Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Order of Calatrava

The Order of Calatrava is the most senior military-religious order of knighthood in the Kingdom of Spain, in fact, the most senior on the Iberian Peninsula, though it was second in terms of being given official sanction by the Roman Pontiff. It was founded in January of 1158 by St Raymond of Fitero (San Raimundo de Fitero) during the reign of King Sancho III of Castile. The fortress of Calatrava la Vieja had been retaken from the Muslims a few years earlier by Sancho III’s father, King Alfonso VII of Castile, and holding it was proving problematic. In those days of private, feudal armies, there was no permanent military force that could be counted on. St Raymond took up the challenge, knowing that there were a number of knights and the sons of knights associated with the recently formed Cistercian Order (a Catholic religious order also known as the “White Monks”) and so began establishing a permanent militia force associated with the order. This was the birth of the Order of Calatrava (sometimes also called the Order of Calatrava la Vieja and later, after moving, the Order of Calatrava la Nueva) which was to play a significant part in the on-going, centuries long struggle to retake the Iberian Peninsula from its Islamic conquerors.

San Raimundo de Fitero
Under their first Grand Master, known only as Don Garcia, the knights of the Order of Calatrava saw their first battles against the Moors. They received their confirmation from Pope Alexander III on September 26, 1164 with their final rule being approved in 1187 by Pope Gregory VIII. And, that rule was a rigorous one intended to instill great religious piety as well as martial discipline on all members of the order. There the basic vows of the Cistercians, a vow of silence in the refectory, dormitory and oratory, a certain number of prayers that had to be said every day, a certain number of fasts to be observed throughout the year, abstinence three days a week,  as well as additional disciplines such as the knights being required to sleep in their armor and so on. The purpose was to give them a secure grounding in the faith they were fighting to defend, the morals they were expected to uphold and to be ready for battle at any time in case of any emergency. Originally situated on the front lines, an area filled with danger which had been easy to take but difficult to hold, they were an elite force that was always prepared to act when and where they were needed.

This made for a magnificent fighting force indeed and in their first battles against the Arab and North African invaders, they proved themselves well worth their keep, winning decisive victories in engagement after engagement. In fact, they were so successful that the neighboring King of Aragon called on them for help in defending his own lands. Yet, this was a long and arduous war that was to know many setbacks as well as victories. The lands that were given as a reward for their many battles won soon became imperiled and divided due to a family dispute between the Castile and Leon branches of the Royal House of Ivrea. Then came the greatest disaster which was a renewed, fierce Muslim invasion by the Almohads of Morocco. The Almohad Caliphate overthrew and supplanted the previous Almoravid dynasty and by 1172 came to rule all of the Islamic areas of the Iberian Peninsula with fundamentalist zeal. At the Battle of Alarcos in 1195 the fortress of Calatrava fell to the Almohads and the order was almost wiped out completely. Those living in the Kingdom of Aragon tried to take charge and set up their own Grand Master but this was objected to by the remnant in Castile so that, while the Castilian knights of Calatrava sheltered and reformed in the Cistercian monasteries where they took refuge, the leader of the knights in Aragon, while not permitted to be Grand Master, was elevated to the status of Grand Commander for Aragon.

Knight of the Order of Calatrava
In Castile, the knights finally began to replenish themselves somewhat and took up residence in Salvatierra Castle, thus being known for a time as the Knights of Salvatierra, but this fortress too fell to the Almohads in 1209. The seriousness of the situation prompted Pope Innocent III to call on the whole of Christendom to rush to the aid of their fellow Christians in Spain and in 1212 the castle of Calatrava itself was (again) retaken and restored to the Grand Master of the order.  After the victorious Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, the tide began to turn and the Muslim forces were pushed back farther and farther. Within a span of three years the order moved their headquarters to Calatrava la Nueva and took into their ranks the members of the Order of Monfrague (founded in 1196 by the Order of Mountjoy knights who had refused to merge with the Knights Templar). This was the start of a period of success and triumph for the Christian forces and the Order of Calatrava oversaw the establishment of new orders of knighthood which would later be famous in their own right such as the Order of Alcantara in Leon and the Order of Avis in Portugal. It was the high point of chivalric Spanish knighthood and culminated with the capture of Cordova in 1235 by King St Ferdinand, Cordova having previously been the capital of the Islamic caliphate.

When other important cities, including Seville, were retaken, King Alfonso X of Castile was feeling so triumphant that he began to plan for a campaign eastward to restore the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem with his Spanish knights. The Order of Calatrava was respected, militarily powerful, largely independent of the local government and quite wealthy with extensive lands of its own. However, these strengths also made them a prize to be fought over and in 1296 an internal dispute broke out with two rival Grand Masters fighting for leadership of the order. By the early years of the Fourteenth Century it became noticeable that the zeal and piety of the early knights had been dissipated by greed and ambition. Plots and intrigues started to be commonplace with rival leaders or factions allying with the secular powers in various power plays. This ultimately resulted in the Kings of Castile becoming ever more involved with the leadership of the order, ultimately forcing the election of the candidate of their choosing to be Grand Master. One was even set to marry Queen Isabella I of Castile until his death prevented it.

Rodrigo Telles Giron
Things had clearly reached a low point when Pope Pius II allowed the Grand Master, Rodrigo Telles Giron, to make his bastard son his heir which left the order under the nominal leadership of an 8-year old child. He was, of course, acted for by guardians but while the order had become a rather extensive empire unto itself, it was also increasingly divided. When Portugal and Aragon fought over the succession to the throne of Castile, different factions within the Order of Calatrava took opposing sides. It was only in their twilight that their honor was fully restored and we saw a glimpse of what the knights used to be under the leadership of Lopez de Padilla who was a respected warrior who led the knights in the last campaign of the war against Granada. He did not live to see the final victory and he would be the last of the independent Grand Masters, but he had provided a last glimmer of light in an otherwise dark decline.

With the expulsion of the last Islamic stronghold in Spain, King Ferdinand of Aragon took control of the Order of Calatrava himself and this was approved by Pope Innocent VIII. By 1540 Pope Paul III removed the vow of celibacy for the knights, replacing it with a vow of conjugal fidelity which greatly changed the nature of the order which began to become increasingly less military-religious and more of an honorary and secular. With the 800-year “Reconquista” having ended in triumph, the knights had lost their original reason for existing. The vow of poverty was later removed by Pope Julius III and though King Philip IV, in 1652, charged with Spanish orders with defending the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, it was clear that the military character of the order was a thing of the past. They became restricted to the aristocracy and upper class with the last thing close to military action being undertaken by them was a call for assistance in suppressing the 1640-50 Catalan rebellion during which time the Order of Calatrava did not participate directly, consisting mostly of wealthy, older men and not young warriors, the order funded the arming and outfitting of an army regiment, along with the other Spanish orders of knighthood, which thus became known as the “Regimen of the Orders”.

King Alfonso XIII
By the time the Spanish Habsburgs were replaced by the Spanish Bourbons, the Order of Calatrava had already largely become a money-making institution rather than a religious or military one. As such, the Bourbons made use of it for that purpose and when King Carlos III founded his own order of knighthood, he required the existing Spanish orders to cough up the money to pay for it. This loss of funds forced the Order of Calatrava to sell off many of its assets which ultimately meant that it was not even fit for service simply as a profitable enterprise anymore. What it did have left was confiscated by King Jose (Bonaparte) in 1808 but later restored by King Ferdinand VII. However, it was finally secularized officially in 1838 though, effectively, this had long been the case. Still, the Order of Calatrava does survive, usually grouped together with the Orders of Santiago, Alcantara and Montesa as “the Spanish orders” with all of their insignia often being seen grouped together. As with all of them, the Order of Calatrava is now a hereditary order with the King of Spain as Grand Master.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Prospects for France

Today, the French citizenry voted in their first round of presidential elections and, as expected, the so-called "centrist" Emmanuel Macron finished in first place and the so-called "far-right" candidate Marine Le Pen coming in second. The two will next face each other in "round two" for the big prize of the presidency of the Fifth French Republic. At this point, obviously, nothing definitive has been decided. It is obvious that French voters are tired of "business as usual" and so have chosen two candidates from outside of the usual political parties who have held a monopoly on power in France, pretty much since after World War II. However, it is also obvious that the French public is extremely divided. Macron and Le Pen could hardly be more different. One is a nationalist who wants to put a halt on all further immigration to France, while the other is an internationalist who thinks borders are meaningless and nationality is a thing of the past. One wants to take France out of the European Union while the other used to work for the European Union and is firmly for staying. The upcoming "round two" election will be one of 'Marine Le Pen' versus the ruling global elite.

