Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Mesopotamia Surge Redux
The Sunnis and the Shiites don’t consider each other to be true Muslims, and thus, if not technically infidels, are close enough for government work. Now the traditional way of dealing with infidels is of course to kill them. This has in fact worked pretty well for the other religions throughout history, even though it is not generally considered P.C. currently (with the possible exceptions of Ireland and the Levant). Even for those exceptions it could be argued that outside interference has prevented the inhabitants from working things out in the traditional manner.
Indeed, outside influence has been a problem for Mesopotamia all along. In the 14th century the Black Sheep Turkmen took control, but later lost it to a surge by the White Sheep Turkmen. The Black Sheep have had a bad reputation ever since. In the 16th century the Ottoman Empire took over. The Turks, regardless of sheep preference, generally followed the practice of keeping the Abu and Ali followers from resolving the Muhammad descent question by carefully arranging massacres and hangings. The British continued the practice when they took over after the Great War, imposing a monarchy and drawing the maps without reference to the religious preferences. Unrest and killings dragged along for several years until the big British surge (massacre) in 1920 brought relative peace. Then, as now, there were critics. T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) wrote in the London Times August 22, 1920:
The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia 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. . . Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are to-day not far from a disaster.
Our government is worse than the old Turkish system. They kept fourteen thousand local conscripts embodied, and killed a yearly average of two hundred Arabs in maintaining peace. We keep ninety thousand men, with aeroplanes, armoured cars, gunboats, and armoured trains. We have killed about ten thousand Arabs in this rising this summer. . . . A Minister in the House of Lords said that we must have so many troops because the local people will not enlist. . . We have not reached the limit of our military commitments. Four weeks ago the staff in Mesopotamia drew up a memorandum asking for four more divisions. . . . If the North-West Frontier cannot be further denuded, where is the balance to come from? Meanwhile, our unfortunate troops, Indian and British, under hard conditions of climate and supply, are policing an immense area, paying dearly every day in lives for the wilfully wrong policy. . . .