Discussion:
Lawrence of Arabia's Eclipse
(too old to reply)
Lewis Mammel
2004-05-06 06:00:30 UTC
Permalink
Two circumstances contributed to my recent purchase of
T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom. The principal one
was that I saw a new and large fragment of Lawrence of Arabia
on TV the other night. Over the years I've seen several
hunks of it, and with this large contribution, I think I've
seen a fair majority of it.

It came on late ( I missed the very beginning, so there's still THAT,)
and I watched it til 3AM, but this only took me up to the taking
of Aqaba. Well, I got very interested in the factual basis of the
whole thing as an outgrowth of wondering exactly what desert were
they crossing to get to Aqaba. The secondary circumstance is
the nature of current events, so possibly this is what impelled
me to the bookstore.

So far I've read some of the beginning, and the "book" on Aqaba.
Naturally, I found that the movie greatly simplified events for
dramatic purposes. I was somewhat surprised, though, that two
of the most dramatic elements - Lawrences backtrack to rescue
a compatriot, and his summary execution of a man to prevent
a blood feud, were taken pretty directly from the book, except
for a certain dramatic embellishment.

The main difference was that this was a long and meandering trek
which wandered north and east of Aqaba before moving west and
south to take it. Also, most of the military encounters were outside
Aqaba proper,and it was the collapse of the Turkish military
presence in the broader area which led to their entry to the
city proper, which is not even described in the book.

Re current events, you can see right away that we are in the
place of the Turks, as promoters of western civilisation
in the region, and Lawrence's actions are recognizably, and
distrubingly, terrorist in nature, insofar as they consisted
largely in destruction of the Hejaz railway, which was extremely
vulnerable. Of course, the Turks threw their lot in with Germany,
so that was that, but I'm talking about the general nature of
the action.

Lawrence also makes various general remarks about Arab society,
psychology, and history, which have striking cogency for today.
Then you have little asides, such as an early pargraph where
he says the Arabs are by nature "continent", but this is merely
a preamble to an admission, not to say an endorsment, of
rampant faggotry among the ranks of his desert band. Curious.

Ah yes, the eclipse. One night raid on the approach to Aqaba
was in doubt due to the full moon, which was as revealing
as daylight as far as the raiders were concerned. Lawrence
happened to know that a total eclipse was due that night, and
carried out the raid with the additional advantage of superstitious
terror on his side. This was the night of July 4, 1917, and
is labeled as "Lawrence of Arabia's eclipse" on a website listing
historical eclipses. Of course, just two nights ago there was
a total lunar eclipse visible in Arabia, but not here.

There was also an account of a discussion of the aims of
Astronomy among his party, occasioned by one of them lying
supine and remarking at the stars viewed with Lawrence's
field glasses. They wondered at the utility of cataloging
more and more stars, which was assumed to be what was gained
by using larger and larger telescopes. "Why does the westerner
want everything?" was the way it was put.

Lew Mammel, Jr.
Steve Hayes
2004-05-06 15:04:42 UTC
Permalink
Post by Lewis Mammel
Re current events, you can see right away that we are in the
place of the Turks, as promoters of western civilisation
in the region, and Lawrence's actions are recognizably, and
distrubingly, terrorist in nature, insofar as they consisted
largely in destruction of the Hejaz railway, which was extremely
vulnerable. Of course, the Turks threw their lot in with Germany,
so that was that, but I'm talking about the general nature of
the action.
What was "terrorist" about that?

I can't comment on much else. Though, like you, I saw the film and then read
the book out of curiosity, it was 40 years ago, so I've forgotten a lot of it.
--
Steve Hayes
E-mail: ***@hotmail.com
Web: http://www.geocities.com/hayesstw/stevesig.htm
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/7734/books.htm
Lewis Mammel
2004-05-08 02:05:26 UTC
Permalink
Post by Steve Hayes
Post by Lewis Mammel
Re current events, you can see right away that we are in the
place of the Turks, as promoters of western civilisation
in the region, and Lawrence's actions are recognizably, and
distrubingly, terrorist in nature, insofar as they consisted
largely in destruction of the Hejaz railway, which was extremely
vulnerable. Of course, the Turks threw their lot in with Germany,
so that was that, but I'm talking about the general nature of
the action.
What was "terrorist" about that?
Well, it's like that quote from On_the_Road, "He said we were
a band of Arabs coming to blow up New York." In this case they
were blowing up trains - with British gelignite, to be sure,
and British instigation.

