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The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
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 BlogviewPatrick Cockburn Archive

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Fifty years ago, the Battle of the Bogside in Derry between Catholics and police, combined with the attacks on Catholic areas of Belfast by Protestants, led to two crucial developments that were to define the political landscape for decades: the arrival of the British army and the creation of the Provisional IRA. An eruption in... Read More
On 8 May 1987 a Provisional IRA unit of eight men attacked a police station in the village of Loughgall in county Armagh 15 miles from the Irish border. One man drove a digger with a bomb in its bucket towards the building, half of which was destroyed in the explosion. But British forces had... Read More
I felt frustrated over the past three years at what appeared to me to be the shallow and Westminster-obsessed coverage of the Brexit saga by the media. Here was a crisis like no other in recent British history that was shaking the bedrock of society and government alike, but the reporting and commentary on it... Read More
Bluff was a central feature of British power even when the British empire covered a large part of the globe. A story illustrating this tells of a royal navy captain who was sent with a small ship to the far east to force a defiant local ruler to obey some orders issued by the British... Read More
What on Earth were the British politicians and officials thinking who gave the go-ahead for the seizure of the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 off Gibraltar on 4 July? Did they truly believe that the Iranians would not retaliate for what they see as a serious escalation in America’s economic war against them? The British... Read More
Is the rise of Boris Johnson to be the next prime minister the product of a soft coup? Does Donald Trump’s racist demonisation of four non-white congress members prove him to be a “fascist” leader like Mussolini and Hitler? The two questions should be answered together because political developments in Britain tend to emulate those... Read More
Britain is sending a second warship to the Gulf to protect its oil tankers from Iranian gunboats. HMS Duncan, a destroyer currently in the Mediterranean, will join HMS Montrose, a frigate, next week. Britain is on the edge of becoming involved in a conflict in which it can only deploy limited forces, but it could... Read More
The resignation of Sir Kim Darroch as British ambassador to Washington, because of his leaked messages to London criticising President Trump, is highly revealing about the real state of British knowledge of what is going on in the US. Supporters of the former ambassador portray him as a skilled and experienced foreign office official who... Read More
The seizure of an Iranian oil tanker allegedly bound for Syriaby British Royal Marine commandos off Gibraltar is the latest episode in the long and disastrous history of economic sanctions in the Middle East. The UK claims that it is implementing EU sanctions on Syria, but the act will be seen by Tehran – and... Read More
Four years ago, I was standing by the grave of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old child who drowned when the rubber boat carrying him and his Syrian Kurdish family from Turkey to Greece was flipped over by high waves. The picture of his small body in a red shirt and black shorts lying face down on... Read More
President Trump’s last-minute change of mind over launching US airstrikes against Iran shows that a military conflict of some description in the Gulf is becoming highly probable. His hesitation was most likely less connected with an Iranian surface-to-air missile shooting down a US surveillance drone than with his instinct that militarising the crisis is not... Read More
There is “sufficient credible evidence” that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the effective ruler of Saudi Arabia, was responsible for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and that he should be investigated according to a UN special rapporteur. Saudi Arabia first denied government involvement in the murder of Khashoggi after he entered the Saudi... Read More
Pictures of Daniel Ezzedine show him to be a fresh faced 17-year-old with a warm cheerful smile. His parents are Lebanese but he was brought up in Germany where he had just left school. His teachers brought him to celebrate his graduation on a trip to Canterbury where he was assaulted and beaten half to... Read More
Is Donald Trump a fascist? The question is usually posed as an insult rather than as a serious inquiry. A common response is that “he is not as bad as Hitler”, but this rather dodges the issue. Hitler was one hideous exponent of fascism, which comes in different flavours but he was by no means... Read More
I was in Kabul a decade ago when Wikileaks released a massive tranche of US government documents about the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen. On the day of the release, I was arranging by phone to meet an American official for an unattributable briefing. I told him in the course of our conversation what... Read More
There is a story about an enthusiastic American who took a phlegmatic English friend to see the Niagara Falls. “Isn’t that amazing?” exclaimed the American. “Look at that vast mass of water dashing over that enormous cliff!” “But what,” asked the Englishman, “is to stop it?” My father, Claud Cockburn, used to tell this fable... Read More
