2ndlook

Indian Gunpowder – the Force Behind Empires

Posted in Business, European History, Gold Reserves, History, India, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on June 18, 2010
A vizcacha, relative of the chinchilla, in Chile's Atacama Desert. These herbivores are among few who thrive in the Atacama. (Photo shot on assignment for "The Driest Place on Earth," August 2003, National Geographic magazine) Photograph by Joel Sartore

A vizcacha, relative of the chinchilla, in Chile's Atacama Desert. These herbivores are among few who thrive in the Atacama. (Photo shot on assignment for "The Driest Place on Earth," August 2003, National Geographic magazine) Photograph by Joel Sartore

Arid, Desolate Atacama

On Chile’s northern border is the remote, arid Atacama desert. Desolate and dry, rain in Atacama happens once in 2-3 years. Some people living in the Atacama have never seen rainfall in all their lives. Yet, there is some sparse wildlife – a tribute to hardiness of living beings.

Strangely, the Atacama is home to a few ghost-towns – once boom towns. For five years, from 1879-1884, Bolivia and Peru fought with Chile over this rainless, arid and desolate terrain.

Behind this curious importance of the Atacama desert was nitrates. It was Atacama’s nitrates interestingly that broke an important British monopoly – based on India’s saltpetre production.

Untold secrets

In 1809-1810, the British had to mount a serious campaign in the Indian Ocean. The French, from their Indian Ocean naval bases at Île de France (Mauritius), Bourbon (Réunion) and Rodrigues, attacked East India Company ships carrying valuable saltpetre (also saltpeter, nitre, niter) – so essential for the Spanish War (1808-1809).

Indian saltpetre for could not reach Confederate armies due to Union naval blockade!

Indian saltpetre for could not reach Confederate armies due to Union naval blockade!

The British army, retreating across Spain, in harsh winter conditions, needed saltpetre. Under the onslaught of the French forces, ruthlessly pursued, the final escape of the British army, from Corunna was a miracle. The British General, John Moore’s death, at Corunna, Spain, was turned into a heroic ‘victory’. Charles Wolfe’s poem, The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna became essential reading for every English schoolboy.

In 1800, a son from a rich family of refugees from the French Revolution in America, after a survey of business opportunities in America, wrote

There already exist in the United States two or three mills which make very bad powder and which do however a very good business. They use saltpeter from India which is infinitely better than that which is produced in France but they refine it badly.

The son was Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, the family was the Du Pont family – and their firm is now known as EI du Pont de Nemours and Co. EU du Pont’s expertise in manufacturing saltpeter came from his training with the French Agency for Powder and Saltpeter (Regie royale des poudres et Salpetres) – and under the tutelage of Antoine Lavoisier, the French chemist, he boasted.

Behind the Dupont fortune was Indian saltpetre. Behind Lincoln’s success in the American Civil War was saltpetre. Behind Anglo-French confidence against Germany in WW1 was the control of the saltpetre deposits from India. Germans were able to sink many of these British saltpetre shipments. In turn, Germans with the Haber-Bosch process, in BASF factories, continued the war – without Indian saltpetre or Chilean nitrate supplies.

Saltpetre – what’s that?

What was saltpetre? Why was saltpetre important. Why did India play such an important role in saltpetre?

Unusually important, the chemical name of saltpetre is potassium nitrate – an essential ingredient in gunpowder. Indians had perfected the method of preparing potassium nitrate (KNO3). The other two ingredients in gunpowder being charcoal and sulphur – easily and freely available and cheap.

India’s military technology is history’s greatest ‘hidden’ secret. Official (and Western) portrayal of Indian military systems in the face of Islamic invaders, Mughal sultanate  and the rise of British imperialism makes out India as a sitting duck with ill-trained and terrified soldiers, armed with bows and arrows, who were hopelessly outclassed by the enemy.

Facts being otherwise, it raises questions about motives for this deliberate wrong portrayal.

The story from Mongolia

In the last 1000 years, there are sketchy records of gunpowder in India, with Rai Hamir Deva of  Ranathambore of the Malwa region, who supposedly used some Mongol deserters (1300 AD) to fight Khilji armies with gun powder. This may be misleading for two reasons.