Lew Mammel, Jr.
Steve Hayes
2004-05-08 08:27:24 UTC
Permalink
Post by Lewis Mammel
Post by Steve Hayes
Post by Lewis Mammel
Re current events, you can see right away that we are in the
place of the Turks, as promoters of western civilisation
in the region, and Lawrence's actions are recognizably, and
distrubingly, terrorist in nature, insofar as they consisted
largely in destruction of the Hejaz railway, which was extremely
vulnerable. Of course, the Turks threw their lot in with Germany,
so that was that, but I'm talking about the general nature of
the action.
What was "terrorist" about that?
Well, it's like that quote from On_the_Road, "He said we were
a band of Arabs coming to blow up New York." In this case they
were blowing up trains - with British gelignite, to be sure,
and British instigation.
You mean like the North Atlantic Terrorist Organisation (Nato) blowing up
trains in Yugoslavia?
--
Steve Hayes
E-mail: ***@hotmail.com
Web: http://www.geocities.com/hayesstw/stevesig.htm
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/7734/books.htm
G. Michael Paine
2004-05-09 16:21:14 UTC
Permalink
Post by Lewis Mammel
Post by Steve Hayes
Post by Lewis Mammel
Re current events, you can see right away that we are in the
place of the Turks, as promoters of western civilisation
in the region, and Lawrence's actions are recognizably, and
distrubingly, terrorist in nature, insofar as they consisted
largely in destruction of the Hejaz railway, which was extremely
vulnerable. Of course, the Turks threw their lot in with Germany,
so that was that, but I'm talking about the general nature of
the action.
What was "terrorist" about that?
Well, it's like that quote from On_the_Road, "He said we were
a band of Arabs coming to blow up New York." In this case they
were blowing up trains - with British gelignite, to be sure,
and British instigation.
Lew Mammel, Jr.
Yes, well as the other poster said, Lawrence was fighting WWI at the
time. Turks: bad guys on side of Germany. Arabs: good guys and willing
to help, in hope of freedom from Turks.
That situation was not similar to the present situation.

Michael Paine
Lewis Mammel
2004-05-09 18:58:16 UTC
Permalink
Post by G. Michael Paine
Post by Lewis Mammel
Post by Steve Hayes
Post by Lewis Mammel
Re current events, you can see right away that we are in the
place of the Turks, as promoters of western civilisation
in the region, and Lawrence's actions are recognizably, and
distrubingly, terrorist in nature, insofar as they consisted
largely in destruction of the Hejaz railway, which was extremely
vulnerable. Of course, the Turks threw their lot in with Germany,
so that was that, but I'm talking about the general nature of
the action.
What was "terrorist" about that?
Well, it's like that quote from On_the_Road, "He said we were
a band of Arabs coming to blow up New York." In this case they
were blowing up trains - with British gelignite, to be sure,
and British instigation.
Lew Mammel, Jr.
Yes, well as the other poster said, Lawrence was fighting WWI at the
time. Turks: bad guys on side of Germany. Arabs: good guys and willing
to help, in hope of freedom from Turks.
Their concept of what they were up to was not along the
liberal ideological lines we are used to. They were attaching
themselves to Faisal as he was represented to them.
Post by G. Michael Paine
That situation was not similar to the present situation.
I stipulated to that in my original remarks. I was talking about
"the general nature of the action" as it impressed itself on
me from my reading. It's a literary question - like reading
Caesar's Gallic_War.

"... saepe clamitas liberum se liberaque este civitas"


Lew Mammel, Jr.
Steve Hayes
2004-05-10 07:51:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by Lewis Mammel
Post by G. Michael Paine
Post by Lewis Mammel
Post by Steve Hayes
Post by Lewis Mammel
Re current events, you can see right away that we are in the
place of the Turks, as promoters of western civilisation
in the region, and Lawrence's actions are recognizably, and
distrubingly, terrorist in nature, insofar as they consisted
largely in destruction of the Hejaz railway, which was extremely
vulnerable. Of course, the Turks threw their lot in with Germany,
so that was that, but I'm talking about the general nature of
the action.
What was "terrorist" about that?
Well, it's like that quote from On_the_Road, "He said we were
a band of Arabs coming to blow up New York." In this case they
were blowing up trains - with British gelignite, to be sure,
and British instigation.
Lew Mammel, Jr.
Yes, well as the other poster said, Lawrence was fighting WWI at the
time. Turks: bad guys on side of Germany. Arabs: good guys and willing
to help, in hope of freedom from Turks.
Their concept of what they were up to was not along the
liberal ideological lines we are used to. They were attaching
themselves to Faisal as he was represented to them.
Post by G. Michael Paine
That situation was not similar to the present situation.
I stipulated to that in my original remarks. I was talking about
"the general nature of the action" as it impressed itself on
me from my reading. It's a literary question - like reading
Caesar's Gallic_War.
The question remains - what was "terrorist" about it?

What is there in the action that makes you describe it as "terrorist"?

It is common for oppressors to describe those who participate in wars of
liberation as "terrorists", and even to call any active opposition to their
rule "terrorism", whether violent or not.

Common though it is, I think it is a misuse of words, and simply a propaganda
technique. From the point of view of the Turkish authorities, perhaps it was
"terrorism" in that sense, since the Arabs led by Lawrence were technically
Turkish citizens, fighting against their government. If they were captured,
the Turks would no doubt have tried them for high treason.

