Betrayal Times Two: Arabs and Kurds

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Map of the Treaty of Sèvres on the day of its signing (August 10, 1920). English trans. Thomas Steiner Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

The Brits betrayed the Arabs and now we betray the Kurds.

The Kurds field some all-woman combat units in a region not known for it (Israeli Defense Force excepted) and the women as well as the Kurdish men are fierce. They’ve had to be; they live in a rough neighborhood.

Part of the enduring fascination (with Lawrence) has to do with the sheer improbability of Lawrence’s tale, of an unassuming young Briton who found himself the champion of a downtrodden people, thrust into events that changed the course of history. Added to this is the poignancy of his journey, so masterfully rendered in David Lean’s 1962 film, “Lawrence of Arabia,” of a man trapped by divided loyalties, torn between serving the empire whose uniform he wore and being true to those fighting and dying alongside him. It is this struggle that raises the Lawrence saga to the level of Shakespearean tragedy, as it ultimately ended badly for all concerned: for Lawrence, for the Arabs, for Britain, in the slow uncoiling of history, for the Western world at large. Loosely cloaked about the figure of T.E. Lawrence there lingers the wistful specter of what might have been if only he had been listened to.

The British and the French had not reckoned with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who rallied the Turks and fought his way out of the imperialist plans, becoming the founder of the modern Republic of Turkey. In 1924, Atatürk abolished the Ottoman Caliphate. A few pretenders tried to declare themselves to be the new Caliph, but the umma (Muslim community) accepted none of them.

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Steve Russell is enrolled Cherokee, a 9th grade dropout, retired judge, associate professor emeritus of criminal justice, and (so far) a cancer survivor.

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