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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 05 May 2014, 13:16

Korda quotes the relevant passage and comments:

"Those who are critical of Lawrence have argued that he exaggerated the incident or even invented it altogether. But the incident was not improbable - the brutality of the Turks...was a known fact and the practice of anal rape, while by no means restricted to the Turkish soldiery and their officers, was a recognised peril of becoming a prisoner of the Turks in World War I..."

But perhaps you suggest that it not the rape that is disputed, but Lawrence's confession that, not only had he been humiliated, tortured and brutally violated, but to his horror had felt a sexual excitement that made his torturers mock him and which filled him with shame. The ultimate abasement is not to be violated after all, but to enjoy being violated, and perhaps Lawrence had discovered in himself at Deraa just what he had been at such pains all his life to avoid admitting.

I certainly can't pin him down - about his sexuality or anything else. But I must admit I grew more and more uneasy the more I read about him (not about the man's sexuality, but about his passion for violence and killing. Sublimation?)

A very great man, but a very disturbed one, as great people so often are? I still haven't made up my mind.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 05 May 2014, 13:30

Me neither - he doesn't quite pass the "would you enjoy the bloke's company if sat beside you at the bar?" test.

I wouldn't run away too far with speculative theory about why he lied or even how much of a porky that bit of his memoir was. It always struck me as the kind of lie that grew with the telling - what had started as hinted inference to colleagues after he had turned up again (he was only gone for 36 hours - a remarkable detention and escape window even without the other remarkable bits) became over time a gradual confirmation of the Turks' beastliness (a readily believed aspect to the lie at the time) and then when it came to writing everything down later an established "fact", at least in his own mind. The Turks in question were easily identifiable after the war and all vehemently denied that they'd even detained the man, though they did admit detaining another British soldier around the time who was actually released into Lawrence's custody. All very murky, I'm afraid.

My own theory is that Lawrence's dread of establishing close relationships of an intimate kind meant that he never really explored his own sexuality at all, even experimentally. He knew this about himself and probably wasn't very proud of it either, and he knew others knew about it too. In that context any sexual experience would have had to be reported by him as rape, if only for it to sound credible to himself. Whether it happened or not.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 05 May 2014, 17:24

Caro, found this - relates to what nordmann has been saying.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1518314/Lawrence-of-Arabia-made-up-sex-attack-by-Turk-troops.html

Korda makes some interesting points about how Lawrence's style of writing changes when he describes what happened - or what he fantasized about what happened - at Derra. Usually, Korda notes, Lawrence's English is "ironic and almost deliberately detached". But the description of the alleged rape is rather different: it is "in an unflinching style", a style that is intense, lurid - one might say almost pornographic - in the manner of William Burroughs or Jean Genet. And that very precise and detailed description of the whip that was used on him: it is reminiscent of the writings of the Marquis de Sade, who revelled in such descriptions. Korda adds that "it is the one passage in the book (Seven Pillars)...when he slips out of the skin of a man whose ambition it was to write 'a great book'...and relies on his own voice, without literary artifice".

I wonder.

@nordmann wrote:
"All very murky, I'm afraid."


I'll say.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 05 May 2014, 20:47

I wonder. The description might show him discovering he was a masochist, but, given the strident campaigns of recent years about the "Myth of women enjoying rape" - if that is purely mythical, is it not at least likely that the same logic applies to men?
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 05 May 2014, 21:28

I would agree. Given the other fabrications in his memoirs in which he has been found out there seems to have been a pathological tendency in his lying, especially to the extent that it was often to his extreme disadvantage. This would also seem to tally with his choice of alternative personae, all of which seem to have been apparently designed primarily to sidestep the accruing responsibilities being incurred by the previous one. If that wasn't the intention it was most certainly the effect in any case. Even the alleged rape at the hands of the Turks (information released by Lawrence shortly before he stopped being "Lawrence") seems to fit that bill rather violently, though also rather succinctly. If ever an attempt was made to dismantle a hero this must surely rank as one of the bolder ones, and that it was by the hero himself must mean something. The cruel irony in Lawrence's case was that he underestimated the public's unwillingness to disinvest in its cultural icons, a status way beyond hero that Lawrence, thanks to some concerted PR by others, had by then achieved. The story simply added to the enigma rather than dismantle or destroy it, as he must have anticipated it would whether it was true, an exaggeration or an outright lie.

The next move by comparison, to become "ordinary airman" Shaw, was masterful - though not without huge effort and sacrifice on his part to make it stick. How long that one would have lasted however if he had not been tragically killed in the progress of its construction is anyone's guess. Even the reclusive Shaw would have eventually found a reason, I believe, to become someone else eventually.

The real enigma about the man was not his sexuality, or even his pathology, but actually how each persona could not help but establish an attractiveness and charm about it, even though these were the very qualities that would consign each in turn to their doom and the need to create yet another one. I still blame Peter O'Toole.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 06 May 2014, 08:54

I've just ordered John E. Mack's "A Prince of Our Disorder" - the biography of Lawrence I've been meaning to read since I started this thread. Mack was a Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School, and his biography of Lawrence was considered masterly when it was first published. I believe that Mack - obviously better qualified than most to comment on his subject's psychological state - suggests that Lawrence never really grew up, that he never experienced - and so never confronted and resolved - the normal conflicts and agonies of adolescence, sexual or otherwise. He remained in a Boy's Own fantasy world of castles, conquests and playing at being Richard the Lionheart .

