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CRESCENT AND IRON CROSS


BY E.F. BENSON




_Crescent and Iron Cross, Preface_


In compiling the following pages I have had access to certain sources of
official information, the nature of which I am not at liberty to specify
further. I have used these freely in such chapters of this book as deal
with recent and contemporary events in Turkey or in Germany in
connection with Turkey: the chapter, for instance, entitled 'Deutschland
über Allah,' is based very largely on such documents. I have tried to be
discriminating in their use, and have not, as far as I am aware, stated
anything derived from them as a fact, for which I had not found
corroborative evidence. With regard to the Armenian massacres I have
drawn largely on the testimony collected by Lord Bryce, on that brought
forward by Mr. Arnold J. Toynbee in his pamphlet _The Murder of a
Nation_, and _The Murderous Tyranny of the Turks,_ and on the pamphlet
by Dr. Martin Niepage, called _The Horrors of Aleppo_. In the first
chapter I have based the short historical survey on the contribution of
Mr. D.G. Hogarth to _The Balkans_ (Clarendon Press, 1915). The chapter
called 'Thy Kingdom is Divided' is in no respect at all an official
utterance, and merely represents the individual opinions and surmises of
the author. It has, however, the official basis that the Allies have
pledged themselves to remove the power of the Turk from Constantinople,
and to remove out of the power of the Turk the alien peoples who have
too long already been subject to his murderous rule. I have, in fact,
but attempted to conjecture in what kind of manner that promise will be
fulfilled.

Fresh items of news respecting internal conditions in Turkey are
continually coming in, and if one waited for them all, one would have to
wait to the end of the war before beginning to write at all on this
subject. But since such usefulness as this book may possibly have is
involved with the necessity of its appearance before the end of the war,
I set a term to the gathering of material, and, with the exception of
two or three notes inserted later, ceased to collect it after June 1917.
But up to then anything that should have been inserted in surveys and
arguments, and is not, constitutes a culpable omission on my part.

E.F. BENSON




_Crescent and Iron Cross, Contents_


CHAPTER I

THE THEORY OF THE OLD TURKS

CHAPTER II

THE THEORY OF THE NEW TURKS

CHAPTER III

THE END OF THE ARMENIAN QUESTION

CHAPTER IV

THE QUESTION OF SYRIA AND PALESTINE

CHAPTER V

DEUTSCHLAND ÜBER ALLAH

CHAPTER VI

'THY KINGDOM IS DIVIDED'

CHAPTER VII

THE GRIP OF THE OCTOPUS




_Crescent and Iron Cross, Chapter I_


THE THEORY OF THE OLD TURKS

The maker of phrases plies a dangerous trade. Very often his phrase is
applicable for the moment and for the situation in view of which he
coined it, but his coin has only a temporary validity: it is good for a
month or for a year, or for whatever period during which the crisis
lasts, and after that it lapses again into a mere token, a thing without
value and without meaning. But the phrase cannot, as in the case of a
monetary coinage, at once be recalled, for it has gone broadcast over
the land, or, at any rate, it is not recalled, and it goes on being
passed from hand to hand, its image and superscription defaced by wear,
long after it has ceased to represent anything. In itself it is
obsolete, but people still trade with it, and think it represents what
it represented when it came hot from the Mint. And, unfortunately, it
sometimes happens that it is worse than valueless; it becomes a forgery
(which it may not have been when it came into circulation), and deceives
those who traffic with it, flattering them with an unfounded possession.

Such a phrase, which still holds currency, was once coined by Lord
Aberdeen in the period of the Crimean War. 'Turkey is a sick man,' he
said, and added something which gave great offence then about the
advisability of putting Turkey out of his misery. I do not pretend to
quote correctly, but that was the gist of it. Nor do I challenge the
truth of Lord Aberdeen's phrase at the period when he made it. It
possibly contained a temporary truth, a valid point of view, which, if
it had been acted on, might have saved a great deal of trouble
afterwards, but it missed then, and more than misses now, the essential
and salient truth about Turkey. The phrase, unfortunately, still
continued to obtain credit, and nowadays it is a forgery; it rings
false.

