01 April 2007

The Infidel's Guide to the Middle East
Section I: Look What World War I Shat Out -- The Origin of the Modern Middle East


“Arab.” The word sends shivers down your spine and bile up your throat. But how much do you really know about your bearded brothers and veiled sisters to the East? You know that they love hummus, they love Allah, and they love hating America; but do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shi’ite? Can you locate Lebanon on a map? Do you know if Yemen is a city or a country?

It’s okay if you don’t. Just by reading that first paragraph, you already know more about the Middle East than the average American. Besides, that’s what this blog is all about: knowing more than other people so that you sound smart at parties.

“But Matt,” you might say, “I don’t need to know anything about Arabs in order to hate them.” And that’s a fine attitude to have. Blind hatred is always a healthy and reliable mindset to live by. Sadly, sooner or later you’ll meet some asshole who will bring up all the injustices the Arabs suffered and how their poor and dysfunctional status has been caused by Western imperialism and blah, blah, blah. And what will you say then? You will need evidence to support your opinions; knowledge to turn your crass ignorance into an educated and well-rounded racial prejudice.

“But Matt,” you might interject, though I wish you wouldn’t, “thanks to the internet, I have access to thousands of essays written by specialists, professors, and plenty of other people who generally know more about the Middle East than you. Why shouldn’t I read those, instead?” Yeah, yeah, yeah. Go ahead and read those smarty-pants articles, with their actual facts backed by cited references. But I guarantee you that none of them will use the F-word.(1)

From the early 1500s until World War I, Arabia was the footrest of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman rule was so oppressive that, had they been around at the time, they probably would have called the Nazis “pussies,” but would say their hearts had been in the right place. About half a millennium passed while the Ottomans could think of no better way to pass the time than genocide, hunting intellectuals, and bocce ball (the Ottomans loved their bocce ball). Luckily for everyone except millions and millions of dead soldiers, World War I broke out.

The Turks, as the Ottomans now like to call themselves, or the Turkeys, as I like to call them, were at war with the British. For completely selfless reasons in no way relating to Egypt’s Suez Canal, the British opened a campaign to liberate Arabia, particularly the Egyptian region surrounding the Suez Canal. They enlisted the help of Sharif Hussein bin Ali, leader of the Arab resistance,(2) and granted him money, guns, and the film rights to Lawrence of Arabia. Also in exchange for Arabian help, the British made an unofficial promise—the best kind of promise—that, if they were to win the war, then Britain would support an independent Arab nation including most of the tribes of the Middle East.

As soon as the Arabs discovered which side of a gun to point away from themselves, and that those magic flying djinnis were actually just airplanes, they coordinated their efforts with the British and pushed the Turkeys out of Arabia. As a strange coincidence, around this same time the Turkeys decided that having the largest empire in the world was not, in fact, all that great, and opted instead for a reasonable amount of land where they could be almost, but not quite, European.

So, everyone was happy, especially the British, because they never had any intention of giving the Arabs their own country. Actually, Britain had made a secret agreement with France in which they devised a plan to split the Middle East between them. France would get the northern part and Britain would get the south. When deciding how officially to classify these territories, they chose the word protectorates, because bitches was not PC. This covert arrangement was called the Sykes-Picot Agreement, because the Arabs were to be “Syked” out of their own country.

Eventually, the Sykes-Picot Agreement developed so that Russia, a fellow ally in the war, could get some of that sweet, sweet Arabian land. However, after the 1917 Russian Revolution, no one wanted to give Communists anything, so their share of the territory was denied to them (“Syke Out!”). This chain of events led Vladimir Lenin, who never could take a joke, to release confidential papers outlining the plan; thus beginning the time-honored Arabian tradition of not trusting Whitey.

Not that it mattered much to Britain and France. They both had a dream of creating a region of chaos and turmoil right smack in the middle of the world; and they wouldn't let millions of pissed-off Arabs tell them otherwise. Some dreams are just worth fighting for.

Come back tomorrow when we will discuss Jews in the Middle East!


(1.) "Fuck."
(2.) Sharif Hussein’s resistance movement began when he proclaimed himself king of the Hejaz area of Saudi Arabia. Following the success of this self-appointed position, he then proclaimed himself Caliph, leader of all Muslims, and Sexiest Man Alive. People magazine later contended this last claim.

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Blogger Craig said...

Yeh, but but... the IRISH were colonialized by the English too, and THEY didn't have a problem with it!!
Oh, Wait......

Ok, yeh, but it's not like the terrorism of the Irish actually got them anywhere!!
Oh Wait....

(though, the situation in N. Ireland is not perfect... but it could be worse...)

4/02/2007 2:32 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

Damn, Matt-now every time I want to be smug about my knowledge of middleeastern politics others will know my source!

4/03/2007 11:39 AM  

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