I read two things early this morning that struck me and that I should like to share here. The first is something written by John Buchan about Lawrence:

"I do not pretend to have understood T.E. Lawrence fully, still less to be able to portray him; there is no brush fine enough to catch the subtleties of his mind, no aerial viewpoint high enough to bring into one picture the manifold of his character...I am not a tractable person or much of a hero-worshipper, but I could have followed Lawrence over the edge of the world. I loved him for himself and also because there seemed to be reborn in him all the lost friends of my youth...If genius be, in Emerson's phrase, 'a stellar and undiminishable something', whose origin is a mystery and whose essence cannot be defined, then he was the only man of genius I have known."

I found Buchan's reference to "all the lost friends of my youth" particularly interesting, especially having just read Mack's suggestion that Lawrence was the perpetual adolescent. Was Lawrence someone who represented - who continues to represent -  all the excitement, glamour and idealism (I nearly put crazy idealism) - of youth, the loss of which most of us come to regret?

The other quotation is from Lawrence himself - a warning to historians everywhere?

"The documents are liars ... No man ever yet tried to write down the entire truth of any action in which he has been engaged."

PS
@nordmann wrote:
I blame Peter O'Toole.


It was very nearly Marlon Brando getting the blame - Spiegel's first choice for the role.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 06 May 2014, 09:36

He was several little boys who never grew up. As each one approached that inevitable point where he feared it had to he simply switched persona to another version and started all over again. This cannot be so uncommon a feature within the male population but what made Lawrence so unique was that each one, on its own, had merit enough as an all-round person to earn loyalty, respect and admiration - though not always of course for the same reasons. My own favourite version was the archaeologist who had preceded the soldier - I would have loved to have seen that erudite person grow to maturity. He showed such great promise with regard to what was then quite innovative theory and technique, both of which have been confirmed in their intelligence by others coming later.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 06 May 2014, 16:58

We shall never know, will we? Yet, when I consider some who are thought of as being grown up they are in fact rather childish, Lawrence to my mind was very grown up, able to make changes in his life that few would have the courage to do, to refuse an honour before the king because he reckoned a promise had not been kept and to pursue those things which really interested him seem strong facets of his undoubteed intellect and  self awareness. After flaunting a dramatic effect he chose to fade into an obsure life for a while as if embarrased by what had happened. If we don't know him, I suspect that probably Lawrence knew himself very well indeed.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 06 May 2014, 18:10

Some interesting comments here - Lawrence as the puer aeternus?

http://www.maartenschild.com/lawrence/?tag=boyishness

Lawrence carved the sign above his door at Clouds Hill. It is Greek: Ou Phrontis and it is from the story told by Herodotus (see link). Here is the full quotation:  οὐ φροντὶς Ἱπποκλείδῃ  which roughly translated means "Hippocleides doesn't care", or "Hippocleides doesn't give a damn". Omit the name and I suppose it could also be rendered simply as "No worries". I like it. (I originally thought of "Am I bothered?")



George Bernard Shaw said of Lawrence: “… at forty he still had the grinning laugh and artless speech of a schoolboy; and powerful and capable as his mind was, I am not sure that it ever reached full maturity.”

But I was particularly struck by the quotation (see link) from Picasso:   “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, and a lifetime to paint like a child. (…) Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”  

Is it fanciful and/or pretentious to suggest that Lawrence was an artist - and was determined to remain one?

PS Nordmann -  I understand your reference to being abducted by aliens now - John E. Mack?
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Wed 07 May 2014, 12:20

A very Delphic Temp wrote:
PS Nordmann -  I understand your reference to being abducted by aliens now - John E. Mack?

It is these kinds of references directed to one by an otherwise intelligible interlocutor which make their recipient, who otherwise would not be too fearful of impemding Alzheimers, reach tentatively for his panic button ...
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Wed 07 May 2014, 13:54

@nordmann wrote:


It is these kinds of references directed to one by an otherwise intelligible interlocutor which make their recipient, who otherwise would not be too fearful of impemding Alzheimers, reach tentatively for his panic button ...

I was reaching for my panic button too, but no need - I knew you had made a reference to space aliens somewhere on this thread:

@nordmann wrote:
I reckon by 1969 the bar for salaciousness had been raised so high in Lawrence's case when it came to profiting from fresh "revelations" that it is a wonder space aliens hadn't been roped into the equation (maybe they were - I admit I haven't read all the books yet either).

John E. Mack, the Harvard Medical School Professor of Psychiatry whose acclaimed biography of Lawrence I ordered yesterday, also made a study of people who claimed they had been abducted by space aliens. I only found out this yesterday, after I had ordered the book. Seems Mack came to believe there might be something in the abduction stories. I thought yesterday that your mention of aliens alluded to this. I do hope Mack is not a nutter - the biography was rather expensive.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/668027.Abduction

The Amazon man has just delivered it, so I'll soon find out.

@nordmann wrote:
A very Delphic Temp...

I do have my moments, don't I?


