A History Lesson (Part Two)

In the early hours of July 28, 1914, the man who was then first in line to take the throne of Austria, along with his wife, left Philipovic army camp of Bosnia in a line of automobiles, on a drive that would end with death, and start a cascade of events that led to world war.  An initial attempt at killing Archduke Franz Ferdinand that morning by throwing a bomb at his car failed, but later that day, the Archduke and his wife, Sophie, were fatally shot in their car in front of Moritz Schiller’s food store on Franz Joseph Street in Sarajevo, Bosnia.  It was an assassination that would trigger global conflict, four years of unprecedented death and destruction.

I think that most Americans, like me, were taught very little about World War I in school.  Just a quick, passing overview, the gist of which was something about Germany attempting to take over the world, lots of men dying in trenches, and Americans swooping in at the last minute to save the day, to save the world.  And there was a little something about some duke or something who was killed.  But there was never any explanation, there was no understanding of just how the assassination of one man and his wife could launch the entire world into such a bloody, devastating war.

World War I, known mostly as the Great War before World War II, began a month after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.  On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and then invaded.  There had been increasing tensions between these countries, and surrounding countries, for decades.  Several treaties and agreements had been struck, creating a divisive and increasingly hostile atmosphere throughout Europe and Russia.  Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Kingdom of Italy had formed a Triple Alliance, agreeing to militarily support each other in the event that either of the three was attacked by any other powerful nation.  The Russian Empire, the French Third Republic, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland answered with an agreement of their own, the Triple Entente.  The dominoes were lined up in place, just waiting for the proper catalyst.

When Ferdinand’s car came to a stop outside the store where Gavrilo Princip had just stopped in to buy a sandwich after his fellow assassin, Nedjelko Cabrinovic, had attempted to kill the archduke with a bomb, Princip reacted quickly, and fired two shots.  He hit both the Archduke, and his wife Sophia, who sat next to him in the open car.  Both died shortly thereafter.  This gave Austria-Hungary the excuse it wanted to issue an ultimatum with several demands to Serbia, an ultimatum that was not expected to be agreed upon.  When Serbia agreed to all the demands except for one allowing Austria-Hungary’s participation in an internal investigation into the Archduke’s assassination, the dominoes fell and war was declared.  The countries of the world lined up and took their places in the battle, based on the alliances previously formed.

Over 70 million military personnel were mobilized during the Great War.  More than 9 million combatants were killed, and at least 7 million civilians died as well.  It was one of the deadliest conflicts in the history of the world.  So, just who was this man, Gavrilo Princip, who fired those two shots in Sarajevo that set the world aflame?  What led him to do it?

Gavrilo Princip was born on July 25, 1894 to Serbian parents whose family had been in Bosnia for centuries, according to Wikipedia.  His father was a farmer who earned additional income by transporting mail through the mountains between Bosnia and the Dalmatia region of Croatia.  Gavrilo was a good student, and at the age of 13 he moved to Sarajevo to be enrolled in school there.  In 1911, Gavrilo joined an organization known as Young Bosnia that wanted Bosnia freed from Austria-Hungary’s control and united with Serbia.  In 1912, Gavrilo was expelled from school after involvement in a demonstration against the Austro-Hungarian authorities.  He traveled to Belgrade, Serbia and volunteered to join the guerrilla groups under the leadership of Major Vojin Tankosic that were fighting the Turks.  He was rejected because he was small, and he returned to Sarajevo, humiliated, but traveled back and forth to Belgrade and eventually he met one of the founders of the Serbian Chetnik Organization, Zivojin Rafajlovic, who had him sent to Vranje where the Chetnik training center was located.  There Gavrilo trained to fight and use weapons.  This made him a good candidate for the assassination plot against Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Major Vojin Tankosic, who had rejected Gavrilo for his small size and would later admit to supplying the weapons used in the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, was a member of an organization known as Union or Death, commonly referred to as the Black Hand.  This group formed on May 9, 1911, and by 1914, when Gavrilo Princip would cross paths with them, they had several hundred members, possibly thousands.  Their goal was to bring about the creation of a Greater Serbia, in any way necessary, including the use of guerrilla fighters and saboteurs, and terrorism.  Many Black Hand members were also leaders in government positions, and as a result, the Black Hand had influence over government appointment and policy.  Even Crown Prince Alexander was a supporter.  The Black Hand decided to kill Archduke Ferdinand after learning of his planned visit to Sarajevo, and Gavrilo was recruited for the job, along with two other Young Bosnian members, Nedjelko Cabrinovic and Trifko Grabez.

