Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, November 28, 2022

Brilliant Dipolomacy by a General: Maude's Proclamation of Baghdad

General Maude Leads British Troops into Baghdad,
11 March 1917

The following proclamation was issued to the inhabitants of Baghdad on 19 March 1917, by Lieut. General Sir Stanley Maude (1864–1917), shortly after the occupation of the city by British forces. The city had been captured from the occupying Turkish forces of the Ottoman Empire by the British Army, using mainly troops from India, just a few days previously. That was the high point of the Mesopotamian Campaign, the “forgotten” theatre of the First World War.  Maude was a very shrewd individual who knew just how to charm and flatter the people of Mesopotamia, as modern Iraq was then known, while asserting Britain’s rights over territories that had vast oil reserves.   After the withdrawal from Gallipoli, Maude was then sent to take over the less-than-successful British forces in Mesopotamia in 1916 after the disastrous defeat at the Siege of Kut. He proved to be an inspirational leader, reorganising the whole campaign and leading the so-called Samarrah Offensive which led to the Turks of the Ottoman Empire retreating en masse. Sadly, he died of cholera in November 1917.  British and American need for oil came to dictate all policies in the region. Maude’s wise words were forgotten.

The Proclamation of Baghdad

19 March 1917

Lieutenant General Sir Stanley Maude

To the People of Baghdad Vilayet: 

In the name of my King, and in the name of the peoples over whom he rules, I address you as follow:- 

Our military operations have as their object the defeat of the enemy, and the driving of him from these territories. In order to complete this task, I am charged with absolute and supreme control of all regions in which British troops operate; but our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators. Since the days of Halaka your city and your lands have been subject to the tyranny of strangers, your palaces have fallen into ruins, your gardens have sunk in desolation, and your forefathers and yourselves have groaned in bondage. Your sons have been carried off to wars not of your seeking, your wealth has been stripped from you by unjust men and squandered in distant places. 

Since the days of Midhat, the Turks have talked of reforms, yet do not the ruins and wastes of today testify the vanity of those promises? 

It is the wish not only of my King and his peoples, but it is also the wish of the great nations with whom he is in alliance, that you should prosper even as in the past, when your lands were fertile, when your ancestors gave to the world literature, science, and art, and when Baghdad city was one of the wonders of the world. 

Between your people and the dominions of my King there has been a close bond of interest. For 200 years have the merchants of Baghdad and Great Britain traded together in mutual profit and friendship. On the other hand, the Germans and the Turks, who have despoiled you and yours, have for 20 years made Baghdad a centre of power from which to assail the power of the British and the Allies of the British in Persia and Arabia. Therefore the British Government cannot remain indifferent as to what takes place in your country now or in the future, for in duty to the interests of the British people and their Allies, the British Government cannot risk that being done in Baghdad again which has been done by the Turks and Germans during the war. 

But you people of Baghdad, whose commercial prosperity and whose safety from oppression and invasion must ever be a matter of the closest concern to the British Government, are not to understand that it is the wish of the British Government to impose upon you alien institutions. It is the hope of the British Government that the aspirations of your philosophers and writers shall be realised and that once again the people of Baghdad shall flourish, enjoying their wealth and substance under institutions which are in consonance with their sacred laws and their racial ideals. In Hedjaz the Arabs have expelled the Turks and Germans who oppressed them and proclaimed the Sherif Hussein as their King, and his Lordship rules in independence and freedom, and is the ally of the nations who are fighting against the power of Turkey and Germany; so indeed are the noble Arabs, the Lords of Koweyt, Nejd, and Asir. 

General Maude

Many noble Arabs have perished in the cause of Arab freedom, at the hands of those alien rulers, the Turks, who oppressed them. It is the determination of the Government of Great Britain and the great Powers allied to Great Britain that these noble Arabs shall not have suffered in vain. It is the hope and desire of the British people and the nations in alliance with them that the Arab race may rise once more to greatness and renown among the peoples of the earth, and that it shall bind itself together to this end in unity and concord. 

O people of Baghdad remember that for 26 generations you have suffered under strange tyrants who have ever endeavoured to set on Arab house against another in order that they might profit by your dissensions. This policy is abhorrent to Great Britain and her Allies, for there can be neither peace nor prosperity where there is enmity and misgovernment. Therefore I am commanded to invite you, through your nobles and elders and representatives, to participate in the management of your civil affairs in collaboration with the political representatives of Great Britain who accompany the British Army, so that you may be united with your kinsmen in North, East, South, and West in realising the aspirations of your race. 

1 comment:

  1. The politicians would still have sold him down the road if it suited them, as they did with Lawrence.