The Web of Intrigue
Such words as “conspiracy” and “intrigue,” often used in this narrative, are not original with me; they come from authoritative sources. Mr. Arthur D. Howden, who wrote his biography in consultation with the man depicted, supplies the chapter title above; he describes the process of which Mr. House was (in America) the centre during the 1914-1918 war in the words, “a web of intrigue was spun across the Atlantic.”In England the Lloyd George government and in America the president were at first separately enmeshed. Between 1914 and 1917 these “webs” in London and Washington were joined together by the transoceanic threads which Mr. Howden depicts in the spinning. Thereafter the two governments were caught in the same web and have never since freed themselves from it.In President Wilson's America the real president was Mr. House (“liaison officer between the Wilson administration and the Zionist movement,” Rabbi Wise). Mr. Justice Brandeis, who had decided to “give his life” to Zionism, was the president's “adviser on the Jewish question” (Dr. Weizmann); this is the first appearance in the Presidential household of an authority theretofore unknown in it and now apparently permanent. The chief Zionist organizer was Rabbi Wise, constantly in touch with the two other men.Mr. House (and Mr. Bernard Baruch), chose the president's cabinet officers, so that one of them had to introduce himself to Mr. Wilson thus: “My name is Lane, Mr. President, I believe I am the Secretary of the Interior.” The president lived at the White House in Washington but was frequently seen to visit a small apartment in East 35th Street, New York, where a Mr. House lived. In time this led to pointed questions and one party-man was told, “Mr. House is my second personality; he is my independent self. His thoughts and mine are one.” Mr. House was often in Washington, where he conducted the president's interviews and correspondence, and, stopping cabinet officers outside the cabinet room, instructed them what to say inside it. Even from New York he directed America by means of private telephone lines linking him with Washington: “it is only necessary to lift off the receiver and I reach the Secretary of State's desk immediately.”
The president's assent to acts of State policy was not required. Mr. House “did not expect affirmative commendation … if the President did not object, I knew that it was safe to go ahead.” Thus Mr. Wilson had to express dissent, to delay or amend any action (and immediately after election he had been made to promise “not to act independently in future”).
In 1914 Mr. House, who in 1900 had resolved to extend his power from Texan to national politics, prepared to take over international affairs: “he wanted to exercise his energy in a broader field … From the beginning of 1914 he gave more and more thought to what he regarded as the highest form of politics and that for which he was peculiarly suited: international affairs.” In fact, Texan upbringing did not so qualify Mr. House. In Texas the words “international affairs' had, in the public mind, a sound akin to “skunk,” and there, more than anywhere in America, “the traditions of the 19th century still held the public mind; traditions which laid down, as the primary principle of American policy, a complete abstention from the political affairs of Europe” (Mr. Seymour). Mr. House, who somewhere in Texas had absorbed “the ideas of the revolutionaries of 1848” was to destroy that tradition, but this did not prove him “peculiarly suited” to intervene in “international affairs.”
Mr. House was of different type from the languid Mr. Balfour, with his background of Scottish hills and mists, and Mr. Lloyd George, the Artful Dodger of Zionism from Wales, but he acted as if he and they had together graduated from some occult academy of political machination. In 1914 he began to appoint American ambassadors (as he says) and made his first calls on European governments as “a personal friend of the President.”
Mr. Seymour, his editor, says: “It would be difficult in all history to find another instance of diplomacy so unconventional and so effective. Colonel House, a private citizen, spreads all the cards on the table and concerts with the Ambassador of a foreign power the despatches to be sent to the American Ambassador and Foreign Minister of that power.” Mr. Howden, his confidant, expatiates: “Mr. House had the initiative in what was done … The State Department was relegated to the status of an intermediary for his ideas, a depository of public records. Much of the more confidential diplomatic correspondence passed directly through the little apartment in East 35th Street. The Ambassadors of the belligerents called on him when they wanted to influence the Administration or sought assistance in the web of intrigue that was being spun across the Atlantic.”
Mr. House: “The life I am leading transcends in interest and excitement any romance … Information from every quarter of the globe pours into this little, unobtrusive study.” Mr. Seymour again: “Cabinet members in search of candidates, candidates in search of positions made of his study a clearing house. Editors and journalists sought his opinion and despatches to the foreign press were framed almost at his dictation. United States Treasury officials, British diplomats … and metropolitan financiers came to his study to discuss their plans.”