The assassins were trained, and a short time before Ferdinand’s scheduled visit, they traveled back to Sarajevo with the help of Serbian military personnel, and were joined by four more men.  They were supplied with bombs and army pistols from Serbian arsenals.  It seems apparent that they had plenty of support from authorities, and the Black Hand’s activities were not very secret to the Serbian government, given its large number of government and army members.  Eventually, Prime Minister Pasic learned of the plan, and in hopes of avoiding conflict with Austria-Hungary by keeping the involvement of the Black Hand secret, a rather lack-luster attempt was made to stop the assassins with a recall order.  The essay, The Assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand: Trigger For War says this:

This ‘recall’ appears to make Apis (Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijevic) look like a loose cannon, and the young assassins as independent zealots. In fact, the ‘recall’ took place a full two weeks before the Archduke’s visit. The assassins idled around in Sarajevo for a month. Nothing more was done to stop them. The extensive network of contacts that smuggled them into Sarajevo, fed and housed them, was not utilized to stop them. This calls into question the Black Hand’s and the Serbian government’s desire that the plot truly be cancelled.

Pasic then decided to warn the Austrians.  Like the recall order, this was basically an effort to cover himself and the Serbian government, giving them a measure of deniability.  But it was a very vague and empty warning.  Jovan Jovanovic, the Serbian Minister in Vienna, simply said to Dr. Leon von Bilinski, the Austrian Minister of Finance, that Ferdinand should not go to Sarajevo because, “some young Serb might put a live rather than a blank cartridge in his gun and fire it.”  The implied warning was missed or ignored, and no further warnings were given.

Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were murdered in Sarajevo, and the event was used to trigger the armed conflict that had been brewing for some time, that had in fact already been occurring in some areas.  It was just the excuse that was needed.  And it was delivered to the leaders of these countries through the hands of a young, idealistic man who believed he was fighting for his people, and was willing to die for that effort.

It can be easy, looking back, to speculate that the Black Hand, the Young Bosnia group, any of these secret societies, may have been manipulated and used in order to create desired events, to create the necessary trigger.  After all, this has occurred repeatedly throughout history.  There are enough examples to keep me busy writing history lessons for some time.  But, speculation aside, it is known that members of the Serbian military, and government knew of the assassination plan, and in fact, assisted in various ways to ensure that at least one of the seven assassins would succeed.  And for me, that is the most important lesson to be learned from this piece of history.


A History Lesson (Part One)


When I see an article like this  (and now this 1/28/2017 article) and begin seeing renewed calls to stop the refugees our wars in the middle east have caused, I start to think it might be time for a history lesson.  Because, as Edmund Burke clearly stated, “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”  And I fear we are forgetting a past mistake, and toying with repeating it (admittedly, not for the first time exactly).

In February of 1942, the US Army General in charge of Western Defense Command (which commanded the defense of the entire west coast of the USA), John L. DeWitt, made a request for expanded authority within this area of command.  Initially this was to impose curfews and restrictions on Japanese-Americans living on the west coast.  His request was granted with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s issuance of Executive Order 9906. Ultimately, this led to the order in May of 1942 that anyone of Japanese descent who resided within 100 miles of the west coast would be required to either relocate from this region or report to detention centers.

The US government defended this action by saying it was necessary for national security.  DeWitt argued it would be impossible to determine a Japanese-American’s loyalty to the United States.  The media fueled the fire by promoting the idea that the Japanese-American citizens couldn’t be trusted, stirring up fears all along the west coast.  The result was that over 100,000 Japanese-Americans were moved to various internment camps around the west, where they remained during the war, and even for some time after the war was over.  They were forced to leave behind property, businesses, farms, much of which was sold at great loss.  They were never accused of any crime, they hadn’t committed any.  They were simply detained in camps on the slim chance that any one of them would commit some traitorous action, or attack, against America.

Whether this action was Constitutional was challenged twice in Supreme Court cases, Hirabayashi v. United States and Korematsu v. United States.  The Supreme Court held in both cases that it was.  This meant that they protected the legal authority of the military to decide what was necessary for national security during war, not the elected representatives of the people, or the people themselves.  Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote:

…the validity of action under the war power must be judged wholly in the context of war.  That action is not to be stigmatized as lawless because like action in times of peace would be lawless.  To talk about a military order that expresses an allowable judgment of war needs by those entrusted with the duty of conducting war as an ‘unconstitutional order’ is to suffuse a part of the Constitution with an atmosphere of unconstitutionality.

I have been to Tule Lake, where one of the internment camps was located, many times.  I have seen homes made from camp barracks.  I find it to be a depressing place, flat and brown.  I can’t imagine being forced to spend years there, behind guarded wires.  I certainly can’t imagine being forced from my home, from my community, to be incarcerated as an act of national security.  The effects were heartbreaking.

