Sunday, May 22, 2005

LAWRENCE OF IRAQIA

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I first read "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom" many years ago. It is a most interesting book. Rather depressing to read, in the end. It isn't about the triumph of British imperialism, it was written by a very disillusioned man who operated outside the envelope and who, in the end, tore himself apart over the fact that he betrayed the very people he pretended to help: the Muslims.

This stark betrayal he glossed over at first but as he lived and fought over there, the pain of the coming betrayal ate at his soul and he couldn't look upon his hosts without intense self loathing because of what he was doing to them, encouraging them in a war of seeming "liberation" which was totally false.

Finally, he threw in the towel and left. A bitter man. Broken, actually. Broken by his own duplicity.

How can anyone read that book without flinching? Without getting ill? He could barely cover the narrative towards the end, rushing past events, trying to get over the story facts and be done. The early joys, turned to dust in that hot desert. Well, it seems that people are reading his book and learning all the wrong lessons!
HE died 70 years ago, but TE Lawrence, the great British adventurer known as Lawrence of Arabia, is still helping coalition forces in Iraq. American commanders are increasingly turning to his accounts of 20th century warfare in Mesopotamia for guidance.
General John Abizaid, the overall US commander in the region, said last week that one quote of Lawrence’s had “always been in my heart”. He was referring to a remark Lawrence once made about British attempts to organise government in the region: “Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly.”

The quote hangs over a US Marines conference room in Iraq’s Al-Anbar province, where coalition forces recently concluded a week-long sweep against insurgents.

Colonel Steven Salazar, an infantry commander supervising the training of Iraqi security forces, has passed on a different quote from Lawrence to his men: “Rebellions can be made by 2% active in a striking force and 98% sympathetically passive.”

In a recent survey of US officers’ reading material in Iraq, Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, published in 1926, emerged as the second-most recommended book.

“Most of the US advisers out there have a copy,” said Duncan Anderson, head of war studies at Sandhurst who visited Iraq between January and March.

In the book, Lawrence describes the use of guerrilla tactics to cripple Turkish supply lines during a 1917 Arab revolt against Ottoman rule, which he helped to organise.

Lawrence drew up a list of dos and don’ts for advisers to the Arabs,” said Anderson. “The Americans are using Seven Pillars at virtually every meeting on a daily basis.”
Dos and don'ts? One despairs. They read this book and miss the entire point of the book. It is hard to miss. What on earth are they reading into this book? As the British military poured into the dying Ottoman Empire, they split it up behind the backs of the Arabs the whole region leading to the fractured/radical hotbed it is today. The British then turned around and allowed colonizers from Europe into the Holy Land in huge numbers causing rebellion and wars that threaten world peace today. The reason bin Laden attacked America was because of all of this! This is the root cause of many things which is why we can't deal with Iraq in a sane way.

We are Christian colonizers out to remold the place to suit our own ends. If this means displacing the population and taking over entirely, we will do this.

This is what irked Lawrence in the end. The knowledge that he was a complete fraud, a jerk, a man pretending to be a friend when he was really a dire enemy. An outpost of empire.
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