Tag Archives: Iraq

Great War Wednesday: Some Men Cast a Long Shadow

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Sykes Picot signatures

This document has slain tens of thousands in a century.

Anyone who has made even a cursory study of World War 1 knows the names Joffre, Von Moltke, Kitchner, Ludendorff, Hindenberg, and Pershing. These great generals . . . well, debatable, I know . . . managed to kill most of a generation of Europe’s finest young men. Their contribution to history is a long list of names of those killed and wounded engraved on monument after monument throughout Europe. Some enlisted men carved out their places in history during the Great War as well. These were infantrymen like Sgt. York of America, famous aerial warriors like Manfred “The Red Baron” von Richthofen of Germany, and poet extraordinaire Lt. Wilfred Owen of Great Britain. It is two men most people probably have never heard of, however, who cast the longest shadow of the First World War. While they may be relatively unknown to all but the most dedicated historians, Englishman Mark Sykes and Frenchman Francois Georges-Picot, by their actions following the Armistice of 1918, gave birth to men like Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeini, Osama bin Laden, and the shadowy leadership of ISIS / ISUL.

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Map of Late Ottoman Empire

For 624 years, the Ottoman Empire was a major power in Eurasia. At its height, it ruled all of Asia Minor, Africa from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Horn of Africa, and Europe from the Balkans nearly to the gates of Vienna — an area which dwarfed the vaunted Roman Empire and compared favorably in size to even the mighty Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan. In the early centuries of its existence, the empire and its millions of available soldiers were the bogie-men of European children. The evil of  “The Turk” was a tale told to keep little ones safely inside at night. From his palace in Istanbul, nee’ Constantinople, the Ottoman Sultan ruled a cosmopolitan kingdom of great riches, enormous resources, and surprising tolerance for non-Muslims. Unfortunately, those glory days were far faded by the outbreak of World War One. The Ottomon Empire had been “The Sick Man of Europe” for nearly a century before Sultan Mehmed VI signed a treaty with Germany and Austro-Hungary as much out of desperation as any grand design.

https://i1.wp.com/www.christophermantei.com/uploads/1/5/5/6/15562118/9647792_orig.gifThe Ottoman Theater of World War I is fascinating in its scope and grandeur. Filled with places like Gallipoli and inhabited by men like T.E. “Lawrence of Arabia” Lawrence, the Middle Eastern theater deserves more scholarship than it has received, but it is not what happened as the Turks fought which has cause so much horror in the 21st Century as what happened once they were defeated. Throughout its history, the Ottoman Empire was home to hundreds of tribes and nations. Mostly Muslim, the Empire was generally tolerant of Christians and Jews living within its borders, several famous pogroms nonwithstanding. What is most important, however, is the government in Istanbul maintained a strict SECULAR stance on governing the Empire. Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot shot that all to Hell when they signed the eponymous Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916 even as millions were still dying. That agreement dictated how the Ottomon Empire would be carved up by the victorious Allies (confident pair, I must say) and, indeed, it was used to create the map we recognize today as the modern Middle East where everyone pretty much hates everyone else.

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Francois Georges-Picot

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Sir Mark Sykes

Sykes and Picot were colonialism men through and through, steeped in the propaganda of Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden” and they brought that Eurocentric, nationalistic, colonial attitude with them to hammer out the post-War map of the Middle East. Being intellectual, educated men, they both shared a love of lines. Where Frost felt “good fences make good neighbors,” Sykes and Picot felt nice straight lines made good borders and since the area they were divvying up was just sand populated by mostly nomadic tribesmen anyway, why not stick with lines and angles?  These men were Christians — supposedly — and not given to Islamic scholarship. They had no idea what a Sunni, Shi’a, or Wahhabi was and, moreover, they didn’t particularly care.

When Sykes and Picot finished their work, the foundations of five countries existed where NONE had existed before: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Palestine. These “areas” were not proper countries for several years following the agreement, but their roots are in the secret agreement. They were “mandates” which is a century old P-C term for “colony.” France held a “mandate” over Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. Britain controlled Iraq and Palestine. To see just how violently the peace of World War I is affecting us TODAY, let’s take a look at just one of these countries: the current playground of ISIS — Iraq.