Modern history credits China with the invention of gunpowder. Firstly, this is largely based on the work of a self-confessed Sinophile – Needham. With a dismissive one sentence, Needham opines, “On Gunpowder history in India, Oppert (1) was duly exploded by Hopkins(2).” And Indian history as the world’s largest producer of gunpowder was swept under the carpet. Needham conveniently ignores evidence like how

Jean Baptiste Tavernier recorded a local tradition in the 1660s that gunpowder and artillery were first invented in Assam from whence they spread to China and he mentioned that the Mughal general who conquered Assam brought back numerous old iron guns captured during the campaign.

Secondly, Mongol territories extended from Mongolia to the gates of Vienna and Russia – but not India. How is it that a few deserters-soldiers could establish the world’s largest gunpowder production system, so rapidly in non-Mongolian India. But, could not do so in conquered territories of China, Central Asia, Middle East, West Asia, and Europe.

A 100 years before Needham, India’s pioneering status in saltpetre was common knowledge. English publications, for instance in 1852 and another in 1860 gave weightage to the opinion of

those who believe that gunpowder was invented in India and brought by the Saracens from Africa to the Europeans; who improved its manufacture and made it available for warlike purposes.

Unlike China, with an odd textual reference or a drawing or a singular artefact, was the entire industry in India – which remained unrivalled in the history of the world. Compared to China’s paltry production of gunpowder, India’s widespread and organized gunpowder production system points towards indigenous development. There are reports, that in “664 an Indian visitor to China reportedly demonstrated the peculiar flamability of saltpeter and provided instructions on how to locate it (Pacey 1990, 16).”

Tall tales … thin stories

The deserter Mongol soldier source seems rather far-fetched considering that Mongol armies studiously avoided attacking India.  India, the richest economy of the world at that time, known and famous for its wealth, was spared by Genghis Khan! Just why would history’s foremost looter, invader, pillager spare India?

When Genghis Khan’s Mongol armies were running rampant, Islamic refugees found shelter in India, during the reign of Iltutmish. In 1221, Khwarezm-Shah and other Persian refugees, sought refuge in India, across the Indus into the Punjab, India, from Genghis Khan’s Mongol armies.

Encyclopedia Britannica says Fortunately, the Mongols were content to send raiding parties no further than the Salt Range (in the northern Punjab region), which Iltutmish wisely ignored …” (emphasis mine). As Indian military reputation waned under foreign Islamic rule, the Mongols mounted a military expedition. The Mongols could succeed in India only under the foreign rule of the much-derided Islamic Tughlaks.

Was Nalanda behind the gunpowder expertise in Bihar and Bengal region. A section of the Nalanda Mahavihara. The qualities of Buddhahood were personified in the vibrant style of art that was created in the university's intellectual atmosphere. (Picture by BENOY K. BEHL, courtesy: The Frontline). Click for larger image

Was Nalanda behind the gunpowder expertise in Bihar and Bengal region. A section of the Nalanda Mahavihara. The qualities of Buddhahood were personified in the vibrant style of art that was created in the university's intellectual atmosphere. (Picture by BENOY K. BEHL, courtesy: The Frontline). Click for larger image

India – the largest gunpowder source in the world

Now, combine saltpetre production with the fact that the heart of the Indian saltpetre production was in Bihar, which was also the home of the Nalanda seminary /university.

By the 16th-17th century,

In parts of India that never were frequented either by Mohammedans or Europeans, we have met with rockets, a weapon which the natives almost universally employ in war. The rocket consists of a tube of iron, about eight or ten inches long, and above an inch in diameter. It is filled in the same manner as an ordinary sky-rocket, and fastened towards the end of a piece of bamboo, scarcely as thick as an ordinary walking cane, and about five feet long, which is pointed with iron.

What about Europe

Saltpetre based gunpowder was in constant short-supply in Europe. Gold from the Americas, flowing into European trade channels, fuelled demand for gunpowder. Gunpowder became an essential ingredient for subjugation of natives, extraction of gold, capture of territories and slaves, piracy on the high seas – all the real reasons for ascent for European power.

The European gunpowder situation was grim. This can be gauged from “a letter of 1605 from the King of Spain to the Viceroy of Goa (the Portuguese trading settlement on the south-west coast of India) for example ordering the annual dispatch of 10 or 12 caskets of saltpetre.” Remember in 1605, Spain was the prime power European power. Compare that to the Indian situation.

