Sun, 6 October 1935, three days after the Italian invasion of Abyssinia.
The headlines reflect public horror at what was seen as a barefaced
grab for land and resources launched on a cooked-up pretext. Pity
the world's mainstream press couldn't manage to report the Anglo-US
invasion of Iraq with similar clarity. More front pages below.
under the linoleum
show Mussolini's imperialism looked a lot like today's
27 March 2007
the whole boring state election charade was over. My own role was
confined to trying to get at the truth behind the little-known Pru
Goward Breathalyser Incident. I had a client whod dearly like
to know what happened at Goulburn Police Station on Friday 16 February.
The facts were that the Howard acolyte and Liberal candidate for Goulburn
was breath-tested after being pulled over at 10.50 pm for failing
to stop at a stop sign. It seems she was asked to accompany the officers
to the station for a second test. As it turned out, Pru wasnt
charged with DUI and she claims she was well under the limit at 0.02.
Which may well be true, except that the cops dont normally ask
you to do a second test unless you were over the limit on the first.
all a bit of a mystery. My police contacts wouldnt talk and
I could only conclude that the coppers who pulled Pru over had left
their reading glasses at home, or couldnt count to ten.
investigation ran pretty completely into the sands and I went back
to renovating my little office kitchen. I thought it had been fitted
out in the 1950s but I got a shock when I peeled back the second layer
of old linoleum covering the floor.
newspapers underneath had last seen the light of day seventy-two years
ago. My eyes fell on the front page of The Sunday Sun of 6
October 1935, where in the fashion of the time several
decks of headlines recounted Fascist Italys attempt to create
a New Roman Empire on the Horn of Africa.
MENACE ADDIS ABABA
HEROIC LAST STAND BY DEFENDERS AS PINCERS GRASP ADOWA
Desperate Struggle Against Tanks, Aerial Bombs
Abyssinians Hold Up Thrust In Danakil Desert
on the floor and picked through the tragedy of the country we now
call Ethiopia laid out on the yellowing pages. It was eerily reminiscent
of the current Iraq adventure.
being massively outgunned by the Italians, the Abyssinians fought
heroically. Spears and old rifles were pitted against tanks, artillery
and modern bombers dropping poison gas and high explosives. Civilians
were massacred and villages laid waste.
the world, the public were outraged, but the anger bothered Mussolini
not at all.
The Italians prepared for the war with lies and provocations. They unilaterally
redefined the internationally-agreed border between Abyssinia and Italian
Somaliland and started to build roads into Abyssinia. When, in 1935,
their incursions were resisted with force, Mussolini had his casus
belli. The Italians invaded with 125,000 troops on 3 October and
captured Adowa three days later. The League of Nations declared Italy
the aggressor, but sanctions were imposed very slowly and didnt
include oil the one thing that would have brought Italy to heel
because the British and French argued that if they didnt
sell oil to the Italians, the Americans, who werent members of
the League, would. And Stalins Russia continued to sell oil to
But, gee, at least youd have to say that the League actually got
itself together to condemn blatant imperialist aggression against a
hapless Third World nation and introduced some sort of sanctions, an
action the gutless United Nations couldnt bring themselves to
when the coalition illegally invaded Iraq four years ago. In fact the
UN had imposed brutal sanctions on Iraq and approved a decade of Anglo-US
bombing of Iraqi civilian infrastructure before the 2003 invasion.
The British and French shamefully abandoned Abyssinia. The Hoare-Laval
Plan, a peace deal advanced by the foreign ministers of
the two countries offered Mussolini control of two-thirds of Abyssinia.
The British public exploded and Hoare resigned, but it made no difference
because Mussolinis plans were supported by the 1930s equivalents
of todays neo-conservatives.
The foreign editor of Lord Rothermeres Daily Mail, argued
that if Britain opposed war on one of the last and most backward
of independent nation states, we should be hindering the progress of
The Abyssinians were a savage and barbarous enemy, Lord
Hardinge opined, and British under-secretary of state for foreign affairs,
Lord Stanhope, told a foreign office official that Britain couldnt
sell Abyssinia arms as that would be going back on the white man
These sentiments werent confined to the British ruling class.
In a remarkable piece commissioned by the Australian Smiths
Weekly (19 October 1935), US newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst
I personally do not think that the nations of the Old World can
be blamed for expanding. They may have selfish motives. Most of us
are motivated by intelligent self interest. But they are carrying
the light of civilization into the dark places of the earth.
was thus that America was rescued from savagery.
conventionaltype war ended in May 1936, and the Abyssinian Emperor,
Haile Selassie, fled the country. Mussolini declared the equivalent
of George Bushs mission accomplished, but small
guerrilla bands fought on and eventually their brave stand prevailed
when the British, after Italy entered World War II on the side of
Hitlers Germany, decided theyd get behind the Abyssinian
terrorists. The New Roman Empire in East Africa came to
an ignominious end in 1941.
(Sydney) 25 September 1935. The fourth deck headline speculates that
Mussolini may only have been playing for time when Rome hinted that
it might be prepared for a "compromise" solution to the
border crisis it had deliberately created. But Mussolini was indeed
playing for time to complete invasion preparations. Shades of the
diplomatic manoeuvres leading up to the invasion of Iraq!
10 October 1935, a week after the invasion, Abyssinian troops and
irregulars continued to put up a brave resistance to the Italian Fascist
10 October 1935. A week after the invasion the Italian 'shock and
awe' campaign continued with an aerial offensive using what is described
as "a chemical substance resembling powdered sulphur" that
attacked the eyes and lungs of Abyssinian victims. "They call
us savages, yet this is Italy's first contribution to the new civilization
in Abyssinia" said Demjazmatch Nazibu, an Abyssinian commander.
Shades of the Anglo-US use of DU munitions, napalm and white phosphorus
in the Iraq war and the widespread use of cluster bombs in the Zionist
blitzkreig in Lebanon.
Weekly, 19 October 1935 (Sydney). In this specially commissioned piece,
US newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst got behind Italian imperialism
(see article above) and opined that the US should stay neutral ...
after all, similar treatment had been meted out to the Native Americans
and that was A Good Thing. Note the Indian chief looking accusingly
over Uncle Sam's shoulder and the inclusion of a countervailing view
to Hearst's in the US-sourced cartoon showing Mussolini stepping onto
Abyssinian territory and holding a pistol to the head of a hapless
native. In the box at the centre of the page, Smith's Weekly distances
itself from Hearst's views.
at $1.20 a litre? Say goodbye to all that
It was raining when I drove through Newtown late on Sunday afternoon.
King Street was teeming with people from the Soundwaves concert in
Sydney Park and the cafes and pubs were full of laughter. Soon the
street lights would come on and the restaurants would start filling
up and the neon signs would lend a tawdry glamour to the old town.
It will look like this on the streets of Tehran just before the American
blitz starts. They say Iran is a beautiful place, but bright lights
will probably not burn there for many years, and the country, like
Iraq before it, will be poisoned by radiation from DU munitions, if
not actual nuclear bombs, for thousands of years to come.