1920s >> 1924 >> no-244-december-1924

How Labour Ruled Mespot

The Truth About The Slaughter

When it became known that bomb-dropping was regularly used by the Labour Government as a means of peacefully persuading Irak Tribesmen that British capitalism had a better right in their country than they had themselves, many simple supporters of the Labour Party were shocked. They had supposed that Empires can be built on love and maintained by soft words, and they were greatly relieved when Mr. Leach explained the whole matter away.

Mr. Leach accounted for British occupancy of the territory by saying that it was a point of honour to remain and fulfill “our” pledges; and he was able to give the assurance that—

     under our administration British air operations have so far caused no deaths. Thanks to the method of warning notices, submission takes place five times out of six without recourse to bombs, and has succeeded in the remaining cases through the destruction of property and cattle. —Daily Herald, July 15th, 1924.

Now Lord Thomson, Chief of the Air Ministry, of which Mr. Leach was Undersecretary, has disclosed the real facts. It was not honour but capitalist interest in oil which kept the Labour Government in Irak, and with regard to the bomb-dropping Mr. Leach appears to have resorted to complete suppression of the facts.

The following quotation is from a lecture given by Lord Thomson at a meeting of the Central Asian Society on November 21st. (“The Times,” November 22nd, 1924.)

After briefly tracing the route followed in his tour, Lord Thomson brought home to his audience the efficacy of bombing by describing the manner in which the recent Wahabi invasion of the Transjordan was crushed. The British forces consisted solely of aeroplanes sent out at the shortest possible notice, backed by armoured cars. The effect of our air attack was appalling Some 700 of the tribesmen were killed and the rest, seized with panic, fled into the desert, where hundreds more must have perished from thirst. Unless some such punishment as swift and terrible as this had been inflicted, the task of restoring order would have been long drawn-out, and in the end more costly in lives and money, while the results would not have been so lasting.

Lord Thomson went on to say that it might be true that oil was the key of the Arabian riddle, though he considered that wheat-production, for some years at least, held greater possibilities. The primary necessity, however, was security. The country could best be opened up by making the process a gradual one. By using it as a link in the chain of Imperial communications, this would be achieved.

On the question of the duration of British protection in Iraq, Lord Thomson said that Britain had promised an independent Arab State, and we must honour our pledge, which could only be done by remaining in the country until it could defend itself. We could wriggle out of our obligations in various fashions, but the immediate consequence, in his opinion, would be anarchy, disorder, and confusion. Somebody would have to restore the situation, and if we did not, the Turks would. In the present state of affairs, the British Air Force in Iraq was the cement which kept the bricks together. He hoped that the task we had undertaken would not be left unfinished by any form of withdrawal.