Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Ethiopians case of War Crime Against Mussolini, Peitro Badoglio and Rodolfo Graziani

Last month a monument was built in Affile, for Marshall Rodolfo Graziani, who conducted chemical warfare against Ethiopia in 1935-1940. The mayor of the town justified his action claiming that an international war tribunal did not condemn the fascist Marshall.

Ethiopians consider Mussolini and his Marshalls Badoglio and Graziani as criminals who ducked international justice through cunning diplomacy. The Ethiopians support their argument by citing the case where In 1942 Ethiopia declared war on Italy, Germany and Japan. The Ethiopians quote the acclamation they got when they declared war on the Axis powers by President Roosevelt as follow:  ''..by virtue of this historical declaration the first nation to be freed from the yoke of Axis oppression has joined forces with those of the United Nations in this great struggle to preserve the freedom of mankind.'' (Roosevelt Cables) One year after Ethiopia declared war on the Axis powers, in 1943 Marshall Badoglio signed unconditional surrender and declared war on Germany, on a former friend and  succeeded to duck the Nuremberg type trials not only for himself but also for other fascist party henchmen like  Marshall Rodolfo Graziani. The Ethiopians regret that the allied powers did not stick to international standard when they embraced their former fascist enemies as allies without consulting Ethiopia, which had earlier joined the rank of the allies.

The other Ethiopian argument for Italian fascist party and government war crime was based in the unjustifiable reason for Italian fascist party and government for reverting to chemical warfare against international conventions, which both parties were signatories. Mussolini in his letter on December 28, 1935 to Marshall Badoglio identified the reason for reverting to chemical warfare as follow:
''Given the enemy system of combat, I have authorized …….  the use even on a vast scale of any gas and flamethrowers.''

What was the enemy (Ethiopian) system of combat which Mussolini referred above? Leul Ras Kassa the Ethiopian commander in the Northern war front, in his interview with Marcel Griaule, the French anthropologist and writer, explained what Mussolini considered the ''enemy system of combat'' as follow
''At the battle our soldiers threw away their rifles and unleashed their swords and combated the enemy in hand to hand fight. Eve though most think this type of hand to hand combat as an outdated tactic it has proved effective in modern warfare. We succeeded to defeat the Italians in all the battles conducted in the northern warfront.'' (Laketch pp 56/7)

The third argument on the Ethiopian side for considering  the fascist Marshalls and fascist party as war criminals  is the millions of victims who perished with the chemical warfare by what Marshall Graziani referred as ''special liquid''. A recent document prepared by Marshall Graziani, acquired by the Library of Congress (Bridget Conley August 29, 2012) read as follow:
''Essential condition for the succeeding of the Operation: (….) the free use of special-liquid bombs and shells in order to inflict maximum losses on the enemy, and above all to effect his complete collapse of morale''

What was that special liquid which was delivered first as artillery shells and bombs dropped from aircraft? These shells and bombs were extensively used during the Battle of Tembein where the Ethiopians were victorious.  After the Battle of Tembien the ''special liquid'' was not delivered as bomb and shells from artilleries and airplanes but was sprayed from airplanes equipped with sprayers.  The ''special liquid wiped out the whole armies and the surrounding communities when it was sprayed from the air.

Leul Ras Kassa defined the ''special liquid''  in his interview with Marcel Griaule as follow:
''Thick fog falls like rain sprayed over us and the surrounding country was engulfed in fire. The brownish liquid ate the flesh of the soldiers. It was difficult even to mention the number of people who perished. The Ethiopian heroic soldiers died without leaving their assigned positions. Mules, cows, sheep and wild animals throw themselves into cliffs and died.(Laketch p 66/68)

Emperor Haile Selassie in his speech in Amharic to the League of Nations, where both Italy and Ethiopia were members, identified the ''special liquid'' as unknown poison in hitherto fought wars prior to the Second Ethio-Italian War. '' Airplanes equipped with sprayers sprayed vast territory with death causing chemical. People and animals perished…… That is why I decided to come to Geneva to inform the civilized world the crime perpetuated over the Ethiopian people by fascist Italy.'' (Emperor Haile Selassie pp 255)

The ''special liquid'' Marshall Graziani recommended and later put in use was also described by Alesandro Del val, the Texas born Cuban, who participated in the war on the Ethiopian side, in his book titled ''The Red Lion''. He identified the liquid as one that ate the flesh of the soldiers to the bone. He vividly drew pictures of dead Ethiopian warriors carrying sword in their hand their bones protruding without flesh.

From the above descriptions it could be fairly assumed that different kinds of ''special liquids'' were used during the first two years of the war. In some testimonials the liquid was brownish and made inflammable not only to poison and kill but also to be ignited by flamethrowers and create napalm bomb effect and burn any living thing in the area. The Ethiopians argue that such kinds of retaliatory measure against a smaller army who dared  to take the fight to hand to hand sword duel is a war crime.

