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This Is Why Referendums Are Always Doomed to Fail
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Brexit, Krexit and Crexit: Britain leaves the EU, Kurdistan declares independence from Iraq, Catalonia secedes from Spain – three massive political changes either under way or put on the political agenda by recent referendums. Three very different countries, but in all cases a conviction among a significant number of voters that they would be better off on their own outside any measure of control by a supranational authority like the EU or a nation state like Iraq or Spain.

Referendums have a lot to answer for: no wonder divided governments, demagogues and dictators have such a fondness for them. They have the appearance of popular democracy and give the impression that important decisions are finally being made by reducing complex questions into an over-simple “yes” or “no”. They make public opinion easy to manipulate because what voters are being asked to assent to is most often wishful thinking and what they are opposing is a rag-bag of unrelated grievances. There are a great many unhappy and dissatisfied people in the three countries which have voted in referendums in the last 15 months, but no reason to suppose that their vote will make them happier or better off.

The lack of substance in promises of good things to come should be more obvious than it is. It is particularly obscure in Britain because the pros and cons of Brexit are debated by both sides in economic terms, or in relation to the impact on immigration. The discussion is almost entirely in the future tense, but in practice the main disasters flowing from Brexit have already occurred.

From the moment the polls closed on 23 June 2016, British society has been deeply divided, probably more so than at any time since the 17th-century civil war 375 years ago. “It really is like a civil war without the gunfire,” said one commentator to me last week, speaking of the depth, rancour and lasting nature of these divisions. The Government is so split that it has yet to find enough common ground to get rid of Theresa May, even though she seems to be having a rather public nervous breakdown.

There is another danger at work here. The Brexiteers hark back to a golden British past when Britain stood alone and was the workshop of the world aided by the virtues of free trade. But this is a misreading of British history: being on the winning side in the Napoleonic and in First and Second World Wars had less to do with economic strength and more to do with naval power and skill in making alliances. Once again, the weakening of the British state is not something which will be postponed until after some elastic transition period – but has already begun.

The British experience of referendums is not unique and has parallels elsewhere. Experience shows that referendums are always used by the winning side to pretend that their majority, however slim and however low the turnout, represents the undivided national will. In fact, the 52 to 48 per cent Brexit vote reflected exactly that: a country split down the middle. The turnout in the vote in Catalonia last Sunday was only 42 per cent, but the Catalan Prime Minister is expected to declare independence if he is allowed to address parliament on Tuesday.

As is so often in history, those who want to carry out radical or revolutionary change do not get anywhere without provoking an unreasonable and counter-productive overreaction by those who want to preserve the status quo. It should not have required much consideration for the Spanish government to realise that sending in the national police to try and fail to stop the referendum, while beating up ordinary people in front of television cameras, was the best way to win sympathy for the pro-independence side. Hailing the Catalan chief of police, Josep Lluis Trapero, before a judge in Madrid on suspicion of sedition against the state, is likewise guaranteed to do nothing but give legitimacy to those holding the referendum.

The self-destructive idiocy of governments when defending their own interests never ceases to amaze. Those who justify their power by maintaining law and order cannot suddenly behave like thugs without wounding their authority. I remember half a century ago – in Northern Ireland in 1968 – asking a civil rights organiser about the next steps to be taken by his movement, which was seeking equal rights for Roman Catholics in a sectarian Protestant-run state. He said that he and his colleagues had just voted at a meeting to do nothing, but instead to wait for the government to make another crass mistake such as allowing the police force to attack peaceful civil rights marchers in front of photographers and television cameras. This the government duly did.

The referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan on 25 September has distinct features, but also points in common with other referendums: the vote was for or against independence for the Iraqi Kurds, the poll taking place in territories disputed by the Iraqi government as well as in Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) areas. It appears to have been called by KRG President Masoud Barzani to wrap himself in the Kurdish flag and present himself as the standard bearer of Kurdish nationalism. It can be taken as a given that most Kurds want an independent state, but the question is how feasible this is.

