April 15, 2016

WHAT WILSON'S LEAGUE OF NATIONS COST:

Lawrence of Arabia wouldn't have been surprised by the rise of Isis (Giles Fraser,  8 April 2016, The Guardian)

 Lawrence, with backing from the British government, had promised the Arabs their own autonomous state on collapse of the Ottoman empire. This is why the Arabs were fighting alongside the Brits. But what Lawrence didn't know - at first at least - was that back in 1916 a secret deal had been struck between the French and the British to carve up the Middle East in a way that totally ignored the wishes of the indigenous Arabs.

The Sykes-Picot agreement, creating long, diagonal straight lines across the desert, gave Syria and Lebanon to the administrative control of the French, and Palestine, Jordan, the Gulf and Baghdad to the British. As news of this deal leaked out to Lawrence, he had to wrestle with whether to tell his Arab army that they had been betrayed by British diplomats and that they would never have the state they were giving their lives for. Perhaps he never appreciated the whole truth about the Sykes-Picot deal until it was published by this newspaper in November 1917. But he knew enough to realise he was misleading his Arab friends. "I had to join the conspiracy and assure the men of their reward. Better we win and break our word than lose," as he put it in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Lawrence refused his knighthood and other medals in protest at the way in which the Arabs had been double-crossed by the British. He even tried to kill himself. "I have decided to go off to Damascus, hoping to get killed on the way," he wrote to his station chief in Cairo. "We are calling them to fight for us on a lie, and I can't stand it."

Posted by at April 15, 2016 4:34 AM

  

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