World War Iasserting that Germany could land nearly 400,000 troops on the shores of New Jersey in sixteen days. He subsequently thwarts all of Germany's efforts to negotiate a possible peace treaty with the US and European nations friendly to the US, and uses the May 7 sinking of the RMS Lusitania by a German U-boat to feed his push for war. The American press augments Wilson's attempts to foment a war fever in the isolationist US by spreading wild tales of Belgian nuns roasted over open fires by German troops. Opponents of the upcoming war in Europe are castigated as "poltroons" and "mollycoddles" by Wilson's supporters. Many historians believe that Wilson's push for war with Germany was largely fueled by his desire to be seen as a "great statesman," but needed a war as a backdrop for his desires. Lapham writes that "[i]f the setting-up of Wilson's photo-op required the deaths of one hundred thousand American soldiers in the mud of France, the sacrifice could be written off to America's privilege 'to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth.' Wilson will lead America into World War I in April 1917 against the wishes of over 90% of the American people. Historian Walter Karp savages Wilson thusly: "The decisive trait of Wilson's political character was vainglory: a hunger for glory so exclusively self-regarding, so indifferent to the concerns of others, that it would lead him to betray in turn the national movement of reform, the great body of the American people, the fundamental liberties of the American Republic, and in the end the hopes of a war-torn world." Italy's Benito Mussolini, the fascist who would lead his country into an alliance with Hitler's Germany a generation later, found in Wilson's successful attempts to hoodwink his country into war a justification for Mussolini's abandoning of the principles of socialism and his subsequent embrace of fascism: he wrote in September 1917, "In matters pertaining to the war, Wilson applies systems of such anti-liberalism that in Italy they would never occur even to the most ferocious reactionaries." (Lewis Lapham)
Sykes-Picot division of Middle Eastthe British and French draw up the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement, which divides up the Ottoman Empire among the various allied countries, and creates national borders of numerous Middle Eastern countries,to be divided between Britain and France and the other allied countries. Mesopotamia, including Baghdad, is to be administered by Britain, along with Arabia and Palestine; Lebanon and Syria to be under French control. Russia takes control of the Bosporus and Anatolia. The division was made with control of the region's oil fields in the forefront of consideration. Britain insists that Palestine is not part of the agreement, and will be administered separately. The Russian Revolution takes Russia out of the picture, leaving Britain and France to divide the oil fields of the Middle East between themselves. A year later, Britain invades and seizes control of Mesopotamia; the Russian Bolsheviks discover the Sykes-Picot agreement and tell the world of the secret dealings. US business interests become involved, selling arms and materials to all sides. Germany begins sinking US cargo ships with its submarine fleet, prompting the US to enter the war against the German-Ottoman alliance. (A Timeline of Oil and Violence, Kevin Phillips, Dawoud el-Alami)
US actions in Latin AmericaMarines occupy the Dominican Republic through 1924. (ZMag)
Minority rightsIt is forcibly closed ten days later, and Sanger is arrested. Sanger eventually wins support through the courts and opens another clinic in New York City in 1923. Sanger will go on to found the American Birth Control League, which will evolve into Planned Parenthood. (InfoPlease)
US actions in Latin Americamilitary forces occupy Cuba through 1933, ensuring the island is essentially an economic protectorate of the United States. (ZMag)
Russian revolutionNicholas is a weak leader, World War I is highly unpopular, and the Marxist revolutionaries Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky have gained considerable influence within the populace. Eventually, Alexander Kerensky forms a government that only lasts a few months. On July 17, 1918, Nicholas and his family, no longer protected by the now-overthrown Kerensky government, will be shot to death and hidden away. Controversy and conspiracy theories swirl around the disappearance of several members of the royal family, particularly the youngest daughter, Anastasia, but in 1991, all of the royal family's remains will be discovered and properly buried. (Note: the bodies of the youngest children, Anastasia and Alexei, were never discovered, and the DNA tests that determined the identities of the family members has been disputed, so the controversy still continues in some quarters.) (Wikipedia, Wikipedia)
World War IWilson immediately issues a dozen regulations for the treatment of so-called "alien enemies" (see the April 17 item). Anyone deemed an alien enemy cannot own such goods as firearms, aircraft, or wireless apparatus. They cannot publish an "attack" upon any branch of the government. They cannot reside in an area designated as "prohibited" by the president. They can be removed to a location designated by the president. Alien enemies cannot depart the United States without permission and are required to register with the government to receive a registration card. On November 16, 1917, 8 more regulations are added to the original 12, restricting how closely and under what circumstances enemy aliens can approach facilities such as docks, railroads, and warehouses -- thus, de facto restricting their employment. Aliens are banned from air travel and from the District of Columbia. The restriction embodied in Section 20 provides the foundation for the later internment of aliens; it reads, in part: "The Attorney General is hereby authorized to make and declare, from time to time, such regulations concerning the movements of alien enemies as he may deem necessary in the premises and for the public safety, and to provide in such regulations for monthly, weekly, or other periodical report by alien enemies to federal, state or local authorities; and all alien enemies shall report at the times and places and to the authorities specified in such regulations." One motivation behind the regulations is clearly to establish control over radical groups who disagree with government policies, including policies on the war.
