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T. E. Lawrence

by ghandi Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 09:37:22 AM EST

In the spring of 1920, T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) wrote...

The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from 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, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are today not far from a disaster.

...We say we are in Mesopotamia to develop it for the benefit of the world. all experts say that the labour supply is the ruling factor in its development. How far will the killing of ten thousand villagers and townspeople this summer hinder the production of wheat, cotton, and oil? How long will we permit millions of pounds, thousands of Imperial troops, and tens of thousands of Arabs to be sacrificed on behalf of colonial administration which can benefit nobody but its administrators?


History repeats itself : Once as tragedy, then as farce.

It is so frighteningly apt that it seems to be saying something eternal about imperial pretentions.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 12:20:53 PM EST
Love it, quoting Lawrene of Arabia on ET! (And still accurate after all these years!)

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Apr 5th, 2006 at 04:16:12 AM EST
...but T.E. Lawrence's experiences with the Arab tribal cultures seems exemplary material for a better understanding of the culture, looked upon from western eyes. It's no wonder his book rose in the ranks again since March 2003...

And some literature it is.

by Nomad on Wed Apr 5th, 2006 at 07:01:50 AM EST
I don't know whether fans of the book hate the film, but it is some film, too.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 5th, 2006 at 07:03:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A book you can put away, a film needs to be watched preferably without stopping. I found the film practically an experience in itself, gasping for a virtual pause - but I was young at the time when I saw it and not modulated yet to films from Hollywood creating films with such stature.
by Nomad on Wed Apr 5th, 2006 at 06:56:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Have you read the entire Seven Pillars? I took me the better part of a winter, but well worth it for the uncanny quality of prose and observation.

Interestingly, the project in which Lawrence was involved was somewhat reminiscent of the neo-con pipe dream. The kooks at the Cairo Office thought that Husein, the Sherif of Mecca, could be set up as a sort of counter-Khalif to rally the Arab masses against the Ottoman Sultan's declaration of jihad. No such luck really, and the hyped "Arab revolt" had rather minor significance. Even the savage raids on the Medina-Damascus railroad were mostly a nuisance to the Turks. Most of the demolition, not to mention the fighting, was done by British troops. Damascus was actually "liberated" by Australians after first being seized by Arabs hostile to the Brits. This last is a fact that Lawrence does his utmost to obscure in the book, in order to bolster the Arab cause, itself a propaganda ploy against the French, who in the end got hold of Syria and were faced with a more effective insurgency.

Also, contrary to the book, Feisal appears to have known about the Sykes-Picot treaty all along. However, to his credit, Lawrence did realize and warn about the lasting resentment this treaty caused among the Arabs, which is still being felt today.

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Wed Apr 5th, 2006 at 07:43:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I lack the time and patience for such dedication. I kept on straying after the capture of Akaba, cherry-picking here and there.

And I wasn't aware of the historic discrepancies within the 7 Pillars of Wisdom! I've read too little for that, so thanks. But for cultural insights, it was great material.

by Nomad on Wed Apr 5th, 2006 at 06:52:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree the ending is weak--the whole (I think) last chapter.  Thank you for an explanation why.  

Lawrence feel for--and description of--terrain is just amazing.  

An obsessed and eccentric character, one nevertheless gets the impression he is describing Arab culture as it is.  (Or was).  I have nerver encountered another western author who sought to do this.  

(Well, Richard Burton, but I really haven't read much.)  

Modern writers seem determined to perceive nothing.  I won't bother you with references to tedious, self important, egotistical not to say ethnocentric,  . . . well, never mind:  You get the idea . . .

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Sat Apr 8th, 2006 at 02:32:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hold on a sec: The Ottoman Turks declared war on Britain. They sided with the Germans and Austrians of their own free will.

The Arabs got the Hijazz, Mesopotamia, and the eastern two thirds of Palestine from the British, who withdrew only a few years after the end of the war.

Sikes/Piquat was never actually implemented.

by messy on Thu Apr 6th, 2006 at 10:58:16 AM EST

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