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Iraq, Then and Now

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Created: July 22, 2003
Latest Update: July 22, 2003
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Culver Pictures from the New York Times
Britain Tried First. Iraq Was No Picnic Then
At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, Prince Feisal, front, later to be king of Iraq.
T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), stood in row behind, second from right.

History as Culture

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, July 2003.
"Fair use" encouraged.

I couldn't resist this old photograph plastered across an inside section of the NY Times. I'm a sucker for history and roots. We don't look like that. Our generals don't look like that. What lessons are there for us in such old photographs?

Well, as John Kifner writes in Britain Tried First. Iraq Was No Picnic Then. . . . Backup:

"[T] he public, the distinguished military analyst wrote from Baghdad, had been led "into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor."

"They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information," he said. "The Baghdad communiqués are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows."

He added: "We are today not far from a disaster."

Sound familiar?

That was T. E. Lawrence — Lawrence of Arabia — writing in The Sunday Times of London on Aug. 22, 1920, about the British occupation of what was then called Mesopotamia. And he knew. For it was Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence and the intrepid British adventuress Gertrude Bell who, more than anyone else, were responsible for the creation of what was to become Iraq. A fine mess they made of it, too."

"Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose." "The more it changes, the more it's the same." This story tells us that there is much to know about Iraq that we never learned in school. If you haven't the chance to take a Middle Eastern History course, how can you catch up on the issues? The Internet and the Library. Try your search on the Internet first. That will give you a good sense of what to look for when you get to the library. And sometimes there's lots of material on the Internet itself.

Searching the Internet and Library Catalogs:

    For this exercise use Yahoo Search - Google Search and Search

  • Search in one of the search engines for Britain AND Iraq AND 1919. Notice that all the words for the search occur in the picture title and caption. This search will bring up history references and offer you enough material for some minimal research. We suggest that you supplement that with a trip to the library, where that is feasible.

    Some search engines, like Google, will tell you they don't need the AND. Others do. Read the instructions of the search engine you want to use.

    Here are some of the results you'll find. Notice the importance of linking them conceptually to your topic. Notice also the importance of documenting your links. If you don't, you'll be lucky to find them later when you need them, and then you'll be open to charges of not documenting your sources. If you aren't George W. Bush, you probably can't get away with that.

      From Yahoo:

    • Conceptually linking to OIL: The Primacy of Oil in Britain’s Iraq Policy By Peter Sluglett. "The following text is an excerpt from Britain in Iraq: 1914-1932 (London: Ithaca Press, 1976)."
    • Conceptually linked to socialism: How they have 'changed' every regime in Iraq By Helen Shooter. From The Socialist Worker.
    • Documentation from 1919-1965: Records of Jordan 1919-1965. The documents themselves are not available on the Internet. But the Contents Guide is, as well as an explanation of the importance of the documents to the current peace process.
    • A Text you might want to look up after studying some details on Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World Margaret Olwen Macmillan, Richard Holbrooke.

      From Google:

    • Current related news items: CNN posted the New York Times article on which we based this lecture.
    • Conceptually linking to OIL: Iraq Oil and British Foreign Policy after World War I By G. H. Bennett. "The following text is an excerpt from British Foreign Policy During the Curzon Period, 1919-1924 (London: Macmillan, 1995)."
    • Conceptually linking long Middle East History: The History of Iraq The Birthplace of Civilization: From the Mongols to Independence. The Seattle Times. A teaching essay, such as this, in one of the major newspapers is a good source of keywords and bibliography.
    • Conceptually linked to modern info on Country Watch: Current info on Iraq This is a sponsored link on Google. Google AdWords: Pricing and Billing Google tells you what it means by sponsored link. You pay to have your site on top in the right-hand column. Yahoo is just buying an advertiser to do the same. Why would Country Watch make the highest bid to be on top of the column? Why are we selling information like this? Hello! Big, big questions.

You'll need to guage the authority you want to give the Website, or the book for that matter, but that's not so unusual. You should think critically about all authority.