courtesy by: Good
Offices Group of European Lawmakers, cp 2580, 1211 Geneva 2
research contributed by: Irina Gerassimova, UN Library Geneva
url: www.solami.com/britishgas.htm ¦ .../NPT.htm ¦ ../jaffa.htm ¦ .../UNGA.htm ¦ .../recres.htm ¦ .../iconoc.htm
tks 4 notifying errors, comments or suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org ¦ +4122-7400362
to eradicate chemical weapons
Crossbow: outlawed by 2nd Lateran council "at least against Christians"
Diplomacy & peace-preserving uses of military means
RAF Iraq Command
Folly: How Winston Churchill Created Modem Iraq, Christopher Catherwood
18 April 2004 The Last Iraqi Insurgency, New York Times, Niall Ferguson
13 Nov 2003 Inventing Iraq: A Failed Experiment in Nation Building, Toby Dodge
13 août 2003 Ethiopia 1935-36: mustard gas and attacks on the Red Cross, Le Temps, Bernard Bridel
19 April 2003 Gas, chemicals, bombs: Britain has used them all before in Iraq, The Guardian, Jonathan Glancey
9 Feb 2003 Stink Of Hypocrisy, Sunday Herald, George Rosie
3 Feb 2003 Britain's role in shaping Iraq, BBC News, Patrick Cockburn
25 mai 2002 Churchill et l’anthrax, François Delpla, Histoire de Guerre
25 Sep 2001 Century of biological and chemical weapons, BBC News
2001 Seeking Victory on the Western Front: The British Army and Chemical Warfare m World War I, Univ. of Nebraska Press, Albert Palazzo (Martin Walker)
1994 Iraq: From Sumer to Saddam, Geoff Simons
24 March 1992 My Advice to the Privileged Orders, U.S. Representative Henry B. Gonzalez
1992 Chemical Soldiers: British Gas Warfare in World War I, Lawrence University Press Kansas, Donald Richter (George H.Cassar)
1962 A Legal Analysis of the Changes in War, Military Law Review, Joseph B. Kelly
6 July 1944 Winston Churchill's Secret Poison Gas Memo
1938 Breathe freely: the truth about poison gas, James Kendall, D. Appleton, New York, 179 p (UNOG: 355 K33)
1937 Death from the skies: a study of gas and microbial warfare, Heinz Liepmann, M. Secker & Warburg, London, 286 p (UNOG: 355 L72)
>1920 "It is odd that we do not use poison gas on these occasions", T.E. Lawrence
1920 "Winston Churchill ... authorized the use of chemical agents ... on the Mesopotamian resistors."
12 May 1919 "I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes" W.S.Churchill
1854 Lyon Playfair, a British chemist, proposed a cacodyl cyanide artillery shell
* * *
"I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. We have definitely adopted the position at the Peace Conference of arguing in favour of the retention of gas as a permanent method of warfare. It is sheer affectation to lacerate a man with the poisonous fragment of a bursting shell and to boggle at making his eyes water by means of lachrymatory gas.
I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes. The moral effect should be so good that the loss of life should be reduced to a minimum. It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gasses: gasses can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror and yet would leave no serious permanent effects on most of those affected."
copy of original 4 page memo, in Guenther W. Gellermann, "Der Krieg,
der nicht stattfand",
Bernard & Graefe Verlag, 1986, pp. 249-251; reproduced as published by the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) at www.globalresearch.ca ¦ www.globalresearch.ca/articles/CHU407A.html
[stamp] PRIME MINISTER'S PERSONAL MINUTE
[stamp, pen] Serial No. D. 217/4 [Seal of Prime Minister]
10 Downing Street, Whitehall [gothic script]
GENERAL ISMAY FOR C.O.S. COMMITTEE [underlined]
1. I want you to think very seriously over this question
of poison gas. I would not use it unless it could be shown either that
(a) it was life or death for us, or (b) that it would shorten the war by
2. It is absurd to consider morality on this topic when everybody used it in the last war without a word of complaint from the moralists or the Church. On the other hand, in the last war bombing of open cities was regarded as forbidden. Now everybody does it as a matter of course. It is simply a question of fashion changing as she does between long and short skirts for women.
3. I want a cold-blooded calculation made as to how it would pay us to use poison gas, by which I mean principally mustard. We will want to gain more ground in Normandy so as not to be cooped up in a small area. We could probably deliver 20 tons to their 1 and for the sake of the 1 they would bring their bomber aircraft into the area against our superiority, thus paying a heavy toll.
4. Why have the Germans not used it? Not certainly out of moral scruples or affection for us. They have not used it because it does not pay them. The greatest temptation ever offered to them was the beaches of Normandy. This they could have drenched with gas greatly to the hindrance of the troops. That they thought about it is certain and that they prepared against our use of gas is also certain. But they only reason they have not used it against us is that they fear the retaliation. What is to their detriment is to our advantage.
5. Although one sees how unpleasant it is to receive poison gas attacks, from which nearly everyone recovers, it is useless to protest that an equal amount of H. E. will not inflict greater casualties and sufferings on troops and civilians. One really must not be bound within silly conventions of the mind whether they be those that ruled in the last war or those in reverse which rule in this.
6. If the bombardment of London became a serious nuisance and great rockets with far-reaching and devastating effect fell on many centres of Government and labour, I should be prepared to do [underline] anything [stop underline] that would hit the enemy in a murderous place. I may certainly have to ask you to support me in using poison gas. We could drench the cities of the Ruhr and many other cities in Germany in such a way that most of the population would be requiring constant medical attention. We could stop all work at the flying bomb starting points. I do not see why we should have the disadvantages of being the gentleman while they have all the advantages of being the cad. There are times when this may be so but not now.
7. I quite agree that it may be several weeks or even months before I shall ask you to drench Germany with poison gas, and if we do it, let us do it one hundred per cent. In the meanwhile, I want the matter studied in cold blood by sensible people and not by that particular set of psalm-singing uniformed defeatists which one runs across now here now there. Pray address yourself to this. It is a big thing and can only be discarded for a big reason. I shall of course have to square Uncle Joe and the President; but you need not bring this into your calculations at the present time. Just try to find out what it is like on its merits.
[signed] Winston Churchill [initials]
"... But there again, where is the moral right? The first one to use gas against Arabs was Winston Churchill, the British, in the early 1920's. They were Iraq Arabs they used them against.
In the words of Winston Churchill, or his military head, it was used in order to subdue the, quote/unquote, recalcitrant Arabs.
So where is the moral right? Who are we to preach?"
Outrage over German introduction of asphyxiating gas at Ypres in April
1915 prompted the Allies to retaliate in kind. British chemical warfare
was entrusted to the Special Brigade, an elite section of the army recruited
by an energetic engineer officer, Major Charles Foulkes. Initially restricted
technologically to the use of chlorine discharged from cylinders, British
scientists strove to devise more toxic forms of gas and new apparatus for
delivering it. Until nearly the end of the war, Foulkes remained optimistic
that gas alone would break the deadlock in the west but, in reality, gas
was anything but effective or reliable. After the war, Foulkes, dismayed
at the short shrift given to the Special Brigade's contributions in the
official history, published his own account entitled Gas! The Story
of the Special Brigade (1934). Foulkes provided invaluable first-hand
experience, but he was much too concerned with justifying the actions of
his brigade to view it in an unbiased and objective light.
