News From Terre Haute, Indiana


July 11, 2014

RONN MOTT: Troubled history in that place called Iraq

TERRE HAUTE — People are dying, again, in Iraq. And, again, people other than Iraqis will ultimately make the decision about what happens to this ancient land.

In the 20th century, it seems to be a series of mysterious mistakes and it doesn’t appear to be ending very soon. We go back to WW I and the war to end all wars, as it was called, didn’t end all wars. In this part of the globe it may have been responsible for what we’re seeing today.  

One of the most iconic figures of WW I was a small British officer, T. E. Lawrence, who had spent many years in the area as an archaeologist trying to find out all he could of the ancient peoples and what happened to their empires. That brought him to the attention of the British military’s leadership and how his knowledge could be useful in defeating the axis powers … Germany and the Ottoman Empire.

Lawrence was to gather up the Arab tribes of this vast area and get them to attack their Turkish rulers. The Ottomans had been there for hundreds of years. Their empire, from what is now Arabia up to Turkey, was somewhat loosely ruled by the Ottoman Turks. Tribal rule, customs, and the Muslim religion held sway over all the land.

Lawrence would try to unite these tribes and get them to take their land back from Turkey. He did succeed in driving this somewhat rag-tag Arab army at least to what is now Damascus. He thought he had given the Arabs an opportunity to be a free people.

Earlier, he had learned of a treaty called “The Sykes-Picot Treaty.” It was a treaty between France and Britain and how they would divide up the Ottoman Empire. Lawrence felt he had been betrayed by his own leadership but nothing he was able to do would change the outcome. The lands in question would become Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Transjordan. Palestine was also included in this re-drawing of the map of the world.

The leadership of the two countries knew very little about this new area of the Middle East they were about to carve up, so they called in a British archaeologist and the story goes like this … on a white table cloth covering a restaurant table, she would draw all of the countries of Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, and Iraq as they would appear on all of the new maps. Not enough thought was given to old tribal areas and even less was known about them. The British would get Iraq. At first they only wanted the southern part where the oil was, but the instant oil was discovered in the northern part, the British government decided to take that part of Iraq. France would get Syria and Lebanon, the British would take Transjordan and Palestine.

There’s more to this and some of the “more” would include America taking a look at it and the Jewish Zionist organizations wanting Prince Faisal, the leader of the Arab revolt, to have his freedom without European control. Of course, none of that happened.

During WW II, the Germans tried to take over Iraq by stirring up the resentment against the British Colonial powers, and it was the British Colonial Army from India that put down the revolt and drove the German influence out of Iraq. After the war, Israel became a state and defeated the Arab powers regardless of the amount of Arab soldiers sent against the State of Israel. Then, Great Britain pulled out of Iraq, Transjordan, and Palestine, including Israel. France would do the same.

Strong men who developed dictatorships would fill the void after the European powers left and still the people of this once great Ottoman Empire wanted their freedom.  

So, you rub together the Muslim faith, their radical clerics, and you have a mixture called, “Kill everyone who doesn’t agree with us.” They call it freedom, regardless of how ugly, how bloody, and no matter what the ultimate results will be.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star.

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