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Foreign trade and foreign payments became rigidly controlled for the same purpose. The production of planes and tanks and guns and all the other countless accessories of a modern war machine became the immediate objective of the whole national effort.
The second line consisted of a series of steps directed toward improving the strategic position of Germany. The first of these was the occupation and fortification of the Rhineland in 1936, in direct violation of the Locarno Treaty, voluntarily entered into by Germany 10 years earlier. Then followed, in rapid succession, the absorption of Austria, in direct violation of pledges given by Hitler to respect the sovereignty and independence of that country; the dismemberment and final seizure of Czechoslovakia, in spite of Hitler's assurances after the seizure of Austria that Germany desired no additional territory in Europe and in violation of a solemn pledge to respect the independence of that country, officially given in October 1938; the annexation of Memel; and finally, on September 1, 1939, a brutal attack upon, and the devastation and partitioning of Poland.
The period of the war has witnessed the invasion and occupation of Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, and Luxemburg, in violation of the scrupulously observed neutrality of these countries and in contravention, in the cases of some of these countries, of assurances expressly given by Germany of her intention to respect their independence and sovereignty; the invasion and partial occupation of France; the splitting up of Rumania and the German occupation of the remaining portion of that country.
These seizures have been accomplished through a combined use of armed force applied from without and of an almost unbelievable amount of subversive activity from within. Each of the invaded and occupied countries has been subjected to a reign of terror and despotism. By word and by deed, the invaders have made unmistakably clear their determination to impose permanently upon these unfortunate countries a rule of tyranny frequently reminiscent of the worst pages of ancient history.
So long as there seemed to remain even a faint hope of inducing the leaders of Germany to desist from the course which they were following, the Government of the United States neglected no opportunity to make its voice heard in restraint. It went further, and repeatedly offered its assistance in economic readjustments which might promote solution of the existing difficulties by peaceful means. All hope disappeared when the Nazi legions struck at Poland and plunged Europe into a new war.
Since then, it has become increasingly apparent that mankind is today face to face, not with regional wars or isolated conflicts, but with an organized, ruthless, and implacable movement of steadily expanding conquest. We are in the presence of forces which are not restrained by considerations of law or principles of morality; which have fixed no limits for their program of conquest; which have spread over large areas on land and are desperately struggling now to seize control of the oceans as an essential means of achieving and maintaining their conquest of the other continents.
Control of the high seas by law-abiding nations is the key to the security of the Western Hemisphere in the present-day world situation. Should that control be gained by the partners of the Tripartite Pact, the danger to our country, great as it is today, would be multiplied manyfold.
It is frequently said that there can be no danger of an invasion of the New World. It is said: As Germany has not been able to cross the British Channel, how can she cross the Atlantic?
German forces could cross the channel in an hour's time were it not for the fact that Britain, now thoroughly prepared and well armed, is fighting every hour of the day to prevent that crossing, and is fortified with every known device to repel a landing. The 20 miles of water between continental Europe and Britain are under British, not German, control. Were Britain defeated, and were she to lose command of the seas, Germany could easily cross the Atlanticespecially the South Atlantic-unless we were ready and able to do what Britain is doing now. Were the Atlantic to fall into German control, the Atlantic would offer little or no assurance of security.
Under these conditions our national security would require the continuous devotion of a very great part of all our work and wealth for defense production, prolonged universal military service, extremely burdensome taxation, unending vigilance against enemies within our borders, and complete involvment in power diplomacy. These would be the necessities of a condition as exposed as ours would be.
Great Britain is today a veritable fortress. So will this country be when our preparations for armed defense are completed. Most likely, however, it will not be by direct and frontal attack that the would-be invaders will undertake the conquest of this country, if they ever have a chance to embark upon such an enterprise. It is rather to be anticipated that their efforts would first be directed against other portions of this hemisphere, more vulnerable than this country, and then against us.
Subversive forces are hard at work in many American countries, seeking to create internal dissension and disunion as a now familiar prelude to armed invasion. Today these forces are held in check and are being steadily eradicated. But the entire situation would change if control of the high seas were to pass into the hands of the would-be attackers. Under such conditions, the difficulties of continental defense would demand from us vastly greater efforts than we are now called upon to envisage.
