Wednesday, September 21, 2005

British bombing of innocent Iraqis in the 1920s - to safeguard oil interests.

Extracts from 'Iraq, 1917'

by Robert Fisk, 17 June 2004, in The Independent.

Britain occupied Iraq in 1917.

"Full sovereignty" to Iraq... that's what the British falsely claimed more than 80 years ago...

British officials believed that control of Mesopotamia (Iraq) would safeguard British oil interests in Persia (Iran)...

Within six months, Britain was fighting a military insurrection in Iraq and David Lloyd George, the prime minister, was facing calls for a military withdrawal.

"Is it not for the benefit of the people of that country that it should be governed so as to enable them to develop this land which has been withered and shrivelled up by oppression? What would happen if we withdrew?" Lloyd George would not abandon Iraq to "anarchy and confusion".

By this stage, British officials in Baghdad were blaming the violence on "local political agitation, originated outside Iraq", suggesting that Syria might be involved...

In 1920, an insurgency broke out in the area of Fallujah, where Sheikh Dhari killed a British officer, Colonel Leachman, and cut rail traffic between Fallujah and Baghdad. The British advanced towards Fallujah and inflicted "heavy punishment" on the tribe...

The Royal Air Force, with Churchill's support, bombed rebellious villages and dissident tribesmen in Iraq.

Churchill urged the employment of mustard gas, which had been used against Shia rebels in 1920.

Squadron Leader Arthur Harris, later Marshal of the Royal Air Force and the man who perfected the firestorm destruction of Hamburg, Dresden and other great German cities in the Second World War, was employed to refine the bombing of Iraqi insurgents...

In 1924, Harris had admitted that "they [the Arabs and Kurds] now know what real bombing means, in casualties and damage; they know that within 45 minutes a full-sized village can be practically wiped out and a third of its inhabitants killed or injured".

TE Lawrence - Lawrence of Arabia - remarked in a 1920 letter to The Observer that "it is odd that we do not use poison gas on these occasions".

Air Commodore Lionel Charlton was so appalled at the casualties inflicted on innocent villagers that he resigned his post as Senior Air Staff Officer Iraq because he could no longer "maintain the policy of intimidation by bomb".

He had visited an Iraqi hospital to find it full of wounded tribesmen.

After the RAF had bombed the Kurdish rebel city of Sulaymaniyah, Charlton "knew the crowded life of these settlements and pictured with horror the arrival of a bomb, without warning, in the midst of a market gathering or in the bazaar quarter. Men, women and children would suffer equally."

Already, we have seen the use of almost indiscriminate air power by the American forces in Iraq: the destruction of homes in "dissident" villages, the bombing of mosques where weapons are allegedly concealed, the slaughter-by-air-strike of "terrorists" near the Syrian border, who turned out to be a wedding party. Much the same policy has been adopted in the already abandoned "democracy" of Afghanistan.

Copyright: The Independent.


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