Ludwig von Gress
Somehow, whatever and however nasty things are happening in Syria today, they are keeping me indifferent, almost cool. Flavour of the month are colourful images of shells exploding over Damascus dirty-grey high-rises, the standard atrocities stories and the oh so wise commentaries, devoid, as is a custom of the contemporary journalism, of all and any facts. All this fills the front pages of the follow-the-leader media, earns nice profits to ‘experts’ and to the arms suppliers. I, and I am sure you too, have all seen it before. It does not mean, I hope, that I, on top of my time and time-proven cynicism, am inured to human suffering. It is that I just remember.
The current Syrian atrocity stories bring out the memories, thankfully, mostly second-hand. In 1918, on the way to Damascus, units of Arabs, revolting against the Ottoman rule, led by a British officer T.E.Lawrence, pursued the fleeing Turkish, German and Austrian soldiers -
Just one group of Arabs, who had not heard our news, took prisoner the last two hundred men of the central section. Their respite was short. I had gone up to learn why it was, not unwilling that this remnant be let alive as witnesses of Tallal’s price; but a man on the ground behind them screamed something to the Arabs, who with pale faces led me to across to see. It was one of us – his thigh shattered. The blood had rushed out over the red soil, and left him dying; but even so he had not been spared. In the fashion of to-day’s battle he had been further tormented by bayonets hammered through his shoulder and other leg into the ground, pinning him out like a collected insect.
He was fully conscious. When we said, ‘Hassan, who did it?’ he dropped his eyes towards the prisoners, huddling together so hopelessly broken. They said nothing in the moments before we open fire. At last their heap ceased moving; and Hassan was dead; and we mounted again and rode home slowly…
(Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, CB,DSO: Seven Pillars of Wisdom a triumph, 1926)