A rising man across the Atlantic also was interested in “financiers.” Mrs. Beatrice Webb says that Mr. Winston Churchill, somewhat earlier, at a dinner party confided to her that “he looks to haute finance to keep the peace and for that reason objects to a self-contained Empire as he thinks it would destroy this cosmopolitan capitalism, the cosmopolitan financier being the professional peacemaker of the modern world and to his mind the acme of civilization.” Later events did not support this notion that leading financiers (“metropolitan” or “cosmopolitan”) were “professional peacemakers.”
Such was the American picture, behind-the-scenes in 1915 and 1916. The purpose of the ruling group whose web now began to span the Atlantic is shown by the events which followed. Mr. Asquith was overthrown in the pretext that his incompetency imperilled victory; Mr. Lloyd George risked total defeat by diverting armies to Palestine. Mr. Wilson was re-elected in the pretext that he, in the old tradition, would “keep America out of the war”; elected, at once involved America in the war. “The diplomat's word” and his “deed” were different.
Mr. House privately “concluded that war with Germany is inevitable” on May 30, 1915, and in June 1916 devised the election-winning slogan for Mr. Wilson's second campaign: “He kept us out of the war.” Rabbi Stephen Wise, before the election, supported Mr. House's efforts: in letters to the President the rabbi “deplored his advocacy of a preparedness programme” and from public platforms he preached against war. All went as planned: “the House strategy worked perfectly” (Mr. Howden), and Mr. Wilson was triumphantly re-elected.
Mr. Wilson seems at that point to have believed the words put into his mouth. Immediately after the election he set up as a peacemaker and drafted a note to the belligerents in which he used the phrase, “the causes and objects of the war are obscure.” This was a culpable act of “independence” on the president's part, and Mr. House was furious. The harassed president amended the phrase to “the objects which the statesmen and the belligerents on both sides have in mind in this war are virtually the same.” This made Mr. House even angrier, and Mr. Wilson's efforts to expose the nature of “the web” in which he was caught thereon expired. He remained in ignorance of what his next act was to be for a little, informing Mr. House on January 4, 1917, “There will be no war. This country does not intend to become involved in the war … It would be a crime against civilization for us to go in.”
The power-group moved to dispel these illusions as soon as Mr. Wilson's second inauguration was safely past (January 20, 1917). Rabbi Stephen Wise informed the president of a change of mind; he was now “convinced that the time had come for the American people to understand that it might be our destiny to have part in the struggle.” Mr. House (who during the “no war” election had noted, “We are on the verge of war”) confided to his diary on February 12, 1917, “We are drifting into war as rapidly as I expected” (which gave a new meaning to the word “drift”).
Then on March 27, 1917 President Wilson asked Mr. House “whether he should ask Congress to declare war or whether he should say that a state of war exists,” and Mr. House “advised the latter,” so that the American people were informed, on April 2, 1917, that a state of war existed. Between November 1916 and April 1917, therefore, “the web of intrigue,” spanning the ocean, achieved these decisive aims: the overthrow of Mr. Asquith in favour of Mr. Lloyd George, the commitment of British armies to the Palestinian diversion, the re-election of a president who would be constrained to support that enterprise, and the embroilment of America.
The statement of existing war made to Congress said the purpose of the war (which Mr. Wilson, a few weeks before, had declared in his draft to be “obscure”) was “to set up a new international order.” Thus a new purpose was openly, though cryptically revealed. To the public masses the words meant anything or nothing. To the initiates they carried a commitment to support the plan, of which Zionism and Communism both were instruments, for establishing a “world federation” founded on force and the obliteration of nationhood, with the exception of one “nation” to be recreated.
From this moment the power-groups in America and England worked in perfect synchronization, so that the two stories become one story, or one “web.” The apparently powerful men in Washington and London co-ordinated their actions at the prompting of the inter-communicating Zionists on both sides of the ocean. Foreknowledge of what was to happen had earlier been displayed by Dr. Weizmann in London, who in March 1915 wrote to his ally, Mr. Scott of the Manchester Guardian, that he “understood” the British Government to be willing to support Zionist aspirations at the peace conference to come (the event also foretold by Max Nordau in 1903). This was exactly what Mr. Asquith would not consider, so that Dr. Weizmann, in March 1915, was already describing Mr. Asquith's supplanters of December 1916 as “the British Government.”
