Editor’s note: WorldNetDaily international correspondent Anthony
LoBaido is on assignment in the Middle East. He filed this fascinating
analysis of T.E. Lawrence from the area in which Lawrence made history
during World War I.
By Anthony C. LoBaido
© 2000, WorldNetDaily.com, Inc.
“He was one of the greatest beings of our time. Whatever our
need, we shall never see his like again.” — Sir Winston Churchill
speaking at the funeral of Lawrence of Arabia
THE LEBANON-SYRIA BORDER — T.E. Lawrence stands as perhaps the most
romantic figure in the history of the British Empire.
He has been referred to as “the white Arab” and the “Prince of
Mecca.” Yet, his name is known almost exclusively from the movie
“Lawrence of Arabia,” played with flair by Peter O’Toole. If one
scratches below the accepted version of Lawrence’s life, however, one
will discover a story so fantastic that it defies comprehension.
Like LoBaido, above, Lawrence “went native” and dressed like
It is the story of a schoolboy archaeologist, soldier, warlord,
intelligence operative, diplomat, best-selling author and even inventor.
It is the tale of a visionary whose post-World War I peace plan — had
it not been rejected — might have saved generations from war and
turmoil in the Middle East. It is also a startling look at the inner
circle of British Empire politics and the “insider-elite” realpolitik
that continues to this day in the UK and the West.
So it should come as no surprise that Lawrence and his life would
still be popular today — the subject of numerous websites, books and
clubs. His life is so inspiring to Australian Marcus Sterling and
Englishman Archie Pedersen that they have teamed up to retrace the exact
route Lawrence took in the Middle East as a college student.
“Not many people know that T.E. Lawrence undertook an incredible
journey, in which he walked through most of Syria in an effort to study
the crusader castles in the region,” said Sterling, a 31-year-old
archaeology doctoral candidate. WorldNetDaily encountered Sterling and
Pedersen (who met on the Internet through one of the many Lawrence of
Arabia societies on the Web) at the spectacular Roman Ruins at Baalbek
Lawrence traveled through the desert on a camel, like this man.
Asked what drove them out into the desert to undertake such an
expedition at their own expense, Pedersen said, “We live in an age where
chivalry has almost been exterminated. All of the great themes have
been turned into theme parks. I think we need to keep the high ideals
of the knights alive into the 21st century and beyond.”
Added Sterling, “The Knights Templar, for example, were an amazing
organization. Really, they were a hospital management company, which
ran St. Mary’s Hospital in Jerusalem around the year 1200 AD. From that
small endeavor, they came to rule a good slice of Bavaria and other
lands in Europe. They were the forerunners of the modern transnational
Pedersen, a 29-year-old carpenter’s apprentice from Surrey, England,
told WorldNetDaily he became interested in Lawrence of Arabia, the
Tutonic Knights and the lives of the saints from “stories my parents
used to read to me as a small boy.” His parents were killed two years
ago in a car accident, and since that time he has been “looking for
something to devote my life to. I have been driven to the desert like
Lawrence was himself — although for quite different reasons.”
New Lawrence papers are due to be declassified by the British
government in the year 2000, noted Sterling and Pedersen, who expect the
papers to provide a push for renewed interest into the life of Lawrence.
WND accompanied Sterling and Pedersen as they hiked through Damascus,
Syria, several Crusader castles in Lebanon, as well as through the Cave
of St. Anthony the Great in the
Holy Valley. Several promising leads proved unsuccessful at helping the two explorers find the lost original manuscript of Lawrence’s “Seven Pillars of Wisdom.” Winston Churchill said the book was on a level with “the greatest books ever written in the English language.”
|WND’s Anthony C. LoBaido in the Bekaa Valley, retracing the steps of Lawrence of Arabia.|
However, this correspondent and the two Lawrence devotees visited the site of an old American mission near Jebail where Lawrence formally studied Arabic just before World War I. His teacher at the mission, Mrs. Rieder, actually mailed him a revolver from Lebanon at the outset of World War I at Lawrence’s request. Apparently, such a gun was nearly impossible to find in Great Britain at that time.
T.E. Lawrence’s childhood passion was the Middle Ages. While his boyhood friends were off playing rugby, Lawrence was sifting through excavations in Oxford for old relics. He drew knights and pasted his walls with them. He studied the lives of the holy saints with great earnest. The ideals of honor and heroism were his raison d’etre.
As such, Lawrence was crushed when, at the age of 10, he found out he and his four brothers were illegitimate. His parents had never married and the family name of Lawrence had been conjured to hide the trail of that illegitimacy.