In its escalating confrontation with Iran, the US is making the same mistake it has made again and again since the fall of the Shah 40 years ago: it is ignoring the danger of plugging into what is in large part a religious conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims. I have spent much of my... Read More
Birmingham is one of the youngest cities in Europe, with almost 40 per cent of its population under the age of 25. As in the rest of Britain, the younger generation believe they are facing greater problems and anxieties than their parents and grandparents. “I think there is a slight resentment of older people in... Read More
Saudi Arabia’s claim that two of its oil tankers have been sabotaged off the coast of the UAE is vague in detail – but could create a crisis that spins out of control and into military action. Any attack on shipping in or close to the Strait of Hormuz, the 30-mile wide channel at the... Read More
Brexiteers in Britain are denouncing the EU as an all-powerful behemoth from whose clutches Britain must escape, just as the organisation is demonstrating its failure to become more than a second-rate world power. The EU’s real status – well behind the US, Russia and China – has just been demonstrated by its inability to protect... Read More
The outrage expressed by various establishment figures and institutions at the decision by Cambridge University to hold a two-year inquiry into its historic links to the slave trade demonstrates the continuing sensitivity and relevance of the topic. Critics of the inquiry claim that such focus on slavery is simply bowing to a trend, the suggestion... Read More
The reappearance of the Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has the same shock effect as that of Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of 9/11. It has all the greater impact because of claims that, with the elimination of the last territory held by Isis in March this year, that group was close to being... Read More
Western governments have been swift to pledge action to strike at Isis, as it becomes clear that the organisation was behind the suicide bombings that killed 253 people in Sri Lanka. A video released by Isis after the attacks shows Zahran Hashim, an Islamic preacher and alleged leader of the bombers, pledging allegiance together with... Read More
Two very different political waves are sweeping through the Middle East and north Africa. Popular protests are overthrowing the leaders of military regimes for the first time since the failed Arab Spring of 2011. At the same time, dictators are seeking to further monopolise power by killing, jailing or intimidating opponents who want personal and... Read More
Birmingham, once the manufacturing heart of Britain when it was the workshop of the world, rejuvenated itself after the implosion of its industrial base in the 1980s. That collapse, unimpeded by Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative government, was devastating even by the standards of the time because of Birmingham’s over-dependence on the automobile industry. “This... Read More
“Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards,” and “ha, ha, I hit them” say the pilots of a US Apache helicopter in jubilant conversation as they machine-gun Iraqi civilians on the ground in Baghdad on 12 July 2007. A wounded man, believed to be the Reuters photographer, 22-year-old Namir Noor-Eldeen, crawls towards a van. “Come... Read More
Benjamin Netanyahu is an early version of the nationalist populist leaders that have come to power in country after country in recent decades. He has an acute sense of who holds – and does not hold – power and how to manipulate it. No wonder he gets on well with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.... Read More
Future historians will look back at Britain in the age of Brexit and seek to explain why its people reduced their power and influence in the world in the belief that they were doing the exact opposite. But historians will have to move quickly if they are to have a say because the most important... Read More
A German general once explained that he divided officers looking for promotion into four categories: the clever and lazy, the clever and industrious, the stupid and lazy and the stupid and industrious. He said that the clever and lazy should be appointed to senior leadership positions because they could take important decisions without trying to... Read More
Up to its dying days the self-declared Islamic State has retained the ability to top the news agenda, even as its fighters were losing their last battle for bomb-shattered villages in the deserts of eastern Syria. When their spokesman promised retaliation for the massacre of Muslims in the Christchurch mosques his threat was taken seriously.... Read More
At the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s I used to visit Crossmaglen, a village in South Armagh close to the border with the Irish Republic and notorious as an Irish Republican stronghold. I would go there with my friend Ben Caraher, a teacher in Belfast who came from the... Read More
The prosecution of a single paratrooper for allegedly murdering two out of the 13 innocent civil rights marchers in Derry in 1972 has provoked inevitable criticism from knee-jerk defenders of the British army. They stubbornly refuse to admit that the greatest recruiting sergeant for the Provisional IRA during the Troubles were the killings carried out... Read More
The families of the 13 innocent people shot dead by the Parachute Regiment when they took part in a civil rights march against internment without trial in Londonderry in 1972 will learn in the coming week if soldiers, who are alleged to have carried out the killings, will be prosecuted. There is no doubt about... Read More
A return to violence is not a worst-case scenario but an inevitability if a hard border returns, as it will if there is...
