Saturday, July 19, 2014

More on Apis and the Black Hand . . . and the Folly of the Monarchs

I recently reviewed many U.S. history books and texts, from a variety of high profile publishers. Amazingly little mention is made of Serbia as a nation-state in 1914, and zero mention is made of the Black Hand organization or its shadowy leader, Apis (a.k.a Colonel Dragutin Dimitricivitch).

Remarkably, the core cause of the outbreak of World I is ignored in mainstream U.S. history. The basic facts are these: Apis (left) founded the Black Hand along with other Serbian military officers including Major Voja Tonkositch; the Black Hand sought to unify all Serbians beyond the borders of Serbia to create a Greater Serbia; they are associated with a number of assassinations and attempted assassinations; they orchestrated the Sarajevo Assassination that led to World War I; Apis was the head of Serbian Military intelligence; Serbian border guards participated in the Sarajevo plot; the weapons used in the Sarajevo assassination came from the Serbian state armory; and Prime Minister Pasic knew of the nefarious activities of Apis and acted quickly after June 28, 1914 to cover them up. This is all established in my prior posts, as well as a series of new books on the causes of World War I.

The Austrians found all the essential elements of the assassination plan that could be found from an investigation in Sarajevo. The confession of Danilo Ilic (and other assassins) immediately after the assassination directly accused Major Tankositch (right) and the Serbian military in the assassination. The Austria-Hungarian government would need assistance from the Serbian government to follow the leads into Belgrade. That is where things stood on July 13, 1914, and at this point Serbia could have co-operated (as in any transnational murder plot) and World War I could have been averted--saving up to 37 million from the ravages of war.

But Serbia chose not to cooperate at all and the Russians backed them to the hilt through their Serbian Blank Check. Why? Well because both the Serbs and the Russians were in on the murder plot up to their ears, according to the eventual confession of Apis, reproduced here (and generally not otherwise available online):
"Feeling that Austria was planning a war with us, I thought that the disappearance of the Austrian Heir Apparent would weaken the power of military clique he headed, and thus the danger of war would be removed or postponed for a while. I engaged Malobabic to organize the assassination on the occasion of the announced arrival of Franz Ferdinand to Sarajevo. I made up my mind about this only when Artamanov [The Russian Military Attaché in Serbia] assured me that Russia would not leave us without protection if we were attacked by Austria. On this occasion I did not mention my intention for the assassination, and my motive for asking his opinion about Russia's attitude was the possibility that Austria might become aware of our activities, and use this as a pretext to attack us. Malobabic executed my order, organized and performed the assassination. His chief accomplices were in my service and received small payments from me. Some of their receipts are in the hands of the Russians, since I got money for this purpose from Artamanov, as the General Staff [of the Serbian Army] did not have funds available for this increased activity."
As for the Russians, Artamanov admitted that he had funded the Black Hand (but denied fore kowledge of the assassination). Thus, the Apis confession is fully consistent with the report of attorney Freidrich Von Wiesner of July 13, 2014, as well as subsequent admissions by Colonel Artamanov.

In light of the above, blaming primarily Germany for World War I is untenable, even though Germany also suffered from a dim monarch who went on vacation during July 1914. Moreover, the mainstream US approach that vague notions of militarism, alliances, and nationalism led to war is also nonsense. These forces are constants and yet do not always lead to war. (Consider the cold war for example, which never erupted like Europe in 1914).

Instead, World War I illustrates the problems with concentrated, unaccountable, and non-meritocratic power. It proves the folly of monarchies, and the need for law to channel and curb power for the benefit and welfare of society generally, as I argue in Lawless Capitalism, and will elaborate on shortly.

Indeed, the monarchs of World War I closely resemble the financial titans of today--willing and able to bring great ruin upon the world in reckless pursuit of their own venal and narrow self-interest.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Emperor Franz Joseph and the Incredible Missing Dossier

Emperor Franz Joseph of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire haplessly occupied the Hapsburg throne from 1848 to 1916, one of the longest reigns in history. As the French noted just before the war, Franz Joseph "has no character to speak of; he's a drifter, floating from one system to the next; he has no real friends or confidants; he trusts no one, and inspires confidence in no one, nor does he even believe in himself." Further, he was an "utterly inert, stupid and despairing soul." As Emperor, Franz Joseph would not allow anyone to speak unless he spoke to them first. At 84 years old in 1914 he was borderline senile or as one scholar puts it "the emperor had been in an alarming state of dotage for years." (Wawro, xxiv, 17, 21, 31). All of this would be interesting trivia except for the fact that Emperor Franz Joseph bears the ultimate responsibility for Austria-Hungary's declaration of war on Serbia on July 28, 1914, leading to World War I. That declaration can only be termed recklessly suicidal and inexplicably stupid.

