John K. Turner
Shall it be Again ?

Shall it be Again ?


WERE any excuse deemed necessary for this book, it would be enough to point to the likelihood of another war.  No one will dispute that, notwithstanding complete victory was accorded us, the promised goal, permanent peace, was not attained.  If, indeed, we are to judge by the demands of the Executive for greater armament, the danger of future war at once became from three to five times as great as before we took up arms to repel such danger.  These demands were scaled down, but our peace-time armament remained far heavier than before.  Those of us who, a little while ago, were most confident in asserting that our war would end war are the same who, as soon as it was over, became most certain that we must be ready for the next one.

But if the goal was not reached, our war could not have been in every respect the glorious thing we were told it was.  Nor will any one dispute that many of the other promised benefits are not forthcoming.  Nearly all of us seem to be willing to assume—or to permit our neighbors to assume, which comes to the same thing—that the “reasons” justifying our war are sound.  But if such “reasons” are sound how is it that the results are so disappointing ?

The question cannot be dismissed simply by blaming Wilson, or the Republican party, or Lloyd George and Clemenceau.  Did we not fight on the theory of the perfect wisdom and purity of Wilson and the Entente statesmen—and, for that matter, of ourselves, which includes the Republican party ?

If we have been betrayed, it is not sufficient merely to acknowledge the fact, but to determine how and why, in order that provision may be made against betrayal in the future.  Nor is it sufficient to look for the secret in what happened at Paris.  The great settlement—which, in the main, still stands—was the logical and almost certain result of what had gone before.

Although it will be pleasant for all who served or sacrificed in the late war always to believe the best of it, no one who really sacrificed will wish for another such experience;  nor would any one wish to continue believing well of recent events if such belief were to add to the danger of a repetition.

Remember that for more than four years one side was permitted to speak and the other forced to remain silent.  “The perspective that only time can give,” some say, “is necessary before the true history of our war can be written, and before proper criticism can be made.”  But the end of the fighting saw a vast and complicated machine feverishly at work to crystallize into “history” the story of the war as it was told to us as propaganda in the heat thereof.  If we wait a generation to face the whole truth we shall probably never face it.

If any of the “reasons” justifying our recent war is valid, it is not unlikely that one or more of them will again apply, and another war will become both necessary and desirable.  If, on the other hand, none of such “reasons” will bear the test of scrutiny, any probable future war will be inexcusable, since all probable “causes” and “objectives” were urged for the recent one.

How, then, did it come about that America, in 1917, found itself a partisan in a conflict which evoked only horror here in 1914—a conflict which not one in one thousand dreamed we could ever enter—which not one in a million had the temerity to advocate entering ?  How did it come about that America was plunging ahead in policies which not a single public man dared openly favor in 1914 ?

In this book are set forth the essential facts tending to prove what many people already believe, though on incomplete evidence, that ours was a war for business.  If, however, any of the non-business motives mentioned in justification for our war is sound, the theory of a war for business cannot stand.  Thus it is that the first parts of the book are devoted to an examination of such alleged motives.

Business, of course, was farthest from the minds of the masses of the American people.  But the relationship between the masses, the government, and business becomes clear.  Although millions fought and served, the millions decided absolutely nothing except the physical victory.  One man chose war for America, dictated the war policies, arrogated to himself the sole power to arrange the conditions of peace.  The motives of the men who fought in Europe, and of the folks who served at home, did not determine what the real motives of their war should be.  The real motives of their war were the motives which Woodrow Wilson personally chose to serve, whether in public or in secret, and only those.

From this it must not be imagined that Wilson is to receive the entire blame for the delinquencies of our war and our peace.  Although the responsibility lies as heavy upon Wilson as could be upon any individual, the culpability of Wilson explains only one-third of the riddle.  As for ourselves, the motives that we professed are the same as the professed motives of Wilson.  Is it already forgotten that the rest of us also swore allegiance to the principles by which Wilson claimed to be guided in entering and prosecuting the war “to make the world safe for democracy”;  that the propaganda of “loyal patriots” everywhere, even among his bitterest political opponents, was little more than an echo of the President’s words;  that “Stand Behind the President!” was the war slogan while the issue was in the balance, and trust in the President the acid test of patriotism after we were in;  that it was because of his proclaimed war motives that we glorified Wilson beyond any other man in history ?

