Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Brief History Lesson

Today I'll begin the long journey back to Baghdad from my TDY. While travelling, I finally finished A.M. Hamilton's Road Through Kurdistan. Hamilton was an engineer from New Zealand who during the British Mandate in Iraq built a road through the seemingly impassable mountains of Kurdistan. (While I was in the Kurdish region back in May, we drove what is still known as the "Hamilton Road.") Road Through Kurdistan is Hamilton's memoir (first published in 1938, I think) of his adventures in Kurdistan dealing with tribal sheiks, rebellions, and bandits from 1928-1932.

Towards the end of the book, the rumor is beginning to spread that the British will end their mandate in Iraq earlier than planned. Hamilton talks to British officer he knows, who is pessimistic about Iraq's future as an independent nation. "Captain Baker" predicted:
Whether it is fortunate or unfortunate for Iraq that we have armed the country -- both the Assyrians and the Arabs -- with British rifles, it is not for me to say. But it seems strange considering that only a few years ago we were confiscating every rifle we could lay our hands on in order to keep the peace. You know as well as I do that despite all our efforts we have not eradicated racial and religious hatreds in this land. Sooner or later someone is going to get excited, those guns will go off bang, and a whole lot of people will be killed.

Unfortunately, as the Assyrians, Kurds, and Shi'a can attest, Iraq's history since then is full of people getting "excited."