If insurgents represent a "vapour" more powerful than that which comes from the mouths of politicians (I suppose the "fortified posts" would represent Donald Rumsfeld's useless military "lily pads" in the Iraqi desert), then the Anglo-American invasion force should have known in 2003 that Lawrence's prophecy doomed them the moment a serious military resistance movement opposed Iraq's occupation. In the Sunday Times in 1920, Lawrence might have been addressing his words to George W Bush or Tony Blair. "The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour," he wrote. "They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiqués are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows . . . We are today not far from a disaster."
One is left gasping at the prescience of such words. For is this not exactly what has happened to us in Iraq since 2003: the lies, the insincerity, the false claims of "mission accomplished" and success when we are trapped in the sands of Iraq, our "statesmen" all the while withholding in formation while they pretend we can retreat with honour? "The Arabs," Lawrence wrote in another letter in 1920 - this one to the Times - "rebelled against the Turks during the war not because the Turk government was notably bad, but because they wanted independence. They did not risk their lives in battle to change masters, to become British subjects . . . but to win a show of their own. Whether they are fit for in dependence or not remains to be tried. Merit is no qualification for freedom."
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Robert Fisk, sometimes accused of having a Lawrence of Arabia complex himself, discusses lessons that could be learned from TE Lawrence regarding western policy in the Middle East.