Ideas concerning the mandate and independence
“Ideas concerning the mandate and independence expressed in words are not contradictory to one another. The mandate will strangle us if we are not really firm, and in that case it would injure our in dependence. On the other hand, let us agree that what we really want is complete internal and external independence; shall we then be strong enough to realise this by ourselves or not? Moreover, would we be permitted to act as we would like ? This is a point that we must consider very seriously. There is no doubt that England, France, Italy and Greece want to disintegrate us to-day. But if we make peace under the segis of a foreign Power, we shall be able in our own interest to revise its stipulations as soon as the conditions are favour able. If the situation grows worse, would we not be liable to be utterly destroyed? . . .”
“In any case, we are compelled to accept the American guarantee. In the twentieth century it is impossible that a nation with a debt of 500 million pounds, its State property ruined, its soil barely productive and its revenues not exceeding, at the utmost, from 10 to 15 millions, could protect its existence without foreign aid. If in future we remain in this condition without insuring our progress by foreign assistance, we shall probably be incapable of defending ourselves even from an attack by Greece.
“In the event of Smyrna remaining in the hands of Greece God forbid it ! and war should break out between the two countries, the enemy would transport his troops by sea; but what railway line have we that would enable us to bring up our troops from Erzeram? The American mandate, therefore, must be accepted by us as a guarantee and an unavoidable source of assistance.” The speaker concluded with these words: “I shall be very well satisfied if I have succeeded by what I have said in preparing the ground for further discussion.” You will have no difficulty in understanding how completely this skilful and brilliant speech was calculated to confuse the minds of all who heard it. .
I immediately adjourned the meeting for ten minutes (5.30 p.m.) to prevent the minds of the deputies from being altogether poisoned by other speakers who might foUow and who shared the same opinion, and so that I could have a chance to talk privately to some of the deputies. , . 1
The concluding passages in this speech are worthy of your special attention, Refet Bey Effendi appears to think that the Greeks are only temporarily at Smyrna and does not acknowledge that a state of war exists. I am convinced that if the Greeks remain there and war actually breaks out, we should not be able to extricate ourselves from a very difficult position. * -^ * , +
At the following sitting Ahmed Nuri Bey, one of the delegates from Brusa, spoke for a long time against the mandate. Kami replied at still greater length. Towards the end of his extremely long-drawn- out speech, he emphasised his contentions by adding:
“I shall now say something about one part of the question with which I am particularly well acquainted. As I have been talking personally to competent persons on this matter, what I am about to say is not mere conjecture but precise fact. Before I left Constanti nople I called on Izzet Pasha, the former Grand Vizier. His Highness was also convinced that a mandate was the only possibility. He asked me what I thought about it. I explained my own point of view ^ to him. Several days afterwards he sent for me and confided me with this. The members of the American Commission of inquiry, who had arrived in Constantinople after having travelled through the districts of Syria and Adana, and who are now trying to draw out the opinions of the political parties here, paid a visit to Izzet Pasha in his Konak. They expressed their conviction that the national organisation in Anatolia represents the Turkish nation and, looking upon^ Izzet Pasha as the founder of this movement, they said: If you can induce the Erzerum and Sivas Congresses to ask for an American mandate, America for her part will accept it over the whole of the Ottoman Empire ! After having told me this, the Pasha said that the nation had no longer the strength to carry on a new war, and we must not at any price attempt to lay ourselves open to anything of the kind. He advised me, if I happened to go to Sivas, to explain to the Congress the true state of affairs. Izzet Pasha is also convinced that a mandate demanded under these conditions would have a go?/ chance of being accepted; but it would be necessary to propose definite terms. The Pasha even added that as America could only accept the mandate if it correspond ed to the desires of the nation, the will of the nation to that effect would have to be definitely expressed. It would help America to support this view before the European Powers. I communicated all this to Rauf Bey in a telegram in cipher from Constantinople when he was at Erzerum. All who have more objection to the expression mandate than to its actual meaning are obsessed by undue fear. The word itself is of no importance whatever. The essential point consists in the actual reality, in the nature of the question. Instead of saying that we have been placed under a mandate, we shall rather say, we are now an imperishable State .”
Among the replies produced by these words, this is what Husri Sami Bey had to say: “Our duty is to protect ourselves and prove that we are an imperishable nation / Kami Bey gave the impression in his speech that he was sounding the retreat. Kara Vassif , who followed him, was still speaking when we adjourned for the day. I quote verbatim some paragraphs from his speech, just as they are recorded in the minutes :
“Even if all the nations agreed to grant us complete independence, we should still need help.” (At the beginning of his speech Vassif Bey had proposed to substitute the expression “mandate” ^by that of “help”.) “We owe something between 400 and 500 million pounds. No one can afford to make anybody else a present of such a sum. We shall be asked to pay our debt. Our revenues, however, are not even enough to pay the interest. What sort of a position shall we be in then? It is clear from this that our finances will not allow us to live in independence. Besides this, we are surrounded by countries whose only wish is to divide us up between them. If we agree to do what we are asked we shall perish. What can we do without money? How can we protect ourselves without an army? While their aeroplanes are gyrating over our heads, we will have to jog along in carts. They send their dreadnoughts against us, while we cannot even build sailing ships. Even if we preserve our independence to-day, they will sooner or later begin to dismember our country.” Vassif Bey brought his speech to a close with these words :