Lawrence’s father, whose real name was Thomas Chapman, was an aristocrat and claimed ancestry to Sir Walter Raleigh. Mr. Chapman left Ireland, and his original wife, Edith, after she bore him four daughters — in part, because she did not meet his sexual needs. Edith was a religious zealot who considered any form of entertainment, no matter how small, to be a sin. She quoted the Bible liberally and, as an evangelical Protestant, grew to loathe the Roman Catholic nature of Ireland’s society. She was known about town in Dublin as “The Holy Viper” and never tired of trying to convert her husband’s Catholic tenants with her Bible tracts.
Moving to the UK, Chapman settled with the governess of his children — a certain Miss Sarah Junner. The couple set-up a home under the title of “Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence.” The lively, blue-eyed Scottish Junner (whose last name might also be Maden) by all accounts was an excellent mother to Lawrence and his four brothers. She herself developed a great Protestant evangelical zeal and inculcated the New Testament into Lawrence at every opportunity.
In 1906, Lawrence ran away from home and enlisted in a training battalion of the Royal Artillery. His father, frantic, followed him and bought his way out of the army.
|For his college thesis at Oxford, Lawrence walked over 1,000 miles through the Middle East while mapping and drawing Crusader-era citadels like this one near Baalbeck at the Lebanon-Syria border.|
When Lawrence enrolled at Jesus College on a history scholarship to Oxford in 1907, there was no reason to believe war was coming to Europe. True, Russia was in the beginnings of revolution, and Germany and Turkey had cemented their plans for expansion and war. Yet, England was at the height of her glory, though optimism for keeping the empire together had taken a great blow due to the major losses the UK had suffered in the Anglo-Boer War against the Afrikaners in South Africa.
In this environment, Lawrence was free to devote himself completely to his studies, which centered, not surprisingly, on history. He worked-out and developed his body physically, as though driven to prepare for some future ordeal. A study of the bursar’s record at Oxford shows that for room service, Lawrence would most often order only bread and water. (Ironically, his father’s first wife Edith, whom Lawrence had never known, used to lock up her children for up to five days at a time on a diet of bread and water as punishment for minor indiscretions.)
He subjected the desires of his flesh, according to his brother Arnold (who became a professor of archaeology at Cambridge), “by methods advocated by the saints whose lives he had read. One of his friends [once said] that he was a man perfectly clear in the way of life, who had achieved a balance between spirit, intellect and body to a degree that few even imagine. In my opinion, he neglected the body’s claims unfairly. He maintained this ‘balance’ at a cost so terrible in waste and suffering.”
Speaking on the popular Jack Paar talk show in 1964, Arnold told America that he hated the film “Lawrence of Arabia,” despite all of the Oscars it had won. He called it “pretentious and false. Lawrence was one of the nicest, kindest and most exhilarating people I’ve known. He often appeared cheerful when he was unhappy.”
Arnold later told the New York Times, “[The film is] a psychological recipe. Take an ounce of narcissism, a pound of exhibitionism, a pint of sadism, a gallon of blood-lust and a sprinkle of other aberrations and stir well.”
By the time he was a senior at Oxford, Lawrence had grown into a handsome young man with a strong chin and blue eyes. Although he stood only five-foot-five, Lawrence developed, through exercise, in his own words, “the strength of a man twice my size.”
The master plan
The accepted version of the Lawrence of Arabia story, that he appeared from nowhere in the Middle East and rallied the Arabs to victory on his own, is the greatest conundrum of his popular legend.
The reality of the Lawrence story is far different. It is a tale few people in the UK, the West and the Arab world know to this very day. It is a story that is as rich, grand and strange as the accepted legend itself — perhaps even more so. As it is often said, “Truth is stranger than fiction.”
|Roman writing on stones at Baalbeck is in perfect condition after nearly 2,000 years of exposure to the harsh desert elements.|
When Lawrence enrolled at Oxford, he found an angel of sorts. His name was David George Hogarth, whom Lawrence called, “the man to whom I owe everything I have had since I was 17. The parent I could trust, without qualification, to understand what bothered me.” (Lawrence also had another mentor of note, an Arabic tutor named David Margoliouth.)
Hogarth was the keeper of the Ashmolean Museum. Lawrence had filled the museum with Roman pottery and coins that he himself had unearthed or had purchased for pocket change from surveyors and laborers working in various fields, woods and farmlands around Oxford.
