I’d like to begin with a simple quotation, from a proclamation issued to the people of Baghdad: ‘Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors, but as liberators’. These words were spoken eighty-nine years ago by the British commander Lieutenant General Stanley Maude on the occasion of the military occupation of Baghdad in March 1917. They were mirrored almost exactly by the speech addressed to British troops on the eve of the current invasion three years ago by Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins, who said: ‘We go to liberate, not to conquer’. Of course, the mirroring of these two stories doesn’t end there. Within three years of General Maude's proclamation, 10,000 had died in an Iraqi uprising against the British rulers, who gassed and bombed the insurgents. It was...

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