Much of the trouble in the Middle East today is the result of British duplicity in pre-World War II times when they exercised almost total hegemony over that region.

As the British Empire floundered after the war Winston Churchill tried to persuade the U.S. to pull Britain’s chestnuts out of the fire and assume responsibility for ruling over the black and brown people of Africa and Asia; in other words, take up Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden.” But Presidents Roosevelt and Truman were having none of it. They advised the British we would assist in their recovery from the war but would not spend one cent to preserve the British Empire. Colonialism had run its course, but the British had yet to accept it.

To obtain financing during World War I, in 1917 the British arranged a loan through Lord Walter Rothschild, a prominent Jewish banker. Although there was no official “deal,” the British Foreign Office issued the Balfour Declaration stating that “His majesty’s government would look with favor on the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.” A sovereign Jewish state, however, was never mentioned. The Declaration also stated, “the rights of the people already living there shall not be prejudiced.” This statement invites no interpretation.

In order to secure Middle-Eastern Muslim support against Germany in World War II the British also promised the Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians self-determination after the war. In the case of Palestine this conflicted with Britain’s earlier promise of a Jewish homeland there. As more Jews fled to Palestine from the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust, resistance by the Palestinians intensified.

Attempts by the British to slow down the immigration were met with violent retaliation by Jewish terrorist groups such as the Stern Gang led by an American Jew, Abraham Stern. British officers were kidnapped and assassinated, trains were blown up and the British headquarters in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem was bombed by Jewish terrorists, killing almost 100 people. In 1946 the British declared Palestine ungovernable and turned their original mandate back to the U.N.

As promised, Iran was granted independence by Great Britain following World War II and became self-governing. But when Iran demanded a greater share of their oil revenues in 1953 the British, aided by American CIA Director Allen Dulles and Kermit Roosevelt, Teddy’s grandson, orchestrated the overthrow of Iran’s democratically-elected PM, Mohamed Mossadegh.

They claimed he was communist-influenced, the standard excuse for foreign interference back then. They then installed the cruel, autocratic Reza Pahlavi as Shah of Iran. But after the Shah was overthrown, in a 1979 Islamic uprising Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, with British and U.S. support, launched an unprovoked attack against Iran which resulted in over 100,000 Iranian casualties, some by chemical weapons. In light of these events, is it any wonder the Iranians might not fully trust our intentions in negotiating a nuclear non-proliferation treaty. It is also unofficial but common knowledge that Israel possess 100-400 nuclear warheads and the rocketry to deliver them.

Israel, as Great Britain, occupies a special place in American hearts. But we can’t let this unique bond get us into a Middle Eastern shooting war contrary to our own interests there. Remember, Afghanistan was the Soviets’ Viet Nam. We can ill afford a second American Viet Nam in the Middle East.

George B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at

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