"The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told ... It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are today not far from a disaster," - T.E. Lawrence, Sunday Times (London), August 2, 1920.
The British were trapped in Iraq for four more decades, attempting to create some kind of rational polity, sectarian peace and national unity in a part of the world where Arab pathologies were compounded by fathomless Muslim fanaticism. They failed, believe it or not. They failed despite the presence, at its peak, of the equivalent of almost ten times the troop level of the current, now five-year, U.S. occupation. John McCain is telling us that with a tiny fraction of the troop levels of the British per capita, and with lucrative oil profits available to the various warring parties to finance a war for ever, an independent, unified, non-despotic, pro-Western Iraq is within reach. If that is true, we are indeed on the verge of the biggest holiday from history imaginable.
(Photo: the Brits conquering Baghdad - easily - in 1917. They couldn't get out for another forty years.)
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