Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."[ Lieut.-Colonel Sir John Gilmour.]
As was disclosed by the Debate of last Thursday, the solid fact which remained in connection with the Genoa Conference was the Russo-German Alliance, and I wish to try quite shortly to prove to the House that that is part and parcel of our Near East policy. I think that everyone in the House will agree with me that that Russo-German Alliance, apart from the question of menace of war, has upset the equilibrium of Europe, and, therefore, the vital necessity, as it appears to me, arises for stopping this conflict at once between the Turks and the Greeks. I do not wish to exaggerate. I have never tried to exaggerate, but have only tried to put the point as plainly and as practically as I can, without regard to whether I speak eloquently or not. It seems to me, as a reader of history, that, if we do not stop this war at once, we shall be face to face with the possibility of driving Turkey into the arms of Russia. I have preached that in and out of this House for nearly two years—certainly before I came into the House. That is our great danger. If Turkey should be driven into an alliance with Russia and Germany, there is no one here who will doubt what that means to our Indian Empire, to Iraq, and everywhere else. Everyone must become grave on thinking what the consequences of that would be.Since my entry into Parliament, and, in fact, before I came to Parliament, I have been, it is not too much to say, upset at the policy that our Government has adopted in the Near East. When Turkey came out of the War it was a lucky moment for England, and matters would then have been easy for us. The Government know that, but they never acknowledge it. We know what the result was. Austria gave in at once, and Germany about three weeks after. It set the whole house of cards tumbling. I thought, when I came away from, the Island of Mudros at the time of the Armistice, "At least this will temper the wind to the Turks afterwards." Not a bit of it. We have treated them with the most merciless severity. I know the story of atrocities, and I will come to that later. We have treated them with merciless severity, on a par with the way in which we have treated Austria. One would have thought that Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Arabia, the Hedjaz, and what not, having been taken from the Turks, Turkey had been punished sufficiently, but that was not enough for the director of our foreign policy. I might have added that we took all of Thrace right up to the shores of Constantinople—really within punching range of their guns at Constantinople—and also the holy city of Adrianople, as if the director of our foreign policy had deliberately intended to create a 20-years' war. Another Alsace-Lorraine question was planted in Turkey. Not content with that, however, the director of our foreign policy, influenced by M. Venizelos and those associated with him, then invited the Greeks to invade Turkey in Asia Minor, I suppose in order still further to exasperate the Mahommedan world, to put the Turks with their backs to the wall, and to make them fight, as they say, on the carpet. The occupation of Constantinople by our troops appeared to me to be such a blunder that, although I was on my way to America, and had not even thought of coming to the House of Commons, I wrote to the Foreign Secretary and begged and implored him, on the strength of my friendship with him, not to consent to such a mad step. That was a gross tactical blunder, as I told the House, and it was a still bigger political blunder, for it at once lit up the Turkish Nationalist party, and created this patriot Kemal, whom the Prime Minister described as a revolting general. There have been other revolting generals in history. Washington was one. If you come to think out this question of Constantinople, the directors of our foreign policy have committed, probably, every blunder that opportunity and time permitted them. That cannot be denied. Why should we say things that are not true? I am for speaking out the plain truth. If I am wrong, I hope that hon. Members will get up afterwards and say so. I can only say that I speak honestly what is in my mind. With your Grand Fleet anchored C00 or 700 yards off the Sultan's palace, and with the Dardanelles in your hands, you go and land troops in Constantinople. As I have told the House before, the only soldier I would have landed in Constantinople would have been the corporal of marines, to bring off the officers' washing on Saturday night. What was the result of this landing of our men in a Mahommedan city? The Turks saw that there was no hope, they ran to arms, and the Nationalist party was created. What did they do? The Prime Minister is credited with saying—I do not know whether it is right or wrong—when he heard that Smyrna was occupied: "We have closed the door to Turkey now. If she wants to get out of the windows, let her do it." That was the last straw. I am talking of the Mahommedan world now. Will not our Government understand that the whole of that world of Islam stretches in a broad belt from Morocco to China, and from Turkestan to the Congo? They are undergoing new aspirations. They are stirred to a great ferment. England is a great Mahom-medan-owning Empire, and let me point out how France has tumbled to that. Marshal Lyauty is one who served at the oar before he took the helm. That is a necessity which our Government will not realise. I have seen so much of it in my years of service. When the Government have sent out governors, they have always preferred the advice and experience of the gentleman in the office with the blotting-paper cuffs. Apparently they do not recollect the maxim of the Roman General Sulla, who said, "He who would take the helm, must first serve at the oar." What did Marshal Lyauty say about Angora? He said, "We do not want want the mess in North Africa that these English are having in India. We must have peace with Angora." And North Africa, as far as I know, is at present as peaceful as Piccadilly. Let me come to what has been happening of late. We all know what have been the disastrous consequences of our support of the Greeks. It is patent to everyone that when the Greeks carried out their invasion they knew that they could not remain five minutes alone and without our support. With a very much superior army, far greater in numbers and excellently supplied with guns and all other material of war, they at once got beaten on the Sakaria river after hard fighting. It is the man behind the gun that does it always. To me there are only two kinds of soldiers in the world, the good soldier and the bad. If you give a good soldier an inferior gun and everything else, he will beat the man whose heart is not in the right place. I daresay there are many amongst the Greeks who are good soldiers, but with regard to the fighting value of the lot we have not a great opinion. What happened? They were repulsed. They are