The question of Presidential fraud is determined by the discrepancy between the motives professed and the motives served.  The question of national fraud is determined by the discrepancy between the motives professed and the motives to whose service we complacently agree.  For the fruit that Wilson plucked for us we still retain.  Although the Republican party altered, in outward detail, the written forms of peace, it did not change the general nature of the settlement, nor attempt nor wish to do so.  Although the phraseology varies at times, our foreign policies remain in principle the same.  Although a Republican Congress went through motions intended to discredit Wilson, it met, in a large measure, his wishes as to “reconstruction” legislation.  Regardless of the judgment of a national election, Wilson’s work, on the whole, has been accepted by the “leaders of the people” and is tolerated by the country.

Although it is of importance to present in a true light the most misunderstood figure in American history, the theme is much broader than that.  Instead of laying the foundations for future peace, our war set up the groundwork for more and more war.  This groundwork must be cleared away or there is no hope.  Only after the shams of the past war have been exploded, its true motives revealed, and its methods and results shine clear in the light of those motives, can a beginning be made towards ways that will insure us against future horrors.

Instead of being a dead issue, therefore, our late war is the livest issue of the day, and it will remain an issue so long as future war is in the reckoning.  Its lessons hold not only the secret of averting future war, but also the solution of other public questions of a pressing nature.


Did the American People Want War ?

IT was invariably assumed during our war against Germany, as well as afterwards—and countless times asserted—that the American people went willingly into the war.  Said President Wilson, for example :  “I say that the heart of the country is in this war because it would not have gone into it if its heart had not been prepared for it.”  (Red Cross Memorial Building dedication, May 12, 1917.)  While it cannot be stated with absolute certainty whether a majority would have voted for or against war on April 6, 1917—since they were not accorded an opportunity to vote—there is a collection of circumstances which, when brought together, would seem to leave no reasonable doubt that the American people would not have chosen to enter the fight.  Some of these circumstances are :

I.  The Reëlection of Wilson.

Wilson, candidate of a minority party, was elected originally because of a split in the majority party.  Facing a united Republican party in 1916, his only chance for victory lay in espousing a cause appealing so powerfully to the masses as to induce at least a million voters to break away from party affiliations.  In choosing to make peace his paramount issue, Wilson correctly guessed the most fervent wish of the people at large.  His slogan, “He kept us out of war,” and his promise to continue to “keep us out of war,” won him reelection.  In November, 1916, the American electorate spoke for peace and against war with Germany, as definitely as it was possible for it to speak at that or any other time.

2.  Our Stealthy Approach to War.

The successive steps by which President Wilson arrived at war were screened by voluble assurances of peaceful intention.  (See Chapter VI.)  The nation was almost wholly, and Congress partly, deceived by these assurances.  The President continued to reiterate that he was treading the path of peace even after he broke diplomatic relations—even when he sought the consent of Congress to arm private ships with naval crews—even after that.  What other interpretation is to be placed upon this except that he himself believed that the masses were still opposed to war ?  In his message to Congress of February 26, the President admitted :  “The American people do not desire it.”  Between this date and April 2, there is no evidence that the sentiment of the masses changed.  No new issue whatever arose to change it.  For his casus belli, President Wilson himself went back to the German proclamation of Jan. 31.

3.  Refusal to Submit any War Issue to the Public.

While the declaration of war was impending, and during the weeks immediately succeeding it—when President Wilson’s war plans were being revealed—numerous proposals were made, usually taking the form of resolutions or amendments introduced in Congress, providing that the public be given some say in these momentous matters.  Some of these proposals were :  that the choice of war or peace be decided by referendum;  that the question of sending an army overseas be submitted to referendum;  that service overseas be limited to volunteers.  That the Executive stood uncompromisingly against all such proposals furnishes a strong presumption of a conviction in his own mind that, if afforded an opportunity, the people would have repudiated his war programme and his war.

