I can recommend In Europe: Travels Through the Twentieth Century, by Geert Mak, which I'm currently reading. One quote from a letter by Adolf Hitler during World War 1 provides a striking glimpse of the character within: "I love this war. I know it's smashing and shattering the lives of thousands every moment, and yet I enjoy every moment of it."
To love the diabolic orgy of death and despair of that war speaks volumes of the nature of the sociopath, cut off from the world of emotions and suffering, and who if he should attain positions of wordly power prefigures gross danger for wider humanity. Except wait, it's not by dear Adolf, it's instead the greatest Briton of them all, Winston Churchill, writing to Violet Asquith, the prime minister's daughter.
As a counter-point, to offer an idea of the eclectic range of the book the following amusing cultural snapshot of Helsinki: 'She reads to me form Stockmann's(more than just the Harrod's of Finland) spring catalogue. "'Dress like the rest; after all, don't you have better things to do." Where else could you sell clothes with a slogan like that?''
To go off on a tanget unrelated to Mak's book, some more on Churchill, the Kurds and Iraq. In 1917, following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the British occupied Iraq and established a colonial government. The Arab and Kurdish people of Iraq resisted the British occupation, and by 1920 this had developed into a full scale national revolt. As the Iraqi resistance gained strength, the British resorted to increasingly repressive measures, including the use of posion gas.
Winston Churchill, as colonial secretary, was keen to exploit the potential of modern technology. "I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. We have definitely adopted the position at the Peace Conference of arguing in favour of the retention of gas as a permanent method of warfare... I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes."
Henry Wilson shared Churchills enthusiasm for gas as an instrument of colonial control but the British cabinet was reluctant to sanction the use of a weapon that had caused such misery and revulsion in the First World War. Churchill himself was keen to argue that gas, fired from ground-based guns or dropped from aircraft, would cause *only discomfort or illness, but not death* to dissident tribespeople; but his optimistic view of the effects of gas were mistaken. It was likely that the suggested gas would permanently damage eyesight and *kill children and sickly persons, more especially as the people against whom we intend to use it have no medical knowledge with which to supply antidotes.* Churchill remained unimpressed by such considerations, arguing that the use of gas, a *scientific expedient,* should not be prevented *by the prejudices of those who do not think clearly*. In the event, gas was used against the Iraqi rebels "with excellent moral effect"*.
Wing-Commander Sir Arthur Harris (later Bomber Harris, head of wartime Bomber Command) was happy to emphasise that "The Arab and Kurd now know what real bombing means in casualties and damage. Within forty-five minutes a full-size village can be practically wiped out and a third of its inhabitants killed or injured." It was an easy matter to bomb and machine-gun the tribespeople, because they had no means of defence or retalitation. Iraq and Kurdistan were also useful laboratories for new weapons; devices specifically developed by the Air Ministry for use against tribal villages.
Phosphorus bombs, war rockets, metal crowsfeet [to maim livestock] man-killing shrapnel, liquid fire, delay-action bombs. Many of these weapons were first used in Kurdistan.
Excerpt from pages 179-181 of Simons, Geoff. *Iraq: From Sumer to Saddam*.
London: St. Martins Press, 1994.
Back to the past for Iraq and surrounds.