You have to remember that the history of Western and British involvement in the Middle East – Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine – goes back through history.
"There are areas where you just can’t go anymore. In many ways, the West has helped open the gates of hell for that region."
They’re very used to British imperialist involvement in those countries. They were directly part of the Empire, or directly under our control, or we helped draw the maps that define those countries. We conquered those regions, and we helped to build the Israeli state, which has obviously caused huge ramifications. They’re used to the meddling, and what always astounded me, working in that region, was the hospitality and generosity of the people. But it’s different now.
In the last 10 to 15 years, we have gone from being generally welcomed as journalists, geo-workers, and charity workers to being unwelcome. I don't see that on a day-to-day basis but you are very aware that there are areas where you just can’t go anymore. In many ways, the West has helped open the gates of hell for that region.
The shift came with the downfall of Saddam Hussein. Yes, of course people didn't want to live under Saddam Hussein, but they don't see it as we removed Saddam Hussein. They see it as we deserted the country’s entire infrastructure, which we did. Water, sanitation, electricity: all those things have never been properly replaced. Secondly, we removed the military. We got rid of the generals and we created a vacuum which led to the sectarian Sunni and Shia violence, which I still don't think has reached its worst point.
Giles' book One Second Of Light can be ordered via EW Agency.