4.  Government Press Agency, War Education, and Repression.

With America’s declaration of war, the government organized the most complete and expensive press agency ever seen anywhere on the globe, More money was spent for the manufacture of public opinion, and more men and women were employed, than in any previous publicity campaign in history.  Of the official publicity organizations, the Bureau of Information was but one of many departments.  Added to the purely government press bureaus, were the voluntary war committees, organized by the government and directed by one department or another.  Every postmaster in America was forced to serve the government as a press agent.  The press, as a whole, the theatres, and even the public schools, became a part of the machine.  With their teachers as officers, the school-children were obliged to assist the government in the imposition of its propaganda.  Every person in America was reached, in one way or another, and almost daily.  Is not the existence of such a press agency a virtual admission that America went into the war unconvinced of its righteousness?  Coupled with the violent suppression of all opposition to the war, is it not material evidence of a determination to force distasteful beliefs upon an unwilling people ?

5.  Circumstances of the “Liberty Loans.”

The large number of bond purchasers was mentioned as evidence of the popularity of the war.  It is no evidence of such popularity, since all Liberty Loans were floated chiefly by coercion.  All the publicity, agitation, and appeals both to patriotism and cupidity, all the posters and literature, all the personal solicitation, were not considered sufficient to sell the bonds.  Coercion was resorted to as a policy.  What is said of the Liberty Loan applies, in a somewhat lesser degree, to the Red Cross.  Neither the large number of subscriptions to Liberty Bonds, nor those to the Red Cross are any evidence of the popularity of the war.

6.  The New York Municipal Election.

After America’s declaration of war, the only important election in which peace was permitted to become the issue, and in which freedom of discussion was allowed the candidates, was the election in New York, November, 1917.  The Mayor, Mr. Mitchel, deliberately chose to make his fight on the issue of patriotism.  He directly charged his chief opponent, Hylan, with abetting German propaganda, and “exposed” him as an associate of “paid enemies of America.”  Mitchel was vigorously supported by conspicuous patriots, patriotic societies, and all the “loyal” city newspapers.  The latter expressly warned the public that the defeat of Mitchel would be a virtual repudiation of the war by New York.  Nevertheless, Hylan achieved the most decisive victory ever given to a party in the American metropolis, while the Socialist party, which frankly attacked the war, became a factor for the first time.  The Socialist candidate, Hillquit, who had announced from the platform his refusal to buy Liberty Bonds, received 93 per cent. of the vote given Mitchel, while, of the 28,937 soldiers and sailors who voted in New York, but 6,226, or less than twenty-two out of each one hundred, cast their ballot for Mitchel.

7.  Circumstances of the Draft.

Of the total number called in the first draft, more than one-half (50.62 per cent.) put in formal claims for exemption.  More than a quarter of a million (252,294), or eight per cent., failed to appear and succeeded in escaping arrest.  The former figure, of course, does not represent all of the registrants who did not want to go to war, while the latter figure represents only a fraction of those willing to risk terms in the penitentiary rather than go, for the number evading registration is unknown.

Many thousands who failed to register, and many thousands who registered but failed to respond to the call, were arrested.  In the “slacker round-ups,” staged in New York City alone, in the last days of August, 1918, 16,000 men were held for offenses of this kind.  So many men of draft age fled the country that it became expedient to promulgate an order forbidding the departure of such men, and to establish an elaborate system of espionage, patrol, and passports to enforce the order.  In a statement issued September 3, 1918, the War Department said:  “The Department of Justice has on file the names of 3000 slackers who fled to Mexico before June 5, 1917, to escape registration.”  So many married to avoid the draft in the early months that it became expedient to serve notice on the country that eleventh-hour marriages would save no one from service.  So many had their teeth extracted to render themselves physically ineligible that the War Department issued a warning to dentists that they were liable to prosecution for complicity in this form of draft evasion.