When Raja Pratapaditya of Jessore capitulated to Islam Khan in 1609, he agreed to surrender twenty thousand infantry, five hundred war boats, and a thousand “maunds” (41 tons) of gunpowder.

Saltpetre from India kept the British 6-pounders busy at Waterloo!

Saltpetre from India kept the British 6-pounders busy at Waterloo!

The outcome of Waterloo can be gauged from a forgotten statistic – “In the year before the battle of Waterloo (1815) the East India Company exported 146000 cwt. of saltpetre to England.” 146,000 cwt is  7300 tons of saltpetre. British Ordnance Board powder mills in 1809,

produced 36,623¾ ninety pound barrels of powder and private contractors using government supplied saltpetre a further 24,433 ninety pound barrels. Some of British munitions output was supplied to allied governments: Portugal received in the years 1796-1801 … 10,000 barrels of powder, 500 tons of saltpetre; the British Government put into execution the gigantic plan of being a depot, the manufactory, the place of arms, and the centre of the European war

Spain and Sweden also received munitions for fighting on the British side against Napoleon. British victory at Waterloo, was in no small measurethanks to the use of Indian saltpetre, British gunpowder was widely recognised to be far superior to the charcoal-like French product.” British creditworthiness received a boost just before Waterloo. British debt, trading at 25% discount in 1813, was boosted by Indian gold, in 1813, procured by Britain.

Western historians now reluctantly admit, that without the “accumulated credits from Indian transfers since 1757, Britain’s financing of land warfare during the French wars could have been compromised.” Napoleon and France could not “march their combined armies to India, and strangle the supplies of British gold that had been financing successive coalitions against France.”

Without the advantage of Indian saltpetre, with a threatening Britain

in 1792 France was able to face danger on all sides, it was because Lavoisier, Fourcroy, Guyton de Morveau, Chaptal, Berthollet, etc., discovered new means of extracting saltpetre and manufacturing gunpowder.

Some 6000 factories manned by ‘salpetriers worked in France to overcome the naval blockade.

Meanwhile in India

Malwa’s rulers recruited  Purbias from Bengal and Bihar for their expertise in gunpowder. The British initially valued and later (after 1857) feared the Purbias for the same reason. The other reason was an established saltpetre production in the Malwa region till the 19th century. In Punjab, the main centres were Lahore, Hissar, Multan and Amritsar.

India’s gunpowder production system

India was the largest gunpowder production system – in the history of the world, till the 20th century. Specifically Bengal and Bihar regions. Operated by a caste of peoples called the nuniah, saltpetre beds supplied the most vital element in gunpowder – saltpetre. And India produced virtually all of it.

Especially, Bihar, Bengal, Agra and Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Karanataka regions (Anantapur, Coimbatore, Guntur, Kurnool). The Guntur Sircar also manufactured saltpetre on a commercial scale. A mid 17th century Royal Society paper documented how saltpetre was made in India. Most of the miniscule amounts of saltpetre produced in the rest of the world was calcium nitrate, a hygroscopic salt, which spoilt easily by absorbing moisture from air.

The Armenians, the ill-fated Omichund, a “notorious Calcutta merchant who was later to engineer the Plassey Revolution” played an important part in the Bengal/Bihar saltpetre trade. They were all significant players in the export of saltpetre (potassium nitrate). Also known as niter, saltpetre was a necessary ingredient for gunpowder.

Gunpowder becomes a British monopoly

After the annexation of Bengal,

“By seizing Bengal, the British exerted mastery over 70 percent of the world’s saltpeter production during the latter part of the eighteenth century. Since powder stocks could not be prepared quickly or easily, demand was no less during peaceful interims than during times of war, for, in addition to normal sales for peaceful purposes, gunpowder was steadily purchased or produced to build up military powder reserves for emergency use.

One reason why China developed fireworks, rockets, and other incendiaries rather than shot-firing artillery was China’s reliance on artificial saltpeter for making gunpowder. The Chinese also often used a higher proportion of charcoal and sulfur, which resulted in more fire and less ballistic strength. (16) India, on the other hand, produced saltpeter of very high quality, enabling the development of gunpowder weapons, in particular heavy siege guns, in addition to rockets. In many ways, Indian gunpowder making was more advanced than that of China, particularly regarding the strength of the final product, in its commercial organization, and in its application to military purposes.

