Iraqi Liberation In Perspective

Category: Featured, World Affairs Topics: Arab World, Baghdad, Conflicts And War, Iraq Views: 4252

Iraq - the cradle of civilization and fabled seat of the Abbasid Khalifa - is about to be liberated for the second time in less than a century.  The current military operation represents a major inflection point in its history, perhaps in the history of the Middle East, and possibly in world history.  Future historians will judge how Iraqis will greet the new liberators.  But historians have already passed judgment on the first liberation.

On March 11, 1917, Lieutenant-General Sir Stanley Maude and his Anglo-Indian Army of the Tigris entered Baghdad.  The campaign to invest Baghdad took place against the backdrop of the First World War.  It seemed to have had no clear strategic objectives except the fulfillment of the new prime minister's desire to capture the fabled city of the Arabian Nights.  In retrospect, the invasion of Iraq gave the government of Lloyd George the opening to invade Palestine, Syria and Lebanon.

The campaign was the brainchild of Sir Mark Sykes of the Arab Bureau in Whitehall, a novice with less than two years of executive experience.  Sir Mark asked General Maude to read out a proclamation couched in "high-flown phrases of liberation and freedom, of past glory and future greatness," according to British historian David Fromkin.[1]  The commanding general commanding assured the people of Iraq, "Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators."  He continued, "O people of Baghdad, remember that for 26 generations you have suffered under strange tyrants who have endeavored to set one Arab house against another in order that they might profit by your dissensions." [2]

It proved difficult to govern Iraq and General Maude was put in the awkward position of having to preach self-rule while discouraging its practice.  He cabled London that local conditions did not permit employing Arabs in responsible positions, "Before any truly Arab facade [sic] can be applied to edifice, it seems essential that foundation of law and order should be well and truly laid."

What General Maude had discovered was that Mesopotamia was a place where 75 percent of the population was tribal "with no previous tradition of obedience to any government," and a place with a long history of power struggle between the Shias and the Sunnis.  Eventually, vague rumors, constant unrest, and repeated killings took their toll on British nerves.

Three young army officers were killed in Kurdistan in 1919.  An experienced official sent by the Government of India to replace them was killed a month later.  Six British officers were killed in the spring of 1920.  Later, two political officers were abducted and murdered.  The Iraqi desert was full of raiding parties, and one British officer was led to believe that the only way to deal with the disaffected tribes was "wholesale slaughter."

More chaos was to follow in the months to come.  Posts were over-run, British officers killed and communication killed in the Middle Euphrates region.  Colonel Gerald Leachman, a leading British officer, was shot in the back and killed on the orders of the tribal sheikh who was hosting him during a gathering of the tribes.  The news of his killing led to further tribal uprisings along the Euphrates and north and west of Baghdad.

In the summer of 1920, a one-time junior officer in the Arab Bureau in Cairo and now a celebrity, Colonel T. E. Lawrence, commented acridly that the Turks had been better rulers.  He said the Turks kept 14,000 local conscripts employed in Iraq and killed an average of 200 Arabs in maintaining the peace.  The British had deployed 90,000 men, with airplanes, armored cars, gunboats and armored trains, and killed about 10,000 Arabs in the summer uprising.

On August 7, 1920, The Times demanded to know "how much longer are valuable lives to be sacrificed in the vain endeavor to impose upon the Arab population an elaborate and expensive administration which they never asked for and do not want?"

The revolt was brought to an end in February 1921, but Britain had suffered nearly 2,000 casualties, including 450 dead.  Many attempts were made to analyze the mysterious revolt in the Iraqi desert, since the British had been told that the Arabs would appreciate British rule.  Confessing total ignorance about the locals, an official argued that the enemy facing the British was "anarchy plus fanaticism, devoid of any political aspect."

The Mesopotamian provinces of Baghdad and Basra were the first to be conquered by the British from the Ottoman Empire.  In the autumn of 1917 General Sir Edmund Allenby invaded Palestine and on December 11, he and his officers entered the holy city of Jerusalem through the Jaffa Gate.  Prime Minister Lloyd George regarded it as a Christmas gift, and wrote that Christendom had regained "possession of its sacred shrines."  French General Henri Gouraud entered Damascus in July 1920.  After kicking Salahuddin's tomb, Gouraud exclaimed, "Awake Saladin, we have returned. My presence here consecrates the victory of the Cross over the Crescent."

