Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fawzi el-Kaukji

Born 1894 in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, Fawzi el-Kaukji graduated from the military academy in Istanbul. During WWI, as a lieutenant in the Ottoman army, he fought with the Germans of General Otto von Kreiss against British in Palestine and earned the Iron Cross second class—the only mark of a true warrior in his opinion. Since then he had been an unqualified admirer of things German.

A true type of mercenary, when the Ottoman Empire began to crumble, he went to work spying on the Turks for the British. Then, successively, he spied on the French for the British, on the British for French, on the French and the British for Germans. Involved in nationalist movement in French mandated-Syria, Kaukji later escape to Hejaz and became a military adviser to Abd el-Aziz el-Saud, king of the Saudi Arabia. The high point of his military career had come during the Arab revolt against the British and the Jewish in Palestine in 1936. There he got some of the 80-odd wounds which sometimes make his popeyes water with pain and also won him fame among the Arab population. However, his popularity and supports for Nashashibi clan were not altogether to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, liking. The mufti prized servility and loyalty above all else in his aides, and Kaukji had failed on both counts. Since then, both of Arab leaders became rivals.

When the British put down the Arab rebellion, both Kaukji and the Mufti fled to Iraq. Both of them later involved in Rashid Ali al-Gaylani attempt to thrown British influence in Iraq on 1941. Served as an Iraqi captain, Kaukji, equipped with arms and money, got an order to foment a support for Rashid Ali regime in northern Iraq. Instead of promoting an uprising, the Mufti’s aides later claimed, “he swallowed up the arms, the money, and the rebellion.”

During a retreat to Syria after the fall of Rashid Ali government, a British plane strafed, and almost killed Kaukji. He went to Germany to recuperate.

After his health was restored, he was sent to Greece, to help build up the "Deutsch-Arabische-Lehrabteilung" under the supervision of General Helmuth Felmy. There, in capacity as a head of propaganda in Athens, he also helped stir up the Arab world against the British. He got a colonel rank in German army.

During his stay in Berlin, the rivalry of Kaukji and the Mufti of Jerusalem continued. The relations between them were cool and soon deteriorated to a deep mutual dislike. Driven by Kaukji’s military reputation to the fear that Hitler might place him rather than the Mufti in charge of the attempt to organize Arab resistance to the Allied in the Middle East, Haj Amin el-Husseini constantly whispered into the ears of German intelligence that Kaukji actually was a British spy!

Like the blue eyes and red hair el-Husseini, with his scarred face, his thick neck and his closely cropped red hair, el Kaukji bore a closer resemblance to a Prussian officer than to an Arab chief. However, although he likes to become a German general, his battles had ended in defeats: by the French in Syria, by the British in Palestine, and in Iraq (where he fought with Nazi help). But, if he could not be a German general he could at least be a German husband. An unqualified admirer of things German, his sentiment had been affirmed by marrying a German girl—his third wife—he met in Berlin during WWII.

El-Kaukji and his German wife were captured by the Red Army when the Third Reich collapsed. They were held by Russians until February 1947, when Stalin released them as a Soviet Union good gesture for Arabs. Returned to Middle East, Kaukji later appointed by Arab League as the commander of the Arab Liberation Army with one mission, to destroy the Jewish State. However, he never accomplished the mission. Defeating by Jewish fighters during the First Israeli-Arab War of 1948, Kaukji later retired and lived in private till his death in Beirut in 1977.

Copyright © Nino Oktorino 2009

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