plus ça change…
American Thinker, By Andrew G. Bostom, June 8, 2005:
We are now in the middle of a full—blown Jihad, that is to say we have against us the fiercest prejudices of a people in a primeval state of civilization.
Gertrude Bell, Baghdad, Iraq, September 5, 1920
The carnage in Iraq continues——much as Bell described 85 years ago——despite Saddam Hussein’s removal, and capture, along with many of his former high ranking administrators. And this bloody contemporary “insurgency” is also a jihad—waged by jihadists of two ilks: Al Qaeda types (like Zarqawi) united with so—called “secular” Baathist jihadists. This is hardly surprising as Baathist Arabism is deeply rooted in Islam, and bears no resemblance to Western conceptions of secularism. (Other than perhaps Saddam Hussein’s expensive ‘secular’ wardrobe—as Fouad Ajami once uttered on live television, doing his best Saddam impersonation, to a stunned Dan Rather: ‘You wear pants…I wear pants!’).
Indeed, the very founder of the Baath Party, Michel Aflaq, was a Greek Orthodox Christian who converted to Islam, and declared emphatically, ‘Islam is to Arabism what bones are to the flesh.’ (For an enlightening discussion of the Baathism is secularism canard, see this blog by Professor Frank Salameh , Monday May, 9, 2005, ‘The Myth of Arab Nationalism’). The Baathists just added another incendiary element to Iraq’s long brewing cauldron of sectarian strife, which was so apparent during the British attempt at statecraft during the 1920s, through early 1930s.
It is edifying to review that experience through the writings, and unfulfilled hopes of the British diplomat, Gertrude Bell. One wishes that a careful reading and thoughtful discussion of Bell’s detailed analyses were a required exercise for all our policymaking elites and chattering classes. Regardless, Bell’s narrative sounds eerily familiar as the cast of characters—from the 1920s, versus the present—seems quite literally frozen in time: Shi’ites led by the very same Sadr family; irredentist Sunnis educated in the Wahhabi tradition; Kurdish ‘separatists'; and the indigenous, pre—Islamic community of Assyrian Christians, soon to be preyed upon, primarily by their traditional Kurdish Muslim enemies, joined by the other Muslim communities.
Fond Foolishness Redux — Iraq Through Gertrude Bell’s Prism
Gertrude Bell (1868—1926) was a brilliant archaeologist and explorer, who traveled extensively in the Middle East, later becoming a British intelligence officer and diplomat in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Due to her unparalleled knowledge of the Middle East, Bell was made part of the delegation to the Paris Conference of 1919, and worked subsequently with British officials attempting to create the modern state of Iraq from three disparate ethnic and religious vilayets (i.e., Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra) of the collapsed Ottoman Empire.
Bell, perhaps the most important female Civil Servant in the entire British Empire during this period, also persuaded Winston Churchill to appoint Faisal, the recently deposed King of Syria, as the first King of Iraq. Her letters written from Baghdad, excerpted below, were originally published in a compilation, ‘The Letters of Gertrude Bell’, [Volume II, New York, 1927]. Bell’s brief, worried comments about the Assyrians foreshadowed their terrible plight, within seven years of her death.
In the last years of her life, Gertrude Bell created, and was the first Director of the Baghdad Archaeological Museum; she died in 1926, and may have committed suicide. Bell’s utopian dreams for Iraq, what the historian Elie Kedourie termed her ‘…fond foolishness…thinking to stand godmother to a new Abbasid Empire…’, went unfulfilled. Indeed, one of her worst fears was realized: Muslim violence directed against the Assyrian Christian minority.
Read more at American Thinker