Skip to comments.Curse of T.E. Lawrence's Promise: The Phony Nation of Iraq
Posted on 10/03/2002 7:29:52 AM PDT by NormsRevenge
Curse of T.E. Lawrence's Promise: The Phony Nation of Iraq
Jack WheelerThe most legendary American journalist of the 20th century was Lowell Thomas. I had the opportunity to meet him in 1978 when we were guests on the Merv Griffin show. Off camera, I asked him, "Do you feel you contributed, however inadvertently, to the political mess that is the Middle East today?
Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2002
He looked at me sharply and asked me what I meant. "Well, after all, I answered, "it was you who gave Lawrences promise to the Hashemites so much power. His eyes narrowed, and responded, "That was a long time ago.
In 1917, Lowell Thomas was a young ambitious journalist in search of an interesting story in a lost backwater of World War I. In Jerusalem, he met a small (5-foot-4) British Army captain assigned as a liaison officer to Arabs living in a desert no one had ever heard of.
Thomas saw his chance. His breathless dispatches had the purpose of creating a myth around the liaison officer, who had begun teaching Arab tribes to blow up Turkish trains nobody cared about in the desert nobody ever heard of.
The liaison officers name was T.E. Lawrence, but Lowell Thomas called him "Lawrence of Arabia. In 1919, Thomas went on a lecture tour in the U.K. and U.S., showing pictures of Lawrence posing in a sheikhs robes in a London studio, and entranced audiences with stories about "the White King of the Arabs.
By the time the Treaty of Sèvres was negotiated in 1920, with Lawrence in attendance and the media mob hanging on his every word, the British felt compelled to keep Lawrences promise to the chieftains of an Arab tribe called the Hashemites.
The political structure of the Middle East today is the result of that promise. The Treaty of Sèvres permitted the British to seize pieces of the Ottoman Empire, which had ruled the Middle East for centuries but joined the Germans in WWI. Instead of British colonies, the pieces were called League of Nations "Mandates, for which the Brits needed puppet rulers.
One of these "mandated areas was the west coast of Arabia, a desert region called the Hejaz. Lawrence had promised the chieftains of the Hashem tribe that if they would join the British against the Turks, they would get to rule the Hejaz as their own kingdom. Thus the Hashem patriarch, Hussein Ibn Ali, became the King of the Hejaz.
At Lawrences insistence, the Brits installed Alis son Feisal as ruler of the "mandate of Syria, divided the "mandate of Palestine in two, and installed Feisals brother Abdullah as ruler of the part east of the Jordan River (the western part eventually became Israel 28 years later, no thanks to the British).
Lawrence (and Thomas) had bought into the phony claim that the Hashem tribal leaders were directly descended from Mohammad himself. The Hashemites claimed that this assumed mantle of Islamic holiness gave them a right to rule, without elections, all Arabs everywhere. So the Brits created the Hashemite Kingdoms of Hejaz, Jordan and Syria.
The Invention of Saudi Arabia
Then a problem arose from out of the desert wasteland. The chieftain of the Wahhabi tribe from central Arabia, Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, kicked Ali out of Hejaz, took it over, and called his entire conquered area Saudi Arabia. The Hashemite Kingdom of Hejaz was no more.
In the meantime, the French claimed Syria was their "mandate and kicked out Feisal. As a consolation prize, Lawrence insisted the Brits install Feisal as the ruler of yet another "mandate, that of Mesopotamia. Created out of three former Ottoman vilayets (provinces) without any regard to national coherence, this area was renamed the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan still exists (the current ruler, Abdullah II, is the first Abdullahs great-grandson), but the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq was erased (with the entire "royal family including Feisals grandson Feisal II slaughtered) by a military coup in 1958. Through the help of Soviet KGB agent Yevgeny Primakov, Saddam Hussein completed his control over the Iraqi military regime by 1979.
The bottom line to this saga is that Iraq is not a real country like, say, Persia (Iran), which has existed for 2,500 years. It is an artificial construct and can only be held together by force.
The Phony Nation of Iraq
Iraq and its people have no history of nor familiarity with democratic institutions. The three former vilayets of which it is composed still have no mutual cohesiveness. Mosul in the north is Kurdish, Basra in the south is Shiite Arab, Baghdad in the middle is Sunni Arab. The Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis all hate each other. It takes a Saddam to hold the place together.
And thats why Saddam has been kept in place, and allowed to ignore all those U.N. resolutions. A disintegrated Iraq could easily mean an independent Kurdistan, which the millions of Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iran would clamor to join, splitting apart those three countries. It could mean an independent Basra, or just an inchoate anarchy, another Somalia.
The fear of these post-Saddam scenarios is what drives much of the international frenzy against G.W. taking Saddam out.
It is to G.W.s enormous credit that he has the intelligence to realize that the threat of Saddams rule vastly outweighs the threat of its dissolution, and has the determination to eliminate the former.
It will be near impossible, however, to eliminate the latter. Let us hope that G.W. accepts this reality and assiduously avoids desperate attempts to put the Humpty Dumpty of a post-Saddam Iraq back together.
Americas and the worlds security must no longer be held hostage to a promise made by a junior British officer to a bunch of camel-herders wandering around a lost desert 86 years ago a promise made important by an ambitious journalists romantic froth of promotional puffery, resulting in incalculably tragic consequences as the Curse of Lawrence of Arabia.
© copyright 2002 Dr. Jack Wheeler and the Freedom Research Foundation
This article originally appeared in the October 2002 issue of Strategic Investment, an Agora publication.
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