Iraq was never a country. It became a British mandate, The Mandate of Mesopotamia, in 1920 after the League of Nations ratified several treaties ending the War and dividing the spoils. Then, in 1932, Great Britain quite magnanimously granted “The Kingdom of Iraq” its independence. Then the problem with Sykes, Picot, and their damned straight line borders came to light. Saudi Arabia is another kingdom in the area. Ruled by the House of Saud, it has a long turbulent history, but a history nonetheless. Saudi Arabia is overwhelmingly Sunni, specifically Wahhabist Sunni. The other ancient country in the region is Iran, formerly Persia. Most of its inhabitants are Shiite. Both those countries are somewhat oppressive by Western standards, but they are pretty stable places. Iraq is home to three VERY distinct groups — Sunni, Shiites, and the very eclectic Kurds who have representatives of at least six religions in their midst. NONE of these people groups like each other and since 1932, they’ve been told not to consider themselves Shi’a, Sunni, or Kurd but IRAQI.

Turn on the news tonight and see how well that has turned out. Britain practically guaranteed Iraq would fail. They did this by placing a Sunni King over the country. Of the three groups, the Sunni are the minority. So for over eighty years, Sunnis held real power over Shiites and Kurds, both of whom absolutely HATED the government. The only reason the country didn’t fall completely apart was a string of strong-arm dictators culminating in Saddam Hussein who ruled from 1979 to 2003 when he discovered America giveth and America taketh away. He held the country together by killing anyone who got out of line. As soon as “Coalition’ **cough ‘Merican cough** forces unseated him, the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds went back to killing each other, a practice which has continued right up til today and shows no real sign of stopping.

So, when you see ISIS beheading American journalists on the nightly news, remember exactly who you have to thank for it — Sir Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot — two mid level bureaucrats who lived out every bureaucrat’s dream of not just filing policy, but actually writing it. One hundred years later, the blood continues to drip from their hands. The leader of ISIS has even declared, “The Islamic State will not stop its blessed advance until the stain of Sykes-Picot is driven from this land!”

We have Sykes and Picot to thank for THIS.

Great job, guys.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.

 

This is NOT a Movie

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enders_game_ver12Budge and I went to see Ender’s Game Saturday afternoon. I read the book eons ago and Budge knew enough that we both expected the “twist” at the end. I sat through the movie, which was beautifully shot and orchestrated, but after it ended, Budge and I walked back to the car in depressed silence.

This movie is not — let me repeat that to be clear — NOT a faithful representation of the source material in Orson Scott Card’s novel. What it is, and in spades I’ll add, is a blatant and scathing indictment of America’s actions towards foreign countries over the last two Presidential administrations.

It doesn’t bother me that the movie could have been a Michael Moore rag; what bothers me is how spot on it was in its satire in places AND how simple it was for me and Budge (who abhors politics) to pick out the director’s theme.

I don’t usually put spoilers in my movie posts, but I’m making an exception in this one, so if you’re planning to see it 1) don’t say I didn’t warn you and 2) don’t read any further down this post.

In the BOOK, Earth is attacked TWICE by “Buggers” who show every intention of returning again, which establishes a pretty good case for some type of preemptive action on the three NATIONS of the Earth. The BOOK has two important sub-plots that involve Ender Wiggins’ psychopathic brother Peter and his beloved sister Valentine. In the BOOK, we look like a species trying to defend ourselves from another eminent attack from space.

In the MOVIE, we look like bullying, Nazi-esque douchebags.

Our planet is attacked one time. The “Buggers” show no sign of coming back, propaganda to the contrary, and the globe is depicted as a single New World Order type unified one-nation entity, thereby discarding the three warring “mega-nations” that gave purpose and tension to the novel. The book is subtle in it’s Cold War political message; the movie isn’t subtle at all. Instead, the movie invokes the old saw that, “If the only tool in your box is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Children are taken from their homes at ridiculously tender ages and sent to “Battle School” where they are pitted against each other in a series of Darwinian tasks that make The Hunger Games look like an afternoon of croquet.

