Sunday, 8 September 2013

Deception, Deceit, and Criminality in the White House: 1912 - 1916

     This entry into the register of A Gringo in Rural Mexico is placed here at this time to remind the folks of one considerable and weighty fact.  Crosscurrents of interests and the acceptance of falsities as facts lead, frequently, to an incorrect understanding of history.   The true facts are often more interesting and romantic than the facts presented by the newspapers of the day and/or the official explanations.
     In 1916, for instance, there was a short, but drawn out, incident involving the Commander of the Covencionalista forces of the  Division del Norte, known in the vernacular as "Pancho Villa".  He had been confused by peculiar signals that were coming out of the Woodrow Wilson White House, as they pertained to various political alignments.   These alignments were in flux, and they dealt with relations between the United States and Mexico, the White House and Venustiano Carranza, Emiliano Zapata,  Francisco Villa, and between Germany, the United States, and Mexico.  Count the possibilities.
    Perhaps the word "incident" is too trivial for this affair because, in truth, it was quite complicated and runs very much to the contrary to the understanding of Americans who might even remotely familiar with the geo-political affairs during those times.

   Villa was a rough hewn man who had been a juvenile delinquent, found guilty of the attempted murder of the son of the owner of the hacienda where Villa's widowed mother lived.   Villa was moved to slay the spoiled son in order to avenge that person's attempt to rape Villa's sister.  This is stated as fact because there seems to be no countering explanation.   After Doroteo Arango went on the lam, he changed his public name to Francisco (Pancho) Villa, inspired by a bandit who had died some years before Doroteo's birth in 1875.   For a while he actually did dedicate himself to a bit of banditry, holding up wagon trains that took supplies into the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain ranges in Durango and Chihuahua States in Mexico's far northcentral regions.   The supplies were frequently intended  for large Haciendas and/or mines of gold, silver, lead, copper, and semi-precious stones.   Later, when with the arrival of Mennonites and Latter Day Saints convocations, and with increasingly scientific processes being employed in industry and agriculture, Villa turned to commerce.
     He established himself as a purveyor of fine beef.  Some say his beef was, at times, borrowed from the owners of huge haciendas, some of which were well in excess of 1,000,000 acres.  The Terraza family's interests, it was frequently joked, was described to a Gringo who once asked "Is your ranch in the State of Chihuahua?" , the response was "No, sen~or, the Estado de Chihuahua is in the Hacienda de los Terrazas."

Jose de la Cruz Porfirio Diaz Mori,
1877 - 1911
    Pancho Villa was a profoundly charismatic person.  He was very gregarious, and he was idolised by the common people and even some intellectuals.   He was active in charitable works, and he had a lot of Gringo friends and business associates.  He hob-nobbed in El Paso, across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez, and spoke a fair brand of English.  He neither smoked nor drank alcohol.  He was not a pretty picture...nothing handsome, or even terribly good looking, but it is said that no man could look into his jet black eyes for more than a couple of seconds, and that very few women could admit to not being moved by a profound attractiveness that emanated from the aura of his persona. He became peripherally involved in political matters in Chihuahua, and came the day, he found himself supporting Francisco I. Madero for President against the fossilised presence of Porfirio Diaz in the national elections of 1910.
    The incumbent beat Madero, although narrowly, in the electoral college (when Mexico still had such a thing).   Madero took particular offense to that outcome, feeling that it was statistically impossible that a person of Madero's stature, with the class, position, connections, and power of the Madero family could have lost when there had been so much anti-Diaz fervour.  But the Mexican Congress certified the count of the Electoral College and so stood the result.   So, the shrieky-voiced, smallish, intellectual F.I. Madero pronounced that he would fight for a free and fair election and called for a general uprising of the populace.
      Villa had been allowed to escape from prison in Mexico City after serving a few months essentially for being insulting to Porfirio Diaz's constabulary, the famous Rurales, and for various other charges, such as the borrowing of other people livestock.  The true reason for Villa's detention was that he had been keeping company with intellectuals who were known to favour a more liberal definition of democracy than did Don Porfirio Diaz.
    The generosity of the Diaz government did not buy a more amicable Pancho.  He went back to Chihuahua and, when Madero pronounced after the elections,  promptly organised a huge, volunteer, mostly light cavalry army with such rapidity that it stunned everyone, including one of his best Gringo friends, a brigadier named Blackjack John Pershing.
      Villa, another capable general of the common man  named Orozco, and Madero, who had been living in San Antonio and El Paso, Texas for the interim began a series of lightening fast strikes in various places along the Mexican side of the northern frontier.  Their supplies came from surreptitious private sources, primarily in Texas.  A major battle was brought upon Ciudad Juarez in March of 1911, involving about 3,400 revolucionarios under a tri-partite but unified command who would fight about 900 better trained and fortified troops in well-prepared defences, commanded by a competent brigadier named Navarro.   After three days of battle, with many dead and wounded, General Navarro finally was forced to yield his sword.

