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ITALIAN QUEST FOR AN EMPIRE - THE INVASION OF ETHIOPIA



MACHO MUSSOLINI - MORE THAN A MAN?


In 1896 Benito Mussolini was a boy of thirteen and Italy was making another grab for territory, Ethiopian troops had slaughtered six thousand Italian soldiers at the Ethiopian town of Aduwa and had driven thousands more back across the border of Eritrea. For years afterward "the shame of Aduwa" as it was known, smarted in Italian memories - not least in Mussoliniís; ever since he took control of Italy as chancelor - commonly called the duce - in 1922, he intended to avenge the that national humiliation.

In March of 1934 Mussolini made "Italyís national expansion" the theme of a major address, asserting that Italians had a right and duty to "civilize" backward nations. Secretly the duce had selected Ethiopia, located at the mouth of the Red Sea where the two continents met, fot his first imperial conquest. Early the next year he started shipping army and militia divisions to east Africa. In 1934 Ethiopian tribesman attacked Italian troops at Wal Wal, an oasis where Ethiopia converged with British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland, and where all travelers through the desert watered. Mussolini demanded a public apology from Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, together with an indemnity of one thousand dollars. Selassie was undaunted - he coolly suggested that their be submitted to arbitration. But Mussolini was spoiling for a fight, refusing to negotiate and preparing for war. By the end of May 1935 he had nearly one million men under arms. Through the summer of 1935 Mussolini went on pouring troops into Africa; by September 12 divisions had been dispatched with more at home. On October 2nd Mussolini said over a radio broadcast "there is not just an army marching toward a military objective, but a whole nation, 44 million souls, against whom the blackest injustice was committed; that of denying them their place in the sun." On October 3rd war was declared. In three days the Italian army had captured Aduwa. Many Italians considered the victory a national vindication. By early November the army had penetrated 80 miles into Ethiopian territory. Italian guns in Ethiopia effectively sounded the opening shots of World War II. On January 12, 1936 Marshal Pietro Badaglio (Minister of Colonies) bunched a new offensive using tanks, trucks, and planes - material unavailable to the Ethiopians - and poison gas, that was outlawed by the Geneva Convention. Expectedly, Italian forces rolled inexorably across Ethiopia. In four months, they advanced 400 miles. May 5, 1936 Badoglio led them on a triumphant march into Addis Ababa the capital of Ethiopia. Three days earlier Haile Selassie had fled with his family to England.

Mussolini summed up his "everything that is now wrong will be well" philosophy by saying " words are beautiful things, but rifles, guns, ships, and airplanes are still more beautiful." At last Italy had her empire.

By Rebecca "The Giraffe" Bernard

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