now thrown on the defensive, and they at once began to dig in, and what they want to do is to hold on to what they have got. There is no doubt about it. Our Government stepped in at once with the idea, I must suppose, of protection, and proposed an armistice at once, announcing also that they would not put pressure on the Greeks. That. means that the Greeks can make themselves thoroughly comfortable, and after three or four months they may say, "We have altered our minds. We mean to stop." Then our officials and the Cabinet wonder that Kemal will not accept such a fool proposition. Let anyone who has served put himself in the place of the Turkish general and say, "We want an armistice. We are not going away. We want to remain here." No one in his senses would grant an armistice. Time after time I have heard it said, "Kemal will not do this, Kemal will not do that." We ought to hear Kemal's side of the question. At the beginning of this month Kemal proposed to have a conference at Ismid. He chose a place quite close to Angora, where he has a direct line of telegraph. He can be on the spot and decide the question once and for all. I am certain that peace would come from that conference. I have talked with many Turks, and I am certain of it. After keeping the Quai d'Orsay waiting for fifteen days, when the rifles could go off at any time and start the fighting again, our Foreign Office replied rejecting the Conference, and, at the same time, to put the lid on the whole thing, and I suppose to let the war continue, they demand this inquiry into the alleged Turkish atrocities. The French replied that they found the proposition of the Conference a very acceptable one. They were not bound to accept all KemaI's conditions because they attended it. They also agreed to have this inquiry on the Turkish atrocities if at the same time we would have an inquiry into the Greek atrocities at Smyrna, which the Prime Minister has put in a pigeon hole. I know what was in that inquiry. I have seen the whole of that inquiry and it summed up entirely against the Greeks. Do you think everyone does not know that? I cannot call it honest. I have been very busy and I find out now that the Atrocity Report is absolutely false. The facts have been sent to the American and the French Governments. Whether they have come to our Government, I do not know, but there it is. I hope our Government will not go on and make themselves ridiculous in the eyes of the Eastern world and Europe by accepting the thing without any proof. We do not all believe in Conferences. Some of us believe that a Conference is where bustle and confusion are mistaken for the activity of business. Our Prime Minister believes in them and I agree that his heart and soul were in what he tried to do. Why did he not go to Ismid? Why did he not take a light cruiser at Taranto travelling 22 knots and go through the Canal of Corinth to the Gulf of Ismid? He would have had it all over in three or four days. He could have talked with Kemal and made him moderate his demands. That is why I desired to go there. I know him well and respect him and I wanted to say to him, "For heaven's sake, Kemal, moderate your demands. We must have peace." And I would have worked heart and soul for it, but the Foreign Office were not of the same opinion. I have not altered my opinion and I only wish the Prime Minister could have been induced to go there. I believe fighting will begin before June is over. There is a large movement of Turks from the Eastward moving West. By our Government rejecting the plan of Ismid—I defy anyone to contradict me—we have broken off negotiations for peace. I dare say there is still time. I do not wish to criticise. I have only said what I think is absolutely true. I only beg that the Government will try to alter their policy and follow Beaconsfield, Palmerston and the great man Salisbury, who were of one opinion and that was to have that military race, the Turks, as our friends on the road to India.
I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman has performed a great public service in raising this question on one of the few last occasions on which the matter can be ventilated before the unhappy events that he feels justified in prophesying may come about, namely, the re-starting of fighting in the mountains and uplands of Anatolia. I propose to deal with one or two aspects of this very complicated and serious question. Why have the Government suddenly started to give exceptional publicity to the excesses, which I am afraid have occurred in some measure, committed by the Turks? Why have they been silent, and more than silent? Why have they suppressed the reports of their own officers on the excesses committed.by the Greeks? Why have they suddenly taken the step of putting up a private Member to ask an inspired question, and then read out this long, dramatic account of the horrors committed on the Black Sea coast by the Turks? What is the meaning of it? Is it in preparation for a General Election? Is the right hon. Gentleman going to try to stampede us with the story of Turkish atrocities as Gladstone did three generations ago with much more cause? The whole story that we have been allowing ourselves to believe is open to the greatest doubt, and if I might quote from a paper that is exceedingly friendly to the Greeks and to the Hellenic cause, and incidentally to the Prime Minister and all his works, and hostile, I am sorry to say, to the Turks, namely, the "Daily Telegraph" of yesterday, I think the House will agree that this is a very extraordinary state of affairs. We all remember the dramatic and tense silence with which the House heard this long statement of the awful barbarities committed against these Greeks. The authority quoted was Major Yowell, of the Ameri can Near East Relief Association. The "Daily Telegraph" quotes as follows:
I do not understand that reference. Perhaps the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs does:"Mr. Larry Rue, special correspondent at Constantinople of the 'Chicago Tribune' telegraphed yesterday: 'Vigorous denial of allegations of atrocities perpetrated against Armenians in Asia Minor by the Turks made by Major Yowell, formerly with the American Near East Relief Association, was given to the Anatolia. Press to-day by Captain Jacquith, director at Constantinople of the Near East Relief. Captain Jacquith is now at Angora. "I authentically refute" said Captain Jacquith, "the declarations made by Major Yowell and his comrades. I regret the incident. The communications of these gentleman and similar challenges have done much to strain relations between the United States and Turkey. Major Yowell's complaint was not the result of an investigation by our authorities. He acted absolutely independently after his expulsion from Anatolia. Major Yowell and his comrades were deported for conduct hostile to the Turkish authorities. The information published in the 'New York Times' over his name was fabricated out of whole cloth."'"
