A friend recently shared the following link with me:
The Guardian has, of course, always been an utterly dreadful bloody rag of a thing, catering for the worst of Britain’s self-loathing, unpatriotic, republican, achingly-woke, hand-wringers, but they have hit a new low with this article, even by their own shocking standards.
The thrust of the piece is that Cecil Rhodes is to blame for the First World War (and, thus, the 40 million deaths that resulted). Better yet, they squeal, this ‘may even offer further cause and power to those seeking to bring down the statues, remove the plaques and terminate the scholarships that bear his name’. The evidence for this shocking revelation? Well, because among the 30,000 trinkets that Kaiser Wilhelm II took when he went into exile, there was – wait for it – a paperweight with the damning, smoking-gun, inscription:
“Von Cecil Rhodes Grab, December 1905” (From Cecil Rhodes’ Grave, December 1905).
The offending paperweight was given to the Kaiser by Alfred Beit, another of the Rand Lords, some three years after Rhodes died. And yet, in the fevered minds of Guardian readers, that would seem to be enough reason to prove a ‘common yearning for glory and power’, and thus to blame Cecil Rhodes for causing a war which started 12 years after he died.
Unsurprisingly, the article offers no actual evidence to support the claims, and soon meanders into the usual territory of tired, ill-researched claims about Gold ‘n’ Diamonds by bringing up the Jameson Raid:
‘In 1890, Rhodes was prime minister of British Cape Colony, today part of the modern South Africa. But he had greater ambitions: Rhodes wanted to bring the whole of southern and eastern Africa under British rule. The first step was to help overthrow the gold- and diamond- rich Boer republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State, by encouraging a revolt by British migrant workers there, known as the Uitlanders.’
This is the usual rubbish that Leftists (and extremist Afrikaner Nationalists – strange bedfellows indeed) spew out, but it is, of course, not based on fact. What did the Jameson Raid have to do with the Orange Free State? Where were these diamonds which are always mentioned? And besides, one wonders, how does any of this lay the blame for the Great War at the feet of Rhodes?
We are then told of a meeting between the Kaiser and Rhodes in March 1899: ‘Over dinner, Rhodes apologised for the Transvaal transgression, before filling Wilhelm’s head with ideas. He wondered why the kaiser didn’t “go for Mesopotamia [modern day Iraq] as a colonising ground to which [His Majesty] replied that this was a project he had had for years”.
It is also noteworthy that Mesopotamia was then part of the Ottoman Empire (which allied with Germany in the Great War), and Germany had been exerting influence there since 1883, when a military mission was sent to Turkey under Generalmajor Otto Kaehler. The Kaiser himself had made a grand state visit to Constantinople in 1889 to cement relations with the Sultan, with the clumsy aim being to ‘destroy the British Empire by harnessing the power of Islam’. So, as the Kaiser told Rhodes, German interest in the Ottoman Empire and Mesopotamia had started 16 years before the two met (and as the article also made clear – thus rather refuting its own supposedly-damning claims).
Furthermore, Germany had, of course, been an expansionist, colonial power long before Rhodes and the Kaiser met. Germany had invaded annexed South West Africa (today: Namibia) and German West Africa (today: Togo and Cameroon) in 1884, and German East Africa (today: Tanzania) in 1885.
More pertinently still, Germany had signed the Triple Alliance with Austro-Hungary and Italy in 1882 – ie. 17 years before the meeting between the Kaiser and Rhodes – which was the alliance which prompted Germany to enter the Great War.
There were, of course, all manner of pre-war tensions, a naval arms race between Britain and Germany, the complexities of railway timetables and mobilisations, the intricacies and restrictions of the Schlieffen Plan, and the assassination of Franz Ferdinand… but the simple, undeniable reality is that the Great War started – 12 years after Rhodes died – because the Austro-Hungarian Empire invaded Serbia, which was, in turn, allied to Russia, and so a whole series of alliances kicked into action.
None of this had anything to do with a Rhodes-inspired German colonisation of Mesopotamia, or a paperweight given to the Kaiser by someone else, 3 years after Rhodes died.
But who knows: perhaps tomorrow’s Guardian will carry another shocking exclusive, blaming Rhodes for Covid-19, the Millennium Bug, and the death of George Floyd.
 McMeekin, The Berlin-Baghdad Express, p.8
 Buchan’s famous spy-thriller Greenmantle involves a fictionalised version of this. McMeekin’s The Berlin-to-Baghdad Express gives the reality of the incredible scheme
 Italy refused to enter the war, citing Austro-Hungary as the aggressor