Sr. y Sra. Francisco Indalecio Madero
The gentleman pictured was Catholic
educated through primary but then
attended very fine schools in France,
England, and the United States. he
became a "Spiritualist" and turned
against Catholicism and Christianity
changing his middle name of Ignacio
back to his father's name, Indalecio. 
     Another victory by the Indian revolucionario Emiliano Zapata, in Cuautla, Morelia to the near-south of Mexico City convinced Porfirio Diaz that thirty-four years is long enough to be President of Mexico.  French diplomats arranged for his departure and exile and before Summer would arrive, Mexico would have Francisco Indalecio Madero as President (at least for a short while).

    We needn't delve into the Byzantine ins and outs of the Madero Presidency.  It was a dithering disaster;  short-lived and leaving much more ill than cured.

    But the first commander of the Division of the North, and now the Secretary of War and Navy, Gen. Victoriano Huerta accedes to the office of President in 1913 and promptly begins to try to  solidify his hold on Mexico.   In the meantime, Huerta marks Villa and Zapata as two forces...not just regular men...who must be eliminated from the geography of Mexico.   But here is where the interesting and confusing clash of personalities, philosophies, and political  persuasions go geometric.    Mix all of that with the international overtones and the situation in Europe, then it becomes even more dicey, dangerous, difficult, and diplomatically impossible.

     Suffice to say, all of the players before 1915 are gone at this point, save for General Alvaro Obregon, his boss the President of Mexico Venustiano Carranza,   Zapata, and Villa.   Carranza, like Madero, is a person of the north, and from the same State, Coahuila.   He will be the topic of other articles here in the future, as shall be the other personalities.   But Carranza, from Cuartro Cienigas (Four Swamps), is a dedicated Marxist.  He blends various influences into his notions about governance, but chief among them is the central government's ownership and /or control of labour and industry so that national objectives can be identified, achieved, and perfected.   If there were one or two personalities that one could use as similar to Carranza, immediately Fidel Castro Ruz and Hugo Chavez would have to come to mind.
    On the American side of this matter is the dull, stupid Progressive Elitist who despised Mexicans and Negroes as a chromosomal matter,  the estimable Professor Thomas Woodrow Wilson.  As issues swirled in Mexico, the American Press, by-in-large supported the interesting if prickly Pancho Villa on several levels.   Robin Hood, Democrat, Man of the People, Visionary, "growing in his humanism and maturing in his world view", etc.  He was the choice of many American informal agents, spies, and contributors  to the State Department, at that time headed by the doltish Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, one of America's greatest demagogues on behalf of the "common man".   Bryan also pretty much found Mexicans disgusting and slightly subhuman, no matter their social position, literacy, race, or anything in particular.   He, like Wilson, could not stomach the notion that a Roman Catholic Church could exist in a modern world.  Mix into this mess, the shadowy "Colonel" Edward House, the son of the Mayor of Houston, Texas at the outbreak of the War Between the States.   House was born three years before the outbreak of those hostilities, and used his family's connections to rise to prominence in Texas politics where, as the XIXth became the XXth  he became integral in the behind the scenes manoeuvres, such as selecting gubernatorial candidates and establishing legislative priorities for the candidates, once elected.   Once again, like Wilson and Bryan, House felt that all evil pretty much emanated from the Vatican.

      John Lind, a lesser player but Ambassador to Mexico for the United States when Madero and his Vice President were murdered while under arrest by the Secretary of War and Navy Huerta, managed to be linked to the machinations involved in what was obviously an assassination.   There were a lot of Lind's fingerprints on the matter, along with Colonel House and perhaps even Wilson himself.  Before all was over, and for a confusion of reasons, American Destroyers had blown down most of the interior one-half of Vera Cruz City and Harbour.  Naval officer cadets fought the destroyers with parade muskets and not too unremarkably, lost.   The destroyers were in harbour and firing very much at point blank range at anything left standing, finally within one mile of the port facility.   This was to prevent the off loading of Mauser rifles and ammunition, as well as numerous German machine guns and their belts.  These munitions were vital to the maintenance of Victoriano Huerta's armies in the field.  