In this stucly about the Special Brigade and its commander, Donald Richter provides much additional information as well as a balanced perspective. He investigates in detail the composition, mission, and activities of the Special Brigade and, in the tridition of John Keegan, places greater emphasis on the individual experiences and emotions of the men in the unit. His chapters describing the technical problems and the gas operations at Loos and the Somme are fascinating and give us a more complete understanding of these battles. Richter observes that the Brigade kept Britain in the forefront of gas warfare by its tireless efforts to improve old techniques and experiment with new ones. He discusses with clarity and care the controversy over the relative value of two competing delivery systems, the cylinder and the Livens projector (which fired gas bombs). The question was never resolved, for it was not possible to obiain reliable statistics.
A consistent thread running through this book is the futility of British chemical warfare. Improvements in defensive equipment far outpaced offensive gas capability. Moreover, the vast majority of commanders were obstructive, believing that gas was more of a hindrance than a help. Lastly, the uncontrollable variable of ideal wind conditions made it highly improbable that gas emissions could be precisely synchronized with an infantry assault. As for timing the infantry attack to a favorable wind, it was impossible to maintain both an extensive barrage and the infantry in a state of readiness for an indefinite period. After the Somme, gas became increasingly divorced from specifie offensives and used more and more as a routine harassment of the enemy.
Despite the disappointing results of chemical warfare, Richter pays high tribute to the men of the Special Brigade. They were, he points out, innovative, hard working, and courageous, carrying out in a professional manner what was demanded of them, frequently under the most trying circumstances. The author's opinion of Foulkes is nearly as complimentary. While conceding that Foulkes was obstinate, brusque, and at times difficult, Richter sees Folkes as an active, self-confident, and capable leader, undaunted by physical dangers or Herculean challenges, and concludes that he was the right man for the job.
Richter's inference that he is the first to demolish the popular myth that gas was an unnecessarily cruel weapon is an overstatement. This is a minor quibble, however, for his study is elegantly written and meticulously researched. Richter has mined numerous private collections and unpublished diaries as well as mastered the most recent books and articles pertinent to his subject. This well-informed study is certain to remain the definitive work, at least for the foreseeable future, on British gas warfare in World War I.
"Winston Churchill, as colonial
secretary, was sensitive to the cost of policing the Empire; and was in
consequence keen to exploit the potential of modern technology. This strategy
had particular relevance to operations in Iraq. On 19 February, 1920, before
the start of the Arab uprising, Churchill (then Secretary for War and Air)
wrote to Sir Hugh Trenchard, the pioneer of air warfare. Would it be possible
for Trenchard to take control of Iraq? This would entail "the provision
of some kind of asphyxiating bombs calculated to cause disablement of some
kind but not death...for use in preliminary operations against turbulent
Churchill was in no doubt that gas could be profitably employed against the Kurds and Iraqis (as well as against other peoples in the Empire): "I do not understand this sqeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poison gas against uncivilised tribes." Henry Wilson shared Churchills enthusiasm for gas as an instrument of colonial control but the British cabinet was reluctant to sanction the use of a weapon that had caused such misery and revulsion in the First World War. Churchill himself was keen to argue that gas, fired from ground-based guns or dropped from aircraft, would cause "only discomfort or illness, but not death" to dissident tribespeople; but his optimistic view of the effects of gas were mistaken. It was likely that the suggested gas would permanently damage eyesight and "kill children and sickly persons, more especially as the people against whom we intend to use it have no medical knowledge with which to supply antidotes."
Churchill remained unimpressed by such considerations, arguing that the use of gas, a "scientific expedient," should not be prevented "by the prejudices of those who do not think clearly". In the event, gas was used against the Iraqi rebels with "excellent moral effect" though gas shells were not dropped from aircraft because of practical difficulties [.....]
Today in 1993 there are still Iraqis and Kurds who remember being bombed and machine-gunned by the RAF in the 1920s. A Kurd from the Korak mountains commented, seventy years after the event: "They were bombing here in the Kaniya Khoran...Sometimes they raided three times a day." Wing Commander Lewis, then of 30 Squadron (RAF), Iraq, recalls how quite often "one would get a signal that a certain Kurdish village would have to be bombed...", the RAF pilots being ordered to bomb any Kurd who looked hostile. In the same vein, Squadron-Leader Kendal of 30 Squadron recalls that "if the tribespeople were doing something they ought not be doing then you shot them."
Similarly, Wing-Commander Gale, also of 30 Squadron: "If the Kurds hadn't learned by our example to behave themselves in a civilised way then we had to spank their bottoms. This was done by bombs and guns."
Wing-Commander Sir Arthur Harris (later Bomber Harris, head of wartime Bomber Command) was happy to emphasise that "The Arab and Kurd now know what real bombing means in casualties and damage. Within forty-five minutes a full-size village can be practically wiped out and a third of its inhabitants killed or injured." It was an easy matter to bomb and machine-gun the tribespeople, because they had no means of defence or retalitation. Iraq and Kurdistan were also useful laboratories for new weapons; devices specifically developed by the Air Ministry for use against tribal villages. The ministry drew up a list of possible weapons, some of them the forerunners of napalm and air-to-ground missiles:
Phosphorus bombs, war rockets, metal crowsfeet [to maim livestock] man-killing shrapnel, liquid fire, delay-action bombs. Many of these weapons were first used in Kurdistan."
Though World War I has been written about exhaustively,
Palazzo offers a genuinely fresh dimension by focusing on the British army's
extensive and imaginative use of gas. The Germans may have pioneered its
use in 1915, but the British developed it, devised and put into mass production
the most lethal chemicals, and provided their troops with by far the better
gas masks. Above all, the British incorporated gas into their operational
doctrine and training in a methodical way, a key consideration in the defense
of Field Marshal Douglas Hague and his much maligned staff against the
usual charge that they were unimaginative butchers.
In 1915, Major Charles Foulkes of the Royal Engineers took command of the Special brigade, as the chemical warfare unit was formally known. An inventive bunch, many of them drawn from universities and chemistry labs, the Special Brigade experimented with pepper prays, itching powder, nicotine, and other poisons before concentrating on phosgene and mustard gas. (They also developed flame-throwers.) Their work was reasonably well known in the 1920s and 1930s, partly through Foulkes's memoir, Gas! (1934). But the dominance of tanks in World War II, along with the decision on both sides to avoid gas, has blurred the focus of modem military historians. Palazzo, a research associate at the Australian Defense Force Academy, does a service in restoring awareness of the prominent role of gas and demonstrating that it was part of a new British military doctrine of combined arms.
The Allied victories of 1918 are usually said to start with the Battle of Amiens on August 8, which the German commander Erich Ludendorff described in his diaries as "the black day of the German army." Palazzo, after describing the earlier British efforts with gas at the battles of Loos and the Somme, focuses instead on the small Battle of Hamel on July 4. It was here that the Fourth Australian Division, supported by four companies of American troops, fought one of the most successful and most significant actions of the war. Through the combined use of gas, tanks, and artillery, along with tactical surprise, they showed that the stalemate on the Western front could be broken.
