Date: Wed, 19 May 1999 23:08:47 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Abdullah the First & 1914 - MiD-EasT Century
It was sometime early in 1914 - the exact date not known for sure.
Lord Kitchener, Great Britain's man in charge of the Middle East, had
a very important visitor who had come to Cairo from Mecca to see him.
The visitor had been sent by his father, Sherif Hussein, the leading
member of the Hashemite family, at that time the traditional
guardians of Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina.
The visitor was a young Arab prince, Abdullah, son of Hussein of Mecca. And the Middle East has never been the same again. Abdullah's meeting with Kitchener had a decisive influence on the entire history of the Middle East throughout the rest of the century. In a sense, the Arab world has never freed itself from the shackles and intriques that began at this time.
And so the British-Hashemite alliance was born. Lawrence of Arabia
was soon to follow, Lawrence bonding with another of Hussein's sons,
Feisal, urging him to the Paris Peace Conference in 1918. It was at
this Anglo- American-French
Peace To End All Peace, as it has
come to be known, that the boundaries of today's Middle East were
carved out, twisting and disfiguring the contrived borders of the
region for all time. The dream of Arab unity was destroyed on the
alter of Arab tribal and family rivalries.
Additional deals with other Arab families -- the al-Saud's who were soon to defeat the Hashemites in Arabia, the al-Sabah's in Kuwait carved out of Iraq, and still others in Bahrain and the Gulf Emirates -- successfully divided the Middle East into small, competing, easily- manipulated and controlled entities that have continued until modern times.
It was only a few years after the Abdullah-Kitchener meeting in Cairo -- with the Ottoman Empire defeated and the Hashemites on the run from Arabia -- that the British created a throne for Abdullah in Amman, and another for his brother Feisal in Baghdad. Armed with British money and guns, but expelled from Arabia by ibn Saud, the Hashemites were thus able to establish their rule in this crucial areas to which they had no previous claim.
The young Abdullah fell to an assassin's bullet at al-Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem in 1951, the young Hussein at his side, the bullet meant for him deflected by the medals on his chest. Feisal's heir, Feisal the Second, was assassinated in 1958, the Hashemite clan dragged through the bloody streets of Baghdad, the country on the road to the Ba'ath counter- reaction that then lead to Saddam.
And now, in 1999, the great grandson of the Abdullah who met with Kitchener, Abdullah the Second, himself mothered by the daughter of a British military officer, Toni Gardner, now living quietly in the suburbs of Washington, sits on the last remaining Hashemite throne and is touring the Western world begging for more money and more guns as did his ancestors before him.
All at such a tremendous historic price in blood and fortune for the people and societies of the Arab world.