MG08 Machine Gun
1908 Maschinengewehr
German infantry piece, made to
be useable for defensive and
offensive deployment

Wilson was adamant that Victoriano Huerta had to go.  If one reads the incredible diary of Edith O'shaunnessy, the wife of the charge d' affaires who replaced Lind after the killings of Madero and Pino Suarez, then that person will be well instructed to the sights, sounds, dangers, and difficulties of anyone trying to keep any semblance of normalcy about the American Embassy in those times.
    Mrs. O'Shaunnessy was an open admirer of Huerta, hated Villa and Zapata whom she considered to be brigands and opportunists.   She lamented the passing of Madero and his Vice President.   But as one reads the book, without her saying anything directly about it....without anything more than being aware of what was going on in Washington D.C. and in the north of Mexico at the time, the conclusions must be drawn that Wilson and House and Lind, plus a cabal of intellectual leftists, one-worlders and the like had chosen sides in this Revolution.   Mrs. O'shaunnessy is a breathe of complicated fresh air, and her husband was a super-human in managing to put any kind of a happy face on the situation into which he was thrust by less competent superiors.

     It became apparent that sooner or later Huerta would wind up as a bartender at the Hotel Texas in downtown El Paso.   Wilson, Bryan, and House had determined that the American government was going to back Carranza as the winner of the Revolution.  After all he had written a constitution in Queretaro and had it ratified there, and he had Obregon's army and a substantial military force in every State of the Mexican union.
     And, to Wilson's and his peoples' pleasure the new Constitucion de 1917 essentially expropriated the Roman Catholic Church, and made it all but impossible for them to "export" money, operate schools, hospitals, or social services of any kind such as homes for elderly orphans who had outlived their families.   It also nationalised all subsurface resources in definitive terms and prohibited a wide range of prerogatives for private investors, domestic or foreign.  It would have done Obama proud.

A copy of a fairly common recruitment
poster of the period in Texas
     Various writings have covered the incident at Columbus, New Mexico down to every hot nail in the burning city that Villa ordered ransacked and destroyed.  Supposedly he was giving a deserved roughing up to the Gringos with whom he had had generally good to excellent relations.  He had been the darling of the newspapers and the fledgling Hollywood crowd.   But then, when Villa was trying to breathe new life into his resistance against a worse autocrat than Porfirio Diaz, the Big Gringos...the ones in Washington, D.C. and in the White House had decided to recognise the Carranza "Constitucionalista" government and to throw the "Convencionalistas" under the steam-powered locomotive.   This recognition and approval showed itself in spades when the U.S. Government permitted the Southern Pacific railway to transport several thousand Mexican Carranzista (now Federal) troops along with cavalry horses by the hundreds and tons of war materiel to a point near Agua Prieta, Sonora where they could enter Mexico again at Villa's rear and engage him by surprise.   Adding insult to insult, the United States Army  base, Fort Douglas deigned to turn on their very bright flood lights so as to shine on Villa's troops as the Federal troops attacked from out of the blackness.

     The attack on Columbus was for the purpose of extracting a pound of flesh.  Later analysis seems to indicate that the whole matter might have been what would pass for the "decree" in a divorce case.   One of the troubling forensic matters with the evidence left in the aftermath was the witnesses saying that the troops were all uniformed.   Most all of Villa's units wore large sombreros that showed rank and unit assignment, by division, regiment, battalion, and form of service.   But almost all soldiers below the rank of a very high Sergeant used the hat only as a uniform.  The rest of the uniform was essentially civilian, cowboy type clothes.   Most of the officers had a bit more formal attire, and usually a couple of business uniforms and perhaps something for formal presentation, such as a ball or a wedding, etc.  
    The next problem was that the firearms captured by the responding American cavalry units, the 13th Regiment, a Negro outfit who served well through the entire "Villa Pursuit" period, were Mausers, and the expended cartridges were Mauser.   Later it would be said that the Mauser had become ubiquitous on the Mexican battlefield, and all sides had numbers of them.
     The problem with that explanation was that it was simply not true.   Only the Federalists were completely equipped with German Mausers.  This and that Villista or Zapatista might have a Mauser as a trophy, but not an entire attack force of two companies of light cavalry....perhaps 500 men.   And further, the Mausers used by the Federal troops were really too long and cumbersome for cavalry application.  Villa's men preferred the Winchester lever action 30 - 30, or the Crag and Jorganson 30 - 40 carbine, and rarely used anything but.
      Couple this with the incessant shouting of "Viva Villa!" during the entire attack, in such a way that it gave some people the impression that the attacking force wanted to make sure that the people knew it was a Villa action.    This was thought strange by some observers as well because almost all the Mexican troops who were killed were very dark, like Indians from the south or Mestizos (people of mixed Indian and White ancestry).   Villa's troops were frequently referred to as "Los Dorados" or "The Golden Boys" because of the fact that his soldiers were derived almost entirely from the extreme north of Mexico and those people were much more likely to have either all white backgrounds or substantially white ethnic and racial composition.   Blonds and auburn and redheaded soldiers were nothing out of the norm, nor were the occurrence of green, blue, and/or grey eyes. The number one university that produced officers for Villa was Texas A and M, and about 3% of his volunteers were Texans and other forms of Americans.  