It was not gas alone but the incorporation of gas into a wider offensive strategy that brought success. The British calibrated each individual gun barrel and calculated the effects of wind and temperature to ensure that guns could hit targets the first time, without the traditional ranging shots that would have alerted the Germans to their presence. They also used gas in the days before the attack as a morale weapon, drenching the approaches through which German ration parties brought food and drink and ammunition by night to the front lines. The British had so much of the stuff that they would routinely continue gas bombardments for days at a time, knowing that at some point the German gas masks would be overwhelmed. And they would mix their fire, using shrapnel to force the German troops to take cover in trenches and dugouts, where the follow-up rounds of gas would be most lethal. From research in the archives of artillery units and the Ministry of Munitions, Palazzo demonstrates that by 1918 British barrages were routinely half gas and half high explosive. At the Ministry of Munitions, Winston Churchill was so enthusiastic that he promised to triple the number of gas shells in 1919 if the war continued. By the time of the Armistice in November 1918, the British, French, and American armies were all enthusiastic converts to the new potential of chemical warfare. The heartening surprise is that, in the 1920s and 1930s, memories of the horrors and a strong pacifist sensibility produced such public outrage that statesmen sought to ban gas warfare aud generals agreed to abjure it.
Saddam is seemingly not the only advocate of weapons of mass destruction.
Winston Churchill was on the verge of "drenching" Germany with poison gas
before the war turned in Britain's favour, reveals George Rosie
EVER since Hans Blix and his team of UN inspectors
began rummaging for Saddam Hussein's "weapons of mass destruction" our
own political leaders have been sounding pious notes from the moral high
ground. We're constantly told that Saddam's "rogue state" is a menace to
mankind. Which may be true, but Tony Blair and Jack Straw might be advised
to be a little less indignant. Most countries have traces of chemicals
on their hands. Britain certainly has. Buried in the Public Record Office
in London are a series of documents that reveal how we, the British, continued
to develop and stockpile chemical weapons in secret long after signing
a treaty in 1925 forbidding their use.
Towards the end of the second world war, when the threat of a German invasion was over and the war was being won, Winston Churchill was planning a chemical holocaust. He wanted to "drench" the cities of Germany with poison gas so that "most of the population would be requiring constant medical attention". Only the stubborn resistance of Britain's military commanders saved the people of Germany from mass contamination. If Churchill had won the argument, he may have gone down in history, not as a hero, but as one of its worst war criminals, on a moral par, seemingly, with Saddam Hussein.
Many of Churchill's own generals were disgusted by the Prime Minister's enthusiasm for gas weapons like phosgene and mustard gas. One general condemned Churchill's plans as "a departure from our principles and traditions" which would have an appalling effect "not only on our own people, but even on the fighting services. Some of us would begin to wonder whether it really mattered which side won".
Although Britain was a signatory to the Geneva Protocol of 1925 - which banned the use of "asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of all analogous liquids, materials or other devices" - underground production continued. Like Saddam, our planners saw the military advantage of these cheap, deadly weapons. Their capacity to cripple was awesome. One document (dated 1930) defines a gas casualty as "a person who is burned to a degree which will prevent him, however willing, from performing any military duty no matter how pressing the military situation may be".
By then, the effects of gas were well known. The horror had first erupted in April, 1915, when the Germans released gas on the battlefield at Ypres. Blinded men ran screaming from the front line with blistered skin and lungs seared with powerful chemicals. Very few died quickly. Most had to be hospitalised. Those who did recover suffered the unpleasant and painful effects for the rest of their lives. The Allies, of course, hit back with their own gas weapons and by 1918 it is estimated that more than 100,000 tonnes of gas had been used. After the war all the major nations pledged never to use gas weapons again.
Or so it seemed. But when the second world war broke out in September, 1939, the ease with which the German armies overran Poland set British commanders deliberating on the potential of their chemical arsenal. In April 1940, a meeting of the top army and air force brass recorded that "our present government policy is that we should use gas only in retaliation. But it is possible that, when the gloves are really off, and the war has become really grim, there might be a change of heart".
A few weeks later the war did become "really grim". The French army collapsed and the British were driven into the sea at Dunkirk. The military debacle had Churchill reaching for phosgene and mustard gas. Britain had to be saved, by fair means or foul. A few days after Dunkirk the chief of the Imperial general staff, Sir John Dill, produced a report entitled The Use Of Gas In Home Defence. It has been described as one of the most "explosive" documents of the second world war. Dill believed any German invaders should be overwhelmed by poison gas.
"There are strong military arguments in favour of such action," he wrote. "Enemy forces crowded on the beaches, with the confusion inevitable on first landing, would present a splendid target. Gas spray by aircraft under such conditions would be likely to have a more widespread and wholesale effect than high explosive. It can, moreover, be applied very rapidly, and so is particularly suitable in an operation where we may get very little warning."
Dill was well aware of the possible consequences. He knew that using poison gas might generate a media furore and political hostility in the US at a time when Britain was trying to get the Americans on side. He also knew that it might provoke the Germans to retaliate by dropping gas on British cities with enormous civilian casualties. But, he concluded, in the event of an invasion, these risks were worth taking.
However, even at a time when the Nazi threat was at its highest, Dill's report met stiff opposition. One of Dill's own staff, General DF Henderson, wrote back: "I most strongly dissent from this proposal and hope that it will not be pursued further." Henderson argued that retaliating against a German gas attack was one thing, but opposed any notion of an attack: "Some of us would begin to wonder whether it really mattered which side won."
But Sir John Dill had all the support he needed - from Churchill. That fierce old warrior saw poison gas as the best - and perhaps the only - way of holding back any German invasion. He demanded that production be stepped up. "What is our [gas] output per month?" he asked his right-hand man General "Pug" Ismay on June 30, 1940. "It should certainly be speeded up. Let me have proposals." In Churchill's opinion, if the invading Germans managed to establish bridgeheads anywhere on the British or Irish coast, they should be hit immediately with gas, Geneva Protocol notwithstanding.
Within weeks Britain's stocks of phosgene and mustard gas were rushed to depots on the east coast where they were loaded into spray tanks on specially-adapted aircraft - Lysanders, Blenheims and Fairey Battles. The aircraft were then flown to airfields which were close to those beaches where the Germans were expected to land. These "gas squadrons" were posted all the way down the east coast of Britain, from Lossiemouth on the Moray Firth to Kent. One squadron of Lysanders was based at Grangemouth on the Firth of Forth before being transferred to Macmerry in East Lothian.
There's no doubt the gas would have been used if the Germans had invaded Britain or Ireland. In May 1941, the War Cabinet's chiefs of staff committee agreed that if approval for the use of chemical weapons was ever given, "the use of gas in Ireland [including Eire] would be ordered and controlled by the general officer commanding British troops in Ireland." Whether the Irish government of Eamonn de Valera was ever informed that the British were prepared to spray the Irish coastline with powerful chemicals has never been revealed.