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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Wed 07 May 2014, 14:04

Just read the introduction. He's no nutter. It's going to be a good read.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Wed 07 May 2014, 14:34

I've read that Mack book in my dim and distant past (though many think I'm even dimmer these days). It was good. In fact I've a feeling that's where most of my own thoughts about Lawrence derived from. It's like an antidote to the Lean version - one shouldn't really experience one without the other.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Wed 07 May 2014, 16:28

Surely one should never expect a film to bear any meaningful relation to the truth? Was it Dragnet that used to say "Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent"? In films, only the names remain the same, to protect the investors, IMO.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Wed 07 May 2014, 23:11

I suggest that the door inscription means  'Unfazed' because i don't think Lawrence ever was. I ought get out of my lethary suit and start reading stuff about him again. AS for GBS - how woulld one deal with an acerbic intellect but but showing ones 'imp?' GBS had that side to him also but perhaps chose not to counter with it? Most people have a variety of faces - almost character acting - I suspect Lawrence was one of those. As for caring, he seemed to care about many issues - wasn't he an advisor to Chirchill for a while too? Another one with child like side/impishness on occasion Like I said, I must find out again. But then I am not perhaps right for making judgment. At the age of 12 I made a firm decision that I would stay as I was at about the age of eleven and have managed that very well so far........... that should prompt remark here, I suppose. As for his many faces, it's a common trait. I doubt anyone who knows me would guess that I was P. of this board. 
Lawrence became my enigmatic champion when I was eleven - and like Temps now and R3, reolute in defence. It was Lawrences grasp of languages that first enthralled followed by,  to use a cliche, - his marching to the beat of his own drum.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Thu 08 May 2014, 09:27

@Priscilla wrote:
As for caring, he seemed to care about many issues...


Of course, but I suspect T.S. Eliot's famous words: "Teach us to care and not to care" apply to Lawrence.

I can't put my Mack book down - I wish I'd bought it ages ago. I've been up since before dawn reading it.

As with so many people, it was the fight to be free from parents' or a parent's influence - in Lawrence's case his mother's - that surely underpinned most of his life. That's why I'm not so sure now that the incident at Deraa was made up after all. Was Deraa all about the fight for personal integrity, the surrender of that integrity, disgust at an inevitable submission? I had no idea Lawrence was regularly beaten by a puritanical mother - and beaten severely. A mother who, by her passionate, adulterous liason with his father, apparently gave the lie to all she professed to believe. Mack the psychiatrist has some very interesting things to say on this subject.



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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Thu 08 May 2014, 14:01

Deleted - what a lot of tosh I come out with at times.



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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Thu 08 May 2014, 19:12

@Priscilla wrote:
The film and the Seven Pillars book seem to have crystallized Lawrence's place in history. However, the extraordinary  tale of Richard Aldington's efforts to get a detraction of him and his exploits into print with Collins press in 1954  smacks of heavy handed attempts to curb a freedom of opinion. Liddell Hart, Bonham Carter and Churchill were all called upon to bear weight to stop publication  - in the UK - though possibly it was printed in France. I read  it abroad with an open mind - pre-film - many moons ago. Detractions can sometimes come out a bit smelly, in my opinion


This post meant very little to me when I first read it - I had no idea what Aldington had had to say about Lawrence.

His vitriolic biography is next on my list.

Was Aldington simply a bitter, resentful and jealous old man who just couldn't bear the fact that Lawrence had had a "cushy war", tearing around the desert in fancy dress, playing at being a hero? The hero merely of "a sideshow of a sideshow" to boot, while he, Aldington, and all the others had fought the real war in rat-infested, stinking dogholes in France? He admits as much in this passage:

"I have tried, but perhaps not always successfully, to give evidence... fairly and in such away that it can be instantly verified, though not without some indignation that such a man should have been given the fame and glory of the real heroes of 1914-1918" (emphasis added).

Aldington's account apparently drips with venom.

Lawrence was an Oxonian, a gentleman, and, whatever the circumstances of his birth, the son of a gentleman. Aldington left the University of London after a year; he was too poor to complete his degree. And how he had hated the arty, intellectual upper middle classes. His acid assessment of the Georgian poets was that they were "in love with littleness. They took a little trip for a little weekend to a little cottage where they wrote a little poem on a little theme."  

He could hardly accuse Lawrence of being in love with littleness; but perhaps he considered Lawrence to have been in love with himself?

http://telawrence.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/lawrence-of-arabia-biographical-enquiry.html
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Fri 09 May 2014, 16:47

But then people who appear to be "in love with themselves" are often quite the opposite: they can in fact be very conflicted people with all kinds of doubts about their self-worth. Lawrence seems to have been a classic example of this type of personality.

On the question of whether Lawrence was a liar or not I should like, if I may, to quote this from Professor Mack:

"Lawrence has been hurt by both his idolators and his denigrators. The latter, especially Richard Aldington and Malcolm Muggeridge, have found Lawrence to be a charlatan and a liar. My own examination of the evidence has led me to different conclusions. Lawrence had a compelling need to tell stories, which grew out of his deep doubts about his own self-worth. Profoundly uncertain about his value, he laid the foundation for the creation alongside of the actual Lawrence of a legendary personality built on the dramatizations and elaborations of his tales. So extraordinary are some of these stories that they have seemed at times to have been made up. Yet my research led me repeatedly to the conclusion that Lawrence's accounts of his accomplishments were largely accurate and, if anything, he would customarily leave out information that was to his credit, or allow to stand distorted depictions of events that have invited the attacks of his detractors. I have not found Lawrence to be a liar" (my emphasis).

