CHAPTER XXX
ETHIOPIA ON A SILVER PLATTER

The Committee of four arbitrators that had been set up on the Wal-Wal affair met on June 6, and devoted a month to the perusal of documents. When discussion opened, the representative of the Ethiopian Government claimed that Wal-Wal lay within Ethiopian territory. The representative of the Italian Government claimed that the question was outside, the jurisdiction of the Committee, the Committee's sole function being to determine who had been responsible for the clash of December 5, 1934; if the Committee allowed discussion of the frontier question, he would withdraw from the proceedings. The task of the arbitrators, so circumscribed, became ridiculous. When 1600 men on one side and 600 on the other have been within a stones throw of each other and have exchanged threats and insults for two weeks, somebody is bound to fire a shot without anybody being able to ascertain who fired it. On July 9, the Committee asked the Council of the League for instructions and adjourned.

The Council was in no hurry. It met on July 31. Mussolini hailed it with an unsigned but unmistakable article in Popolo d'Italia: "The Italo-Abyssinian problem is simple and logical. It admits—with Geneva, without Geneva, against Geneva—of only one solution."

"The abolition of slavery is not an objective, but it will be a logical consequence of our policy. . . . Even civilization, in its dual moralpolitical aspect, is not an objective; it will be a consequence of our policy. There are two essential and absolutely unanswerable arguments: the vital needs of the Italian people, and their security in East Africa. . . . All the other controversial motives, while important, are not decisive."

The abolition of slavery and the propagation of civilization, which had been paramount issues between July 17 and 21, now became incidental consequences. The main objective oscillated between the primary and the incidental plane, according to Mussolini's'mood of the day. He knew that public memory is short and made up of overlapping and confused impressions. He, too, had the memory of a newspaper reader.

The Paris daily L'Intransigeant published an interview in which the Duce had the following to say:

"Mark my words: by next September I shall have 800,000 men stationed wherever they may be needed on my European frontiers, and half of these troops will be in motorized divisions. If circumstances re

-252-

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