Meanwhile, the plants making phosgene and mustard gas went into overdrive. In response to Churchill's constant prodding and nagging, the output of gas soared. Poison gas was produced at heavily- protected factories at Randle and Rock- savage in Cheshire, and Springfields in Lancashire, and stored in underground dumps in north Wales. The figures show a steady increase. By the middle of 1944, Britain had stockpiled more than five million gas-carrying shells and bombs. By then almost 6000 men and women were working on the production of poison gas.
In the event, of course, the phosgene and mustard gas was never needed. The RAF stopped the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain. The Royal Navy remained a terrible threat to any invasion fleet. In October, 1940, Hitler called off operation Sea Lion (the invasion of Britain) and turned his attention instead to Soviet Russia in the summer of 1941. A few months later the US threw its huge weight into the war against Nazi Germany. By the middle of 1944, the allied armies had invaded France and were fanning out across Europe. The war was clearly moving into its end game. Astonishingly, it was at that point Churchill began to press once more for the use of gas. This time round he saw gas not as a way to defend Britain, but as a way to shorten the war. It would have been Churchill's version of the atomic bomb. In an extraordinary "personal minute" to "Pug" Ismay, Churchill expressed his enthusiasm for gas as an offensive weapon. And in language that would have done justice to Saddam Hussein himself he instructed Ismay not to be daunted by moral considerations.
"It is absurd to consider morality on this topic when everybody used it in the last war without a word of complaint from the moralists or the Church," the Prime Minister wrote. "I may certainly have to ask you to support me in using poison gas. We could drench the cities of the Ruhr and many other cities in Germany in such a way that most of the population would be requiring constant medical attention. I do not see why we should always have all the disadvantages of being the gentleman while they [the Germans] have all the advantages of being the cad."
The Prime Minister went on to voice his contempt for those military men who opposed his plans to saturate Germany with chemical weapons. "I want the matter studied in cold blood by sensible people," he declared "and not by that particular set of psalm-singing uniformed defeatists which one runs across now here, now there. Pray address yourself to this. It is a big thing and can only be discarded for a big reason."
According to the war-time documents, British planners had identified 1600 "tactical targets" that might be attacked with phosgene and/or mustard gas. On the target list were 60 German cities, all of them with populations in excess of 100,000. The list included Cologne, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Essen, Hamburg, Bremen, Hanover, Berlin, Stuttgart, Dresden, Mannheim, Augsburg, Leipzig, Munich and Nuremberg. The effect on the people of these cities of an airborne gas attack would have been incalculable.
But Ismay and the British generals were not about to confuse what could be done with what should be done. Apart from the dubious morality of Churchill's plan, they saw no military advantage in spraying gas over a landscape across which Allied troops were expected to fight. They also foresaw a propaganda disaster of enormous proportions. Ismay replied: "On balance, we do not believe, that for us to start chemical or biological warfare would have a decisive effect on the result or duration of the war against Germany."
Churchill was furious. He sent Ismay a short memo, dated July 29 1944. "I am not at all convinced by this negative report," Churchill wrote angrily. "But clearly I cannot make headway against the parsons and the warriors at the same time. The matter should be kept under review and brought up again when things get worse." In other words, if Hitler managed to pull some kind of military "spectacular" (and the V1 and V2 rockets then raining down on London hinted at the possibility), then Churchill would put his gas strategy back on the agenda.
But "Pug" Ismay and the British generals held the line. The parsons and the warriors won the day. Churchill never did get to "drench" the cities of Germany with mustard gas and phosgene. As the allied armies crashed into the heart of Hitler's Germany, Churchill's plans were shelved. The millions of gas-laden artillery shells and bombs remained in the armouries. The specially-modified Lysanders and Blenheims were never deployed to spray Britain's "weapons of mass destruction". The sense and humanity of the soldiers prevailed. Winston Churchill's reputation was saved.
For Saddam Hussein, of course, it is too late. His generals indulged his taste for chemical warfare. They either declined or failed to stop him ordering the use of gas against the Iranians and the Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s. The world now sees Saddam as an immoral monster. If the UN inspectors find chemical weapons, he'll be damned for having them. If they don't, he'll be damned for hiding them. His reputation is hopelessly befouled Ð a fate that Winston Churchill only narrowly avoided.
No one, least of all the British, should be surprised
at the state of anarchy in Iraq. We have been here before. We know the
territory, its long and miasmic history, the all-but-impossible diplomatic
balance to be struck between the cultures and ambitions of Arabs, Kurds,
Shia and Sunni, of Assyrians, Turks, Americans, French, Russians and of
our own desire to keep an economic and strategic presence there.
Laid waste, a chaotic post-invasion Iraq may now well be policed by old and new imperial masters promising liberty, democracy and unwanted exiled leaders, in return for oil, trade and submission. Only the last of these promises is certain. The peoples of Iraq, even those who have cheered passing troops, have every reason to mistrust foreign invaders. They have been lied to far too often, bombed and slaughtered promiscuously.
Iraq is the product of a lying empire. The British carved it duplicitously from ancient history, thwarted Arab hopes, Ottoman loss, the dunes of Mesopotamia and the mountains of Kurdistan at the end of the first world war. Unsurprisingly, anarchy and insurrection were there from the start.
The British responded with gas attacks by the army in the south, bombing by the fledgling RAF in both north and south. When Iraqi tribes stood up for themselves, we unleashed the flying dogs of war to "police" them. Terror bombing, night bombing, heavy bombers, delayed action bombs (particularly lethal against children) were all developed during raids on mud, stone and reed villages during Britain's League of Nations' mandate. The mandate ended in 1932; the semi-colonial monarchy in 1958. But during the period of direct British rule, Iraq proved a useful testing ground for newly forged weapons of both limited and mass destruction, as well as new techniques for controlling imperial outposts and vassal states.
The RAF was first ordered to Iraq to quell Arab and Kurdish and Arab uprisings, to protect recently discovered oil reserves, to guard Jewish settlers in Palestine and to keep Turkey at bay. Some mission, yet it had already proved itself an effective imperial police force in both Afghanistan and Somaliland (today's Somalia) in 1919-20. British and US forces have been back regularly to bomb these hubs of recalcitrance ever since.
Winston Churchill, secretary of state for war and air, estimated that without the RAF, somewhere between 25,000 British and 80,000 Indian troops would be needed to control Iraq. Reliance on the airforce promised to cut these numbers to just 4,000 and 10,000. Churchill's confidence was soon repaid.
An uprising of more than 100,000 armed tribesmen against the British occupation swept through Iraq in the summer of 1920. In went the RAF. It flew missions totalling 4,008 hours, dropped 97 tons of bombs and fired 183,861 rounds for the loss of nine men killed, seven wounded and 11 aircraft destroyed behind rebel lines. The rebellion was thwarted, with nearly 9,000 Iraqis killed. Even so, concern was expressed in Westminster: the operation had cost more than the entire British-funded Arab rising against the Ottoman Empire in 1917-18.
