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Foreign News: Dew of Death

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A smart Swiss is smiling Max Huber, an international lawyer, a judge and one-time president of the World Court and, since 1928, president of the International Red Cross. In the last capacity he hustled from Geneva to Rome last week to visit Benito Mussolini, take up a few complaints.

Seldom has genial M. Huber received a chillier welcome. Italian troops seemed definitely to have the Ethiopians on the run (see above). The Italian Press had pulled out every stop to make the most of the victory. This was no time to listen to complaints about bombing ambulances and Red Cross hospitals. Weasled Il Duce:

“The Italian Government has every desire to safeguard the efficacy of the Red Cross emblem. Severe orders have already been given to our troops to that effect.”

Hitching his chair a little nearer, President Huber suggested drawing up a “humanitarian accord between Italy and Ethiopia.”

“It would be a mutual agreement,” said he, “covering such matters as the treatment of prisoners, the bombing of open towns, and the use of the Red Cross emblem.” Il Duce’s eyes flashed. “Italy does not admit,” he roared, “that she has been carrying on the war other than in the most humanitarian way possible—under the circumstances.” Under the startled nose of President Huber the Italian Dictator napped an elaborately illustrated booklet showing the mutilated bodies of Italian road builders caught in a raid last February. “This is how Ethiopia treats her prison ers,” thundered Benito Mussolini. “What reliance can we place in her guarantees?” Embarrassed President Huber had not even a chance to take up the charge that was outraging Britain last week. No sooner had blackshirt troops under ebullient Fascist Achille Starace touched Lake Tana, vital to Egypt’s welfare, than the British Press and Parliament burst into shocked cries over Italy’s use of poison gas. Up in the House of Lords stood bald, stoop-shouldered Viscount Cecil of Chelwood, ardent humanitarian and brother of the bearded Bishop of Exeter. In his hand he held a telegram from Haile Selassie’s comely kinky-haired 16-year-old daughter, Princess Sehai. “For seven days without a break,” she wrote, “the enemy has been bombing the armies and people of my country, including women and children, with horrible gases. Hundreds of my countrymen are screaming and moaning with pain. Many are unrecognizable since the skin has been burned from their faces.” Added Lord Cecil: The Italians have been proven guilty of bombing Red Cross units and have just destroyed the open city of Harar. These bombing ‘outrages’ might conceivably be due to mistakes, but the horrible and shameless use of gas must have been organized and authorized. . . Gas is not a product we are likely to find on the coast of East Africa. It must have been manufactured for the deliberate purpose of bombing unprotected bodies of the Ethiopian population.”

Until last week Italy’s chief apologist in the House of Lords was Lord Mottistone, a Major General and an old African campaigner himself. Even he seemed shaken by last week’s reports but refused to believe stories of the bombing of hospitals.

“Who, however wicked, would waste a good bomb on somebody already wounded?” asked Lord Mottistone. “But if it is true that the Italians are employing poison gas, I for one will part company with the Italian High Command!”

In Addis Ababa last week Captain Townsend Stephens of the British Red Cross reported that his unit had treated 3,000 gas cases during March, of which some 60 had died. He added that the Italians were using few gas bombs but spraying liquid mustard gas from pipes on the wing tips of their planes, “from which the gas descends like an invisible dew of death.”

Not to be shamed, the Italian Government this week wired the League of Nations: “On March 30 last, during action at Mai Ceu, near Lake Ashangi, Ethiopian artillery bombarded a small Italian field hospital, causing heavy casualties.”

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