My argument begins on July 13, 1914. On July 13, 1914, the Austrian lawyer, Freidrich Von Wiesner, had completed his investigation into the conspiracy to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. His findings directly implicated Serbian officials. According to Sean McMeekin, in July 1914: Countdown to War (p. 120) :
While Wiesner all but ruled out actual Serbian government complicity in plotting the crime, he did declare it “beyond reasonable doubt” that the plot had been hatched in Belgrade with the assistance of (Serbian Army) Major Tankositch, who had provided the assassins with “bombs, Brownings, ammunition, and cyanide of potassium” to swallow after their deed. It was also clear that “Princip, Chabrinovitch, and Grabezh [had been] secretly smuggled across the frontier by Serbian officials.” While Wiesner’s report did not go far beyond what Potiorek had already discovered, his careful, lawyerly prose reassured Berchtold that a proper dossier outlining Serbian guilt would be ready in time to make Austria’s case for war.
Major Voja Tankositch was a co-founder and a leader (McMeekin, 7) of the Black Hand, which had deep connections within the Sebian state, most particularly through the head of Serbian Military Intelligence, Apis (who ultimately confessed to leading the Sarajevo assassination plot). (McMeekin, 9). Apis is the code name for Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijevic who was the ultimate leader of the Black Hand.

In other words, in just over two weeks the Austrian lawyer had uncovered a conspiracy that certainly involved senior members of the Serbian government, even if the government itself had not formally sanctioned the assassination. In fact, it ultimately came to light that the Prime Minister himself had foreknowledge of the entire affair, as noted in my prior post. So, Austria-Hungary had solid cause to demand a more thorough investigation in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, as they would do in their ultimatum to Serbia that triggered war.

But, instead of using this evidence to show the justness of their cause Austria sat on it until July 25, 1914, when they finally shared a dossier of their evidence with the other powers of Europe (including their ally Germany). (Document No. 19). This is after they sent their ultimatum to Serbia on July 23, after France and Russia pledged complete support to Serbia, and long after any reasonable expectation for such a crucial document containing such crucial evidence should have been issued. At that point all the powers had well-anchored positions.

The dossier should have been ordered to be distributed to all powers by Franz Joseph on July 15, 1914, at the latest. But he was on vacation, five hours from Vienna, with his mistress.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tsar Nicholas II and the Serbian "Blank Check"

Current prevailing wisdom is that Germany bears most of the responsibility for World War I due in no small part to the so-called "blank check" to Austria-Hungary, discussed in my prior post, as well as its expansionist designs. Perhaps this view is most cogently propagated by Max Hastings in a recent (outstanding) BBC documentary, A Necessary War.

Yet, Tsar Nicholas II issued a very similar "blank check" to Serbia in February of 1914, and in 1914 Serbia was a lawless state with a sordid record of assassinations, attempted assassinations and regicide. Indeed, there is powerful evidence that Russia actually funded the terrorist activities of Serbia, and at least was willfully blind to Serbian complicity in the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. And, there is little doubt Russia had its own expansionary designs, with its sights set on a warm water port in the Balkans. (Wawro, 51).

Therefore I contend that Tsar Nicholas and Russia bear more responsibility for World War I and its tragic consequences than the Kaiser and Germany.

This contention rests first on the nature of Serbia in 1914 as an outlaw state. Serbia's Head of Military Intelligence, Apis (a.k.a. Dragutin Dimitrijevic) and his activities (including a confession of leading the conspiracy to assassinate Franz Ferdinand) prove the point. This man was a one man assassination machine. He was leader in the military coup that unseated and murdered King Alexander in 1903. In 1911, he plotted to assassinate Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph. Apis was a founder of the Black Hand, a terrorist organization that sought Serbian expansion. He led the plot to kill Franz Ferdinand and his links to the Serbian Government implicated Serbia at the highest level. (Clark, 48).