As early as the 1460s, nearly forty years before the commencement of the East India trade, these Persian sources make it clear that the rulers of Jaunpur and Bengal already had organized saltpeter production as state monopolies managed by their chief merchants.

India was roughly a century ahead of Western Europe in terms of developing the infrastructure for gunpowder technology. It is significant, though, that gunpowder was not shipped to India from Europe in any significant quantities. By 1617, the Portuguese king had joined the general European clamor for more saltpeter. The capitalization of the saltpeter trade at Rajapur was in the hands of Saraswat Brahmins, with investors participating from as far away as Goa and Diu. Shivaji (r. 1664-1680) and his successors made nitrate procurement into a state monopoly, thus forcing the Portuguese, their Indian agents, and Banjara peddlers to deal with the Maratha state.

The Mughal Empire has been styled a “gunpowder empire,” which is a debatable characterization. (34) It is clear from Mughal records that guns were important, if only as symbols and occasional instruments of imperial power. The victory of Babur (r. 1526-1530) over Ibrahim Lodi (r. 1517-1526) often is attributed to his use of artillery, however, Babur himself valued his own judgment at least as much as his Turkish guns. (35) After the Battle of Panipat (1526), the first Mughal ruler ordered executions by firing squad, which are some of the first such killings recorded. Contemporary descriptions of Babur’s battles, however, emphasize the continuing dominance of cavalry, with guns present but not decisive. Nevertheless, warfare was changing in South Asia. Babur’s eldest son and successor, Humayun (r. 1530-1539/1555-1556), was keen to bring Rumi Khan, the Turkish artillery expert employed by the Sultan of Gujarat, over to his side. (36) The widespread use of firearms by Sher Shah (r. 1540-1545) during the brief Sur interregnum is significant, as is the fact that Sher Shah himself was killed by a gunpowder explosion. (37) The early sixteenth century, for India, was a time of significant military change, a watershed between the age of the blade and the age of the gun.

Sher Shah realized that a large army of peasant matchlockmen, recruited and paid by the state, could only exist in the context of a bureaucratic regime with enhanced revenue-collection capabilities and in a kingdom with strong commercial institutions. This lesson was not lost upon Akbar (r. 1556-1605), whose advisor, Abu al-Fazal, adopted many of Sher Shah’s innovations. The rising importance of the saltpeter trade, as well as its lowly origins, may be gauged by the meteoric rise of the warlord Hemu, who had opposed Akbar’s accession to the throne. Akbar’s biographer-courtier, Abu al-Fazl, uncharitably informs us that Hemu was a member of “the Dhusar tribe, which is the lowest class of hucksters in India. At the back lanes he sold saltpetre (nimak-i-shor) with a thousand mortifications … till at last he became a government huckster….” As Akbar’s army set out to challenge Hemu, their spirits were roused by a giant image of the saltpeter merchant-turned-general, filled with gunpowder and set on fire. (38) Ironically, Hemu was killed by the Mughals not with a musket shot, but in the old-fashioned style, with an arrow in the eye, followed by a sword blow to the neck.

Significantly, Sher Shah’s infantry, carrying firearms, were recruited from the eastern Ganges Plain, the same region in which saltpeter production had already become an important component of the regional economy. Later, this area provided infantry for the Mughals and eventually for the British, too. (from The Indian saltpeter trade, the military revolution and the rise of Britain as a global superpower. from: The Historian, Article date: September 22, 2009, Author: Frey, James W.)

After obtaining this vital monopoly, Britain protected this. Saltpetre exports were banned. Thus an ancient Indian technology was harnessed by the English to subjugate the Indian.

From gold came saltpetre, which made getting gold easier

Greater access of saltpetre to the British and with the shutting out of other European powers, saltpetre became essential for other European powers, because English had it. It became rare, as the English monopolised the trade.

In 1775, the French scientific publication, Observations sur la physique a proposal by Academie Royale des Sciences for increased saltpetre production within France.  Finally, a prize was announced in 1783. Nicolas Leblanc set up a factory at St.Denis, during 1791-194, near Paris for manufacture of saltpetre in France. The whole of France was mobilized for this saltpetre collection and gunpowder production.

