by Hugh O’Neill
One of the oldest cities in the world, Damascus was already 2,000 years old at the time of Homer’s Trojan War (1200 BC). In order to understand the present, we have to place it within the context of the past. However, there is a caveat that only the winners write history and so the challenge to historians is to read between (and behind) the lines. Historians must also deploy their judgement of the various human factors in the events recorded, by whom recorded and why; they must also be aware of their own biases which inevitably influence their vision i.e. what they choose to see or ignore.
War may be defined as the deployment of mass violence to acquire resources of the many to benefit the few. Homer would have us believe that many thousands of Greek heroes left their homes and families for ten years so that King Menelaus could rescue Helen his queen who had been abducted by Paris, son of King Priam of Troy. We also learn from Homer of the cunning of the Greeks with their deception of the wooden horse. Ultimately, Troy was sacked in an orgy of extreme rapine and violence.
Such base behaviour had to be given a veneer of honour – hence Homer’s paean to heroic deeds and men as mere playthings of fickle gods who could be blamed for man’s extreme passions, his successes and failures, his fate. There is a line from Vergil’s Aeneid, which we can equally apply to Homer’s epics: “I fear the Greeks and the gifts they bear”. Perhaps Homer’s gift to the Greeks was both deception and self-deception. Never look a wooden gift horse in the mouth?
Troy sits at the southern entrance to the Dardanelles (the narrow straits connecting the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, the dividing line between Asia and Europe). The Gallipoli Peninsula forms the northern shore, and the name Gallipoli is from the Greek Kallis Polis (beautiful city). More than 3,000 years after the Hellenic fleet landed at Troy, an army of British Colonials in 1915 stormed the beaches of Gallipoli, but this time, there was no beautiful woman to be rescued. The official reason was to take Turkey out of the war and open up a front behind the Germans.
The much less heroic truth, however, is that Britain wanted the Ottoman Empire’s vast oil reserves and had already divided the spoils before the ANZAC landings. The ‘heroic’ deeds of Lawrence of Arabia were a complete sham: the British helped the Arab tribes throw off the Ottoman yoke in exchange for the British one. The 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement between Britain and France created vassal states to “divide and rule”.
Oil is essential for mechanized armies to wage wars and its control was a major cause of both World Wars and the current mayhem in the Middle East. Both CIA and MI6 have a long history of covert interference in the democratic processes in all the Arab countries to “protect UK/US interests”. The wars since 9/11 were planned well before that event, and needed only an excuse (“casus belli”) to put “boots on the ground”. It is notable that prior to Britain, US and France uniting in their latest unholy trinity to smite Syria, the ruler of Saudi Arabia visited all 3 capitals carrying his Midas cheque-book, spending billions on armaments to continue his war on Yemen, the poorest of all the Arab states.
Damascus has been fought over throughout its existence because of its strategic value. The story we know best is that of Saul of Tarsus: fresh from the stoning of St. Stephen on the road to Damascus, he was blinded by a great light and a voice from Heaven asking “Saul, Saul. Why do you persecute me?” When we look back to the stoning of Stephen, we find a story of his trial before the Sanhedrin Court for blasphemy, at which false testimony was presented. As Stephen was being stoned, he prayed that his persecutors be forgiven: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”. One of Moses’ Ten Commandments forbade the bearing of false witness: Fake News, Propaganda and Disinformation is the domain of the CIA and several other Western intelligence services.
Saul’s vision was restored by St. Ananias, when the scales fell from his eyes; Saul became Paul the Apostle. This story of bright light and revelation of truth is an apt metaphor for the precise moment of understanding when we move from the darkness of ignorance into the bright light of knowledge. We are all faced with this same choice: we can choose to remain in the dark with the multitude, or stand out in the bright light, but we must open our eyes (and our minds).
Perhaps our rulers got sloppy, or we are better informed because of the internet, but it is universally acknowledged that the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 by Bush & Blair was based on a pack of lies. UN chemical weapons inspectors could find no trace of Saddam’s alleged WMD stockpiles, despite all the claims of the US and UK governments. Dodgy dossiers were compiled, false testimony was manifest, and the UK’s CW expert Dr. David Kelly died in a mysterious suicide because he had admitted that the Government had “sexed-up” the “Dodgy dossier”. Two million people marched in London and 38 million throughout the world to protest against this invasion because we knew we were being lied to. If these governments lied then about the ‘evidence’ they claimed justified their illegal actions (which have resulted in the deaths of millions and 40 million refugees) and yet face no sanctions for their crimes, why should we believe they’ve suddenly begun telling the truth 15 years later?
If we can understand that our own governments lie in pursuit of “national interests” i.e. oil and arms sales, which results in the horrific killing and maiming of millions of innocents, plus thousands who are duped into killing and dying for their country, then it is clear that our governments’ amorality depends on our gullibility: the same old lie: “Dulce et Decorum est, Pro patria mori”? Democracy is predicated on an “informed” electorate: if all we consume is propaganda, then we cannot make informed choices: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”.
Whilst awaiting trial at Nuremberg, Hermann Goering admitted:
Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship…Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country