However, for being such seeming opposites, Macron and Le Pen do have at least a few similarities. Both are nominal Catholics but effectively secularists. The most that can be expected in differentiating the two on that point is that Le Pen seems less likely to attack the traditional faith of France outright but neither can be expected to defend it. They largely hold the same opinions on what Americans at least call the "social issues", both being basically pro-gay, pro-abortion and so on. They are also both skeptical of NATO with Le Pen talking of taking France out of the alliance and coming to an agreement with Russia while Macron would prefer to have European Union military force take over the job of defending the continent. So, Macron would not be such a great change on that front, for whereas Le Pen wants to leave NATO and the EU, Macron simply wants to replace the NATO flag for that of a militarized EU. This puts Le Pen firmly at odds with the trans-Atlantic internationalists. You can easily tell who the ruling class wants people to be afraid of by how they are described in the media. Le Pen, who wants France to be first and foremost for the French, is called the "far-right" candidate, while Macron, a former member of the Socialist Party who nonetheless claims to be neither left nor right, is called the "centrist" candidate.

We have also seen obvious efforts to tilt the scales in favor of Macron such as the last-minute closing of thousands of Le Pen supporters Facebook accounts (a "mistake" the company has claimed) and the sending of double ballots to French citizens abroad who are expected to vote for Macron rather than Le Pen. All of this along with a flood of negative media coverage that tries to portray Le Pen as little less than a Nazi and Macron as a stable, brilliant, boy-genius untainted by the political process. Neither have held elected office before but, of course, for Le Pen this is portrayed as a negative but for Macron it is a positive. Although it has faded somewhat since President Trump decided to lob a few missiles at Syria, there were also preliminary efforts to de-legitimize a potential Le Pen win by warning of Russian efforts to "interfere" in the election. Given that former U.S. President Obama voiced public support for Macron, I have no doubt the Russians would prefer a Le Pen victory but to say so would be "interference" and "undermining" the election. Obama showing support for Macron or his previous warning to Britain not to leave the EU is, of course, not seen as interfering at all.

If the polls are to be believed, unfortunately in my view, this is working since they currently show Le Pen likely to lose by quite a large margin in the second round of voting. In truth, she was always a rather long shot, and this "populist" wave that has had the globalists in such a panic, has never been so sweeping as many would like to believe. "Brexit" was a win but not by a very wide margin. Austria was a loss, Italy was a win but it remains to be seen if anything will come of that. In the Netherlands, Wilders came close but ultimately the Dutch voted as their betters told them to and no one has ever expected Alternative for Germany to have any real electoral success. The victory of Donald Trump was what sent the globalists into hysterics in the first place and yet, lately, he has totally reversed course on most things that sent them calling for the smelling salts. No "Muslim ban", no trade war with China, no friendship with Russia and NATO went from being "obsolete" to essential with a single utterance. The point is that Le Pen has a very up-hill struggle ahead of her and those who want to keep France French will have to fight harder than they've ever fought before if they want to squeak out a win. All the odds are against it.

Of course, the odds were against St Joan of Arc too but, despite some very talented artwork, Marine Le Pen is no Joan of Arc, which is part of the problem. I do not want to discourage anyone, were I a French citizen I would be voting for Le Pen without hesitation, however, the best that can be hoped for from her is buying time or, to put it another way, stop things from becoming any worse. This is because, as I have said before (The Root of the Current French Crisis -please read it if you haven't already), only a repudiation of the French Revolution and all that goes with it can truly save France. After a traditional monarchy that lasted a thousand years, France has had five republics, none of which have lasted more than a century. Legitimate authority must cease to be subject to the public whim of the mob, the faith, values and culture of France must be embraced and defended, the sacred bloodline of French kings must be restored and to be French must be defined by blood rather than mere citizenship documents. This republican nonsense has been tried. My God, it's been tried *five times* and continues to fail! It does NOT work and it doesn't work because it is an unnatural contrivance built on silly, idealistic slogans and pandering to a mob that wants the impossible. At this point, most French people don't even know who they are or what their country is.

St Joan of Arc, an illiterate peasant girl, knew who she was and she knew what France was. She knew that France was for the French and not for the English. She knew that France had to have a king and who that king had to be. She knew that the true culture of France was a Christian, Frankish, Gallic culture and not an Islamic, Arab or African culture. The majority of the most highly educated people in France today are unable to grasp what that simple, uneducated peasant girl in the Middle Ages knew instinctively. This is what the Revolution has done to France. She knew that it was her duty to expel the invaders from her country and yet, she knew that it was even more fundamental to the survival of France to see the Dauphin, Charles VII, properly crowned King. Today, while I hope the French can recapture that "Spirit of the Marne" that prevailed in 1914, the invaders of today are not the Germans. The supporters of Le Pen are at least aware enough to know that they are being invaded, that they are being displaced, as a people and as a culture, yet as long as they remain bound to the republic and the legacy of the Revolution with all the accompanying "equality" and "brotherhood of man" idiocy, they will never be able to truly put a stop to this destructive cycle of one republican failure after another and the ultimate eradication of the French as a people, as a distinct nationality. That cannot be allowed to happen for the world would be a far darker place forever if it did.

Friday, April 21, 2017

What Britain Learned and What Britain Forgot

People who take history seriously have often lamented the number of mistakes we make because of our failure to learn from history. No doubt long-time readers will have heard me complain many times about this. In the past, I have also mentioned how the British, sadly mostly in days gone by at this point, seemed to have an unmatched ability to learn from their mistakes and improve going forward. To add some weight to this point of view, I thought it worth taking a moment to highlight some examples which illustrate how the United Kingdom learned from mistakes and how, in recent times, British politicians have forgotten their lessons which has not served them well.

During the English Civil War (which hugely impacted Scotland and Ireland so it was a pan-British affair) the forces of Parliament were victorious and yet their short-lived republican "commonwealth" was an unpopular disaster. Parliament, though they would never like to admit it, invited their lawful King, Charles II, back to resume his rightful place on the throne because their experience with Cromwell had taught them that Parliament itself was no obstacle to tyranny and that exchanging a traditional monarch for a military dictator had resulted in less freedom rather than more. They knew that, even though they had won the war, their victory had not improved the situation and that, reluctant as they were, concessions would have to be made and a strong monarchy was reestablished. King Charles II, likewise, had learned from the tragic fate of his father that he needed to take care to pick his battles, he had not wish to antagonize Parliament needlessly and only became obstinate when the fundamentals of the monarchy itself came under threat with the talk of altering the succession. Even after the Dutch launched the most successful conquest of Britain in history (taking over the country almost without opposition), the Protestant elites still realized that they had to make concessions to the Prince of Orange rather than repeating their past error and attempting to do away with the monarchy altogether. No one wanted to go through all of that again.

The American War for Independence also proved to be an educational opportunity for the British. King George III had unleashed the largest military campaign his country had ever undertaken in order to bring the colonies to heel and ultimately, due to European enemies uniting against him and a loss of public will at home, Britain was forced to admit defeat after eight long years of costly warfare. As a result, the British would not undertaken such a thing again. Rather, there was cooperation with the colonies to mature toward viable self-government, countries like Canada and Australia became independent peacefully and while maintaining close ties and friendly relations with the United Kingdom. This was best illustrated by the outbreak of the two world wars. In World War I, the British Empire went to war when Britain declared war. In World War II, the British Empire went to war when Britain declared war but the Commonwealths declared war on their own, despite being in no danger themselves, because the mother country was under threat. Likewise, on the military front, the British learned from World War I how to improve for World War II. While the French were building bigger defensive lines, the British were pioneering the coordination of tanks, artillery and aircraft as well as improving their naval forces for anti-submarine warfare. The German U-Boats would not come so close to victory in World War II as they had in World War I because they faced a much more advanced and capable enemy. Likewise, the German success with the blitzkrieg, largely came from adopting and adapting the concepts developed by British Major General J.F.C. Fuller, CB, CBE, DSO, who often ignored due to his fascist politics and view that the world would have been better off if the Axis powers had won.