In a few years, the Arabs were rioting in Palestine and rebelling in Iraq at a very inconvenient time, when the economy of the Empire was collapsing and when the Crown's time, energy and resources were needed to revive it.  An exasperated Winston Churchill, who had taken over the mantle of Britain's colonial policies in the Middle East, was to tell the British government that it was spending millions for the privilege of sitting atop a volcano.  Lamenting on the British experience in Palestine, the "last lion" was to write, "At first, the steps were wide and shallow, covered with a carpet, but in the end the very stones crumbled under their feet." 

Much has changed during the past century.  A former colony across the Atlantic has eclipsed Britain, and is the new home to an empire on which the sun never sets.  The armies of the new empire are now invading Iraq, with the armies of the old empire in tow.  The soldiers are marching in, bearing the gift of democracy.  However, unlike General Maude, General Franks will not ride into Baghdad on horseback, but in the air-conditioned comfort of modern armored vehicles, after having used the firepower of five aircraft carriers to invest Baghdad.

The tactics of liberation have changed as the empires have changed places, but the objectives remain the same.  Iraq remains the lynchpin to the Middle East, and whoever controls Baghdad will control the Middle East.  As the French say, "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

[1] David Fromkin, A Peace To End All Peace, Avon Books, 1989

[2] Quoted in Stephen Fidler, Financial Times, March 14, 2003, p. 4.

  Category: Featured, World Affairs
  Topics: Arab World, Baghdad, Conflicts And War, Iraq
Views: 4252

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Older Comments:
There are ways to defeat empires without bloodshed,and loss of life.Through the will of the soul can one obtain all things.Become Roh Muhareb.It will be spiritual not physical.This is the last Alaah ul Jihad

As Salaam Alaykum Brs. & Sisters, Not truly understanding the rif between Sunni and Shia', other than the obvious, Abu Bakr(ra) or Ali(ra). In my limited education on the subject, I see this as one of the stumbling blocks for our Ummah to flourish. Until Ireverted to Al Islam the black people of the usa have the same problem. The lighter skinned blacks think that they are better, or somewhat more deserving than the dark skinned blacks. The truth be told, the white people does not like either. So we try to put the other down to please someone that can't stand the entire race. With the econmical power that we as a group have, there should not be a need to have starving Muslims. Once again I speak from a not so informed position, but, I believe we are all Muslim!!! Whether Shia' or Sunni it is a war on Islam and Muslims, not just Shia' or against Sunni, it's against Us!!! Is OUR downfall worth it? Just to spite the other? There MUST be a joint effort on Shia' and Sunni to rebuild Iraq so that things of this nature does not repeat. Insha Allah I will study more to try to understand the long history of this argument.
As Salaam Alaykum:
Peace to Iraq

NO BEN, it's ok for the US and UK to slaughter the Arabs!!! What an ignorant thing to say, The Iraqi people should liberate themselves just like India did with Britain and what the US did with Britain, OK!!!!

Here is to KL (this is a reply to your comment), how would you like to know that bombs are dropping on or around your home, Im sure it would scare the daylights out of you and you would curse the people doing this to you, making body parts of your mother, sister or father fly all over your neighborhood. It's not such a pleasant thought is it!!! Just imagine what they are feeling everynight as the bombs drop down in there city as they try to sleep and at the same time pray that there family is not the next victim of our bombing campaign.(By the way Im sure if we were going through the same ordeal they would probably hope the same for us, but prayers sometimes are not enough unless action takes place with it, please keep that in mind)!

Do the descendants of the 75% of the tribes having no tradition of submission to a government today want: (a) no government, (b) the status quo as of two weeks ago, Saddam Hussein, (c) the opportunity for change brought by the invasion, or (d) something else, and what is that?

No war for oil

The current recitation from a history book fails, as usual, to even mention the current great and kind leader of Iraq. It seems to be strange to desire to keep such a monster as Saadam in power so he can put his record of killing more Arabs than anyone else in history way out of reach. I guess it is long live Saadam and happy we will be. You are welcome anyway. I do feel for the suffering the Iraqis are going through and the fear they must be feeling. I hope the innocent find a way to survive and return their great country back to its former glory.