For at whatever period we regard Turkey, and try to define that
monstrous phenomenon, we can make a far truer phrase than Lord
Aberdeen's. For Turkey is not a sick man: Turkey is a sickness. He is
not sick, nor ever has been, for he is the cancer itself, the devouring
tumour that for centuries has fed on living tissue, absorbing it and
killing it. It has never had life in itself, except in so far that the
power of preying on and destroying life constitutes life, and such a
power, after all, we are accustomed to call not life, but death. Turkey,
like death, continues to exist and to dominate, through its function of
killing. Life cannot kill, it is disease and death that kill, and from
the moment that Turkey passed from being a nomadic tribe moving
westwards from the confines of Persia, it has existed only and thrived
on a process of absorption and of murder. When first the Turks came out
of their Eastern fastnesses they absorbed; when they grew more or less
settled, and by degrees the power of mere absorption, as by some failure
of digestion, left them, they killed. They became a huge tumour, that
nourished itself by killing the living tissues that came in contact
with it. Now, by the amazing irony of fate, who weaves stranger dramas
than could ever be set on censored stages, for they both take hundreds
of years to unravel themselves, and are of the most unedifying
character, Turkey, the rodent cancer, has been infected by another with
greater organisation for devouring; the disease of Ottomanism is
threatened by a more deadly hungerer, and Prussianism has inserted its
crab-pincers into the cancer that came out of Asia. Those claws are
already deeply set, and the problem for civilised nations is first to
disentangle the nippers that are cancer in a cancer, and next to deprive
of all power over alien peoples the domination that has already been
allowed to exist too long.

The object of this book is the statement of the case on which all
defenders of liberty base their prosecution against Turkey itself, and
against the Power that to-day has Turkey in its grip.

Historical surveys are apt to be tedious, but in order to understand at
all adequately the case against Turkey as a ruler and controller of
subject peoples, it is necessary to go, though briefly, into her
blood-stained genealogy. There is no need to enter into ethnological
discussions as to earlier history, or define the difference between the
Osmanli Turks and those who were spread over Asia Minor before the
advent of the Osmanlis from the East. But it was the Osmanlis who were
the cancerous and devouring nation, and it is they who to-day rule over
a vast territory (subject to Germany) of peoples alien to them by
religion and blood and all the instincts common to civilised folk. Until
Germany, 'deep patient Germany,' suddenly hoisted her colours as a
champion of murder and rapine and barbarism, she the mother of art and
literature and science, there was nothing in Europe that could compare
with the anachronism of Turkey being there at all. Then, in August 1914,
there was hoisted the German flag, superimposed with skulls and
cross-bones, and all the insignia of piracy and highway robbery on land
and on sea, and Germany showed herself an anachronism worthy to impale
her arms on the shield of the most execrable domination that has ever
oppressed the world since the time when the Huns under Attila raged like
a forest fire across the cultivated fields of European civilisation.
To-day, in the name of Kultur, a similar invasion has broken on shores
that seemed secure, and it is no wonder that it has found its most
valuable victim and ally in the Power that adopted the same methods of
absorption and extermination centuries before the Hohenzollerns ever
started on their career of highway robbery. But like seeks like, and
perhaps it was not wholly the fault of our astonishing diplomacy in
Constantinople that Turkey, wooed like some desirable maiden, cast in
her lot with the Power that by instinct and tradition most resembled
her. Spiritual blood, no less than physical blood, is thicker than
water, and Gott and Allah, hand-in-hand, pledged each other in the cups
they had filled with the blood that poured from the wine-presses of
Belgium and of Armenia.

