The Fourteenth of July is not only the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille by the mob, egged on by the Paris commentariat, the consequent release of its seven prisoners including four forgers and two lunatics, the beheading of the prison governor and some of the guards, notwithstanding promises of safe conduct, the Reign of Terror and then the over two decades of war as Napoleon tried to turn Europe into a French empire.
It is also the anniversary of an event which delivered fifty disastrous years to the people of Iraq.
…the disaster that was the republic…
On 14 July 1958, pretending to obey orders to assist the Jordanian government, the traitor Colonel Abdul Karim Qassim deceitfully ordered an army contingent into the almost unguarded Royal Palace.
The King, Faisal II ( pictured below as King and when he was five), Crown Prince Abdullah, two Princesses, The King’s aunt, and their servants were promised safe conduct.
When they emerged they were told to turn towards the Palace wall, and then brutally murdered.
One body was dragged through the streets and dismembered.
A republic was declared.
A baby, the nearest relative to The King was taken to the Egyptian Embassy. He is Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein, the current claimant to the Iraqi throne.
In 2004, the Coalition of the Willing could well have restored the previous constitution, which the people had never rejected. With the claimant as King, history could have been different.
After all the constitution worked, and Sharif Ali by temperament and training would be for Iraq what King Abdullah is to Jordan.
But to return to the outrage of 1958, and as is the case with republican conspirators the world over; they soon began to fight and fight ruthlessly over the spoils of government.
Quasim himself was to be overthrown by a Ba'athist coup in 1963, and given a speedy trial. He was shot.
He was succeeded by another of the 1958 conspirators Abdul Salam Arif who in turn was killed in a helicopter crash in southern Iraq, which was believed to be sabotaged.
His brother Abdul Rahman Arif replaced him, but his daughter and her husband were murdered.
He was overthrown by 1968 by yet another of the conspirators, General Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr, and exiled to Turkey.
Al-Bakr unwisely made his cousin Saddam Hussein Vice President.
Saddam soon made himself General and effectively took power.
In 1979 he became President, reputedly telling Al-Bakr that if he did not resign he would be removed. Al- Bakr died three years later.
Saddam then murdered several leading members of the Ba'ath party alleging they were spies.
After the invasion and occupation of Iraq by the American led Coalition of the Willing, Saddam was captured, and handed over to the Iraqi authorities. He was and tried and hanged in 2006.
…The Kingdom of Iraq…
As a kingdom, Iraq had enjoyed parliamentary government, elections, political parties and a relatively free press in a constitutional monarchy in which The King played a substantial role, a feature of Arab constitutional monarchies. ( Saudi Arabia is not a constitutional monarchy.)
The first King, Faisal, had played a leading role in the First World War and led the Arab Revolt which supported the allies.
Chosen King of Syria, he was removed by the French who were awarded a mandate By the League of Nations.
Prince Faisal was played superbly by Alec Guinness in that lyrical film, “Lawrence of Arabia.”
Faisal was a member of the Hashemite dynasty. With British support, his father briefly ruled Hejaz before it was annexed by Ibn Saud and incorporated into Saudi Arabia
. Faisal’s brother Prince Abdullah was to become The King of Transjordan, now known asJordan and still ruled by a Hashemite, King Abdullah II.
As King he retains some power within a constitutional monarchy.Prince Faisal was briefly proclaimed King of Syria, and ended up becoming King of Iraq.
He only accepted the Iraqi throne after a popular vote. The Kingdom was weakened subsequently by constant intrigues of army officers influenced by pan- Arabism, and the corruption of many of the politicians.
But it was certainly better than what succeeded the monarchy.
Republicanism brought fifty disastrous years to Iraq, and much of the Middle East.
[Since writing this, I have seen an excellent piece on the Radical Monarchist blog. See also "The Iraqis could do worse than return to being a constiutional monarchy," The Australian Financial Review, 2 December, 2003, On Line Opinion 16 December, 2003 ]