The Charlotte News
SUNDAY, AUGUST 29, 1937
Who Shoulders These Crimes?
By W. J. Cash
Site ed. note: Again, in the wake of the "Shanghai incident", Cash bemoans the fact that the United States and Great Britain had done nothing to attempt to stop the aggression and aid of fascist aggression by Hitler and Mussolini in Spain and Ethiopia and the Japanese warlords' war against China. And again he predicts that a full-scale war will develop from these maneuvers eventually, and that no matter how we may attempt to remain removed, eventually U.S. involvement will be compelled--but only, he believed correctly, when the thing had gone so far as to require the sacrifice for a prolonged period of many lives to stop. Cash urged the use of the combined navies of England, France and the United States to halt the aggression of these outlaw nations and then blockade them of supplies until the leaders responsible were deposed by their own people.
Would it have worked? We shall never know. It worked to a degree with Cuba in 1962. It has worked to a degree with Iraq in the Nineties. Though in both cases, the rogue leaders remain, yet without support of foreign governments and hence without the ability to effect outside their borders. But the lesson of ill-advised neutrality by the major powers in the face of small nations waging aggression for greater land and material wealth through aggression against other nations and against segments of its own population who would favor peace can never be forgotten. Yes, nuclear technology is the big stick threat which may work as between major powers on the world stage to insure a level of mutual deterrence, but its effectiveness is minimized by its sheer terror and might, that is that such technology cannot be used except as a last resort to prevent wholesale destruction of a greater magnitude. As parts of civilization struggle to catch up to the notion of peace between neighbors for their own security, that technological might does not equate with right--a lesson learned ineradicably out of blood on the soil of the United States in two bitter struggles, one for independence, one for the preservation of the union gained by that independence--the concept of the world's "policeman", so often disputed, yet must tragically remain in light of history's harsh lessons as a continuing role for the only large economic power currently on the world stage if always tenuous democracy is to last long as more than an abstract principle.
I am not interested in the gentle and polite world of books today, for I cannot forget the thing that the Japanese pigs did in Shanghai last Monday. Whether the shell which exploded at the busiest street corner in the world outside New York and London came from a Japanese gun or a Chinese gun I don't know and I don't care. Wherever the shell came from, the deed is still the deed of the militarists who rule Japan.
But if it was they that did it, if the primary and immediate responsibility is theirs, I still do not believe that the whole responsibility is theirs. I think that ultimately, indeed, a good part of the responsibility for what happened in Shanghai as for what happened at Guernica six months ago, and as for what happened in Ethiopia nearly two years ago, rests squarely upon other shoulders--those of Great Britain and the United States.
It seems to me about time we began realistically to reckon up the issue of the idiotic theory upon which we have been basing our international policy--the theory that we can avoid war by staying at home, minding our own business, declining to fight under any conditions, and letting the rest of the world go hang. I call that theory idiotic because, when analyzed down, it obviously contains two nonsensical propositions, that we can live in a world in which law has been destroyed, and that we can enjoy power without taking up its responsibilities.
The manifest fact is that the mastery of the world resides inescapably in the hands of the United States and Britain. Between them, for instance, they can muster a naval power of 2,360,000 tons--about twice as much as the combined navies of the rest of the world. And in naval gun power, the superiority probably approaches three to one. No flag can fly on any sea without the consent of these powers.
Well, and with that power in hand, the two nations were faced with an issue in 1931 to which there was in rationality, in regard for the peace of the world and the sanctity of the basis upon which peace must be built, the general law and faith of the nations, only one possible answer. Both had signed the nine-power treaty, guaranteeing the territorial integrity of China of their own free will, and of all the signatories only they had the power to call a halt to the grab of Manchuria. It is idle to say that determined action to have stopped that grab would have resulted in war, for not even the tinhats of Japan are senseless enough to walk into certain destruction.
But we chose to dodge our pledged responsibilities, and because we did--a Japanese Navy is in the Wangpoo today, cynically engaged in the grab of all China and the creation of an Asiatic empire which on some not distant tomorrow may give us more trouble that we can solve.
Because we didn't, Mussolini and Hitler were emboldened to announce an open return to the policy of savagery--and to act upon that announcement. There, again, of course, the two most powerful nations were faced with an issue in which the only sensible thing to do was to remind the fascist chieftains that together they have no more than a fifth of the naval power of the two, and with France counted in, less than a sixth, and that if they went through with their schemes, they would inexorably be destroyed.
But we didn't, and so we have the spectacle of Mussolini cooly pitching aside the poison gas agreement of 1925, and carrying cargoes of declared gas through Suez, to be used almost entirely--according to the report of the English Red Cross--for the wanton murder of Ethiopian civilians and for undisguised warfare upon the Red Cross itself!
Because we didn't, we have the spectacle of Italy and Germany engaged in the bald attempt to extinguish one of the oldest of the European nations, and indulging in wholesale murder of the civilian population of that country in flat contempt of every convention of humanity and warfare set up for the last fifteen hundred years.
Because we didn't, Italian submarines flying the Spanish insurgent flag (all Spanish submarines are held by the Loyalist government) are openly engaged in piracy up and down the length of the Mediterranean--and when I say piracy, I mean piracy as defined under international law. Because we didn't, no ship under any flag--including the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack--is any longer safe on any sea.
Because we didn't, there is not a treaty in existence which is worth the paper on which it is written. And there is nowhere anything more of law among the nations--but only the law of chaos, the law of murder and rapine and the free-booting gangster. Internationally, we stand today just about where Europe stood when the Goth and the Hun and the Vandal were pouring out of their forest and plains, or where the American Indian stood when Columbus first sailed the western way.
And as for our having avoided war--the claim would be pathetic if it were not tragic. Germany has been so heartened by our weakness that this moment she is engaged in turning Brazil into a German economic colony, and her magazines and journals are already beginning to speculate openly on turning it into a political colony--are gravely putting forward the doctrine that the Monroe doctrine is an untenable piece of hoggishness on our part, and must be given up.
Worse, the most appalling war ever seen by man is plainly in the making--and precisely out of the chaos which our indecision and failure to employ our proper power has let loose. Already, it is waging in the east and in Spain. And when it presently breaks over to involve all Europe and all the east--who is there who knows anything about how our affairs are actually tied up with the welfare of the other nations, who is there to believe that we shall manage to stay out of it? Of course we shan't. We shall stay out of it just long enough to make the winning of it a dubious and infinitely bloody business.
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