Samurai. This was the Japanese equivalent of the barons of England, feudal aristocrats in France and regional princes in Germany, who ruled the country while representing their king or emperor. They were the ruling caste by the 12th century. One century before these great Japanese warrior families were taking over power from the Emperor however. Towards the end of the 1180s, the victor of most of the battles, one Minamoto Yoritomo was given the special title of Shogun (emperor’s personal deputy) after his ending of the struggle between the Minamoto and Tairo families. (more…)
Nuri as Said, and what Iraq might have been. Though we think of Iraq as a Middle Eastern country, it is really West Asian, bordering on Turkey to the north, Iran on the east, Syria and Jordan to the west, and Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to the south. This land used to be known as Mesopotamia, and was the site of very early civilizations. It was actually called ‘The Cradle of Civilization’, but later in the seventh century after Christ it became a Muslim state after invasion from Arabia. Then the Ottoman Empire grabbed it in the sixteenth century and Turkish it remained until 1914/15 when British forces drove the Turks out.
After the Mesopotamian Campaign the country was occupied by Britain, granted responsibility under a League of Nations mandate (1920 – 32). In 1921 Amir Ahd Allah Faisal became King Faisal of Iraq, and British influence was strong, especially under the premiership of Nuri as Said (1888 – 1958). His was the last effective and sensible rule in that sad country.
Said set up the Iraq Development Board, using ever growing oil revenues for positive and constructive purposes. There were no collections of dozens of Rolls-Royce motor cars kept in specially designed hangars. Instead good roads and bridges were built, electricity and proper sewage disposal came to the villages, fresh water pipes were laid, schools, colleges and hospitals founded and financed. The beginnings of heavy industry were created. Iraq might by now have been among the richest and perhaps even happiest nations in the world, but by 1957 the pot was being stirred, as always happens, by revolutionaries.
Nuri said in 1957 that Iraq was not a real country at all; that it was an artificial creation, put together by Britain as an emergency measure; that it could not be managed by constitutional means, kindness and British-style laws. It required a tough approach, and resolute leadership, which the British disapproved. That disaster was imminent, and could not be reversed. The British Embassy declined to take any notice.
In 1958 Uri as Said, King Faisal and most of the royal family, Said’s cabinet of ministers and advisers were machine-gunned by military revolutionaries, a group which included the young Saddam Hussein. This was the beginning of Iraq’s long and apparently interminable martyrdom, still continuing today, even after the hanging of Saddam. If Nuri as Said had been allowed to finish what he started, there would have been no Iraq/Iran War, no Bush/Saddam wars, and the ancient Mesopotamian coastline might have been a favourite Riviera. But Life, and Politics, are not like that.
Is Spain democratic?
April of the year 2014 is with us, and one cannot really face the headache of the news on television every evening, because the country seems to be splitting into a number of segments, each with a jagged edge:
Andalucía is a bottomless (and I fear neglected) well of confusion and corruption; the latest discovery by the police is the possible stealing of more than 2000 million euros destined by Europe for adult education grants for unemployed youth. The female judge Alaya is still struggling womanfully with the Case of the EREs, involving hundreds of millions of euros supposedly contributed by the EU to assist Andalucía with the unemployment problem some years ago. Over 500 million euros have vanished. This case involves two ex-presidents of the autonomic region – Chavez and Griñan, plus a host of others. This unholy couple is under the protection of the Spanish Parliament, as they are senators now. They cannot be judged in Andalucía therefore, but in the Madrid Supreme Court. If only it were supreme! It is called ‘supreme’ but its judgments can be overturned by the Constitutional Court, which is the same in grammar as calling something ‘almost unique’ or ‘nearly unique’ when if a thing is unique it is unique. The word cannot be modified.
