CONCERNING the manner in which the Turk has always profited from the conflicting interests and jealousies of Christian powers, Lord Morley made the following shrewd remark years ago:
“This peculiar strife between Ottoman and Christian gradually became a struggle among the Christian Powers of Northern and Western Europe to turn tormenting questions in the East to the advantage of private ambitions of their own.”
This comment of the famous Englishman was voiced before the full dawn of the Petroleum Age, and while as yet America’s chief interest in Turkey was the protection of a few missionaries.
A brief review of the political situation, which afforded the Turks unbridled license to “raise the hand of violence,” is here necessary. It will be evident that they have again profited by their well-known policy of exploiting the dissensions and conflicting interest of Christian powers. They have been as sensitive as a barometer to the least sign of dissension among European governments or peoples, and have shown extraordinary shrewdness in provoking or augmenting it.
The Turk was the ally of the Germans during the Great War, and perhaps his most useful one. Practically all the gold disappeared from Turkey and there is only one place to which it could have gone. The Turkish Empire was ransacked for wheat and other food supplies. Long train-loads of foodstuffs, marked “Berlin” were moved with great frequency toward Constantinople from Smyrna and other distant points. He held the Straits stoutly against the British and French, and one of his proudest and most frequent boasts to-day is that he defeated them there. Germany, one of the great-civilized powers, was the ally of the Turks while they were carrying on the extermination of the Armenians. After the defeat of Germany, it was taken for granted that the bad days of the Christians of the Ottoman Empire were over. Turkey was paralyzed.
Mustapha Khemal, who burned Smyrna and completed the destruction of the Christians, is a creature of Europe. It can not be denied that the original plan of the Allies included the partition of the Ottoman Empire and that various projects were formed and promises made which could not be realized on account of conflicting interests, and that the Turks were aided by one or the other of the Powers either secretly or openly to defeat the ambitions of rivals.
In the course of this sad history, Christians were armed against their hereditary oppressors and then left to the vengeance of the latter. In general, they were abandoned, as no Christian power desired to offend the Turk, from whom great benefits were expected, to be in turn showered on the subjects of the power that showed itself most Turkophile. The United States did not abstain from this gruesome competition. In the beginning, interest prompted the spread of what came to be a well-nigh universal pro-Turk propaganda in Christian countries. When the fearful death harvest of this sinister sowing began to be reaped, fear of popular indignation and disapproval gave rise to a policy of suppression of the truth and to anti-Christian propaganda.
During my days in Saloniki, 1910-14, both Italy and Austria were supposed to be looking forward to an early occupation of that city and their battleships made frequent visits there, vying with one another in the lavishness of their hospitality to the inhabitants. The common subject of conversation was, “Which will have Saloniki, Austria or Italy ?