech or of culture. Anatolians have been the victims of a tyrannical military autocracy only in less degree than the Armenians, Arabs and Jews. First the present Ottoman government must be destroyed. Then the Ottoman lands and people must, like the Ottoman debt, be assigned, as the Inter-Allied Labor and Socialist Conference
suggests, to international guardianship. No more spheres of influence, no more protectorates. As Mr. Wilson has insisted, and as he must now most vigorously demand, the interests of the peoples concerned come first. If these interests are to be safeguarded, there is necessary an international commission which will protect all of them from the exploitation which has been their lot in the past—the Turks of Anatolia no less than the Arabs of the Hedjaz; the Kurds, no less than the Armenians. Particularly must they be protected from the financial manipulation by which their present nefarious government has loaded them with an overwhelming burden of taxation. If ever there was a national debt meriting repudiation, the present debt of the Turks to the Germans merits it.
~H. M. K. in The New Republic, 18/01/1919

No comments:

Post a Comment