In the ten months ending May 1, 1918, over 14,000 desertions were reported from the army.  The numbers seeking dishonorable discharge were even greater.  At the end of December, 1917, we were told that “for several weeks the army has been losing men at the rate of 100 to 150 a day.  They chose to commit offenses which led to their dishonorable discharge.”  The newspapers gave us instances of suicide and self-mutilations which were resorted to as a means to escape the draft, and of men turning to crime with the deliberate intention of getting into the penitentiary and so escaping the draft.  There were a number of anti-draft riots, and so much anti-draft sentiment that it became expedient to prevent, with an iron hand, the public assembly of persons opposing the draft, and to prosecute and imprison hundreds of those most conspicuous in anti-draft agitation.  There was also uncovered a thriving trade in exemption affidavits, involving the crime of perjury.

When the draft bill became a law, President Wilson told the world :  “It [the draft] is in no sense a conscription of the unwilling;  it is, rather, selection from a nation that has volunteered in mass” (Registration Proclamation, May 18, 1917).  Thereafter, an elaborate effort was made to throw a glamor about the draft, to make it appear that submission to the draft was, on the whole, voluntary and without compulsion.  The large registration was pointed to as an evidence of the patriotism of America’s young men.  But under the circumstances the large registration was no proof of willingness to serve;  it showed, rather, that, in general, the opposition to service was overcome by fear of punishment, of which the President and patriotic leaders were careful to give repeated warning.

The fact that severe penalties faced America’s young men at every turn is itself evidence that the war leaders were well aware that, without coercion, they would have been unable to raise an army.  Out of the first draft of three million men, not fewer than 300,000, and probably 500,000, made themselves liable to punishment in the penitentiary in their efforts to evade service.  In order to carry through our European adventure, it became necessary to subject millions to involuntary servitude, on the one hand, and to create a multitude of felons on the other.

8.  Failure of Voluntary Enlistments.

It is supposed that the people can be depended on to volunteer for a people’s war.  But, although the army recruiting service was extremely active throughout nearly all of the war period, and although special inducements were held out for volunteers, army enlistments from the date of the war message to the date of the armistice reached only the insignificant total of 393,931.

Beginning February 3, after the severance of diplomatic relations, extraordinary efforts were put forth by the army, assisted by patriotic organizations and great business houses, to stimulate recruiting.  But during February, the army received only 4,852 recruits, a figure not noticeably above the normal.  From April 1 to May 14, the enlistments numbered only 67,443.  A supreme effort was made during the last week of June, which the President designated as Recruiting Week.  But Recruiting Week netted only 9,043 men for the army.  Between April 1 and July 1, only 133,992 enlistments were received, and it is certain that many of these were prompted by the impending draft.  At that rate it would have taken eighteen months to raise the first one million men.  However, by July 1 recruiting had come almost to a standstill.  Volunteering had been tried and proven a failure.  When only one out of every one hundred men of the most courageous, adventurous, and self-sacrificing age responds to the repeated calls of his government, during the first three months of a foreign war, it is a point against the popularity of the war which no rhetoric can explain away.

The impulse for America’s war certainly did not come from the common people.


Was America Ever In Danger ?

Why, my friends, we ought not to turn to those people [the nations at war] in fear, but in sympathy.  We ought to realize that after this exhaustion they will need us, and that we need not fear them.—Woodrow Wilson, in speech at Cincinnati, Oct. 26, 1916.

THE American people were told that they were forced into war by the Kaiser;  that America had been attacked, and that there was no other recourse except to defend itself against aggression;  that the very sovereignty of the country was imperiled;  even that we were threatened with actual invasion and domination by German armies.

President Wilson personally gave the signal for this particular note in the official and unofficial propaganda, as for all others.  In asking for war he advised :  “That the Congress declare the recent course of the Imperial German Government to be in fact nothing less than war against the government and people of the United States;  that it formally accept the status of belligerent that has thus been thrust upon it.”  In his message of December 4, 1917, he asserted :  “We have been forced into it [the war] to save the very institutions we live under from corruption and destruction.”  At Urbana, January 31, 1918, he told us :  “We are fighting, therefore, as truly for the liberty and self-government of the United States as if the war of our own Revolution had to be fought over again.”