I was struck also by accounts that Lawrence had been seen after his death: the rumours grew  that he was "still alive". He was considered by many to have been "a prophet". Robert Bolt has either Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) or Auda Abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn) - I can't remember which character it was in Lean's film - give Lawrence that title. Had he died in the Middle East, one wonders whether Lawrence the legend could have have become something more. Just a thought.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Fri 09 May 2014, 19:03

Unlikely, Temps. I recently saw a documentary narrated for the most part by a muslim academic which was very fair in the opinion he proffered but he also had a pair of younger Arab historians who were in dour denial about Lawrence's part in anything to go with the rise of the Arab dynasties and states. It was almost funny in its bias but not unexpected; a chilling reminder of closed minds. 

Telling tales, mm, more than likely. I have  long  thought that the Derra episode may have happened but inflicted by a rough set of bazaar rogues, not a Bey. And another possibility is that something of this sort happened when he  was ranging far and wide on his bike, often with a friend as a teenager. The experience being used in his 7 Pillars as a release from tormenting memory. Approaches are made to the young and sometimes circumstances difficult. As another far ranging child on a  bike, I can vouch for the frequency of that. I was just lucky in being able to being very wary and able to cope.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Sun 11 May 2014, 13:15

Here is a short YouTube of Ralph Fiennes at Clouds Hill.

It is a lovely cottage, but not "pretty" at all -  very much a man's home. Bare, almost austere, each room resembles an old-fashioned ship's cabin, or - perhaps more apt - a monk's cell (thinking of a ship's cabin, I very much like the little porthole Lawrence actually had put in one of the rooms). I also liked Lawrence's big square armchair - the one he had constructed especially for him with a bookrest. Fiennes said it was a chair in which you could "sit almost imprisoned in front of a book."

I wonder if Clouds Hill is a National Trust property, or English Heritage?




EDIT: Have just checked; it is National Trust - excellent.


http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/clouds-hill/

EDIT: The YouTube above has been disabled; for anyone interested, here is the link to the film (it's only nine minutes long) at YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_gTty1EgF0
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 12 May 2014, 11:18

On this day, May 12th 1935, Lawrence sat alone at Clouds Hill, writing to Sir Karl Parker, the Keeper of the Department of Western Art at the Ashmolean Museum: "At present I am sitting in my cottage and getting used to an empty life."

Six days before, Lawrence had intimated something of the depression he was experiencing when he wrote to Bruce Rogers (May 6th 1935): "I'm 'out' now of the R.A.F. and sitting in my cottage rather puzzled to find out what has happened to me, is happening and will happen. At present the feeling is mere bewilderment. I imagine leaves must feel like this when they have fallen from the tree and until they die."

He had used the same leaf image in a letter written the same day to Eric Kennington: "What I have done, what I am doing, what I am going to do, puzzle and bewilder me. Have you ever been a leaf and fallen from your tree in autumn and been really puzzled about it? That's the feeling."

On May 8th he had confided in a letter to Lady Astor that "...wild mares would not at present take me away from Clouds Hill... Also there is something broken in the works, as I told you: my will, I think. In this mood I would not take on any job at all."

Seven days later - on May 19th 1935 - Lawrence of Arabia was dead, killed by the head inuries he sustained when he crashed his motorcycle on May 13th 1935.

Mack talks of "a possible self-destructive or suicidal element in Lawrence's death", and concludes that the question of such an element is "complex". Mack tells us that there is no evidence of a "direct suicidal intent" when he swerved to avoid the boys on bicycles whom he encountered when returning from the Post Office at Bovington. This biographer does however add: "But it is known that men who are living without hope or interest in their lives, or have suffered a recent severe loss, like Lawrence's loss of work in the RAF, are more prone to accidents. The self becomes less attentive to its own preservation..."

Mack adds that he does not believe Lawrence committed suicide, but that, in his undoubted despair and despondency "and increasing nihilism", he was less vigorous in preserving his own life than he might once have been.

Either that, or his luck had simply run out. His nine lives were spent.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 09:10

Like many people - even Guardian readers - I feel desperately ignorant about the conflicts that rage in the Middle East. I would be hard-pressed to explain the borders - the simple geography - of the region, let alone the complex political and religious issues.

And, in looking for accurate and unbiased information, it seems to be a case of - to quote the lines repeated again and again at the beginning of every episode of the recent superb BBC production, The Honourable Woman - "Who do you trust? How do you know?"

Someone here at the weekend, a man who spoke with great confidence and apparent authority, likened the current situation in Palestine to the historic conflicts in Ireland and, as with that unhappy saga, seemed determined to put all the blame on the British. I felt too ignorant to contribute much to the discussion, but this man's comparisons, especially that of Sunni and Shi'a with Catholic and Protestant (among other things), seemed simplistic to me. I tentatively suggested that the role of Lawrence of Arabia had been important: he was after all partly responsible for the creation of present day Iraq, with all its ethnic and religious contradictions, and, at least according to biographer Michael Korda, Lawrence also"played a substantial role in the creation of Palestine as a separate entity". I added that Lawrence had predicted the current mess, but I wondered to what extent he had actually contributed towards it? I got no answer, only a blank stare.

Any answers on offer here - preferably in more than 140 characters?

PS Korda writes this at the end of his book on Lawrence: "There is, therefore, every reason to examine objectively and clearly what Lawrence attempted to do, and to treat him, not as an interesting neurotic with profound oedipal problems...but as a visionary and a warrior...as a politician and diplomat, indeed a maker of nations, whose failure to get the Arabs what they had been promised had profound consequences for the world today, consequences that have not been played out yet, and whose outcome nobody can predict."