Yet Hogarth was no ordinary professor. He provided the launching point “that makes the Lawrence of Arabia story come to life, rooted in reality, not romantic fantasy,” Sterling told WorldNetDaily while traveling on a bus to Damascus.
Although some who knew him described him as “a cynical and highly educated baboon,” Hogarth was an author, collector of antiquities and a political intelligence officer who specialized in the Middle East. He spoke Arabic, French, Greek, Turkish, German and Italian fluently.
Hogarth had turned his eyes to Asia Minor, where the British Empire was ready to expand its influence. Professor Hogarth would go on, during World War I, to achieve the rank of lieutenant commander and become the director of the British intelligence operations for the entire Arab bureau.
He was also a true believer in The Empire. At this time, 20 percent of the earth’s citizens paid allegiance to the King of England. This was the Pax Britannica.
|The Crusader cross given to the knights by King Louis IX of France. Lawrence was extremely interested in the Crusades as a youth and as a soldier later in life.|
Hogarth loathed democracy and even more despised the idea of exporting it to the outposts of the Empire. He was the consummate insider, believing he could advise the King and influence the course of politics, “neither for pay nor honors.” Hogarth was a part of a secret society that controlled England’s foreign policy from outside of Parliament and the public view. These men were, for the most part, scholars, archaeologists, captains of industry, bankers and the like. Academics from Oxford were to dominate this secret society.
Their aim was to foster a national acceptance in the UK of Cecil Rhodes’ vision of a white, Christian imperialism as the destiny for England and the world.
Speaking of this group, one British author noted, “The average man may be described as a confused imperialist. He wants to make the most of the heritage bequeathed to him. His imagination fires at its possibilities. But he is still very ignorant and shy and he has no idea how to set about the work. The first of imperial duties is to instruct him.”
Lawrence did not exactly conform to the ideals of Anglo-Saxon supremacy. He wrote, “I want to widen that idea beyond the Anglo-Saxon shape and form a new nation of thinking people, all acclaiming our freedom and demanding admittance into our empire. There is, to my eyes, no other road for Egypt and India in the end, and I would have made their path easier by creating an Arab Dominion in the [British] Empire.”
Hogarth, meanwhile, ranking as the preeminent Arab expert in the empire, had conducted various digs in the Middle East. During these archaeological romps, he had also studied the tactics of German and French secret agents, political alliances of the Arabs and many other geopolitical intrigues. He immediately recruited Lawrence into this chess game of cat and mouse.
Hogarth also directed Lawrence’s reading, pointing him to the Roman military special forces hit-and-run tactics made famous by Procopius. It was the study of Procopius that would lead Lawrence to utilize the Arab tribes in his guerilla war in the desert against the Germans and Turks. Additionally, Hogarth drilled Lawrence on the tactics and leadership of every major military figure and battle in recorded history, asking Lawrence what he might have done differently if placed in those situations.
For his senior thesis, Lawrence undertook the aforementioned trek through Syria and Palestine. Tracing the influence of the Crusades on European military architecture involved diagramming the castles and military fortresses built by the European Crusaders. In preparation for this, he studied Arabic, honed his physical strength by cycling around France in 1908, and planned out his route to the smallest detail.
On July 7, 1909, Lawrence boarded a ship headed for the Middle East. Little did he know that exactly eight years later to the day he would participate in a special forces attack that would seal his place in history. On July 7, 1917, Lawrence would storm out of the deserts of the Wadi as Sirhan (along with the forces of Arab tribal chieftain Auda Abu Tayi) and attack and defeat the Turkish garrison at Aqaba.
On his initial sortie into the desert, Lawrence took with him only a compass, some pencils, a drawing pad, socks and a revolver. He also took a special camera and a powerful telephoto lens provided by Hogarth. Marching alone through Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, Lawrence was beaten, robbed and left for dead. (Years later, as a soldier, he would be captured, beaten and sodomized by the enemy.)
Nevertheless, he walked over 1,100 miles until his boots literally fell off his feet. He lived and ate with the Arabs and learned their customs. He took many photos, notes and made drawings of over 35 Crusader castles. The project earned him first class at Oxford, and he graduated with the highest honors.
Lawrence was immediately intoxicated with Arab culture. He loved the timelessness of the desert, getting tan and watching the power of the sun. The Arabs are perhaps the most hospitable people on Earth and Lawrence learned to love them.
|Dawn breaks through the Medieval Church of Saint Anthony the Mad in Lebanon’s Holy Valley.|
Prelude to World War I
That initial foray into Asia Minor was only Hogarth’s baptism for young Lawrence. He arranged a post-graduate scholarship for his protege and Lawrence soon joined his mentor on an archaeological dig at Carchemish in Turkey. This was no ordinary dig. Carchemish was a major station on the Baghdad-to-Berlin railway. Germany and Turkey were forming an alliance to dominate the region.