Directions for gathering of saltpeter were printed and sent all over France. The prescribed recipe for saltpeter, charcoal, and sulphur was dispatched to the flour mills and the powder was ground according to simple specifications. Each district was directed to send two citizens to Paris for a month’s course in the casting of bronze and iron and in new methods for the manufacture of powder. (from From crossbow to H-bomb By Bernard Brodie, Fawn McKay Brodie.).

At the start of the American Civil War, against the Southern  Confederates, The North started with the benefit of a stockpile of some 3 million pounds of niter – i.e. saltpetre. The Confederates  sent James Mason and John Slidell to obtain saltpetre from Britain – and not empty diplomatic recognition from European powers. Mason and Slidell were captured by Unionist forces. Britain demanded release of Mason Slidell. Lincoln refused.

Queen Victoria issued a proclamation forbidding the export from all ports of the United Kingdom, of gunpowder, nitre, nitrate of soda, brimstone, lead, and fire-arms.—London Gazette, Dec. 4.

Britain imposed a ban on exports of saltpetre. Known in history as the Trent Affair, as Union saltpetre stocks went down, Lincoln backed down and agreed to release Mason and Slidell. Prices of saltpetre skyrocketed from some US$0.20  to US$3.0 within one year after the war began. The  Confederates established a Niter Corps to manage this shortage. British godowns overflowing with Indian and Egyptian cotton, did not really depend on Southern cotton, declared neutrality – and supplied both sides with Indian saltpetre.

Well understood by the US Government, C.H.Davis, of the Bureau Of Ordnance, Navy Department, on November 22, 1862 reported to the US Congress,

I feel it, therefore, to be my first duty to urge that suitable provision of ordnance material be made for probable future necessities of the Navy. Most important among them is nitre, which enters so largely into the composition of gunpowder that it may be said to be gunpowder itself, with some slight additions of sulphur and charcoal under proper combination.

It is not produced naturally in this country, nor by any other but India, except in insignificant quantities.

Hindostan alone supplies the whole world, which being a British dependency, places us entirely at the mercy or caprice of that power for our stock of this essential article.

India's widespread manufacture of saltpetre was private enterprise! Without state subsidy or support! (Picture by BENOY K. BEHL, courtesy: The Frontline). Click for larger image.

India's widespread manufacture of saltpetre was private enterprise! Without state subsidy or support! (Picture by BENOY K. BEHL, courtesy: The Frontline). Click for larger image.

End of the saltpetre era

With the arrival of Chile’s nitrate (sodium nitrate – NaNO3) deposits in Atacama desert, the world was weaned away from Indian saltpetre. Chilean nitrates were used to derive nitric acid, a key intermediate for explosives manufacture.

Chilean nitrate was sodium nitrate, (NaNO3), which could be used to derive nitric acid. Nitric acid was used for manufacture of explosives. HAPAG, the Hamburg based shipping line,  became the biggest in the world, carrying Chilean nitrates to Germany. The end of Boer War (1899-1902) saw the emergence of Germany as a major producer of munitions – especially the smokeless gunpowder. Even Britain started buying from Germany.

For a brief while, guano, a natural fertiliser composed of bird droppings, was also a source of nitrates for explosives. But, with the Haber-Bosch process, Germany could manufacture explosives – without the Chilean nitrate.

With the discovery of nitroglycerine and TNT and its widespread commercialization by Alfred Nobel (of Nobel Prize fame) from the 1860s onwards, this British saltpetre monopoly end. As the British monopoly over gunpowder started weakening, the British policy changed.

Pirate nation to super-power

Till 1856, sea piracy was legal.

The British crown gave permits for pirates to operate on high seas – through, what were known as, letters of marque. With the sanction of the English State, high seas piracy became a national pastime in Britain. Pirates like Sir John Hawkins made money on slave trade and piracy – targeting Spanish ships. Queen Elizabeth, apart from knighting him, also participated in these criminal enterprises. The Spanish Armada was assembled by Spain to end British piracy. Further on, British propaganda made these pirates and privateers into heroes – and the Spanish Armada into an instrument of Catholic repression.

Piracy was outlawed by The Declaration of Paris, in 1856, ratified by various powers. Initially by Austria, France, Great Britain, Prussia, Russia, Sardinia and Turkey – but not by Spain, Portugal and the USA. Soon after, Britain became a buyer of explosives, munitions. Challenges to British power started soon after this.

In less than than a 100 years after invention of alternates to Indian saltpetre, Britain was a shadow of its former imperial self.

