Saturday, April 14, 2018

Ethiopia 1936 / Syria 2018

Mussolini gassed Ehiopia


In 1935-36 Mussolini launched a brutal invasion of a sovereign African nation -- Ethiopia.  His troops used poison gas to slaughter thousands of Ethiopian civilians.  We had this to say in the Ethiopia chapter of Italy Invades: How Italians Conquered the World...


"In October 1935, a vast Italian Army with extensive armored and air support advanced into Ethiopia in the second Italo-Ethiopian war. They reached Adwa and captured Aksum. The Ethiopians retaliated with a Christmas offensive. But in 1936, the Italians continued to press forward. The Italian forces had vast superiority in armaments and won a series of encounters, including the Battle of Enderta, the Battle of Shire, and the decisive Battle of Lake Ashenge. On May 5, 1936, Italian forces entered the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. However, Ethiopian resistance had not ended in substantial parts of the country, and a bitter guerrilla war followed before Italy took full control. Mussolini ordered the use of poison gas, delivered via artillery and by air, against Ethiopian forces. General Graziani declared brutally, 'The Duce will have Ethiopia, with or without the Ethiopians.'"
(Source: www.italyinvades.com)

Italians have much to be proud of.  But it must be admitted that Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia and his use of poison gas was a disgrace.  Moreover, the West's complete lack of any coordinated response to the fascist aggression in Africa was hopelessly irresponsible.  Aggression went unchecked.  Just three year's after Il Duce's conquest of Ethiopia, World War II would begin with Hitler's September 1939 invasion of Poland.  The entire world would be plunged into the bloodiest war in human history.

The parallels of Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia are not exact (Assad has attacked his own people with chemical weapons rather than a foreign nation, for example) but they are instructive.  History does not always repeat itself but it often rhymes.

The world did not really care much about the fate of the Ethiopians in 1936.  It does not seem to care much about the fate the Syrians caught up in a brutal civil war today.  But it should have cared back then and it must today.

One may or may not agree with the various domestic and foreign policies of Trump, May and Macron.  And they are open to fair criticism for having telegraphed their intentions before the fact.  But one must concede that something needed to be done with regard to Assad's blatant disregard for all international norms with his use of Chlorine and, perhaps, Sarin gas on Syrian civilians.  Aggression must be checked in the 21st century to prevent the outbreak of catastrophic conflicts by appeasement-emboldened tyrants.

It is comforting to see a restoration of the Special relationship between America and its oldest allies -- Britain and France.  Churchill, FDR and DeGaulle would be smiling down on today's political leaders for the actions they have taken in calling a halt to the use of brutal and inhumane weapons.  It is always better to act in concert with allies rather than for America to act alone.  Based on the early morning timing for these attacks, it is evident that the Allies worked hard to minimize civilian and collateral casualties.

Thoughts and prayers go out today to the brave men and women serving in the American, British and French militaries that have conducted these much-needed and overdue strikes against the Assad regime.


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