The Charlotte News

Wednesday, October 25, 1939


Site Ed. Note: "How Far?" begins a series of editorials about the seizure of the American ship City of Flint and its American crew by the Russians on suspicion that more than 50% of its cargo was contraband and thus violative of neutrality laws. The Russians then turned the ship over to the German navy after keeping it in port at Murmansk for several days on the pretext that it had engine trouble and was unseaworthy. Yet, the radio man on board claimed he knew of no engine trouble. Cash therefore eventually opines that this detention for repairs was an excuse to enable the assemblage of a German convoy to escort the ship through the perilous North Sea, by the British Navy, and into a German port--and that the whole seizure was a violation of international law and an act of war. See "Wanted: Proof", October 26, "Smoked Out", October 27, "Rubbing It In", October 28, "For the Record", October 30, and "Our Yardstick", October 31, 1939.


A Nazi Names The Chosen Victims Of His Country

One Nazi source at last has been brutally frank. The Associated Press, in reporting his threats to turn Italy and Russia on Turkey, quoted him as saying:

"God help the Angollan peasants. There are no trees there for them to hide behind when the bombers come. There were trees in Poland."

That is a very frank admission as to whom the Nazis primarily make and have made war against. We knew it already, of course, on such unimpeachable testimony as that of the American Ambassador to Poland, Mr. Biddle, and Julien Bryan, the American photographer. But it is interesting to find a Nazi at length confessing it.

War Styles

Apparently Dressmakers Know Their Politics

Several weeks ago, in passing a show window, our eyes were caught by a woman's coat. We went on, but eventually it so fascinated us that we equipped ourselves with a femme (for an alibi) and came back and stood boldly in front of the place to have a better look. There it was, plainly cut on military lines, equipped with brass buttons and turned out in a color which, while it undoubtedly has some outlandish new name, was plainly just the old scarlet the British army was wearing along at the time when there was some unpleasantness with a certain Cornwallis in Charlotte.

What intrigue us was the question of whether it was just a coincidence with the war or proof that the fashion designers stay right on top of the news. Well, now we have our answer. The dispatches last week reported that Molyneux, the great Parisian dressmaker, had staged an opening as usual, war or no war, and there the things were, "military-styled coats... on fitted lines, with brass buttons and shown in 'raf blue,' a new navy shade... Air-raid ensembles... in black with pajamas of heavy crepe and loose coats of wool... accompanied by colored hoods and sashes, some of a new to bright blue called [indiscernible word]..."

Apparently, the gals have made up their minds that if they are going to be bombed they are going down with colors flying, as it were.

Still, there is a question. As we understand it, models are ordinarily planned at least six months ahead. Yet those military coats were certainly on display in Charlotte within a month after war began, perhaps even earlier.

Useful auguries, these dressmakers. They stay well ahead of international politics.

How Far?

Demands Are Useless Unless We Can Follow Through

Mr. Hull and the President are probably going to be called war-makers by some of the isolationists in the Senate for their action in demanding that Russia give up the City of Flint. In fact, the only way it seems possible to convince several of these men that the Administration is not plotting to pick a war with Germany is to order the navy into action on the side of Germany. Anything less than that they represent as a provocation of the gentle Nazis.

Actually, there is no doubt that the Administration is amply justified in this action. That the vessel was legally subject to capture by Germany seems probable. Mr. Hull insists, indeed, that the greater part of its cargo was made up a of "conditional contraband,"--i.e., materials which are to be treated as contraband or non-contraband according to whether they are to be used for the civilian population of the warring nation or for its armies. But in practice it is generally impossible to determine that question accurately, and it was our custom in 1917-18 to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, at the expense of neutrals. We can hardly demand that Germany act on another precedent that our own.

But it certainly is not the privilege of Germany to play both ends against the middle. If she can dispatch pocket battleships and cruisers to sea, have them capture contraband ships, and get those ships safely back into her own ports--well and good, under the rules of the game. But if she can't, she has no right at all to attempt to set up a base in Russia to which to transport them, and Russia has no right at all to allow it. If the two do it, then, of course, Russia is guilty of an act of war against the Allies. More, Russia is guilty of the primary act of war against the United States. And if, in turn, we agree to accept that, we ourselves become guilty of an act of war against the Allies.

For it is the business of the neutral under the law of nations to defend his rights, so far as he can, and see that they are not transgressed by any one warring nation to the benefit of another. And the total effect of this would be to cancel out a large part of the effectiveness of the blockade of the North Sea by the British Navy.

The one really doubtful thing about the move is whether the President is prepared to back it to the hilt. Perhaps he won't have to, since Germany is obviously engaged in the campaign just now to create the impression over here that the Nazis are good, decent fellows who can be counted on to lean over backward in behalf of chivalry and friendship.

But we have to remember also that these are in reality cunning and brazen regimes, and there is much at stake for them here. If Germany can get away with it, she has struck a powerful blow. And for Russia to yield would be to admit that she probably has no intention of aiding Germany actively--something she is quite likely anxious not to admit now. So we may face a showdown.

We have a perfect right to use force, of course, in the defense of our clear legal rights. And its use in the connection would not constitute an act of war--would result in war only if Germany and Russia chose to have it that way and made war on us. But there are men in the Senate who either do not understand this or affect not to understand it. Besides, there are the Coughlins, Kuhns, and Browders. All these would certainly raise a tremendous clamor to the effect that the President was deliberately making war if it appeared that he was out to show Germany and Russia that he meant business. And under the circumstances, will he hesitate or go forward? If the former, then the move had better never have been made. For if we are going to have to retreat, it would have been best to pretend that all was well from the first.

Certainly, whatever the outcome of this particular case, the question posed here is one that, if this war goes on long, we are going to have to face eventually.

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