Monday, May 16, 2016

Today -100: May 16, 1916: Of Sykes-Picot, Waco lynchings, Irish brigades, and sending in the Marines

The Sykes-Picot Agreement is signed. It won’t be in the newspaper because it’s, shhh, a secret deal between Britain and France. It’s named after its negotiators, Colonel Sir Tatton Benvenuto Mark Sykes and François Marie Denis Georges-Picot, who each had way too many names, dividing up the Ottoman Empire. When the Bolsheviks release the text in late 1917, it will come as quite a surprise to the Arabs who T.E. Lawrence is now trying to get to revolt against Turkish rule. Zionists will also not be best pleased. Fortunately, imperialists drawing arbitrary lines on maps of the Middle East always works out well...

In Waco, Texas, a 17-year-old negro named Jesse Washington is lynched. He had just been convicted of raping and murdering the wife of his employer, a farmer, in a one-hour trial (followed by a 4-minute jury deliberation) in which his lawyer offered no defense. He is castrated, his fingers cut off, and he is burned to death, slowly, repeatedly lowered into the flames and raised out again, in front of a crowd variously estimated at 10,000 to 15,000. The remains of his body, at least those that had not been taken as souvenirs, are put in a bag and dragged behind a horse through the streets of Waco, then hung from a telephone pole. There are photographs (indeed, postcards), which you can see online (not recommended). Tomorrow the NYT will editorialize “wherever the news of it goes – and the news will go far – it will be asserted that in no other land even pretending to be civilized could a man be burned to death in the streets of a considerable city amid the savage exultation of its inhabitants. The assertion is probably not true, but to disprove it will be difficult.” The news will indeed go far, in part thanks to W.E.B. DuBois and The Crisis, but the NYT won’t mention it again.

Oh yeah: no one was ever prosecuted, although there were those postcards, in which members of the lynch mob are clearly visible.

Sir Roger Casement’s trial begins at Bow Street Police Court in London. It’s not one of those secret-court-martial-without-a-lawyer deals used for most of the Irish rebels, because Casement was nabbed before martial law was declared. He has a surprise co-defendant, Daniel Bailey, one of the Irish soldiers who Casement recruited from German POW camps for Germany’s “Irish Brigade” and who accompanied Casement on the u-boat that put them ashore in Ireland. Bailey will do a deal, testify against Casement, and be released, amazingly enough, back into the army.

US marines land in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. They’ll leave in 1924.

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