The vote was useful to Barzani in giving him legitimacy, though his term in office controversially ran out in 2015. Despite the KRG’s near economic collapse, Barzani has been able to divert attention from this and present the non-binding referendum result as a panacea or cure-all for the troubles of the Kurds, many of which are the fault of the corrupt and dysfunctional KRG government.

ORDER IT NOW

There is another similarity between Brexit and Krexit: Leave politicians in the UK pretended to voters that the balance of power between the UK and 27 EU states was equal and negotiations could proceed on that basis. Mr Barzani likewise said post-referendum he would negotiate independence directly with a compliant government in Baghdad. Of course, this was fantasy: May and Barzani both have weak hands to play against much stronger opponents. Baghdad is saying that there will be no negotiations about anything until the results of the referendum are annulled, and Turkey and Iran are in a position to squeeze the KRG into compliance.

Supporters of Brexit, Krexit and Crexit promise short-term dislocation in return for their countries achieving real independence and long term prosperity.

In fact, Britons, Kurds and Catalans are more like Edward Lear’s Jumblies, who famously went to sea in a sieve despite warnings that they would all be drowned, to which the Jumbles replied: “Our Sieve ain’t big / But we don’t care a button, we don’t care a fig / In a sieve we’ll go to sea!”

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Brexit, Catalonia, Kurds 
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  1. Randal says:

    The usual biased anti-Brexit propaganda from yet another establishment journalist who is clearly unable to overcome his own partisan view on the issue.

    The awkward fact for the likes of Cockburn is that the whole reason for what establishment figures like him refer to dismissively as “populism” and claim is a function of ignorant masses led astray by manipulative demagogues, is the systematically unrepresentative nature of our supposed political representatives on particular issues, such as mass immigration, open borders, and the subordination of the nation to globalism and internationalism for profit.

    As an example, here’s a Chatham House survey of European opinion on muslim immigration:

    What Do Europeans Think About Muslim Immigration?

    Drawing on a unique, new Chatham House survey of more than 10,000 people from 10 European states, we can throw new light on what people think about migration from mainly Muslim countries. Our results are striking and sobering. They suggest that public opposition to any further migration from predominantly Muslim states is by no means confined to Trump’s electorate in the US but is fairly widespread.

    In our survey, carried out before President Trump’s executive order was announced, respondents were given the following statement: ‘All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped’. They were then asked to what extent did they agree or disagree with this statement. Overall, across all 10 of the European countries an average of 55% agreed that all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped, 25% neither agreed nor disagreed and 20% disagreed.

    Majorities in all but two of the ten states agreed, ranging from 71% in Poland, 65% in Austria, 53% in Germany and 51% in Italy to 47% in the United Kingdom and 41% in Spain. In no country did the percentage that disagreed surpass 32%.

    In which of those countries is there a legislature that honestly reflects, or even begins to reflect, that general consensus on muslim immigration?

    Certainly not in Britain, France, or Germany, where such views are dogmatically dismissed as “unacceptable” and their expression is close to being outright criminalised, and probably with Cockburn’s enthusiastic support.

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    • Replies: @rosemerry
    Because of the UK's colonial past, most of the Muslim immigrants would come not from the EU but from Pakistan and even India, so being outside the EU would not help.
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  2. Yeah, “Referendums Are Always Doomed to Fail”, “from the moment the polls closed on 23 June 2016, British society has been deeply divided, probably more so than at any time since the 17th-century civil war 375 years ago“, and it’s all “self-destructive idiocy”.

    So, what about about all those the referenda for joining the EU? Joining the NATO? Those are fine, as far as you’re concerned, I presume? People must accept that they are stupid, shut up, and follow wise and well-meaning liberal technocrats, eh?

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    • Replies: @Logan
    The Jacobite rising of 1745 didn't indicate any divisions in British society.
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  3. The EUreferendum website gives a neat view of the competence of the current government efforts at negotiating Britian’s interests.