The Ottoman Empire was about to be pushed out of the Middle East after 400 years of rule. England wanted to step into that power vacuum and keep Russia, France and Germany out — and also wanted to guard the Suez Canal and secure vast oil rights in the region.
While digging at Carchemish, Lawrence was put in charge of a group of Arab workers. He avenged one of them after a horsewhipping from a German engineer. He was fast gaining the respect of the ordinary Arabs under his stewardship.
Austria and Germany declared war in 1914 and aligned themselves with the Ottoman Empire, while France, Russia and England banded together against them. Lawrence was commissioned as an intelligence officer and posted to Cairo under the watchful eye of Hogarth.
In 1916, Lawrence began leading the revolt of the Arabs under Grand Sharif Hussein, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. Hussein ruled over Mecca and the province of Hejaz. Lawrence set to work mobilizing the Arab tribes. Their goal was Damascus, over 800 miles to the north.
Hogarth and others assured Lawrence that he would have enough gold to purchase the allegiance of the Arab soldiers who fought at his side. To Lawrence, he was fighting “an Arab war waged and led by Arabs for an Arab aim in Arabia.”
Yet, that was a baldfaced lie, and Lawrence knew it. He was forced to make promises to the Arabs that he knew, in the end, he and the British Empire would not be able to keep. For example, in a cable to intelligence headquarters, he wrote, “Hussein’s activity seems beneficial to us because it marches without immediate aims, the breakup of the Islamic ‘bloc’ and the defeat and disruption of the Ottoman Empire. Because the states he would set up to succeed the Turks would be as harmless to ourselves as Turkey was before she became a tool in German hands. The Arabs are even less stable than the Turks. If properly handled, they would remain in a state of political mosaic, a tissue of small, jealous principalities incapable of cohesion.”
Later, writing in “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” he added, “I could see that if we won the war, the promises to the Arabs were dead paper. Had I been an honorable adviser, I would have sent my men home and not let them risk their lives for such stuff. [I] risked the fraud on my conviction that Arab help was necessary to our cheap and speedy victory in the East, and that better we win and break our word than lose.”
But Lawrence would not let them lose. His actions were merely a sideshow of the war in the Middle East theater, which in turn was only a minor attraction in World War I in Europe. He fought tooth and nail with Hussein’s sons, Feisal, Ali, Zeid and Abdullah.
He did make it to Damascus eventually and celebrated with Gen. Edmund Allenby in the streets, but it was too late to achieve a total victory for Arab independence. His personal fame grew by leaps and bounds, however, due mainly to the writings of American correspondent Lowell Thomas. Thomas later traveled around the world giving Lawrence of Arabia seminars, complete with photographs. Thomas offered Lawrence money and the chance to travel with him around the world but both offers were refused.
Peace and the post-war life
In 1916, England signed the Sykes-Picot treaty promising Syria and Lebanon to the French. (The French coveted Syria because of the Crusades. Lawrence loathed the French and the idea that “agnostic, atheistic France” might control the Holy Land). In 1917, the Balfour Declaration promised a homeland to the Jews in Palestine. Concerning the latter, Lawrence had written years before, “The better the Jews farm it, all the better.” He firmly believed that the Arabs needed the presence of the Jews in the Middle East, in order to progress, and that the Jews could likewise benefit from the Arab presence, and thus hoped that both Semitic peoples might see the wisdom of co-existing harmoniously.
At the Paris Peace Conference after World War I, Lawrence’s request that the Arabs be given independence was ignored. He saw the creation of new nations — Iraq, Israel, Iran, Jordan and others — to be a chance to bring a full and lasting peace to the region — perhaps the only chance. He saw his plan of installing all the “Semitic peoples,” including the Jews, to the Middle East at the same time — with enough land for everyone, including the Palestinians, who would be displaced by a new Zion.
Lawrence even worked-out a financial plan to get international Jewish financiers to back King Feisal (Hussein’s most powerful son) as the ruler of Syria (pushing the French out), setting-up a “Brown Dominion” within the British Empire and furthering Zionist ambitions. After conferring with Lord Balfour and King George V, Lawrence presented his plan in person at the Carlton Hotel, where Zionist leader Dr. Chaim Weizmann (one of the pioneers of dynamite, which he gave to the British military) was meeting with Feisal.
