CHAPTER 19With historians heavily involved in either defending or damning the war in Iraq, it might be good time to ponder the case of Viscount James Bryce, the highly respected historian who sold out and went to his grave as a confirmed, dastardly, unrepentant liar. Before his unfortunate involvement with Wellington House, Bryce had enjoyed wide respect as an honest historian.
From the start of World War I, stories of German atrocities filled British and American newspapers. By far the bulk of them were prepared at Wellington House and spread through media channels. Mostly, they were supposed to have emanated from "eye-witness" accounts by "reporters and photographers," who accompanied the German Army's march through Belgium to outflank French defenses in their drive on Paris.
Eyewitnesses described German infantrymen spearing Belgian babies on their bayonets as they marched along, singing war songs. Accounts of Belgian boys and girls with amputated hands (supposedly to prevent them from using guns) abounded. Tales of women with amputated breasts multiplied even faster.
At the top of the atrocity hit parade were rape stories. One eyewitness claimed the Germans dragged twenty young women out of their houses in a captured Belgian town and stretched them on tables in the village square, where each was violated by at least twelve "Huns," while the rest of the division watched and cheered. At British expense, a group of Belgians toured the United States retelling these stories.
President Woodrow Wilson solemnly received them in the White House. Their story horrified America. Nobody thought to check their account of the rape they had witnessed. Their accounts of the brutality they allegedly had suffered were never questioned.
The Germans angrily denied these stories. So did American reporters with the German army. In 1914 Wilson had not yet "managed" the battlefield reporters unlike George Bush in the invasion of Iraq in 2002. There were no "embedded" reporters with the British Army. Tavistock had yet to learn how to censor the truth by "embedding" selected reporters with the troops.
When British journalist's dispatches began to be published in England, throwing doubt of the "atrocities", Northcliffe came up with the idea of appointing Lord Bryce to head an enquiry board to investigate accounts of German atrocities and report back to him. Actually the suggestion came from Edward Bernays and was approved by Walter Lippmann.
Then, early in 1915, the British government made it official by asking Viscount Bryce to head a royal commission to investigate the atrocity reports. Bryce was one of the best-known historians of the era; he had written widely praised books on the American government and on Irish history, sympathetically portraying the Irish people's hard fate under British rule. In 1907, he had worked with an Anglo-Irish diplomat, Roger Casement, to expose horrendous exploitation of Indian peoples on the Amazon River by a British rubber company. From 1907-1913, he had served as British ambassador in Washington, where he became a popular, even beloved figure.
It would have been hard to find a more admired scholar who had an established reputation of honesty and integrity. Bryce and his six fellow commissioners, an amalgam of distinguished lawyers, historians land jurists, "analyzed" 1,200 depositions of "eyewitnesses," who claimed to have seen all manner of atrocious German behavior.
Almost all the testimony came from Belgians who had fled to England as refugees; and there were some statements from Belgian and British soldiers, collected in France. But the commissioners failed to interrogate even a single one of these eyewitnesses; that task was left to "gentlemen of legal knowledge and experience" - lawyers. Since the asserted crimes took place in what continued to be a war zone, there was no on site investigation of any of the reports.
Not a single witness was identified by name; the commissioners said this was justified in the case of Belgians by the fear that there might be German reprisals against family members. But British soldier witnesses remained equally anonymous, for no apparent reason. Nevertheless, in his introduction, Bryce claimed that he and his fellow commissioners had tested the evidence "severely." Nobody suspected that military witnesses were not to be "tested" at all, let alone, severely so. No reason was ever given for such a grave lapse, and what Tavistock has since characterized not as a lie, but as a "misstatement."
The Bryce Report was released on May 13, 1915. British propaganda headquarters in Wellington House, near Buckingham Palace, made sure it went to virtually every newspaper in America. The impact was stupendous, as the headline and subheads in the New York Times make clear.
GERMAN ATROCITIES ARE PROVEDS FINDS BRYCE COMMITTEE
Not Only Individual Crimes, but also Premeditated Slaughter in Belgium
YOUNG AND OLD MUTILATED Women Attacked, Children Brutally Slain, Arson and Pillage Systematic
COUNTENANCED BY OFFICERS Wanton Firing on Red Cross and White Flag: Prisoners and Wounded Shot
CIVILIANS USED AS SHIELDS.
On May 27, 1915, Wellington House operatives in America reported to London on the outcome of their massive propaganda initiative: "Even in papers hostile to the Allies, there is not the slightest attempt to impugn the correctness of the facts alleged. Lord Bryce's prestige in America put skepticism out of the question." Charles Masterman, chief of Wellington House, told Bryce: "Your report has swept America."
Among the small number of critics of the Bryce Report was Sir Roger Casement. "It is only necessary to turn to James Bryce, the historian, to convict Lord Bryce, the partisan," Casement wrote in a furious essay, "The Far Extended Baleful Power of the Lie." By this time Casement had become a fierce advocate of Irish independence so few people paid any attention to his dissent, which was dismissed as biased.
Clarence Darrow, the famously iconoclastic American lawyer, who specialized in winning acquittals for ostensibly guilty clients, was another skeptic. He went to France and Belgium later in 1915 and searched in vain for a single eyewitness who could confirm even one of the Bryce stories. Increasingly dubious, Darrow announced he would pay $l,000-a very large sum in 1915 - more than $17,000 in 21st Century money - to anyone who could produce a Belgian or French boy whose hands had been amputated by a German soldier or a single child of either sex that had been bayoneted by German troops.
There were no takers, not one "victim" came forward to claim the reward although Darrow had spent a considerable amount of his own money in advertising it, far and wide.