Certainly, the British Empire, despite being on the winning side, was ruined by the Second World War and this too was a lesson that the British had learned in the past. Whether one looks at Queen Anne's War or in particular the French and Indian War, there was always this tension between those who favored focusing on the colonies or focusing on intervention in Europe. Over time, the British learned the lesson that their strength was in the empire and not on the continent of Europe. Alliances with continental powers involved the British in conflicts which did not ultimately prove very beneficial to British national interests. It is then not surprising that when the British leadership grasped this that there was a period of "splendid isolation" from European affairs. The British Empire grew and prospered in this period which lasted for quite a long time. Prior to 1904 the only formal alliance the British had was with the Empire of Japan on the other side of the world. However, the benefits of "splendid isolation" were forgotten with the alliances with France and Russia which ultimately involved Britain in World War I. Alliances were further made from there, Britain becoming so involved on the continent that it gave a war guarantee to Poland which forced Britain to declare war on Germany in 1939, starting World War II in Europe. Since World War II, Britain would become ever more deeply tied to European affairs until the recent vote to leave the European Union and it remains to be seen how that will work out.

Unfortunately, the past lessons learned now being forgotten are beginning to accumulate. The British sense of themselves is being forgotten. It is worth remembering that one of the reasons for the War of 1812, cited by the United States, was the conscription of U.S. citizens into the Royal Navy. In fact, most of these were men who had been British sailors who had 'jumped ship' for the peace and better wages of the American merchant marine and who had then taken U.S. citizenship. However, in those days, the British government did not recognize the right of any British subject to renounce their nationality. You were British by virtue of the blood in your veins and some piece of paper from the American republic could not change that or absolve you of your allegiance to your lawful king. Today, Britain is in the absurd position of regarding a Pashtun immigrant from Afghanistan as "British" and a Scotsman from Nova Scotia as a foreigner simply because of a collection of paperwork. Staying aloof from the continent has given way to an entangling alliance that would compel the British people to go to war on behalf of President Erdogan in Turkey (a government which is still occupying northern Cyprus).

The government of the United Kingdom has completely abandoned the former balance of powers between the Crown, Lords and Commons in favor of a system which has seen the monarch and the peers stripped of all power with the House of Commons and their political appointees controlling everything. Britain has now become, effectively, a country with a unicameral legislature in all but name. This has been tried before and the results were disastrous. Yet, it seems that even worse may be in store since so many seem to have taken leave of basic common sense. It should be considered quite alarming that young people in Britain today have been brought up to view the Georgian period and the Victorian period of British history as something to be ashamed of. In other words, the greatest period of British success has been deemed "evil" by the current indoctrination centers of the youth, otherwise known as the educational system. If the Victorian era is to be considered wicked, one must wonder what grim depths would be regarded as ideal by these twisted minds, the same minds who have singled out the very period in which the British Empire eradicated the slave trade as being "racist".

I have often been told that, "you cannot turn back the clock" and that is certainly true. However, that reminds me of the words of David Niven in the title role of the British cinematic bomb "Bonnie Prince Charlie" when, upon being told exactly that by a highland chief, the Prince replied, "I have not come to turn back the clock, I have come to wind the clock". Exactly so, I would say. We cannot turn back the clock but we can wind the clock so that it runs properly as it did in days past. The victorious allies could not "turn back the clock" after the French Revolution, they could not make it so that it had never happened, they could not bring the butchered Bourbons back from the dead but they could, and did, see the traditional Kingdom of France restored under the rightful King Louis XVIII. Britain today needs only to learn from its mistakes as it used to do to great effect. Allow the monarch to exercise those powers which rightfully belong to the monarch, bring back the actual (hereditary) peers to the House of Lords and give that chamber its traditional powers back. Stop all this egalitarian, internationalist nonsense and get back to basic common sense of people who recognized the difference between a prince and a pauper, a peer and a peasant, a Welshman and a Kenyan. These are not difficult distinctions to make, nor is the difference between a fragmented European province and the greatest empire the world had seen since ancient Rome. The difference between success and failure.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Monarch Profile: Sultan Abdul Hamid II of Turkey

The reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid II can be seen as the ‘last gasp’ of the traditional Ottoman Empire as it had existed for centuries. He was the last Turkish monarch to hold absolute power over his empire and his reign saw the shift in the Turkish position internationally which was to ultimately lead to the Ottoman Empire being on the losing side in the First World War, which finally brought about its downfall. Abdul Hamid II was born on September 21, 1842 at the Topkapi Palace in Constantinople (Istanbul). His father was Sultan Abdulmecid I who had nineteen wives and forty-three children. In keeping with Ottoman tradition, most of these wives were Europeans; Chechen, Georgian, Bosnian, Circassian or Abkhazian. The mother of Abdul Hamid II was a green-eyed, blonde haired Circassian named Tirimujgan Kadinefendi, however, her early death left the future sultan in the care of his father’s wife, Valide Sultan Rahime Perestu, who would be the last ‘empress-mother’ of the Ottoman Empire when Abdul Hamid II came to the throne. Blonde-haired as well, with blue eyes, she was originally a Christian from the Russian city of Sochi, also a Circassian, who had been adopted by Abdulmecid’s childless aunt and converted to Sunni Islam.

In his youth, Abdul Hamid had many talents, being an accomplished carpenter, a skilled translator and greatly inclined toward music. He was likely the greatest fan of opera among the ranks of all the Ottoman sultans. He was also more well traveled than most others, growing up at a time when the Ottoman Empire was trying to gain stronger relations with the “Great Powers” of Europe and he accompanied his uncle, Sultan Abdulaziz, to Paris, London, Vienna and other European cities in 1867. However, that same year was to see his life changed forever. At the time, his brother Sultan Murad V was on the throne but he had proven problematic. A Freemason, a Francophile and an advocate of constitutional government and democracy, his reign lasted less than a hundred days before he was overthrown and on August 31, 1876 Abdul Hamid II became the 34th Sultan and Padishah Emperor of the Ottoman Empire, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and 26th Caliph of Islam. Perhaps because of his travels and his love of opera, as well as the experience with his brother, reactionary elements feared he might be inclined to foreign innovations and the sort of reforms they did not want. This would certainly not prove to be the case.

That being said, Sultan Abdul Hamid II was willing to work with the “Young Ottomans” toward some measure of constitutional government. He could see that some sort of changes were needed as the Ottoman Empire was being left far behind by the other powers in industry and technological advancement. It was also a precarious time for the empire since the sympathy of the Christian empires that manifested itself in Britain and France aiding the Turks against Russia in the Crimean War had evaporated after the brutal suppression of a number of Christian uprisings in the Balkans. The pacification of Bulgaria had been particularly heinous with 58 villages burned, 5 monasteries destroyed and 15,000 Bulgarian civilians massacred. Imperial Russia was moving to take retribution for this and, this time around, none of the other European powers would be offering any help. The British were concerned about Russian expansion, but the actions of the Turks had made any assistance to them impossible. Constitutional talk was put on hold as the Russian Czar declared war on the Ottoman Empire on April 24, 1877.

It took only until February of 1878 for the war to come to an end as the Russians inflicting a massive and devastating defeat on the Turks. Romania, Serbia and Montenegro were conceded their independence, Bulgaria was given autonomy, Bosnia a lesser degree of local control and part of Armenia was handed over to Russia. Heavy war reparations were also paid to the Russians and Sultan Abdul Hamid II, in the aftermath of this disaster, suspended the newborn constitution and dissolved parliament after its first meeting, ruling on his own for the next thirty years. To make matters worse, in order to counter Russian expansion, the British began moving in on Turkish-ruled territory themselves, taking control of Cyprus and effectively Egypt-Sudan after chaos caused by the removal of the ruling khedive. Albania, Greece, Montenegro and Bulgaria all had border disputes and in 1897 war broke out with Greece over Crete. The Turks were victorious but, due to international intervention, Crete was lost for the Ottoman Empire and restored to the Greeks. Immediately after this an Arab revolt broke out in Syria which again resulted in humiliating concessions for the Turkish authorities.

