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Lady Hester Stanhope, Part II: The Travels

August 22nd, 2014 No comments

I’m on vacation. As I have done each year, I have prepared a number of posts on historical and cultural subjects unlikely to be overtaken by events, with at least one appearing daily. Part I, which originally appeared in July, was repeated yesterday.

After the death of her uncle, the Younger Pitt,  in 1806, and of both her brother Charles and her admirer Sir John Moore at Corunna in 1809, Lady Hester retreated to Wales for a time and then in 1810 decided to travel to the Mediterranean. Though she would live another 29 years, she would never see England again. This granddaughter of one Prime Minister and niece and hostess of another would spend the rest of her life in the Middle East.

She left Britain accompanied by her brother James, her maid, valet, and other companions, and her personal physician, Charles Meryon, who would write six volume bout Lady Hester, three of Memoirs and three of Travels; links to these may be found in Part One. In Gibraltar she added another companion: 20-year-old Michael Bruce. Lady Hester, who was 33, promptly took Bruce as a lover and openly acknowledged that fact.

Lady Hester seems to have hoped in some way to reach France and contact Napoleon, but after a stop in Malta i became obvious that most of Europe was closed to he English, so she determined to head for Greece (still under Ottoman rule) and Constantinople. At each stop she was greeted by local beys, diplomats, and dignitaries, and quickly became accustomed to being treated as a distinguished visitor. She literally hitched a ride on a British frigate; Lord Sligo, who was cruising in the area, added himself to her party, and in Corinth she was introduced to the harem of the local Bey. From Corinth she sailed to Piraeus, visited Athens, and then embarked for Constantinople. She saw the city, was entertained by senior officials, and remained there until October of 1811.

Shipwreck off Rhodes (Meryon, Travels, Vol. III

Intending to visit Egypt next, Lay Hester took ship to Alexandria. After a stop at Rhodes,hip encountered storms and rough seas and sprung  a leak on November 27. It was decided to abandon the sinking ship  and board its longboat, so most of the luggage was left behind. After several days of danger, the party was rescued, but without their luggage and most of their money.

Eventually, they made their way to Alexandria in December 1811, but after the loss of the luggage, the party generally adopted eastern dress. Disdaining the veil, Lady Hester opted to dress herself in the male dress of the Ottoman east instead. (According to Meryon, Lady Hester’s clothes were those of the lesser gentry, not the aristocracy, but she was unaware of this.)

In February of 1812 the party finally reached Alexandria. After proceeding upriver to Cairo, Lady Hester was received in style by Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha himself; for the occasion she dressed in North African fashion.

After returning to the Delta for a period in Damietta, the party, which had dded various servants of multiple nationalities, decided to seek a better climate in Syria. Meanwhile, more than two years after leaving England, the party was beginning to learn both Turkish an Arabic.

The party arrived by sea in Jaffa, slowly made its way on a grand tour of Jerusalem, Nazareth, Acre, and other parts of Palestine, and made its way northward into Lebanon.

Some accounts say she already believed, due to a meeting with a crazy British “prophet” before leaving England, that she was destined to be some sort of “Queen of the East”; in any event these delusions would strengthen, and her natural aristocratic assumptions of superiority and privilege blended with he polite hospitality of the locals towards guests to strengthen her sense of entitlement.

When the Emir Bashir Chehab, Maronite autocrat of Mount Lebanon, invited her to his palace at Deir al-Qamar, she eagerly accepted, despite tensions between Maronites and Druze; she would spend much of her life in those mountains. She resolved to visit Damascus, despite  warnings that he town was anti-foreigner and anti-Christian; she was received cordially, further strengthening her conviction that she had some sort of destiny.

Lady Hester at Palmyra (Meryon, Travels, Vol. II

She had for some time been hoping to visit Palmyra.  She was warned that this would entail passing through empty desert controlled by bedouin tribes hostile to strangers and fighting with each other; once again, she was undeterred. he went some weeks in Hama while Meryon and others explored the route to Palmyra. She secured the protection of Mahanna, chief of the ‘Anaiza, who provided her with an escort. She arrived in Palmyra in an extensive caravan late in March 1813, and was received with much ceremony, which as her delusions gradually took hold of her later she would interpret as having been “crowned Queen of the Desert” among the ruins of Palmyra.

The alleged “crowning” would be the pinnacle of her grand progress. Soon after her younger lover Michael Bruce departed for England, where his father was ailing; she would face illness, and sfter one more adventure (an early archaeological exploration in Ascalon) would gradually retreat into isolation on Mount Lebanon, conviction that she was some sort of prophetess, and her reputation as “the Mad Nun of Lebanon.”

Tomorrow: Part III: Descent Into Delusion
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Comment on Failed US War on Terror resulted from bizarre search for Moderate Jihadis by Jack bender

August 22nd, 2014 No comments

And so what should the US do?….as nothing seems to work…any ideas out there?