I like the idea about boycotting my country's products but I think to put Muslim youth back to work is a better (primary) reason than to harm this or that economy. If our economy is harmed (by providing Muslims, in Muslim countries, with opportunities for more meaningful employment) than it seems up to the US to accommodate good deeds in another part of the world. I suppose that if you could get (even more) people involved in the effort - by somehow indicating that it is (also) a war on the US economy - then sure, why not? I hope this is helpful.

Also, from the perspective of an outsider, if a member nation of a hypothetical "Muslim Treaty Organization" was sheltering a group of fighters who had attacked the US, Russia or China (just for example) then the other members might not think the organization was maybe should a good idea for themselves perhaps - if the attacks were made without their consent, that is. Surely, things like that will happen from time to time - the lack of consent situation, especially where independent fighters are concerned.

Please remember also that (speaking of zealots) Israel has had some zealots before, who once talked the people of Israel into attacking the "puppet regime" of Rome - or something like that. This is just my opinion but I am thinking that if somebody expects God to win their wars for them, then they ought to let God do the long-range planning - I am thinking that "letting God do the planning" might be achieved through observance of religion, good manners, good deeds, good intentions, aversion to greed, aversion to lust, offering assistance to neighbors and so on. Again, my opinion here is offered with good intentions.

As Salaamu Alaikum.

I disagree with the tactless-ness of our President, but all the same, we do not come to control, we come to liberate and let the people, not the tyrants, rule the land. Look East to Afghanistan. There is still turmoil there, but people now have the opportunity to live and beleive as they want to. Man cannot rule the true fate of another man...The only judgement is made by Allah...Hashem...Jesus...or which ever god you may have.

how wrong to compare the Afghanis with the Iraqis.
Iraq has a sovereign
state,an army ,police,scientists,university teachers,intellectuals....etc
they are very acquainted with the history of the middle east as well as the plans of the imperialists and their greed.they are also aware of the suffering of the Palestinians for over 50 years now.they feel that they are being fought by the same power that humiliate,kill and ignore the rights of the Paletinians.It will be hard for them to trust uncle sam.

Assalaamualaikum.All Praises to Allah,the Majestic,the Most High.History repeats itself,return the aggressors from your land.They sleep nice in their homes while you live in the desert sun with your family.Refugees in Normad lands.Prophet Muhammad(PBUH)was firm,steadfast against the Qurayish and Allah regligion spread worldwide.Awaken the Deen!!!

I just want to say that i think that the author was really getting to the point. I think that it was a good article because at the end of the article he really put the real objective of the invaders and everyone that wants to invade Iraq. people dont want to go there to liberate them they just want to control them. I hope that The Almighty Allah sends blessings upon the Author of the article. The united states is killing mostly innocent civilians, woman and little children and wounding I dont know how many others. They say that the people are going to be so happy that they are liberating them. But so far what have they brought to the people. they just brought them pain and suffering. They brought them war and death. they brought them problems and sanctions. So I ask who are the Americans and british really liberating. To take one person down to put someone in charge that is even worth. Please! The americans arent fooling any one but themselves if they think that people dont know their real objective. Even my own father knows what their real objective is. He said to me they want that oil and they need to leave the muslims alone, and my father is a practicing jew and he knows whats going on and he wasnt afraid to admit it. so my question is ths why should America be any different. They need to tell the truth. even if they told the truth they would still bomb there. thats all i have to say!

As salam aleikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuhu.
Bismillahir rahmanir Raheem
I'm a Danish muslim, and I feel very sorry about the whole Iraq-situation. First of all let say that I do not support Saddam and his regime. But neither can I support the killing on innocent muslim brothers and sisters. I belive that what is going on is a lesson that Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala is teaching us. This is a wake up call for the muslims - don't you see that this is a war against Islam???? The killings of Palestine(need I to say that Israel haven't been following any UN-resolutrions for 35 years??) the killings in Checneya, the killings in Afghanistan, the killings in Kashmir, the killings of x-yugoslavia, the killings of muslims in in indoneesia(when muslims want a independant state the get killed) plus the U.S assasinations of muslims in Yemani. Should I continue?? no need to. The muslim world needs to stand united and fight for our rights to fight for paradise - Insha Allah
Salam Aleikum!!

