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As Britain prepares to host the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow next month, it is pursuing two contradictory policies that undermine its chances of success. On the one hand, it is seeking a unified global response to the climate crisis with nations agreeing to targets for the reduction of their coal and petroleum emissions. But... Read More
Three years ago, on 2 October 2018, a team of Saudi officials murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The purpose of the killing was to silence Khashoggi and to frighten critics of the Saudi regime by showing that it would pursue and punish them as though they were agents of a... Read More
Isaiah Berlin once denounced somebody for being “that rare thing – a genuine charlatan”. He pointed out that few people, even quacks and imposters, deceive and manipulate all the time. Boris Johnson is a prime example of Berlin’s rare breed, who does just that with his boosterism, false promises and lying. This is attested to... Read More
Trumpism was never quite what it seemed to the rest of the world when it came to America’s actions as opposed to his words. The tone was always belligerent, but Trump went out of his way not to start any wars. As for the slogan “America First”, this was not so much about an isolationist... Read More
Two decades after 9/11, the role of Saudi Arabia in the attack remains in dispute despite unrelenting efforts by the US and Saudi governments to neutralise it as a live political issue. The Saudi Arabia embassy in Washington this week issued a statement detailing its anti-terrorist activities and ongoing hostility to Al-Qaeda. This was briskly... Read More
Two decades after 9/11, the role of Saudi Arabia in the attack remains in dispute despite unrelenting efforts by the US and Saudi governments to neutralise it as a live political issue. The Saudi Arabia embassy in Washington this week issued a statement detailing its anti-terrorist activities and ongoing hostility to Al-Qaeda. This was briskly... Read More
An ill-judged attempt to find out who is to blame for failing to predict the swift victory of the Taliban and the disintegration of Afghan government forces is masking the most significant strategic lessons of the Afghan war. Turning points in history usually come by surprise because, if the powers-that-be of the day could see... Read More
The slaughter of at least 79 Afghan civilians and 13 American servicemen at Kabul airport has propelled the Afghan offshoot of Isis to the top of the news agenda, as it was intended to do. The movement showed with one ferocious assault, at a time and place guaranteeing maximum publicity, that it intends to be... Read More
In 2001 the Taliban blew up the giant 1,500-year-old Buddhist statues in Bamiyan, central Afghanistan to show their defiance of the world and their contempt for all religious beliefs aside from their own fanatical version of Sunni Islam. Another motive was to demonstrate the Taliban’s power over the Shia minority in Afghanistan, mostly members of... Read More
The American way of dealing with a lost war is to withdraw its forces. The Afghan way of dealing with it is to change sides as quickly as possible. The Afghan way of war has created confusion among foreign political and military leaders in the past 20 years, but never more so than during the... Read More
As Taliban fighters enter Kabul, everybody from the US government to local policemen seeks to reach a deal with the new rulers of Afghanistan. Alternatively, they want to flee the country as soon as possible. The Afghan government agreed at the weekend on a transitional government, which will avoid a direct Taliban military assault on... Read More
“Do you remember the tomorrow that never came?” asked a sad piece of street graffiti in Cairo, referring to the fate of the Arab Spring that once promised to overthrow the brutal autocracies that rule the Middle East. That tomorrow moved even further into the future this week when a coup displaced the last surviving... Read More
Boris Johnson turns out to have privately yearned to adopt the same approach as Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro who publicly favoured allowing Covid-19 to rip through his nation. “Stop all this fussing and whining,” Bolsonaro told Brazilians, some 543,000 of whom have died in the epidemic. “How long are you going to go on crying?”... Read More
Over the last week, I have been watching the Taliban sweep across the map of northern Afghanistan, capturing places that I first visited in 2001 at the beginning of the US-backed war. Taliban fighters have seized the main bridge to Tajikistan on the Amu Darya, a river that I crossed on an unwieldy raft a... Read More
“A ruthless little b******,” was President Richard Nixon’s verdict on Donald Rumsfeld as recorded by the Watergate tapes – and everything in his career, supremely successful until the Iraq war, confirmed that Nixon had read him correctly. Rumsfeld relished such tributes to his toughness, but he was above all else a skilful bureaucratic warrior in... Read More
Israel and Hamas have ended their 11-day “war”, but even before the shooting stopped it had transformed the political landscape. The Israel/Palestinian confrontation has shifted away from focusing solely on Gaza to multiple fronts – Jerusalem, the West Bank, Israel itself– and an upsurge in any one of them could start a new round of... Read More
When I first visited Israel in 1976 after spending three years in Northern Ireland working on my second degree, I was struck by the similarities between the situations in the two countries. It is therefore entirely appropriate that on the same day that the Israeli-Palestinian crisis was exploding this week, an inquest in Belfast was... Read More