The most serious question today for this country is whether the control of the high seas shall pass into the hands of powers bent on a program of unlimited conquest. It is in this light, above all, that we should order our present-day thinking and action with respect to the amount of material assistance which our country is prepared to furnish Great Britain.
On no other question of public policy are the people of this country so nearly unanimous and so emphatic today as they are on that of the imperative need, in our own most vital interest, to give Great Britain and other victims of attack the maximum of material aid in the shortest possible space of time. This is so because it is now altogether clear that such assistance to those who resist attack is a vital part of our national self-defense. In the face of the forces of conquest now on the march across the earth, self-defense is and must be the compelling consideration in the determination of wise and prudent national policy.
For us to withhold aid to victims of attack would not result in a restoration of peace. It would merely tend to perpetuate the enslavement of nations already invaded and subjugated and provide an
opportunity for the would-be conquerors to gather strength for an attack against us.
The protagonists of the forces against which we are today forging the instrumentalities of self-defense have repudiated in every essential respect the long-accepted principles of peaceful and orderly international relations. They have disregarded every right of neutral nations, even of those to which they themselves had given solemn pledges of inviolability. Their constantly employed weapons for the Government of their unfortunate victims are unrestricted terrorization; firing squads; deceit; forced labor; confiscation of property; concentration camps; and deprivations of every sort.
The most scrupulous observance by peaceful countries of legal concepts provides today no security whatever. Many nations which trusted to the integrity of their intentions and the care with which they observed their legal obligations have been destroyed.
I am certain that the day will come again when no nation will have the effrontery and the cynicism to demand that, while it itself scoffs at and disregards every principle of law and order, its intended victims must adhere rigidly to all such principles—until the very moment when its armed forces have crossed their frontiers. But so long as such nations exist, we cannot and must not be diverted-either by their threats or by their hypocritical protests from our firm determination to create means and conditions of self-defense wherever and in whatever form we find essential to our own security.
The present bill sets up machinery which will enable us to make the most effective use of our resources for our own ds and for the needs of those whom, in our own self-defense, we are determined thus to aid. The great problem of democracy is to organize and to use its strength with sufficient speed and completeness. The proposed legislation is an essential measure for that purpose. This bill will make it possible for us to allocate our resources in ways best calculated to provide for the security of this Nation and of this continent in the complex and many-sided conditions of danger with which we are and are likely to be confronted. Above all, it will enable us to do all these things in the speediest possible manner. And, overwhelmingly, speed is our greatest need today.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Secretary, we thank you very much for that very enlightening statement, and we thank you, too, for your appearance before the committee.
Some of the members of the committee would like very much to ask you some questions, and if you have no objection, we shall proceed at this time. The Chair recognizes Mr. Johnson.
Secretary Hull. I may say, Mr. Chairman, in order that we may all thoroughly understand each other, that I have always said that any Member of Congress, whether in the House or in the Senate, could know anything that I know about our foreign affairs, if he desired. Of course, that implies some degree of cooperative effort along certain lines to the extent that there should be no undesirable publicity in regard to those fairly numerous phases of our foreign affairs which, for manifest reasons, should not be made public. I should be glad to carry out that policy.
. Of course, I can probably be of much more help to the committee on many of the questions to be asked, if I could do so without my
statements becoming known to foreign capitals within an hour after I speak here. I leave that to the good judgment of members of the committee as to how they may desire to proceed in those matters.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Secretary, all the members of the committee fully understand the position you have just described. The Chair may state, if there are any questions asked that you feel should not be answered except in executive session, or personally, I know the committee will take your judgment of that as the final word. Mr. Johnson, you may proceed.
Mr. Johnson. Mr. Secretary, with your knowledge of world conditions during the past 8 years, during which time you have served as Secretary of State and have had contact with and information about all of the countries of the world, I understand from your very able and logical statement, it is your conclusion that legislation such as that embraced in this bill is absolutely necessary for the defense of the United States and that speed is required in its enactment; is that correct, Mr. Secretary?