The RAF was vindicated as British military expenditure in Iraq fell from £23m in 1921 to less than £4m five years later. This was despite the fact that the number of bombing raids increased after 1923 when Squadron Leader Arthur Harris - the future hammer of Hamburg and Dresden, whose statue stands in Fleet Street in London today - took command of 45 Squadron. Adding bomb-racks to Vickers Vernon troop car riers, Harris more or less invented the heavy bomber as well as night "terror" raids. Harris did not use gas himself - though the RAF had employed mustard gas against Bolshevik troops in 1919, while the army had gassed Iraqi rebels in 1920 "with excellent moral effect".
Churchill was particularly keen on chemical weapons, suggesting they be used "against recalcitrant Arabs as an experiment". He dismissed objections as "unreasonable". "I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes ... [to] spread a lively terror ..." In today's terms, "the Arab" needed to be shocked and awed. A good gassing might well do the job.
Conventional raids, however, proved to be an effective deterrent. They brought Sheikh Mahmoud, the most persistent of Kurdish rebels, to heel, at little cost. Writing in 1921, Wing Commander J. A. Chamier suggested that the best way to demoralise local people was to concentrate bombing on the "most inaccessible village of the most prominent tribe which it is desired to punish. All available aircraft must be collected, the attack with bombs and machine guns must be relentless and unremitting and carried on continuously by day and night, on houses, inhabitants, crops and cattle."
"The Arab and Kurd now know", reported Squadron Leader Harris after several such raids, "what real bombing means within 45 minutes a full-sized village can be practically wiped out, and a third of its inhabitants killed or injured, by four or five machines which offer them no real target, no opportunity for glory as warriors, no effective means of escape."
In his memoir of the crushing of the 1920 Iraqi uprising, Lieutenant-General Sir Aylmer L Haldane, quotes his own orders for the punishment of any Iraqi found in possession of weapons "with the utmost severity": "The village where he resides will be destroyed ... pressure will be brought on the inhabitants by cutting off water power the area being cleared of the necessaries of life". He added the warning: "Burning a village properly takes a long time, an hour or more according to size".
Punitive British bombing continued throughout the 1920s. An eyewitness account by Saleh 'Umar al Jabrim describes a raid in February 1923 on a village in southern Iraq, where bedouin were celebrating 12 weddings. After a visit from the RAF, a woman, two boys, a girl and four camels were left dead. There were many wounded. Perhaps to please his British interrogators, Saleh declared: "These casualties are from God and no one is to be blamed."
One RAF officer, Air Commodore Lionel Charlton, resigned in 1924 when he visited a hospital after such a raid and faced armless and legless civilian victims. Others held less generous views of those under their control. "Woe betide any native [working for the RAF] who was caught in the act of thieving any article of clothing that may be hanging out to dry", wrote Aircraftsman 2nd class, H. Howe, based at RAF Hunaidi, Baghdad. "It was the practice to take the offending native into the squadron gymnasium. Here he would be placed in the boxing ring, used as a punch bag by members of the boxing team, and after he had received severe punishment, and was in a very sorry condition, he would be expelled for good, minus his job."
At the time of the Arab revolt in Palestine in the late 1930s, Air Commodore Harris, as he then was, declared that "the only thing the Arab understands is the heavy hand, and sooner or later it will have to be applied". As in 1921, so in 2003.
What World War I's Greatest Poet Would Say
About Hiding Our War Dead
When World War I broke out, the English saw going
off to battle as a fine thing to do. They embraced the Latin poet Horace's
dictum, ''Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori'' -- It is sweet and proper
to die for one's country. But four years later, that romantic notion had
been shattered by the grim reality of the mustard-gas-laced killing fields,
and by the bitter words of Wilfred Owen, a British officer now recognized
as the greatest poet of the Great War. Owen reported from the battlefields
of France that, contrary to the prettified accounts being served up, the
war he witnessed was full of blood ''gargling'' up from ''froth-corrupted
lungs'' and ''vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues.''
Owen's subject was, he declared, ''war, and the pity of war.'' He expressed it through dark word portraits, in which dead and dying young men were stripped of any glory or sentimentality. Owen himself became one of these inglorious casualties when he was killed in action at the age of 25, just days before the war's end, 85 years ago this week.
A revered figure in England, Owen found a large American following during the Vietnam War. He is often portrayed as antiwar, which he was not. What he stood for was seeing war clearly, which makes him especially relevant today. The Bush administration has been loudly attacking the news media for misreporting the Iraq conflict by leaving out good news. Owen would counter -- in vivid, gripping images -- that it is the White House, with its campaign to hide casualties from view, that is dangerously distorting reality.
Owen was born in western England, near the Welsh border, to a middle-class family. When the clouds of war were gathering, he was embarking on a literary life. Like many young British men, he was caught up in war fever. As Dominic Hibberd, a leading Owen scholar, relates in a recent biography, Owen reacted to the German threat by writing a poem in which he approvingly cited Horace's dictum, adding that it was ''sweeter still'' to die in war ''with brothers.''
He wrote to his mother, ''I now do most intensely want to fight.'' Owen got his wish. He volunteered for the army in the fall of 1915, and was sent to France. Being there gave him a ''fine heroic feeling,'' he wrote his mother a few months later. But before long, Owen was nearly killed by a German sniper. Then, while stumbling in the dark, he fell into a 15-foot pit and ended up with a concussion. ''I have suffered seventh hell,'' he wrote his mother.
A large shell exploded near his head weeks later, throwing him into the air, and another, ghoulishly, exhumed a comrade, depositing his corpse nearby. Owen was haunted by blood-soaked dreams and, after a diagnosis of shell shock, he was committed to a war hospital. He befriended a fellow patient, the poet Siegfried Sassoon, and embarked on his most prolific period of writing. For Owen, the romance of war was by now long gone. He wrote of one wounded soldier, ''heavy like meat/And none of us could kick him to his feet.''
While convalescing, Owen wrote his greatest work, ''Dulce et Decorum Est,'' in which he provided a biting new take on Horace's assessment of death in battle. The poem is an account of a gas attack, and of one soldier too slow to put on his ''clumsy helmet'' who ends up ''guttering, choking, drowning.'' Owen concludes by caustically telling the reader that if he had been there, ''you would not tell with such high zest/To children ardent for some desperate glory/The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est/Pro patria mori.''
When he recovered, Owen was sent back to France to fight. Ordered to lead his troops across a canal into heavy enemy machine gun and mortar fire, he was killed in the crossing. His mother received a telegram reporting his death on Nov. 11, 1918, the day the war officially ended. Owen, who was commended posthumously for inflicting ''considerable losses on the enemy,'' was no pacifist. He told his mother he had a dual mission: to lead his men ''as well as an officer can'' but also to watch their ''sufferings that I may speak of them.'' Owen was right that an honorable approach to war requires both ably leading troops on the battlefield, and reporting honestly what occurs there.
The Bush administration, however, is resisting this honorable approach. In its eagerness to convince the public that things are going well in Iraq, it is leading troops into battle, while trying its best to obscure what happens to them. President Bush is not attending soldier funerals, as previous presidents have, avoiding a television image that could sow doubts in viewers' minds. He avoids mentioning the American dead -- and the injured, who are seven times as numerous. The Pentagon has sent out emphatic reminders that television and photographic coverage is not allowed of coffins returning to Dover Air Force Base.