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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 10:54

The Iraqi Sunni/Shi'a and Northern Ireland Protestant/Catholic analogy works only to the extent that one religious group in each case has been largely identified with historic justification by the other as emblematic of a power system imposed from above that is designed to exclude them. In Iraq, unlike in Northern Ireland, the religious and ethnic divides (don't forget the Kurds too) correspond to quite well defined geographical areas, a legacy of the motive to create a state based not on cultural or traditional areas of autonomous administration but on access to oil. Lawrence, or probably more importantly Gertrude Bell, recognised and even deplored this initiative - championed largely by Churchill - but both when presented with this as the only available option immediately recommended the appointment of the Arabian Faisal as its nominal leader (a Sunni whose descendancy from Mohammed would placate the Shi'a). It was the application of a political plaster on a deeply religious, ethnic and cultural wound that was almost bound to fester, and Lawrence and Bell actually disagreed fundamentally over how effective it could be in the long term. Lawrence was the more pessimistic, and he has eventually been proved right to be.

To this day there is huge debate regarding Lawrence's aims for Palestine ranging from his portrayal as a pan-semitic (Arab and Jew living in harmony) to that of an outright anti-semitic (in the anti-Jewish sense). Both extremes, and all shades between, can be backed up using the man's own documents. However, as with Iraq, what becomes obvious is that Lawrence recognised his impotence with regard to influencing where the borders would be drawn and what states would emerge from the mess. His role as "maker of nations" was a limited one, a fact that he himself recorded at the time often in despairing tones. In so far as it mattered however, in that sliding-tile puzzle of the Levant in which one tile is always doomed never to fit the rest of the picture, Lawrence reflected what might be regarded as a typical English view of the Palestine area at the time. Equally alarmed by extremist Zionist and Arab stated intentions for the region which presaged the continuing bitter turmoil that has plagued the area to this day, and conscious that Arab self-determination was the overriding requirement that had to be met by the Great Powers in the Middle East as a whole, he hoped that the resulting conflict and misery could be contained within as small an area as possible. He therefore threw most of his own efforts into facilitating the greater carve-up of the ex-Ottoman states into patterns that suited his own and Arab intentions. He had less to say on Palestine, the tile doomed never to fit the image, and the little he had to say influenced no one of importance. Given that one of his recorded musings in 1917 involved what amounted to "ethnic cleansing" in Jerusalem of Jews this is probably no bad thing. Such a policy would simply have shifted the unfittable tile a few degrees on the board, not helped to resolve the issue at all.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 12:53

Nordmann, may I be permitted to 'lift' this post and re-post it on another discussion board?
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 12:58

Of course, but it addresses Lawrence only in his role as "maker of nations", and then only in relation to Iraq and Palestine. He had much more that was meaningful to say about Syria and Lebanon than Palestine, for example, and much more direct political input into the eventual Saudi borders. So I'm not sure how relevant it might be outside of its specific context.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 13:05

As the UK and western allies are currently writing another of those chapters of history that could be entitled ’History Repeats Itself’, or simply ‘Déjà vu’, it is worth remembering the long-forgotten war that Britain conducted in 1920s Mesopotamia - forgotten in the UK that is, I doubt it’s been forgotten in Iraq.

In 1920 following the carve up of the Ottoman Empire into British and French mandates, there was an uprising of local ethnic and religious groups who felt, not unjustly, that they had just been made to swap their old Ottoman imperial masters for new British or French ones. Faced with armed rebellion, but extremely hesitant to commit ground troops after the all too recent horrors of WW1, Britain eagerly accepted the proposal (from Churchill and the Air Minister Lord Tomson amongst others) that the RAF conduct an entirely 'aerial policing’ operation.

Using all the most advanced technology and tactics of the day – aerial reconnaissance, straffing, dive-bombing and carpet-bombing (including the use of chemical weapons I believe), and delivered from those "precision" aerial platforms, open-cockpit, single-engined, bi-plane bombers - the RAF valiently trying to suppress the uprising. They largely failed and in the end 100,000 ground troops, both British and Indian, had to be sent in to suppress the revolt … for the time being.

PS:

Not directly relevant to this thread but also in the light of current affairs it is perhaps interesting to note that during the Spanish Civil War many idealistic young British men and women went off to Spain to fight for 'their cause’ in a foreign civil war. Interestingly government documents released only in 2011 show that in 1938 the British government was very worried about all these idealistic freedom-fighters returning, with 'anarchist skills', who it was feared would create 'anarchist' trouble in Britain. Many were arrested at the ports when they returned and MI5’s released archives show that even when not charged, they were often kept under secret surveillance for years after, even well into WW2.

Plus ça change, perhaps?


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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 13:39

Déjà vu indeed .... just seen this article on today's BBC news:

BBC news : British air bombing in Iraq 1920

which includes this photo:



The 1921 Mesopotamia Commission, including Gertrude Bell (second from left, second row), T E Lawrence (fourth from the right, second row) and Winston Churchill (centre front)...

...plus bizarrely for such a stiffly formal photo, two very frisky lions, bottom left.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 14:28

Thanks, nordmann - a detailed and informative post, as always. Like Nielsen, I should like, if I may, to send your message elsewhere - to the chap who was explaining things to us at the weekend. It might get him interested in joining Res His: a discussion between you and him would be most interesting.