Of course there was the devastating loss of property and personal belongings.  That included items that were placed in government storage that were stolen or destroyed.  But more important  were the effects on the people detained.  Some died due to inadequate medical care, seven were even shot and killed by guards.  Dillon S. Myer, the director of the War Relocation Authority that ran many camps, observed that the detainees were becoming “increasingly depressed” and were “overcome with feelings of helplessness and personal insecurity.” Satsuki Ina writes,  in her May 27th, 2015 article entitled, “I Know An American ‘Internment’ Camp When I See One:”

In my work with Japanese-Americans who had been incarcerated as children, many reported struggles with anxiety and depression as adults.  Particularly key was the environment in which they were held and the torment and suffering that they witnessed their parents experiencing.

(I highly recommend reading her powerful article about South and Central American women and children being held in Texas facilities, found here.  Another heart breaking detention crisis.)

It took far too many years to admit that it had been wrong to relocate and detain Japanese-Americans during World War II, and even longer to redress the mistake.  In 1983, Korematsu’s conviction that the Supreme Court had upheld was overturned because material evidence had been withheld.  That evidence included the Ringle Report, a report submitted by an Office of Naval Intelligence officer, Kenneth Ringle, in January of 1942.  In this report, he stated that the majority of Japanese-Americans were loyal to the United States and did not present any danger.  Any that might present a danger could be “individually identified and imprisoned.”  He argued against mass relocation and internment.  It wasn’t until 2011 that the justice department formally concluded that the case no longer stood as legal precedence.

In 1988, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 provided financial reparations to those affected by the internment.  $1.6 billion was paid out in $20,000.00 increments to 82,210 Japanese-Americans according to this report.  Internment was expensive.  The reparation costs are on top of what it cost to build, staff and operate the internment facilities, and whatever economic loss that may have occurred as a result of the sudden removal of such a large portion of the work force.  So, if you can’t see it as an awful thing to do to people, if you can’t see the cost to humanity, look at the financial cost.

Sadly, it hasn’t taken us very long to forget that it was wrong.  And it hasn’t taken us very long to forget those distressing images of dead children on beaches that had so many people crying out to help Syrian refugees.  The attacks in Paris have once again raised the cries to close borders and round up the refugees who have already come, in the name of national security.

Republican Representative Mick Mulvaney, from South Carolina, said on Tuesday,

Even amongst the most pro-immigration wings of the Republican party, there is a sense that national security absolutely has to come first.  So, we’re trying hard not to over-react.  But, at the same time, if there’s a threat to national security that has to take priority.

See the full article here, in which Speaker Ryan calls for “a pause in Syrian refugees.”

I understand that we are talking about refugees coming from another country, not our own citizens, in this current debate about the refugee crisis in the middle east and Europe.  But how can we make it okay, again, to punish an entire race of people on such a massive scale (it isn’t okay on any scale and I know it happens all the time here) on the small chance that a few of them will cause, or has caused us harm?  Consider what Professor Eugene Rostow, later dean of the Yale law school, wrote in 1945 regarding the internment of Japanese-Americans:

The idea of punishment only for individual criminal behavior is basic to all systems of civilized laws.  A great principle was never lost so casually.

(Same could be said for our wars of aggression!)

And also consider what Justice Black said after Korematsu’s conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court:

I dissent, therefore, from this legalization of racism.  Racial discrimination in any form and in any degree has no justifiable part whatever in our democratic way of life.  It is unattractive at any setting but it is utterly revolting among a free people who have embraced the principles set forth in the Constitution of the United States.  All residents of the nation are kin in some way by blood or culture to a foreign land.  Yet they are primarily and necessarily a part of the new and distinct civilization of the United States.  They must accordingly be treated at all times as the heirs of the American experiment and as entitled to the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

What happens when that race is your own?  What happens when it is your belief system?  How many US mass shooters have been white, US born and bred?  How many were legal gun owners?  Should we round up all the gun owners?  How many of them were Christian?  Should we round up all the Christians?  Should we round up all the Catholics because some in the church raped children?  All for national security?

Yes, I’m taking that to a ridiculous degree, but if you really consider the implications of collective punishment, how can you not consider how ridiculous, and dangerous, it actually is?  If you continue to let the government undermine and remove the rights of others, eventually it will get around to undermining and removing yours.  I dare say it already has.

Additional links and sources

Internment history, supreme court cases, etc

Wikipedia on the internment

A portion of John DeWitt’s letter regarding the internment

Brief biography of Kenneth Ringle

And, the book in the photo, a cherished signed copy of Silent Siege II, by Bert Webber, published in 1988 by the Webb Research Group