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The government is back to its well-tried Inspector Clouseau mode with a public inquiry intended to discredit accusations of institutional racism that has done the exact opposite. This bit of self-inflicted foot-shooting came soon after half-baked efforts to suppress a protest on Clapham Common that guaranteed it worldwide publicity. The twin debacles have significant features... 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
As Britain enters a post-pandemic era, its struggle with Covid-19 reveals a country that is a complicated mix of strengths and weaknesses. On the one hand, Britain has developed, manufactured and distributed effective vaccines quicker than any other nation. On the other, it has constructed the biggest gravy train in British history, one that pays... 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
The invasion of the Capitol on 6 January now stands alongside 9/11 as an act of war against American democracy. Unsurprisingly, news coverage of the incursion has come to resemble war propaganda. All facts, true or false, are pointed in the same direction with the aim of demonising the enemy and anybody who minimises its... 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
I was always worried when I had to enter the Green Zone in Baghdad at a time when its entrances were under frequent attack by suicide bombers driving vehicles filled with explosives. Being blown up by al-Qaeda in Iraq was not the only danger. The soldiers guarding the outer checkpoints of the zone were understandably... Read More
Two fervent Donald Trump supporters die and go to heaven. Soon after their arrival they meet God. “Please can you tell us,” they ask him, “did President Trump really win the presidential election or did he lose it because of fraud?” “I can definitively tell you that Joe Biden won the presidency fairly by 306... Read More
The coastal town of Margate in east Kent is the place where the fast-spreading variant of Covid-19 first mutated before it swept through the rest of Britain. Scientists identified Kent last month as the county where the mutant virus developed, but a source with knowledge of research into its origins tells me that the earliest... Read More
Republican rats deserting the good ship “Trump” make an enjoyable spectacle as they hypocritically pretend that it was only the invasion of the Capitol by a mob that finally revealed to them the failings of Donald Trump. Longer-term opponents of Trump are cock-a-hoop that they can credibly denounce him for egging on a "deadly insurrection"... 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
On 1 July 1916, the British Army attacked the German front line on the Somme in an ill-planned and over-ambitious offensive. Advancing soldiers were slaughtered by machine guns and artillery fire as they tried to struggle through unbroken barbed wire. The battle was to go on for 141 days, but on the first day alone... 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
Lockdowns are unnecessary if the use of masks is practiced by 95 per cent of the population, says Dr Hans Kluge, the World Health Organisation’s European chief. This is good to know, though it is a pity that the WHO did not make the point more forcefully in March as the pandemic was exploding across... 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
President Trump may be losing the election, but he is not the aberration in the history of America – one of the Creator’s least funny jokes – as much of the world would like to believe. At least 70 million Americans voted to put him back in the White House, despite witnessing his constant lying,... Read More
By claiming victory in the presidential election while it is still in the balance, President Trump is following what could be called “the Turkish playbook” in his determination to stay in the White House. This approach is a rerun of the strategy employed by several populist national leaders across the world in recent years to... 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
Pundits and polls are at one in predicting a victory for Joe Biden over Donald Trump in the presidential election, portraying the vote as a non-military rerun of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, when the north defeated the south in what is regarded as a turning point in the civil war. The violence will... Read More
Debate rages on every television screen and newspaper front page about the fairness or unfairness of lockdowns and semi-lockdowns. The finger of blame for the failure to stop the spread of coronavirus is increasingly pointed at the chief of NHS Test and Trace, Baroness Harding, and at the health minister, Lord Bethell, serial blunderers referred... 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
Amid the patriotic bombast about Making America Great Again at the Republican Convention nominating President Trump for a second term on 24 August, nobody noticed that it began on the anniversary of one of the most humiliating defeats in American history. It was on this day more than two centuries earlier in 1814 that a... 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
A sheriff in Texas was once trailing badly in his re-election campaign. He met with his political friends to discuss how he might regain the lead. After examining different options, he himself came up with a suggestion on how to damage his opponent. “Why don’t we say that he commits bestial acts with pigs?” he... Read More
The Republican convention was a nauseating performance even by the cess-pit standards of the Trump administration. In its cult-like obeisance to the supreme leader it reminds me of meetings of the Iraqi Baath Party that periodically endorsed Saddam Hussein as the national saviour. The only speeches acceptable in both cases were dollops of fawning praise.... 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
Donald Trump has fallen far enough behind in the polls as to raise the hopes of the world that it will soon see the back of him as US president come the election in 100 days’ time. Given his calamitous handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the decline in his popularity is scarcely surprising. Yet Trump... 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
President Trump is making plain the degree to which the country remains divided by the American Civil War. His threat to veto the $718bn Defence Bill if it renames military bases called after Confederate generals harks back to 1861. His stand highlights the bizarre way that the US military has named its biggest bases, like... 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
Conservative leaders snigger at protesters seeking the removal of statues memorialising those whose fortunes came from the exploitation of slaves. The leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, implied facetiously this week that such demands are on a par with seeking to knock down Stonehenge on the grounds that it once could have been... 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
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Becker update V1.3.2
Analyzing the History of a Controversial Movement