MM - found what you said very interesting too - young idealists fighting for what they perceive as "the cause". The realisation that the politicians have a quite different agenda is so often quite devastating to such people. That, according to Lawrence's brilliant biographer, John E. Mack, is what contributed to Lawrence's "nihilism" - and his guilt. Nothing to do with homosexuality and the beatings etc. at Der'a. I find it disturbing too that Gertrude Bell - another intellectual and idealist of the best kind - probably killed herself. Her biographer, Janet Wallach, comments that, "while acquaintances were shocked to hear that Miss Bell had taken her own life, those who knew her well were not surprised at all. Her closest friends had known of her dark depression."


I meanwhile continue to google - and learn. At least I can now label all the countries on a map of the Middle East. That is, I suppose, a start of sorts. And I am trying hard to find out more about the differences between Sunni and Shi'a belief. The Shi'a Muslims do seem like our own Puritans - I remember Cass on the old BBC board saying this. He did go on a bit, but perhaps he was right about this?

PS MM - just seen the lions - great picture!
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 15:25

PS I was perhaps wrong to talk of young idealists in my post above: Bell was in her late fifties when she died; Lawrence, I think, around thirty-seven. Neither was young, but both, I think, were disillusioned idealists.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 15:41

Bell's disillusionment in Middle Eastern affairs however was of a much more profound nature than Lawrence's, I would have said, given how much more she put into the real hard part afterwards, actually building a stable regime in a hotch-potch of a country which she had never advocated be created in that form anyway. And I don't think she could be accused of idealism after the harsh realities of 1920 were presented to her in no uncertain terms by the men, we now all know (and she knew then), were in pursuit of lucrative raw materials anyway, not stability. Whereas Lawrence effectively walked away from the scene, Bell took responsibility for her role in promoting Faisal's accession to the Iraqi throne and laboured hard in ensuring that the regime should at least take root, if not exactly prosper. This wasn't idealism, I would think, rather a very pragmatic attempt at establishing a working status quo in an area she loved and which would leave her free to pursue her real vocation, archaeology. Financial and family misfortunes might well have been the final straw for Bell, who had also begun noting the tell-tale cracks in the Faisal state that Lawrence had predicted. By 1926 it would have been an extraordinary person indeed who would not have at least courted despair in her circumstances. Or an uncaring irresponsible one, which she obviously was not.

It will be interesting to see what Herzog and Kidman make of Gertrude in their film.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 15:54

I once voiced concern to a table of top Muslim lawyers and barristers about the dangers of anywhere adopting Sharia law and was told that it could not work when there were 35 differing sects within the two main ones in those parts. Shias, may beseem puritanical in Iran but the basis for their sect is women's rights (their belief in the caliphate coming through the female line of the Prophet.) And from what I know of the Agha Khanis world wide - and Bhoris, too, they are far from puritanical but deeply steeped in benevolence.

Lawrence surely knowing more of the difficulties likely within a tribal federation better than most of us and something of the other pulls and ties in that complex world understood that their own pragmatic way of settling issues was best contained in their own borders. I don't think idealism comes into it. He knew the problems at desert level. Others mores were honed in a different way and not easily transposed; and such mores as emerge do so most painfully anywhere, I suggest.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 15:56

@nordmann wrote:
 Financial and family misfortunes might well have been the final straw for Bell, who had also begun noting the tell-tale cracks in the Faisal state that Lawrence had predicted.



Fair comment. I am reminded of something Somerset Maugham said:


“ 'They're a funny lot, suicides... Thing I've always noticed, people don't commit suicide for love, as you'd expect, that's just a fancy of novelists; they commit suicide because they haven't got any money. I wonder why that is.'
'I suppose money's more important than love,' suggested Philip.”


― W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage


Last edited by Temperance on Tue 07 Oct 2014, 19:40; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Copied google punctuation is not my punctuation.)
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 16:04

Sorry, nordmann, crossed posts and perhaps I had better shut up. All I can add is that I have known many give a lifetime of effort to improve a society before perhaps they were ready for it. I once declined a very high position because I maintained that a local person should do it, not a foreigner, if any lasting change could be effected. I have had enough experience leading in a voluntary capacity to know how quickly a worthy project can fall back without constant input; a local leader can kick more butt for starters.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 16:08

@Priscilla wrote:
I have had enough experience leading in a voluntary capacity to know how quickly a worthy project can fall back without constant input; a local leader can kick more butt for starters.

But wasn't Lawrence a very effective foreign kicker of butts?
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 16:18

@nordmann wrote:
The Iraqi Sunni/Shi'a and Northern Ireland Protestant/Catholic analogy works only to the extent that one religious group in each case has been largely identified with historic justification by the other as emblematic of a power system imposed from above that is designed to exclude them. In Iraq, unlike in Northern Ireland, the religious and ethnic divides (don't forget the Kurds too) correspond to quite well defined geographical areas, a legacy of the motive to create a state based not on cultural or traditional areas of autonomous administration but on access to oil. Lawrence, or probably more importantly Gertrude Bell, recognised and even deplored this initiative - championed largely by Churchill - but both when presented with this as the only available option immediately recommended the appointment of the Arabian Faisal as its nominal leader (a Sunni whose descendancy from Mohammed would placate the Shi'a). It was the application of a political plaster on a deeply religious, ethnic and cultural wound that was almost bound to fester, and Lawrence and Bell actually disagreed fundamentally over how effective it could be in the long term. Lawrence was the more pessimistic, and he has eventually been proved right to be.

