German Sabotage and America's Entry Into World War I

Email Print

by Paul Gottfried: How
England Helped Start the GreatWar

Since neoconservative
journalists, at least to my knowledge, have not been lately slamming
the “German connection,” I rejoiced at a feature
in yesterday’s New York Post (March 20)
going after the “series of German outrages” that helped
push us into World War One. A commentary by Thomas A. Reppetto,
on German saboteurs during World War, focuses on an explosion
at an ammunition factory on Black Tom Island on July 30, 1916,
which is now Liberty State Park in New Jersey. In this incident
and other similar ones that erupted in the area between New York
and Baltimore, German agents prevented by violent means the delivery
of arms “to the Allied powers.”

suggests that the federal government dealt effectively with such
explosions, by declaring war on Germany and then taking counter-espionage
into its own hands. At first this could not be done because we
were mollycoddling Germans residents in the US while indulging
such uncooperative figures as the authoritarian mayor of Jersey
City Frank Hague. Reppetto does not hide the moral here, which
is drawing a direct line between the sneaky, anti-democratic Germans
in World War One and the present terrorist danger. “New Jersey
officials need to recall the lessons of Black Tom.” “Islamic
militants have operated out of Jersey City,” just as once
other bad folks did.

Allow me
to set the record straight. The greatest outrage in Reppetto’s
account came from the Wilson administration, which turned the
US into perhaps the chief supplier of arms to the Allied side.
Wilson’s decision in 1915 to allow American arms manufacturers
to sell to both sides was a belligerent act directed against the
Central Powers. Only one side was in a position to acquire American
arms, because Germany at the time, as everyone knew, was being
blockaded. The English blockade, which was aimed at starving the
Germans, arguably in violation of international law, also kept
arms from reaching Germany and its ally Austria-Hungary.

most arms manufacturers were far from neutral. One of the largest
Pierre du Pont, who had his ammunition factory blown up, was a
pro-British interventionist, who was giving arms to the side he
backed in the war. Even before the arms embargo was officially
lifted, the American government was turning a blind eye to the
sending of contraband to the Allies. According to Colin Wilson’s
1972 study, the bombing of the Lusitania, which was advertised
as a British passenger vessel, took place in May 1915, because
the ship was loaded with arms being sent to England. The torpedoing
however had the effect of turning American public opinion against
the Central Powers and permitted Wilson to replace the truly neutralist
Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, with the pro-British
interventionist Robert Lansing.

the rest of the article

22, 2012

Gottfried [send him mail]
is Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown
College and author of Multiculturalism
and the Politics of Guilt
, The
Strange Death of Marxism
in America: Making Sense of the American Right
, and Encounters:
My Life with Nixon, Marcuse, and Other Friends and Teachers
His latest book, Leo
Strauss and the American Conservative Movement: A Critical Appraisal
was just published by Cambridge University Press.

Best of Paul Gottfried

Email Print