I neither accepted the original statement in its entirety nor do I accept this denial in its entirety. These reports of excesses are always exaggerated, although to a certain extent they are only frequently too true. I accept the fact that probably there have been deplorable excesses committed by the Turks against their Greek subjects, and I accept the statement that there have been deplorable excesses perpetrated by the Greeks against the Turks in their occupied territory in this Smyrna vilayet. When you get Greeks fighting Turks you have all the atrocities and bestialities of a religious and racial war. In that part of the world these things are bound to happen, and there is only one cure, and that is peace. Peace would have come in these regions many months, indeed years, ago, but. for the deplorable foreign policy adopted by His Majesty's Government with regard to the whole Turkish question. The Greek Army was very careful to keep out of the fighting while the War was on. It was when we had beaten Turkey, when we had disarmed Turkey and had given the Turks certain definite understandings and undertakings by the Prime Minister in public speeches and by the terms of the Armistice, that we broke our word, as we have so often done with this unfortunate Government, and loosed the Greeks like jackals on the disabled lion—a horrible chapter of broken pledges and treachery towards the Turks, which will yet cost us dear amongst our millions of Moslem subjects. There are excesses on both sides, and so long as war continues there will be these excesses. There is only one cure, and that is peace, and that we shall at last acknowledge that we were wrong, that we backed the wrong horse. For heaven's sake! let us make the just and honourable peace that can be made with Turkey, and then these unfortunate minorities in Armenia, in lesser Armenia, and the Greek colonists on the shores of the Black Sea will, at last, be able to live peacefully as they did for 500 years. It was only when these unfortunate racial wars came that these attacks began and these unfortunate people were ill-used and massacred. Hon. Members will get up and with great eloquence will tell us that it is only occasionally that the Greeks, exasperated by the murder of their relatives, turn round and attack the Turks. May I quote another newspaper which carries great weight in all questions of foreign politics. I refer to the "Manchester Guardian." On 27th May, 1921, there was a long account by a special correspondent of this well-known and excellent paper, in which he described, at length, the appalling treatment of the Turkish villages in the Greek occupied area, especially in the Yalova district. He says:"Captain Jacquith has accepted an invitation by the Turks to go to Kharput and investigate details of the alleged outrages committed against the Armenian and Creek populations there. It is learned on good authority that the Christian population at Caesarea have protested in a. mass meeting against the Yowell report."
I raised the question of atrocities in this area at Question Time, and the Foreign Office admitted it, quite honestly, but the Government did not get a special question put, and the Leader of the House did not get up and give us a long screed, with all his great powers of oratory and gesture. The matter was slurred over. This treatment of the Turks was not advertised, as in the case of the unfortunate Greek colonists along the Black Sea. The reason why these colonists have been ill-used along the Black Sea coast—I do not say there have not been excesses —was that they rose in the rear of the Turkish Army, when the Greek forces were attacking them on the Smyrna front. Arms were landed by Greek warships, which we permitted to go to the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, and to communicate with the Greeks along that shore. A plot was formed for the Greek colonists to rise and to declare a Pontine Republic. The Turks were fighting for their lives, ill-equipped, short of men, short of arms, against the Greeks, who were supplied by us with everything they wanted. I dare say there were excesses, which I deplore, but it was bound to happen under the conditions. What would we have done in Flanders if the civil population had risen behind us? We should not have committed atrocities, but they would have had very harsh treatment. We must remember that the people to whom I am referring have not reached a very high state of civilisation. The Prime Minister is always talking about the need of restoring peace, and of finding work for our unemployed, and of telling us that a million and a half men want employment and cannot get it because the trade of the world is bad. Nothing will revive trade more than the bringing of peace, but it is no good trying to make peace with Russia at Genoa and The Hague if you encourage and abet this war in Asia Minor. Asia Minor is a great market for British goods, but if we get ourselves known as the enemies of Islam, we shall alienate our loyal subjects in India, who have just as much right to be considered as His Majesty's subjects in this country. The Government have been wrong in this case. They have been wrong in other policies. They have been wrong in their agricultural policy, their Russian policy, and so forth, and they have, without acknowledging it, reversed their policy. Let them now be courageous enough to reverse their policy on this matter, and we on this side will not throw a taunt at them, but we will thank them for having, at last, honestly acknowledged their mistake and started a new policy. I believe that an honest and honourable peace is possible. The proposal to send a Committee of officers is not altogether a fair one, because there is a technical state of war with Turkey, and it is rather a tall order to expect the Turks to receive allied officers to investigate these alleged atrocities. I understand that the Turks are prepared to accept neutral officers, not from America, because America has, unfortunately, been identified with this Pontine movement. I believe they would accept Swedes, Swiss, Spaniards, or others not technically at war with them. That is very fair. Let us, at any rate, be impartial, and join France in sending a Committee of inquiry to Smyrna, and let the Greeks know that their Imperialistic ambitions must be curbed, and that they had better be careful to restrain their disappointed soldiery in their retreat, so that we may not have reprisals which might result in the extermination of these unfortunate Christians, for whom I feel as much as anybody else."Since Captain Dimitrius Pappagrigoriou, the Greek Commander-in-Chief, took command, all the Moslem villages except two— Samanli and Akkeui—have been destroyed by Creek so-called irregular bands. I found barely 500 survivors of these villages concentrated in Akkeui, Samanli, and the town of Yalova. Within the last 15 days 15 per cent. of the inhabitants of Akkeui have also been killed. The whole Moslem population is terrorised and in daily danger of death."