To this day there is huge debate regarding Lawrence's aims for Palestine ranging from his portrayal as a pan-semitic (Arab and Jew living in harmony) to that of an outright anti-semitic (in the anti-Jewish sense). Both extremes, and all shades between, can be backed up using the man's own documents. However, as with Iraq, what becomes obvious is that Lawrence recognised his impotence with regard to influencing where the borders would be drawn and what states would emerge from the mess. His role as "maker of nations" was a limited one, a fact that he himself recorded at the time often in despairing tones. In so far as it mattered however, in that sliding-tile puzzle of the Levant in which one tile is always doomed never to fit the rest of the picture, Lawrence reflected what might be regarded as a typical English view of the Palestine area at the time. Equally alarmed by extremist Zionist and Arab stated intentions for the region which presaged the continuing bitter turmoil that has plagued the area to this day, and conscious that Arab self-determination was the overriding requirement that had to be met by the Great Powers in the Middle East as a whole, he hoped that the resulting conflict and misery could be contained within as small an area as possible. He therefore threw most of his own efforts into facilitating the greater carve-up of the ex-Ottoman states into patterns that suited his own and Arab intentions. He had less to say on Palestine, the tile doomed never to fit the image, and the little he had to say influenced no one of importance. Given that one of his recorded musings in 1917 involved what amounted to "ethnic cleansing" in Jerusalem of Jews this is probably no bad thing. Such a policy would simply have shifted the unfittable tile a few degrees on the board, not helped to resolve the issue at all.


Nordmann,

I wanted to answer mentioning also the role of Gertrude Bell and that both hadn't really not that great influence on the general British policy (those with the real power in the government). And in fact to me it appears as if they both were "used" with their experience to fulfil the government purposes...
But as usual you explained it that much better and with more background...

Kind regards and with great esteem, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 16:20

Reply to to Temp.

No, because they got up again. A well kicked butt by the same blood stays down longer before crawling away.


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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 16:33

@nordmann wrote:

It will be interesting to see what Herzog and Kidman make of Gertrude in their film.
 

Damian Lewis too, after Homeland:

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/oct/22/damian-lewis-nicole-kidman-gertrude-bell-werner-herzog
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 17:03

Did some years ago for the ex-BBC forum a lot of research for Gertrude Bell and the whole Middle-East situation including Lawrence of Arabia, when I saw the Arte film "the Baghdad Railway"
For Nielsen (who, if I recall it well, understands also German)


 And for those who understand French:
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x9tt8o_le-chemin-de-fer-de-baghdad-14-18-1_news
The new episode of five is each time indicated at the bottom in an http...

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 19:15

Don't forget the Rashid Ali rebellion - another case of foreign butt kicking for the Iraqis.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1941_Iraqi_coup_d%27%C3%A9tat
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 19:41

Lawrence was anything but an effective butt-kicker. In fact if you review his entire career, both militarily as liaison officer and civilly as erstwhile diplomat up to and during the Cairo Conference, it is more tempting to describe him as ultimately everyone's fall-guy. His defence of his notion of a pan-Arabian confederacy across the Middle East, even after it was clear that Faisal - his closest Arab ally - was going to settle for something far less in the hope that it would not disrupt too much the Anglo-French pact designed to split the area into separate states, each beholden to one of these powers, Lawrence still tried to peddle his notion to increasingly deaf ears. In the end even Faisal effectively abandoned him and Lawrence's "suggestion" that his one-time friend be appointed ruler in Iraq was more the acceptance of a fait-accompli than an innovation. Faisal knew he was lucky to be offered anything after his attempted rebellion in French Syria. Once the deal had been offered and accepted Lawrence's only permitted function was to rubber-stamp it publicly, which proved to be his final contribution not only to the negotiations but to his entire involvement in Middle East affairs. He had been outmanoeuvred, largely ignored and in the end told what to say, and there was little he could do about it.

There is a hint of the profound disappointment Lawrence must have felt when one reads the epilogue in his "Seven Pillars of Wisdom", written just weeks before the Cairo Conference and when he still harboured a vision of a wider Arabia:

I had dreamed, at the city school in Oxford, of hustling into form, while I lived, the new Asia which time was inexorably bringing upon us. Mecca was to lead to Damascus; Damascus to Anatolia, and afterwards to Bagdad; and then there was Yemen. Fantasies, these will seem, to such as are able to call my beginning an ordinary effort.

In his mind he must have seen his friend Faisal as ruler in chief of this vast territory united by an Arab culture, free at last from foreign influence and dominion. Within a few short months both crucial elements to this vision had been irrevocably crushed, not only by his political masters but by Faisal himself.

His role as facilitator was now redundant, and the moment it became so he was jettisoned by all parties - whatever Thomas's propaganda was telling the public at the same time. How wretched he must have felt, his public persona so at odds with the horrible reality of his position. Unlike Bell, who at least could still negotiate a role for herself in the ensuing country-making which at least offered some hope for personal success and the establishment of something better for others, Lawrence had nothing left to bring to any negotiation table that anyone wanted to hear.

Butt kicker my ass.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 19:45

Sigh.

I am beginning to think that I don't understand anything, apart from the odd poem here and there.

He may not have kicked butt, but he was well able to persuade, was he not? Was that - is that not -  perhaps more important than mere kicking? Probably not.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 20:00

He was great at persuading people to do what they'd already decided they wanted to do given the opportunity (and the equipment, which he was great at providing). When they didn't agree it was something they already wanted to do they just ignored him. Come to think of it, that's not being very persuasive at all.

