Esterhazy’s treason: The rest of the story
Last week’s newspaper column "America today: Waiting for Zola," caused several readers to ask, "What happened to the French Army traitor ’Count’ Lt. Colonel Ferdinand Esterhazy?" The answer reminds one of America’s current two-tiered justice system.
Thanks to Emile Zola’s public accusations of French Army corruption, the totally innocent Captain Alfred Dreyfus was brought back from Devil’s Island for re-trial in France. But enough court members caved to Army pressure to re-convict Dreyfus; however, Dreyfus’ sentence was reduced from life imprisonment to ten years. An indirect admission of Dreyfus’ innocence.
Meanwhile, the Sureté (think French CIA) knew Dreyfus was innocent and that Esterhazy was guilty. But two Sureté operatives who could have testified against Esterhazy died mysterious deaths. One an outright murder, the other a suspicious suicide.
Emile Zola was tried and convicted of libel. Lt. Colonel Georges Picquart was tried and convicted for his pro-Dreyfus efforts and dismissed from the Army he loved. During these proceedings Major Henry (one of the anti-Dreyfus forgers) went wobbly under cross-examination, becoming a danger to the Army brass. Amazingly, Major Henry cut the carotid arteries on BOTH sides of his neck. A physical impossibility. But the Army ruled his death a suicide.
In 1898, Lt. Colonel Esterhazy was tried for treason in a secret court-martial; however, despite Esterhazy’s clear guilt, the top generals pressured the court to merely reduce Esterhazy one rank. Despite looming additional charges, Major Esterhazy was "allowed" to flee through Belgium to England where he remained until he died in 1925.
The public uproar over Esterhazy’s flight caused the French President to pardon the innocent Dreyfus who reluctantly accepted a pardon. Later, the French Supreme Court absolved Dreyfus of any wrong doing. Captain Dreyfus was returned to active duty, serving with valor as a Lt. Colonel during World War I. Lt. Colonel Picquart was promoted to Brigadier General. When Georges Clemenceau became President, he made General Picquart his Minister for War. Picquart went from being despised by his anti-Dreyfus fellow officers to being their commander!
But, despite the eventual justice accorded Dreyfus and Picquart, French public opinion remained divided (think anti-Trump vs. pro-Trump) between those who believed the interests of the Deep State were more important than justice for one low-ranking Jew and those who stood for equal justice for all. The French Army did not admit its guilt in the Dreyfus Affair until 1995, eighty-nine years of shameful silence.
Fast forward to today and consider the strange deaths of sex offender Jeffrey Epstein (Bill Clinton’s buddy) and the deaths of those such as Mary Pinchot Meyers (JFK’s mistress), Seth Rich (DNC staffer), Vince Foster, Jim McDougal, and Mark Middleton (Clinton White Water Scandal), plus Marilyn Monroe, and Mary Joe Kopechne, to name only a few whose deaths, either accidental, supposedly suicidal, or outright murder have never been conclusively investigated by the use of modern forensic science.
Something is seriously wrong with a justice system that allows some people to skate away from their alleged crimes without trial and, at the same time, persecutes those of a different political view. While the Dreyfus Affair may seem like ancient history, the Dreyfus Affair reads like it is ripped from the pages of today’s newspapers.
Suggested reading: An Officer and a Spy, by Robert Harris, 2013. The Rooster Bar by John Grisham, 2017.
©2023. William Hamilton.