20 DECEMBER 1930, Page 23

The Evolution of Iraq

Sm ARNOLD WHSON has already done valuable work in his Persian Gulf and his Bibliography of Persia. To this he adds the illuminating book before us which is a personal record of the British campaign in Mesopotamia and of the formation of the new Arab State of Iraq. He was Acting Civil Com- missioner in Mesopotamia, having qualified for that post by his experiences as Political Resident in the Persian Gulf, and it is about the development of the civil administration that he chiefly desires to inform us. The civil side, however, was so inextricably mingled -with the military operations that his narrative happens to be more military than civil.

He points out that less has been written about the campaign in Turkish Arabia than about the other overseas campaigns, though that campaign, measured by the number of troops engaged, the cost, the distance from home and the area covered, was the greatest military operation ever undertaken by Great Britain, with the single great exception of the campaign in France and Flanders. He evidently thinks that the official historian of the campaign had too many limitations imposed upon him. He unfolds one of the most harrowing stories we have ever read about the sufferings of the British prisoners after Rut. He also describes the attempt to buy from the Turks freedom for the garrison of Kut—an incident of which even now very little is known in England. It was not the business of the official historian to deal with the civil administration and all that Sir Arnold says upon the subject is welcome. Many of his facts were, of course, stated by Miss Gertrude Bell in her Review of the Civil Administration, which was composed under his instructions.

Sir Arnold remarks that if the British literature on the Mesopotamian campaign has been insufficient there is also a very notable lack of German and Turkish literature on the subject. The campaign may well have become distasteful to both Germans and Turks, as it obliterated all their hopes. The Turks lost their immemorial hold, and the Germans had to say good-bye to their dream of gaining ultimate control of the Middle East Arabs by means of a predominant financial interest in the Bagdad railway. It is astonishing to remember that years before the War Germany was able to make her proposals in connexion with the railway seem so seductive to Great Britain that a Conservative Government was actually in favour of them. The Spectator in those days had a hard fight to convince the public that Germany would command the British mail-route to India. It is perhaps natural for Sir Arnold to lament the scrapping of much of the civil machinery which he helped to set up, but his pride in his creation need not blind others to the truth that there could be no wise political outcome except the independence of Iraq.

The campaign in Mesopotamia was under a heavy dis- advantage from the first because it was impossible to tell the Arabs exactly why they ought to help us. It would have been cruel to promise them protection without any certainty of being able to keep the promise. In ' the event of British failure they would have been merci- lessly handed over to the reprisals of their former masters, the Turks. Nothing is more important in war than to give —when it is possible—potential helpers a motive for helping and neutrals a motive for remaining neutral. Besides that, there was, of course, the enormous disadvantage of the mishandling of the campaign by the Indian authorities. Personally, we trace that mismanagement back to the year 1906, when Lord Kitchener insisted upon the abolition of the Military Member of Council in India.

Sir Arnold says that General Townshend made his rash advance on Rut under the impression that he had orders to

proceed as quickly as possible to Bagdad. He did not know what strength was opposed to him. General Nixon was similarly uninformed. After the forces of General Townshend had been hemmed in and besieged at Kut and subjected to dreadful sufferings, he, on the authority of the British Govern- ment, offered the Turkish General, Khalil Pasha, one million pounds sterling for the release of the garrison. This offer was'

afterwards increased to two million pounds. Sir Arnold re- marks that it is difficult to imagine where the money could have been found or minted quickly enough. He is con- temptuous. But readers of British military history will remember that proposals have often been made unofficially, if

not officially, for buying off an enemy reputed to be venal. After all, even a very large cash payment may mean a saving in lives and in the cost of fighting. It is a tempting solution to those who are sure that it will work.

The agonies suffered by the survivors of the garrison who were taken prisoners by the Turks must be read to he believed.

They are heartrending. Altogether out of 2,592 British rank

and file more than 70 per cent. died of starvation, ill-treatment and disease which was mostly avoidable. Of the 9,500 Indian rank and file, and followers, at least 2,500 died. This ghastly

Odyssey was conducted in the familiar Turkish way. The captives were ovenuarched without food or water and were

beaten when they faltered. When they fell they were left to die. These were "the honoured guests of the Turkish nation," in Enver Pasha's choice phrase.

Sir Arnold complains of the tradition, which dates back possibly to the Crimean War, that the Turks always " behave as gentlemen." His indignation grows as he writes. He is

indignant with everyone who knew at the time what was happening yet said nothing, as it was " policy " not to abuse

the Turks. He is even indignant with President Wilson, who,

he says, knew and could have intervened instead of sticking pins into Great Britain about neutral rights at sea. And he

is particularly indignant at the words of General Townshend, who afterwards expressed his love and admiration for Turkey. Out of this misery Iraq grew. Will the people of Iraq remember it ? Truly did Wronger say : " Pres de Is source ou cheque etat commence Aucun epi n'est pur de sang humain."