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  4. 5371 says:

    In a profoundly sick society headed for perdition, like modern Britain, only maximal division and hostility has a chance of helping.

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  5. polistra says:

    This is silly. If all independence movements are pointless, then most of Eurasia would still be Hittite. Or Roman. Or Greek. Or Persian. Or Ottoman. Or Nazi. Or Soviet.

    The truth is that some independence movements are necessary, some are optional but worth it, and many are counterproductive. The proper action is to determine which is which, encourage the worthwhile movements and discourage the futile ones.

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    • Replies: @Bayan
    You have a reasonable way of classifying independence movements. Cockburn is too lazy for that type of analysis.
    , @Zogby

    The truth is that some independence movements are necessary, some are optional but worth it, and many are counterproductive.
     
    This is 20-20 hindsight that attempts to sound clever. Some movements succeed. Some fail. Nobody took the Catalunian vote seriously until the Spanish central government in Madrid failed abysmally at thwarting the referendum. Now establishment politicians that support the entrenched political order are in panic that Madrid may not be able to put down the rebellion even if it does its best to.
    , @IndieRafael
    Sounds sensible.
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  6. 22pp22 says:

    I am writing from Greece, where many many people are in dire financial straits. Iceland was outside the EU and picked itself up from its own financial armageddon. Greece is being crucified pour encourager les autres.

    Seen from my window, Cockburn’s bletherings look plain silly.

    According to this bozo, they should have stayed as dhimmis in the Ottoman Empire.

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    • Replies: @ananymos
    [According to this bozo, they should have stayed as dhimmis in the Ottoman Empire.]

    You are so silly to write such a silly statement. dhimmis is HOAX like 'antisemite'. These people were rich and influential in Muslim countries. Look at the situation now and laugh at yourself,

    The land of Palestinians has been stolen by ziofascist and influence of Rottenchild family where was transferred to European colonists with the blessing of the criminal West and Russia. The kurds who are in evil Empire army and trained by mass murderers ziofasicst have NO RIGHT to a state. They never has a country and never will. No one will trust traitor kurds who are fighting for an Evil Empire to grab land and oil wells in Iraq and Syria to claim is theirs. The kurds are in the service of the enemy, US/Israel, and should be punished as one.
    , @Fiendly Neighborhood Terrorist
    They'd have been better off. The Ottoman Empire treated the Greeks well - it was the Ataturk Turkish Republic which massacred and exiled them - and under the Ottomans, Greek teachers weren't rooting in garbage bins for something to eat.
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  7. jim jones says:

    You have to give the bureaucrats a kicking every now and again to remind then who is the boss

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  8. Bayan says:
    @polistra
    This is silly. If all independence movements are pointless, then most of Eurasia would still be Hittite. Or Roman. Or Greek. Or Persian. Or Ottoman. Or Nazi. Or Soviet.

    The truth is that some independence movements are necessary, some are optional but worth it, and many are counterproductive. The proper action is to determine which is which, encourage the worthwhile movements and discourage the futile ones.

    You have a reasonable way of classifying independence movements. Cockburn is too lazy for that type of analysis.

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  9. ananymos says:
    @22pp22
    I am writing from Greece, where many many people are in dire financial straits. Iceland was outside the EU and picked itself up from its own financial armageddon. Greece is being crucified pour encourager les autres.

    Seen from my window, Cockburn's bletherings look plain silly.

    According to this bozo, they should have stayed as dhimmis in the Ottoman Empire.

    [According to this bozo, they should have stayed as dhimmis in the Ottoman Empire.]

    You are so silly to write such a silly statement. dhimmis is HOAX like ‘antisemite’. These people were rich and influential in Muslim countries. Look at the situation now and laugh at yourself,

    The land of Palestinians has been stolen by ziofascist and influence of Rottenchild family where was transferred to European colonists with the blessing of the criminal West and Russia. The kurds who are in evil Empire army and trained by mass murderers ziofasicst have NO RIGHT to a state. They never has a country and never will. No one will trust traitor kurds who are fighting for an Evil Empire to grab land and oil wells in Iraq and Syria to claim is theirs. The kurds are in the service of the enemy, US/Israel, and should be punished as one.