During the settling of affairs in the Balkans, an international conference assembled in Berlin demanded that Ottoman authorities grant greater rights to minorities within the empire. Sultan Abdul Hamid II agreed to this as a matter of necessity in the crisis of the time but was reluctant to follow through with the promises made. He saw, not unrealistically, that such changes could result in the unraveling of the Ottoman Empire entirely. This first proved true with the subject population of Armenian Christians. When they demanded the rights that had been promised to them, Sultan Abdul Hamid II tried to thwart them by playing off the two minority groups against each other; the Kurds and the Armenians. The Kurdish forces unleashed havoc on the Armenians and the Armenians responded by forming revolutionary organizations but, seeing through the Kurds, aimed at the Sultan who was supporting them. In the effort to suppress these revolutionary forces, some 300,000 Armenians were massacred and the outraged west dubbed Abdul Hamid II the “Bloody Sultan”. It also resulted in an Armenian assassination attempt on the Sultan, however, a delay caused the car bomb to explode before he arrived and so he survived though 30 bystanders were killed and 54 wounded.

By this time, the Turks had long burned their bridges with their former allies from the Crimean War and Russia was certainly no friendlier given what the Orthodox Christians within the Ottoman Empire had endured. The French and British were outraged by Turkish actions and the Sultan was outraged by the French seizure of Tunisia and the British occupation of Egypt-Sudan. This resulted in Sultan Abdul Hamid II moving closer to Imperial Germany who was also not on the best terms with Britain, France and Russia. The Sultan also responded to increased internal unrest and the increasing dissatisfaction of the various non-Turkish ethnicities as well as the growing demand for reform by many of the educated Turks with repressive measures. A surveillance state, police state and all the usual trappings were established and carried out their duties zealously. Spies were everywhere, confiscations were common and summary arrests were a daily occurrence. Because of this, Abdul Hamid II is often viewed as a paranoid and oppressive tyrant even today.

However, Sultan Abdul Hamid II was a more complicated figure than that. He could see as well as anyone that the Ottoman Empire had been left behind by the other major powers. They were more stable, more prosperous, more militarily powerful and more technologically advanced. He wanted to revive the fortunes of the Ottoman Empire and so he did encourage greater education and more industrialization. Yet, this also went hand in hand with strictly limiting what could be taught to Ottoman students, what they could study and what they could read. To keep the empire together, the Sultan resorted to harsh repressive measures, particularly against Christian populations such as the Bulgarians. Yet, a long period of economic mismanagement also meant that the Sultan had no choice but to basically hand control over Ottoman finances to (Christian) foreign powers. His decisions laid the foundation for the progress Turkey was to make in the years to come, particularly with the German-backed spread of the railroad network. However, his fear of dissent also caused him to stagnate the navy which would have dire consequences in the future war with Italy over the provinces now known as Libya.

Eventually, the paranoia of Abdul Hamid II began creating the very enemies he feared. More and more officials and army officers resented the way they were constantly being spied on, the growing isolation of the country and the continuing loss of territories that had been conquered and under Ottoman rule for centuries. In 1908, in what became known as the “Young Turk Revolution”, Turkish army forces in Greece began marching on Constantinople. With no loyal forces on hand to stop them, the Sultan began furiously back-peddling. He reinstated the Constitution of 1876, recalled parliament, ordered a stop to spying on his subjects, censorship and even released political prisoners. The “Young Turks”, a group of reform-minded, more secular, Turkish nationalists, were given power and formed a cabinet. The era of absolute monarchy was over and constitutional monarchy was to prevail from that time on. However, Sultan Abdul Hamid II had not been genuine in his sudden conversion to the progressive cause and the following year organized loyalist elements to stage a counter-coup in order to restore the absolute monarchy. Unfortunately for him, this failed and Sultan Abdul Hamid II was deposed by the Young Turks and replaced by Sultan Mehmed V, a figurehead who was never able to be much more than a prisoner in his own palace. Originally sent to Salonica in Greece, when the Greeks took back the region he returned to Constantinople but remained under house arrest until his death on February 10, 1918.

It is worth noting that the Ottoman Empire, which had stood for centuries over the crossroads of three continents, swiftly collapsed under the administration of the Young Turks. However, it was largely under Abdul Hamid II that the stage was set for that downfall. The suppression of the Slavic Christians alienated the Great Powers of Europe so that, ultimately, only Germany and Austria-Hungary remained as supporters (Bulgaria was on the same side but obviously was not inclined to be helpful) and internal suppression led to the rise of the Young Turks. The loss of territory naturally prompted a desire to see the Ottoman Empire restored to its former size but this led to an overreaching in World War I that brought about the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and its final dismemberment. Having lost the European provinces, during the war the Arabs finally rose up in revolt as well and the Ottoman Empire was doomed.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Double Standard on Deportations

There is, today, a great deal of ‘storm and stress’ over the issue of migrants/refugees/illegal immigrants across the western world. Whatever term one chooses to use, it involves a minority group of people living in a country who are a different people than the majority. This has caused quite heated divisions in these countries over how to deal with these non-native minority elements. Some want more, some want less and some want those already present to be sent back to their country of origin. The rhetoric around these differences is escalated by accusations of racism and “Islamophobia” which itself is often used synonymously with the term ‘racism’ and that is regarded as the worst thing someone in the western world can be accused of. Even being found guilty of murder or child rape does not lead to the pariah status that even being accused of racism will. Filmmaker Roman Polanski, for example, pled guilty to raping a 13-year old girl in 1977 and yet continued to have a lucrative film career and win numerous Academy Awards and European Film Awards from his peers. Martin McGuinness, a leader of the PIRA, was responsible for numerous murders but rose to become Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. Enoch Powell gave one speech that attracted accusations of racism and immediately lost his job. American comedian Michael Richards used racial slurs in response to some hecklers in 2007 and social pressure ended his stand-up career. The taint of racism can easily render a public figure untouchable.

However, what is odd, is that the same people who usually push this strategy are the same people who consider being “Euro-centric” a terrible insult even while they themselves display an extremely Eurocentric attitude by holding European or European-descended people to a vastly different standard from non-European peoples. This ranges from accusations of racism to issues of civil rights to the issue of immigration. For example, in Japan, it is not uncommon to find restaurants that refuse service to anyone who is not obviously Japanese. Japan attracts considerable criticism for things like whale hunting but no one seems unduly outraged about businesses that refuse service to White people or Black people whereas in a western country, a restaurant that refused to serve people of a different race would be considered outrageous and, in the United States certainly, illegal. Now, it should be said, I do not think the Japanese should be criticized for this. Usually, the reason behind such a policy is that the business has had trouble with rowdy foreigners in the past and I think they should be able to serve or not serve whoever they choose. It is *their* business after all. However, the lack of similar criticism, unfair though I think it would be, is noteworthy.

The non-immigration issues have often been brought up by those on the political right to highlight the double-standard of the left and, though they do not say so, their “Eurocentric” view or one could call it a type of western supremacy that says western people are so lofty and so much better than everyone else that they must be judged by a higher standard than other people. So, it has been pointed out how western feminists are more concerned about an imaginary “pay gap” between men and women than they are about women in certain Arab countries who have virtually no rights at all (and before anyone complains, it is a *fact* that, in America at least, it is against the law to pay women less for doing the same job as a man and if this is happening to you, female, feminist reader, you can sue your employer right now and easily win). The people who are staunch defenders of freedom of religion for Muslims in traditionally Christian, western countries, have nothing to say about the total lack of religious freedom in Muslim or atheistic countries like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or the People’s Republic of China. One could go on, and I have, so there is no need to highlight it more here.

Immigration and/or immigration-related issues have, however, not received the same push-back that has been seen on issues related to women’s rights, gay rights or religious freedom. Yet, this is just as true and generally dates to the shift away from traditional authority, old European colonialism and the Cold War. There are numerous examples, undoubtedly more than I could relate here, that illustrate the point that the exclusion, expulsion or mass deportation of a minority people from a country by the native majority only seems to attract widespread criticism and condemnation when it is contemplated by western countries but not when it is actually carried out by non-western countries. It is not considered outrageous by the majority population in non-western countries nor is it considered wrong or racist by mainstream opinion in western countries themselves. Sometimes this was done by legal means, in other cases it was simply a case of the western minority fleeing in the face of certain death if they remained.

