Repetitive history.

Thanks to the weekend reading of Harpers, I have learned some interesting and important bits about the history of Iraq. After much border-shifting and general flourishing of cultures amidst war and defeat in the olden days, Britain stepped across to help early in the 20th century.

This is a snippet of what Lieut. General Sir Stanley Maude said to the people of Bagdhad in 1917, just after British occupation of Bagdhad:
But you people of Baghdad, whose commercial prosperity and whose safety from oppression and invasion must ever be a matter of the closest concern to the British Government, are not to understand that it is the wish of the British Government to impose upon you alien institutions. It is the hope of the British Government that the aspirations of your philosophers and writers shall be realised and that once again the people of Baghdad shall flourish, enjoying their wealth and substance under institutions which are in consonance with their sacred laws and their racial ideals.

(The whole proclamation is an interesting, somewhat chilling read.)

And, then I compare this to a I'm-the-best-in-the-world-type statement from President Bush, made back in September 2003, just over 6 months after the last war was declared on Iraq:
The success of a free Iraq will be watched and noted throughout the region. Millions will see that freedom, equality, and material progress are possible at the heart of the Middle East. Leaders in the region will face the clearest evidence that free institutions and open societies are the only path to long-term national success and dignity. And a transformed Middle East would benefit the entire world, by undermining the ideologies that export violence to other lands.
(Emphasis is mine. Is he kidding?)

Now, I know i'm just grabbing bytes from here and there to make a flimsy point, but does it strike anyone else as misplaced for the President to say this in congratulating the Iraqis on their recent democratic election?

The commitment to a free Iraq now goes forward. This historic election begins the process of drafting and ratifying a new constitution, which will be the basis of a fully democratic Iraqi government. Terrorists and insurgents will continue to wage their war against democracy, and we will support the Iraqi people in their fight against them. We will continue training Iraqi security forces so this rising democracy can eventually take responsibility for its own security.
(Emphasis is mine. Heaven forbid a war against [insert here].)

I am not a scholar of the Middle East - no siree - I guess i'm trying to find an angle on this that isn't just about protecting financial relationships. And now I uncover an old, old can of worms that seems to be revolve around just that, and has for ages and ages and ages. I continue to be surprised that Bush claims recent military efforts to be the panacea he does. There are some photos of what it looks like here.

[Note to self: Gertrude Bell seems like an interesting lady. One of very few British women in the Middle East when she was.]