Weizmann had written Feisal, saying, “If he wants to build up a strong and prosperous Arab kingdom, it is we Jews who will be able to help him, and we only. We can give him the necessary assistance in money and organizing power. We shall be his neighbors and we do not represent any danger to him, as we are not and never shall be a great power.”
The Zionists feared that Feisal would go broke by the year 1919. His would-be government had no income, as this was at a time when the oil industry was in its infancy. The Zionists offered Feisal economic aid and advisers in return for his acceptance of a Jewish state in Palestine.
Of his economic plan, Lawrence wrote, “The French will be on their best behavior for months and give Feisal [and his shadow government in Damascus] his money unconditionally. Then they will try to turn the screw. He’ll say he doesn’t want their money, because by then, the Zionists will have a center in Jerusalem, and for concessions they will finance him (this is all in writing, and fixed, but don’t put it in the press for God’s sake and the French). Zionists are not a government and not British and their action does not infringe the Sykes-Picot agreement. They are also Semites and Palestinian, and the Arab government is not afraid of them (can cut all their throats, or better, pull all their teeth out, when it wishes). They [the international Jewish financiers] will finance the whole [Middle] East, I hope, Syria and Mesopotamia [modern Iraq, which was to come under British rule] alike. High Jews are unwilling to put much cash into Palestine only, since that country offers nothing but a sentimental return. They want 6 percent [return on their investments and loans to the region].”
Lawrence warned that if his territorial plan for remaking the whole of Asia Minor was rejected, that his great-grandchildren might well have to fight another war in the region, wearing masks to protect against poison gas. Sadly, this prophecy has come true in the Gulf War and perhaps will again in the future. The plan was rejected mainly because England, having struggled to win the Boer War against a handful of Afrikaner farmers, feared that both Muslims and Hindus in India would want independence if it were granted in any form to the Arabs. Not to be overlooked is the hunger of the British Empire for oil and its fledgling multinational giant corporation, British Petroleum.
After the war, Lawrence, who could have run for office and won in a landslide, or had any post he wanted in the entire Empire, drifted aimlessly. He actually went back into the army and then the Royal Air Force under an assumed name — Private Shaw.
When he was posted to India and when he was falsely reported by the media to be fostering a civil war in Afghanistan, he was immediately sent back to England. There he continued to write and also pioneered rescue procedures for the Hovercraft in the Royal Air Force.
He wrote “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” but lost the manuscript on a train. Lawrence was homeless for a time and had no money for food. He bummed meals from old colleagues and friends. Eventually, he rewrote “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” again by hand, and sold it. He earned a great deal of money and was able to pay-off his old debts. Some subscribers of the early edition of the book were able to resell it for up to 400 pounds — a huge windfall back then.
Lawrence, however, did not wish to profit a single pound from the book — due to his guilt over having lied to the Arab soldiers he led — and instead donated the proceeds to a Royal Air Force memorial fund. The book was translated into French, though Lawrence noted that he would never have allowed this to occur unless the publishers had printed on the back cover that all profits would be donated to the victims of France’s brutalities in Syria.
His book “Revolt in the Desert” became a bestseller in the UK and the U.S. Bernard Shaw called it “one of the great histories of the world.” Lawrence also wrote “The Mint,” a book about life in the British military.
Lawrence died in a motorcycle crash while trying to swerve out of the way of two young schoolboys. The boys, of course, were unharmed, and perhaps — like most English and Western boys — grew up to read the accepted legend of Lawrence.
This tale, of course, goes beyond the accepted legend.
As Sterling told WorldNetDaily, “Lawrence was a man who was completely disciplined in both mind and body, unmoved by most of the world’s trappings and certain in his ideas about the world’s problems and solutions. But the power elite was still able to seduce him and he compromised his principles on their behalf. His regrets plagued him for the rest of his life. If a man like that can’t stand up to the insiders, do you see anyone on today’s political scene who can? I don’t. I see a couple who might put up a good fight, but no more than that.”
Adds U.S. Army Special Forces Col. Carl Bernard, the man who trained the Hmong hill tribes during the Vietnam war, “Lawrence of Arabia is a part of my consciousness. Two of us from the Special Warfare School, Frank McGregor and I, used him as the ideal of what a Special Forces soldier should strive to be. We were candid about how he was educated and formed by the life he led.”
Following in the footsteps of Lawrence almost 100 years later, Sterling’s and Pedersen’s trek shows, in their own words, that “the real truth behind the legend of Lawrence of Arabia is still waiting to be discovered.”