It is now 100 years since the Battle of Amiens fully got underway in the muddy and bloody trenches of the First World War, opening a campaign that would eventually lead to the signing of the armistice for November 11, 1918, and ending a war that would supposedly end all wars. Oh, if only indeed that would have been true. Alas, if anything, that first truly great global conflict merely set in place the conditions for others to follow — and for countless millions more to perish in the name of isms or the shame of schisms.
In the coming weeks, leading up to November 11, much will be written over honour and sacrifice, the war and the waste, the human condition and what it all means a century on. And yes, it is right to remember, to honour and pay tribute to the fallen. But it is also a time to reflect on the consequences of that conflict and how it continues to shape the lives of everyone living today across the Middle East.
In secret, and with the arrogance of the imperious and the impudence of the aggressive, Britain and France looked at a map of a foreign region and drew lines in the sand.
The Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 fixed a bayonet that cut through the heart of the Arab people, set a sabre to traditional loyalties, and ensured that its fusillade of folly still echoes — now in Iraq, in Syria and across Palestine.
The First World War brought an end, too, to the Ottoman Empire and the values of the secular republic of modern-day Turkey are now under assault by its leader now intent on building an empire anew. Yes, the straight lines drawn on a map across regions in forming the boundaries of Syria and Iraq benefited the brocaded and imperious, but they imperil peace in our time.
Four years ago, as the terrorists aligned with Daesh swept across that region, they put a match to the map.
In carving up this greater region, those imperial powers then set a course that would see divide-and-conquer become the rule of law, where minorities were played off each other, where loyalties were built on the very foundations of shifting sands through which Sykes-Picot drew red lines.
This November, in Flanders Fields, when dignitaries declare, bugles blare and soldiers stand straight and saluting the fallen, who will remember then that Arabs are still suffering today from that conflict?