I really liked the David Lean movie….
A Report on Mesopotamia
By Ex.-Lieut.-Col. T.E. Lawrence
["Lawrence of Arabia"], August 22, 1920, Sunday Times (UK).
link is here. The text is this:
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.
The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. 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 today not far from a disaster.
The sins of commission are
those of the British civil authorities in Mesopotamia (especially of three 'colonels') who were given a free hand by London. They are controlled from no Department of State, but from the empty space which divides
the Foreign Office from te India Office. They availed themselves of the necessary
discretion of war-time to carry over their dangerous independence into times of peace.
They contest every suggestion of real self- government sent them from home. A
recent proclamation about autonomy circulated with unction from Baghdad was drafted and published out there in a hurry, to
forestall a more liberal statement in preparation in London, 'Self-determination papers' favourable to England were extorted
in Mesopotamia in 1919 by official pressure, by aeroplane demonstrations, by deportations to India.
The Cabinet cannot disclaim all responsibility. They
receive little more news than the public: they should have insisted on more, and better.
They have sent draft after draft of reinforcements, without enquiry. When
conditions became too bad to endure longer, they decided to send out as High commissioner the original author of the present
system, with a conciliatory message to the Arabs that his heart and policy have completely changed.
Yet our published policy has not changed, and does not need changing. It is that there has been a deplorable contrast between our profession and our practice. We said we went to Mesopotamia to defeat Turkey. We said we
stayed to deliver the Arabs from the oppression of the Turkish Government, and to make available for the world its resources
of corn and oil. We spent nearly a million men and nearly a thousand million
of money to these ends. This year we are spending ninety-two thousand men and
fifty millions of money on the same objects.
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. We
cannot hope to maintain such an average: it is a poor country, sparsely peopled; but Abd el Hamid would applaud his masters,
if he saw us working. We are told the object of the rising was political, we
are not told what the local people want. It may be what the Cabinet has promised
them. A Minister in the House of Lords said that we must have so many troops
because the local people will not enlist. On Friday the Government announce the
death of some local levies defending their British officers, and say that the services of these men have not yet been sufficiently
recognized because they are too few (adding the characteristic Baghdad touch that they are men of bad character). There are seven thousand of them, just half the old Turkish force of occupation. Properly officered and distributed, they would relieve half our army there.
Cromer controlled Egypt's six million people with five thousand British troops; Colonel Wilson fails to control Mesopotamia's
three million people with ninety thousand troops.
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. I believe it was forwarded
to the War Office, which has now sent three brigades from India. 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 of the civil administration in Baghdad. General Dyer was relieved of his command in India for a much smaller error, but the responsibility in this
case is not on the Army, which has acted only at the request of the civil authorities.
The War Office has made every effort to reduce our forces, but the decisions of the Cabinet have been against them.
The Government in Baghdad have been hanging Arabs in that town for political
offences, which they call rebellion. The Arabs are not at war with us. Are these illegal executions to provoke the Arabs to reprisals on the three hundred British prisoners they
hold? And, if so, is it that their punishment may be more severe, or is it to
persuade our other troops to fight to the last?
We say we are in Mesopotamia
to develop it for the benefit of the world. All experts say that the labour supply
is the ruling factor in its development. How far will the killing of ten thousand
villagers and townspeople this summer hinder the production of wheat, cotton, and oil?
How long will we permit millions of pounds, thousands of Imperial troops, and tens of thousands of Arabs to be sacrificed
on behalf of colonial administration which can benefit nobody but its administrators?
I came across this at COUNTERSPIN
CENTRAL under the title HISTORY BOMB.
In order to be safe from
legal problems, given the Fair Use Doctrine of the copyright law, I really should comment.