Mr Artur Mas the president of Cataluña, burdened with a ‘Rhodesia Smith’ Complex, is determined to continue his nearly hopeless fight to declare independence unilaterally from Spain. The Government in Madrid recently won – with a massive majority – a debate about whether or not Cataluña can consult the Catalans on this subject. The Congress and the Constitution say no. Mr Mas and Mr Homs continue saying yes. Now Mr Barroso from the European Commission speaks up saying that the Catalans should know that if Cataluña breaks away from Spain she will NOT remain in the EU: that Catalans will require a passport to visit family and friends in formerly neighbouring regions such as Asturias. In reply, Mr Homs tells the Catalans not to worry, for Barroso was not speaking officially. Perhaps he was speaking, observed by a hundred TV cameras, from his bath?
The Popular Party thought it had got rid of a pile of dodgy former ministers like Acebes and Cascos etc. But the official they did not dismiss was the one who is now causing all the trouble over the financing of political parties while robbing the till – Mr Bárcenas, who even looks like a Chicago gangster. He was the Treasurer of the Popular Party until a Spanish judge started (years ago) investigating his personal finances. The PP could do without Mr Bárcenas just now, when the cleaning of the Augean Stables by Mr ‘Hercules’ Rajoy is beginning to take effect.
Is Spain democratic? The answer is no for these reasons, though if you call it ‘representaive democracy’ it scrapes by: (1) If in an election, local or national, voters use their vote to elect a Party, not a Person, it is not democratic as such. (2) If, as happened recently in Andalucía, the people vote (albeit with insufficient majority) for an Opposition Party, it is clear that they wish that opposition party to rule. They have voted democratically. But Spain has a ‘Pact’ system, by which the party that lost the election can still win it, though not democratically, by forming a pact with a third party. In Andalucía the PSOE lost the election to the PP, but then pacted with IU, giving the combined couple a majority larger than that gained by the PP. So the PSOE continued ruling, and the PP, which had won the election, was left in opposition. (3) Again in Andalucía, the previous president decided to resign. He was replaced by a fellow party member, in this case a woman. She was never elected by the people of Andalucía as their president, but she is still the President. This is undemocratic.
The book is taking up all my time and I am doing it alone. Thanks for your patience. I shall try to write a post for General-history this week. Very best wishes, Dean.
The Sykes-Picot Agreement (‘Honesty in diplomacy is rare’)
In 1916 a secret agreement was signed between Britain and France, each country agreeing to take control of Turkey in the form of newly – made partitions. War was coming and the Ottoman Empire (q.v.) was inclined to join the Central Powers (q.v.). Britain would directly control the Baghdad /Basra region of southern Iraq, while France would have the north Syrian coast. In the rest of Mesopotamia and the interior of Syria, France would have indirect control in the north, and Britain in the south. Palestine, apart from a coastal section which would go to Britain would come under international governance.
But this was by no means all: Russia, in return for recognising the agreement, would receive part of Eastern Anatolia. The Agreement was therefore in conflict, morally at least, with the Husayn/McMahon correspondence, which had promised independence to Arabs in most areas. Russia, Bolshevik after the October Revolution (q.v.), nastily published the text of the Sykes/Picot lash-up, greatly embarrassing both France and Britain. The Arabs were convinced after this that Britain, in particular, was engaged in double-dealing, and insincere when making promises. In the Great War the actions of Laurence of Arabia in the Arab interest served to change the Arab view, and it is likely that Allenby’s successes could not have occurred if Laurence had not convinced the Arabs that not all British diplomats spoke with a forked tongue.
We must apologize for having removed all previous posts. This is the third time that we have suffered an attack from robots or spammers and even Google was starting to look down on us. Therefore the admin of this page has decided to erase all content and start again from scratch in order to solve all previous problems.
We did this knowing that we have many saved copies of all previous articles, at present being compiled in order to create a real book. The General-History Book, ideal for History Students, will be available for sale on Amazon.co.uk. Even Winston Churchill is happy for us up there, somewhere. . .
Best wishes from Dean Swift