What’s sauce for the goose…

Regular readers of this blog will know how much I enjoy the mental gymnastics and feats of self-delusion that Defenders of the Myth have to indulge in, so as to keep their National Party fairy tales staggering on a little longer. With this in mind, I thought it would be fun to expose their hypocrisy by applying their favourite excuses to other events in military history: as the old saying going, ‘what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander’.

Let’s start with one of the funniest of recent times: none other than The High Priest of Boer War myths himself tried to excuse the Boer invasions of British territory which started the war by claiming that:

‘[someone who quite rightly compared Kruger’s invasions in 1899 to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine] is mistaken about the Boer invasions of the Cape Colony and Natal, because that was after war had broken out and because they hoped thereby to attain better military positions – which in a war situation is justified[i].

Yup: you read that correctly: in the wacky world of the Grand Wizard of the True Believers – a so-called ‘Professor’ of History, no less – as the Boer invasions happened ‘after war had broken out’, they somehow weren’t real invasions – even though it was these very same invasions which started the war. Yes, really; such is his sheer desperation to keep the much-cherished myths alive that this is the level of convoluted utter gibberish he has been forced to resort to, and which he feels the need to spew out to his disciples. It is impossible that any educated man could actually believe this blatant rubbish, so one is left wondering what the real motivation behind his claim was.

But in the spirit of ‘what’s sauce for the goose’, let’s apply the Prof’s ‘logic’ to another invasion, and see how it holds up. One is left to conclude that – unless he is an absolute hypocrite – the Prof similarly excuses and explains away the German invasion of Belgium in 1914. The sequence of events is broadly similar: just like the Transvaal did to the British, Germany issued an Ultimatum to Belgium, which – just like the British – the Belgians rejected. Germany then declared war on Belgium and invaded – just like the Boers did against the British Empire. But, by the Prof’s logic, Germany can’t have been the aggressor, and the German invasion of Belgium cannot possibly have been a real invasion, as it happened ‘after war had broken out’ (ie. immediately after Germany declared war on Belgium) and was thus (at least according to the Prof) ‘justified’.

Which brings us to another favourite excuse of the Defenders of the Myth: the abject nonsense of desperately explaining away Kruger’s invasions of British territory by pretending they were merely launched to ‘take up defensive positions’.

Though this oft-squealed claim is treated as Holy Writ by the sheeplike masses of True Believers, it is rubbish on so many levels. For a start, there is no international convention which condones an invasion, just because (decades later), supporters of the side that launched it claim it was done ‘to take up defensive positions’ in someone else’s territory. Secondly, what are the chances, one wonders, that these (mythical and unspecified) ‘defensive positions’ all just happened to be deep inside British territory? Thirdly, why did the invaders feel the need to loot and rename the towns, and implement their racist laws, in the land they captured on their way to these (mythical and unspecified) ‘defensive positions’? Fourthly, this self-serving nonsense completely contradicts the actual Boer invasion plans drawn up by Smuts (with the help of Prussian Staff Officers), which called for ‘the Boers to strike down swiftly at Durban and the other ports upon the outbreak of hostilities, in order to prevent the British landing reinforcements. That phase completed, the mopping up of troops in the country would begin’.[ii]

And lastly, if the republican invasion plans themselves are not convincing enough, none of Kruger’s latter-day apologists have ever been able to explain exactly where these make-belief ‘defensive positions’ actually were… for the simple reason that this far-fetched excuse is post-facto nonsense, dreamt up by Kruger apologists, and unthinkingly accepted by slack-jawed enthusiasts of National Party propaganda[iii].

But anyway, just for fun, let’s apply this especially ridiculous excuse to another invasion… that of the USSR by Germany in 1941. To the best of our knowledge, it would seem that the German plan was to capture Soviet territory up to the Ural Mountains (ie. only a relatively small portion of the entire USSR), and then dig in along that geographical feature[iv]. One is thus left to assume that –again, unless they are unspeakable hypocrites – the True Believers must also think the German invasion of the USSR was perfectly acceptable: I mean, all the poor old, misunderstood Nazis wanted to do was to ‘take up defensive positions’ at the Ural Mountains[v] – so where’s the harm in that?