This “British Government,” said Dr. Weizmann, would leave “the organization of the Jewish commonwealth” in Palestine “entirely to the care of the Jews.” However, the Zionists could not possibly, even in a Palestine conquered for them, have set up “a commonwealth” against the native inhabitants. They could only do that behind the protection of a great power and its armies. Therefore Dr. Weizmann (foretelling in 1915 exactly what was to happen in 1919 and the following two decades) considered that a British “protectorate” should be set up in Palestine (to protect the Zionist intruders). This would mean, he said, that “the Jews take over the country; the whole burden of organization falls on them, but for the next ten or fifteen years they work under a temporary British protectorate.”
Dr. Weizmann adds that this was “an anticipation of the mandate system,” so that today's student also learns where the notion of “mandates” was born. The idea of ruling conquered territories under a “mandate” bestowed by a self-proclaimed “league of nations” was devised solely with an eye to Palestine. (Events have proved this. All the other “mandates” distributed after the 1914-1918 war, to give the appearance of a procedure generally applicable, have faded away, either by relinquishment of the territory to its inhabitants or by its conversion, in fact, into a possession of the conqueror. The concept of the “mandate” was maintained for just as long as was needed for the Zionists to amass enough arms to take possession of Palestine for themselves).
Thus, after the elevation of Mr. Lloyd George and the second election of Mr. Wilson, the shape of the future, far beyond the war's end, was fully known to Dr. Weizmann at the web's centre, who went into action. In a memorandum to the British Government he demanded that “The Jewish population of Palestine … shall be officially recognized by the Suzerain government as the Jewish Nation.” The “first full-dress conference leading to the Balfour Declaration” was then held. This committee, met to draft a British governmental document, met in a private Jewish house and consisted of nine Zionist leaders and one representative of the government concerned, Sir Mark Sykes (who attended “in his private capacity”). As a result Mr. Balfour at once arranged to go to America to discuss the matter.
Dr. Weizmann and his associates had to steer a very narrow course between two difficulties at that moment, and might have failed, had not “the web” enabled them to dictate what Mr. Balfour would be told by the men he crossed the ocean to see. The British Government, for all its zeal, took alarm at the prospect of acting as sole protector of the Zionists and wanted America to share the armed occupation of Palestine. The Zionists knew that this would violently upset American opinion, (had it come about America, from bitter experience shared, would have been much harder to win for the deed of 1948) and did not want the question of American co-occupation raised. Dr. Weizmann's misgivings were increased when, in “a long talk” he found Mr. Balfour, before his departure, eager for “an Anglo-American protectorate.”
Dr. Weizmann at once wrote to Mr. Justice Brandeis warning him to oppose any such plan, but to assure Mr. Balfour of American support for the proposal of a solely British protectorate, (April 8, 1917), and this letter to Mr. Brandeis “must have reached him about the time of Balfour's arrival.” Mr. Brandeis, risen to the United States Supreme Court, had retired from the public leadership of Zionism in America. In the tradition of his office, he should have remained aloof from all political affairs, but in fact, as Mr. Wilson's “adviser on the Jewish question,” he informed the president that he was “in favour of a British protectorate and utterly opposed to a condominium” (that is, joint Anglo-American control).
When Mr. Balfour reached America (then in a state of “existing war” for just eighteen days) he apparently never discussed Palestine with the American President at all. Mr. Wilson's part at this stage “was limited to a humble undertaking to Rabbi Wise, “Whenever the time comes and you and Justice Brandeis feel that the time is ripe for me to speak and act, I shall be ready.” By that time the rabbi had “briefed” Mr. House: “He is enlisted in our cause. There is no question about it whatever. The thing will go through Washington, I think, without delay” (April 8, 1917, six days after the “existing war” proclamation).