After the war, historians who sought to examine the documentation for Bryce's stories were told that the files had mysteriously disappeared. No government official or department offered to start a search for the "missing" documents.
This blatant evasion of putting the "severely tested" documents to a newer, thoroughly impartial test prompted most historians to dismiss 99 percent of Bryce's atrocities as fabrications. One called the Report "in itself one of the worst atrocities of the war." More recent scholarship has scaled down the percentage of the Bryce report's fabrications because it turned out that several thousand Belgian civilians, including some women and children were apparently shot by the Germans in the summer of 1914 and Bryce more or less accurately summarized some of the worst excesses, such as the executions in the town of Dinant.
But even these latter day scholars admit Bryce's report was "seriously contaminated" by the rapes, amputations and speared babies. They blamed this grave lapse on hysteria, and war rage.
This amounts to giving Bryce a free pass. The number of corrections that had to be made by critics of Darrow's reports was less than one percent and failed to clear Bryce. As was pointed out at the time, 99 percent of the Bryce Commission Report were lies. Correspondence between the members of the Bryce committee survived the "disappearance" of the documents; it reveals severe doubts about the tales of mutilation and rape. These serious doubts were never spread across Britain and America in the manner of Wellington House brutality reports. One of the committee's secretaries admitted that he had been given numerous English addresses of Belgian women supposedly made pregnant by German rapes but in spite of intensive searches, was not able to locate a single one on the list.
Even the highly touted story of a Member of Parliament sheltering two pregnant women turned out to be fraudulent. Bryce apparently brushed aside this negative evidence as Bush and Blair were to do scores of times when on rare occasions, a few reporters did their job and asked awkward questions.
Lord Bryce the scholar should have known - and almost certainly did know - - that tales of spearing babies, raping and cutting off the breasts of murdered women were standard "hate - the - enemy" fables hundreds of years old, as were mass rapes in fields and public squares.
Even a cursory examination of Napoleon's campaigns in Europe brought out hundreds of these types of "atrocities," a very small fraction of which turned out to be true.
Bryce the learned historian, the learned, trusted scholar with a reputation for honesty should have rejected such fabrications out of hand. He most certainly knew that the vast majority of the "atrocity" stories emanated from Wellington House (the forerunner of the Tavistock Institute.) Instead of examining their origin and then dismissing them as propaganda, Bryce grouped them all into a "report," that found them generally factual and then issued general condemnation of the German army and people. This is reminiscent of Mr. G.W. Bush and his general classification that the entire population of several Muslim states belonged to an "Axis of Evil."
Why didn't Bryce dismiss the fabrications and concentrate on the German executions of civilians? As we have stated, he knew the bulk of the "incidents" were products of Wellington House; and had he done so, it would have opened up a very sticky subject of the wide use being made of propaganda by the British Government.
There was an important reason why Bryce chose to abandon an honorable course instead of soiling his reputation: A high percentage of the Belgian Army in 1914/1915 was made up of "Home Guards" (partisans) who wore no uniforms except for an insignia pinned to their shirts or hats. The Germans, desperately trying to win in the West before the invading Russian Army smashed through their lightly held lines in the East, were infuriated by these seemingly civilian combatants, and showed them no mercy.
That the German Army was entitled to return the fire of civilians or even initiate it by the rules of war under the Geneva Conventions applicable at that time, was never brought out in the press.
The fact is that in 1915 "partisans" right up to 1945, were fair game. Civilians, even with badges pinned to their hats were not given authority to shoot at soldiers in uniform, or afforded protection. Yes, that was what the rules of war laid out in the Geneva Conventions, and Lord Bryce and his commissioners knew it. Nor was this important fact trumpeted across England and America in the manner of the propaganda that had successfully captured the hearts and minds of the British and American people.
Some German field commanders obviously lost their heads and retaliated excessively against whole towns, such as Dinant.
But a defense of sorts could be mounted, even for these men. The ensuing debate as to what the Geneva Convention allowed would have produced yawns in newspaper readers. They wanted what Bryce gave them - blood and lust, rape and horror perpetrated by the German ("Boche") "beasts" against women and young children and "unarmed civilians." They wanted proof that the German "Hun" was a barbarian, a savage beast. And if the public had not been deceived, Wellington House, and the British Government's war effort, would have been in deep trouble.
The Bryce Report unquestionably helped England win the war. Unquestionably it swayed the opinions of the American public and convinced millions of Americans and other neutrals-it was translated into 27 languages - that the Germans were ugly beasts in human form. No one except a few "biased" outsiders such as Sir Roger Casement and Clarence Darrow ever reproached Lord Bryce for the vicious lies he had spread around the world. No fair-minded man could ever forgive Bryce for soiling himself.
Through it all, Wellington House remained in the background - few people knew of its existence - let alone its vital role, but it had done an important job and struck a mighty blow for brainwashing. As for Bryce, he went to his grave loaded with royal and academic honors, a sullied, superior liar, a man who had soiled himself and with the blood of millions on his hands, a brilliant scoundrel, a thief who stole the truth from a public entitled to know it, and who managed to evade detection and exposure and the utter condemnation that was universally afforded to Judas Iscariot.
From a perspective of a hundred years, we ought to take a much harsher view of this man. The Bryce Report had obvious connections to the British decision to maintain the blockade of Germany for seven months after the armistice in 1918, causing the starvation deaths of an estimated 600,000 elderly and very young Germans, all part of the game plan to so weaken Germany that it would never be a "threat" to the "allies" again.
The Wellington House propaganda lies about the German Army was far and away the greatest atrocity of World War I and it made every German man and woman hunger for revenge. By creating blind hatred of Germany, Bryce sowed the dragon's teeth of World War II.