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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
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
In October 2001 I was standing on a hilltop 40 miles north of Kabul watching US aircraft bomb the Taliban front line. The night sky was lit up with the flash of explosions and the sparkle of ineffectual anti-aircraft fire. It was fairly obvious who was going to come out the winner. A few weeks... Read More
The US and UK are the nation states that have performed worst in the world in coping with the coronavirus pandemic. Americans and Britons make up more than a third of the 300,000 people worldwide who have died from Covid-19. They have paid the ultimate price for their governments’ slow and incompetent response to the... Read More
The shadowy figures of well-armed Isis gunmen can be seen making an attack in the plains of northern Iraq on an outpost held by paramilitary fighters loyal to the Iraqi government. Some four of the latter are killed by a roadside bomb. Isis specialises in publicising its successful military actions online to show that it... Read More
“Go to China!”, a woman in Denver, Colorado, shouts at two hospital workers standing in front of her car to prevent her from taking part in a protest against the coronavirus lockdown. Her cry is a sign that President Trump is having some success in demonising China: he says that that he has a “high... Read More
In the summer of 2011, riots erupted all over London and television screens and newspapers were filled with pictures of blazing buildings and looted shops. People swiftly noted that among those not present in the capital was the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who was with his family in a camper van in the Canadian... Read More
The fear caused by the coronavirus outbreak is greater than that provoked by a serious war because everybody is in the front line and everybody knows that they are a potential casualty. The best parallel is the terror felt by people facing occupation by a hostile foreign army; even if, in the present case, the... Read More
On 9 to 10 November 1938 the German government encouraged its supporters to burn down synagogues and smash up Jewish homes, shops, businesses, schools. At least 91 Jews – and probably many more – were killed by Nazi supporters egged on by Joseph Goebbels, the minister for public enlightenment and propaganda, in what became known... Read More
I was in Kabul in 2010 when Julian Assange and WikiLeaks first released a vast archive of classified US government documents, revealing what Washington really knew about what was happening in the world. I was particularly interested in one of these disclosures, which came in the shape of a video that the Pentagon had refused... Read More
“People wanted to kick the government and Sinn Fein provided the shoe to do the kicking,” says Christy Parker, a journalist from the beautiful but de-industrialised town of Youghal in county Cork. He speaks of the “chasm” between the elite benefiting from Ireland’s impressive economic progress and the large part of the population that has... Read More
My favourite slogan about Brexit over the past three years is written in large white letters on a red gable wall in the Tigers Bay district of Belfast. It was painted before the referendum of 2016 and, below a union flag, reads: “Vote Leave EU. Rev 18:4.” The biblical reference is to a verse in... Read More
China is responding to the spread of the coronavirus in Wuhan much as countries have always reacted to life-threatening epidemics. At every level of society and government, fear of death – or, more accurately, fear of being held responsible for death – drives decision-making, which is consequently often ill-judged. Officials do not want to cause... Read More
Today Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei gave his first Friday sermon in Tehran for eight years to an audience of thousands, as he tried to calm down the furious public reaction to the Revolutionary Guards mistakenly shooting down a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers, then proceeding to lie about their responsibility for three days. Khameinei... Read More
I was in Iraq in April 1991 when government security forces crushed the Shia uprising against Saddam Hussein’s regime, killing tens of thousands and burying their bodies in pits. I had been expelled from Iraq to Jordan at the start of the rebellion in March and then, to my surprise, allowed to return, because Saddam... Read More
The Iranian missile attack on two US bases in Iraq is symbolic retaliation for the US assassination of General Qassem Soleimani on 3 January. Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei said there would be direct action against the US by the Iranian armed forces, and this has now happened. The message is that the Iranian leadership... Read More
The assassination of Qassem Soleimani has capsized Iraqi politics in the most dangerous of ways, making it possible that the country will be plunged once again into a state of permanent crisis and war from which it has escaped in the last two years. President Trump is threatening sanctions against Iraq if it expels the... Read More
Iraqis have a well-honed instinct about approaching danger which stems from their grim experience during 40 years of crisis and war. Three months ago, I asked a friend in Baghdad how she and her friends viewed the future, adding Iraq seemed to me to be more peaceful than at any time since the US and... Read More
Nationalism in different shapes and forms is powerfully transforming the politics of the British Isles, a development that gathered pace over the last five years and culminated in the general election this month. National identities and the relationship between England, Scotland and Ireland are changing more radically than at any time over the last century.... Read More
I live in Canterbury, where the Labour MP Rosie Duffield increased her slim majority tenfold in the general election. Given Labour’s defeat in almost all of the rest of the UK, it’s worth considering why this happened,. A prime reason Duffield retained her seat is that that Labour had the support of a rickety but... Read More
I suspected from the moment the general election was called that the result would be a large Conservative majority, a calamitous defeat for Labour, and a decisive victory for Brexit. To prevent myself getting too depressed by this grim prospect, I picked out and read two books on crises that were far more dire: one... 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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Full Story of the Taliban's Amazing Jailbreak
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"All Hell is Breaking Loose with Muqtada" Warlord: the Rise of Muqtada al-Sadr