Mr. Balfour saw Mr. Brandeis. Clearly he might as well have stayed at home with Dr. Weizmann, as Mr. Brandeis merely repeated the contents of Dr. Weizmann's letters; Mr. Balfour simply moved from one end of “the web of intrigue” to the other. Mr. Brandeis (as Mrs. Dugdale records) “became increasingly emphatic about the desire of the Zionists to see a British administration in Palestine.” Mr. Balfour, his biographer adds, “pledged his own personal support to Zionism; he had done it before to Dr. Weizmann, but now he was British Foreign Secretary.”
A later American comment on the part played by Mr. Brandeis in this affair is here relevant. Professor John O. Beaty of the Southern Methodist University of the United States says that the day when Mr. Brandeis's appointment to the Supreme Court was confirmed was “one of the most significant days in American history, for we had for the first time, since the first decade of the 19th Century, an official of the highest status whose heart's interest was in something besides the United States.”
Mr. Brandeis “did more than press the idea of a Jewish Palestine under a British protectorate” (Dr. Weizmann). He and Mr. House issued (over the president's signature) the famous declaration repudiating secret treaties). This declaration was popular with the masses, who heard in it the voice of the Brave New World rebuking the bad old one. The words evoked pictures of becloaked diplomats climbing dark backstairs to secret chancelleries; now that America was in the war these feudal machinations would be stopped and all done above the board.
Alas for a pleasant illusion; the noble rebuke was another submission to Zionism. Turkey had still to be defeated so that the French and British governments (whose fighting men were engaged) wished to win over the Arabs and with them had made the “Sykes-Picot agreement,” which foresaw an independent confederation of Arab States and, among them, an international administration for Palestine. Dr. Weizmann had learned of this agreement and saw that there could be no Zionist state if Palestine were under international control; exclusive British “protection” was essential. Pressure was applied and President Wilson's ringing denunciation of “secret treaties” was in fact aimed solely at the Arabs of Palestine and their hopes for the future. America insisted that England hold the baby.
Of this secret achievement Mr. Balfour's biographer happily records that it showed “a Jewish national diplomacy was now in being”; the words may be used as an alternative heading to this chapter, if any so desire. The British Foreign Office at last “recognized, with some slight dismay, that the British Government was virtually committed.” America, though in the war, was not at war with Turkey, and yet had been secretly committed (by Mr. Brandeis) to support the transfer of Turkish territory to an outside party. Therefore American participation in the intrigue had to remain publicly unknown for the moment, though Mr. Balfour had been informed of it in imperative tones.
The summer of 1917 passed while the Balfour Declaration was prepared, America thus having become secretly involved in the Zionist adventure. The only remaining opposition, apart from that of generals and a few high Foreign Office or State Department officials, came from the Jews of England and America. It was ineffective because the leading politicians, in both countries, were even more hostile to their Jewish fellow-citizens than were the Zionists. (The part played in all this by non-Jews was so great, even if it was the part of puppets, that one is constantly reminded of the need to regard with suspicion the attribution of the Protocols to solely Jewish authorship).
In England in 1915 the Anglo-Jewish Association, through its Conjoint Committee, declared that “the Zionists do not consider civil and political emancipation as a sufficiently important factor for victory over the persecution and oppression of Jews and think that such a victory can only be achieved by establishing a legally secured home for the Jewish people. The Conjoint Committee considers as dangerous and provoking anti-semitism the ‘national' postulate of the Zionists, as well as special privileges for Jews in Palestine. The Committee could not discuss the question of a British Protectorate with an international organization which included different, even enemy elements.”
In any rational time the British and American governments would have spoken thus, and they would have been supported by Jewish citizens. In 1914, however, Dr. Weizmann had written that such Jews “have to be made to realize that we and not they are the masters of the situation.” The Conjoint Committee represented the Jews long established in England, but the British Government accepted the claim of the revolutionaries from Russia to be “the masters” of Jewry.
In 1917, as the irrevocable moment approached, the Conjoint Committee again declared that the Jews were a religious community and nothing more, that they could not claim “a national home,” and that Jews in Palestine needed nothing more than “the assurance of religious and civil liberty, reasonable facilities for immigration and the like.”
By that time such statements infuriated the embattled Goyim around Dr. Weizmann from Russia. Mr. Wickham Steed of The Times expressed “downright annoyance” after discussing “for a good hour” (with Dr. Weizmann) “the kind of leader which was likely to make the best appeal to the British public,” produced “a magnificent presentation of the Zionist case.”
