CHAPTER XXXI
THE PEACE CRIMINALS

After the Paris conference, Laval informed Cerruti that once war broke out he could not avoid abiding by a decision which took into account the requirements of the Covenant, but he would oppose "any declaration which was offensive for Italy". He also asked whether the Italian Government, once military operations were initiated, and after an Italian success, would be disposed to examine the proposals for economic penetration of Ethiopia which it had rejected a few days earlier. Cerruti gave the answer which had by then become habitual, that them could be no security for Italy's colonies until Ethiopia was completely disarmed. Laval asked whether Italy would give a pledge not to cut the Djibuti railway. Cerruti replied that that question had to be left to the military authorities.1 Laval advised the Italian Government to lay before the League of Nations a full documentation of Ethiopia's crimes. Cerruti approved of the idea because, on the basis of such a documentation, the League could expel Ethiopia, and thus leave Italy a free hand. Laval did not believe that this solution was likely, but the documentation would, if it achieved nothing else, improve Italy's moral stand. He surmised that the British Government would not propose the sanctions, but would have them proposed by one of its satellite States, such as Denmark, and then sustain the proposal. Laval himself was against all sanctions, but he had been unable to get all his colleagues to promise to vote against them. One of his colleagues, the Minister for the Colonies, Colonel Fabry, expressed the greatest admiration for the Duce, but thought that Hitler might start an undesirable move of his own while the Italians were entangled in East Africa.2

In London, a meeting of the British Cabinet was summoned with a maximum of publicity. Prime Minister Baldwin cut short his vacation at Aix-les-Bains; the First Lord of the Admiralty and Lord Londonderry, who were on a holiday cruise, gave up their right to a week-end, which, for an Englishman, is the eleventh of the ten commandments. MacDonald rushed to London from Scotland, and in a statement to the Press said: "I regard the present situation as the most serious thing we have had to face since 1914". All the luminaries of political England—Lansbury (leader of the Labour Parliamentary group in the House of Commons, and an out-and-out pacifist), Lloyd George, Lord Cecil, Winston Churchill, Sir Austen Chamber

____________________
1
Villari, Storia diplomatica, p. 185.
2
Villari, op. cit., pp. 185-6.

-260-

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