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What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.


Monday, June 2, 2014

World War One this week.

My look this week focuses on two trains of thought- one at the target date and going forward, one from the target date backwards.

Our backwards look begins on June 1st, 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson's special envoy, confidante, cook, and bottle-washer Col. Edward House met with the Kaiser .  This conversation, according to House's diary, came from two different perspectives- and the German one sounds sadly familiar.  Wilhelm told House that the Anglo-Saxon nations- e.g. Britain, Germany, and the US of A- were "natural allies" as the "best examples of Christian civilization" against the "semi-barbarous" Latin and Slavic nations such as France and Russia.  Further, Willie posited that all European races should be united "against the Oriental races."

Before I touch on those bon mots, let me go on to say that House turned the conversation to a more political dynamic, explaining that Willie wouldn't need to worry about a Russo-English alliance if he'd lay off the naval competition, and brought up the concept of letting the US work as a moderator for Anglo-German talks on the subject.

When House wrote his boss about the conversation on June 3rd, he theorized that the big problem was that Britain and Germany DID have one thing in common- fear of each other.  He also told Wilson he'd extracted a promise from Willie to be open to his proposed conference between them and Britain.

I tried to get a shot of Col. House and the Kaiser together... but Google kept giving me Hogan and Col. Klinck.

Now, what brought up the Oriental thing?  Well, Germany HAD had good relations with both Japan and China- until Willie took charge.  Then they became an aggressive colonial player in China, pissing off both nations.  They grated the Japanese even more by lending moral support to their "enemy" Russia in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5.  The Chinese relation with Germany degraded even further during the Boxer Rebellion, when German ambassador Clemens von Ketteler, in dealing with Chinese Christians, the Boxers, the Manchu Bannermen who formed the core of Actual Chinese power, and the Muslim "Kansu Braves", managed to anger all groups.  His brutal beating of a Chinese youth "for apparently no reason", touched off a slew of riots that led to Manchu leader En Hai defeating the German garrison in Peking, targeting and killing him specifically for the beating.  Then the leader of the Kansu Braves allegedly had him skinned, and ate his heart.

Ketteler's last stand.

Of course, von Ketteler wasn't the only one enraging the Chinese; in sending off the German contingent to the Allied Army that tackled the Boxers, Willie made a fairly racist remark comparing the Chinese to the Huns who ravaged Europe in ages past.  Ironic, really, when you consider that the Germans themselves were "The Hun" the Allies were fighting in western propaganda.

Our second string of thought concerns our assassins.  Princep, Trisko Grabez, and Nedjelko Cabrinovic, had crossed into Austrian territory on June 1st.  The former two came separately from Ned, whom Princep got mad at for his cavalier attitude towards plot security.  They reunited in Tuzla on the 3rd, where by odd happenstance, they shared a train to Sarajevo with Sarajevo Police Detective Ivan Vila- who was a friend of Cabrinovic's dad, who was also a SPD official.  It was from him they learned of the date of Franz Ferdinand's visit- June 28th.  They split up at Sarajevo and cooled their heels until the big day.

Now, who did what here?  Well, if you remember your history (or if not, you heard it here first!), Princep fired the shots, Cabrinovic threw the bomb that started things, and one other guy chickened out, leaving 4 of the seven total conspirators with nothing to do.  Princep bit his cyanide pill when captured, but all it did was make him barf.  Grabez was picked off by the cops, and Cabrinovic had probably the most botched suicide attempt in history.  Biting his pill, but not willing to make sure it would work, he dove into the river Miljaka, hoping to drown.  Unfortunately, the river Miljaka wasn't exactly at flood stage- exactly, it was 4 inches deep- and after he barfed as well, he was taken away.

This is where Cabrinovic dove splashed tried to puddle himself to death.

They escaped execution because of the Austrian law that prevented youths under 20 years old from being executed.  Princep missed by 27 days; Grabez would turn 20 in October; and Cabrinovic just turned 19 in February.  They each were sentenced to 20 years in prison, but didn't live to serve but a fraction.  All three died of TB- Princep in the spring of 1918, the other two nine months apart in 1916.  Thus, none of them outlived the war.

Finally, as many wars, this one would be caused by a cavalcade of misunderstanding.  June 5th was a case in point.  Fearing the connection between the Serbian government and military and the Black Hand terrorist group being completely exposed by the assassination attempt, Prime Minister Pasic decided a message had to be gotten to the Austrians on the sly.  He assigned the job to Serbia's minister to Austria, Jovan Jovanovic.  Not an easy task for Joe, since he was a known Pan-Serb and thus persona non grata with most of the Austrian government.  Except, apparently, for Finance Minister Dr Leon von Bilinski.  Joe told Leon to the effect of, "It might not be such a good idea for FF to go to Sarajevo.  You know that's a big holiday for us, and some young Serb might fire live round in the air instead of a blank."  Leon was a straight talker- which means he had no idea that that was diplospeak for, "There might be an assassination attempt."  So he blew it off with a smile and a, "Well, let's hope nothing happens."  Joe knew he didn't get it, but shrugged and said, "well, I did MY job."

I wonder if Joe was trying to tell me something...


  1. Chris:
    I really like the way you are spinning this tale...
    Loads of back-story that I have never heard of.

    It's good know that it wasn't JUST the assassination of Ferdinand leading up to and starting WW1.
    But, it's just as disturbing to see how MUCH all the infighting and politicking starting a world war was an "easy" thing...certainly not.
    SO many smaller pieces that go to make up this mosaic.

    (and yes, always check the river level BEFORE diving into it to drown).

    Another excellent chapter.

    Stay safe up there.

    1. Thanks. I think that when you have read so much on a subject (like me on this) it really helps you know where to look for the really good stuff.

  2. I think, if we look back, almost everyone in charge has the "Well, I did my job... let's hope nothing happens" attitude at the start of a war.

    Thanks for stopping by today... jokes are okay... trust me, Tony's "being supportive" has included the mentioned sugar straight from the jar, a special trip to Lindt, and stocking the house with ice cream... you know... for the boys. I'm sure I can handle some of your wise crackin :)

    1. They may be okay.. but that's a lot of pain, and a LOT of sacrifice. I'd be ready to chop the first head off. Sometimes, it feels better just to be supportive.