Expelled Dutch & mixed race people arrive in Rotterdam
The Republic of Indonesia, for example, had prior to independence been a colony of The Netherlands, known as the Dutch East Indies. When pressure from the United Nations and the United States forced the Dutch to relinquish the East Indies, the Indonesians afterward moved to purge non-native elements from the country. Dutch owned businesses and property were seized by the Indonesian republic and in December of 1957 all Dutch nationals, some 50,000 people, were forced to leave Indonesia. Dutch aircraft were forbidden to land in Indonesian territory and all Dutch publications were banned from the country. Most readers have probably never heard of this which is itself part of the point. Indonesia did not become a pariah in the international community, was not accused of being racist or xenophobic but, while some Dutch people and those directly involved certainly spoke up about it, wider opinion was that the Indonesians were justified in wanting ‘Indonesia for the Indonesians’ and that subjects of the Queen of the Netherlands did not belong in Indonesia, most by this time also believing they never had in the first place. Many more people left Indonesia on their own because they were of partial Dutch ancestry and were subject to often extreme social pressure to leave, from housing difficulties, employment difficulties to people of mixed race background being unable to even buy food from many Indonesian grocers.

In the countries of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, previously united under colonial rule as French Indochina, likewise never had a large population of French people who lived there. However, there were some and in some cases French families had lived in Indochina for generations. The 1937 census of French Indochina showed that there were 42,345 French people living in Indochina. By comparison, there were over 300,000 Chinese people living in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia according to the same census in 1937. However, as Vietnam became independent, first in north and (year later) in the south, the French population was either killed or forced to flee to avoid being killed. Their presence, regardless of whether they had anything to do with the colonial government or the regime of the French-backed Vietnamese emperor, was simply not tolerated by the ruling Vietnamese Communist Party and today the French population in Vietnam is non-existent.

Human "dust" left in Vietnam
Similar to the situation in Indonesia, people of mixed-race background in Vietnam were not tolerated once the Vietnamese were completely governing their country themselves. Most Franco-Vietnamese fled with the end of French influence in Vietnam, knowing what fate would befall them if they were to remain. Likewise, at the end of the American involvement in Vietnam, there were about 35,000 mixed race children born to Vietnamese women by American fathers. Some took their children home with them to the USA when America began withdrawing from Vietnam, some married the mothers but unfortunately most of these mixed race children were abandoned and those that were not killed outright faced a lifetime of scorn and discrimination. The Vietnamese referred to them as “the dust of life” as most went from state orphanages to lives as homeless beggars on the streets. Their mothers often abandoned them since a half-White or half-Black child would cause the mother to be regarded as a prostitute and a collaborator, whether she had been or not, by post-war Vietnamese society. The children of Black soldiers often fared worse than the children of White soldiers since they were more likely to be visibly the most different from the rest of the population. Needless to say, the left-wing “flower power” protestors of the era had nothing to say about this and did not denounce the victorious Vietnamese as racist or bigoted because of their actions toward racial or mixed-race minorities in their country.

One area where the minority community was quite large, though still small compared to the overall population, was the Empire of India. Anglo-Indians which included both mixed race people of British and Indian parentage or simply British people who were born and raised in India, were originally marginalized by both the Indian population and the British colonial authorities. However, they made a life for themselves on their own and ultimately became a distinct and fairly important new group of people in the British Raj. They became instrumental in the functioning of the empire due to their widespread employment in handling Customs, the Post Office, the telegraph network, the teaching profession and the Indian railroad industry. However, with the coming of independence and the conversion of the Empire of India to the Republic of India, the Anglo-Indians came under increased social pressure and discrimination by the majority population which considered them both alien and, in the increased militancy of the times, as collaborators with the enemy. In 1947 this pressure drove many Anglo-Indians to leave the country and relocate to the United Kingdom or one of the Commonwealth Realms. Social pressure did not relent with time and in the ensuing decades the vast majority of Anglo-Indians ultimately left the country and the tiny minority remaining are almost unanimous in wishing to live somewhere else. With all of the international sympathy for India and hero-worship of Gandhi, the plight of the Anglo-Indians went largely unnoticed and India was not vilified for how the White and mixed-race population was treated.

The same story can be found across the continent of Africa, though in most countries the non-African minority was always extremely small, in some cases to the point of being statistically irrelevant. However, in those areas with large non-African (generally European) minorities such as South Africa or the former Rhodesia, this population has been drastically reduced since these African countries came under African rule. Again, the circumstances of the White minority in South Africa or the former Rhodesia goes almost completely unreported with mainstream liberal opinion in the west being that this should be ignored at best or at worst that the White minority deserves no sympathy as they have been deemed the “bad guys” regardless of whether they were actually around during the era of White rule. In Algeria, in north Africa, at the height of the colonial period there were about a million French people living in the country, roughly 10% of the total population. With the achievement of Algerian independence, however, those million people suddenly vanished and no one seems to mind about it. The French minority being driven from the country by the Algerian minority has attracted no condemnations.

Again, one could cite many examples similar to these. How many people objected to the forced removal of over a million Greeks from Turkey in 1923 (when about half as many Turks were expelled from Greece) or the dwindling of the Greek minority to statistical irrelevance today? I am sure some will say that the current situation in the western world is not equivalent to these examples of Indonesia, Indochina, India or Algeria since these were places under colonial rule and it was, frankly, justified that the people with the same blood and skin color of the former rulers be removed from the country when those rulers were overthrown. Yet, this same attitude, again, does not apply to western countries. The Spanish are still vilified for the expulsion of the Moors and Jews following their long war of liberation from Moorish rule and the subsequent establishment of the fallaciously notorious Spanish Inquisition. The fact that Islamic forces once ruled over southern Italy does not shelter Italians who want to stop the influx of Islamic immigrants from being labeled racist or Islamophobic today. The same could be said for European countries from Greece to Hungary which were under Islamic rule for centuries.

Loyalists arrive in Canada
That, however, is ultimately beside the point of any fundamental moral issue. The countries of the western world today are not under the rule of a foreign people and the countries of Asia or Africa were no longer under foreign rule when they expelled or forced into exile their racial minority populations. Furthermore, even if one were to regard it as unfortunate or even immoral, that does not necessarily mean it was an unwise policy. I have previously, while admitting it distresses me to say so, put forward the possibility that one reason for the relative stability of the United States after independence, as compared to the neighboring country of Mexico, is because the loyalist population in America left the country and thus, while divisions certainly existed between the Federalists and anti-Federalists and so on, there was unity on the fundamental form and character of the country. There were differences in how to best govern but there was unity in terms of the fundamental structure of the country as a constitutional republic. In general, differences cause problems and the greater the differences, the greater the problems will arise to the point that a country can go from disagreements over policy to being dominated by total, internal, ideological warfare over the most basic idea of who they are and what they are about.

Finally, this illustrates, I think, the basic point that mainstream, western, liberal thought has gone so far off the rails that they are eating their own tail. They have become so lost in civilizational self-hatred and racial guilt while at the same time being assured that their own point of view is the only right and moral way of thinking that they have become a walking, talking contradiction. Their current view regarding this mass movement of peoples is that White, western, historically Christian people are the worst people in the world, that they are cruel, oppressive and exploitative while simultaneously arguing that everyone who is not of this cursed breed should come and live in White, western, historically Christian countries! One would think they would be the first to advocate building walls and shutting off all immigration to save the non-European peoples from these terrible racists who are so genetically inferior in moral terms that they cannot help being racist and will never not be racist or exploitative. One would think they would be telling the other peoples of the world to stay as far away from White, western people as possible. Yet, they seem anxious to invite more and more people to come and be oppressed and exploited.

There is simply no way the liberals and leftists who currently advocate open borders and regard cutting down on immigration, enforcing immigration laws or deporting people to their homelands as a fate worse than death emerge from this encounter with the facts as honest or honorable people. They must either accept that all peoples have a right to keep their homelands for themselves or they must denounce the expulsion of minorities no matter who does it. The only other alternative is that they are complete liars when it comes to their insistence on equality, which many of the more radical elements do not even give lip-service to anymore, and must admit that they only consider western societies fit to live in. As it stands now, the only possible explanation for their behavior is that they are so hate filled that they are truly committed to the total destruction of their own peoples and civilization or that they are more convinced of the superiority of their own worldview than any crusaders or missionaries ever were and wish to see all peoples of all cultures ground beneath their ideological boot heels. Personally, I would prefer for everyone having their own space to maintain their own cultures, peoples and customs. We used to call that diversity...