Presumably the Defenders of the Myth similarly approve of Imperial Japan capturing other people’s territory across the Pacific region, and establishing a defensive ring around their so-called Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere?[vi] By taking land from other people, Japan built a defensive perimeter that ranged from western Alaska to the Solomon Islands[vii], and the various islands that the Japanese captured were then used in their attempts to repel the inevitable American / British counter offensive. As such, and following their own ‘logic’, one can only assume that Japan’s (ahem) ‘defensive invasion’ must also be perfectly acceptable to the modern-day Kruger apologists / frazzled ‘academics’.

Needless to say, I am well aware that all of that sounds utterly preposterous… but no more so than the self-pitying attempts to excuse the Boer invasions of British territory in 1899, by claiming they were ‘entirely defensive’.[viii] Would that make the Boer War the only war in all of human history which was started by ‘entirely defensive’ invasions of someone else’s land?[ix]

Which brings us to the third much-used excuse which gets wheeled out by those desperate to pretend Kruger’s invasions were not real invasions: ie. that they were actually ‘pre-emptive strikes’. Of course, quite what they ‘pre-empted’ is never explained, and nor can it be, as there was certainly no imminent threat to either Boer republic. Despite the rubbish that True Believers like to tell one another, there were hardly any Imperial troops in theatre, no military plan in place to invade the republics[x], no chance of Britain’s functioning, multi-party, democracy launching one any time soon (even if one or two members of the Government might have wanted to)… and certainly no British troops ‘massing on the border’.

On the last point, and though I won’t hold my breath, I repeat my challenge to the Defenders of the Myths yet again: please name all the dozens (hundreds?) of British army units which you claim to have been ‘massed on the border’ of the republics, where they were, and who the Divisional and Corps commanders were. For bonus points, please explain how it was that the Boer invaders managed not to bump into these ‘masses’ of troops as they surged into Natal and the Cape Colony.

But, for shits-and-giggles and in the spirit of ‘what’s sauce for the goose’, let’s apply the same pie-in-the-sky alibi to a couple of other such invasions, as one can only assume that the True Believers must heartily approve of these too. It would seem that all it takes to convince them of an aggressor’s innocence is for someone to describe their invasions as ‘pre-emptive strikes’, and that those magic words not only instantly justify everything, but also shift all the blame onto the nation which was invaded. This is why various ghastly regimes have trotted out that exact excuse over the years: those incapable of critical thought tend to fall for it.

War-mongering mass-murderer Saddam Hussein, for example, attempted to paint his 1980 invasion of Iran as being launched to preempt an Iranian attempt to overthrow the Iraqi government.[xi] While Iran was certainly engaging in bellicose rhetoric, and there were ongoing cross-border skirmishes, Saddam’s own Intelligence Services reported that ‘it is clear that, at present, Iran has no power to launch wide offensive operations against Iraq, or to defend on a large scale’[xii]. Furthermore, immediately prior to the invasion, Iraqi Intelligence reconfirmed that ‘the enemy deployment organization does not indicate hostile intentions and appears to be taking on a more defensive mode[xiii]. But hey – in the brandy-addled minds of the True Believers – if Saddam Hussein said his invasion was ‘pre-emptive’ then it simply must have been, and therefore everything is hunky-dory, the Iraqis were entirely innocent, and Iran was entirely to blame for being invaded.

Similarly, and using their own twisted logic, one can only presume that the Defenders of the Myth also believe Putin’s nonsense about his invasion of the Ukraine being pre-emptive[xiv], and merely launched to protect Russia ‘from a hostile West and prevent the return of fascism’. According to Putin, ‘Russia launched a pre-emptive strike at the aggression. It was a forced, timely and the only correct decision. A decision by a sovereign, strong and independent country’. Well, if Putin said the invasion was pre-emptive, then it can only possibly be true, and thus Ukraine is entirely to blame for being invaded… and if you believe that blatant horse-shit, you are probably ignorant / blinkered enough to believe Kruger’s invasions of Natal and the Cape Colony were ‘pre-emptive’ strikes too.

Of course, in reality, no rational person believes Putin’s ridiculous claims that his invasion of the Ukraine was ‘pre-emptive’, just as no one frantically ties themselves in knots to explain away Imperial Japan’s invasions across the entire Pacific by pretending they were only launched to ‘take up defensive positions.’ And certainly no one takes to a low-brow Afrikaans tabloid to (utterly ludicrously) pronounce that it was perfectly fine for Germany to invade Belgium in 1914 as ‘war had broken out’ – ie. the war that Germany had just declared.