During the first Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union injustice and human rights increasingly became a central issue. This ought to have been a positive development, but it was devalued by partisan use and the issue turned into an instrument of propaganda. The essence of such propaganda is not lies or even... Read More
Asked what he would do if the British army invaded Germany, Bismarck said that he would tell the police to arrest them. In the wake of the latest British defence review, cutting the size of the conventional armed forces, many contemporary world leaders may respond with similar derision to any future threat of British military... Read More
Great dollops of hypocrisy invariably accompany expressions of concern by outside powers for the wellbeing of the Syrian people. But even by these low standards, a new record for self-serving dishonesty is being set by the Caesar Civilian Protection Act, the new US law imposing the harshest sanctions in the world on Syria and bringing... Read More
Most nationalist movements wait until they have achieved independence before having a civil war over who runs the country. But Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond have jumped the gun by opening hostilities while Scottish self-determination is still well over the horizon. Could it remain an unattainable goal thanks to the open warfare between the past... Read More
A former Isis fighter once complained to me that western volunteers who travelled to the so-called Islamic State in northeastern Syria were a burden because they did not speak Arabic, had no military experience, knew little about Islam and had often come because they were bored or unhappy at home. He said that their main... Read More
Ten years ago, people across the Middle East and North Africa rose up in protest against their rulers, demanding freedom and democracy. Despotic rulers were toppled or feared that power was being torn from their grasp in countries across the region, as millions of demonstrators surged through the streets, chanting that “the people demand the... Read More
Get your retaliation in first,” is a cynical old saying in Northern Irish politics that means you hit your opponent whenever you can without waiting for a provocation. It neatly captures the violent traditions of the province and explains why the political temperature there is always close to boiling over. Imagine then the pleasure of... Read More
Predictions of the break-up of the UK may be reaching a crescendo, but they are scarcely new. In 1707, Jonathan Swift wrote a poem deriding the Act of Union between England and Scotland, which had just been passed, for seeking to combine two incompatible peoples in one state: “As if a man in making posies/... Read More
The 10-year campaign by the US government to criminalise reporting critical of its actions has failed in rather peculiar circumstances, with the unexpected decision by the court in London to reject the US demand for Julian Assange's extradition. Judge Vanessa Baraitser gave as the reason for her decision Assange’s mental health and possible suicide risk,... Read More
The view from the top of the Western Heights, the great fortified hill overlooking Dover, has the advantage of taking in many of the key features shaping life in Britain in the age of Brexit and Covid-19. The most important of these is the proximity of the French coast, glittering on the horizon 22 miles... Read More
Fear is at a high point in Britain at the moment and with very good reason. There is much to be frightened of as it turns out that Covid-19 has been quicker to learn from experience than bumbling Boris Johnson and his third-eleven team during a calamitous year in which they have zig-zagged between panic... Read More
The departure of Britain from the European Union should be the moment when the country would at last be free to determine its own future and start to transform itself for the better. The damaging rupture with the world’s largest trading bloc – and the political traumas within the UK – can only be justified... Read More
I met pleased and gloomy people in the first half of last year when I travelled around the UK writing about the potential impact of Brexit. But by far the happiest of those I interviewed were veteran Irish republicans in Belfast, mostly present or past members of Sinn Fein, who had devoted their lives to... Read More
I was in Israel on 4 November 1995 when a student named Yigal Amir assassinated the Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin as he left a peace rally in Tel Aviv. A video shows Amir loitering by an exit to the square for 40 minutes before Rabin appears, when his killer takes out a pistol and... Read More
It was the worst crime of Donald Trump’s years in the White House. In October 2019 he ordered US troops to stand aside, greenlighting Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria that led to the murder, rape and expulsion of its Kurdish inhabitants Eighteen months earlier, Trump did nothing as the Turkish army occupied the Kurdish enclave... Read More
Robert Fisk and I often used to discuss the merits and demerits of responding in print to personal attacks on us filled with provable falsehoods. The temptation to refute such falsehood is hard to resist, but we recognised that therein lies a trap because even the most persuasive refutation of a gross lie necessitates repeating... Read More