the enemy met at azores, portugal to decide the war on iraq, they did met there, when they launched the crusade war before, and there also was the place where, the portugese invaded malacca (the muslim kingdom of southeast asia-today Malaysia), with the help of some fogeigners who were seatled in the kongdom. Today, with the help of arab king in saudi, oman, qatar, jordan, bahrin, uae and kuwait, our beloved brothers, sisters and children were killed. They were killed by those, who claimed, they're the protector of mecca and madinah. They moment iraq was attacked by the approval of arab kings we muslim in Malaysia do not belief, that the arab kings will helps as anymore, if we will be attacked again. With the mercy of allah we will build the country to be the defender on islam economically, educationally and militarlly. In 1997, we were attacked economically and we survive with the mercy of allah and the strategic move made by our leadership, during the attacked, our financial systems were totally crumbled, and we have to start all over again without the help of imf or other western organizations. The valuable lessons we learned from the attacked were, we only can trust on allah and the knowledge given to the leadership of malaysia. We in malaysia believe that all the people in the world regardless of their nationality, religions and races should always be together. A call to all muslims throughout the world, put asside our differences just to protect the islam in the name of Allah, never forget the struggled that our beloved muhamad, peace be upon him. He has united the arab world and creating islam kingdom by defeating the arab fuedal system, and today once agains the arab kings (the same fuedal syatem) have destroyed the islam by diving the permission the unbelievers to invade iraqi. To the arab kings, shame on you, what you going to tell Allah in the hereafter?. Call to muslim brother and sistem, united don't wait untill mecca and madinah surrounded by them.

His Excellency,President Saddam Hussien of Iraq.
1)Lion Of The Desert-After Omar Mokhtar.
2)Hero Of Modern Arabs.
3)Father Of Liberation Palestine.
Victory is yet to come.Loyalists and braveness counts.

Arab are the most unfortunate people on this earth.And i also believe that they are facing the greatest challange of history as a result of their bad leader.

NOREEN said:
Ben, As stated by military analyst, Eric Margolis, Saddam Hussein did not gas the Kurdish people.
His military was attempting to mustard gas the Iranians they were fighting in a Kurdish village. The Iranians were known to have nervous gases, and according to autoposies the innocent Kurds were most likely killed by a toxin that affected the nerves.
Therefore it could have been any side that caused these deaths. (both sides were supplied these atrocious substances by the USA).

Saddam is a brutal inhumane dictator, but no more so than Hosni Mubarak, Gaddafi, or Ariel Sharon's treatment of Palestinians in Apartheid Israel).
According to Ramsey Clark, Bush & the US administration has put more people in prisons and sent more inmates to death row (as governor of Texas), imprisoned people at Guantanamo Bay without trial or charge, imposed crippling sanctions on Iraq that has killed over a million innocent people, & bombed several countries.

Currently, as in the Gulf War, he is using ammunition made from depleted uranium, effectively radiating the people and land of Iraq and even his own troops.

1 out of 7 US soldiers suffered Gulf War syndrome due to the uranium, and expect many more to come home with it after this attack.

This war is about OIL. In fact yesterday 2 large contracts to control the Iraqi port and build oil refineries were given by the US to the US, One being a company of Cheneys.

Saddams biggest mistake was nationalizing Iraqs oilfields, cutting off the hand that had put him in power in the first place.
In the Gulf War (1991) it was Saudia Arabia and Kuwait who paid for the war; they got the money by increasing their oil production and prices. The only people that profited from that war was the US: the 7 oil companies that operate in Saudia Arabia and Kuwait are American and each receive 5O% of the oil revenues.

This attack has nothing to do with Sept 11, it was planned by Cheney & others before Bush was awarded o

Because maybe Ben, your not exposed to the images and horrors of the real war that Muslims see and feel. American news media do a pretty good job of masking the gruesome images of American deaths and Iraqi civilian bombed corpes littered on the streets. In the land of the "free" and the home of the "brave" where freedom of the press is supposedly the backbone of the society, shouldn't the press be more responsible in educating the blind, flag-waving, obiedent "patriots" to the truths on the carnage their gov't is responsible for! However, there are some brave unbending websites that do give a comprehensive picture of the war and not just vehicles to parrot the offical Pentagon line like some of the news-enterprises' "embetted journalists". Unfortunately when they do speak up, they are shut down courtesy of either pro-American hackers or the intimidation by the godfathers of the war Donald, Condo[m], Dick, and Colon.

