FRANCE’S participation in the Near Eastern tragedy is well known. Her motives are not far to seek: A frank, bitter and undiluted hatred of King Constantine and everything connected with him, and suspicion of England’s expansion in a region to which France herself has been devoting great attention for many years. French capitalists and the French Government have been investing heavily in Turkey and Gallic propaganda has been pushed by a vast network of Catholic schools officially supported, whose object, in so far as the government’s interest is concerned, has been to catch the natives young and make Frenchmen of them. British or other expansion and predominating influence in Turkey has meant the imperiling of the great sums invested and the annulment of years of patient labor.
This invasion of the Ottoman Empire is admirably set forth in a lecture delivered in 1922 by Monsieur Passereau, Director of the French Commercial Bureau of Constantinople, and published in ext enso in the Echo de France of Sniyrna. Extracts are herewith given:
“To-day one unconsciously associates such places as Constantinople, Jerusalem, Beirut, Syria and the Lebanon with French influence, and here are in fact presented almost innumerable proofs of the many ways in which the French now exert and have for a long time exercised a vast and beneficial influence from one end of the Orient to the other.”
“Our schools, our welfare institutions, hospitals, asylums for the aged, homes for the foundlings and orphanages are established in every port in the Levant. In every city of the interior, in all of the important villages, along the entire length of the railways completed or under construction, there are French instructors, people who teach the children our name, our language and our history.”
“Let us now make a survey of French financial interests in the Ottoman Empire and see to what extent French influence has made itself felt in this connection. Some of these interests are herewith listed and enlarged upon:
“Ottoman Public Debt: France’s share of the Public Debt, external and internal, is 250,000,000,000 francs, or 60.81% of the capital of the entire debt. The remainder of the debt is principally divided between England and Germany, the former holding 14.19% and the latter 21.81%.”
“Turkish Loans: The history of governmental loans in Turkey dates back to the Crimean War. Since that time, France has without cessation, upon every occasion where the public debt was threatened by internal difficulty, intervened either in the form of assistance in reorganization or financial subscription;”
“French Private Enterprises in Turkey: France has approximately 1,100,000,000 francs invested in private concerns in the Ottoman Empire. Her participation in the industrial activities of the Empire aggregates 53.5% of the total, as opposed to 13.68% enjoyed by Great Britain and 32.77% by Germany. These organizations embracing activities in the form of banks, railways, ports, electric power plants, telephones, tramways, etc., extend over the entire domain of Turkey and surround the economic life of the Orient with a network of French interests. (Among interests of this sort mentioned by the lecturer are the Imperial Ottoman and other banks, the tobacco monopoly, etc.)”
“Railways: France has under construction and exploitation 2,077 kilometres, with an invested capital of 550,288,000 francs, as opposed to Germany’s 2,565 kilometres and England’s 610. France has 42,210,000 francs invested in mines in Turkey, besides about 80,000,000 in quays and ports.”
In addition, the lecturer gives a list of thirty-nine important miscellaneous enterprises, including industrial, commercial, insurance, shipping and other corporations. It should be remembered that the investments listed above were made in gold.
French sentiments, especially as regards England, are revealed in a work by the French writer, Michel Paillares, entitled Le Khemalism devant Les Allies, published in 1922. Monsieur Paillares is one of the editors of the journal L’Eclaire of Paris.
The following quotation is from one of the conversations held by Paillares with French officers at Constantinople, showing their strong pro-Turk, anti-Christian and anti-English feelings:
“I am introduced to an officer in command. He is a man all of one piece. He does not mince his words. He is like a man carved out of rock, for he is unmovable in his sympathies and his antipathies. Like the lieutenant of the Navy whom we have already heard, but more furiously still, he is the enemy of the Armenians, the Greeks, the Jews and—the English.”
“ ‘As for me,’ he snaps, ‘there is not even room for discussion! We ought to be completely, absolutely Turkophiles—I will say more, Turko-enthusiasts (Turcomanes). I love the Mussulmans and I hate their non-Mussulman subjects, who are rubbish. Assure these brave men their independence and their territorial integrity and we shall have in them the most faithful and the most loyal of allies. What do we seek here! A rampart against Russia and British imperialism! The maintenance of our prestige! The free development of our commerce, the expansion of our language! The respect of our schools and colleges! The safeguarding of our financial interests! We shall have all that by means of a French-Turkish collaboration. We ought no longer to hear the Jeremiads of the Armenians and the Greeks and the Jews. We must no longer play the game, neither of England nor of Russia. Russia, although split up by Bolshevism, must always be watched. She has intentions with regard to this country, which we must not encourage. But I do not think that she is an immediate danger. It is Great Britain, which, above all, is becoming troublesome. We are, nearly all of us (French officers) for the Khemalists and against the British and the Greeks.”
Though this is the opinion of a single individual, it expresses pretty clearly the general French attitude of mind as shown by French policy since the Armistice. It is evident that the sentiments of this French officer and of his colleagues, for whom he speaks, display a keen note of discord among the Allies, helpful to the Turk even in his gruesome work of massacring Christians.
