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There is a famous scene in Shakespeare’s Henry V on the night before the battle of Agincourt, when the French lords speak of the inevitability of their coming victory. Puffed up with arrogance, they deride the English: “Do but behold yon poor and starved band.” Of course, all this is to be exposed as bombast... Read More
The surprise outcome of the general election sprang from a series of surprises combining in the closing weeks of the campaign. Some were predictable, but others marked fresh departures in British political life. Canterbury is a good example of these trends, resulting in a narrow Labour win and the first Conservative loss in the constituency... Read More
Britain is experiencing profound political changes, going by the outcome of the general election, but new trends are shadowy, developing below the surface. It may be that Labour’s relative success – achieved amid confident predictions by pundits of annihilating defeat – stemmed from a last-minute change of direction by voters, or simply because pollsters vastly... Read More
Political earthquakes, terrorist outrages and man-made disaster are pounding Britain so frequently these days that it is scarcely possible to take in the significance of one before the next is upon us. There has been the referendum on Brexit, the fall of one prime minister and the rise of another, three suicide attacks, the general... Read More
My mother, Patricia Cockburn, joined the Air-Raid Precautions (ARP) in 1939 and worked at the “Northern Control Centre” in a large cellar deep under Praed Street in Paddington through the early months of the Blitz. This is about two and a half miles from where Grenfell Tower was to be built 35 years later. She... Read More
It is a dangerous moment for any government when the public suspects that it is incapable of preventing a great disaster like the Grenfell Tower fire. Angry people see the state as failing in its basic duty to keep them safe. Politicians in power, in such circumstances, are embarrassingly keen to show that there is... Read More
The Conservative government largely avoided being blamed during the election campaign for its failure to stop the terrorist attacks. It appealed to British communal solidarity in defiance of those who carried out the atrocities, which was a perfectly reasonable stance, though one that conveniently enables the Conservatives to pillory any critics for dividing the nation... Read More
The indiscriminate slaughter of ordinary members of the public on London Bridge and in Borough Market on Saturday night is fully in keeping with the operational methods of Isis. They have yet to claim responsibility, but it is extremely likely that they were ultimately behind an attack that bears so many Isis hallmarks. The killings... Read More
The general election is showing the extent to which Britain has diminished in power over the last year. “L’Angleterre, ce n’est plus grand chose – England is not much anymore,” said President de Gaulle in 1963 as he vetoed Britain’s bid to join the EEC. He was premature because of Britain’s subsequent EU membership and... Read More
There is nothing surprising in Boris Johnson saying that it would be difficult for the UK not to join US military action in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in response to a chemical weapons attack. Since the Second World War British governments have been trying to strengthen the UK’s status as the most important... Read More
In the immediate aftermath of what police are describing as a terrorist incident in and around Parliament, at least three facts stand out suggesting that the attacks are similar to those carried out over the last two years by Isis supporters in Paris, Nice, Brussels and Berlin. . The similarities with the events today are... Read More
Brexit is English nationalism made flesh, but the English underrate its destructive potential as a form of communal identity. Concepts like “nationalism” and “self-determination” have traditionally been seen as something that happens to foreigners. An English failing today is an inability to recognise the egocentricity implicit in such nationalism and the extent to which it... Read More
In the south west corner of the Arabian Peninsula, Britain is complicit in one of the worst and least noticed crimes against humanity in the 21st century. Thanks to Saudi air strikes starting two years ago, a localised civil war in Yemen was transformed into a devastating conflict which has brought 12 million people to... Read More
As the international political order fragments, Theresa May flies from seeing Donald Trump, who speaks approvingly of the use of torture, to a meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is presiding over the reintroduction of torture in Turkey. The opportunism and hypocrisy of British foreign policy, as the UK flails around for new allies... Read More
The British Government’s fawning on the absolute monarchs of the Gulf, whose authority is enforced by beheadings, lashings and the torture chamber, is at once contemptible and pathetic. It is a measure of Britain’s decline as a great power that it is only in tiny, toxic, sectarian Bahrain, where Sunni rulers suppress the Shia majority,... Read More
The British involvement in the Iraq War began as an ill-considered demonstration of strength in alliance with the US and ended up six years later as a demonstration of weakness. Much of what is in the Chilcot inquiry was known or suspected before and little is entirely new, but it is important for what happened... Read More
