The ‘Lawrence Of Arabia’ legacy

By Hal Lindsey

The current Middle East crisis between the Israelis and the Muslims is the result of some of the most incredible blunders. But perhaps there is no greater blunder than some promises made by a British officer to a bunch of backward camel-riding Arab Muslims from Western Arabia.

Lt. Col. T. E. Lawrence was sent by the British to seek to enlist the help of the Arab Muslim tribes of Western Arabia. They wanted them to act as irregular raiders against the flank of the Ottoman Turkish army, thus helping the British Army to defeat them in the greater Middle East region.

Lawrence was moderately successful at gathering a few feuding tribes of Arabia to attack and pillage Turkish supply lines and attack Aqaba. He convinced some to race to Damascus and enter the city just ahead of the onrushing British Army. The principle tribe was known as the Hashemites, who were the guardians of the holy Muslim sites of Mecca and Medina.

The impact of the Arab raiders was minimal, at best, but something happened that propelled Lawrence and his raiders into the field of legend – and, most amazing, caused them to receive promises that reshaped the Middle East into an ungovernable chaos that will result in global war.

Now before I go any further, you need to realize that the brilliantly portrayed film by David Lean known as “Lawrence Of Arabia” was great entertainment, but not true history. I loved the movie, too, but it was founded on a myth created by one of the most famous American journalists of the 20th century, Lowell Thomas.

I am indebted to an article written by Jack Wheeler for the Daily Reckoning of New Orleans for many of the following facts.

T. E. Lawrence would have been only an obscure and forgotten footnote in the British Middle East campaign of World War I if were not for an ambitious young American journalist who was in search of an unusual story in that region. He heard about a British Army captain assigned as a liaison officer to Arabs in the middle of an obscure desert the Western world knew nothing about. Thomas saw in Lawrence the making of a great story.

Thomas followed Lawrence and his Arab raiders around the desert as he taught them how to blow up Turkish trains and raid their supply lines. Thomas sent exciting dispatches and posed pictures that were, frankly, designed to create a myth and make Lawrence a legend. It was Thomas who dubbed him “Lawrence of Arabia.”

After the war, Lowell Thomas went on a lecture tour in England and America, further embellishing the myth of Lawrence of Arabia with pictures of him posed in the robes of an Arab chieftain.

As Wheeler wrote:

By the time the Treaty of Sevres was negotiated in 1920, with Lawrence in attendance and the media mob hanging on his every word, the British felt compelled to keep Lawrence’s promise to the chieftains of an Arab tribe called the Hashemites. The political structure of the Middle East today is the result of that promise. The Treaty of Sevres permitted the British to seize pieces of the Ottoman Empire, which had ruled the Middle East for centuries, but joined the Germans in WWI. Instead of British colonies, the pieces were called League of Nations’ mandates, for which the Brits needed puppet rulers.

To make a long story short, Lawrence was able to persuade the British – with the pressure of his media popularity helping – to put together three provinces of the old Ottoman Empire and make one country called Iraq and give it to a Hashemite prince named Feisal. The people of these three provinces have hated each other for centuries. Apart from a ruthless dictator like Saddam Hussein, no one can keep them together.

Lawrence also was able to persuade the British to betray their mandate to create a homeland for the Jews. When the Saudis drove the Hashemites out of Mecca and Medina, he persuaded the British to give prince Abdullah the land mandated to the Jews known as Trans-Jordan as a consolation prize. Today, that is known as the Royal Kingdom of Jordan.

These events have helped set up a coming catastrophe that the Bible predicts will result in a global war.

It is amazing to me what momentous events sometimes result from legend and myth. But God uses it all – man’s ambition, lust for fame, power and ego – to bring about the things He foresaw long ago.