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Comment on What do Iraq’s Sunni Arabs have in common with Ferguson, Mo. African-Americans? by JTMcPhee

August 22nd, 2014 No comments

Check out the shoot-em-up videos under “Syria combat” on YouTube and such. Lots of that as tactics. Somehow it seems to still result in casualties, and “movement.” I wonder if the better schooled Gunmen of IS display any better discipline. For $20 billion in Training Bucks, this is what we get as our return on investment?

Nice helmet cams, though. Home movies galore.

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Comment on Why Militarized Policing is the worst Response to Ferguson’s Problems by super390

August 22nd, 2014 No comments

Actually, there is a split among whites. If all whites were on the same side, logically Obama would have gotten no white votes at all. But there are now two Americas, one mostly urban and somewhat integrated and multicultural, and the other one like what you describe.

This is partly why the Tea Party whites are so freaked out. They see their own children betraying them by hanging out with blacks, Latinos, gays, non-Christians, etc. Now blacks are actually moving into old inner-ring suburbs, while white bigot flight surges further into the exurbs, bleeding into the ugliness of rural tribalism.

So those whites are very, very organized and political, while the laid-back whites are politically ignorant, unaware of the alarming historical parallels of this proto-secessionist wave, inclined to be libertarian and maybe not that sympathetic to their minority neighbor’s incompatibility with white patriarchal capitalism. A weak opposition, at best, which is exposed in midterm elections like 1994 and 2010. When will that white America take a stand on fascist cops when it wouldn’t do so after Occupy?

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Comment on What do Iraq’s Sunni Arabs have in common with Ferguson, Mo. African-Americans? by Juan Cole

August 21st, 2014 No comments

thanks, Jim! The old format is still there for those who prefer it; just bookmark:

link to juancole.com

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Comment on ISIS to US: We’ll drown you in Blood; beheads US Journalist, Holds Tikrit by Travis Bickle

August 21st, 2014 No comments

The problem with crying wolf is that there may just be one this time around. As alway, let the buyer beware.

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Comment on ISIS to US: We’ll drown you in Blood; beheads US Journalist, Holds Tikrit by JTMcPhee

August 21st, 2014 No comments

I guess there are a whole lot of people who are maybe less invested in Obama the Chess Player’s aura who see very little difference between the military-industrial-congressional monstrosity under the Bush League, and how the cancer continues to grow under the Obama administration. Still a huge empire, the money, our hard-work-created wealth, continues to generate a giant sucking sound as it floods into the sluiceways of Infinite Threat Creation And Response Weaponized Military. Context?

“President Obama is Not Actually Cutting Military Spending, But He Should ,” link to freedomworks.org

In slightly older news, “War spending surges in President Obama’s budget,” link to politico.com

And a whole lot more. You really think Obama, that one guy with all that is on his plate, and given the massive power of the Complex, has anything but the slightest effect on “managing the military?” Got any support for that feeling? That whole “War is nothing but a racket” thing is kind of unarguably still in place and in full play…

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Debating a Kurdish State

August 21st, 2014 No comments


Old photo of Eastern Kurds, 1898

by Serhun Al, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, August 12, 2014

[Note: for the Arabic version of this article, click here.]

As the Islamic State consolidates its presence in Iraq the question of an independent Kurdish state has again become the subject of heated debate. Despite a rapidly changing situation, with U.S. airstrikes supporting peshmerga attempts to push the Islamic State back, realities regarding the prospects of Kurdish independence remain largely unchanged. Potential challenges include security hurdles, disagreement among Kurdish stakeholders, and the lack of broad international support.

As aspirations among the Kurdish population for an independent, secure, and economically flourishing state within Iraq mount, rifts within Kurdish parties stand in the way of even an agreement on whether independence is viable. Rival Kurdish groups, each fearful of losing the status quo, have proven extremely divided on the question of statehood. The quest for independence is more likely to incite these rivalries than soothe them. Massoud Barzani, the president of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), has been pushing for independence, while his main rival party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), remains unconvinced. Despite its support for independence, the Gorran (Change) movement is concerned about the potential dominance of the Barzani family and the absence of democratic and accountable institutions on which a viable state could be built.

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Comment on ISIS to US: We’ll drown you in Blood; beheads US Journalist, Holds Tikrit by Jay L

August 21st, 2014 No comments

My last comment, a bit over the top, was refused for publication here. This was my point.
Have you others noticed how ISIS is portrayed by the MSM and politicians as the most vicious, richest, best armed, best organized, and well…the greatest threat to all of the world since the Russian commies? It sounds like psycho-ops by the establishment to get the American people to want all-out war in America’s favorite playground: Asia. Anybody else wonder about this? (Compare the apparently false claims that Iraqis were killing Kuwaiti babies when America was contemplating going after Saddam in Iraq War I)

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Comment on Israel: Crowd shouts “Death to Arabs” at Jewish-Muslim Wedding by Ted L

August 21st, 2014 No comments

Religion sucks!

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