Sunday, July 09, 2006  

Calling the ghosts

Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell — or Miss Bell, as the Iraqis still call her — is interred in the Anglican Church's cemetery in a raised tomb. It's dried up and crumbling in the Iraqi sun. The British delegations that used to pay homage stopped coming months ago because of the danger. A ring of jasmine trees and date palms planted last year by Ahmad Chalabi's daughter, Tamara, "in recognition of Gertrude Bell's historic contribution to Iraq" are mostly dead.
(how utterly appropriate)

NOW you conjure up Getrude Bell? Now?

NYT writer Dexter Filkens waxes lyrical about the hubris of empires past and present in Iraq. Apparently Filkens went beyond the Green Zone for a little cemetary jaunt and came up with a (probably not intentionally) portrait in linked futility (US and British dead). What Filkens seems to have forgotten is that Bell's exercise in playing the god of mapmaking has now come to full fruition in the mess that is Iraq today, as she blythly cut against great swaths of tribal lands and groups. He also seems to have forgotten that she helped install Faisal, creating a colonial situation with a monarchy, which eventually led to a coup which led to Saddam which led to...
You get the point.
And here we are again, with the American version of colonialism, with an army with a bit less class than the British (more predators, for one thing), still hated, still being waited out...
for the rest of the article, read here.
Like the Battle of Algiers, a reading of Gertrude Bell and Freya Stark would have been instructive before we went into Iraq- that is, providing anyone was paying attention to the lessons therein.

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