The book has those elements as well, BUT in the movie, everything is stripped down. NO allowance is made for the fact THESE ARE CHILDREN, and in the end, one of those children — the eponymous main character — becomes the architect and executor of a genocide Hitler, Stalin, and Mao couldn’t have imagined in their collectively most coked out acid trips. In the movie, our wonderfully united species spends 50 years building a space-faring fleet with one purpose in mind — eradicating the “Buggers.” We don’t try to communicate with them because the bodies we discovered after the “invasion” show no vocal cords so naturally a species capable of interstellar flight couldn’t POSSIBLY have some other way of communication than spoken words.

Nope, they are different from us, they apparently don’t like us — but we don’t bother to ask them, so obviously, we have to kill every single one of them in order for our world to be safe. Does any of this sound the slightest bit familiar? If it doesn’t, turn off Rush Limburger and Sean Hennessy and think about it for a minute. If you do, you’ll see it’s a perfect picture of American foreign policy for the last 12 years.

The USA was attacked on 9-11-2001 by elements of Al-Qaeda under the influence and command of Osama Bin Laden. Quite predictably — and I think appropriately — we flipped our collective lids and beat our pruning hooks into swords overnight. All of our intelligence, indeed all of the WORLD’S intelligence, pointed to Bin Laden hiding out in the mountainous border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. So, with revenge on our minds, we gear up for a massive beat-down such as the world has never seen. We load up the transports and carriers with men and weapons and we head across the waters to kick the everloving sh . . . I mean poop out of — wait for it — IRAQ!?

W.T.F? Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda people are in Afghanistan / Pakistan. Why are we invading Iraq? Bin Laden is not in Iraq. Bin Laden is in Afghanistan / Pakistan somewhere. Yet for reasons NO ONE can adequately explain, we roll in to a sovereign nation, shoot the place up, destabilize the entire region, and ultimately kill Bin Laden? NO. BECAUSE BIN LADEN ISN’T IN IRAQ!! No, we kill Saddam Hussein, who, yes, is a raging asshole who killed his own people (with a lot of weapons he got from us in America) and turned the country from something resembling a nation into a festering bed of warring sects who hate each other AND, incidentally, HATE US TOO.

Only after we tidy up the loose ends that Dubya’s daddy left hanging in the family closet do we go flounder around in the deserts and badlands of Afghanistan for ten years and finally manage to kill the ONE GUY we’ve been looking for as he was kicked back and relaxing in our supposed “ally’s” backyard.

The 9/11 attacks changed everything. I know that. I sat and bawled like a baby for six hours watching the news after I got home from teaching classes that day. Unfortunately, they destroyed our country and no one seems to mind. The best estimate I can find is 2,996 people died in the attacks. In the Iraq War that followed — tell me why did that happen again — 4,486 American soldiers died. That doesn’t include the 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed because when everyone looks the same and there is no real front line, you kill them all and let God and Allah fight it out.

Despite all those casualties, the worst face of the Iraq War / “Global War on Terror” is the face of the soldiers who are coming home. It’s bad enough for our regular forces to have to face combat, but so many of the troops who’ve fought this war AREN’T regular forces. They’re National Guard troops who signed up for some extra money and to help fill sandbags during floods or look for missing people during a hurricane. They were never trained to go to a foreign country, meet interesting people, and kill them.

Now they are back and they are broken inside and from what I can see, no one gives a really good damn about it. THAT is what saddens me most about what our country has become and that is what’s brought to the fore so painfully in this mockery of Ender’s Game: the movie. One line in the movie says it best of all. The psych officer is confronting the main training colonel about his harsh training tactics and the line she delivers is one for the ages:

“You are turning these children into KILLERS and when it’s over and they finally get to come home you want ME to try to fix them. Well, they can’t BE FIXED!”

I lost my daddy in Vietnam . . . another war eerily similar to the Iraq War. Oh, he’s alive and probably sitting in his recliner watching westerns on tv as I’m writing this, but he went to Vietnam a 19 year old kid from Fountain Inn, SC who’d never been on a plane and he came back 13 months later and 100 years older. I never got the chance to know the man my mama and Granny Wham talked about.

And now, it’s happening again.

Love y’all. Keep your feet clean and I’m sorry I don’t know the answers or what else to say.