RealNews

Lessons of 1920 revolt lost on Bremer

The argument between Arnold Wilson, the British civil commissioner in Baghdad from 1918-1920, and his more famous deputy, the author Gertrude Bell, shook the British colonial establishment for a time. But if the lessons were soon forgotten, they were destined to be repeated 83 years later. Right up to the end of the bloody 1920 revolt against British rule that claimed the lives of 500 British soldiers, Mr Wilson had insisted that the answer to the “Mesopotamian question” was direct rule in Baghdad by a British high commissioner. Ms Bell, more presciently, had thought since a year earlier that the answer was to choose an Arab head of state. “I pray the people at home may be rightly guided and realise that the only chance here is to recognise political ambitions from the first, not to try and squeeze the Arabs into our mould and have our hands forced in a year – who knows – perhaps less,” she wrote to a friend in January 1920. She would prove all too correct. Mr Wilson stepped down and, in 1921, the British were forced to grant Iraq nominal independence under a provisional government headed by King Faisal I. The lessons of British rule have eerily repeated themselves since the US-led invasion of Iraq last March. Full Story

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