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A POLICY OF MURDER

[By Sir Abthtjb Co van Doyle, in the ‘Daily Chronicle.’]

When one writes with a hot heart upon events which are still recent, one is apt to lose one’s -sense of proportion. Atevery stop one should check oneself by the reflection as to how this may appear ten years lienee, and how far events which seem shocking and abnormal may prove themselves to he a necessary accompaniment _of every condition of war. But a time has now come when in cold blood, with every possible restraint, one is justilled in saying (hat since the most barbarnua campaigns of Alva in the Lowlands, or the execesses of the Thirty Years’ War, there has been no such deliberate policy of murder as has been adopted in this struggle by the Herman forces. This is the more tenable since three forces are not like those of Alva, Parma, or Tilly, hands of turbulent and mercenary soldiers, but they are the nation itself, and their deeds are condoned or even applauded hv the entire national Press, Tt is not on the chiefs of the army that the whole guilt of this terrible crime must rest, hut it is upon the whole Herman nation, which for generations to come must stand condemned before the civilised world for this reversion to those barbarous -practices from which Christianity, civilisation, and chivalry had gradually rescued the human race. They may. and do. plead the excuse that they are “ earnest ’’ in war. hut all nations are earnest in war, wide!) is the most desperately earnest thing of which we have any knowledge, flow earnest we are will be shown when the question of endurance begins to tell. But no earnestness can condone. the crime of the nation which deliberately breaks those laws which have bee n endorsed by the common consent of humanity. —A Warfare of Savagery.— War may have a beautiful as well as a terrible side, and* he full of touches ot human sympathy and restraint which mitigate its unavoidable horror. Such have been the characteristics always of the secular war* between the British and the Fro 11 eh. From the old glittering days of knighthood, with their high and gallantcourtesy, through the eighteenth century campaigns, where the debonair guards of France and Kuglattd exchanged salutations he foie their volleys, -down to the lastgreat Napoleonic struggle, the. tradition of ehiva.lrv has always survived. Wo road how in the Peninsula the pickets of the two armies, each of them as earnest as any Hermans, would exchange courtesies. how they would shout warnings to each other to fall hack when an advance in force, was taking place, and how to prevent the destruction of an ancient bridge the British promised not to use it on condition that the French would forgo its destruction—nn agreement faithfully keptup on cither side. Could one imagine Hermans making war in such a- spirit as this? Think of that old French bridge, and then think of the University of Louvain and the Cathedral of Pheimo. "What a- gap between them—the gap that separates civilisation from the savage! —Keynote of Hetman Tactics. — Let us take a few of the'points which, when focussed together, show how the Hermann; have degraded warfare —a- degradation which affects not only the. Allies at present, hut the whole future of the world, since if such examples were followed the entire human race would, each in turn, become the sufferers. Take Mm veiy first incident of the war —the. minelaving by the Konipin Lniae. Here was a vessel which was obviously made ready with fresh!v-charged mines some time before there was. any question of a. general F.nroppam war, which was rent forth in time of peace, and which, on receipt of a v. iieless message, began to spawn its Jicil.isk cargo across the North >Sea. at points 50 miles from land in the track of all neutral merchant shipping. Then- was the keynote of Herman tactics struck at. Iho first, possible instant. So promiscuous mis the effect that it was a. meie chance which prevented the vepscl which bore the Herman Ambassador from being destroyed by a- tiennani mine. From first; to last, some iii i, -d reds, of pcorde have lost their lives on this tract- of sea, .some of them harmless British trawlers, hut the greater number sailors of Danish and Dutch vessels pursuing (heir ■commerce as they had every right to do. It; was the firs! move in a consistent policy of murder.

—Murder bv Aircraft

Leaving thei sea. let u? turn io tlu' an-. Can any possible term a policy of murder bo applied 1" the use of aircraft bv the (ten liars',' B ban always been a pi Inciple of warfare that, unfortified tow ns should no! bo bomba v ded. o closly lias it been followed by the .British that one of our aviators Hying over Cologne In search of a. Zeppelin shed, refrained from dropping a bomb in an uncertain light, even though Cologne is a, fortress, lest the innocent should suffer. What is to ha said, thou, for the continual use of bombs by the Ceriums, which have usually been wasted in the destruction of cate or dogs, but which have occasionally torn to pieces some woman or child'.' If bombs were dropped on the forts of Paris as part of a scheme- for reducing the place, then nothing could he said in objection, but how are we to describe the. action of men who tly over a crowded city dropping bombs promiscuously which can have no military effect whatever, and are entirely aimed at the destruction of innocent civilians? These men have been obliging enough to drop their cards as well as their bombs on several occasions. T see no reason why these should not be used in evidence against them, or why they should not be hanged as murderers when they fall into the hands of the Allies. The policy is idiotic fiom a military point of view: one could conceive nothing which would stimulate and harden national resistance more surely than such petty irritations. .But it is a murderous innovation in the laws of war. and unless it is sternly represser! it will establish a most sinister precedent for the future.