I first met Robert in Belfast in 1972 at the height of the Troubles when he was the correspondent for The Times and I was writing a PhD on Irish history at Queen’s University. I was also taking my first tentative steps as a journalist, while he was swiftly establishing a reputation as a meticulous... Read More
I was in Baghdad in 1998 during US airstrikes, watching missiles explode in great flashes of light as they hit their targets. There was some ineffectual anti-aircraft fire, the only result of which was pieces of shrapnel falling from the sky and making it dangerous to step outside the building we were in. To my... Read More
The battle against Covid-19 is often compared to real war. The analogy encourages a “we are all in it together” solidarity and suggests that it is unpatriotic to criticise or oppose government decisions. Yet the comparison should not be entirely dismissed as self-serving bluster by political leaders because a war and a pandemic have many... Read More
“Many relatives of mine were living in camps near the border with Turkey,” says Huda Husein, a 25-year-old teacher living in the rebel-held enclave of Idlib in northwest Syria. “But last month they returned home [to the cities and villages] because they prefer dying under an airstrike to dying in the camps.” A cousin told... Read More
The silence of journalists in Britain and the US over the extradition proceedings against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is making them complicit in the criminalisation of newsgathering by the American government. In an Old Bailey courtroom in London over the past four weeks, lawyers for the US government have sought the extradition of Assange to... Read More
I was six years old in 1956 when my parents decided to return to Ireland from London, though a polio epidemic was in full swing in Cork city thirty miles from where we lived. They thought we would be safe in our house deep in the countryside and were encouraged by the fact that there... Read More
Twenty years ago, a novelist went to see his publisher to discuss his proposal to write a dystopian novel set in Britain in 2020 when newspaper columnists have taken power and are running the country. These opinion-makers, sometimes called the Commentariat, had for years been expressing outrage at the failings of the government and everyone... Read More
Desperate refugees crammed into cockle-shell boats landing on the shingle beaches of the south Kent coast are easily portrayed as invaders. Anti-immigrant demonstrators were exploiting such fears last weekend as they blockaded the main highway into Dover Port in order “to protect Britain’s borders”. Meanwhile, the home secretary, Priti Patel, blames the French for not... Read More
“I cannot tell my true name,” says Ramiz Halawani, a 37-year-old teacher in Damascus. “You know how bad and violent our security intelligence are. They have spies everywhere. So, I am using another name.” Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Independent, Mr Halawani said he contracted Covid-19 earlier this month, as the epidemic swept... Read More
“If I don’t buy masks or medicine, I may die or survive, but if I don’t buy bread for the family, we will all die of starvation,” says a retired 68-year-old teacher in Damascus, explaining why he does not have masks, sterilisers or medicines. “We need two bundles of loaves every day which costs us... Read More
President Donald Trump is cock-a-hoop over the United Arab Emirates becoming the first Arab Gulf state to normalise its relations with Israel. He needs all the good news he can get in the months before the US presidential election. “HUGE breakthrough today! Historic Peace Agreement between our two GREAT friends, Israel and the United Arab... Read More
We live in an era of resurgent nationalism. From Scotland to Sri Lanka, from China to Brazil, governments rely on nationalism as a source of communal identity and a vehicle for common action. In countries where religious identity appears to dominate, as with Islam in Turkey and Hinduism in India, religion has bonded with nationalism.... Read More
When I got polio on a farm in the middle of the Irish countryside in 1956, an Irish Health Ministry official visited our nearest neighbour, a farmer called Dick Cunningham, the next day. He told him what had happened and advised him to keep his children at home. Other farmers in the area, none of... Read More
The new Cold War launched by the West against China and Russia is escalating by the day. In a single week, the Kremlin has been unmasked trying to discover the secrets of Britain’s pursuit of a vaccine against coronavirus and revelations are promised about covert Russian interference in British politics. Boris Johnson made a U-turn... Read More
When Voltaire on his deathbed was asked by a priest if he renounced Satan, he responded: “Now, now my good man. This is no time to be making enemies.” Britain may not yet be on its deathbed, but it is politically and economically sick and this might be a good moment to follow Voltaire’s example... Read More
The government’s controversial Prevent programme aims to stop individuals becoming terrorists, but it would be much more effective if it taught British political leaders not to engage in wars that become the seed-beds of terrorism. Consider the case of Khairi Saadallah, the suspect in the killing of three people in a park in Reading who... Read More
Britain is failing to cope with the Covid-19 epidemic as well as other countries in Europe and East Asia have. Out of 62,000 excess deaths in the UK, says former chief medical officer Sir David King, “40,000 excess deaths could have been avoided if government had acted responsibly”. The failure is devastating: on a single... 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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