This doctrine was preached from thousands of platforms, thousands of pulpits, thousands of movie screens, millions of posters, in the daily newspapers, and in every vehicle of the propaganda.  To carry out the idea, our war councils were called “defense councils,” our private patriotic societies “defense societies.”  The necessity for defense against invasion and outrage became, as intended, a fixed assumption of millions of perfectly sincere and truth-loving Americans.

But what are the facts ?

1.  Germany had not attacked the territory of the United States, nor threatened to attack it.  The only suggestion of the kind was contained in the proposal for a German-Mexican alliance, and this was expressly contingent upon America’s first making war on Germany.  (See Chapter XVIII.)

2.  Germany had perpetrated no injury against an American not perpetrated also against neutrals generally, and such injuries as she had perpetrated were wholly incidental to the war against the Entente governments.

3.  Germany had not declared war against the United States.  The German government had striven to avoid war, offering every concession short of abandoning submarine operations in European waters, even making overtures for a peaceful understanding subsequently to the breaking of diplomatic relations.

4.  Germany was physically incapable of invading America at the time when some of us were asserting that our war was to repel invasion.

5.  Germany would have been physically incapable of invading America even had she possessed no other enemies.  This was the judgment of the highest experts in the service of America, sworn to before Congressional committees while this country was neutral.

December 9, 1914, Admiral Fletcher, who was at that time the highest active officer of the navy, informed the House Naval Affairs Committee that, even were it possible for the entire German navy to take the high seas and attack, not a single German could be landed on American soil, since the American navy, being stronger, would defeat it.  In April, 1917, the relative strength of the American navy was greater than in December, 1914.

During these Congressional investigations, it was shown that, to carry a little army of 96,000 men across the sea would require 270 troop transport vessels, a greater collection of ships than had ever sailed together in the annals of naval warfare;  and that an army had never been moved successfully overseas and landed under hostile guns, the Dardanelles catastrophe having been the result of the only great undertaking of that character.

Admiral Fletcher testified that the war in Europe had “conclusively demonstrated what every military strategist knew before, that it is impossible for sea craft successfully to attack land fortifications.”

As to our land fortifications, General Weaver testified that they were already “the best in the world.”  The guns mounted and contemplated in the appropriations for our coast defenses, he said, would give us “an entirely satisfactory defense.”

Admiral Knight characterized the difficulties of transporting a fleet across either the Atlantic or Pacific ocean and maintaining it in American waters—a necessary feat in a successful invasion—as “almost insuperable.”

Corroborating Knight, General Miles testified :

I will suppose an unsupposable case.  Suppose they could put an army on a fleet of 500 ships and move it across the Atlantic without being disturbed by any naval power, and they could land.  They certainly could not go into any port.  They could not go into our ports any more than they could go through the Dardanelles.  That has been demonstrated.  Our fort;  are equipped and fortified as well as the Dardanelles.  Suppose they got that far—as to landing at some remote point—if we could not gather enough men in the army and militia, and by other means, to destroy that army before they could send their ships back and get another load, I would want to move to another country.

May I, 1917, Admiral Chocherprat of the French navy, here with the French war mission, told the newspaper correspondents :  “The United States is in possession of the most powerful fleet in the world next to the British.”

This disposes also of the assertion, heard so many times from 1914 on, that the United States owed its immunity from German invasion to the protection of the British navy.

Finally, when the German high seas fleet fell into Allied hands at the end of the war, it was discovered that the bunker capacity of the German battleships was extremely small, demonstrating that they had been designed for use only near the home ports.  The very structure of these great ships rendered impracticable any sustained or extended operations in distant waters.  Of themselves they are proof that the German government had not entertained a thought of attacking the territory of the United States.