The end of Indian saltpetre

To cover the cost of the Anglo-Indian War of 1857, the British Raj increased taxes on saltpetre. British traders from India started clamoring for a reduction in export duty from 1860 onwards. From more 20,000 tons of saltpetre exports in 62-62, it fell to around 11000 tons by 1865, and continued declining there after.

By which time, Britain was already the preeminent power in the world. On the back of Indian gunpowder factories.

Behind the Dupont chemical empire and  fortune was Indian saltpetre.

The Carving Of The Middle East

Posted in Current Affairs, History, Islamic Demonization, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on February 21, 2008

How Western interventions and misdirections have affected the Middle east over the last 100 years.

Balfour Declaration

Arthur James Balfour, Author of the Balfour Declaration

After WW1.

After the guns fell silent, sharp knives came out. Victorious allies of WW1, proceeded to carve up the Ottoman Empire, stretching from the Middle East to Central Asia to the Eastern Europe – the modern successor to the ancient Assyrian Empire.

In 1916, an expert on West Asia, believed that ‘dismemberment of Turkey is the goal which Europe has steadily aimed at’, for at least the previous 400 years.

“Just as Europe turns upon the dismemberment of Turkey, so the Eastern question in Asia turns upon the continued solidarity of Hindustan” By George Nathaniel Curzon Curzon (Marquis of) in Problems of the Far East: Japan–Korea–China; published in 1894.

TE Lawrence, a British spy, posing as archaeologists, determined the fate of millions in the Middle East. Another British spy, a team-mate of TE Lawrence, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell made the selection of the King Of Iraq.

Gertrude of Iraq

Gertrude Bell, with her dubious contribution, was another imperial figure, “the first woman officer in British military intelligence … Coming from the sixth-richest family in Britain, she was “dedicated (in her) opposition to the suffragettes and the extension of the vote to women

Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell

She also campaigned actively against female suffrage. Despite her own achievements, she accepted the prevailing Victorian view that women were not qualified to make decisions about affairs of state. And as a daughter of the establishment, she was offended by the militancy of the suffragist movement.

Why give the vote to more people? Especially, poor women. Gertrude of Iraq, messed with the Middle East, only to commit suicide in 1926, with an overdose of sleeping pills. Preceding the death of (TE) Lawrence of Arabia in 1935.

The Middle East campaign during WW1, against the Turks was ridden with conflicts. The Balfour Declaration, the side alliances with the local tribal chieftains and the claims by the Indian Colonial Government. The India Office supplied the critical Indian troops against the Ottoman Turks, in the hope that the Middle East territories would be attached to the Indian colonies.

The artificial and cynical policies of the British lived on after their departure.

Yet Bell and her superior as British high commissioner, Sir Percy Cox, laid down policies of state in Iraq that were taken up by Saddam’s Arab Ba’ath socialist party. Those policies were to retain, if necessary by violence, the Kurdish mountains as a buffer against Turkey and Russia; to promote Sunni Muslims and other minorities over the Shia majority; to repress the Shia clergy in Najaf, Kerbela and Kazimain, or expel them to Iran; to buy off the big landowners and tribal elders; to stage disreputable plebiscites; and to deploy air power as a form of political control. “Iraq can only be ruled by force,” a senior Ba’ath official told me in 1999. “Mesopotamia is not a civilised state,” Bell wrote to her father on December 18 1920.

TE Lawrence Of 'Arabia'

British policies were seen as guiding posts for the new client-states. To the extent of handling the Kurds. Much like how the British RAF bombed the Kurds, Saddam Hussien waged war against the Kurds. Gertrude Bell made time to

attend a display of the force being deployed by the RAF on the Kurds around Sulaimaniya: “It was even more remarkable than the one we saw last year at the Air Force show because it was much more real. They had made an imaginary village about a quarter of a mile from where we sat on the Diala dyke and the two first bombs dropped from 3,000ft, went straight into the middle of it and set it alight. It was wonderful and horrible. Then they dropped bombs all round it, as if to catch the fugitives and finally fire bombs which even in the brightest sunlight made flares of bright flame in the desert. They burn through metal and water won’t extinguish them. At the end the armoured cars went out to round up the fugitives with machine guns.”

The new dispensations

Out of the Ottoman Empire, Iraq was carved up and King Faysal was put on the throne. This new King did not even know his kingdom – and he was taken around by his new makers.