I hope my two hon. and gallant Friends will forgive me if I do not follow them in all that they have said. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Wrekin Division (Sir C. Townshend) began by speaking of the differences between France and ourselves, and the fact that the Germans have made an alliance with Eussia. He might have extended the subject. He might have said that, unfortunately for us, our policy and the French policy are, on their worser sides, complementary of each other. While we are doing all we can by our policy to make all the enemies for us in Asia, not only the Turks, but also the Greeks, so also is the French policy keeping alive the enmity that exists in Europe. I go one step further than either of the two hon. and gallant Gentlemen. You are not going to cure this until we change our methods. No worse fate can befall a country than to be governed, as we are to-day, by a veiled autocracy, because when you have a Government of that kind it has to support its authority by unconstitutional means, that invites unconstitutional attack, as we have seen recently at Genoa. If we had had a constitutional Prime Minister, we should have been represented by trained diplomacy or the League of Nations, and not by any of the bargaining that has been very detrimental to us. Again, if the result of those negotiations had ended in success, it would have been the success of a system and a machine working regularly and properly, that would have excited no enmity, and not the electoral success of an individual.But on the one particular question I believe that the whole of the country was behind the Prime Minister when he went to Genoa. That is to say it desired the thing which he desired. I think that the ordinary man believed that the intentions of the Prime Minister were good in going to Genoa. I think that he also believed that his motives were mixed in going there, and probably thought that the methods employed were bad, but what I feel myself, and I expect that many other people feel the same thing, is that when the Prime Minister goes to a Conference it is as if I were in a storm at sea on a boat steered by a poet—he may be a very competent poet—who keeps his eyes on the stars, not to steer by them, but because he is going to write verses about them, but who on the other hand is a very indifferent pilot, because he has no eyes for the rocks. At Genoa the Prime Minister seems to have made peace among the neutrals. Then he made a truce among the people who are not fighting, and he is alleged to have made a breach in the entente, but one thing which he did not do was to bring peace to the two combatants who are fighting, that is the Greeks and Turks. That oblivion on his part was very characteristic of him, because throughout his handling of affairs has been careless of our immediate interest in the East, and indifference to our future advantage, and it is not unfair to say that he has been callous in the sufferings of the victims of that unhappy war who were in no way responsible for it. His attitude towards the East has been characterised by a vicarious courage because, after all, when Caesar crossed the Rubicon he did it himself. He did not send the Greeks to do it as the present Prime Minister has done. The result has been misery from Smyrna to the Black Sea and the Pontus. Still no really active steps have been taken. Why is that? Is not the answer this, that any change in policy must be an admission of the failure of what I will call the private policy of the Prime Minister? The only policy which he has followed in the East has been his private policy. This House has never really received full information about it. I always think that the experience of the Prime Minister in home policy and domestic legislation has been very unfortunate and for this reason. It has taught him to believe that he can do what he has done in foreign policy, as in English policy. There is no man who has passed more colossal legislation only to scrap it. He passed land values and hurried them to a dishonoured grave. He gave the farmers and labourers their charter and turned it into tiny scraps of paper. He appears to think this can be done with foreign policy though it cannot be done. When you set two people at each other's throats, and, in consequence, blood has been shed, you cannot bring about peace simply by waving an olive branch. There is no road to peace to-day unless our Government are prepared to admit the mistakes which they have made in the past. That is not a very large sacrifice to make. It is a smaller one than the Greeks or Turks have made in this fighting. In reference to the terms which have been offered to the Greeks and the Turks, I will only say that those terms do certainly constitute a step in advance though not a very big step. They constitute it for this reason, that they give the Greeks, who have been fighting for many years, a possible chance of ceasing hostilities, and they give the Turks a possibility, at any rate, of contemplating those terms. But I do not look on those terms as being in any way satisfactory or possible in the long run. For the simple reason that terms of this nature, though they may afford a cessation of hostilities are not going to bring peace. They are simply a pause in the battle for refreshment. It would be easy, and many hon. Members of this House know it, to find much more honourable, and much more generous terms, both to the Greeks and the Turks which would produce a permanent peace if the Government really set their mind to it. I think that very soon my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. O'Connor) will be speaking, and I would appeal to him to leave all the barren recriminations with regard to these horrible things that have occurred on both sides and to ask him to use all his influence to persuade the Government to go in for a new policy, and to save the lives of the people. Let us, as far as we can, forget the past. I think he knows now that there is something in what I have said before, that is that when these horrors are committed on both sides it is chiefly, in fact almost wholly, on one side they are published, and I think that there is a great deal in what the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut-Commander Ken-worthy) said before he sat down. I make one other appeal to this honourable House. Up to now, as I have said, the policy of the Government has been the private and not the public policy of the Prime Minister. This House of Commons has not been consulted on it. The Foreign Office has been very little consulted on this. We have reason to believe that distinguished and interested foreigners have been consulted, but not ourselves. I want to see a return to our old system. I want to see the Foreign Office restored and put in its place instead of miracles. We have been living under a reign of miracles that is really almost a reign of terror to a great many of us who are interested in foreign affairs. I hope that while this House is not sitting measures to bring an end to these hostilities will be taken. If that does not happen, I hope when this House meets again that a vote of want of confidence in the Government will be proposed, for which I, for one, shall be very happy to vote.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) was courageous enough in the course of his Turkophil speech to quote the name of Gladstone. I wonder what Mr. Gladstone if he were in this House this evening, would think of a Liberal Member minimising the massacres by the Turks and maximizing the alleged massacres by the Greeks and proclaiming a policy more Turkophil almost than the Turks themselves. If my hon. and gallant Friend had lived in those great days of Liberalism, I tell him frankly there would have been no place for him in a Liberal constituency in the United Kingdom if he had preached the policy he has proclaimed to-day. The hon. and gallant Gentleman also said that if the Government reversed their policy, that is, took up the side of the Turks as strongly as it is against the Turks, then, "We would support the Government." "We"? For whom does he speak? Does he mean to suggest that the majority of Liberals in this nation have abandoned the policy of Gladstone and all the other leaders who have protested against the massacres by the Turks? My view is that to-day there is just as strong an opinion deep down in the hearts of the people, and especially among the churches of this country, who are as strongly determined to put an end to these massacres of Christians as there was even in the days of Gladstone. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, in his interesting speech, quoted Lord Beaconsfield and the late Lord Salisbury. He omitted to mention that Lord Salisbury had to admit that in supporting the Turks at the time of the Berlin Treaty, England had backed the wrong horse.
It was after the Crimean War.
