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Iraq: Yesterday and Tomorrow

Nine years ago, just before the invasion of Iraq by the United States and her allies, Dr. Michael Stenton wrote a prescient article in Chronicles looking forward to the likely Iraqi reaction and its consequences (“Our Yesterday and Your Today,” Views, February 2003).

Stenton’s article described the British experience in Mesopotamia almost a century ago when, during World War I, British forces wrenched what is now Iraq away from the collapsing Ottoman Empire.  British imperial officials created a monarchy, installed one of their Hashemite friends, pushed out competing powers (especially the French), and left British oil interests safely entrenched.  There was an insurgency that had some difficulty inflicting pain on “the occupier.”  A parsimonious British military left most suppression of resistance to the RAF.

As a journalist with some experience of the region, I was puzzled in 2003 as I watched the world’s lone superpower rush to place itself into the jaws of an obvious trap.  I raised my doubts with a British government minister and found the same mixture of ignorance and insouciance that seemed to govern policy in Washington, D.C.  The U.S.-led invasion did not follow the British pattern, and while things are calmer than they were, Iraq has not yet settled down.  A monarchy would have seemed quaint in 2003. ...

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