“By our swindle they were glorified…The more we condemned and despised ourselves, the more we could cynically take pride in them, our creatures…They were our dupes, wholeheartedly fighting the enemy.” T.E. Lawrence, “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”
The enemy Thomas Edward Lawrence (a.k.a. “Lawrence of Arabia”) is referring to in the above quote is none other than Turkish Ottoman Empire. The people who were ‘swindled’ and ‘duped’ are the Arabs who were convinced and manipulated to take up arms and rise up in an ‘Arab Revolt’ a hundred years ago, against their Turkish overlords in support of the British Empire’s war effort during World War One.
The Ottoman Empire entered the war on the side of Germany in November 1914. In the United Kingdom, many thought the war would end quickly and everyone would be home for Christmas because the British populace were weaned on stories of imperialist heroics administering the natives of Asia and Africa a military beating in a surprising short amount of time. Unsurprisingly, millions immediately enrolled to fight Germany to only find that they too were shockingly fighting with the latest military technology. To overcome the stalemate that quickly transpired on the western front i.e. the war in Europe, the British came up with a supremely cunning idea of prioritising the defeat of Germany’s ally, the Ottoman Empire in the hope of hastening a quick and decisive victory. On this basis, the primary and most important military strategy was an attack through the Strait of Dardanelles to capture Istanbul, the seat and capital of the Ottoman Empire.
Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, put the idea forward of a naval expedition to sail through the Strait of Dardanelles and capture Istanbul Continue reading
Founding political myths provide reassuring points of reference but they do not provide the full, or even, real reason on why major historical moments occurred. As is popularly known the American Revolution was triggered specifically by the Boston Tea Party in defiance of the British Parliament’s Tea Act of 1773. Yet in a recent article in the New York Review of Books, historian Professor Steve Pincus argues it was a series of economic policies, enforced by the British parliament from the 1760’s onwards that made no small contribution to the colonialist’s rebellion against King George’s tyranny.
Recently in the United Kingdom a commemoration was held to mark hundred years since the Gallipoli expedition during World War One. The British Empire had intended to defeat the Ottoman Empire’s forces by sailing through the straits Continue reading
Three days before the Saudi led air force began its bombing of the Republic of Yemen on Thursday 26th March, the British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond was in the Saudi capital, Riyadh meeting with his host’s foreign secretary, Prince Saud al-Faisal on Monday 23rd March 2015.
In their joint press conference after their meeting, the British foreign Secretary declared that “no one wanted to see military action in Yemen.” This was echoed by his Saudi counterpart who stressed the need for a “peaceful solution” to the situation in Yemen.
The situation in Yemen changed dramatically when a Northern militia group, Ansar Allah (“Houthis”), had taken control of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a in September 2014. After four months of intermittent agreements, resignations and re-appointments the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) approved President of Yemen, Abd ar-Rubbuh Mansour Hadi eventually fled the capital and sought refuge in Yemen’s second city, Aden. Hitherto, the Houthis seemed content with their presence in the Northern areas of the country, but suicide bombings in two mosques in Sana’a on Friday 20th March seemed to have triggered a change in the equation. Furthermore, with Hadi in Aden, the GCC countries had led the move to close their embassies in Sana’a and operate out of their consulates in Aden. This move was clearly aimed at isolating the Houthis. Caught in the middle of all this, is the Southern Yemeni movement for independence, the Hirak, which has been active since 2007.
Although Yemen has been united since 1990 Continue reading
During the heyday of George W.Bush’s “War on Terror”, his erstwhile ally Great Britain’s Prime Minister, Tony Blair scolded the late President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez and the Bolivian President, Evo Morales in the aftermath of a European Union-Latin American summit.
Blair requested both Presidents behave sensibly and responsibly with their respective country’s natural resources. Obviously, Bush’s right hand man did not qualify how such ‘sensibility’ and ‘responsibility’ should manifest itself. But if we gaze across the world and look at how the Arab despots of the Persian Gulf spend their wealth we certainly can decipher what the war criminal meant Continue reading
As we once again darkly commemorate the anniversary of the British-American invasion and destruction of Iraq launched on 20th March 2003 it is important to revisit one of the more endearing fabrications that was peddled in the lead up to that war. Alongside the ‘45 minute claim’ and ‘Uranium purchases from Niger’, one wing of the British establishment also let it be known that Tony Blair’s involvement was due to his subservience to George W. Bush. The latter was the line enthusiastically propagated by Great Britain’s anti-war movement, “Stop the War Coalition” (StW) and also its leading mainstream journalist, the Guardian newspaper’s associate editor, Seumas Milne.
No lesser figure than anti-capitalist social activist and writer Naomi Klein vouches for Milne’s “sound” anti-imperialism.
A year before 9/11 attacks on American soil and the subsequent ‘War on Terror’, Milne wrote an excellent and aptly titled article “Throwing our weight about”. In it he took to task Tony Blair’s infatuation with military interventionism (or ‘humanitarian war’) specifically in Kosovo, Iraq (1998) and Sierra Leone as well as noting British interference in Zimbabwean domestic issues. Milne further endorses Nelson Mandela’s rebuke of Blair, in that he is, Continue reading