President Wilson himself, in the period preceding war, repeatedly rejected the idea of a possible invasion of this country.  In his message of December 8, 1914, he said :  “No one who speaks counsel based on facts or drawn from a just and candid interpretation of the realities can say that there is any reason to fear that from any quarter our independence or the integrity of our territory is threatened.  Dread of the power of other nations we are incapable of.”  To a New York audience, January 27, 1917, he declared :  “Nobody seriously supposes, gentlemen, that the United States needs to fear an invasion of its own territory.”

We find the leaders of our allies in agreement with this view, even after our war declaration.  In the speeches delivered in the British Parliament, April 18, 1917, acclaiming our participation, it was held that the United States had not been directly attacked in any way, much less invaded or threatened with invasion.

Mr. Asquith said that the war “was doing little appreciable harm to the material fortunes and prosperity of the American people.  Nor were American interests, at home or abroad, directly imperiled, least of all the greatest interest of a democratic community, the maintenance of domestic independence and liberty.”

Earl Curzon said :

The case of America entering the war is widely differentiated from that of any of the other allied countries.  All of the latter had a direct personal interest in the war, but America’s interest is secondary and remote.

A month after the declaration of war, President Wilson used the words :  “We have gone in with no special grievance of our own.”  Challenged for appearing to suggest that we had gone into the war for no cause at all, he answered that we had grievances, but none that was not shared generally by the neutral countries.

Finally, after the fighting was over, President Wilson confessed :  “America was not immediately in danger. ... America was not directly attacked.”  (At Billings, Sept. 11, 1919.)

The undeniable truth is that, in order to come to grips with the enemy, it was necessary to send our forces across a great ocean, into another hemisphere, and either hunt him down on a narrow strip of sea or attack him in his own trenches, dug in another continent.  Instead of the enemy’s carrying the war to us, it was we who carried the war to the enemy.  Instead of being placed in the position of defending our soil against German armies, we placed the Germans in the position of defending their soil against American armies.

Where was the element of self-defense ?

There was asserted a necessity for defense of the alleged rights to trade and travel through a narrow zone of sea, three thousand miles from American territory.  But what has this to do with the horrible pictures of German fire and sword in American cities ?

The nearest connection is found in the theory that the Kaiser and his people were inflamed with an ambition to conquer and rule the world, and that there was a possibility of their doing it at some future time.  Even were there a reasonable basis for such a hypothesis (and there was not), it would not have justified war, either under existing principles of international law, the common practices of modern governments, or in common sense.  For to proceed consistently upon such a principle would require us to attack every other powerful nation, and attempt at once to assert a world supremacy for ourselves.

America was never in danger even after we went to war with Germany, for we were never placed beyond the possibility of turning back without serious hurt.  At all times we were in a position to make peace and withdraw without vital injury from the enemy.

After we had gone to war, the imposition of onerous terms upon the Russian Soviet Government, in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, was seized upon as a horrible example of what would happen to America should she not put her heel upon the neck of the Kaiser.  The comparison was inept;  the Kaiser’s armies were never in America and there was never the remotest probability of their coming to America or attempting to do so.  Will any one contend that the German government was at any time unwilling to conclude the same terms of peace that we rejected in the first months of 1917—friendship on any basis short of giving up the submarine blockade of England and her allies ? (See Chapter XVI.)

The point is important;  for the bludgeoning down of all domestic opposition to the war was excused only on the plea that, once we were at war, there was no choice except between victory and disaster.  It was upon this assumption that so many prominent persons, who opposed war up to the declaration, became “now-that-we’re-in” patriots.  They were willing to support a war which they believed to be unjust, merely because it had begun.  Under the circumstances that America happened to be in, there was no defensible reason why any one who opposed the war before April 6, 1917, should have favored it after that date.

Whatever the merits of the issues with the Kaiser, there was no issue of invasion, no issue of territorial integrity, no issue of domination or destruction of American institutions, no immediate and pressing danger of any kind.  Self-defense was a catchword.  The Hun invasion was a gigantic hoax.  The scare propaganda was created out of whole cloth.  These stories were told us only because the element of fear was considered necessary for patriotic purposes.  The great American public had to be frightened in order to induce it to take the war programme.