The thing about these Middle Eastern people is they just don't appreciate how hard we've tried to help them over the years. Take 1914 — did you know that Iraq (or Ottoman Mesopotamia as it was then) was one of the first places on our list of countries to extend the benefits of British army occupation to when war broke out in 1914?

We're just so generous!

Some dangerous pinkos disagree with this view of history though — e.g. Rob Newman:

World War One should be taught in our schools for the invasion of Iraq it was.

... Now I suspect that many of you, like me, have never been entirely convinced by the standard explanation which we were given at secondary school for the origins and causes of the First World War: the asassination of Archduke Ferdinand... I mean, no-one’s that popular.

People all over Europe saying ‘I loved that guy. I really loved him’? A rather more efficient cause might be the Berlin-Baghdad Railway.

The Berlin-Baghdad Railway begins construction in the years leading up to the First World War. What happens is that Admiral Jackie Fisher converts the British navy from coal-fired to oil-powered ships.

... The German navy follows suit but they don’t have any oil-producing colonies, no place in the sun. Thus begins the ‘Drang Nach Osten’, the ‘drive to the east.’ The spine of this policy is the Berlin-Baghdad Railway.

... But there’s huge opposition to this plan among all the European powers: Russia, France, Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands of Royal Dutch Shell. Britain has a special reason, over and above all the other allies, for opposing the railway. In engineering terms we cannot compete because we know that people will simply not accept the Sarajevo-to-Basra replacement bus service. And like the other powers we know that once the track is laid, there’s nothing to stop a Munich businessman alighting at the Baghdad terminus with a Deutschebank chequebook, undercutting our concession and smashing the cartel.

War breaks out, and because it’s a war to defend plucky Belgian neutrality — while Belgium was defending Congolese rubber and ivory — ... the first British regiment to be deployed in the First World War — the Dorset Regiment — goes to Basra 1914. Where it is joined by 51 other Britsh divisions.

The Ist Battalion of the Dorsets fought in Mons in August 1914. The 2nd Battalion of the Dorset regiment fought the the grandmother of all battles for Basra, occupying the city from November 22nd 1914. ...

Rob Newman, The History of Oil, 2006

Hmmm. No, I think Rob's telling porkies. No one would go to war to steal someone's oil reserves, would they?

Come on, we're the good guys!1


  1. See also The Blood Never Dried by John Newsinger for more examples of the hugely generous efforts of the British Empire.


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