Monday, 21st January 2019 and three contemporary letters to the Editor of The Times of London and a reprint of its piece entitled “THE KAISER’S GUILT” of 21 January 1919 are food for thought. “The right of Tony Blair to speak on Brexit” attracted six letters. One correspondent believes that his credibility was lost forever by his leading Britain “into a damaging war in Iraq……where the financial cost and unnecessary cost of British livesare matter of record.” Another letter concedes that the Iraq war “was a bad mistake, and the loss of British lives will haunt him forever” but says he was a successful Prime Minister and knows what he is talking about.”
Let’s forget Brexit for the moment. The financial cost (to Britain) has surely not been forgotten by a nation of shopkeepers. And the loss of British lives is a matter for regret and has been recorded as 218 service men and women. Estimates of the loss of Iraqi lives, including civilian men, women and children vary between 490,000 and 1,000,000 and do not appear on the correspondents’ balance sheets, nor does it occur to them that they might cost Mr Blair a night’s sleep, much less “haunt him forever.”
Another letter of 21st January 2019 from a Chris Hawkins in Co. Durham tells us that he is reading “The Times Great Letters: A Century of Notable Correspondence”, from which he quotes –
“We have a parliament of chosen persons, to each of whom we pay £400 a year so that at last we have the right to say ‘Please do our business and that quickly.’ “ Mr Hawkins tells us the letter was published on 28 February 1914 and bemoans Parliament’s focussing on Home Rule rather than on more pressing matters such as the humane treatment of “horses, birds and other wild things.” The supercilious letter was from the distinguished author and future Nobel Prize winner John Galsworthy.
The letters on Blair and the quoted letter of Galsworthy display a complete disregard for non-British humanity.
THE PIECE ENTITLED “THE KAISER’S GUILT” mentions The League of Nations. As did the previous day’s TIMES. And that is the second time in MY life that I have seen the League mentioned in a British paper.
THE KAISER’S GUILT
from The Times 21st January 2019
After the formal opening of the Peace Conference, the first Orders of the Day were concerned with the guilt and punishment of the Kaiser There were some who said, and doubtless, believed, that the punishment of the Kaiser was a mere electioneering cry without sincerity; but they are answered sufficiently by the place whichM Clemenceau has given to these questions in the work of the Conference. The Kaiser is accused of having violated the law of nations. Is that a moral offence for which judgement is merely reserved for some superhuman Court, or is it a legal offence cognizable in some Court which is already in existence, or may be brought into existence by the labours of the Conference? When we speak of international law we speak only in metaphor.
There is no real law without a sanction of some sort or another, and if there be no real possibility of punishing by legal process the crimes committed against international law, then that law is then a moral aspiration like the Ten Commandments, not a branch of human jurisprudence. On the other hand, if the Kaiser is punishable, international law has acquired a real legal status, and a beginning has been made with what after all is the main business of the Conference. That business is not to effect certain territorial re adjustments, or even primarily to satisfy nationalist aspirations. It is to substitute the rule of law in international affairs for therule of force; and the legal punishment of the Kaiser would be a formal inauguration of the rule of law more impressive than any other that could be imagined. That, one imagines, is why M Clemenceau has put this question of the Kaiser’s guilt in the very forefront of the work of the Conference.
At least two committees, one English and one French, are engaged on these preliminary investigations. The first is to inquire into the personal responsibility of the Kaiser for the breaches of international law that wereundoubtedly committed by German agents, and the second to find legal precedent or analogy for his trial and (if he is found guilty) for his punishment. The right Court to settle such questions would be some judicial committee of the new League of Nations when it is set up.