In America, Mr. Brandeis and Rabbi Stephen Wise were equally vigilant against the Jews there. The rabbi (from Hungary) asked President Wilson, “What will you do when their protests reach you?” For one moment only he was silent. Then he pointed to a large wastepaper basket at his desk. “Is not that basket capacious enough for all their protests?”
In England Dr. Weizmann was enraged by “outside interference, entirely from Jews.” At this point he felt himself to be a member of the Government, or perhaps the member of the Government, and in the power he wielded apparently was that. He did not stop at dismissing the objections of British Jews as “outside interference”; he dictated what the Cabinet should discuss and demanded to sit in Cabinet meetings so that he might attack a Jewish minister! He required that Mr. Lloyd George put the question “on the agenda of the War Cabinet for October 4, 1917” and on October 3 he wrote to the British Foreign Office protesting against objections which he expected to be raised at that meeting “by a prominent Englishman of the Jewish faith.”
Mr. Edwin Montagu was a cabinet minister and a Jew. Dr. Weizmann implicitly urged that he be not heard by his colleagues, or that if he were heard, Dr. Weizmann should be called in to reply! On the day of the meeting Dr. Weizmann appeared in the office of the prime minister's secretary, Mr. Philip Kerr (another “friend”) and proposed that he remain there in case the Cabinet “decide to ask me some questions before they decide the matter.” Mr. Kerr said, “Since the British Government has been a government, no private person has been admitted to one of its sessions,” and Dr. Weizmann then went away.
But for that Mr. Lloyd George would have set the precedent, for Dr. Weizmann was scarcely gone when, after hearing Mr. Montagu, Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Balfour sent out to ask Dr. Weizmann to come in. Mr. Montagu then succeeded, in the teeth of the Gentiles arrayed against him, in obtaining minor modifications in the draft, and Dr. Weizmann later rebuked Mr. Kerr for this petty compromise: “The Cabinet and even yourself attach undue importance to the opinion held by so-called ‘British Jewry.' “Two days later (October 9) Dr. Weizmann cabled triumphantly to Mr. Justice Brandeis that the British Government had formally undertaken to establish a “national home for the Jewish race” in Palestine.
The draft experienced revealing adventures between October 9 and November 2, when it was published. It was sent to America, where it was edited by Mr. Brandeis, Mr. Jacob de Haas and Rabbi Wise before being shown to President Wilson for his “final approval.” He simply sent it to Mr. Brandeis (who had already had it from Dr. Weizmann), who passed it to Rabbi Stephen Wise, “to be handed to Colonel House for transmission to the British Cabinet.”
In this way one of the most fateful actions ever taken by any British Government was prepared. The draft, incorporated in a letter addressed by Mr. Balfour to Lord Rothschild, became “the Balfour Declaration.” The Rothschild family, like many leading Jewish families, was sharply divided about Zionism. The name of a sympathetic Rothschild, as the recipient of the letter, was evidently used to impress Western Jewry in general, and to divert attention from the Eastern Jewish origins of Zionism. The true addressee was Dr. Weizmann. He appears to have become an habitué of the War Cabinet's antechamber and the document was delivered to him, Sir Mark Sykes informing him, “Dr. Weizmann, it's a boy!” (today the shape of the man may be seen).
No rational explanation for the action of leading Western politicians in supporting this alien enterprise has ever been given, and as the undertaking was up to that point secret and conspiratorial no genuine explanation can be given; if an undertaking is good conspiracy is not requisite to it, and secrecy itself indicates motives that cannot be divulged. If any of these men ever gave some public reason, it usually took the form of some vague invocation of the Old Testament. This has a sanctimonious ring, and may be held likely to daunt objectors. Mr. Lloyd George liked to tell Zionist visitors (as Rabbi Wise ironically records), “You shall have Palestine from Dan to Beersheba,” and thus to present himself as the instrument of divine will. He once asked Sir Charles and Lady Henry to call anxious Jewish Members of Parliament together at breakfast “so that I may convince them of the rightfulness of my Zionist position.” A minyan (Jewish religious quorum of ten) was accordingly assembled in the British Prime Minister's breakfast room, where Mr. Lloyd George read a series of passages which, in his opinion, prescribed the transplantation of Jews in Palestine in 1917: Then he said, “Now, gentlemen, you know What your Bible says; that is the end of the matter.”