Indeed, four days before the assassination in Sarajevo, Prime Minister Nicholas Pasic stated: "All our allies and friends, if they knew what our officers and Sargents are doing, would not only abandon us, they would stand on the side of Austria-Hungary." (Clark, 58-59). Simply put, the prime minister knew that "assassinations" were brewing in Serbia. (Id.).

More importantly, according to the Apis confession not only did he orchestrate the assassination but he did it with Russian complicity. (Taylor, 196-201). And, the Russian agent, Col. Artamonov the military attache in Belgrade, admitted in 1930 that Russia funded the Black Hand, even while denying foreknowledge of the Assassination. (Clark, 411-412).

So, fundamentally, Tsarist Russia backed a terrorist state--a far greater sin than Germany's blank check to Austria-Hungary. And, consider the nature of support. On Feruary 2, 1914, the Tsar told Prime Minister Pasic: "For Serbia we shall do everything." On July 27, 1914, the Tsar personally reaffirmed the blank check to Serbia stating: "but if, despite everything, there is war you can rest assured that Russia will never abandon Serbia to her fate."

On July 27, the only demand of Austria on Serbia that Serbia could not accept was for a joint investigation of the Sarajevo Assassination. Russia rejected Austria-Hungary's right to any such investigation and would not require Serbia to undertake such an investigation. Russia wanted war instead of an investigation.

More specifically, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Sazonov told Austrian diplomats on July 8, 1914, that any demand for Serbian government support for an investigation was unacceptable, and that "no proof" of Serbian complicity would ever emerge. (Clark, 408-409). Further, Sazonov urged Serbia to reject outright any joint inquiry with Austria into the Sarajevo Assassination. (Id. at 455 and 465).

The bottom line is either Tsarist Russia knew of Serbian (as well as its own) complicity and desperately wanted it covered-up, or it was willfully blind to the truth and would rather plunge the world into war than learn the truth.

The Russian Empire under Tsar Nicholas was grossly negligent if not affirmatively lawless in its support of Serbia. The Russian disinclination to permit an investigation into the assassination is simply inexplicable.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Kaiser Wilhelm and July 5, 1914

Historians furiously debate the causes and blame for World War I. Recent books continue to fuel the arguments. But all generally agree that the events leading to World War I became a runaway train that ultimately claimed nearly 20 million souls for reasons that can only be termed obscure. Basically, none of the protagonists and antagonists wanted the mad catastrophe that is World War I. Indeed, the war is widely considered the primordial catastrophe of the 20th century in that it spawned Nazism, fascism, communism and, ultimately, World War II with all its horrors.

In this post, I want to focus on Kaiser Wilhelm, who certainly contends for the dimmest bulb in the twilight of monarchies that dominated the European scene in 1914. On July 5, 1914 Kaiser Wilhelm issued the infamous "blank check" that ultimately drove Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia on July 28, 1914--triggering a virtual cavalcade of war declarations. The declaration of war was in response to Serbia's role in the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 2014. This led directly to the cataclysm of World War I.

After telling the Austrian and Hungarian authorities that Germany would support their efforts against Serbia no matter what, the Kaiser went off on a three week cruise to Norway. During his absence the Austrian Hungarian Empire issued the famous ultimatum to Serbia. Serbia complied with the ultimatum to such an extent that the Kaiser himself concluded that Austria-Hungary had no cause for war. The Kaiser stated that the Serbian response was:
A brilliant solution—and in barely 48 hours! This is more than could have been expected. A great moral victory for Vienna; but with it every pretext for war falls to the ground, and [the Ambassador] Giesl had better have stayed quietly at Belgrade. On this document, I should never have given orders for mobilisation.
Nevertheless, Emperor Franz Joseph had already declared war on Serbia and all Europe was plunged into war. The irony is that Austria-Hungary was not about to got to war without German support. After giving it unconditional support and even goading Vienna into attacking, Germany's head of state only concluded that war was not necessary when it was too late to stop it.

All that needed to be done to avoid the coming catastrophe was to more closely monitor unfolding events and to insist upon close communication between Berlin and Vienna.

In the end, the blank check backfired on the Kaiser and, unfortunately, the rest of humanity.

All of this proves the folly of a monarchy and the dangers of concentrated power insufficiently constrained by law. One man's errors led to nearly 20,000,000 dead. The next post will discuss the further follies of monarchs leading to World War I.