Lawrence of Arabia movie poster
Peter O'Toole on the poster of the hit movie Lawrence of Arabia, which won 7 Oscars in 1962. ©
Lawrence of Arabia movie poster
Conor Kenny
Last updated: March 21, 2012

Comment: The Real Lawrence of Arabia – Lies, Damned Lies, and Hollywood

I wrote an article for the Irish student newspaper The University Times last month, in which I discussed the legend of Che Guevera. The late Argentine revolutionary had his critics, many of whom accused the left leaning American film industry of cynically capitalizing on Guevera’s good looks and charisma, effectively hiding the troubled and occasionally violent individual beneath. Such a comparison can inevitably be drawn with the dashing T.E Lawrence, more commonly known as “Lawrence of Arabia”, nowadays seen as something of a slightly more esteemed predecessor to George Galloway. Yet if Hollywood spared some of the more brutal aspects of Guevara’s life in order to portray a more romantic image for the screen, then they downright manipulated the true character of T.E Lawrence.

Lawrence was no friend of the Arabs, far from it. Despite Peter O’Toole’s touching and occasionally mesmerizing performance in the 1962 film, the British Army Officer was nothing more than a violent and duplicitous thug who happened to be born with the graces of languid sophistication and charm. History books show that this vain prevaricator betrayed the Arabs to a degree matched only by the Irish King Diarmait Mac Murchada, who opened the gates of his country to English invaders in 1171. The only difference is that Mac Murchada aided outside imperialism because of his own stupidity, while Lawrence was a foreign mercenary who acted in full knowledge of the betrayal he was about to commit.

The Ottoman Empire had been ruling the Arab world for 400 years by the time Lawrence rocked into town. Because Turkey had the misfortune of choosing the wrong side in World War I, Britain and France decided to construct the famous “Arab Revolt” from overseas, with one eye perennially on the gold that was not so secretly hidden there. But the Turkish people were not the only ones to suffer. Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, brought out by the Allies to tell the Arabs they would have their liberation. He was complicit all along, however, in the conspiracy that the bureaucrats in parliament would soon be carving up the Arab world the better for the West to rule it. Puppet Kings living in the decadence of their opulent surroundings would rule with all the ferocity of Hitler, but without any of his autonomy. Thanks to Lawrence and his accomplices, the obscurantist martinets of places like Saudi Arabia are abusing the human rights of their own citizens on a scale not matched anywhere else in the Arab world. And yet Sky News and the BBC, with the connivance of their government, want us to focus instead of the injustices occurring in the tinpot tyrant regime of Assad’s Syria.

Religious fundamentalism, to which we are meant to believe the Western governments are so opposed, is the modus operandi in Saudi Arabia. For all the evils of autocrats like Gadaffi and Hussein, that is the one thing they could not be accused of having propagated. Their only fault, in the eyes of Britain et al, was their refusal to submit to Western demands. If a day ever comes when Saudi Arabia crosses their path in this way, it will sadly not be the corrupt Kings who will suffer, but rather, the innocent citizens. T.E Lawrence met his demise on his motorcycle in Dorset, as he swerved to avoid two boys on their bicycles, and was subsequently flung over the handlebars. A grisly end to a grisly life, but his legacy lives on. Just not in the way most people would have you think.

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