The fourth argument from the Ethiopian side to consider Mussolini, Badoglio and Graziani as war criminals was the civilian and military causality of the chemical warfare which add up to a million. This number is more than ten fold than the causality caused by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Italian military intelligence estimated the personnel facing the five hundred thousand Italian personnel, equipped with all the modern armaments of artillery, tanks, airplanes and modern rifles was  about four hundred thousand ill equipped Ethiopian soldiers along with three hundred thousand mostly female and unarmed civilians helping in  preparing food, fetch water and care for their relative soldiers. The Ethiopians claim that all the seven hundred thousand were poisoned and burned while Leul Ras Kassa and Leul Ras Seyoum Mengesha survived with only their bodyguards.

After the Ethiopian armies and the civilians were all poisoned, burned and dead the Italian pilots flew nearer to the ground and mowed the dead bodies of the civilians and the military personnel and were photographed as demonstration of the valor of fascist armies.  (Leuel Ras Kassa)

The Ethiopians claim that the victims add up to a million soldiers and civilians. They add to the above 700,000 victims an estimated one hundred thousand Eritrean Italian soldiers who changed side in the middle of the battle and joined their Ethiopian brothers during the Battle of Tembien where the Ethiopians were victorious. Later as they were preparing to move to Makale and then Asmara were sprayed by the ''special liquid''. In addition to these the hundreds of thousands civilian population of Tigray and Ogaden in the warfronts and  other areas all over Ethiopia who were subjected to shells and bombs of the ''special liquid'' during the patriotic struggle of the five years period are added to the numbers of the victims.

What could be considered the fifth argument from the Ethiopian side for considering the party and government of fascist Italy as war criminals was the  reviving of the barbaric tradition of ancient Rome. Leul Ras Kassa with his interview with Marcel Griaule told him how Fascism revived the old barbaric tradition of  crucifying many captured young civilians and soldiers . (Laketch )

The Ethiopians consider the demoniac nature of fascism also a war crime. Ethiopians demonstrate through witnesses and numerous pictures. There are pictures which the Italian black shirts took and sent to their lovers and wives which showed them with severed heads of Ethiopian soldiers and civilians in front of them or carried on their necks as if a wreath of flower. Fascism, the Ethiopians argue, dehumanized the Italians too and thus should be considered as a crime against the Italian people too.

The sixth argument on the Ethiopian side is the massacred thirty thousand Addis Ababa residents ordered by Marshall Graziani. The Graziani massacre of over thirty thousand Addis Ababa residences is vividly and beautifully recorded by Campbell in his book published by the Addis Ababa University Press.

The Ethiopian argue citing the above points that Mussolini, Badoglio and Graziani and the fascist party be brought to justice. The Ethiopians claim that the allied powers were of similar view prior to the cunning diplomacy of Marshall Badoglio. They quote President Roosevelt speech when Mussolini tried to duck international justice though a similar type of ploy. At that time President Roosevelt of the USA is on record as follow:
''Mussolini came to the reluctant conclusion that the jig was up. He could see the shadow of the long arm of justice; but he and his fascist gangs will be brought to book and punished for their crimes against humanity. No criminal will be allowed to escape by the expedient of resignation. So our terms to Italy are still the same as our terms to Germany and Japan; unconditional surrender.''

Marshall Badoglio and the fascist henchmen signed unconditional surrender and through cunning diplomacy were able to duck justice by declaring war against their friend, Germany. Ethiopians believe that USA, Britain and France have the moral responsibility to bring to justice the criminal party and its officials in a tribunal to be established under the UN. That will do justice to the Ethiopian, Italian people and for humanity.

Mussolini, Badoglio and Graziani and the fascist black shirts were a shame to humanity and Italy. Who in the whole world will consider the Norwegian modern day fascist  Anders Behring Breivik a hero for killing tens of unarmed youngsters? Will the world consider a hero a future terrorist who might got hold of chemical weapon and wipe out the whole population of a modern town for mere vengeance?

Ethiopians believe that Italy has illustrious children who excelled in arts, science and battles unlike the feeble and cowardice of Mussolini, Marshalls Pietro Badoglio, Graziani and the numerous black shirts infront of a lesser number of army personnel which was armed with sword and outdated rifles.  It would be better to rename the  monument for the illustrious anti-fascist fighters of Italy.
The writer is a historical novelist writing about the Second Ethio-Italian War. He published ''Adabay'' in Amharic and ''Trying Times'' in English. You could contact the writer through his e-mail address:  tilahuntassew@yahoo.com


  1. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.

  2. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.