So why is it that, especially in South Africa, so many still have a blind spot when it comes to Kruger’s invasions, and the nonsensical, illogical propaganda that was later served up by the National Party? The True Believers’ favourite excuses are so patently ridiculous, that no educated person would attempt to use them to explain away or justify any other invasion… and yet there are plenty who are still wedded to the Apartheid-era myths with such passionate loyalty, that they are unable to see how ludicrous this hypocrisy and blinkered fanaticism makes them look.


[i] https://www.chrisash.co.za/2022/09/05/poor-old-prof-pretorius-embarrasses-himself-yet-again/

[ii] Jan Christian Smuts by his son, p. 90, quoted in O’Connor, A Short Guide to the History of South Africa, 1652-1902

[iii] These mythical ‘defensive positions’ certainly cannot have been the Tugela River, or the high ground at Magersfontein, for example, as, in both cases, the invading Boers retreated back to those positions in the face of Imperial reinforcements (in Natal), and (on the Western Front) after a string of defeats at Belmont, Graspan and Modder River

[iv] Madajczyk, Czeslaw (1962). General Plan East: Hitler’s Master Plan for Expansion. Polish Western Affairs, Vol. III No 2.

[v] Operation Barbarossa included the military objective of the so-called “A-A line” (a line based on the Volga River and running between the cities of Archangelsk and Astrakhan) – the plan was clearly to establish defensive positions inside someone else’s territory, so the True Believers should heartily approve

[vi] It is interesting to note that Imperial Japan used the phrase ‘Asia for the Asiatics’ to justify their attempt at Empire building – a slogan that is remarkably similar to Kruger justifying his attacks on British territory with the rallying cry of ‘Africa for the Africander’

[vii] https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/pacific-strategy-1941-1944#:~:text=The%20Japanese%20amassed%20a%20vast,staging%20ground%20for%20offensive%20action

[viii] Nasson, The War for South Africa, p.65

[ix] These days, not even The 6-Day War is considered to have been a justifiable example of launching offensives to defend one’s nation: https://www.chrisash.co.za/2017/12/16/a-war-of-aggression-portrayed-as-a-war-of-necessity/ and would not pass the “Caroline test”

[x] The 1903 Royal Commission into the war highlighted this failing as one of its primary findings: quite simply, there was no plan in place to invade the two Boer republics. As The Spectator thundered in August of that year, the report was so damning as to be ‘surely one of the most amazing documents to which a General can ever have had to sign his name. Not only had there been no preparation for the Boer War, but there had been no preparation for any war of any kind whatever. Every arrangement that was made seems to have been made on the supposition that the British nation, even three weeks before the Boer commandos marched into Natal, was about to enjoy the blessings of eternal peace.’

[xi] Murray and Woods, 1980 The Iraqi invasion begins. The Iran–Iraq War, A Military and Strategic History. p.104–106

[xii] Murray and Woods, p.59–61

[xiii] Murray and Woods, p.103–106

[xiv] https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/putin-defends-pre-emptive-invasion-of-ukraine-on-second-world-war-victory-day-1.4874029


  • Niall Beazley Posted March 21, 2024 1:08 pm

    Another quick and pertinent read. Those familiar with second world war history know that Hitler needed commodities for his war efforts. Where better than the staged and progressive invasions of Austria and the Sudetenland in 1938, 1939 Poland, 1940 Denmark, Norway and then western Europe leading to Russia 1941 and the Caucasus region with the large expansive farmlands together with industrial commodities such as oil. Any ideas why Kruger and company needed territory and ports?

    • Bulldog Posted March 21, 2024 2:25 pm

      The Boers were absolutely determined to secure an outlet to the sea, and – though still frantically denied by some National Party relics today – Kruger’s scheme was to build an Empire from the Zambesi to the Cape, and replace Britain as the dominant power in the region.

      There seemed to be a notion that Britain would be allowed to retain the base at Simon’s Town, and act as a ‘coast protector’ (FW Reitz specifically mentioned this), though such an arrangement would obviously have seen the rest of British South Africa gobbled-up in Kruger’s Empire, and thus, had the RN been ‘allowed’ to retain the naval base, it would have been terribly vulnerable to attack from land.