For centuries before the Osmanli Turks made their appearance in Asia
Minor, there had come from out of the misty East numerous bodies of
Turks, pushing westwards, and spreading over the Euphrates valley and
over Persia, in nomadic or military colonisations, and it is not until
the thirteenth century that we find the Osmanli Turks, who give their
name to that congregation of races known as the Ottoman Empire,
established in the north-west corner of Asia Minor. Like all previous
Turkish immigrations, they came not in any overwhelming horde, with
sword in one hand and Koran in the other, but as a small compact body
with a genius for military organisation, and the gift, which they retain
to this day, of stalwart fighting. The policy to which they owed their
growth was absorption, and the people whom they first began to absorb
were Greeks and other Christians, and it was to a Christian girl,
Nilufer, that Osman married his son Orkhan. They took Christian youths
from the families of Greek dwellers, forced them to apostatise, gave
them military training, and married them to Turkish girls. It was out of
this blend of Greek and Turkish blood, as Mr. D.G. Hogarth points out,
that they derived their national being and their national strength. This
system of recruiting they steadily pursued not only among the Christian
peoples with whom they came in contact, but among the settlements of
Turks who had preceded them in this process of pushing westwards, and
formed out of them the professional soldiery known as Janissaries. They
did not fight for themselves alone, but as mercenaries lent their arms
to other peoples, Moslem and Christian alike, who would hire their
services. This was a policy that paid well, for, after having delivered
some settlement from the depredations of an inconvenient neighbour, and
with their pay in their pocket, they sometimes turned on those who had
hired their arms, took their toll of youths, and finally incorporated
them in their growing empire. Like an insatiable sponge, they mopped up
the sprinklings of disconnected peoples over the fruitful floor of Asia
Minor, and swelled and prospered. But as yet the extermination of these
was not part of their programme: they absorbed the strength and manhood
of their annexations into their own soldiery, and came back for more.
They did not levy those taxes paid in the persons of soldiers for their
armies from their co-religionists, since Islam may not fight against
Islam, but by means of peaceful penetration (a policy long since
abandoned) they united scattered settlements of Turks to themselves by
marriages and the bond of a common tongue and religion.

Their expansion into Europe began in the middle of the fourteenth
century, when, as mercenaries, they fought against the Serbs, and fifty
years later they had a firm hold over Bulgaria as well. Greece was their
next prey; they penetrated Bosnia and Macedonia, and in 1453 attacked
and took Constantinople under Mohammed the Conqueror. Still true to the
policy of incorporation they continued to mop up the remainder of the
Balkan Peninsula, and at the same time consolidated themselves further
in Asia Minor. By the beginning of the seventeenth century their
expansion reached its utmost geographical limits, but already the Empire
held within it the seeds of its own decay, and by a curious irony the
force that should still keep it together was derived not from its own
strength, but from the jealousies of the European Powers among
themselves, who would willingly have dismembered it, but feared the
quarrels that would surely result from the apportionment of its
territories. The Ottoman Empire from then onwards has owed its existence
to its enemies.

Its weakness lay in itself, for it was very loosely knit together, and
no bond, whether of blood or religion or tongue, bound to it the
assembly of Christian and Jewish and non-Moslem races of which it was so
largely composed. The Empire never grew (as, for instance, the British
Empire grew) by the emigration and settlement of the Osmanli stock in
the territories it absorbed: it never gave, it only took. From the
beginning right up to the last quarter of the nineteenth century, it has
been a military despotism, imposing itself on unwilling and alien tribes
whom it drained of their blood, and then left in neglect until some
further levy was needed. None of its conquered peoples was ever given a
share in the government; they were left unorganised and, so to speak,
undigested elements under the Power which had forced them into
subjection, and one by one the whole of the European peoples included in
that uncemented tyranny have passed from under Turkish control. Turkey
in Europe has dwindled to a strip along the Bosporus to the Sea of
Marmora and the Dardanelles, Egypt has been lost, Tripoli also, and the
only force that, for the last hundred years has kept alive in Europe the
existence of that monstrous anachronism has been the strange political
phenomenon, now happily extinct, called the Balance of Power. No one of
the Great Powers, from fear of the complications that would ensue, could
risk the expulsion of the Turkish Government from Constantinople, and
there all through the nineteenth century it has been maintained lest the
Key of the Black Sea, which unlocked the bolts that barred Russia's
development into the Mediterranean, should lead to such a war as we are
now passing through. That policy, for the present, has utterly defeated
its own ends, for the key is in the pockets of Prussia. But all through
that century, though the Powers maintained Turkey there, they helped to
liberate, or saw liberate themselves, the various Christian kingdoms in
Europe over which at the beginning of the eighteenth century Turkey
exercised a military despotism. They weakened her in so far as they
could, but they one and all refused to let her die, and above all
refused to give her that stab in the heart which would have been implied
in her expulsion from Constantinople.