Turkey decided to go West – with Mustafa Kemal Ataturk mandating all Turks must cut of their beards. Out of the fog of war, came the Russian Communists – which again the Anglo-Saxon world tried to blame the rest of the world for. During WW1, Britain made the Balfour Declaration, which promised a Jewish homeland, to be carved out of the Ottoman Empire – in Palestine. The Balfour Declaration put the entire Middle East on shaky political ground.

Exploitative commercial contracts favoring Anglo-Saxon bloc  of countries were signed with these puppet governments – and the rest of the story is being played out for the last 90 years. Western Empire builders of today bemoan the ‘mistakes’ of past leaders – without even considering the interests and rights of the rest of world.

27th May 1919 - Hotel Crillon, Paris, for the Versailles Treaty - Lloyd George, Vittorio Orlando, Georges Clemenceau, Woodrow Wilson @ Versailles (note the body language)

27th May 1919 - Hotel Crillon, Paris, for the Versailles Treaty - Lloyd George, Vittorio Orlando, Georges Clemenceau, Woodrow Wilson @ Versailles (note the body language)

Western Leadership

Midway through WW1, by 1916, the heads of the Allied powers – Britain, France, Italy and Russia had changes of governments. Italy ran through three Prime Ministers during WW1. Each of new governments had different agendas and ideas about the Middle East.

Britain, under Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, could look at Middle East (and War itself) as only a dominant super power of the period could – as imperial fodder. Georges Clemenceau, the French Premier, was diffident about colonial expansion, pragmatically viewing French resources and capability, in overextended colonial territories and vulnerable to Germans at home.

In 1915, Italy joined the alliance. At the end of the War, Italy promptly staked its claim for the borderline Balkan areas of Dalmatia and Rijeka /Fiume. American economic interests demanded opening of markets, closed to America by colonial powers. Woodrow Wilson (couched as his personal ‘belief in self-determination’) wanted ‘independence’ for the Middle East – for the US corporations to manipulate the Middle East, which they promptly did.

The losers, Ottoman-Turkey, the Germans and  the Austro-Hungarian Empires lost their colonies to ‘self determination’ – and the winners kept their colonies. This ‘self determination’, Trotsky aptly described as “naked and most cynical imperialism.”

The unforeseen elements were the Russians. The Communist leaders pulled out of the war. Russia was replaced by their future Cold War rival, United States into the war, on the side of the Allies.

The only interest not represented was that of the Middle East itself.

Islamic Demonisation

Leaders of the Middle East

One example was Emir Hussein. He could make the British believe that Emir Hussein could raise a force of a quarter million Arabs. He could deliver 3000-4000. Shaikh Faisal was another. Muhammed Sharif al-Faruqi was the third.

Ataturk’s Turkey

Turkey – led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, reduced itself to ‘copycat’ attempt at Westernisation. After WW1, the victorious allied powers dismantled the Ottoman Empire. Turkey was reduced to a rump state.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was ‘installed’ by Western powers. Thereafter, Turkey has lurched from crisis to another. Post WW2, it has mostly been ruled by military dictatorships. From an arbiter in Europe, it has become a supplicant, begging for entry into EU. Instead of the queue in China – it was beards in Turkey. Atatürk enforced a new dress code on the hapless Turks – and the traditional fez was banned. Stop wearing the fez or else …

Demonisation Starts

After these destabilizing decisions, the Anglo-Saxon world has been put their propaganda machine to work overtime. Demonizing communism and now Islam. Without taking the responsibility for their own actions – and further interventions, creating further instability.

Like the demonization of the Jews before and the Red Indians after, this too is having disastrous effects – in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan. And this process of demonization is a matter of concern to the rest of the world. Preparatory work has already started in the West on re-drawing these maps again – which will favor the West some more.

Iran Iraq Cartoon

Is India getting co-opted in this demonization?

Gandhiji – And The Middle East Carving

Gandhiji saw this problem 90 years ago – and his support of the Khilafat movement was prescient. Today when some Indians join in this demonization, it is matter of ignorance – and a threat.

Start Of World War I

What triggered WW1 is common knowledge. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. How did so many other countries get involved? The Russian Tsar (related to the British Royal House and based on the support of) Britain, the Anglo-Saxon Bloc and the French, supported political Serbian assassins, of Archduke Ferdinand of the Austro Hungarian Empire – and that started the World War I. Not some harmless gun shot that seemed to have triggered it off as victorious Anglo-Saxon historians would have us believe.