      Various documents refer to this grand plan, with one declaring Britain should be ‘… content with Simon’s Bay as a naval and military station on the road to India and give over all the rest of South Africa to the Afrikanders’.

      There was no way Britain was going to relinquish their position in South Africa without a fight – it would have meant losing control of an important naval base, and turning their backs on the loyalist population. Kruger had dreams of forming his own navy (and even insisted that reference to ‘naval officers’ be included in a communication – even though the Transvaal was land-locked), and there was also the very real chance of him allowed Germany to establish a naval base in Kruger’s empire – thus threatening British shipping lanes to India and Australia.

  • Stephen Hunt Posted March 21, 2024 4:03 pm

    Some erudite points, well made. Also very informative as I had never heard of the Caroline test before.

    Clearly the True Believers are deluded/in denial over the Boer actions of 1899 and the Schlieffen Plan of 1914. However, given the Boer rising of 1914 and the development of the Ossewabrandwag in the 1930s, with its National Socialist overtones, I can’t say that I’m that surprised.

    Good point about the looting too, who would have thought that God-fearing Boers would have indulged in looting? Although to be fair in his book “Commando”, Reitz acknowledged that Boer forces did indulge in looting.

    • Bulldog Posted March 21, 2024 4:16 pm

      Thanks, Stephen.

      It is not surprising that the Caroline test is completely ignored by the True Believers – even though one assumes Professors of History must be aware of it. Of course, as the Caroline test states the necessity for preemptive self-defense must be ‘instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation’, even they would have to admit that the 1899 Boer attacks on British territory would not even come close to passing it… so – true to form – they simply ignore it, and keep spewing out their much-loved myths of Boer victimhood.

      • Stephen Hunt Posted March 21, 2024 9:08 pm

        These myths are also much loved by the liberal left in the UK, who also conveniently forget that one of the reasons for the Great Trek in the 1830s was due to Britain’s abolition of slavery in 1834, ie the Boers wanted to maintain slavery.

        Reading your piece on the Caroline Test, I cannot see how in 1967 the Israelis did not satisfy the requirements for the test. Whether it was hubris, or a failure of intelligence, they certainly paid dearly for their lack of a pre-emptive strike six years later.

        • Bulldog Posted March 22, 2024 11:14 am

          It always amuses me that the Far Left in the UK, and the lunatic-fringe of the extreme Right in South Africa, share the same views on the Boer War… perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, as the starting point for both groups seems to be to blame everything on the British… and then worry about making up things to support this world view.

          In terms of the Six-Day War and the Caroline test, I tend to agree. I think the shift in opinion about it has more to do with the way much of the world has recently adopted a fervently anti-Israeli stance.

    • James Grant Posted March 22, 2024 7:11 am

      Mate, when it comes to God fearing Boers, in my experience, the blokes who claim to be the most pious usually turn out to be the worst of the lot.

      • Stephen Hunt Posted March 22, 2024 3:16 pm

        Completely agree!

  • Peter Dickens Posted March 26, 2024 3:57 pm

    As I stated in one of my old blog articles, one of the biggest errors in accounting military history is not to consult military doctrine or ignore military science. In reviewing the Boer War invasions the easiest way of dismissing any hyperbole about pre-emptive strikes or setting up advanced defensive fortifications/lines is to look at doctrine.

    If your strategy is one of defence – why leave your forts and such formidable natural mountain range defences like the Dragensberg and formidable river defences like the Vaal and Orange rivers (Laing’s Nek worked very well for The Boers in 1881 – why change?) – and then find something else of far lesser defensive value to invest defences and resources into? This does not make good strategic military sense, nor is it consistent with their previous military thinking which gave them victory in 1881.

    Then as to the so called amassed “British threat on the border” – in Natal the invasion force’s overall Commander, General Piet Joubert is joined by General de Kock from the OFS and General Erasmus and they advance from their start line at Volksrust for nearly 120 kilometres deep into Natal territory before they meet any significant British forces or resistance whatsoever – the British are nowhere near the “border” and “poised” to invade anything. Nor are they resourced in terms of numbers and equipment to invade anything – and, they don’t have an invasion plan: no invasion ORBAT, no Start Line, no invasion Command and Control, no invasion Orders – nothing (that’s because they had no plans to invade – a simple truth). The British have also rather inadvisably split their already under-resourced forces between Dundee and Ladysmith.