For centuries from the first appearance of the Osmanlis in north-west
Asia Minor down to the reign of Abdul Hamid, the Empire maintained
itself, with alternate bouts of vigour and relapses, on the general
principle of drawing its strength from its subject peoples. Internally,
from whatever standpoint we view it, whether educational, economic, or
industrial, it has had the worst record of any domination known to
history. Rich in mineral wealth, possessed of lands that were once the
granary of the world, watered by amazing rivers, and with its strategic
position on the Mediterranean that holds the master-key of the Black Sea
in its hands, it has remained the most barbaric and least progressive of
all states. Its roads and means of communication remained up till the
last quarter of the nineteenth century much as they had been in the days
of Osman; except along an insignificant strip of sea-coast railways were
non-existent; it was bankrupt in finance and in morals, and did not
contain a single seed that might ripen into progress or civilisation.
Mesopotamia was once the most fertile of all lands, capable of
supporting not itself alone, but half the civilised world: nowadays,
under the stewardship of the Turk, it has been suffered to become a
desert for the greater part of the year and an impracticable swamp for
the remainder. Where great cities flourished, where once was reared the
pride of Babylon and of Nineveh, there huddle the squalid huts of
fever-stricken peasants, scarce able to gain their half-starved living
from the soil that once supported in luxury and pomp the grandeur of
metropolitan cities. The ancient barrages, the canals, the systems of
irrigation were all allowed to silt up and become useless; and at the
end of the nineteenth century you would not find in all Mesopotamia an
agricultural implement that was in any way superior to the ploughs and
the flails of more than two thousand years ago. But so long as there was
a palace-guard about the gates to secure the safety of the Sultan and
his corrupt military oligarchy, so long as there were houris to divert
their leisure, tribute of youths to swell their armies, and taxes wrung
from starving subjects to maintain their pomp, there was not one of
those who held the reins of government who cared the flick of an eyelash
for the needs of the nations on whom the Empire rested, for the
cultivation of its soil that would yield a hundredfold to the skilled
husbandman, or for the exploitation and development of its internal
wealth. While there was left in the emaciated carcase of the Turkish
Empire enough live tissue for the cancerous Government to grow fat on,
it gave not one thought to the welfare of all those races on whom it had
fastened itself. Province after province of its European dominions
might be lost to it, but the Balance of Power still kept the Sultan on
his throne, and left the peoples of Asia Minor and Syria at his mercy.
They were largely of alien religion and of alien tongue, and their
individual weakness was his strength. Neglect, and the decay consequent
on neglect, was the lot of all who languished under that abominable
despotism.

With the accession in 1876 of Abdul Hamid, of cursed memory, there
dawned on the doomed subject peoples of the Ottoman Empire a day of
bloodier import than any yet. The year before and during that year had
occurred the Bulgarian atrocities and massacres, and the word 'massacre'
lingered and made music in Abdul Hamid's brain. He said it over to
himself and dwelt upon it, and meditated on the nature and possibilities
of massacre. The troubles which massacre had calmed had arisen before
his accession out of the establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate, which
corresponded to the Greek Patriarchate, and was given power over
districts and peoples whom the Greeks justly considered to belong to
them by blood and religion. Greek armed bands came into collision with
Bulgarian bands, and in order to calm these disturbances by thoroughly
effectual means, irregular Turkish troops were sent into Bulgaria,
charged with the command to 'stop the row,' but with no other
instructions. Indiscriminate killing, with all the passions and horrors
that bloodshed evokes in the half-civilised, followed, and there was no
more trouble just then in the disturbed districts, for there was none to
make trouble. In 1876 Abdul Aziz was deposed by a group of king-makers
under Midhat Pasha, Murad V. reigned shadow-like for three months, and
during the same year Abdul Hamid was finally selected to fill the
throne, and stand forth as the Shadow of God. It was a disturbed and
tottering inheritance to which he succeeded, riddled with the dry-rot of
corruption, but the inheritor proved himself equal to the occasion.

