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The forgetful dupe or the Chester Concession - a story worth popularizing

Reader comment on item: American Intifada
in response to reader comment: Further on Greece

Submitted by Ianus (Poland), Jul 1, 2007 at 16:38

Dear JJ ,

You may perhaps be interested who the Chesters , mentioned in my message, were. What the hell were they doing in Turkey? Let me tell a few words on that . I'll adapt an e-mail I sent to a friend of mine concerning the same subject.

The two person George Horton mainly refers to are the U.S. Rear US Navy Admiral William Colby Mitchell Chester (1844-1932) and his son Lieutenant Commander Arthur Tremaine Chester (1874- 1936).

Admiral Colby Chester served for some time in Turkey in 1898 and got to know a number of importnat people among the Young Turks. Ten years later in 1908 he came back to Constantinople with money from the New York Chamber of Commerce and managed to get a number of concessions for works, railways, harbours, minerals, and oil in Ottoman Turkey. The war , but especially the German competition, disrupted his ambitious and rosy dreams. They were revived when the war ended and a new "partner" appeared. Henry Woodhouse (1884-1970) , an Italian-born speculator and forger, helped him form between 1920-1922 an oil syndicate called : "the Ottoman American Development Company" (OADC). Thanks to the Admiral the syndicate received rights to construct and operate a railroad in Anatolia and along the Black Sea and to exploit the oil fields of Mosul. During the turmoils of the Turkish defeat and the civil war that started in Turkey the syndicate suddenly was promised mountains of gold also by the new ruler of Anatolia - Mustafa Kemal. At that time Kemal was using the bolshevik arms, gold and advisors but it didn't hinder him to allure also the American big capital to be used in his game for power. Woodhouse who owned 1/6 of the capital stock of the OADC became director of the Turco-American Corporation that had received options to build the future capital - the city of Ankara.

It is under these cicumstances that the "famous" Chester Concession originated. The concession was formally signed in April 1923 after the extermination of the Greeks. Gazi Mustafa Kemal allowed the Ottoman-American Development Company "to construct and operate 2,700 miles of railroad, to exploit all mines and minerals found in a 25-mile zone along the right of way of this road, which, according to estimates made upon various surveys, cover:

1) the famous Mosul and other oil fields, aggregating from 4,000,000,000 to 8,000,000,000 barrels potentially, or between one-sixth and one-tenth of the world's total oil resources.
2) Copper deposits comprising over 400,000,000 tons of rich ore.
3) About 500 gold, platinum, silver, manganese, iron, tin, zinc, salt, coal and other mines and deposits."

In exchange for that generous gifts the OADC and all its personnel and stock-holders were supposed to spread good news about Kemalist Turkey and courageously counter anti-Turkish (mainly Greek and Armenian) "propaganda".

Admiral Chester fought now with a pen for his Turkish promised land. Among other things he wrote an article which was widely popularized by the New York Times in September 1922 accusing the Armenians to be the principle cause of the 'trouble' in the Ottoman Empire. The Turks never had done what their notoriously malicious enemies accused them of having done. His son Lieutenant Commander Arthur Tremaine Chester did his best too to promote the newly discovered "Turco-American friendship". In 1923 he published "A spirited defense of the Turks against charge of atrocities," in the same "The New York Times". Many other interested persons followed with their defenses of Turkey's virtue and integrity.

But all of that was love's labours lost. The Chester Concession turned out to be one of the biggest hoaxes in history. For Gazi Mustafa it was a purely political weapon. He managed to sow discord and suspicions between the greedy Western Powers by playing off the US against Britain and mainly France. Thus he was free from any pressures and troubles from the West. He exterminated the Greeks, denied the charges of genocide and got in exchnage the international recognition of his regime at Lausanne in January 1923. His agenda was quite different from what greed and ignorance of the Turkish realities made the Americans believe it would be. Later in the same year (1923!) Gazi Mustafa through the Grand Assembly simply cancelled the whole concession. The reason was allegedly "owing to failure of the concessionaires to fulfill in the allotted time (!!!) certain conditions of the grant".

If I may dare draw any conclusions from the above, I'd say that the Americans seem to have learnt little if anything from the Chester hoax. The dupe is chronically forgetful, the swindler encouraged in his unsocial behaviour.


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