    As to continuing a deep advance (remember the offensive plan is to invade), after they are confronted by the British in the field at Talana outside Dundee on the 20th October 1899 (D Day plus 8) – the Boers are initially defeated in two pitched battles, the Boers are held up losing advantage daily.

    At this point, extending military supply lines and logistics support for 120 kilometres in 1899 using wagons and horses to initiate a “pre-emptive” strike aimed at the British in Dundee is pure Hollywood, wishful thinking, it has nothing to do with military doctrine or sound military planning – it certainly has nothing to do with the Boer’s overall accepted military plan proposed by Jan Smuts – which called for no investiture in defences or sieges and a straightforward invasion to take Port Natal as quickly as possible.

    After winning the battle at Nicolson’s Nek the Boers manage to advance to Ladysmith reaching it on the 2nd November (D Day plus 24 days) – now they are now 180 kilometres into their advance from their start line on the border at Volksrust and nearly a month into their invasion campaign. 

    General Louis Botha then extends the advance from Ladysmith all the way to Mooi River on the 22nd November 1899 – 100 Km away from Ladysmith and 60 km from Pietermaritzburg and now a staggering 280 km from their start line. That’s the length of the “supply” line for the Boers – their “high water” mark. No military commander in his right mind sets up a “defensive position” with a near 300 km long supply line running through enemy territory intended to support ‘defences’ – no military commander in 1899 advances near 300 km on horseback for a pre-emptive strike either – air warfare has not been invented yet and even by today’s standards a ground force invasion 300 km into enemy territory is never considered by any commander as a mere “strike” – pre-emptive or otherwise. 

    The Boer high-water mark is only obtained by the 22nd November – D Day plus 43 days – now having been significantly compromised on mobility and speed. Both HMS Terrible and HMS Powerful had arrived in Durban port by the 6th November 1899, either one of these two Battle Cruisers had more fire power on board than the entire Boer invading armies combined – a Battle Cruiser defending a port from mounted infantryman on horseback is no match, and it’s what the Royal Navy are trained for and are very good at … also, 43 days into an invasion hardly qualifies a “pre-emptive strike” in that it in no way meets the military definitions and parameters of one as set out by the Caroline test.

    The Boer invasion falters, it fails because they had lost their only significant advantage – mobility, aggression and speed gives way to cautiousness and widespread ill-discipline and looting, they chose resource draining static warfare instead – sieges and invest into them instead, losing valuable days and sacrificing their “Blitzkreig” offensive plan altogether. Simply put, the ‘schwerpunkt’ of Smuts’ battle plan is inadequately invested in as limited resources are directed away from the critical focus point and ineffectively deployed in other sieges and other invasions of little military value. Leaving Jan Smuts’ in total disbelief calling General Piet Joubert “passé” and “hopelessly incompetent”.

    Realising Smuts’ Blitzkreig invasion plan had failed completely, what happens next is a series of defensive battles as the invading Boers forces form defensive boxes to try and link up with their forces encircling Ladysmith for an effective counter-attack. Standard military doctrine used by countless military commanders before and after the Boer War. This plan of retreat, link up and counter offensive fails at the Battle of Tugela Heights.

    Its all pretty obvious to anyone who has served in the military to be honest – arm-chair Generals in their Facebook echo-chambers reciting their Christian Nationalist educations and educators aside.

    • Bulldog Posted March 26, 2024 4:51 pm

      Excellent comment: thanks Peter.

      It is laughable that not one, but two so-called ‘Professors’ of History peddle the ‘defensive invasion’ nonsense. If it was a small-scale, cross-border raid to blow-up a bridge or railway, then fair enough… but as you rightly state, the Boer invaders pushed hundreds of miles into British territory. No other such invasion in history would be re-invented as ‘defensive’.

      And I still await one of the Faithful providing the ORBAT and positions of the British troops they love to claim were ‘massing’ on the border (but, in reality, weren’t). I understand that, under the NP regime, it was a brave academic who didn’t toe the party line… but for them still to be spewing these blatant falsehoods 30 years later defies belief.

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