Did Peter O’Toole Cause All the Problems in the Middle-East?

The following is another guest article by Dan McNeil of Cartridge World on South Campbell in Springfield MO.

This article may be intense for some however I found it a interesting read and should make you think.

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Peter O’Toole, who stars in one of my favorite movies, A Lion in Winter, (a sheer pleasure to watch) passed away a couple of years back. Alongside Katherine Hepburn, O’toole plays Henry II, a fading and cruel English king who torments and divides his three scheming sons by dangling succession to the throne in front of each of them.

Hepburn plays his queen, the unloved Eleanor of Aquitaine, who hopes to escape her tower exile by murdering Richard with the help of their sons.

Taking place at Christmas, this story of a supremely dysfunctional family has a bitingly funny script that is decidedly un-Christmassy.

R.I.P. Peter

What shall we hang? The holly or each other?
What shall we hang? The holly or each other?

Unfortunately, O’toole is best known for his performance in Lawrence of Arabia, which in my opinion is boring, boring, boring.  The real story of T.E. Lawrence, however, is fascinating, but just one small, disastrous piece of British double-dealing that made the Middle-east the must-see vacation paradise it is today.

1915—WWI and The Middle East

It was 1915 and the British were losing the war.  The front in France had degenerated into a muddy massacre, with hundreds of thousands on both sides dying in the trenches.  So the Brits decided to break the deadlock by sneaking in the back way, through the deserts of the middle east.

They tasked T.E. Lawrence with uniting the Arabs (who hated the Turks) against their Turkish masters and bad-guy allies, the Germans.

That's a pretty big gun there, Lawrence. I'll bet you could take a camel down with that.
That’s a pretty big gun there, Lawrence. I’ll bet you could take a camel down with that.

Lawrence, a pretty tough guy in spite of all those effeminate robes and curvy jewelly knives, proved his bravery to the Arabs by leading from the front.  In his first skirmish he even had his camel shot out from under him.

Afterward, he and his Arab compatriots examined the animal and discovered Lawrence, evidently a repressed camel-hater, had accidentally shot it in the back of the head.

But they all had a good laugh because the camel was asking for it.
But they all had a good laugh because the camel was asking for it.

But despite Lawrence’s small victories, the Arab tribes didn’t get along, often spending their days insulting each other with obscene family camel references, and cutting each others’ throats.  So the Brits enticed the Arabs with a sweet, sweet offer that would screw up the world for decades to come.

“Help us defeat the Turks, and we’ll give you a chunk of the middle east, including that place on the map known as Palestine,” said they.

Hold that thought.

Meanwhile, Back in France…

The French army was coming unhinged, with mutinies spreading all across the front.  Officers visiting the front even disguised their rank for fear of being lynched.

Desperate to save the army and revive morale, French General Petain instituted badly needed reforms to turn it around—longer leaves for the men, better food and medical care, and more firing squads.

Wait—what?

We've come to lift your morale.
We’ve come to lift your morale.

Problem was, whole divisions had mutinied.  And the generals, like all French officers imbued with a strong sense of tidy, realized that executing whole divisions would leave unsightly holes in the lines on their maps. So they ordered the commanders of any division that had refused to go “over the top” to draw lots. A few men from each division would be chosen at random, given a twenty-minute fair trial, found guilty, and shot.

Forget Lawrence of Arabia. Stanley Kubrick made an absolutely superb movie called Paths for Glory on this disturbing subject in the 60's. Rent it if you can.
Forget Lawrence of Arabia. Stanley Kubrick made an absolutely superb movie called Paths for Glory on this disturbing subject in the 60’s. Rent it if you can.

General Petain regained control of his armies, but the Brits knew the French were at the breaking point.  So they enticed the French with a sweet, sweet offer that would screw the world up for decades to come. “Just hang on and when we defeat the Turks, we’ll give you a chunk of the middle east, including that place on the map known as Palestine,” said they.

Hold that thought and don’t forget that other thought you’re supposed to be holding.

By All Means, Don’t Leave Out the Jews —or the Turks

The Brits, now in full Bernie Madoff mode, couldn’t help themselves.  Hoping to pull America into the war, and knowing the American Jewish vote was key, they issued the Balfour Declaration, announcing the future creation of an independent Jewish state— in that place on the map known as Palestine.

Hold that thought with all those other thoughts and then—ok—never mind, screw it.

Awarding Palestine to the Arabs, the French, and the Jews was pretty ballsy considering the Brits didn’t even own the place. Which is why the Turks just laughed when the Brits secretly informed them through diplomatic back-channels that if they’d abandon their German allies and pull out of the war, they could keep control of the Middle-east, including—wait for it— that place on the map known as Palestine.

Then Things Got Really Bad for the Brits

Britain’s middle-east lie-fest took an abrupt hit when suddenly, Russia, their ally in the east, decided to collapse and rudely didn’t tell anyone in advance.  In a country-wide spasm of uncontrolled violence, the communists overthrew the centuries-old Romanov dynasty, but in an act of surprising compassion, rescued the Czar and his family from angry mobs.

The communists then provided a private train and, showing the respect due a true Russian king, escorted the deposed Czar and his terrified family to their new home in exile…

...at the bottom of a very deep mineshaft
…at the bottom of a very deep mineshaft

With Russia out of the war, thousands of faceless German soldiers named Hans and a very significant one named Adolf, anxious to polish off the exhausted allies, abandoned the collapsing Russian front and, oom-pa bands blaring,  rolled like an out-of-control Octoberfest into France.

Where They Were In For a  Big Surprise

The Germans knew the Americans had arrived in France, several hundred thousand, but gave it little thought.  The Americans had no wartime experience and would surely break and run after the first few artillery barrages. And while it was true the army lacked experience, the Germans failed to realize that America, unlike Europe, was a gun culture.  Many of our guys were back-woods hunters, experts with old technology—black-powder muzzle-loaders.

Hunting to feed their families, and having to buy their own ammunition had made them deliberate, superb shots, easily capable of killing anything that moved—especially slow-footed, beer guzzling, schnitzel-eating Octoberfesters.

When the government handed these guys the superb British Enfield rifle and all the free ammunition they could and guess who the turkeys were.

The camel and this schnitzel-eating European were asking for it.
The camel and this schnitzel-eating European were asking for it.

When the two armies slammed into each other the human cost was horrendous.  In less than a year of war, the Americans suffered over a quarter million casualties.  But German losses were far higher, and exhausted from four years of war, the German army slowly gave way, then collapsed.  Suing for peace, the Germans withdrew from France.

Ironically, twenty-five years later, Americans would once again rescue the French, this time from the Nazis, earning the everlasting love and support of the French people.

Yeah, right. We saved French butts twice and guys like this clown never forgave us for that.
Yeah, right. We saved French butts twice and guys like this clown never forgave us for that.

Pop Quiz, Kids—After the War, Who Won the Palestine Lottery?

Was it the Turks, the French, the Jews, or the Arabs?

Not the Turks.  Their side lost the war.  They lost everything.

Not the French.  They traded most of their interest in the Middle-east for British assurance that if the Germans attacked again, the Brits would come to their aid.

Not the Arabs.  The Brits reneged on that deal.

That just leaves the Jews, right?  Nope, the Brits not only reneged on that deal, they took the Arab side and British commanders actually led Arab armies against the Jews in the 1948 war.

In fact, in the 1948 war, America and the Soviet Union backed the Jews, while the Brits backed the Arabs.  Wrap your heads around that one, history fans.

It was a trick question.  The Brits ended up in control of Palestine, which—if you think about it—was their plan all along.

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