That war is now accounted by most people to have been one of the greatest blunders and crimes in our history. I am glad to say that not only John Bright bat Cardinal Newman were amongst those who opposed that outrageous, futile and wicked war. What is the case for my hon. and gallant Friend? He mentioned a "put up" question by a private Member. He said a private Member had asked the Leader of the House a question, to which he gave a reply. As that private Member was myself, I would say that I was not "put up" to do it. I am not to be accounted among the regular or irregular supporters of the Government. I put the question because I read the statement in the papers of the day. I had no more idea than my hon. and gallant Friend of the answer the Leader of the House was going to give me. I had no communication with the right hon. Gentleman, except that I sent him a private notice, as I was bound by courtesy and the rules of the House to do. Why does the hon. and gallant Gentleman resort to what I must call these petty expedients in order to throw discredit on the statements with regard to the atrocities by the Turks?
My hon. Friend will perhaps allow me to make an explanation. I was completely wrong about that; I was thinking about another question. I should like to withdraw what I said about any "put up" question. I know the hon. Gentleman is perfectly incapable of anything of that sort.
As a matter of fact, I do not see any reason why, if I were so disposed, I should not have gone to the Leader of the House and said, "I have this question, and I want to put a question about it." Anything that is done to bring out these abominable atrocities of the Turks on the Christians of the East is met by my hon. and gallant Friend with every weapon of raillery and suggestion and doubt and animosity.
They are exaggerated.
Is it an exaggeration that a million Armenians were killed during the War? Is it, or is it not? If the hon. and gallant Gentleman says it is an exaggeration, I call the testimony of Lord Bryce and the other authorities who examined most carefully into these things and who, having tested the evidence, brought forth that most damning document of the most hideous massacres in history. Why was it done against the Armenians. It was done against us, as well as against the Armenians, because the Turks knew that if our side won in the War, one of the first things we expected to do, and ought to have done, was to give the Armenians protection against the Turks. I am astounded at the refracting perversity of partisanship in the ordinary clear and humane mind of my hon. and gallant Friend. He. has just succeeded in getting the promise of further protection in regard to performing animals. I fully sympathise with him, and congratulate him on his success, but am I not entitled to ask from him for human beings, though they happen to be Christians and not Mahommedans, such protection against butchery as he is entitled to ask for protection against the ill-treatment of monkeys, birds, and performing parrots?I cannot understand the kind of mind, especially in a Liberal, which my hon. and gallant Friend applies to this problem. What is his criticism of the statement of the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State? The House was thrilled and shocked by that awful story of horrors which the hon. Gentleman put before it, and the only comment the hon. and gallant Gentleman has to make on that terrible revelation of hideous crime is that it was done with dramatic effect, as if it required dramatic effect to emphasise to any body of humane and generous Englishmen the horror of the crimes of which the hon. Gentleman spoke. The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that the evidence was simply that of an American. That is not so. All the American did was to confirm the reports which our own officials had got of these hideous massacres. It is not honest, not liberal, and not wise for a man to try and minimise these atrocities instead of dragging them into the light, and for the purpose of defeating a policy which is meant to make a recurrence of these horrors impossible. My hon. and gallant Friend the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. A. Herbert) and the hon. and gallant Member for Wrekin (Major-General Sir C. Townshend), who opened this discussion, retort by saying: "Oh, but there were Greek atrocities." Who denies it? When I ventured the other day, in an interview which I had the honour of having with M. Venizelos, to speak of these allegations, he laid down what I think is an unanswerable reply, "You must compare the comparable." What he meant by that, he explained, was that you must compare the action of a settled Greek Government in normal times with the action of a settled Turkish Government in ordinary times. You must not compare the deeds that are done in the savage hours of war with the deeds that are done with the sanction and by the initiative of the Government, and a-s the Government policy such as the massacre of the Armenians during the War, on which the Turks were congratulated indirectly by the friends of my hon. and gallant Friends, namely, by Bethmann-Hollweg and other German authorities.
Your new friends on this Turkish policy. The Turks were congratulated on the improvements they had brought about in the condition of Turkey and in the rehabilitation of Turkey—the improvements being the massacre of one million Armenians. Does my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull know any Armenians and any Greeks? Will he say that any English woman in her home is a higher or nobler specimen of womanhood than the typical Greek or Armenian? Yet when these people are ravished and murdered, when their babies are butchered before their mothers' eyes, my hon. and gallant Friend has less sympathy with them than with the performing monkey or the caged canary. That is the new humanitarianism of the new school of Radicalism represented by my hon. and gallant Friend. What about the Greek atrocities? The main scene of them is Smyrna. The Greek troops came there. They were fired upon by the Turks. I brought down to this House M. Venezelos, and I think my hon. and gallant Friends will say that he made one of the frankest statements that was ever made by the Prime Minister of a country.
I should have liked to have had an official report.
I have not got it and so cannot speak of it. What happened at Smyrna was that when the Greek troops arrived it was with the knowledge that tens of thousands of their countrymen and fellow Christians, the Armenians, had been massacred during the War. I do not suppose they were in a particularly gentle frame of mind. They were fired on. They made reprisals, some of them bloody and horrible reprisals. Does anyone suppose that an army in the field, fired upon by the enemy in all the savage passions of war, can be expected to have the same control of temper or of their swords and guns as men in ordinary tunes? I do not believe there has been one murder by a Greek of a Turk for every 10,000 murders by Turks of Greeks and Armenians during the last four or five years. I cannot accept the doctrine that the life of one Turk is as valuable as the lives of 10,000 Christians, because the one happens to be a follower of Mahomet and the other a follower of Christ. There were atrocities committed. What happened? The Greek Government immediately held an inquiry and brought before courts-martial the soldiers who could be identified as having taken part in the massacre. I forget the number of condemnations, but they ran into hundreds, and two Greeks, I believe the day after the atrocities, were hanged in the streets of Smyrna. Give me any such instance of prompt justice by the Turks.Anybody who wants to look at this question impartially must make an essential distinction between acts done by soldiers in the passion of war and acts committed at ordinary times. Does my hon. and gallant Friend know that there is a large number of Mahommedan deputies in the Greek Chamber? I believe there are 18 from Thrace and 11 or 12 from Macedonia, though at the moment I cannot be sure as to the exact number. That does not look like a desire to oppress the Turks under Greek rule. The other day there was a division on which the fate of the Greek Ministry depended. The Ministry was saved or lost—I forget at the moment which—by one vote. In the Division Lobby there were 30 or 40 Mahommedan deputies. Did any Greek get up and say, "We cannot. regard this as a fair vote, on which the Government may be turned out of office, because the majority was only one and there were 30 or 40 Mahommedans in the majority"? The Mahommedans play the same part in Greece as the party to which I belong played in past years in this House. I was one of the seven Irishmen who turned out the Government in 1885. No one said that that Division could not be accepted because there were seven Irish Members in the majority. The Mahommedan deputy in Greece has the same value as a voter, and the same attention as a speaker as any Greek deputy in the Chamber. I judge of what will happen to the Turks under normal conditions of Greek rule by the great traditions of culture and civilisation which Greece inherits, and without which most of us would be uncultured here to-day, and on the uniform practice of the Greek Government to treat the Mahommedan subjects with exactly the same equality, religious, racial and political, as any other race or creed. We are told that the British Government must change its policy. Does my hon. and gallant Friend want the Government to force the Greek Army out of Asia Minor?
