The Charlotte News
Friday, October 27, 1939
Senate Votes To Ship Gas On Promise Not To Use It
An attitude of accepting the ugly facts of war seems to have come over this Senate. When a fellow Republican presented Mr. Hoover's proposals in the form of an amendment to lift the embargo except on offensive arms--bombers and submarines, for example--the Senate voted it down.
The argument it listened to was that the possession of sufficient bombers by England and France to enable them to match Germany air raid for air raid, would be the most effective deterrent to any merciless bombing of civilian populations.
And so Thursday, on the Republican amendment to prohibit exportation of poison gas, flame-throwers and other ingredients and implements of chemical warfare, the vote was 54-36 and the amendment was defeated. The clinching argument was the same--that a belligerent (Germany) would hesitate to start chemical warfare if it knew the enemy (England and France) was prepared to retaliate in kind.
Still, we don't know. There's a difference between bombing planes and poison gas. The first are standard equipment and may be used legitimately against military objectives. But any use at all of the second is forbidden to England and France under the Geneva Convention of 1932, though not to Germany and Russia, which refused to sign it. Still, Hitler has announced that he won't use it until the Allies do. That perhaps rests not entirely on his worthless word but on the probability also that the Allies have already cannily supplied themselves with quantities of the stuff to retaliate in kind. And it is quite possible that the knowledge that unlimited quantities were available to them in the American market might tempt them to make the first break.
Her Richness Is A Very Tempting Bite For Adolf
If Adolf Hitler invades The Netherlands, he will have not even the feeble excuse they had against Poland--that she had for more than a century prior to 1918 been unable to maintain her independence and therefore had no claim to being a nation in the true sense. For Holland has maintained its independence and its own language and customs ever since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 put an end to the long series of wars which culminated in the struggle known as the Thirty Years War (with the exception of a short time in the Napoleonic period).
Originally a possession of the House of Burgundy, The Netherlands passed into the hands of the Habsburgs in the sixteenth century; but when Phillip II attempted to impose the Counter-Reformation on the Protestant Dutch by the sword, he caught a Tartar, and eventually lost them to the Habsburg crown altogether. The story of their heroic defense against the Duke of Alva is one of the most admirable in history.
This little country was for awhile in the seventeenth-century the first commercial and maritime state in the world. Until it was eventually defeated by the British, she held pretty much the same sea power the latter now wields.
It is a small land, less than one-fourth the size of North Carolina. And of that, as everyone knows, the great part has been wrested from the sea by the polders--that is by fields below sea level and enclosed by dikes.
The population of the country is about eight million, which means that it is approximately ten times as thickly settled as North Carolina.
But this little bailiwick owns the greatest colonial empire on earth, being surpassed only by England and France. Altogether, it controls about 788,000 square miles of colonial territory, and included in that holding are the rich Dutch East Indies--Java, Sumatra, part of Borneo, Celebes, and part of New Guinea, not to mention Bali, which has recently got celebrated in American movies and popular songs. These islands are one of the principal sources in the world of rubber and tin, which is the main reason that not only Mr. Hitler but also Japan has been eyeing them covetously.
But Russia's Open Stand Leaves Us Dangling
If Russia has turned the City of Flint over to the Germans for transport to a German port, then the position of Russia is now pretty well clarified. She is not neutral. More than that, she is so determined to help her German ally that she is willing to perpetrate acts of war against the United States in order to do it.
The claim that the ship was allowed to come into Murmansk because she was "disabled" is pretty obviously an invention. If true, it would have been easy to prove it simply by waiting until a representative of the American embassy in Moscow had had an opportunity to inspect her and verify the disability. And indeed, the only claim the Germans themselves made was that she had no charts!
That is brazen nonsense. Of course, being bound for England, she had no charts for the mined waters of the North Sea. But the Deutschland, the pocket battleship which seized her, certainly did have such charts--had to have them to come out through the North Sea in the first place.
The real purpose behind all this is quite plain. The City of Flint was take into Murmansk to give the Germans time to form a submarine convoy to bring her back through the North Sea to a German port, so that the Deutschland would not have to run the gauntlet of the British Navy in attempting to bring her in--so, in short, that the Deutschland could continue to stay in the open sea as a raider. The whole business is as open a flouting of international law as the widespread acts of piracy on the part of Italian and German submarines during the Spanish War.
But there is nothing we can do about it except to protest, unless we are prepared to declare Russia a belligerent and apply the Neutrality Act against her. And today that now would embarrass England acutely, which finds it convenient to keep on pretending that Russia is a neutral. All our action amounts to is keeping the record straight. And that is all it can amount to unless we decided to make it plain that in such case we will use force, the only thing the gangster nations respect.
The case of the seizure of the Flint would not have arisen if the pending neutrality bill, with its prohibition against American ships carrying goods to the European belligerents, had been enforced. But the German raiders range very widely and it is quite possible that in time they may seize ships carrying goods from the United States to Canada, say, or the British West Indian possessions--both quite legal under the new bill. If and when that happens we shall be up against the decision of uselessly protesting again or applying force for the defense of our rights. And if we intend to apply force, we had better get them in position beforehand to do it swiftly and effectively.
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