There are already signs of public unease. Representative George Nethercutt, a Republican running for the Senate in Washington, was criticized last month for saying the media were focusing on ''losing a couple of soldiers every day'' rather than the ''better and more important'' story of progress in Iraq. (Mr. Nethercutt later complained that some accounts left out that he said losing the soldiers ''heaven forbid, is awful.'') But Mr. Nethercutt's was just the sort of bland formulation that would have driven Owen wild.
Americans are already considering the relative merits of staying the course in Iraq, putting in an international peacekeeping force, and even pulling out. It is a somber debate, with great consequences for this nation, and the world. We must enter into it with full information, without lapsing into what Owen trenchantly called ''the old lie'' -- or new ones.
things went very badly wrong. After three years the Iraqis started
asking, "Where is this democracy? Where is the state you promised
us? And where is the prosperity?" In June 1920 an extremely violent
revolt broke out across the south and center of the country and spread
up to the north. The British faced 131,000 tribal people with modern
rifles, fighting to kick them out of the country. It took them until
February 1921 to secure Iraq, to get back in control of the country.
As the dust settled, the British found that 400 of their own troops had
died, 2,000 casualties and 40 million pounds had been spent. Now,
this had extreme ramifications for the government back in London.
At the end of the First World War a British population weary of conflict,
weary of high taxes, were calling for the troops to come home quickly.
The next election was fought on the very issue of why British troops were
in Iraq, why was it mucking about with this God-forsaken country on the
fringes of empire and, indeed, the war-time coalition of Lloyd George and
Winston Churchill were thrown out by the British population as being too
jingoistic, overreaching the power of Britain. The next elected prime
minister was elected on the very prophetic slogan -- "we cannot be the
policeman of the world."
So, it is this moment, in February 1921, I would argue, that the British intentions of building a modern powerful state were dropped, driven by the competing pressures of the promises the British had made to the League of Nations set up by Woodrow Wilson. The promises were made through General Moore to the Iraqi people Amid the ever-increasing pressure of a cynical and angry electorate -- the electorate won back in Britain. Short cuts were taken and the state that was set up was shoddy, it was weak and it didn’t fulfill the promises given when Baghdad was seized in 1917. The result is where we find ourselves today. After the British left in 1932, not doing the job they promised, Iraq became a fulcrum of regional instability, but the Iraqi people suffered under one dictatorship after another and the wider Middle East suffered under unstable countries run by governments that would rather embark on overseas adventurism than help the needs of their population. ...
To conclude, to sum up and to bring back the things of the first half of my talk. What does it mean to build a state, and more important for us today, what does it mean to build a state in Iraq? Prime Minister Blair and President Bush promised the Iraqis in the run up to the war the stability, prosperity and democracy and that’s going to take up to a generation, that’s going to take from us the British and you the Americans, a massive commitment, a commitment to Iraq of money, expertise and soldiers. It’s going to be very difficult but I think we have to deliver on those promises. Now, the British in 1920 failed to deliver because they misunderstood the society. They tried to run money information and state institutions through these tribal sheiks, these tribal sheiks who represented no one but themselves, and when that failed, when the Iraqi population continually started uprising they resorted to something else. Again, another little known fact "shock and awe," the use of airpower, was invented by Winston Churchill in Iraq in 1920. They created these new technology airplanes and when a section of the Iraqi population revolted they bombed them into belligerent passivity. They would drop leaflets: "If you don’t pay your taxes, if you don’t abide by government laws, we’re going to bomb you" and when they didn’t they bombed them. So what you had was a population that was misunderstood and a population that was angry at the state that the British created. The state institutions didn’t get into society, they stopped at these figures of influence that didn’t have any influence, and eventually because they didn’t have any influence these institutions weren’t seen as legitimate. Now, the ramification of this was that when Iraq received its independence in 1932, each successive government had to use more and more violence to stay in control of society. So Saddam Hussein in this light can be seen not as the evil genius who’s meant to be responsible for all Iraq’s problems but a culmination of historical trends that were with Iraq from 1920, albeit vicious and nasty ones."
Last Iraqi Insurgency
By Niall Ferguson
LONDON — From Ted Kennedy to the cover of Newsweek, we are being warned that Iraq has turned into a quagmire, George W. Bush's Vietnam. Learning from history is well and good, but such talk illustrates the dangers of learning from the wrong history. To understand what is going on in Iraq today, Americans need to go back to 1920, not 1970. And they need to get over the American inhibition about learning from non-American history.
President Bush, too, seems to miss the point. ''We're not an imperial power,'' he insisted in his press conference on Tuesday. Trouble is, what he is trying to do in Iraq -- and what is going wrong -- look uncannily familiar to anyone who knows some British imperial history. Iraq had the distinction of being one of our last and shortest-lived colonies. This isn't 'Nam II -- it's a rerun of the British experience of compromised colonization. When Mr. Bush met Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain on Friday, the uninvited guest at the press conference -- which touched not only on Iraq but also on Palestine, Cyprus and even Northern Ireland -- was the ghost of empire past.
First, let's dispense with Vietnam. In South Vietnam, the United States was propping up an existing government, whereas in Iraq it has attempted outright ''regime change,'' just as Britain did at the end of World War I by driving the Ottoman Turks out of the country. ''Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators,'' declared Gen. Frederick Stanley Maude -- a line that could equally well have come from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld this time last year. By the summer of 1920, however, the self-styled liberators faced a full-blown revolt.
A revolt against colonial rule is not the same as a war. Vietnam was a war. Although the American presence grew gradually, it reached a peak of nearly half a million troops by the end of the 1960's; altogether 3.4 million service personnel served in the Southeast Asian theater. By comparison, there are just 134,000 American troops in Iraq today -- almost as many men as the British had in Iraq in 1920. Then as now, the enemy consisted of undisciplined militias. There were no regular army forces helping them the way the North Vietnamese supported the Vietcong.
What lessons can Americans learn from the revolt of 1920? The first is that this crisis was almost inevitable. The anti-British revolt began in May, six months after a referendum -- in practice, a round of consultation with tribal leaders -- on the country's future and just after the announcement that Iraq would become a League of Nations ''mandate'' under British trusteeship rather than continue under colonial rule. In other words, neither consultation with Iraqis nor the promise of internationalization sufficed to avert an uprising -- a fact that should give pause to those, like Senator John Kerry, who push for a handover to the United Nations.
Then as now, the insurrection had religious origins and leaders, but it soon transcended the country's ancient ethnic and sectarian divisions. The first anti-British demonstrations were in the mosques of Baghdad. But the violence quickly spread to the Shiite holy city of Karbala, where British rule was denounced by Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi al-Shirazi -- perhaps the historical counterpart of today's Shiite firebrand, Moktada al-Sadr. The revolt stretched as far north as the Kurdish city of Kirkuk and as far south as Samawah, where British forces were trapped (and where Japanese troops, facing a hostage crisis, were holed up last week).
