Seven Pillars of Crumbles
The following article (here truncated) appeared in the (London) Sunday Times on August 22, 1920 as written by Lt. Colonel T. E. Lawrence (Ret), the subject of the 1963 Academy Award winning film “Lawrence of Arabia”:
“The people of England have been led into a trap in Mesopotamia from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows…We are today not far from a disaster.
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 grain and oil. We spent nearly a million men and nearly a thousand million of money to those 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 employed, 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 the uprising this summer. Colonel Wilson fails to control Mesopotamia's three million people with ninety thousand troops. [The population today is 27.5 million, our military 130,000]
How long will we permit millions of Pounds thousands of Imperial troops, and tens of thousands of Arabs to be sacrificed on behalf of a colonial administration which can benefit nobody but its administrators?”
Would that President Bush were a student of history! In 1920 the British faced a Shiite insurgency and hostility from its neighbors. The root problem then and now is the region’s historic tribalism and religious hatreds. The British installed an “elected” monarchy which was eventually overthrown and replaced by a series of dictatorships. The region is democratically ungovernable.
Our president’s view of “victory” and “defeat” is based on a John Wayne understanding of our 1945 conquest of Germany and Japan and the subsequent occupation and pacification of those two countries. That model is archly atypical of the resolution of American wars.
The First World War ended with an armistice in November of 1918 followed by the Treaty of Versailles. There was no occupation. The Korean War ended in 1953 with a ceasefire. No formal peace agreement has ever been negotiated and all but token American forces were long ago withdrawn. The first Gulf War had the limited objective of expulsion of the Iraqis from Kuwait . The Iraq forces were swiftly defeated; a cease fire was negotiated by the UN Security Council and we withdrew. The American Revolution ended with a treaty – not the conquest of Great Britain .
The current disaster began with the unequivocal military objective of regime change. After only three weeks of combat, the Iraqi government fell and President Bush declared “Mission Accomplished.” Since that day, the Bush administration has been following the British blueprint of 87 years ago. Similar results are assured.
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