I started working as a journalist at the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland, between 1972 and 1975, and then moved to Lebanon where the 15-year-long civil war was just beginning. I saw both countries as interesting but bloody and atypical, sad casualties of their divisive histories and out of keeping with the modern... Read More
“In the little moment that remains to us between crisis and catastrophe, we may as well drink a glass of champagne,” said Paul Claudel, the French poet, dramatist and ambassador to the United States in the wake of some calamitous episode in the 1930s. As the British vote to leave the European Union, it feels... Read More
Fierce criticism has greeted the claim by the former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, about the dangers of giving Turks easier entry to Europe. He said that for the EU “to offer visa-free access to 75 million Turks to stem the flow of migrants across the Aegean seems perverse, like storing gasoline next to... Read More
David Cameron’s plan for joining the war in Syria is a worrying document, full of wishful thinking about the political and military situation on the ground. It is a recipe for repeating past failures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, by misjudging the strength of potential enemies and allies alike. Mr Cameron presents a picture of... Read More
Britain is moving towards taking part in the war in Syria without much idea of what is happening in that complicated and very dangerous country. This is in keeping with the careless spirit in which Britain became involved in small wars in and around Basra in Iraq after 2003 and in Helmand province in Afghanistan... Read More
It is striking how little political resistance has been offered to the break-up of the Union
I have spent most of my working life writing about countries where communal or nationalist differences determine and, on occasion, convulse the political landscape. My first experience of this was at Queen’s University Belfast, where I was writing a PhD on the Irish Home Rulers in Ulster pre-Irish independence, during the worst years of the... Read More
A Commons report revealed last week that our involvement there is beyond parody
The traumatic experience of Britain’s participation in the 2003 Iraq war led the Government to have as little to do with the country as possible. By the spring of 2014, as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) prepared its great offensive that would capture a third of Iraq, the political section of... Read More
The authoritarian kingdom where doctors are tortured is a strange place for this £15m investment
The British decision to spend £15m establishing a naval base at Mina Salman Port in Bahrain is being presented as a "symbolic" deal to increase stability in the region, guard against unnamed threats and strengthen Britain's partnership with the states of the Gulf. The agreement will identify Britain as an old colonial power strongly supporting... Read More
The Home Secretary's counter-terrorism Bill is unlikely to make the militants lose any sleep
There have been two interesting initiatives on "terrorism" over the month, both highly revealing in different ways about opposition to Islamic State (Isis). The first is a ludicrous document issued by the government of the United Arab Emirates that lists as "terrorist organisations" no less than 85 groups, coupling well-regarded Muslim charities with violent jihadis... Read More
Has David Cameron Really Thought Through His Plans?
Britain is set to join the air campaign against Isis in Iraq, but, going by David Cameron’s speech to the UN General Assembly, the Government has no more idea of what it is getting into in this war than Tony Blair did in 2003. Mr Cameron says that there should be “no rushing to join... Read More
To have any relevance, the Chilcot inquiry should extend its brief to cover all UK military interventions since the alliance
The decision to keep secret the full correspondence between George W Bush and Tony Blair instead of allowing the Chilcot inquiry to publish it has been rightly pilloried as a self-serving, dishonest attempt by politicians and civil servants to conceal their role in a disastrous war in Iraq. By focusing public attention on exchanges between... Read More
Trying to protect a Korean journalist brought Henry Cockburn into conflict with the Japanese – and his own Whitehall masters
I spent last week in South Korea helping make a television documentary about my grandfather, Henry Cockburn, who was British Consul General in Korea shortly before the First World War. He arrived in 1905, just as Japan was occupying the country and extinguishing Korean independence, for a posting which was to change his life and... Read More
The Demon from Bradford
The ferocity of the attacks on George Galloway by the British commentariat is one of the most revealing outcomes of his victory in the Bradford West by-election. News presenters saw no problem in conducting interviews with the newly elected MP that were largely a shower of insulting and unproven accusations. Columnists wrote thousands of shrill... Read More
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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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