These notes and letters were all sent to George Bush by Tony Blair between 12 September 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
They have been collated to demonstrate the Blair government’s motivations for aiding Bush in the invasion of Iraq as well as to offer insight into the decision-making processes that preceded the invasion.
Whilst we only have access to the British side of correspondence, analysis of these documents aids our understanding of foreign policy and its processes as well as the gradual growth of concern regarding the security risk posed by Iraq that intensified between 2001 and 2003.
This exhibit contains reports speaking of the Indian contribution to Britain’s army, in specific numbers both in terms of manpower and material support. This support placed an immense strain on India’s own resources, as acknowledged in these documents. Beginning in the later months of 1914, Indian troops were sent to the Persian Gulf to safeguard Britain’s oil interests in Abadan. For the duration of the campaign, around 600,000 Indians served in Mesopotamia including officers, soldiers, as well as non-combatants such as labourers who worked on roads and railways. They fought against the Ottoman Empire which had entered the war on Germany’s side. Many of them lived under miserable conditions, suffering from diseases and left with limited food supplies and clean water in the harsh weather. Indians were also amongst the ones captured by Ottoman forces at Kut-al-Amara and treated brutally on the 500-mile march to Turkish prison camps. Furthermore, Indian troops were crucial to the victory achieved later in the campaign for the British forces. For example, the attack on Shumran in February of 1917 was led by the 37th Indian Brigade.
While the Mesopotamia Commission’s report acknowledged the Indian contribution in clear terms, noting that ‘India may justly be proud of her contribution to the Empire, while England has every reason for her grateful recognition of her services’ (CAB 24/7/52: p. 10), this contribution was not publicly discussed until recently.
Indian nationalists had supported the Indian participation in the war hoping that they would be rewarded with self-government in return. However, that was denied to Indians after the war ended.
This collection of documents would be a useful source for those trying to understand the various aspects of the Indian involvement in the Mesopotamia campaign of the First World War. However, our project focuses on collecting documents collated/produced by the Mesopotamia Commission and these documents do not include Indian voices. For understanding this side of the story, we have listed below some additional resources that might be useful. These include helpful secondary literature as well as letters, diaries, songs, and other primary sources.
- David Omissi, Indian Voices of the Great War: Soldier’s Letters, 1914- 18, (London: Palgrave Macmillan London, 1999)
- Gajendra Singh, The Testimonies of Indian Soldiers and the Two World Wars: Between Self and Sepoy, (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014)
- George Morton-Jack, The Indian Empire at War: From Jihad to Victory, the Untold Story of the Indian Army in the First World War, (Little, Brown: 2018)
- Santanu Das, India, Empire, and First World War Culture: Writings, Images, and Songs, (Cambridge University Press, 2018)
- ‘WAR DIARY. ARMY HEADQUARTERS, INDIA. […] I.E.F. “D”. Volume 58. (From 1st to 31st May 1919.)’, Qatar National Library, [accessed June 30, 2022] https://www.qdl.qa/en/archive/81055/vdc_100000000112.0x000230
- “The Mesopotamia Campaign”, National Archives, [accessed June 29, 2022] https://nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/firstworldwar/battles/mesopotamia.htmes
- “Why the Indian soldiers of WW1 were forgotten”, BBC, July 2, 2015 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33317368
- Santanu Das, “The Indian sepoy in the First World War”, The British Library, February 6, 2014, https://www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/the-indian-sepoy-in-the-first-world-war
- “World War One: Six extraordinary Indian stories”, BBC News, November 11, 2018, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-46148207
- “Indian Soldiers in the First World War”, First World War in Focus, National Army Museum, November 3, 2016, https://ww1.nam.ac.uk/2808/news/indian-soldiers-first-world-war/#.Yr2GIy8w1QJ
- “Mesopotamia campaign”, National Army Museum, [accessed June 28, 2022] https://www.nam.ac.uk/explore/mesopotamia-campaign
This group of documents discuss Shia violence during the invasion of Iraq. They consist mainly of Joint Intelligence Committee documents allowing us an insight into the intelligence available to the coalition. This allows us to understand the reactions of the coalition forces to unrest driven by religion. The sources are varied in their analysis of regions which provides us with a broad understanding of Shia tension across Iraq.
This collection of Joint Intelligence Committee documents discusses Sunni Arab violence following the invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein. Following Hussain’s removal, the predominantly Sunni government of Iraq was replaced with individuals who were coalition-friendly and predominantly Shia. This led to the growth of sectarian violence and insurgency within Iraq.
These documents allow us to trace the changing threat of Sunni Arab violence to the coalition over the course of the invasion and subsequent occupation. Furthermore, we are able to understand how and why Sunni violence posed a threat as well as why Sunni Arabs were motivated to oppose the new Iraqi regime.
This collection of sources discuss the humanitarian situation in Iraq during the invasion. The sources discuss a range of topics from analysing the humanitarian situation prior to the invasion to which international actors need to provide support and aid. These sources will be useful to scholars examining human rights and the provision of aid during conflict or could provide an opportunity to examine the military’s poor planning in terms of the planning of humanitarian assistance.
These sources discuss the complexities of re-establishing the Oil Sector within Iraq. They deal with a number of issues such as governance, development planning and ensuring British interest and involvement in the region’s oil production and distribution.
These sources can help scholars understand the barriers ministers and organisations faced regarding these issues as well as Britain’s standpoint on more ethical and political issues. As an oil rich state, these sources provide us with a substantial understanding as to why Britain remained so active in Iraq following the invasion.