Were some Governments involved in this assassination?

Finally, paint the Iraqis for the mess!

Finally, paint the Iraqis for the mess!

The Assassination Team

The assassination plot included Gavrillio Princip, the actual 19-years old killer, Mehmed Mehmedbasic (a carpenter, unsure of his success, finally didn’t do anything), 17-year-old Vaso Cubrilovic, Nedelko Cabrinovic, all of 20 years old, Cvetko Popovic, an 18-year old student, 24-year old Danilo Ilic, the main organizer of the plot and Trifko Grabez, a 19-year old.

The name of the group was Black Hand, a circle of radicals in the army around Dimitrijevic-Apis, the man who led the murder of the Serbian royal couple in 1903. The other ring leader was Vojislav Tankosić organized the murders of Queen Draga’s brother’s; Dimitrijević Apis and Tankosić in 1913-1914 figure prominently in the plot to assassinate Franz Ferdinand.

What Would Happen Today

What would happen if a Pakistani based terrorist group were to kill Prince Harry? Would the US take no action if an (imagine Islamic) assassin were to shoot the US President-Elect.

And what would the US do if (say, the) Governments of Russian or China (or for that matter, India) were to support the assassins. Well! A Balkan assassin did kill the Crown Prince (equivalent to the US President-Elect).

The Russians, the Anglo-Saxon Bloc and the French supported the assassins.

French Colour Photos - WW1Alliances Of WW1

The 3 powers on the Axis side were:

One:

Austro-Hungarian Empire ruled by the Habsburgs (whose heir apparent was killed)

Two:

The Ottoman Empire (out of Turkey), which obviously could not support assassins of royalty.

Three:

Germany, ruled by the Kaiser Wilhelm.

Britain immediately started aggressive posturing against Turkey (the Ottomans). On July 29, 1914, Churchill, then Lord Of Admiralty, seized two Dreadnought ships being built for the Ottomans in British shipyards for the Turkish navy. The Germans needed allies and to woo the Ottomans, presented them with two ships. Britain, France and Russia declared war on Turkey on October 31, 1914.

By 1916, Britain, France and Russia had signed the secretive Sykes-Picot Pact – a framework for the division of the Ottoman Empire after the future defeat of the Turks. While the WW1 was going on, a civil war broke out in Russia. Kerensky, a member of the moderate Labor party, Lenin, Trotsky et al of the Bolshevik Party, overthrew the Tsar and assumed power in February 1917.

Another stereotype? Click for larger image.

Another stereotype? Click for larger image.

Till 1923, the Russian Civil War continued, to the defeat of Kerensky and his White Army in 1923. Kerensky wished to continue war alongside Britain and France.

Lenin broke ranks, and in October 1917, the Russian-Communists started negotiations for a peace treaty with Germany. In 1918 the Treaty Of Brest Litovsk followed. After the end of WW1, Britain and France did not honour Russia’s claim under the Sykes Picot Pact. Russians retaliated and were actively involved in the Middle East instability for the next 50 years, by playing of one Middle East country against another.

Supporting the assassins was the alliance of Russia, France, Britain, (and later) America, and sundry other European countries. With this act of brinkmanship, they took the world through the agony of a huge war, the price of which is being paid even today. The Middle East problems, the rise of Communism all came out of the World War I.

And continued later.

After WWII

Between the world wars, military leadership in the West passed from the hands of European powers to the USA. As the WWII progressed, questions about apportioning of Middle East oil occupied Western leadership. Sitting over a hand-drawn map, Theodore Roosevelt explained to Lord Halifax, the British envoy to the USA,

‘Persian oil is yours. We share the oil of Iraq and Kuwait. As for Saudi Arabian oil, its ours’

Soon after the WWII, on a New Year’s day, in 1946, Ernest Bevin, the foreign secretary in Clement Attlee’s government had a meeting with the British Defence Committee on the subject of Britain’s status in the Middle East. In its report, the committee reported Bevin’s position. Bevin felt, it was reported, that

Without the Middle East and its oil and other potential resources, he saw no hope of our being able to achieve the standard of life at which we were aiming in Great Britain.

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