World War IIn 1918, an act of Congress expands the law to include women aged 14 and older. In time, however, the term "alien enemy" comes to apply to virtually any foreign resident the government deems undesirable. It becomes an effective weapon the government will wield against individuals and organizations which were pacifist, critical of the war, or otherwise objectionable politically.
Attack on civil libertiesThe Justice Department deputizes private citizens to question and hold for arrest any of their neighbors who might oppose or even question the war effort. In July, 1200 mine workers in Bisbee, Arizona declare a strike under the auspices of the left-leaning International Workers of the World; their actions are determined as contrary to the war effort, and a posse of armed vigilantes round up the striking mine workers, force them into railroad cars, ship them to New Mexico, and abandon them in the desert (see above). In August, Attorney General Thomas boasts that he has several hundred thousand people working for him as spies. (Lewis Lapham)
Creation of Jewish nationThe Declaration is a tremendous shock to Arabs in the region, who feel that the British have no business making decisions about their lands and their people. By year's end, the British drive Turkish troops out of Jerusalem, enabling Jews to settle in the southern portion of Palestine in great numbers. Palestinian and other Arab fighters launch frequent attacks on Jewish settlements, sparking British reprisals. (Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Dawoud el-Alami)
Russian revolutionBy November, Bolshevik forces have occupied Moscow. Workers angry with low wages and harsh working conditions, and the defeats suffered at the hands of the Germans, are some of the factors leading to the overthrow. Within days the uprising, nearly bloodless in spite of later propaganda films showing mobs storming buildings, uproots the shaky Kerensky government, leaving the Bolsheviks in power. The more centrist Mensheviks, formerly revolutionary colleagues of Lenin's followers, refuse to take part in the new government, as do other more rightist allies; most of them are later driven into exile or executed. Some areas of Russia, particularly those dominated by non-Russian ethnic groups, are not easily taken into the new government; for a brief time, independent republics in Ukraine and Estonia, among others, spring into being. The Bolshevik Revolution heralds Russia's transformation from a monarchy, through a liberal democratic government, into a fully-blown socialist/communist regime. The Bolshevik regime survives the occupation of parts of the country by Germany, as well as a bloody civil war, in 1918; the civil war is mostly between the "Reds," consisting of radical comminusts and revolutionaries, and the "Whites," made up of Mensheviks, monarchists, conservatives, liberals, and social moderates who oppose the drastic social restructuring and land reforms espoused by the Bolsheviks. Although the Whites have backing from the US, France, Great Britain, and Japan, the Bolsheviks win out. Some historians believe that it is this war that led the Bolsheviks to turn to more repressive, autocratic governance. The new country will be called the Soviet Union; the US does not recognize the new regime until 1933, but many European countries recognize the new government in the 1920s and begin doing business with Lenin's government. (David Barnsdale, Wikipedia)
Russian revolutionfive separate occasions, the US Navy and ground forces combat Bolsheviks in Russia. (ZMag)
US actions in Latin America1918 through 1920, US troops patrol Panama to quell civil unrest after elections. (ZMag)
US intervention in BalkansYugoslavia, US Marines fight for Italy against Serbs in Dalmatia. (ZMag)
British use chemical weapons against Kurds"I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes to spread a lively terror...against recalcitrant Arabs as an experiment." The Royal Air Force carries out what is perhaps the first air assault against ground targets, killing over 9,000 Kurds with 97 tons of bombs. (Greg Palast)
World War IThe treaty is relatively harsh towards the defeated Germans, though not as ruthless as some of its writers wished it to be; Britain's Lloyd George in particular wanted Germany to rebuild and serve as a barrier to the spread of Soviet Communism. France's Georges Clemenceau wanted Germany virtually reduced to rubble so that it could never again start a war. The US's Woodrow Wilson steered a middle course between the two viewpoints. Much of Germany's outlying territories were taken away and given to neighboring countries, including the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia that are given to the USSR and the region of Alsace-Lorraine, given to France. Some of the areas are vital industrial territories that Germany would need to rebuild its economy. In addition, strict restrictions are placed on its military. Germany is also forced to admit to unilateral guilt in starting the war, and is mandated to pay heavy reparations (well beyond its ability to pay). German ally Austria-Hungary is split into two nations, and Turkey, also a German ally during the war, loses a great deal of territory, mostly in the Middle East (including Iraq, Syria, Transjordan, and Palestine). The most far-reaching clause of the treaty is the establishment of the League of Nations, the predecessor to the United Nations. Most Germans hate and despise the terms of the treaty, one of the root causes of the rise of Hitler in 1933, who will rise to power on a wave of nationalist fervor and anti-Versailles sentiment. (History Learning Site)
US foreign policyJapan is increasingly seen as the United State's most likely opponent in the next war, but opinion is sharply divided over the role of the British Empire. Would it be a partner with the Americans or a potentially deadly rival? In the 1930s, many American generals are most afraid of "six million British troops rolling over the border from Canada," destroying America's economic engine in its Midwest as Japan holds the US at bay in Asia. (Derek Leebaert)