Then, as now, the rebels systematically sought to disrupt the occupiers' communications -- then by attacking railways and telegraph lines, today by ambushing convoys. British troops and civilians were besieged, just as hostages are being held today. Then as now, much of the violence was more symbolic than strategically significant -- British bodies were mutilated, much as American bodies were at Falluja. By August of 1920 the situation was so desperate that the general in charge appealed to London not only for reinforcements but also for chemical weapons (mustard gas bombs or shells), though these turned out to be unavailable.
And this brings us to the second lesson the United States needs to learn from the British experience. Putting this rebellion down will require severity. In 1920, the British eventually ended the rebellion through a combination of aerial bombardment and punitive village-burning expeditions. It was not pretty. Even Winston Churchill, then the minister responsible for the air force, was shocked by the actions of some trigger-happy pilots and vengeful ground troops. And despite their overwhelming technological superiority, British forces still suffered more than 2,000 dead and wounded.
Is the United States willing or able to strike back with comparable ruthlessness? Unlikely -- if last week's gambit of unconditional cease-fires is any indication. Washington seems intent on reining in the Marines and pinning all hope on the handover of power scheduled -- apparently irrevocably -- for June 30.
This could prove a grave error. For the third lesson of 1920 is that only by quelling disorder firmly and immediately will America be able to achieve its objective of an orderly handover of sovereignty. After all, a similar handover had always been implicit in the mandate system, but only after the revolt had been crushed did the British hasten to install the Hashemite prince Faisal as king.
In fact, this was imperial sleight of hand -- Iraq did not become formally independent until 1932, and British troops remained there until 1955. Such an outcome is, of course, precisely what Washington should be aiming for today -- American troops will have to keep order well after the nominal turnover of power, and they'll need the support of a friendly yet effective Iraqi government. Right now, this outcome seems far from likely. What legitimacy will any Iraqi government have if the current unrest continues?
There is much, then, to learn from the events of 1920. Yet I'm pessimistic that any senior military commander in Iraq today knows much about it. Late last year, a top American commander in Europe assured me that United States forces would soon be reinforced by Turkish troops; he seemed puzzled when I pointed out that this was unlikely to play well in Baghdad, where there is little nostalgia for the days of Ottoman rule.
Maybe, just maybe, some younger Americans are realizing that the United States has lessons to learn from something other than its own supposedly exceptional history. The best discussion of the 1920 revolt that I have come across this year was in a paper presented at a Harvard University conference by Daniel Barnard, an Army officer who is about to begin teaching at West Point. Tellingly, Mr. Barnard pointed out that the British at first tried to place disproportionate blame for their troubles on outside agitators. Phantom Bolsheviks then; Al Qaeda interlopers today.
But for the most part we get only facile references to Vietnam. People seem to forget how long it took -- and how many casualties had to pile up -- before public support for that war began to erode in any significant way. When approval fell below 40 percent for the first time in 1968, the total American body count was already past the 20,000 mark. By comparison, a year ago 85 percent of Americans thought the situation in Iraq was going well; that figure is now down to 35 percent and half of Americans want some or all troops withdrawn -- though fewer than 700 Americans have died. These polls are chilling. A quick withdrawal would doom Iraq to civil war or theocracy -- probably both, in that order.
The lessons of empire are not the kind of lessons Americans like to learn. It's more comforting to go on denying that America is in the empire business. But the time has come to get real. Iraqis themselves will be the biggest losers if the United States cuts and runs. Fear of the wrong quagmire could consign them to a terrible hell.
Niall Ferguson, a professor of history at New York University and a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, is the author of the forthcoming "Colossus: The Price of America's Empire."
by Christopher Catherwood - Carroll & Graf • 2004 •
(reviewed by Richard M. Ebeling, Freeman; Dec 2004; 54,10; Academic Research Library; emphasis added)
Americans, it is often said, are in general ignorant
of history, both their own and that of other countries around the world.
This lack of historical knowledge and understanding means that too
many Americans cannot appreciate the context of many political events in
other parts of the globe.
For example, the political conflicts and atrocities that have occurred for more than a decade in the former Yugoslavia are the legacies of the peace treaties that followed the end of World War I. Prewar Serbia was expanded to include large parts of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, areas that contained Slovenians, Croats, Bosnians, as well as those populated by Macedonians, Albanians, Montenegrins, Bulgarians, and Hungarians. The Serbs dominated the government of this artificially created "Yugoslavia" in the years between the two world wars. Aftcr World War II, the country was kept together under the grip of a communist regime.
As the Cold War was ending and communism was losing its hold over Eastern Europe, the national, religious, and linguistic groups in Yugoslavia split apart. The wars and brutalities witnessed in this region of the Balkans since the early 1990s are a continuation of conflicts that predate World War I, when these groups were fighting both against the Turks, who had controlled much of this territory into the twentieth century, and among themselves for independence from and domination over each other. The settling of old scores between feuding groups, and the determination of political boundaries between these national, religious, and linguistic groups that were not allowed to be sorted out after 1918, have been playing themselves out before our eyes.
Another example of the legacy of World War I on contemporary global politics is Iraq. Before the war, what is now called Iraq was part of the Turkish Empire and was known as Mesopotamia—the ancient Biblical land of Babylon. During the war, the British, French, Italian, and Russian governments had signed a secret agreement to divide up most of the Turkish Empire among themselves. In the postwar period, some of this planned partition came to fruition as part of the peace treaties. France gained control of what is now known as Syria and Lebanon. The British acquired control of what became known as Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq, through "mandates" under the auspices of the League of Nations. (In 1899 the British had already established a "protectorate" over what is now called Kuwait.)
The story behind the creation of Iraq is told by Christopher Catherwood in his book Churchill's Folly: How Winston Churchill Created Modem Iraq. During World War I, the British had invaded this part of the Turkish Empire and occupied Basra and Baghdad. At the end of the war they marched up to Mosul in the north. Prominent figures in the British military already sensed the importance of the country's oil potential, though exploration had not fully shown the degree to which reserves were under the sand.
In early 1921 Winston Churchill was appointed Secretary of State for the Colonies as well as head of a Middle East Department responsible for Palestine and Iraq in the British government of Prime Minister David Lloyd George. He viewed his tasks as: (a) reducing British military expenditures in the colonial areas as much as possible to relieve pressure on the government's budget; and (b) assuring that stable governments were established in Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq to guarantee British political and economie interests in this region of the world, including security for the shipping and air routes to the "jewel in the crown" of the British Empire: India.
Churchill was determined to cut spending by reducing British ground forces to a minimum, yet at the same time maintain British control over these areas. He was persuaded that air power could replace ground troops, through the use of a bombing strategy to keep under control any restive "natives" who might attempt to revolt against British authority or those whom the British put into local power. Several times in the early 1920s, when various tribal groups in Iraq rose up in opposition to the British, the air force was put into action, bombing not only military targets but civilian areas as well. Killing and wounding women and children were considered a way of intimidating the population into submission. This included the use of mustard and other poison gases.
In May 1920 Churchill was a vocal advocate of implementing this bombing strategy, telling a cabinet meeting that poison gas "should be definitely accepted as a weapon of war." On another occasion in 1919, he said, "I do not understand this squeamishness a bout the use of gas ... I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against the uncivilized tribes." And one other time Churchill argued that "Gas is a more merciful weapon than high explosives and compels an enemy to accept a decision with less loss of life than any other agency of war. The moral effect is also very great. There can be no conceivable reason why it should not be resorted to."