For a little while he was all abroad, and at the bidding of Midhat, who
had placed him on the throne, he summoned a kind of representative
Turkish Parliament, by way of imbuing the Great Powers with the idea
that he was an enlightened Shadow of God bent on reform. This parody of
a Parliament lasted but a short time: it was no more than a faint,
dissolving magic-lantern picture. In the spring of 1877 Rumania, under
Russian encouragement, broke away from Turkish rule. Turkey declared war
on Russia, and in 1878 found herself utterly defeated. At Adrianople was
drawn up the Treaty of San Stefano, creating an independent Bulgarian
state, and, in the opinion of Great Britain and Germany, giving Russia
far greater influence in the Balkan Peninsula than was agreeable to that
disastrous supporter of Turkey, the Balance of Power. In consequence the
Treaty of San Stefano was superseded by the Treaty of Berlin.

In those arrangements Abdul Hamid had no voice, but he was well content
to sit quiet, think about what was to be done with what was left him,
and thank his waning crescent that once again the Balance of Power had
secured Constantinople for him, leaving him free to deal with his
Asiatic dominions, and such part of Europe as was left him, as he
thought fit. He could safely trust that he would never be ejected from
his throne by a foreign Power, and all he need do was to make himself
safe against internal disturbances and revolutions which might upset
him. And it was then that he begot in the womb of his cold and cunning
brain a policy that was all his own, except in so far as the Bulgarian
atrocities, consequent on feuds between Bulgars and Greeks, may be
considered the father of that hideous birth. But it was he who suckled
and nourished it, it was from his brain that it emerged, full-grown and
in panoply of armour, as from the brain of Olympian Zeus came Pallas
Athene. This new policy was in flat contradiction of all the previous
policy, as he had received it from his predecessors, of strengthening
Turkey by tributes of man-power from his subject tribes, but it would,
he thought, have the same result of keeping the Turk supreme among the
alien elements of the Empire. Times had changed; it behoved him to
change the methods which hitherto had held together his hapless
inheritance.

Now Abdul Hamid was not in any sense a wise man, and the ability which
has been attributed to him, in view of the manner in which he
successfully defied the civilisations of Europe, is based on premisses
altogether false. He never really defied Europe at all; he always
yielded, secure in his belief that Europe in the shape of the Balance of
Power, was unanimous in keeping him where he was. He never even risked
being turned out of Constantinople, for he knew - none better - that all
Europe insisted on retaining him there. As regards wisdom, there was
never a greater fool, but as regards cunning there was never a greater
fox. He had a brain that was absolutely impervious to large ideas: the
notion of consolidating and strengthening his Empire by ameliorating its
internal conditions, by bringing it within speaking distance of the
influence of civilisation and progress, by taking advantage of and
developing its immense natural resources, by employing the brains and
the industry of his subject races, seems never to have entered his head.
He could easily have done all this: there was not a Power in Europe that
would not have lent him a helping hand in development and reform, in the
establishment of a solvent state, in aiding the condition of the peoples
over whom he ruled. In whatever he did, provided that it furthered the
welfare of his subjects, whether Turk, Armenian, or Arab, the whole
Concert of Europe would have provided him with cash, with missionaries,
with engineers, and all the resources of the arts and sciences of peace
and of progress. But being a felon, with crime and cunning to take the
place of wisdom, he preferred to develop his Empire on his own original
lines. In Europe he was but suffered to exist. There remained Asia.

The policy of previous Osmanli rulers has already been roughly defined.
They strengthened themselves and the military Turkish despotism round
them by absorbing the manhood of the tribes over which they had obtained
dominion. Abdul Hamid reversed that policy; he strengthened the Turkish
supremacy, not by drawing into it the manhood of his subject peoples,
but by destroying that manhood. In proportion, so his foxlike brain
reasoned, as his alien subjects were weak, so were the Turks strong. A
consistent weakening of alien nations would strengthen the hold of those
who governed the Ottoman Empire. It was as if a man suffered from gout
in his foot: he could get rid of the gout by wholesome living, the
result of which would be that his foot ceased to trouble him. But the
plan which he adopted was to cause his foot to mortify by process of
inhuman savagery. When it was dead it would trouble him no longer.


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