Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Today -100: March 1, 1917: Conduct war jointly, conduct peace jointly

Headline of the Day -100:

The note, which is being leaked to the press on Woodrow Wilson’s personal orders, is from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to the ambassador to Mexico ordering him to propose to Mexico, if the US declaring war on Germany in response to its resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare seems imminent, that it join in fighting the US and in return receive Texas, Arizona and New Mexico – “conduct war jointly, conduct peace jointly” – and ask Mexico to ask Japan to break with the Entente and join Germany.

Actually, the headline is a lie: it was actually British Naval Intelligence which intercepted and decyphered the Zimmermann Telegram and passed it to the US, which pretended publicly that it had cleverly discovered it all on its own. In fact, British Naval Intel’s head, Admiral William “Blinker” Hall, lied to the Americans about how he got it since he’d actually retrieved it from the US State Dept’s channels, which the US had allowed Germany access to to communicate with its embassy in Washington in the hopes that Germany would ask Wilson to mediate a peace deal. Hall didn’t want the Americans to figure out that he was also reading all their (weakly encrypted) communications, even going to the trouble of intercepting the telegram a second time, as it was transmitted via Western Union from the German embassy in Washington to the embassy in Mexico City. The British role won’t become public until the 1920s. None of today’s newspaper stories say how the telegram came into the hands of the US government, although there’s speculation that it came from a search of expelled Ambassador Bernstorff’s baggage. The AP broke the news, and the AP ain’t talking.

Mexico will deny that the offer was ever made. It was but Carranza never seriously considered it, correctly calculating that Germany would provide minimal assistance, as it had with the Easter Rising in Ireland, and obviously Mexican forces, which haven’t been able to put down Pancho Villa, would be crushed by the US. In truth, the German Foreign Office just sort of half-assedly jotted this idea down on the back of a napkin, fired off the telegram and then more or less forgot about it. They will actually be a bit surprised that the US is making such a big deal about this “plot.”

The NYT says that Huerta’s attempt to return to power in Mexico in 1915, which was thwarted by his arrest by US federal agents, was bankrolled by Germany. It wasn’t.

The Japanese embassy denies any knowledge of such a German proposal and says Japan would never betray its Entente allies. Which it wouldn’t, because it already seized Germany’s Far East possessions at the start of the war, so Germany doesn’t really have anything to offer them.

Speaking of the Japanese, the Idaho Legislature derails the Alien Land Bill, but may still outlaw marriages between whites and “Mongolians.”

The House Foreign Affairs Committee reports out Pres. Wilson’s bill giving him the authority to arm merchant ships, but strikes out the clause allowing him to use “such other instrumentalities and methods as may in his judgment and discretion seem necessary and adequate”. Also, the US government will not be insuring cargoes of munitions.

Wilson orders Admiral Mayo to land 250 marines on Cuba to protect American and other foreign lives and property. Mostly sugar mills.

The House votes to impose prohibition on the District of Columbia.

Opera singer Eleanore Cochran goes bankrupt due to the influx of European opera singers who have come to the US since the start of the war.

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