By Kathy Martin…
Written August 2014
This week’s ramble is going to be (mainly) about the situation in the Middle East.
This is partly inspired by my good friend in England, Chris, who sent me the self-explanatory image above.
He was sent it by one of his friends Frank Bailey in New Zealand. Chris says that Frank writes a column of a similar style to my “rambles” for an “analogue” newspaper in New Zealand. I am grateful for this.
Things are “hotting up” in this corner of the world, and I don’t just mean the ambient air temperature!
I mean the Iraq, Syria and ISIS crisis (poetry!) and the West’s, apparently (as far as the “West” is concerned), only British and American involvement!
Last week I queried why these two “Christian” countries were proposing to get militarily involved, in addition to (on humanitarian grounds) airlifting food, water, medical supplies etc while there are a multitude of Muslim countries in the neighbourhood who should be doing this.
Perhaps Britain suffers from delusions of grandeur and still thinks that it should “police” the world as it did when, until the middle of the last century, half the globe was coloured “pink” to denote the British Empire and Commonwealth!
Or is it just the “brass hats”, the Admirals, the Air Marshalls and the Generals who refuse to accept that Britain is now a small, insignificant country? These are the people who, desperate to keep their jobs, salaries and pensions (at great expense to the British taxpayer), try to get as many British military personnel killed or maimed (again at great cost to the British taxpayer) in as many corners of the globe as possible!
David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, is reported to have said that Britain may use military force against the jihadists in the form of tactical airstrikes, but that there won’t “be any boots on the ground”!
However, within a few seconds, well days actually(!), it was reported that, in addition to a contingent of around 150 “special forces troops”, a detachment of regular army soldiers had been despatched, as had a force of around 1,000 Royal Marines! As I presume that they are not wearing carpet slippers or flip-flops, these are surely “boots on the ground!”
However, as David Cameron is a politician, and therefore, by definition, an honest and upright character who would never dream of lying to anyone, especially the public, I am sure that these military manoeuvres must have been carried out without his knowledge or approval!
I understand that Britain has already introduced, and is also planning to introduce, additional legislation to make it difficult or even impossible for Muslims to travel abroad to join an armed conflict in a country where Britain has no jurisdiction. To me, a dedicated pacifist, this is excellent news!
I say this because; surely under existing racial and religious equality legislation, Christian (and followers of all other Faiths) in the British armed forces will also be banned from travel outside Britain’s borders! It would make an interesting case in the Court of Human Rights!
Where and when will this policy of imposing a travel ban on people, who are presumed to be likely to commit an offence in another country, end? Will adolescents be banned from travelling from Britain to (say) Ibiza as they will likely get drunk on Spanish lager and may end up in a brawl at a nightclub? The degree of violence is far less than joining a rebel army, but the legal principle is the same!
Historically neither Iraq nor Syria can be regarded as “old” countries. Both were artificially created by the allied powers at the end of the First World War from land that had formed part of the Ottoman Empire, which was one of the four empires that failed to survive the war that was supposed to end all wars!
The British Colonial Office had an extremely capable tactician and planner, T. E. Lawrence. He is known in popular history as “Lawrence of Arabia”, a title of respect conferred upon him by the Arabs. He was the British officer who, in 1916, disappeared into the desert to liaise with, and inspire, various Arab chiefs and religious leaders to rise up and fight against the Turks. When protocol allowed, he led many of the raids; when protocol didn’t allow him to lead, he was always there as the Second-in Command, who did the “actual” work!
Because of his hands-on experiences while he had his “boots on the ground” during the war, Lawrence had gained extensive knowledge of the tribal, political and religious factions of the Levant (the eastern Mediterranean). Taking into account the tribal patterns, Lawrence proposed one Arabic state under King Faisal that consisted (rather vertically in geographical terms) of most of Syria, all of Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The Iraqi area would be divided into two separate states; the Shi’ite Muslims would be in the Mesopotamian basin, while the Sunni Muslims would have a separate state to the West.
While the above proposals, had they been adopted would not necessarily have ensured everlasting peace in the area, at least, to my mind, they would have allowed all of the major religious and political factions to have full control over their respective domestic areas.
Lawrence’s proposals were not accepted, on my planet (and possibly also on planet Earth), there were three reasons. Since the end of the war he had often favoured wearing Arab headdress, the kaffiyeh, but WORSE, having actually listened to the Arabs, he frequently took their side against the British Establishment!
“I say, fforbes-ffinchley, that chap Lawrence seems to have gone native! Has he forgotten that we tell the natives what they want, and if they don’t like it, we read them the Riot Act”!
However perhaps the main reason that Lawrence’s plans were not implemented was that he envisaged the Arab states to be independent and self-governing!
“Goodness gracious, fforbes-ffinchley, the man had obviously spent far too long in the sun, the thought of Arabs ruling their own lands makes me desperate for another stiff whiskey and soda!”
Seriously, I think that it was more likely that it was against British interests to have a stable and peaceful “Middle East”. Britain had long desired to have political influence in this area. This theory is borne out by the fact that although the new country of Iraq was nominally an independent kingdom, it was, in fact administered by Britain until 1932.
Two other “new” countries, Jordan and Palestine were British Mandates, Jordan until 1946 and Palestine until 1948.
Incidentally, at the end of the First World War Syria became a French Mandate, a situation that lasted until 1941 when the Vichy French armed forces, along with a German and Italian occupying force, were expelled by the allies.
Mention of the French Vichy armed forces reminded me that we had, some months ago, watched that classic film “Casablanca”, starring Humphrey Bogart. For readers unfamiliar with the film, it is set in the (then) French colony of Morocco, very early in the Second World War, when the Vichy French administration theoretically held power, although the Germans held the whip hand in practice.
Anyway, to get back to the film the script of “Casablanca” is famous for creating three hackneyed “quotes” that are still known or in use today.
- ”here’s looking at you kid”
- “out of all the gin palaces in all of the world, she has to walk into mine”
- “play it again Sam”
Certainly the first two “quotes” were heard during the film, but although Humphrey Bogart asks/tells Sam twice during the film to “play it Sam”, he never said “play it again Sam”!
Alas, a childhood memory dashed to pieces!