Magazine article The American Conservative

To Hell with Sykes-Picot

Magazine article The American Conservative

To Hell with Sykes-Picot

Article excerpt

When I hear the words Sykes-Picot I more often than not feel like punching an Englishman or a Frog--any Englishman, any Frog--in the mouth, but then I think of Francois Georges-Picot's granddaughter Olga and my pugilistic thoughts turn to romantic mush. I was 22 and she was 19 or 20, and we met in New York where she was studying acting and I was studying girls. It was love at first sight, and we swore we'd never ever look at anyone else ever, but then the summer ended and we never saw each other again. Well, I did see her, but she was 20 feet tall and in Technicolor.

Twelve years after we first met, I went to see Freddie Forsyth's "The Day of the Jackal" in a cinema in Leicester Square, starring the wonderful Edward Fox as the paid assassin, and suddenly there was Olga falling off her horse on purpose in the Bois de Boulogne with her intended victim immediately coming to her aid. I was with a couple of karate buddies, and I started hyperventilating and yelling, "My Olga, my Olga," but no one paid any attention, and some wise guy behind me told me to be quiet.

Olga was perfect in the part. She gets the old fool minister to pillow-talk and warns the Organisation armee secrete (OAS). I've always been pro-OAS and always believed de Gaulle to have betrayed the army and those who brought him to power in 1958, but it was so long ago, the only thing I can think about now is Olga. Who must be an old lady, unless I got old and she didn't.

Her grandfather and his equally arrogant-to-the-point-of-blindness partner, Mark Sykes, carved up the Ottoman Empire back in 1916, not unlike a butcher slicing up slabs of meat fresh out of the freezer. The Sultan had wisely divided the Middle East into provinces along ethnic lines. The Anglo-French duo in 1916 proved as ignorant as George W. Bush was to be 87 years later.

Had they never heard of the Sunni-Shia divide? …

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