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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
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
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
The UK has long been divided by class, region and race, but these divisions have been masked by political and economic success. This has meant the English, as the dominant nation in the UK, are not good at coping with a sense of failure and a loss of self-confidence. The current focus is on parliamentary... Read More
The anniversary of the sinking of two great capital ships off Singapore, one of the great British defeats of the Second World War, falls unnoticed between the proposed May-Corbyn debate on 9 December and the House of Commons vote on the Brexit agreement with the EU on 11 December. This is a pity because the... Read More
When a majority of the British people voted to leave the EU in 2016, I was struck by the similarity between the Brexiteers’ plans for their perilous voyage and those of Edward Lear’s characters in The Jumblies as they set to sea in their sieve. The analogy became more apt as the proponents of Brexit... Read More
The silly idea of recruiting businessmen and other non-professionals into the Foreign Office is more menacing than it looks at first glance. It is a depressing signal that Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, though promising dramatic increases in the numbers of British diplomats, has not really taken on board what has gone wrong in the... Read More
A dangerous lack of understanding about the nature of the threat that Brexit poses to peace in Northern Ireland is based on a misconception about the causes of the 30-year-long Troubles that ended with the Good Friday Agreement. The conflict was never primarily about the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, but about the... Read More
Self-absorption is the dominant theme of contemporary British and American politics. In Britain, the focus is exclusively on Brexit and other developments are marginalised or ignored. In the US, political battles revolve around Donald Trump who gets wall-to-wall coverage in the US media – ferociously hostile though much of it is towards him – which... Read More
The British government purports to be re-establishing the UK as an independent nation state by leaving the EU, but British power and ability to decide its own policies are continuing to ebb in the real world. The latest evidence of this is the decision by the Home Secretary Sajid Javid to give precedence to the... Read More
What will be Britain’s standing in the world compared to other nation states after Brexit? Sane analysis has been overwhelmed by vituperative debate as we get closer to the day of the great rupture. Boris Johnson claimed in his resignation speech that after a full-throttle Brexit, Britain will be in a good position to become... Read More
Political leaders in power generally like small wars. It enables them to stand tall, wrap the flag around them, pretend they hold the fate of the nation in their hands, and denigrate their opponents as unpatriotic softies. Theresa May is behaving in keeping with this stereotype since ordering four British planes to join the very... Read More
A single stupid remark by a political leader can suddenly illuminate deep and destructive ignorance about important issues. This has happened to me twice recently, the first time during the confrontation between Britain and the EU about the status of Northern Ireland and the Irish border after Brexit. I saw prominent Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith... Read More
Warnings about the damaging impact on the Northern Ireland peace process of the return to a physical border between the north and the south post-Brexit understate the danger. Those issuing these warnings point to the problems posed by a hard border to relations between nationalist and unionist communities, to power sharing between Sinn Fein and... Read More
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...
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
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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