Sunday, April 10, 2005

Letter from Baghdad - 1920 version!!!

Yesterday, to mark the 2nd anniversary of the Fall of Saddam Hussein, tens of thousands of Shiites held anti-American rally against the "occupation" troops, and burned effigies of Bush and Blair, at the same square where jubilant crowds toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein two years ago.

The parallel to events from WWI to 1920s is remarkable, when the British and French had "liberated" Mesopotamia (Iraq) from the cruel Turkish Ottoman Empire.

The following are the excerpts from a letter sent by Ex.Lieut-Col TE Lawrence (of "Lawrence of Arabia" fame), which was published in The Sunday Times, August 22, 1920:

"The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are to-day not far from a disaster...

... there has been a deplorable contrast between our profession and our practice. We said we went to Mesopotamia to defeat Turkey. We said we stayed to deliver the Arabs from the oppression of the Turkish Government, and to make available for the world its resources of corn and oil. We spent nearly a million men and nearly a thousand million of money to these ends. This year we are spending ninety-two thousand men and fifty millions of money on the same objects.

Our government is worse than the old Turkish system. They kept fourteen thousand local conscripts embodied, and killed a yearly average of two hundred Arabs in maintaining peace. We keep ninety thousand men, with aeroplanes, armoured cars, gunboats, and armoured trains. We have killed about ten thousand Arabs in this rising this summer. We cannot hope to maintain such an average: it is a poor country, sparsely peopled... We are told the object of the rising was political, we are not told what the local people want.

...We say we are in Mesopotamia to develop it for the benefit of the world. all experts say that the labour supply is the ruling factor in its development. How far will the killing of ten thousand villagers and townspeople this summer hinder the production of wheat, cotton, and oil? How long will we permit millions of pounds, thousands of Imperial troops, and tens of thousands of Arabs to be sacrificed on behalf of colonial administration which can benefit nobody but its administrators?"

As the "Coalition of the Willing" is realising now, even that time the British had stepped into the "Quicksand of History":

"Britain quickly discovered that colonising Iraq (under a so-called “mandate” from the League of Nations) was vastly more difficult than it was supposed to be. The Iraqis may have been satisfied with the end of Ottoman control, but they were obstinately unimpressed by their new rulers. There were armed uprisings, assassinations of British military officers and bureaucrats in the streets and general unruliness. The British, unable to deal with tribal and regional outbreaks, resorted to bombing the population into a form of submission from the air. By 1921, the British named a new king of Iraq, Faysal bin Hussein al-Hashim, but he never became popular because he was seen by the locals as a tool of London. It was 16 years before Britain finally extricated itself from its “Mesopotamian entanglement”.

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