Sunday, January 14, 2007

Ignoring and Repeating History

If Bush and his neo-con conspirators had even the most rudimentary knowledge of the history of the region would they have led us all into the Iraq disaster? One hopes not.

Sadly, they were either ignorant of the history of the area, or they knew it and were too dumb to think for a moment about the lesson of an earlier empire’s Iraq adventure.

Consider this quotation from an article at AterNet.Org by Barry Lando.

“The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia [Iraq] 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…..We are today not far from disaster.”

So wrote Colonel T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) in the London Sunday Times, August 1920.

Lando’s outline of the stages of the British invasion, and its ultimate failure, reads like a shockingly contemporary account of our own bloody disaster.

When the British forces marched into Baghdad in 1917 they did so announcing that they were liberators, not conquerors.

In fact, they were no more interested in liberating the local inhabitants and their lands than were any of the conquerors who had preceded them, nor the one who followed. Their major concern was bases to support their sprawling empire and oil to fuel their economy and war-making machine.

The British attempt to pacify the region was carried out by aircraft, armored cars, machine guns, firing squads and 130,000 British soldiers, more than 1600 of whom were killed. The British established the Sunnis as rulers in Baghdad and the Shiites of course considered them occupiers.

The British attempted to maintain control of the region by establishing the Hashemite prince Faisal (who had never been to Iraq) as the King of the new nation, in the process betraying the Kurds who had been promised an independent homeland at the end of World War I.

Winston Churchill, who was then Home Secretary, argued that Britain should give up its attempts to control Kurdish Mosul and Sunni-dominated Baghdad and retain only the Shiite province of Basra in the south, which was a strategic link to British possessions in Persia. If the British Cabinet had followed his advice, each of the principle peoples of Iraq—Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds—would have had its own government; the groups who were bound together as Iraqis might have had a much less tragic history.

Churchill was right. It's my judgment that in addition to simply advocating a withdrawl from Iraq Progressives should consider support of the 'three state solution.' However, the devil is in the details and this might mean we have to stay in Iraq longer than a simple 'withdraw now' policy implies.

Quotations from Barry Lando’s article are in Italics. Read the complete article here.


barry lando said...

art, pleased to see you picked up by post on the sorry history of iraq...appreciate if you could also link to my blog: and add it to your blogroll.thanks and best
barry lando

Art Jacobson said...

Happy to do so, and hope that Data Port readers visit it regularly.


x4mr said...

Excellent post, Art. The sad truth is that I don't think the Bush Administration has anywhere near the intelligence or the sophistication to consider history or any of the forces which would be understood by truly educated people with a strong command of how the world works.

Perhaps it isn't intelligence but a simple function of priorities. Our country is being run by those who represent corporations and corporate interests. It's about who gets to make how much money.