     Of all incidents of a cross-border nature during the years 1914 through 1918, the vast and overwhelming majority were conducted by either deserter/bandits or, more likely, Carranzista soldiers and operatives operating under orders from the "supreme commander" himself.   That was the conclusion of hearing that were held by the United States Congress that documented over 1,400 murders and killings of Americans in Mexico during the Revolution starting in 1910.   The Villista cohort of the combatant universe was involved in about 6 per cent of such events, while Carranzista personnel was involved in almost 65 per cent of the cases.
     Villa himself, after all the smoke had settled, declared that he admitted to both confessing to the attack and denying that he had anything to do with it just to be ornery.   But in the final recognition of the matter he declared that it was not him, and to the best of his knowledge it was none of his men.

    Villa also pointed out in his latter days, before Alvaro Obregon finally successfully had him assassinated in 1923, that he had worked with various of his friends to advise the Americans and the Texans especially of the intent of German agents to provoke an armed conflict pitting people of Mexican ancestry against the Gringos.   This was something that was promulgated by the German government and passed around to the very well-functioning German fifth column in Central Texas and throughout Mexico.   Part of the deal included in what is known as "The Zimmerman Note" was the German government's assurance that it would help restore the American Southwest to Mexican control in exchange for harassing the Americans or for declaring war on the Americans and the British.   It is known that Villa informed an American general at Fort Bliss, probably Blackjack John Pershing.   However, although Villa considered Pershing a friend and vica versa, he was closer to General Hugh Scott, who is quoted in the excerpt by a student of Villa's activities:

       Obregon was a self-made, highly skilled general who had studied trench warfare tactics used on the Western Front in France. With this expertise, he defeated Villa and drove him from central Mexico back to the northern sierra of Chihuahua. On October 19, 1914, the United States extended de facto recognition to Carranza. Villa felt this was a terrible betrayal. He'd always befriended the gringos and this was his bitter reward.
       Being a direct, simple man, he didn't understand, nor accept the politics mandating that you recognize whoever seems to effectively control the chaos of a nation. Villa was further angered on November 2, 1915, when carrancista troops were allowed to cross U.S. soil to attack him in the rear at Agua Prieta, across the border from Douglas, Arizona. To add insult to injury, U.S. searchlights were deliberately focused on the villistas to make them easier targets for their enemies.
       General Hugh L. Scott, who had many dealings with Villa, sympathized that "the recognition of Carranza had the effect of solidifying the power of the man who had rewarded us with kicks and making an outlaw of the man who helped us." Villa sent Scott a telegram saying that he was the one honest man north of the border.   (truth be known, Villa, during those days of resentment, sent about 20 such telegrams to various Gringos who had befriended the "Centaur of the North.")
     It must suffice to point out vigorously that Carranza was known to favour the alliance with Germany and that he played Wilson and Co. for the fools that they were.   Villa was pro-Gringo, and Carranza first and foremost was pro-Carranza, then anti-American to the hilt, and then pro-German in the affair of the trans-Atlantic War.   The White House tried to tie Villa and Zapata to the German side of the War, but nothing could have been further from the truth.
     With this submission, El Gringo Viejo has opened up a can of rattlesnakes that should serve as a fountain of interesting articles about the duplicitousness of one-worlders and leftist for a good long while.
El Gringo Viejo