Professor Davis says in “A Short History of the Near East”:
“In August, 1922, apparently with French munitions and French counselors, the Khemalists suddenly attacked the Greek positions in Bithynia. The Greeks were in poor morale, worn out by long campaigning and miserably led. Their army was utterly routed and evacuated Anatolia with almost incredible speed. The Turks drove straight onward to Smyrna, which they took (September 9, 1922) and then burned. The world was again horrified by one of the now standardized Ottoman massacres of conquered populations.”
It is to be noted that neither the French nor the Italians permitted the Greek navy to search the ships of their nationals proceeding to Turkish ports, which is in itself a breach of neutrality and can have but one interpretation—that they were carrying arms and supplies to the Khemalists, with the consent and protection of their governments.
For these reasons the battle-ships of the brave and chivalric French, “Protectors of the Christians in the Orient,” were obliged to sit quietly among the dead bodies floating in the Bay of Smyrna and watch the massacre going on.
The following typical incident illustrates the perfect harmony prevailing in naval circles in the Harbor of Smyrna resulting from international discords and how punctiliously the amenities were observed: An admiral of a battle-ship had been invited to dine with one of his colleagues. He arrived some minutes late and apologized for the delay, which had been caused by the dead body of a woman getting tangled up in the propeller of his launch.
That lucid and well-informed writer, Doctor Herbert Adams Gibbons, in an article in the “Century Magazine” for October, 1921, gives the best analysis of the French and Italian attitude with regard to the Turks that I have seen anywhere. It can not, of course, be reproduced in extenso here, but a few quotations will be sufficient to show that French support of the Turks was due to fear and jealousy of the British. Says Doctor Gibbons:
“The British regarded Greece as a sort of protectorate, financially and militarily under the control of Great Britain. The scheme was spoiled by the fall of Venizelos and the subsequent defeat of the Greek armies in Asia Minor.”
“The Near East had been culturally French since the Crusades. From Saloniki to Beirut, France was determined to reign supreme. Palestine represented the very last concession that it was possible for the French to make. Of course the French did not hope to possess Constantinople, but they were not going to let the British settle themselves on the Bosphorus, as they had done at Gibraltar and Port Said, in Malta and Cyprus. For this would mean British domination of the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, and for British capital and British goods the priority in markets which had been traditionally French.”
“I am not conjecturing. The trend of the French press, inspired by the government, leaves no room for doubt as to what is prompting France to send arms and money to Khemal Pasha.”
“During the war one of the telling indictments against Germany was her friendship for and alliance with Turkey when the Armenians were being massacred. Germany was held responsible for the massacres on the ground that she could have stopped them had she used her influence with her ally. This was true; but is it not equally true now that France must bear the opprobrium and in a measure the responsibility, of the Armenian and Greek massacres of 1920 and 1921? A French general negotiated with the Nationalists in Cilicia without stipulating, that the massacres should cease. French diplomats have negotiated with the Angora Government of Khemal Pasha, conniving at the massacres of Armenians and Greeks. The sole thought of the Germans during the war was to use the Turks and not run any risk of offending them by protesting against the massacres. This is exactly what the French are doing now.”
This is plain talk and—horrible. The question that naturally arises in the mind of any decent American is, what, if anything, was the United States, the great Christian country, the hope of the world and fountain of missionary activities, doing while all this was going on? What influence was she using, what resounding note of protest and horror was she giving utterance to?
Various historical events connected with the French pro-Turk, but really anti-English activities, are interesting to the student of diplomatic psychology, and the ease with which peoples can be influenced in their predilections and hatreds by those governing them.
At a critical period of the War, on the Balkan front, the Allies demanded the demobilization of the Greek army, the surrender of half of the Greek fleet and a great part of the Greek artillery. King Constantine, after his successful campaigns in the Balkans, had become an object of almost divine worship to the Greeks, and the Allies were afraid of him. On December 2, 1916, a party of French Marines marched into Athens to take possession of the Greek material demanded. They were fired on by Greek soldiers and a number of French Marines were killed.
This was a most regrettable act on the part of the Greeks, and foolish. It was more foolish to send a few foreign Marines into a capital city to drag off its artillery and expect them to be received with open arms. This unfortunate event is the basis to-day of deep-seated hatred of French against Greek.
O. F. Abbott, in his work, “Greece and the Allies”, gives the results of the so-called “Battle of Athens” as follows:
“And so the ‘pacific demonstration’ was over, having cost the Greeks four officers and twenty-six men killed and for officers and fifty-one men wounded. The Allied casualties were sixty killed, including six officers, and one hundred and seventy-six wounded’’
On April 10, 1920, the Khemalmts treacherously massacred the French garrison at Urfa, killing one hundred and ninety men and wounding about one hundred more, and on October 20, 1921, Franklin Bouillon, in the name of the French Republic signed a separate treaty with the Turks. Immediately after the burning of Smyrna he rushed to the still-smoking city and, seizing Mnstapha KhemaI in his arms, kissed him.
This kiss of Franklin Bouillon has become historic, and while bearing no resemblance to a certain other famous and sinister caress, deserves to rank with it as one of the two most famous kisses in sacred and profane history.