Let us analyse that proposition. The Greeks are to leave Asia Minor, which means that they must also leave Smyrna, where there is a Christian majority, and must leave every Greek and Armenian Christian in Asia Minor exposed to the risk of such massacres as have horrified the world within the last two or three weeks. I take the opposite policy, and I say that if this country or any other country makes the Greeks withdraw their troops until they have protection in an autonomous Smyrna district and a place of refuge for all possible victims of Turkey—Turkey, which, although not triumphant, is so cruel—if any Christian Government does that, its pretence to Christianity and the love of liberty is a. blasphemy and a hypocrisy. My hon. and gallant Friend will see the gulf that is between us. I hold him, and every other man who wants to drive the Greeks from Asia Minor, and from the Smyrna region, responsible, as I hold Lord Beaconsfield responsible, for tens of thousands of human lives which have been destroyed through the adoption of that policy. It is said that the Kemalists must not give an armistice. One of my hon. Friends asked me if I professed to speak in the cause of peace. I do; I want peace, and why should there not be an armistice? I do not believe the Kemalists want to advance on the Greeks, and I am sure the Greeks do not want to advance on the Kemalists. If these two people fight, it is because stupidity will drive them into the battlefield in spite of themselves. When the Government declares its policy to be the policy of the whole Christian and humane world, that they will not allow Turkish authority any more to misrule and butcher Christians, and when they stand behind the Greeks in that policy, then and then only shall we have peace with honour and a real protection for these people in the future.
The hon. Member who has just addressed the House has a great right to speak with the warmth and eloquence which he possesses, against the atrocities of the Turks on the Christians in Asia Minor and elsewhere, because he has often done so before and with great effect. I cannot conceive how anyone could possibly palliate the conduct of the Turks during the last few years, and during a much longer period. I do not think those who desire a peaceful policy to be pursued by this country, do their cause any good by minimising the atrocious crime or set of crimes committed by Talaat and all his myrmidons during 1915 and 1916. Unfortunately, similar crimes have been committed both before that time and since, by direct orders from the old Constantinople Government, and not by the casual fury of local people. It has been proved over and over again that the local authorities are not, generally speaking, responsible for these brutalities, but they have been committed almost always by the orders of the central government.
I do not palliate that.
I know that. I am sure nothing is gained by palliating that, nor do I think anything is gained, if my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. O'Connor) will forgive me for saying so, by palliating some of the things which have been recently done by the Greeks. I am afraid I am not able to accept the defence he put forward for some of the things done in Smyrna and neighbourhood unless the accounts I have read are wholly untrue. It is not only a question of the occupation of Smyrna, but quite recently serious allegations have been made as to crimes committed by Greeks in that part, and I cannot forget the report of Professor Toynbee as to what was done at Yalova—and he was. not a Turcophile, but was constrained by what he saw to report very seriously indeed on the crimes being committed by the Greek forces that were there. We must admit that atrocities have been committed on both sides. In my judgment, far the greater number have been committed by the Turks, but still, they have been committed on both sides, and it is one of the terrible effects of these atrocities that once they are started they lead. to other atrocities. There are reprisals, and reprisals are always indefensible, even in Ireland, but are terrible when they are carried out by half-civilised people under these conditions.Therefore I look with the greatest possible apprehension to what is likely to happen in the near future in Asia Minor. The present situation is a very dangerous one. It is the result of the terrible mistakes made by the British Government and its Allies in their Middle Eastern and Near Eastern policy. There was a delay after the Armistice, before they made peace with Turkey, when months passed during which the Turks would have gladly accepted almost any terms. Certainly if something like moderate and reasonable terms had been offered there is not the least doubt the Turks would have accepted. The excuse that the Allies were waiting to find out whether the Americans would accept a mandate, always appeared to me to be miserably inefficient. I am afraid there are other directions in which we shall have to pay for the mistakes then committed. I should be glad if my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs can tell us why we ever encouraged or sent the Greeks to Smyrna, and having sent them there, or encouraged them to go there, what are our obligations? What is our policy in regard to their remaining in Smyrna. I have heard on what appears to be very good authority, that in the territories now occupied by the Greeks, there are no less than 800,000 non-Turkish inhabitants, and that if the Greeks withdraw without anything being clone, these people, most of whom probably have compromised themselves from the Turkish point of view during the occupation, will be left at the mercy of a Turkish army not perhaps very well disciplined, and deranged by national, racial, and religious feeling. We have first to consider the risk to this very large population. Then there is another point which I hesitate to put. I think, however, it is right to put it, because I do not think there can be any doubt about it. What security is there that we can hold Constantinople against the Kemalists forces if the Greeks are completely withdrawn in Asia? If it is not indiscreet to ask I should like to know whether my hon. Friend agrees or disagrees with the estimate of the numbers of people who will be endangered by an immediate withdrawal of the Greeks. Besides that, we have to consider very important and difficult political considerations in regard to the Mahommedan people. I ask the Government what is their policy? What are they going to do? The hon. Member who spoke last makes an open appeal that we should protect the Greek population or, as I prefer to put it, the non-Turkish population. I agree that as a most desirable