On other occasions he gave different, and mutually destructive, explanations. He told the Palestine Royal Commission of 1937 that he acted to gain “the support of American Jewry” and that he had “a definite promise” from the Zionist leaders “that if the allies committed themselves to giving facilities for the establishment of a national home for the Jews in Palestine, they would do their best to rally Jewish sentiment and support throughout the world to the Allied cause.”
This was brazen untruth at the very bar of history. America was already in the war when Mr. Balfour went there to agree the Balfour Declaration, and Mr. Balfour's biographer scouts the notion of any such bargain. Rabbi Elmer Berger, a Jewish commentator, says the alleged promise by Zionist leaders inspires in him, “… an irrepressible indignation, for myself, my family, my Jewish friends, all of whom are just ordinary Jews … it constitutes one of the most obscene libels in all history. Only callousness and cynicism could imply that Jews in the Allied nations were not already giving their utmost to the prosecution of the war.”
Mr. Lloyd George's third explanation (“Acetone converted me to Zionism”) is the best known. According to this version Mr. Lloyd George asked Dr. Weizmann how he could be requited for a useful chemical discovery made during the war (when Dr. Weizmann worked for the government, in any spare time left by his work for Zionism). Dr. Weizmann is quoted as replying, “I want nothing for myself, but everything for my people,” whereon Mr. Lloyd George decided to give him Palestine! Dr. Weizmann himself derides this story (“History does not deal in Aladdin's lamps. Mr. Lloyd George's advocacy of the Jewish homeland long predated his accession to the premiership”). For that matter, it is British practice to make cash awards for such services and Dr. Weizmann, far from wanting nothing for himself, received ten thousand pounds. (If chemical research were customarily rewarded in land he might have claimed a minor duchy from Germany in respect of a patent earlier sold to the German Dye Trust, and presumably found useful in war as in peace; he was naturally content with the income he received from it for several years).
The conclusion cannot be escaped: if any honest explanation of his actions in this matter could be found Mr. Lloyd George would have given it. From this period in 1916-1917 the decay of parliamentary and representative government can be traced, both in England and America. If secret men could dictate major acts of American state policy and major operations of British armies, then clearly “election” and “responsible office” were terms devoid of meaning. Party distinctions began to fade in both countries, once this hidden, supreme authority was accepted by leading Western politicians, and the American and British electors began to be deprived of all true choice. Today this condition is general, and now is public. Leaders of all parties, before elections, make obeisance to Zionism, and the voter's selection of president, prime minister or party makes no true difference.
In November 1917 the American Republic thus became equally involved with Great Britain in Zionism, which has proved to be a destructive force. However, it was only one agency of “the destructive principle.” The reader will recall that in Dr. Weizmann's Russian youth the mass of Jews there, under their Talmudic directors, were united in the revolutionary aim, and only divided between revolutionary-Zionism and revolutionary-Communism.
In the very week of the Balfour Declaration the other group of Jews in Russia achieved their aim, the destruction of the Russian nation-state. The Western politicians thus bred a bicephalous monster, one head being the power of Zionism in the Western capitals, and the other the power of Communism advancing from captive Russia. Submission to Zionism weakened the power of the West to preserve itself against the world-revolution, for Zionism worked to keep Western governments submissive and to deflect their policies from national interests; indeed, at that instant the cry was first raised that opposition to the world-revolution, too, was “anti-semitism.” Governments hampered by secret capitulations in any one direction cannot act firmly in any other, and the timidity of London and Washington in their dealings with the world-revolution, during the four decades to follow, evidently derived from their initial submission to “the web of intrigue” spun across the Atlantic between 1914 and 1917.
After 1917, therefore, the question which the remainder of the 20th Century had to answer was whether the West could yet find in itself the strength to break free, or prise its political leaders loose, from this double thrall. In considering the remainder of this account the reader should bear in mind what British and American politicians were induced to do during the First World War.
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Biografi af Douglas Reed