Attack on civil libertiesHe writes a popular essay which describes "tongues of revolutionary heat licking the altars of the churches, leaping into the belfry of the school bell, crawling into the sacred corner of American homes, seeking to replace marriage vows with libertine laws, burning up the foundations of society." At that time, America had around 70,000 Communists among its populace, representing 0.067% of the population, but that number means little to Palmer and his deputy, J. Edgar Hoover, who has already compiled dossiers on over 2 million Americans suspected of left-leaning ties to the Communists or other organizations such as the IWW. Palmer's Justice Department arrests without warrants over 10,000 alien residents such as Emma Goldman under the suspicion of saying something critical of the US, and deports them; Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes writes the majority opinion of the court supporting the deportations, saying that the government may suspend the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech when it perceives "a clear and present danger" from such statements. The ruling supports the sentencing of a Montana rancher to twenty years in jail for refusing to kiss the American flag, and a Connecticut haberdasher to six months in jail for saying that Lenin was smart. (Lewis Lapham)
Military-industrial complexof placing US defense in the hands of the "merchants" -- the "people with something to sell." (Derek Leebaert)
US actions in Latin Americatroops battle unionists in Guatamala. (ZMag)
Rise of Nazi GermanyHitler's street-corner oratory, attacking Jews, socialists and liberals, capitalists and Communists, begins attracting adherents, including Rudolf Hess, Hermann Göring, and Ernst Röhm, head of the Nazis' paramilitary organisation, the SA. Another admirer is wartime General Erich Ludendorff, whom Hitler will use as a front for his 1924 attempt to seize power in Munich, a failed attempt known as the "Beer Hall Putsch." (Wikipedia)
"First they came for the communists, but I was not a communist, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the socialists and the trade unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me." -- Martin Niemuller, Protestant pastor in Nazi Germany
Creation of Jewish nationAngered at their failure to achieve any sort of self-determination in the negotiations between the great powers to divide the Middle East among themselves, Palestinians in Jerusalem demonstrate against both British and Jewish occupiers. (Dawoud el-Alami)
Oil profiteering and the "oiligarchy"(See related items above.) Britain holds a ruling mandate over Iraq, Kuwait (separated from Iraq to deny Iraq access to the Persian Gulf), Palestine, and Transjordan, while France has the mandate over Syria and Lebanon plus 25% of profits from Iraqi oil. Various oil companies from the United States and Europe (including the "Seven Sisters," Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, Texaco, Gulf, British Petroleum, and Royal Dutch Shell, though some of their names were different in 1920) will wield tremendous influence over Middle Eastern governments as well as their home countries' foreign policies towards the Middle East from this point on. Britain's Winston Churchill is later accused of being ignorant of the disparate and traditionally clashing ethnicities of the cobbled-together country, but as a student of history, Churchill likely knew exactly what he was doing, figuring that the new country's Kurds, Sunnis, and Shi'ite populations would spend more time warring with one another than working together to challenge colonial authority. British liason to the region T.E. Lawrence warns of upcoming disaster for Britain after the British government first promises the Iraqis their freedom, then reneges on the promise and keeps the new country as an oil colony.
Minority rightsis ratified by Tennessee, the 36th state to do so, ensuring that the amendment becomes law. The amendment narrowly passed the House in January 1918, and again in May 1919; the Senate refused to even debate the issue until after the 1918 elections, which saw a raft of pro-suffrage senators elected to office. On June 4, 1919, the Senate passed the amendment and sent it to the states for ratification.
Harding administrationHarding, a dark horse candidate, wins the Republican nomination after the convention deadlocks over choosing a candidate. He has a long but undistinguished career as a lieutenant governor of Ohio and a US senator. Harding wins the election on his campaign promise to "Return to Normalcy," a repudiation of the progressive policies of the Woodrow Wilson administration in favor of a return to the laissez-faire, business-favoring policies of the McKinley presidency. Harding's "Front Porch campaign," featuring endorsements by Hollywood celebrities and business magnates, as well as his support for women's sufferage, win him huge support among women, who vote for the first time in a presidential election. His presidency is undistinguished, but his Alabama speech advocating rights for American blacks is of historical note. Harding dies under mysterious circumstances in August 1923, perhaps of food poisoning or a heart attack; after his wife refuses to allow an autopsy, theories of foul play abound, but are never proven. A popular theory that his wife poisoned him is never proven, and the author of a book propounding this theory is exposed as a fraud.
Oppression of JewsThe founding conference of Histadrut decides that a defense organization is needed to defend Jewish settlements against Arab attacks; in March 1921, a secret defense organization, the Haganah, is formed without the knowledge of Great Britain, training Jews and purchasing arms and materiel. (Dan Cohn-Sherbok)