thing to do if we can do it, but are we going to war? Are we going to send an expedition to do it? I do not think that is practical politics. He said we might leave the Greeks there. Are we going to ask the Greeks to remain, or merely going to leave the situation alone? Which is to be our policy? If we merely leave it alone, is it certain that the Greeks will economically and financially, apart from militarily, be able to maintain themselves? If they say, "If you want us to stay, are you prepared to pay for us to stay?" what is going to be our reply to that? These questions seem to me to be very important, and the House should have some enlightenment upon them. We ought to know where we stand and where we are going. If my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs says he can make no answer because negotiations are proceeding and he has some hope that they are going to result in a peace, well and good, but if not, let us know where we stand and what we are going to do. In particular, I want to ask what are our obligations, if any, with regard to Smyrna. Are we under any obligation? Did we ask the Greeks to go there If so, on what terms, for what purpose, when, and by whose advice? I think the time has come when we might. know that without any disadvantage. It must have happened two or three years ago. Owing to the conditions under which the House now has to consider foreign affairs, as far as I know no Papers have ever been presented to Parliament giving us any account of that very fatal transaction, because there are many who know these countries well who tell me that it was the going of the Greeks to Smyrna which really destroyed our influence with the Turks. I do not know whether that is true, but I should like to know: and since they have been there, is it. or is it. not true, as is constantly alleged, that we have given them, secretly or openly, some encouragement to remain? If we have not, as I understand we have not, found any money or advanced any money or given any credit, I understand we did do something to facilitate their getting credits in London. I should like to know if that. is so. The Government, as I understood the Financial Secretary the other day, did say that they had facilitated the raising of credits in London, and I want to know whether we did do that, and, if so, what is the obligation which rests upon us in consequence. I think the House is entitled to some enlightenment on these questions. They are very serious, and they are likely to produce, or may produce, very far-reaching results. 10.0 P.M. We do nothing but harm if we merely denounce the Turks for massacring Christians unless we are prepared to do something to save the Christians. With that, I think, my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool will fully agree. Mere denunciation is quite valueless, and we must be prepared with a policy. Well, what is the policy? It is extremely difficult to make suggestions unless you are in full possession of a number of facts of which no unofficial Member can be in possession, but I think, myself, that if it is our policy to make peace with the Angora Turks—and I imagine, by what has passed, that that is our policy—we ought to be quick about it. There is no time to he lost. The matter is very urgent, and in particular we ought to do it before—emphatically before—any evacuation by the Greeks takes place. Those seem to me to be the broad facts of the situation, but I implore the Government, even if they cannot announce it to the House—there may be difficulties in doing that—at any rate to have in their own minds a clear and definite plan which they will pursue. It really is fatal—I agree most fully with my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. A. Herbert)—to think that in foreign policy you can pursue one policy for a little while and then, when it becomes unpopular or for some other reason, change round and pursue another policy. The only result of that is that you obtain the results of neither policy. and you incur profound distrust from all the nations with which you are dealing. That fatal tendency of the Government in foreign affairs seems to me to have produced much that we all deplore in recent international history, and I ask my hon. Friend, if he can, to relieve an anxiety, which I assure him is felt far beyond the walls of this House, as to the position which now exists in Asia Minor and the policy of the British Government with regard to it.
There were many things in the speech of my Noble Friend the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) with which I found myself. if I may respectfully say so, as, indeed, I always do find myself, in a large measure of agreement, and particularly I agreed with him when, referring to the duel that has taken place between different hon. Members in the House about Greek and Turkish atrocities, he said that we should do best not to palliate either. It is my belief that dreadful crimes have been committed on both sides, and in both cases in circumstances which do not always admit of the excuse that they were committed in hot blood, but I do not see, myself, what is the advantage of discussing those deplorable events in this House. So much can be said on one side, and so much can be said on the other. It is claimed, on the one hand, that the charge against one of the parties is out of all comparison more serious than that against another—I think so myself—but I do not see the advantage of our discussing it in this House, and particularly at this period.
I referred to them, not for the purpose of recrimination, but to suggest to the Government a policy which would prevent the recurrence of such massacres.
In that connection, as illustrations, no doubt some references to these events are advisable, but I strongly deprecate anything in the nature of a first-class or full-dress Debate on the deplorable events that have occurred on both sides in that part of the world. With reference to the remark which fell from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut. - Commander Kenworthy), I thought he was less than fair, if he will permit me to say so, in suggesting that this Government are in the habit of shirring over the Greek excesses. I can assure him that there is no intention on my part to do anything of the kind, and if I do not often speak in this House on these excesses, or on the Turkish excesses, it is because, for my part, I have never been able to see that any good was to come of our discussing in this House these abominable occurrences which have for so long disgraced warfare in Asia Minor.
I was referring to answers to questions. I do not accuse the hon. Gentleman in his speeches of anything unfair.