Secretary Hull. I have been very unwilling to be driven to the conclusion about the matter to which you first referred. I may say, in the second place, that the vital point in connection with this pending bill relates to the supply of aid to such countries as Great Britain, in the fullest and most effective manner, and as speedily as is possible.
The Treasury prepared the bill that you have under consideration, and the Secretary of the Treasury will discuss the many detailed provisions in the bill, so far as they relate to the purchasing situation, the commodity production situation, and other related phases.
If you have any questions to ask me on the legal phases, as they may relate to international law or domestic law, or other rules, I shall be glad to try to comment on them.
Mr. JOHNSON. Mr. Secretary, in view of the attack that has been made from some sources with reference to a provision of the bill relating to the use of our harbors for the repair of ships belonging to belligerent nations, it being charged that that would be in violation of international law, and also in violation of the Hague Treaty, would you care to express an opinion upon that question?
Secretary Hull. I have here a brief manuscript on the general question of the effect of the measure now proposed on phases of international treaties or Hague agreements, or international law generally, or domestic law, and, if it is agreeable, I will read it.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee would be very glad to have you read it. Mr. Secretary.
Secretary HULL. Having in mind the provisions of section 3 (a) that all these things may be done “notwithstanding the provisions of any other law,” it follows that any other law to the contrary would be superseded.
That is so far as action by the Government under this bill is concerned.
(1) The Johnson Act: This act would not appear to be involved for the reason that it does not apply to this Government, or to a public corporation created by or in pursuance of special authorization of Congress, or to a corporation in which the Government has or exercises a controlling interest, as, for example, the Import-Export Bank.
(2) The Neutrality Act of 1939: Section 7 of this act, which prohibits the extension of loans or credits to a belligerent government, is not by its terms made applicable to this Government but it does apply to a corporation such as the Import-Export Bank. In any event the prohibition would be superseded by the new act insofar as transactions by this Government are concerned.
(3) United States Code, title 18: Section 23 makes it unlawful to fit out or arm in the United States a vessel with intent that it shall be employed in the service of a foreign belligerent against a power or people with which the United States are at peace.
Section 24 makes it unlawful to increase or augment in our ports the force of a ship of war or other armed vessel belonging to a belligerent power.
Section 33 makes it unlawful during a war in which the United States is neutral to send out of our jurisdiction any vessel built, armed or equipped as a vessel of war for delivery to a belligerent nation.
These provisions would be suspended by the new act insofar as action by this Government might be concerned.
(4) The Hague Convention of 1907: Hague Convention XIII of 1907 states in article VI that, the supply, in any manner, directly or indirectly, by a neutral power to a belligerent power, of warships, ammunition, or war material of any kind whatever, is forbidden.
Article XVII states that in neutral ports belligerent warshipsmay only carry out such repairs as are absolutely necessary to render them seaworthy, and may not add in any manner whatsoever to their fighting force.
Article XVIII states that belligerent warships may not make use of neutral ports for “replenishing or increasing their supplies of war material or their armament.”
The convention is not applicable to the present European war for the reason that it provides in article XXVIII that it shall not apply unless "all the belligerents are parties to the convention." Great Britain and Italy are not parties to the convention.
It may be urged that the provisions of the United States Code and the quoted provisions of the Hague Convention are declaratory of international law on the subjects mentioned and that to do the things contemplated by the proposed act would render us unneutral. This would be largely true under ordinary circumstances but we are not here dealing with an ordinary war situation. Rather, we are confronted with a situation that is extraordinary in character.
The rules relating to the rights and duties of neutrals and those relating to the rights and duties of belligerents complement each other, that is to say, belligerents are forbidden to do certain things which infringe the rights of neutrals and neutrals are forbidden to do certain things which prejudice the rights of belligerents. For example, the Hague Convention just referred to states in article I that belligerents are bound to respect “the sovereign rights of neutral powers and to abstain, in neutral territory or neutral waters, from any act which would, if knowingly permitted by any power, constitute a violation of neutrality.” Belligerents are forbidden to use neutral ports and waters as a base of naval operations against their adversaries (art: V).