Friday, April 14, 2017

Monarch Profile: Queen Mavia of the Tanukh

One of the results of the triumph of the feminist movement has been the rediscover and emphasis on significant female leaders of ancient history. Female leaders of more recent centuries have not been emphasized in the same way because, figures like Queen Victoria, Empress Maria Theresa or Queen Isabella of Castile, had very traditional and non-feminist worldviews. In the ancient world, however, figures like Boudicca in Britannia or Queen Zenobia of Palmyra were more attractive to them since they were pagans, they were rebels against the existing Imperial Roman power structure and they were far enough distant that some degree of mystery still surrounds them and so modern feminists can fill in the gaps of their stories with speculation that fits their narrative. All of that is also why you have probably never heard of another dynamic female leader of Roman times, Queen Mavia of the Tanukh, sometimes also referred to as the “Queen of Syria” though the people she ruled over were fairly recent arrivals to that part of the world and lived only in and around what is today southern Syria.

Perhaps even more than Boudicca or Zenobia, much about Queen Mavia remains a mystery and our accounts of her come from only a couple of ancient sources. Nonetheless, though she was a strong leader who fought successfully against the dominant power of the Roman Empire, the rest of her story makes her a subject that most modern writers would not want to touch. In the first place, she was an Arab, which would not in itself be a problem but she was an Arab from the pre-Islamic era and an Arab woman ruling over Arab men is something likely to offend modern Islamic sensibilities. To make matters worse for the modern, politically correct types, she was an Arab Christian, a convert from paganism and a very staunch, Orthodox/Catholic (before those were different) Christian at that. Moreover, the military campaign she fought against the Romans was a rebellion that was not a rebellion. She did not fight to bring down Rome or usurp Roman power, but rather she was fighting a war in defense of her faith and that is something the modernists simply cannot handle. She was not anti-Roman, she was pro-Christian.

We do not know exactly when or where she was born, her given name in Arabic is usually rendered as “Mawiyya” and she came to prominence through her marriage to one al-Hawari, the King of the Tanukhids, a confederation of Arab tribes who had left the Arabian peninsula and eventually settled in southern Syria. She and her husband had no sons and when King al-Hawari died in 375 it was Queen Mavia who took over the leadership of the Tanukhids. They were a sort of subsidiary national group within the Roman Empire and, early on, there was no trouble about this. The Romans were seen by the Arabs as protectors or allies against the Sassanian empire of Persia (Iran). However, a problem arose over the matter of religion, even though the Roman Empire was not yet officially a Christian empire at this point, it was largely Christian and, with a notable exception, the Roman emperors had been Christian for some time. However, this was also the period when the Arian heresy held sway and the Emperor Valens, while a Christian, was also an Arian. Queen Mavia was not and she would not have Arianism for her people and requested an orthodox bishop be appointed over them.

Emperor Valens, however, insisted on an Arian bishop and so Queen Mavia left Aleppo for the deep desert and began preparing for war. She showed considerable diplomatic skill as she gained the support of numerous other nomadic tribes in the area to join her coalition. However, she also sent word to the Romans that this rebellion was about having an orthodox bishop and nothing more. Mavia told them that as soon as a proper bishop was given to them, her resistance would end and the former, cordial relations could be immediately restored. This was not a struggle for power but a struggle for what Queen Mavia regarded as the true faith. By the spring of 378 AD all was prepared and the war began. Historical accounts agree that the campaign of Queen Mavia was quite successful and that she was leading it personally, ‘from the front’ and was quite a formidable military commander.

The Arab forces Mavia commanded had been used extensively by the Romans in their fight to suppress the previous uprising in Syria led by Queen Zenobia and as such the Tanukhids were very familiar with Roman tactics and were able to counter them and make use of them for their own side. The local Roman governors proved unable to mount an effective defense. Their own forces were quite limited and whereas in the past they had been able to organize the loyal elements of the local population to increase their numbers, this time it was those very tribes that they were fighting against and so the Romans were quite isolated. Queen Mavia and her armies swept south and east, driving the Romans from southern Syria, Palestine and finally all the way to the Egyptian border. Being hard pressed in other areas and with no hope of victory in sight, Emperor Valens finally had no choice but to relent before the vital province of Egypt was invaded and he agreed to appoint the orthodox, non-Arian cleric Moses as the first Bishop of the Arabs. According to Socrates of Constantinople, Bishop Moses was a “Saracen” (Arab) himself and was quite a successful and well regarded churchman.

Emperor Valens
With this, as promised, Queen Mavia suspended her campaign and reverted back to the previous relationship her people had had within the Roman Empire. To bond the two sides together, Queen Mavia gave her daughter, Princess Chasidat, in marriage to a prominent Roman commander in the area named Victor, also a Christian, a Catholic of course, and a man who had been appointed Consul in 369 AD. In fact, he had confronted Emperor Valens himself because of the imperial preference for Arianism so this would seem to have been a good match. However, the ending of the story of Queen Mavia was not entirely a happy one though Emperor Valens certainly had the worst of it. Once peace had been restored, the Emperor quickly called on Queen Mavia to assist him in his war against the Goths who were rampaging into the heart of the Eastern Roman Empire. Queen Mavia dispatched forces to aid the Romans as required but they were less successful in Europe. Along with the Romans, they were defeated, pushed back and finally wiped out at the Battle of Adrianople where Emperor Valens himself was killed. Few Tanukhids survived to return to their homeland.

There was another revolt by the Tanukhids against the Romans but it is unknown and perhaps unlikely that Queen Mavia was involved at all with it. This revolt was swiftly crushed and the Romans abandoned the Tanukhids as an ally and made a new alliance with the Salih, a rival Arab tribe. All that remains known of Queen Mavia after her assistance to the doomed Emperor Valens is that she died in Anasartha, east of Aleppo, sometime in 425 AD. Today, she is remembered by few due to the nature of her exploits and the fact that her story does not fit the preferred narrative of today. Nonetheless, she was a significant figure of some admirable qualities who deserves to be better known.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Spanish War with the United States

The Spanish-American War has traditionally been regarded in the United States as one of the best wars that America has ever fought. It was short, overwhelmingly victorious (the outcome never being in doubt), was conducted with great heroism and gallantry by the fighting men of both sides and resulted in great gains. At least so it initially seemed. For the Kingdom of Spain it should stand as an honorable memory as well as a tragic loss. It was a defeat but, like the Texans at the Alamo, a noble defeat by a Spain that was hopelessly outmatched. It was tragic in that it was the final nail in the coffin of the once grand and global Spanish colonial empire. Yet, the Spanish conducted themselves with great dignity, earning the respect of their enemy which had expected to despise them. The outcome, though it took many, many years to reveal itself, was also one to ultimately vindicate the Kingdom of Spain and prove that while the United States had gained the victory, it was a gain that benefited the United States not at all. The Spanish certainly have nothing to be ashamed of and more than a few Americans, even before the brief conflict had concluded, realized they had been tricked into a war on the wrong side.

Cuba was, and had long been, the source of trouble between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Spain. In the old days, America’s southern states sought to annex Cuba to bolster the slave-holding bloc in the Union, later concern over Cuba focused around broader economic opportunities (mostly for northern speculators since the south had been crushed in the American Civil War) and a do-gooder attitude regarding the Cuban rebels. The remnant of the Spanish empire had been having plenty of troubles on its own without the Americans getting involved. Cuba had been in rebellion since at least 1868 with minor disturbances going back even farther. Across the Pacific, in the Spanish East Indies, The Philippines was likewise in rebellion with the archipelago becoming increasingly ungovernable beyond the thick walls of the Spanish fortifications in Manila. In 1895 rebellion broke out anew in Cuba and the American warmongers were quick to begin the build-up for war with the Kingdom of Spain. The most important force pushing for conflict was the mainstream media of the day, particularly the New York newspaper magnates William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer.

King Alfonso XIII, Queen Maria Christina
The Spanish reacted with growing concern and undoubtedly the Spanish effort to deal with the problem of Cuba was made worse by the pressure coming from the United States. It was, as was sadly all too common, a very difficult time for Spain. The young King Alfonso XII had recently died, leaving national affairs in the hands of his Habsburg bride Queen Maria Christina of Austria, acting for the child sovereign King Alfonso XIII who was born after the death of his father. Queen Maria Christina did her best under very difficult circumstances. Political malfeasance and the recurring Carlist Wars had practically bankrupted Spain and the Cubans had been forced by this to start borrowing money from the United States which, naturally, caused many American lenders to take a very serious interest in Cuba from then on. The Cuban rebels often threatened American interests as much as Spanish rule but even then, Spain was still blamed for failing to protect the loyal Cubans from the disloyal ones. Queen Maria Christina finally conceded virtually everything but total independence for Cuba. As had previously been done with Puerto Rico, Cuba was given autonomy and the Cubans all the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else in the Kingdom of Spain. When still more concessions were demanded, the Queen had none left to give.