My Noble Friend asked me a number of questions, to some of which, I am quite sure, he will not expect very explicit answers. He spoke of the non-Turkish people within the area now occupied by the Greeks. It is a very large number, but whether he is accurate in estimating the number at 800,000 I do not know; but certainly, whatever the number, it is large, and this House cannot disinterest itself in the safety and welfare of those people. Then my Noble Friend asked me, could we, or can we, hold Constantinople? That is a matter I should have thought rather for naval and military authorities, and I should imagine that they would be very-slow to express their opinion on the subject, even if they were present in the House to address the House on that subject. I can assure my Noble Friend of one thing. and that is that we have not assisted the Greek Government in recent times to obtain credit. I think he was quite mistaken in thinking that the Government, openly or indirectly, have assisted the Greeks to obtain credit in recent times.May I remind the House of what, in point of fact, the position is with regard to negotiations? Members have long enough accused His Majesty's Government of an extraordinary remissness in dealing with this matter of Turkey. If His Majesty's Government have been remiss, they have shared their remissness with very good company. It was not the particular and sole business of His Majesty's Government to bring about a settlement in Turkey, or in any one of the late enemy Empires. I think that point ought always to be borne in mind when we are discussing these matters, and I venture to say—I hope it is not an indiscreet. thing to say—that, in my judgment, sometimes, if His Majesty's Government—either this Government or some other British Government—had sole charge of the settlement, whether in the Turkish Empire or another, results might have been more speedily achieved, and might have proved more satisfactory to the world. But, at all events, in recent months the Government cannot be accused of slackness or remissness in the matter of the settlement of affairs of the late Turkish Empire. I need only remind the House of the recent Conference at Paris, to which my Noble Friend the Secretary of State went when he, as I thought, and think, was in a condition of health that scarcely justified him in undergoing so much fatigue, and the whole matter was discussed with our French and Italian Allies. And what did they propose? I am not going to remind the House of all the terms, but of one of the terms which is of particular interest to us this evening. What was the first of the conditions proposed by the Conference in Paris? It was that there should be- an armistice, pending discussions on other points. It is no fault of His Majesty's Government. or of the Allies of this country, that that proposal for an armistice has not yet been accepted. It. has been accepted by Greece. It has not been accepted by the Angora Government. Whose fault is that? If there has been delay in the negotiations. how can it be charged against His Majesty's Government, or against the Allies? Indeed, it is historical that when you are engaged in diplomatic business with Eastern peoples. you must expect delay, for you will certainly get it. If the House will indulge me so far, I can make considerable use of a note which I have here, which has been very carefully considered, and which I have made, as it were, my own by going over every word with the greatest care. On 22nd March the Conference of Allied Foreign Ministers at Paris proposed an immediate armistice to the Governments of Athens, Constantinople and Angora. Hon. Members will not overlook the fact that, in dealing with the Turkish situation, you have to deal with two Turkish Governments. The Greek Government. accepted. No reply was received from Turkey. On 27th March the Conference communicated to Athens, Constantinople and Angora its proposals for a general settlement, which included evacution under Allied supervision. At the same time it invited those three Governments to send delegates to meet the three Allied High Commissioners at a place-to be agreed on, in order to examine the proposals, it being understood. of course, that the armistice at that time was in force. On 5th April the Angora Government replied, accepting the armistice, but it qualified its acceptance by the condition that. the evacuation of Asia Minor should begin at once. The House will see—I must deal with this matter with particular discretion—that when you propose an armistice on one side, and the other side proposes immediate evacuation, it is a contradiction in terms. Subject to this condition that is, that the evacuation should begin at once, so exposing an unarmed population), the Angora Government was also prepared to send delegates in three weeks to examine the general proposals. On 8th April the Constantinople Government expressed itself as willing to send delegates in three weeks for peace negotiations. It appeared not to be concerned with the armistice, but urged early evacuation of Asia Minor. Constantinople and Angora neither accepted nor rejected the general proposals. My Noble Friend says, "Get on with it; you ought to lose no time at all in coming to terms." I agree with him most heartily, but rapidity of movement on our part—and the House will observe that there has been no loss of time in these negotiations—without some responsive rapidity on their part cannot lead to what is desired. The Greek Government, having accepted the armistice, considered that it need return no answer about the general proposals until Turkey had definitely accepted the armistice. On 15th April, the Allies replied to Angora: (1) that. the Allies could not agree to the immediate evacuation of Asia Minor, (2) that they might, however, agree to evacuation beginning as soon as "the body" of the general proposals had been accepted, any "special points" being reserved for discussion. On 19th April the Allies replied to the Constantinople Government in much the same sense. The House will see what are the difficulties of the situation. Now we come to the subject which has formed so great a part of our discussion this evening. Angora replied on 22nd April, referring at length to alleged Greek atrocities and insisting on immediate evacuation. It suggested a conference at Ismid, "to open preliminary negotiations" and indicated that some of the peace proposals were unacceptable. The Constantinople Government replied on 29th April ostensibly accept- ing all the principles of the proposed settlement, but virtually challenging the whole settlement proposed.
Was there any reply to the proposal for a conference at Ismid?
I prefer not to go into that, at the moment. On consideration I think that when hon. Members are disposed to visit their wrath, as is perhaps natural, on their own Government and then on the Allied Governments for the procrastination, delay, remissions, and carelessness that has taken place they ought to have in mind first of all the immense difficulties of conducting what I may call peace negotiations when some of the principal parties have some divergence of aims and interests, and, again, when they are dealing with a people who, whatever their virtues, are not prone to the rapid dispatch of business, political or of any other kind. Since the dates I have mentioned in the course of this brief narrative we have had these later relations regarding Turkish excesses. When I say later I refer to the information that came through American informants and which did but confirm, as my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. O'Connor) has said such information as we had officially touching upon the same matter. I will not say any more on that, but the Government have been no less profoundly moved by these reports than the general body of the House. At all events the facts that these statements are, according to my information, well founded the more justifies, in my judgment, the allied policy of insisting upon an armistice, and not agreeing to an immediate evacuation: of insisting upon all those measures for the protection of minorities by inter-allied commissions and so forth, and the arrangements for securities in the matter which are now under the discussion of the Governments and which I myself hope will be concluded before long.