—The Treatment, of Belgium

As to the treatment of Belgium, wind has it been but murder, murder all the way? From the first days at Vise, when it was officially stated that an example of

“ frightfulness ” was desired, until the present moment, when the terrified population has rushed from the country and thrown itself upon the charity and protection of its neighbors, there has been no break in the record. Compare the story with that of the occupation of the South of Franco by Wellington in 1815, when no one was injured, nothing was taken without full payment, and the villagers fraternised with the troops. What a relapse of civilisation is here ! From Vise to Louvain, Louvain to AerscJint, Aorschot to M alines and Termonde, the policy of murder never fails. It is said that more civilians than soldiers have fallen in Belgium. Peruse the horrible accounts taken by the Belgian Commission, who took evidence in the most careful and conscientious fashion. Study the accounts of that dreadful night in Louvain which can only be equalled by the Spanish Fury of Antwerp. Read the account of the* wife of the burgomaster of Aerschot with its heartrending description of how her lame, son, aged 16. was kicked along to his death by an aide-de-camp. It is all so vile, so brutally murderous that one can hardly realise that one is reading the incidents of a_ modern campaign conducted by one of the leading nations in Europe. --Unwitting Testimonies.— Do you imagine that the thing has been exaggerated? Far from it, tho volume of crime has not yet boon appreciated. Have, not many Hermans unwittingly testified to what they have seen and done? Only recently we had the journal ot one of them, an officer whose service had been almost entirely in Franco and removed from tho crime centres or Belgium. Yet were ever such entries in the diary of a civilised soldier? Our men behaved like regular vandals. We fihot the whole lot (tliesa were villagers). They were drawn up in three ra.n ko. Tho Paine, shot did lor throe at a lima. In the evening wo set fine to the village. The priest and some of tho inhabitants were shot.

The .villages gjh.jrgundcisr.exe

The villages were burned and the in* habitants shot. At Leppe apparently 200 men were shot, 'There must have been some innocent men among them. In future wo shall have to hold an inquiry into their guilt iimtend of merely shooting them. 'The Vandals themselves could not have done mure damage. 'The place is a- disgrace to our army.

Ho the journal runs on with its- tale of infamy, it is an infamy so shameless that even in the Herman record the story is peiqieUiated of how a. French lad was murdered because he refused to answer certain questions. To such a- length, of degradation has Prussia brought the standard of warfare. —Cruelty to Prisoners, — And now, as the appetite for blood grows ever .stronger—and nothing -waxes more fa.d- —we have stones of the treatment- of prisoners. Here is a- point whereour attention should-bo most- concentrated and our action most prompt. It is the just duty which we owe to our own brave, soldiers. At present the instances a-ie- isolated, and we will hope that they do not represent any general condition. 'But the .stories come from sure- sources. There is the account of the brutality which, culminated in tho death of the gallant motor cy (.‘list Pearson, tin; son ot Lord Hcvvdra-v. 1 here is the horrible story in a. responsible Dutch paper, told by an eye-witness, of the torture of three British wounded prisoners in Landen Station on October 9. Phis story —Larries Conviclion,

liv ils del ail. Finally, there, are the disquiet imr remarks of Herman soldiers, repeated by ibis same witness, as to the British prisoners whom they had shot, j I he whole lesson of history is that- when troops are allowed to start murder cue can never say how or when it will stop. It may no longer be part of the deliberate, calculated policy of murder by the Herman jertn emiuonL J.Sijt it. has inKioii3>te<!ly been so in the past, a-nd we cannot say when U will. end. Huch incidents will, I fear, make peace an impossibility in our generation, tor whatever statesmen m ay write upon paper can never affect- tlm deep and bitter resentments widen a war so conducted must leave behind it. Other i Herman characteristics we can ignore. The i consistent systematic lying of the Orman ! ijv.s.’s. or Ihf hfnsphrmiVs () f ijjD ; Kaiser, can he met by us with contempt,,ors tolerance. After all, what is it, and licit her nor bom lia si- will alter it. Bn! this policy of murder deeply alTects nol only ourselves, hut the whole framev. oik n! civilisation so slowly arid painfully built upwards by (he human rare. j

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Permanent link to this item

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Bibliographic details

A POLICY OF MURDER, Evening Star, Issue 15693, 6 January 1915

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A POLICY OF MURDER Evening Star, Issue 15693, 6 January 1915

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