The American print media, the “fake news” of the day, was constantly printing stories of simple, pitiful, virtuous Cuban peasants being raped, massacred, tortured and tormented by arrogant, vicious and cruel Spanish oppressors. The Spanish had little response other than to say it was not true, which most people in the English-speaking world did not believe anyway, having ancestral memories of the “Black Legend” and a popular perception of the Spanish as natural villains. As such, the British took the side of the United States against the Spanish, though they need not and would not become involved directly. Almost the only voice on the world stage speaking up for Spain was the German Kaiser Wilhelm II. He called for solidarity amongst the crowned heads of Europe against the upstart and meddling American republic but was ignored. He sold the latest in German weaponry to the Spanish army but was also looking to possibly scoop up the remnants of the Spanish empire for Germany if the opportunity presented itself. The Kaiser may have warned against an American victory but he was perfectly willing to profit by it if he could.

Spanish army officers on colonial service
Of course, the war in Cuba was not what the American public had been led to believe. The Spanish were, more often than not, the injured party and the Cuban rebels were, more often than not, the real cause of most misfortune on the island which the Spanish treasured as their “Pearl of the Antilles” and, practically speaking, one of the few parts of the Spanish empire that actually still produced profits for the kingdom. One of the first men to see how wrong the popular portrayal of the Spanish was happened to be none other than Winston Churchill. He came to Cuba expecting to see helpless locals crushed under the boot of Spanish rulers but instead found the Spanish officers to be refined, Castilian gentlemen, deeply attached to and concerned for Cuba. He saw plenty of Cubans who were loyal to the Spanish Crown and he saw the rebels behaving as bandits, making life worse for the Cuban people and then blaming it all on “Spanish oppression”. The perception of Churchill had reversed completely when he could actually see the true situation for himself. However, not without justification, he still thought the Spanish were doomed in Cuba. Recurring civil war in instability at home had simply made it impossible for Spain to maintain such a large force at such a great distance for the amount of time necessary to eliminate all rebel resistance. Perhaps America could do better?

The destruction of the USS Maine
Despite Spanish concessions, the media in the United States continued to spread anti-Spanish propaganda. It was actually in response to a large *pro-Spanish* demonstration in Havana that U.S. Consul General Fitzhugh Lee called for some American military presence to protect American interests on the island. Centerpiece of that “presence” was the American battleship the USS Maine. The Spanish were not best pleased by this but were correct and polite, making no trouble about it. Then, on the night of February 15, 1898 the Maine suddenly exploded in a massive ball of fire and quickly sank, taking 266 American sailors with her. The media warmongers now had something to seize on and to use as a pretext to call for war under the ready-made slogan, “Remember the Maine! To Hell with Spain!” They blamed a Spanish mine for the sinking of the ship. In truth, while there has been some debate about what caused the sinking, we do know for a fact that it was certainly *not* a Spanish mine but was, rather, the result of some internal accident. That, however, was never entertained by the Hearst-Pulitzer media competitors nor did most of the American public hear that the Spanish had reacted quickly to rescue surviving American sailors from Havana harbor and give them every aid and assistance possible. Such a display of Spanish compassion and humanity would not fit the narrative.

Neither government really wanted war, Spain had everything to lose and nothing to gain while the American president, William McKinley, a totally unadventurous man if ever there was one, preferred to focus on domestic issues. Nonetheless, the media-driven war fervor resulted in a half-hearted request by the U.S. President for war authority and on April 19, 1898 the U.S. Congress passed a declaration of war against the Kingdom of Spain. The Spanish, despite having a larger standing army than the United States at that time, knew they stood no chance of winning but were prepared to at least do their best not to lose in a dishonorable fashion. Some, it is often forgotten, did not think the Spanish cause all that hopeless. The geography of the conflict meant that the naval battle would be the decisive battle and many British Royal Navy officers, while sympathizing with the United States, expected the American navy to be crushed by the professional European force of the Spanish Armada. They would be in for a surprise as the Spanish fleet had deteriorated to an alarming degree by the time that the U.S. Pacific fleet under Commodore George Dewey moved to seize control of waters around The Philippines.

Spanish Admiral Patricio Montojo
The Spanish island of Guam fell to the Americans quickly and peacefully. The tiny Spanish garrison had no idea war had broken out when an American warship steamed up to the island and fired an opening salvo. The Spanish thought this was simply a salute and rowed out to thank the American sailors and explain that they would like to do the polite thing and return the salute but would need to borrow some powder do so only to be told that the two countries were at war and their surrender of the island was being demanded. A handover ceremony was held the following day. The subsequent Battle of Manila Bay on May 1, 1898 was almost as one-sided. Spanish Rear-Admiral Patricio Montojo was outnumbered and his ships outclassed. He did err in placing his fleet beyond the range of the shore batteries which the American ships were careful to stay out of range of, but there was little he could do in the face of overwhelming American firepower. He attempted to ram the American ships and at least go out in a blaze of glory. The Spanish fleet was shot to pieces with American losses amounting to only one cruiser being damaged and one sailor dead from heatstroke. Eventually, Admiral Montojo would be court-martialed and put in prison for losing this battle and, in a sign of how things tended to go in the Spanish-American War, he was defended by his former enemy, the promoted Admiral Dewey, who maintained that his Spanish opponent had been a valorous foe who had done all in his power for the honor of Spain. Montojo was ultimately absolved.

Meanwhile, American forces were being deployed to the primary front of the war which was the invasion of Cuba. The U.S. forces were under the command of the overweight, ailing and generally lackluster General William Shafter with one of his top subordinates being the former Confederate cavalry leader Major General “Fighting Joe” Wheeler who was old, perhaps a bit senile, but as full of zeal for battle as he had ever been. The American army landed at Daiquiri and quickly made contact with Cuban rebels who were to fight alongside them. The initial landing was uncontested as the Spanish were forced to focus on defending their vital points and had no wish to be caught on the beaches with the Americans in front of them and Cuban guerillas behind them. Any idea that this would be an easy victory for the American forces was soon dispelled. The Spanish were prepared to offer tenacious resistance and many were equipped with superior smokeless German Mausers and the latest German artillery whereas most American units were still armed with black powder rifles that quickly enveloped the shooters in a cloud of smoke upon firing.

Spanish General Antero Rubin
The first major engagement came at the Battle of Las Guasimas where the Americans inadvertently stumbled into a defensive line of 2,000 Spaniards who were actually acting more as a rear guard. The Spanish never intended to hold the area really but were simply fighting a delaying action as their forces pulled back to stronger defensive positions. Although hailed as a great opening victory in the press, thanks mostly to General Wheeler’s aggressive if ill-advised determination to push forward, the truth is that while the Spanish retreated, they had been planning that anyway and the American forces had suffered significantly higher losses with 27 men killed and 52 wounded compared to only 7 killed and 14 wounded for the Spanish who were outnumbered in both men and artillery. The Spanish, led by General Antero Rubin, had delayed the American advance, inflicted heavier losses than they sustained and withdrew in good order, all of which defines a successful rear-guard action. The Spanish, with their smokeless rifles, were able to conceal themselves in the dense greenery and fire at the American soldiers who were easily spotted and had a difficult time determining where their enemy was.