Just to put a perspective to Mr.Ben's comment on why the muslims are against this war.

Any action should have an intention , without an intention its called insane.Now what is intention of the U.S. leadership in this war.? Is it really the liberation of Iraq, Is it to stop Saddam from using the WMD's..?
For 8 years since 1980 , during the war between Iraq and Iran what was U.S.'s stand.In 1983 Mr.Rumsfeld himself went to Baghdad and met Hussain and even called him a "very gentle person". Its the U.S. who supplied Hussein with the nerve gas and chemical weapons to use against the Kurds and Shi'ats.
The U.S. was worried when Iran crossed over to Iraq and almost captured the south most city of Basra which is close to Saudi and Kuwait, They where concerned about the oil supplies which the Saudi and Kuwait was pumping them regarly. Its that major concern which made them allies to Iraq at that time and helped Saddam to fight against Iran and control the Kurd uprising in the North.
At that time the same regime in Saudi and Kuwait was financially helping Iraq.

This is the background... Now what is the U.S. talking about oppression and WMD and nerve gas, when they only supplied with all of them.

In simple terms after the war the bankrupt Iraq was threatened by the Kuwait and Saudi regime to repay the loans which then resulted in Saddam attacking Kuwait to get rid of the Royal rule there.
U.S. as very clearly played a double role here.
Now what is sudden emergency of U.S. to attack Iraq. The inspection process by the U.N. was going very strong and Saddam was giving away one by one of the records but then suddenly U.S. backed off and started was b'coz the intention of U.S. was not to get rid of WMD's but to physically invade Iraq and put a puppet Govt there so that it suck all the Oil in Iraq soil.
The Kuwait and Saudi Govt who are again puppet Govt of U.S. don;t know the grave mistake they have done. I am running out of space here.

K2 FROM USA said:
Yes Ben: We muslims seem to be ok with slaughter as long as it is Muslims who are commiting it.

However, It is not Allah (God) who commands us to look the other way when we see another Muslim commit injustice.

It is our pride and refusal to see who we have become.

It is truly a sad time for Muslims in history.

K2 FROM USA said:
Wasn't a similar analogy made just before the USA invaded Afganistan? What happened to the stories of how no country has ever conquered the Afghans?

Has anyone bothered to ask the Iraqi's what they want?

Would you prefer to live under Saddam or under American rule?

I fail to understand the Islamic community's virulent protest to this war. You constantly complain about Israel, yet Israel hasn't gassed arabs or muslims it even negotiated with the Egyptians-gave em back the Sinai and it negotaited with the PLO. Saddam on the other hand has slaughtered almost a million muslims, ruined Iraq and refuses the Kurdish people their independent state. So why no outrage from the Muslim community? Is it alright for Muslims to butcher other Muslims?

When a child screams in Baghdad,
will anybody hear?
"Civilization is rooted in justice, and the consequences of oppression are devastating. Therefore, it is said that Allah aids the just state even it is non-Muslim, yet withholds His help from the oppressive state even it is Muslim."
Shaykhul-Islam ibn Taymeeyyah

Salam Alakom. The article is a good insight. The lies perpetrated by the "new empire" are bought by none. Neither the muslims or the non-muslims. It seems like the whole world knows the motives of the new empire. The maiming and killing of the innocent and destroying the very cradle of civilization. The whole world knows except the puppet regimes of the muslim world. Unfortunately for the puppets, they dont know that they are next in line. If they knew any better, they should have stoud up as one, but alas. History repeats itself one too often. My heart weeps for the Iraqis today. It is time the muslim Ummah unite, Shia, sunni, other, UNITE. UNITE against the naked agression. If the muslims only knew what is good for them. May Allah help us all, Ameen.

Its amazing what you can see when you open your eyes and take an honest look at the reality of the world! Do we really believe that the "west" objective is to liberate glorious Baghdad? Or rather is it to finish what it started in its objective to colonize the prized mid east and wield authority and decide the fate of muslim people? Excellent article!