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Spies in ArabiaThe Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain's Covert Empire in the Middle East$
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Priya Satia

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195331417

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331417.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 02 July 2020

Air Control

Air Control

(p.239) 7 Air Control
Spies in Arabia

Priya Satia (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter describes the surveillance technology the British devised, initially in Iraq, as a result of their conspiracy obsessions. The panoptical ambitions of “air control” followed from wartime experiences and the culture of British surveillance in the Middle East—the preoccupation with the region's inscrutability, lack of frontiers, multiplication of rumors and lies—all of which air control would theoretically turn to advantage. In theory, “terror” would enable it to minimize casualties. The chapter describes the regime's actual brutality, showing how cultural conceptions circulated by the agents—the chivalry of Bedouin, the tolerance of a biblical people—helped mute criticism of its inhumanity and inaccuracy, as did its cooperation with allegedly empathetic ground agents. Thus did aerial bombardment become a central part of British military practice. The RAF's dependence on the Middle East for its survival made it impossible for the British to leave Iraq even after Iraqi “independence.”

Keywords:   Royal Air Force, RAF, air control, Iraq, inhumanity, colonial violence, bombardment, moral effect, militarism, Arthur Harris, empathy

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