Saturday, January 20, 2007


Iraq: the Brits Set the Stage

Last night, I started talking about British history. I like history, but it teaches me a great deal about the present. Particularly British history: our legal and legislative systems derive from it. And so, sadly, does our current situation in Iraq.

Iraq is a near-repeat of an earlier British adventure. After World War One, the allies broke up the Ottoman Empire, picking and choosing among themselves about who wanted what. The Brits got, among other plums, Iraq. Before the war, what we now call Iraq was a collection of nomadic and settled tribes—Arabs, Persians, Kurds, Jews, Turkomen. The allied powers drew some lines on the map and created Iraq. It had no more a national history than did Yugoslavia.

What it did have, of course, was oil. Barry Lando, in this piece for AlterNet, does a good job of summarizing that history; I urge everyone to read all of it.

Surging to Baghdad-The Blockbuster Remake
By Barry Lando
Posted on January 14, 2007, Printed on January 15, 2007

“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.

Indeed, reviewing the historical record of British attempts to rule first Mesopotamia and then Iraq you get the feeling you’re watching an old Hollywood black and white classic that has been reshot for an American audience with digitalized sound, computer animation, and the “United States” substituted for “England.”


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