Securing British control and influence over these areas of the Middle East required the establishment of "friendly" governments under British sponsorship. While there have long been references to "the Arabs" and pan-Arab nationalism, in fact, the Arabs have been splintered into different branches of the Islamic faith (mostly concerning who was legitimate heir to Mohammed's role as leader of the faithful) and tribal factions in various parts of Arabia.
The family of Saud under the leadership of Ibn Saud came out of World War I as a British-sponsored political power in the central part of the Arabian Peninsula. Along the Red Sea coast, the newly created Kingdom of Hijaz, which contained the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, was under the rule of King Hussein, head of the Hashemite branch of Mohammed's clan, the Quraishi. But in 1924 Ibn Saud's forces conquered the Hijaz and deposed Hussein.
The British established King Hussein's son, Abdullah, on the throne of "Trans-Jordan," that part of Palestine east of the Jordan River, since Palestine west of the Jordan had been promised as a Jewish homeland under the wartime Balfour Declaration. A descendant of Abdullah still reigns today in Amman, Jordan.
Hussein's other son, Faisal, had attempted to establish himself as ruler in Syria, although he was kicked out by the French. But he was to have another chance through the assistance of Churchill. Artificially carving out the boundaries of Iraq, and with little thought to the divergent groups now locked within the same borders, the British proceeded to set up a "native" government through which they could rule the country under the terms of thc Lcague of Nations mandate.
With the approval of the British Cabinet, Churchill schemed to establish Faisal as the king of Iraq. A limited and manipulated election process was set in motion, and Faisal assumed the role of ruler of Iraq in 1922. One additional problem in this process was that Faisal was a Sunni, the minority branch of Islam within the territory of Iraq. Thus Sunni political control over the Shiite majority long predated the more recent dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and was the product of British diplomatie intrigue.
Churchill and the British government soon found out that political puppets often resent and resist their role as marionettes at the end of strings held by someonc else. Within months of taking power, Faisal attempted to gain more autonomy and power for himself, while expecting the British to pay for the military, political, and economie costs of running the country. Churchill was frustrated and angry at Faisal's behavior, declaring in exasperation that "while we have to pay the piper we must be effectively consuhed as to the tune." The British were caught in a bind, because while they threatened to withdraw from Iraq and leave Faisal to his own devices, they were fearful that the country might fall to the aggressive Turks to the north, or—almost as bad—to the French, who would have liked to get their hands on the oil fields in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. So they had no alternative but to stay on, and pay a good part of Faisal's bills.
At the end of 1922, Lloyd George's government fell from power, and with it Churchill's position in the Cabinet; in the new election he lost his in seat in Parliarnent as well. But the consequences of the British creation of Iraq are still with us.
The rediscovery of chemical warfare
wikipedia (emphasis added)
During the Renaissance, people again considered using chemical warfare. One of the earliest such references is from Leonardo da Vinci, who proposed a powder of sulfide of arsenic and verdigris in the 15th century:
throw poison in the form of powder upon galleys. Chalk, fine sulfide of arsenic, and powdered verdegris may be thrown among enemy ships by means of small mangonels, and all those who, as they breathe, inhale the powder into their lungs will become asphyxiated.It is unknown whether this powder was ever actually used.
Chemical warfare in World War I
The French were the first to use chemical weapons during the First World War, using tear gas. The first full-scale deployment of chemical weapon agents was during World War I, originating in the Second Battle of Ypres, April 22, 1915, when the Germans attacked French, Canadian and Algerian troops with chlorine gas. Deaths were light, though casualities relatively heavy. A total 50,965 tons of pulmonary, lachrymatory, and vesicant agents were deployed by both sides of the conflict, including chlorine, phosgene and mustard gas. Official figures declare about 1,176,500 non-fatal casualties and 85,000 fatalities directly caused by chemical weapon agents during the course of the war.
To this day unexploded WWI-era chemical ammunition is still frequently uncovered when the ground is dug in former battle or depot areas and continues to pose a threat to the civilian population in Belgium and France. The French and Belgian governments have had to launch special programs for treating discovered ammunition.
After the war, most of the unused German chemical weapon agents were dropped into the Baltic Sea. Over time, the salt water causes the shell casings to corrode, and mustard gas occasionally leaks from these containers and washes onto shore as a wax-like solid resembling amber. Even in this solidified form, the agent is active enough to cause severe contact burns to anybody handling it.
Chemical warfare in the interwar years
After World War I, the United States and many of the European powers attempted to take advantage of the opportunities that the war created by attempting to establish and hold colonies. During this interwar period, chemical agents were occasionally used to subdue populations and suppress rebellion.
Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1917, the Ottoman government collapsed completely, and the former empire was divided amongst the victorious powers in the Treaty of Sèvres. The British occupied Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) and established a colonial government.
In 1920, the Arab and Kurdish people of Mesopotamia revolted against the British occupation, which cost the British dearly. As the Mesopotamian resistance gained strength, the British resorted to increasingly repressive measures, and Winston Churchill himself, in his role as Colonial Secretary, authorized the use of chemical agents, mostly mustard gas, on the Mesopotamian resistors. Mindful of the financial cost of suppressing the dissidents, Churchill was confident that chemical weapons could be inexpensively employed against the Mesopotamian tribes, saying "I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poison gas against uncivilised tribes."  Opposition to the use of gas and technical difficulties may have prevented the gas from being used in Mesopotamia (historians are currently divided on the issue). Chemical weapons had caused so much misery and revulsion in World War I that their use had become the ultimate atrocity in the minds of most people at the time. So much so, in fact, that in 1925, sixteen of the world's major nations signed the Geneva Protocol, thereby pledging never to use gas or bacteriological methods of warfare. While the United States signed the protocol, the Senate did not ratify it until 1975.
to eradicate chemical weapons
August 27, 1874: The Brussels Declaration Concerning the Laws and Customs of War is signed, specifically forbidding the "employment of poison or poisoned weapons."
September 4, 1900: The Hague Conference, which includes a declaration banning the "use of projectiles the object of which is the diffusion of asphyxiating or deleterious gases," enters into force.
February 6, 1922: After World War I, the Washington Arms Conference Treaty prohibited the use of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases. It was signed by the United States, Britain, Japan, France, and Italy, but France objected to other provisions in the treaty and it never went into effect.
September 7, 1929: The Geneva Protocol enters into force, prohibiting the use of poison gas and bacteriological methods of warfare. As of 2004, there are 132 signatory nations.
May 1991: President George H.W. Bush unilaterally commits the United States to destroying all chemical weapons and to renounce the right to chemical weapon retaliation.
The U.S. Congress has since passed legislation requiring the destruction of the entire stockpile by December 31, 2004. Official U.S. policy is to support the Chemical Weapons Convention as a means to achieve a global ban on this class of weapons and to halt their proliferation.
April 29, 1997: The Chemical Weapons Convention enters into force, augmenting the Geneva Protocol of 1925 by outlawing the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons.