Invade! Occupy! Defeat! Repeat!

Category: Middle East, Nature & Science Views: 7997

British troops entering Baghdad - 1917 British soldiers listen to a sermon from the Chaplin before the war - Kuwait 2003

History, it is said, repeats: first as tragedy, then as farce. As events unfold in Fallujah and the Iraqi occupation continues its awful course, parallels emerge with another failed occupation of the country some 100 years earlier. 

Almost everything-from the invasion, the imposition of provisional government, the violent insurrection, to the aerial bombardment of towns-represents a tragic rerun of the British occupation of Iraq in the early 20th century. 

Like the US invasion, the British invasion began, in 1917, with the promise of "liberation". In his "Proclamation to the People of Baghdad", General Stanley Maude promised the Iraqi people that after 26 generations had "suffered under strange tyrants", the armies of the British Empire "do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators." 

It was, of course, a lie. The intent was not to "liberate" the Arabs from Turkish Ottoman rule, but to occupy oil-rich Mesopotamia; a fact made clear when, on April 28th, 1920, the League of Nations awarded Britain a mandate over Iraq, thus legitimizing the occupation. 

The British appointed Sir Percy Cox and his assistant, Gertrude Bell as the colonial administers of Iraq. Demonstrating the same self-delusion that characterizes contemporary discussion on Iraq, Bell wrote that soon the "uncivilized tribes" of Iraq would come to love and adore the British Empire and its ways. The Iraqi people, Bell wrote, "want us to control their affairs and they want Sir Percy as high commissioner". 

The blinding hubris was shattered when, in July 1920, the Iraqi people revolted. The resistance was, like today, largely religiously-inspired. In a letter dated August 21, 1921, Bell complained of a "a tall black bearded alim (cleric) with a sinister expression. We tried to arrest him early in August but failed. He escaped from Baghdad and moved about the country like a flame of war, rousing the tribes." His name was Sayyid Muhammad al-Sadr and it is his descendent Muqtadar al-Sadr who likewise vexes the occupiers. 

Faced with a growing problem of anti-colonial violence in what it is today called the Sunni Triangle, the British called for Lt. Col. Gerald Leachman, a specialist in putting down native uprisings in the far flung corners of the Empire. His methods were effective but brutal, having said, "the only way to deal with the tribes is wholesale slaughter." 

It was, however, Leachman who got slaughtered; shot dead by a Sunni cleric named Sheikh Dhari. The killing of Leachman made Dhari a folk hero and sparked an uprising that would leave 10,000 Iraqis and 1,000 British soldiers dead in its wake. Today, Sheikh Harith al-Dhari, the descendent of Leachman's killer, heads the Association of Islamic Scholars-the organization widely regarded as the 'public face' of the Sunni insurgency and the leader of Iraq's Sunni community. 

Winston Churchill, Minister of the Colonies, ordered the use of poison-gas and fierce aerial bombardment to stop the uprising. Thousands of men, women and children were killed, whilst Churchill charged his critics as men who "don't think clearly" and that he had no issue "using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes". Arthur "Bomber" Harris, the British air-force hero, oversaw the bombing campaign, gloating in his diary, "the Arab and the Kurd now know what real bombing means in casualties and damage. Within 45 minutes a full-size village can be practically wiped out and a third of the inhabitants killed or injured by four or five machines." One of those villages is today a town called Fallujah. 

In similar fashion to the installation of Iyyad Allawi in Iraq and Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, Britain installed the hitherto unknown "Prince" Faisal as King. In 1930, Faisal signed a "treaty" that provided a pretence of independence but ensured that Britain retained control with an ongoing military presence and continued management of Iraqi oil production. 

The Iraqi people rebelled against the British-backed Faisal dynasty in 1930, 1941, 1948, and 1956. In 1958, a military coup finally overthrew the King and his Prime Minister. 

After sacking the British embassy, the people gathered at the statue of General Stanley Maude, their "liberator", that dominated the grounds. Finally free of British occupation, they toppled the statue and smashed it into pieces. 

Although the flag emblazoned on the bombs has changed, today's occupation tracks the British experience with eerie accuracy-right down to the places and family-names that define the insurgency. As the uprising spreads and gains support, the United States and her allies will learn the same lesson of history that the British Empire learned: a people cannot be occupied indefinitely. As for the rest of us, we can learn that the only thing that is ever learnt from history is that nothing is ever learnt from history.

Amir Butler is executive director of the Australian Muslim Public Affairs Committee (AMPAC). He can be contacted at [email protected]

  Category: Middle East, Nature & Science
Views: 7997
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Older Comments:
Thur claims, "Oil was discovered in Iraq in 1923 & in 1917 there was no oil to be discovered yet! (If you have doubts just type "when oil was discovered in Iraq")"

Why then were the Turkish Petroleum Company (TPC) involved in oil exploration in Iraq in 1912? Why, in 1920, did the British convene the British-French San Remo Conference to discuss specifically how to handle Mesopotamian oil? Why were the TPC negotiating with the British for access to Iraqi oil as soon as British mandate was declared in 1920?

Clearly, they KNEW that Iraq was oil-rich before the first drillable supply was found in Kirkuk which is why they were fighting, haggling, and investing truckloads of money into searching for drillable supply! If it didn't exist, what were the British negotiating over and what were they dividing up between them, the French and the Iraqi interests?

Rick, no one buys the BS you apologists for an evil empire have to sell.
Facts contradict everything you have to say on the matter.

Rick, I can understand your perspective; and I agree that most Americans are good people that don't understand why it is that world sentiment is against our against our actions. We're the good guys, aren't we? Why can't everyone see that? It sounds good. We want to do the right thing. But the reality is that countries need to be able to chart their own course and destiny. We can't do it for them. Freedom must be chosen, it can't be imposed (how can you impose freedom?). Also, there are dictatorships aplenty right here in our own hemisphere, why don't we do anything to change their polity (if democracy is, as you say, the reason that we invaded)? To try and export our way of life through the use of arms is, well, not very different than the Soviets when they rolled tanks into Afgahnistan. Think about it.

Although the similarity to the British is clear, the US did not come to conquer. Why is it so difficult to believe that the US truely wants democracy. I did not vote for Bush, but I do believe he is a man that believes democracy is for everyone, including islamic people living under a tyrant. The world opinion is against the US right now, but it is a society of good people. They want to do the right thing. They want to do what is in the best interest of everyone, not just themselves. I know this is an unusual in a world of self interest, but I believe the US is not evil. We live in a complex world and the US does not want to be an occupier. It wants to secure a peace so democracy can take root. Is this a bad thing? Right now things are messy, but the goals british empire occupiers an the US today could not be more different. The US does not want to build an empire, but to secure peace against terrorism by spreading democracy. Is this wrong?

Good article.

Nice article..
CYCLE goes this way :>>>
Creation of a PUPPET > use him > Propoganda > invent allegations > UN-resolutions > Military and econonomic sanctions > UN Inspections > make country weak,defenseless > Attack > Invade > suck oil > destoy people and cities > bids and contracts > build > debts and poverty for many years to come >
Creation of another PUPPET... cycle goes on....

Wow Amir I wish you didn't skip history 101. Oil was discovered in Iraq in 1923 & in 1917 there was no oil to be discovered yet! (If you have doubts just type "when oil was discovered in Iraq")
Britain got involved during WWI to secure Arab support in defeating the Axis Germany & Turkey with the help of Sherif Hussein of Hegaz & his three sons Ali, Abd Allah & Fiesel. In return for their support they were promised part of the war spoils. Abd Allah got the Kingdom of Jordon & Fiesel got Iraq. King Abd Allah the grand father of king Hussein of Jordon was the one who negotiated with the Jews during the 1948 war, his grand son king Hussein not to be out done by his grand father leaked to the Israelis the 1973 plan he got to know from Egypt & Syria! The Hashemite claims to be direct descendents of the Prophet Mohamed what an irony!
As far as the British choice for whom rules makes sense in pragmatic terms, who want rulers that doesn't take his side.
It was in 1961 when Yemeni revolted against Imam Ahmed their ruler and Saudi Arabia supported the ruling clan against the will of the people, as recent as few months ago Lebanon changed its constitution to accommodate a president acceptable to the Syrians & did I hear an objection from Amir?
By the way the name Amir in the Middle East means prince & also an adjective indicating good character including honesty, Amir sorry you no amir!
View points are subjective in nature but falsifying historical dates is beyond understanding.


Assalamu alaikum,

"Do they not travel through the land, so that their hearts (and minds) may thus learn wisdom and their ears may thus learn to hear? Truly it is not their eyes that are blind, but their hearts which are in their breasts." Q 22:46

"Many were the Ways of Life that have passed away before you: travel through the earth, and see what was the end of those who rejected Truth." Q 3:137


Salam alay kum what a shocking article... it is indeed the will of Allah that got me into this article's content- very interesting.. Indeed, history does repeat itself over and over because we fail to learn from our mistakes, and i fear the same for Iraq and the Islamic ummah.. tsk tsk what as we civilians can do? Dua my brothers and sisters.. these signs are one of the warnings of the Day of Judgement soon creeping up to us and snatching our lives away and nobody can do anything about it.. It is sad we do not think about death but yet alone an Iraqi person is constantly surrounded by innocent civilians body ruins lieing here and there, and most likely he gets scared and ponders about death... AllahuAkbar.. there is iman in thier hearts... and we lack so much of iman- alll we can do is talk talk talk talk .. but making dua for our brothers and sisters constantly dieing will be a beneficary to them as well as in the day of judgement- this is the least we can do.. Before i close, I would also like you to think about our children and teenagers who are the future of this ummah and how still everyday their lives and mine(I am a teenager) are affected... It hurts when no one listens and cares and calls us terroist... Wow... please make duaa W/salam

I agree, however it should be pointed out that the reason why Muslims are always being victimized, robbed, savaged and murdered by the world is because we are shamefully disunited and given to idiotic feuds and festering religious and ethnic differences upon which our enemies gleefully capitalize. Case in point, every kid on the street in Karachi and Lahore Pakistan knew very well that it was the Americans who were placing bombs that murdered the innocent in different Shia and Sunni towns in 2003 or those paid by the Americans. Initially the Shia and Sunni leaders were smart enough to recognise that and public ally demonstrated their unity and even denounced the US for masterminding the terrorist acts for sowing seeds of ethnic hatred and strife. But the Americans kept up the pressure and soon enough Shias and Sunnis were killing each other with wild abandon. The other problem is that modern 'Secularist' Muslims consider themselves safe from the scrutiny and oppression of Western ideologues - dead wrong. The battle is not just a silly Christian revival of the crusades and their greed for oil and other natural resources, but in fact it is most certainly a racial issue. The white Christians and Jews would like nothing better than to see all non-whites disappear, but since they can't kill all non-whites they are content with placing their idiot puppets to carry out their gradual work of oppression, extermination and outright theft of any useful resources that they desire. But all these puppets like, Shah of Iran, Saddam, Noriega, Pinochet, Marcos and Bhutto learnt the lesson the hard way that you are a lap dog for only as long as you are useful. I hope Musharraf realises that he too is dispensable and the annual $ 10 million he gets from the US will not save him once he falls from grace.

This should be published in US & UK newspaper

An eye opener to learn from for many.

Excellent article. It only goes to show that as long as we Muslims resist the quranic madate for unity, our people will always remain vulnerable to occupation and the type of wanton destruction that we are witnessing today. Iraqis were a divided people then as they are now. A didvided people as such, only invite agression from their enemies, especially when resources are at stake. History will always repeat itself and sadly, we as Muslims have not yet learnt the true meaning of unity.

May Allah protect us from the envier when he envies.

Thank you for writing this article, it points out the human failing of not learning and remaining in ignorance when the truth is there plain for us to see.

Salim Chishti

This article is very good, in that it has highlighted facts from history of Iraq, and shows that the occupation of Iraq by the States of North America- also for oil- will finally end, with the image of the North Americans, going further down all over the world.
Thanks for enlightening us.