The Spanish defense of El Caney
Nonetheless, the U.S. advance continued and the next focus was the Battle of San Juan Hill, undoubtedly the most famous engagement of the war, at least on the American side. However, in order to advance on San Juan Hill and the subsequent Kettle Hill, the American flank had to be secured by the capture of El Caney and if any fight deserves to be the most famous engagement of the war for the Kingdom of Spain it is doubtlessly the Battle of El Caney. General Shafter dispatched 6,600 men with artillery support to secure this position, defended by no more than a little over 600 Spaniards with no artillery of their own. El Caney was home to a small church where, tradition says, the great Spanish conquistador Cortez had prayed for God’s blessing on his invasion of Mexico, but more than that, it had General Joaquin Vara del Rey y Rubio, a skillful and gallant Spanish officer who was determined to defend El Caney to his last breath and that is exactly what he did. So vastly outnumbered, there was no doubt El Caney would fall eventually, but the stalwart Spanish soldiers repulsed one American charge after another, inflicting ever heavier losses on the U.S. Army. Both sides came to admire each other. The Spanish were amazed by the relentless courage of the Americans who charged forward again and again while the Americans were just as impressed by heroism of the Spanish who stood firm in the face of overwhelming numbers and intense canon fire, throwing back attack after attack. Concentrated American artillery fire finally breached the Spanish lines and General Vara del Rey was killed in the battle but he and his men had held off vastly superior forces for the whole day, inflicting losses of 600 killed and 360 wounded on the American side compared to only 38 killed, 138 wounded and 160 captured for themselves. When it was over, U.S. forces buried General Vara del Rey with full military honors as a final salute to a worthy foe.

General Arsenio Linares
Elsewhere, the same day, July 1, the Battle of San Juan Hill unfolded. The initial stages did not go well for the Americans. The Spanish shot down an American observation balloon and pinned down the Black soldiers of the U.S. 10th Cavalry under future AEF commander John J. Pershing on the jungle road. The largely concealed and well placed Spanish men and guns took a heavy toll on the American forces. One American captain, William “Bucky” O’Neill, stood up and proclaimed that no Spanish bullet could kill him at which point the reckless Irishman was promptly shot right through the head. U.S. forces had to crawl forward, under withering Spanish fire, to the foot of Kettle Hill at which point one, furious charge forward carried the position. The Spanish defenders were led by General Arsenio Linares y Pombo who had taken care to prepare well fortified positions. His mistake, however, was in placing his men on the hilltops rather than the more effective position just below the summit. This caused his men to be more exposed than was necessary and allowed the Americans, if they could make it that far, to get ‘under’ his guns and reach the Spanish lines with a last, mad rush.

Defending San Juan Hill
This, however, was not a determinative factor as the Spanish were so far outnumbered, hundreds of men confronting thousands, that the outcome could not seriously be in doubt but it was a disadvantage for the sons of Spain. The Americans charged forward up San Juan Hill in the face of heavy Spanish fire, though because of their placement the Spanish tended to shoot over their attackers. With Lt. Colonel Teddy Roosevelt (a future President) leading the way with his “Rough Riders” the Spanish were overwhelmed and San Juan Hill was captured. It was a celebrated victory for the Americans but it had been a costly one. Accounts differ with each side downplaying their own losses and puffing up those of the enemy, but none can disguise the fact that American losses were much heavier than those of the Spanish and General Shafter worried that his newly taken positions could not be held if the Spanish launched a determined counter-attack. No such attack was planned though as the Spanish concentrated on fortifying their position in and around Santiago which was much more formidable. The Americans knew better than to launch another all-out attack on such a position and instead started digging in themselves. Once that was done, a message was dispatched demanding the Spanish surrender of allowing for the evacuation of civilians prior to an American artillery bombardment.

Admiral Cervera
The decisive engagement for Cuba and thus the war as a whole came just offshore on July 3 at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba wherein five battleships, and one cruiser of the American navy took on the four cruisers and two destroyers of Spanish Admiral Pascual Cervera. It was a futile fight and the Spanish knew it, nonetheless, they bravely steamed out to do battle for the honor of the Spanish Crown. One of the Spanish captains remarked with a tragic sense of history, as the buglers called the men to general quarters that, “The sound of my bugles was the last echo of those which history tells us were sounded at the capture of Granada. It was the signal that four centuries of grandeur were at an end…” The Spanish squadron was wiped out with the American fleet losing only one man killed and another wounded. Nonetheless, the American naval officers were deeply impressed by bravery of their Spanish foes and when the Spanish Admiral Cervera was rescued from the water by an American warship, he was piped aboard with great ceremony, including an honor guard of U.S. Marines as a chivalrous tribute to a fallen foe who had showed such courage.

The Americans had come to realize how grossly they had been misled by the mainstream media portrayal of the Spanish and the Cuban rebels, the “fake news” of the day. Their supposed partners, the Cuban rebels, were more of a hindrance than a help. They stole anything that could be carried off and were a constant drain on American logistics. Likewise, in stark contrast to the honor and dignity of the Spanish forces, it was the Cuban rebels that the Americans witnessed behaving with vindictive cruelty and barbarity. In the aftermath of the Battle of Santiago an outraged American officer witness Cubans murdering the wounded and shell-shocked Spanish sailors who washed ashore. He put an immediate stop to that and threatened to massacre the Cubans himself if they harmed another Spanish sailor. Similarly, once the conflict was over, when the Spanish wished to return the body of their fallen hero, General Joaquin Vara del Rey, to Spain, the Cubans stole his body, to the outrage of the Americans who had gained the highest respect for their fallen foe. The American officer in charge ultimately threatened to shoot the local Cuban leader if the body was not immediately recovered. That did the trick and the body was found and returned home with all due ceremony.

General Toral y Velazquez
The last act of the war in Cuba came at Santiago where a truce had been declared while negotiations were underway for a Spanish surrender. The Spanish officers, led by General Jose Toral y Velazquez (Linares having been wounded in the Battle of San Juan Hill) decided that it would be dishonorable to surrender until their situation was more desperate. As such, a siege ensured and U.S. artillery shelled the city for two days until, with the arrival of reinforcements under General Nelson Miles, the Spanish finally decided that honor had been satisfied and agreed to surrender. Puerto Rico was also taken by General Miles without undue difficulty. The last act of the war was to be played out in The Philippines where the Spanish were simply intent on surrendering to the Americans rather than the Filipino rebels led by Emilio Aguinaldo. Such would have been hateful and humiliating and was not really different from the British attitude at the surrender of Yorktown, wishing to surrender to the French rather than the rebel Americans. The Filipinos, asserting their own independence, spoiled the affair and so some bloodshed ensued but, in the end, Manila was taken by the United States, the Spanish surrendered and the rebel natives were kept out of the whole affair.

With their fleet gone and ground forces having surrendered, the Kingdom of Spain had no choice but to sue for peace. The resulting Treaty of Paris was signed on December 10, 1898 saw Guam, Puerto Rico and The Philippines become U.S. territories and the island of Cuba become a U.S. protectorate on the path to full independence as the Republic of Cuba. The U.S. government ratified the treaty the following year and while the Spanish government refused to so, the Queen-regent Maria Christina overruled them, knowing that it would be pointless and suicidal to try to carry on a war that had already been lost against an enemy they had no hope of defeating. The Spanish had lost and the last remaining crumbs of the former Spanish empire in the Americas and Asia were gone. However, Spain had nothing to be ashamed of. They had fallen before a superior foe and had fought with great skill and dedication against impossible odds. Their bravery and as much the chivalry and honorable behavior of the Spanish commanders, had won them the admiration of their adversaries.

Surrendering Spanish army in Cuba
Finally, at the end of the day, the American victory could well be seen as being rather hollow and the Spanish could be forgiven for taking some satisfaction in the fact that American gains proved to be rather illusory. In The Philippines, the United States inherited the guerilla war previously waged against the Spanish and it took another war to firmly suppress the Filipino insurrection. The Philippines, previously coveted by the Japanese and the Germans, proved to be a source of more problems than profits for the United States. Even after World War II and the granting of independence to The Philippines, the Filipino leadership evicted the U.S. Navy from Subic Bay and frequently gains popular favor by painting the Americans as their colonial oppressors, even while huge numbers of Filipinos have preferred to leave their independent country to come to the United States. Puerto Rico has likewise been a huge drain on American resources and an occasional source of terrorist attacks. Cuba, as an independent country, originally showed some degree of friendship and gratitude toward the United States only to eventually become a virulently anti-American communist dictatorship that has bedeviled the American government for decades. As such, in the end, while Spain was defeated, the Spanish can look back with pride at how well they resisted inevitable defeat whereas the modern American could be forgiven for wondering just what exactly were the long-term benefits of a victory that seemed so magnificent at the time.
Loyalist Cuban volunteers for Spain

------- For More Information -------

Consort Profile: Marie Christina of Austria

The Many Times the U.S. Almost Fought Spain (But Didn't)

Monarch Profile: King Alfonso XIII of Spain
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