I was sitting in a cafe on the Falls Road in heavily nationalist West Belfast when a local radio reporter came in looking for residents to interview about the effect of Brexit on Northern Ireland. She said that the impact was already massive, adding: “Stupid, stupid English for getting us into this pickle. We were... Read More
The decision of home secretary Sajid Javid to strip former Isis mother Shamima Begum of her British citizenship is evidently motivated by his wish to be seen – along with Theresa May – as tough and proactive amid the chaos and uncertainties of Brexit. The decision is probably illegal, given that Begum does not have... Read More
The one million people living in the south Wales valleys, a place that was once the engine room of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, are poorer today than the population of parts of Bulgaria, Romania and Poland. Unsurprisingly, they have few good things to say about anybody in authority – the EU in Brussels, the... Read More
A tidal wave of hypocrisy has greeted the discovery of the Bethnal Green schoolgirl and Isis bride Shamima Begum in a refugee camp in eastern Syria. Grandstanding politicians like Sajid Javid, the home secretary, say they will do everything to stop her coming back to the UK and might seek to put her on trial... Read More
President Trump says that in the coming week the US and its allies will announce that they have captured all of the land previously controlled by Isis. He claims that US-led forces “have liberated virtually all of the territory previously held by Isis in Syria and Iraq … we will have 100 per cent of... Read More
How should Brexit be seen against the broad backdrop of British history? Analogies multiply, with the crudest coming from prominent Brexiteer MP Mark Francois who denounced the head of Airbus for writing a letter stressing the negative economic impact for Britain of leaving the EU. Francois claimed that this was yet one more example of... Read More
It is always pleasing for authors to find out that they have readers in far flung places. It was therefore surprising but gratifying to see a picture of a battered copy of a French translation of a book I wrote called The Jihadis Return abandoned by Isis fighters, along with suicide vests and homemade explosive... Read More
Must one talk of Donald Trump? One must and not just because of the power of his position as US president, but because the nature of his foreign policy is misunderstood. I was answering questions about the future of the Middle East at a meeting of Independent subscribers on Tuesday evening when there was a... Read More
In the Arab Spring of 2011 much of the foreign media covering the protests in Egypt gathered in or around Tahrir Square in Cairo to report the daily confrontations between demonstrators demanding the overthrow of the regime and security forces seeking to preserve it. The scene in Tahrir was the backdrop to countless television interviews... Read More
Government, parliament and parts of the media are obsessed by Brexit, almost to the exclusion of all else. The last few weeks have produced a cascade of apocalyptic warnings about the calamity facing Britain if it fails to depart the EU, or does so with or without a deal. These forebodings may or may not... Read More
A black rubber inflatable boat was found abandoned earlier this week on the shingle at Dungeness on the Kent coast. Eight men, reportedly Iranians or Kurds, were later found close to the beach or in the nearby village of Lydd. An Iranian living in south London was later charged with helping the migrants to cross... Read More
The closure of Gatwick, the second largest airport in Britain, just before Christmas after the sighting of a mysterious drone near the runway, received wall-to-wall coverage from the British media, dominating the news agenda for the best part of a week. Contrast this with the limited interest shown when a majority stake in the airport... Read More
For many years I have collected snippets of conversation accidentally overheard or one side of a phone call that sounded comic, menacing or just plain mysterious. My collection is small because most of what is garnered through unintentional eavesdropping is dull and long-winded, but I occasionally hear something which is rivetingly interesting or bizarre. I... Read More
President Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria is being denounced by an impressive range of critics claiming that it is a surrender to Turkey, Russia, Syria and Iran – as well as a betrayal of the Kurds and a victory for Isis. The pullout may be one or all of these things, but... Read More
American armoured vehicles with their Stars and Stripes flying were patrolling today close to the Turkish-Kurdish frontline west of the Euphrates River in northern Syria. But how long will they go on doing so in the wake of the decision by President Trump to pull 2,000 US troops from Syria, claiming there is no reason... Read More
The number killed fighting in the war in Yemen jumped to 3,068 in November, the first time it has exceeded the three thousand mark in a single month since the start of the four-year conflict. This is about the same number as were being killed in Iraq at the height of the slaughter there in... Read More
The number of people killed by the violence in Yemen has for the first time risen above 3,000 dead in a single month, bringing the total number of fatalities to over 60,000 since the start of 2016. The figure is six times greater than the out-of-date figure of 10,000 dead often cited in the media... Read More
Patrick Cockburn
About Patrick Cockburn

Patrick Cockburn is the Middle East correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent. He was awarded the 2005 Martha Gellhorn prize for war reporting. His book on his years covering the war in Iraq, The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq (Verso) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for non-fiction.

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