But when *you* call them "terrorists", I wonder why. Are you a Turk? If not,
why would you describe them from the Turkish government point of view,
appaently without distinguishing your point of view from theirs?
--
Steve Hayes
E-mail: ***@hotmail.com
Web: http://www.geocities.com/hayesstw/stevesig.htm
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/7734/books.htm
Lewis Mammel
2004-05-11 04:27:49 UTC
Permalink
Post by Steve Hayes
But when *you* call them "terrorists", I wonder why. Are you a Turk? If not,
why would you describe them from the Turkish government point of view,
appaently without distinguishing your point of view from theirs?
I took my cues from the reading.

When reading Lawrence's account, one naturely identifies with his
point of view, imaging how one might endure the privatations, rise
to the challenge of leadership, and so on, knowing full well that
one hardly possesses the necessary qualities.

But then Lawrence does slip beyond the pale of admiration on occasion.
He was a hard man! He made himself hard for his own reasons. He speaks
of "playing with the railroad" which means of course destroying it.

One chapter synopsis states, "the temptation of fresh meat proves
fatal to a fat station master." The temptation is namely a herd
of goats the Turks were keeping at the station. Zaal "took slow aim
at the coffee sipping officers and officials" then "the fattest man
bowed slowly in his chair and sank to the ground under the frozen
stare of his fellows."

There was an article in the NYT a few days ago about ethnic
Arab raiders in the Sudan. A few hundred of them are creating
millions of black African refugees, the NYT says, by raiding
their villages and stealing their livestock. Not categorically
"terrorism" as it is understood today, but the connection
is in the Bedouin mentality. Says Lawrence,

They were as unstable as water, and like water would
perhaps finally prevail. Since the dawn of life, in
succesive waves they had been dashing themselves
against the coasts of flesh. Each wave has broken,
but, like the sea, wore away ever so little of the
granite on which it failed, and some day, ages yet,
might roll unchecked over the place where the material
world had been, and God would move upon the face of
those waters.

"dashing themselves against the coasts of flesh" How's that?
Maybe LA's next then, eh?

Lew Mammel, Jr.

rms
2004-05-06 15:30:25 UTC
Permalink
Post by Lewis Mammel
Lawrence also makes various general remarks about Arab society,
psychology, and history, which have striking cogency for today.
Then you have little asides, such as an early pargraph where
he says the Arabs are by nature "continent", but this is merely
a preamble to an admission, not to say an endorsment, of
rampant faggotry among the ranks of his desert band. Curious.
PBS had a show on him http://www.pbs.org/lawrenceofarabia/show/ which
speculated among other things about a possible affair with his young arab
helper, and whether his beating and rape by the Turks actually occurred, or
was some after-the-fact rationalization/concoction.

rms
Michael S. Morris
2004-05-06 16:17:03 UTC
Permalink
Thursday, the 6th of May, 2004

Lewis Mammel wrote:
[the David Lean film and _Seven Pillars of Wisdom_]

I really think the book is one of the great reads I
have ever had, and that the film is a marvellous transcription
of the book, including psycho-sexual issues in Lawrence's
character, and issues resonant in modern geopolitics with
respect to promises made through Lawrence to the Arabs
and not kept. The thing is, both book and film probably distort
the importance upward of Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. The
whole thing is a romantic contrast to the bitter experience
of trench-warfare at the time. Nevertheless, Allenby's campaign
was a brilliant one in its own right, and the whole Lawrence
and Arab Revolt thing was a romantic sideshow in comparison.

I would quarrel, by the way, with calling the guerrilla campaign
Lawrence and the Arab Revolt carried out a "terrorist
campaign". There seems to me to be a distinction between
legitimate military operations carried out by guerrilla tactics
(lightning attacks from unexpected directions upon military
targets followed by equally lightning retreats) versus the
deliberate and non-collateral killing of civilians to influence
democratic politics. It does seem to me that some of what Rumsfeld,
for instance, likes to call "terrorist" in Iraq is really guerrilla.
But, I would strongly maintain that there is a huge difference between
the guerrilla tactics of Lawrence and the terrorist tactics of, say,
the FLN in Algeria. Guerrillas are warriors, serving under the
military of a nation that can be held responsible for what they
do according to the rules of war, or a proto-nation (such as the
Arab Revolt). Terrorists add that which is criminal
(by both the laws of civil society and the laws of war) to
what they do.

Umm, in Iraq, I would suggest if we think of the current
resistance as legitimate, then the bombing an American supply
column of fuel trucks (even when driven by civilians) or
shooting an RPG at an Army Humvee would be guerrilla tactics,
not terrorist, those both being both military targets. However,
bombing the UN headquarters in Baghdad was a terrorist action,
not a guerrilla one.

Mike Morris
(***@netdirect.net)
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