Who was very persuasive was Lowell Thomas, persuading as he did most of the western world that Lawrence held influence and commanded respect amongst the people who at that very same moment were marginalising him, excluding him and - if Lawrence had not had the sense to retire from the game completely - might well have ended up eliminating him.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 21:38

My thoughts too. Knowing when to walk away for whatever reason pains; there must have come a point when he knew he had had his uses and had been used - but  there must have been some kind of satisfaction that he had opened a shut window...... even though few could see the same view through it. Lawrence's later spate of letters show just how much he still cared probably realising that no one anywhere really cared a s***. Perhaps I have got that wrong.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 22:41

No, sounds right to me. It is a pity Gertrude Bell died when she did. They would certainly have kept up at least a dialogue about what was going on and between them might even have achieved something towards correcting the political and cultural representation of "Arabs" in the west over the next fifteen years - crucial years in which the worth of each newly manufactured state was measured according to the exploitable (by the west) minerals found there, a sum that was growing exponentially every year. The rest were considered less than worthless. Foreign investment was fixated solely on continuing the means to exploit them, and in the case of the "worthless" states was practically non-existent.

This was to change of course when Arab views on Palestine suddenly became worth knowing in 1945 and Britain prompted the formation of the Arab League (something very akin to Lawrence's original vision of what should have been there from the start). But by then the proposals for Palestine were already polarising views and hardening military policies in surrounding states, so even this apparently benign nudge towards consensus politics was essentially being motivated by a desire to secure the lucrative earnings western states were receiving from their old "mandates" without risking a militarised Arab world stepping in and cutting that supply of free money off.

Watching the old movietone newsreel reports of the Arab-Israeli War in 1948 one could be forgiven for thinking one was witnessing a "skirmish". The displacement of 700,000 people in its wake was hardly reported at all. One feels this would have panned out differently somehow had Bell and Lawrence been still around.

Though maybe not. There was a lot of money at stake.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 07 Oct 2014, 23:07

Newsreels perhaps but as I recall, and I was small in plaits then, I do remember that news paper and  radio coverage were enough to make me concerned - for both lobbies. I guess wartime children were more in tune to current affairs then. And of this matter I haven't moved on much. Would Bell and Lawrence effected change? It is hard to imagine intelligence V political/capital motivation being brought to bear in a conflict of others' faiths and turbulent histoy - old and more recent, at that time. I only know enough to know that I really don't know anything of this turbid situation and the people it affects.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Wed 08 Oct 2014, 08:51

I was thinking along the lines of either party being listened to by the public as recognised authorities on the subject as they progressed towards elder statesman/woman status. In their absence the public was fed the official line, which we now know was not only disingenuous but more than a contributory factor in the terrible outcomes of recent times in that region of what can only be described as a form of imposed serfdom for many unfortunate enough to have lived under these sponsored regimes. However Lawrence would have needed someone like Bell to egg him into taking a stance, I think.

A conspiracy theorist might point to both of their untimely deaths however and pose the question of whether such a development could ever have happened, and if indeed anticipation of such even possibly happening by those with vested interests in the giant exploitation racket that the Middle East became actually played a role in their demise.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Wed 08 Oct 2014, 10:18

@PaulRyckier wrote:
Did some years ago for the ex-BBC forum a lot of research for Gertrude Bell and the whole Middle-East situation including Lawrence of Arabia, when I saw the Arte film "the Baghdad Railway"
For Nielsen (who, if I recall it well, understands also German)


 And for those who understand French:
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x9tt8o_le-chemin-de-fer-de-baghdad-14-18-1_news
The new episode of five is each time indicated at the bottom in an http...

Kind regards, Paul.

Thank you, Paul, it's interesting to see this, as it shows the German points of view in a considered tone, and not just the usual French and British ones.

And kind regards to you as well
Nielsen
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Wed 16 Sep 2015, 08:35

Following various heated arguments about the migrant/refugee crisis, debates involving mainly middle-class people who, despite reading the papers and watching the BBC, don't seem to know what they are talking about (sadly I include myself in this number), I have in the past few days made an attempt to educate myself about the conflict(s) in the Middle East. I am especially confused about the Shia-Sunni divide. I had thought the Shias tended to see themselves as the oppressed lower-class minority, but I am sure this is far too simplistic an explanation, especially as the so-called Islamic State mob are apparently Sunnis. The religiopolitics and geopolitics of the region are enormously complex and defeat me entirely. I believe Russia and Iran support Assad. Can anyone explain this unlikely alliance and its historic roots?

More confusion when I read that many members of the Assad regime in Syria belong to a sect called the Alawites. I remembered that Laurence had mentioned these people. I wonder what he would have to say about the present unholy mess? From Wiki:

The Ottoman Empire oppressed the Alawites,[31] attempting to convert them to Sunni Islam.[32] The Alawis rose up against the Ottomans on several occasions, and maintained their autonomy in their mountains.[33]

In his book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T. E. Lawrence wrote:


The sect, vital in itself, was clannish in feeling and politics. One Nosairi would not betray another, and would hardly not betray an unbeliever. Their villages lay in patches down the main hills to the Tripoli gap. They spoke Arabic, but had lived there since the beginning of Greek letters in Syria. Usually they stood aside from affairs, and left the Turkish Government alone in hope of reciprocity.[34]
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