had it right about Iraq
'Rebellions can be made by 2 per cent active and 98 per cent
By Robert Fisk
Independent" -- - -Back in 1929, Lawrence
of Arabia wrote the entry for "Guerrilla" in the 14th
edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It is a chilling
read - and here I thank one of my favourite readers, Peter
Metcalfe of Stevenage, for sending me TE's remarkable
article - because it contains so ghastly a message to the
American armies in Iraq.
Writing of the Arab resistance to Turkish occupation in the
1914-18 war, he asks of the insurgents (in Iraq and
elsewhere): "... suppose they were an influence, a thing
invulnerable, intangible, without front or back, drifting
about like a gas? Armies were like plants, immobile as a
whole, firm-rooted, nourished through long stems to the
head. The Arabs might be a vapour..."
How typical of Lawrence to use the horror of gas warfare as
a metaphor for insurgency. To control the land they
occupied, he continued, the Turks "would have need of a
fortified post every four square miles, and a post could not
be less than 20 men. The Turks would need 600,000 men to
meet the combined ill wills of all the local Arab people.
They had 100,000 men available."
Now who does that remind you of? The "fortified post every
four square miles" is the ghostly future echo of George W
Bush's absurd "surge". The Americans need 600,000 men to
meet the combined ill will of the Iraqi people, and they
have only 150,000 available. Donald Rumsfeld, the architect
of "war lite" is responsible for that. Yet still these
rascals get away with it.
Hands up those readers who know that Canada's Defence
Minister, Gordon O'Connor, actually sent a letter to
Rumsfeld two days before his departure in disgrace from the
Pentagon, praising this disreputable man's "leadership".
Yes, O'Connor wanted "to take this opportunity to
congratulate you on your many achievements (sic) as
Secretary of Defence, and to recognise the significant
contribution you have made in the fight against terrorism".
The world, gushed the ridiculous O'Connor, had benefited
from Rumsfeld's "leadership in addressing the complex issues
O'Connor tried to shrug off this grovelling note, acquired
through the Canadian Access to Information Act, by claiming
he merely wanted to thank Rumsfeld for the use of US medical
facilities in Germany to ferry wounded Canadian soldiers
home from Afghanistan. But he made no mention of this in his
preposterous letter. O'Connor, it seems, is just another of
the world's illusionists who believe they can ignore the
facts - and laud fools - by stating the opposite of the
truth. Bush, of course, is among the worst of these
meretricious creatures. So is the late Tony Blair.
Oh, how we miss Lawrence. "The printing press is the
greatest weapon in the armoury of the modern (guerrilla)
commander," he wrote 78 years ago, accurately predicting al-Qa'ida's
modern-day use of the internet. For insurgents, "battles
were a mistake ... Napoleon had spoken in angry reaction
against the excessive finesse of the 18th century, when men
almost forgot that war gave licence to murder".
True, the First World War Arab Revolt was not identical to
today's Iraqi insurgency. In 1917, the Turks had manpower
but insufficient weapons. Today the Americans have the
weapons but insufficient men. But listen to Lawrence again.
"Rebellion must have an unassailable base ...
In the minds of men converted to its creed. It must have a
sophisticated alien enemy, in the form of a disciplined army
of occupation too small to fulfil the doctrine of acreage:
too few to adjust number to space, in order to dominate the
whole area effectively from fortified posts.
"It must have a friendly population, not actively friendly,
but sympathetic to the point of not betraying rebel
movements to the enemy. Rebellions can be made by 2 per cent
active in a striking force, and 98 per cent passively
sympathetic ... Granted mobility, security ... time, and
doctrine ... victory will rest with the insurgents, for the
algebraical factors are in the end decisive, and against
them perfections of means and spirit struggle quite in
Has the US General David Petraeus read this? Has Bush? Have
any of the tired American columnists whose anti-Arab bias is
wobbling close to racism, bothered to study this wisdom? I
remember how Daniel Pipes - one of the great illusionists of
modern American journalism - announced in the summer of 2003
that what the Iraqis needed was (no smirking here, please),
a "democratically minded strongman".
They had already had one, of course, our old chum Saddam
Hussein, whom we did indeed call a "strongman" when he was
our friend and when he was busy using our gas against Iran.
And I do wonder whether Bush - defeated, as he is, in Iraq -
may not soon sanction an Iraqi military coup d'état to
overthrow the ridiculous Maliki "Green Zone" government in
Baghdad. Well, as one of my favourite expressions goes,
But wait, Pipes is at it again. The director of the "Middle
East Forum" has been writing in Canada's National Post about
"Palestine". His piece is filled with the usual bile.
Palestinian anarchy had "spewed forth" warlords. Arafat was
an "evil" figure. Israeli withdrawal from Gaza had deprived
Palestinians of the one "stabilising element" in the region.
Phew! "Palestinianism" (whatever that is) is "superficial".
Palestinian "victimisation" is a "supreme myth of modern
politics". Gaza is now an "[Islamist] beachhead at the heart
of the Middle East from which to infiltrate Egypt, Israel
and the West Bank".
One of these days, Pipes concludes, "maybe the idiot savant
'peace processors' will note the trail of disasters their
handiwork has achieved". He notes with approval that "Ehud
Barak, Israel's brand new Defence Minister, reportedly plans
to attack Hamas within weeks" and condemns the Prime
Minister, Ehud Olmert, for buoying Mahmoud Abbas' "corrupt
and irredentist Fatah".
So we are going to have yet another war in the Middle East,
this time against Hamas - democratically elected, of course,
but only as a result of what Pipes calls "the Bush
administration's heedless rush to Palestinian elections"?
It's good to see that the late Tony Blair is already being
dubbed a "savant". But shouldn't Pipes, too, read Lawrence?
For insurgency is a more powerful "vapour" than that which
comes from the mouths of illusionists.
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