The fact that Greece and Turkey were practically on the verge of war, said Djemal, really made the sale of the ships an unneutral act. Still, if the transaction were purely a commercial one, Turkey would like a chance to bid. "We will pay more than Greece," he added. He ended with a powerful plea that I should at once cable my government about the matter, and this I promised to do.
Evidently the clever Greeks had turned the tables on their enemy. Turkey had rather too boldly advertised her intention of attacking Greece as soon as she had received her dreadnaughts. Both the ships for which Greece was now negotiating were immediately available for battle! The Idaho and Mississippi were not indispensable ships for the American navy; they could not take their place in the first line of battle; they were powerful enough, however, to drive the whole Turkish navy from the Ægean. Evidently the Greeks did not intend politely to postpone the impending war until the Turkish dreadnaughts had been finished, but to attack as soon as they received these American ships. Djemal's point, of course, had no legal validity. However great the threat of war might be, Turkey and Greece were still actually at peace. Clearly Greece had just as much right to purchase warships in the United States as Turkey had to purchase them in Brazil or England.
But Djemal was not the only statesman who attempted to prevent the sale; the German Ambassador displayed the keenest interest. Several days after Djemal's visit, Wangenheim and I were riding in the hills north of Constantinople; Wangenheim began to talk about the Greeks, to whom he displayed a violent