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    • Replies: @22pp22
    I grew up in a place in England. The nearest city where I went to school had a huge Muslim minority. I am not ignorant. Dhimmi is not a hoax, nor are grooming gangs.

    I've lived with Islam and I don't like it.

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  10. anonymos says:

    Joshua M. Landis is an expert on Syria. He is the head of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, and since 2004 has published the blog Syria Comment.
    Mr. Landis is close to USG where regularly appears on the zionist media. His view on President Assad is close to mass murderers in Washington. Yet, he is very concerned with the prejudices committed by the traitor kurds against minorities in Syria.

    Although I do not agree with his views on Syria, but what he is discussing here is very ALARMING.
    Barzani clan is very corrupt where enriched themselves on Iraqis’ stolen oil. Barzani family mememnbers are billionaires and have occupied every important job in Kurdish area in Iraq and Syria. Although Barzani family have stolen millions of dollars and transferred to the Western Banks and made investments in REAL ESTATE in the west, but, the Kuridsh teachers and other workers have not been paid for months. Some of them may eating grass to survive while Barzani mafia sitting on stolen money. Barzani is NOT a president since two years ago, but continues as ‘president’ illegally. Referendum is against Iraqi’s constitution.

    He writes:

    [The KDP Patronage System

    While it is fully within the rights of anyone to join a political party of their preference, including the KDP, it must be understood that the KDP pursues a strategy of selecting members of minority communities to serve as figureheads, putting them on the Party’s payroll, appointing them to positions of importance, and then using them to implement its policy agendas while pointing at them to make the claim that the KDP enjoys significant loyalty within the minority community. The following excerpts from the report discuss the KDP patronage strategy:

    To strengthen their prospects of incorporating the Nineveh Plain into the Kurdistan Region, Kurdish authorities have for more than a decade practiced a strategy of offering incentives to minority communities in exchange for their support for the KRG’s claims to the Nineveh Plain, while imposing restrictions on those who do not. The KDP buys the allegiances of many Assyrian tribal and political leaders through a patronage system that fosters political divisions within the community]

    His discussion reveals the face of fascist terrorist kurds, to wipe the indigenous population off the map. WE NEVER ALLOW A SECOND ISRAEL IN THE REGION. All Kurds who have been cooperating with the evil empire, ISIS to steal Syrian and Iraqis’ land with oil wells are TRAITORS AND SHOULD BE TREATED AS WAR CRIMINALS.

    http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/

    The terrorist kurds are copying the zionist ethnic cleanings in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

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    • Replies: @anonymous
    See Syriangirl's postings on how non Kurds are being terrorised and intimidated into voting the "right" way by the Kurds. And the stuffing of ballot boxes and other abuses. That's if Facebook/ YouTube haven't been doing their usual censorship party piece.
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  11. Zogby says:
    @polistra
    This is silly. If all independence movements are pointless, then most of Eurasia would still be Hittite. Or Roman. Or Greek. Or Persian. Or Ottoman. Or Nazi. Or Soviet.

    The truth is that some independence movements are necessary, some are optional but worth it, and many are counterproductive. The proper action is to determine which is which, encourage the worthwhile movements and discourage the futile ones.

    The truth is that some independence movements are necessary, some are optional but worth it, and many are counterproductive.

    This is 20-20 hindsight that attempts to sound clever. Some movements succeed. Some fail. Nobody took the Catalunian vote seriously until the Spanish central government in Madrid failed abysmally at thwarting the referendum. Now establishment politicians that support the entrenched political order are in panic that Madrid may not be able to put down the rebellion even if it does its best to.

    Read More
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  12. @polistra
    This is silly. If all independence movements are pointless, then most of Eurasia would still be Hittite. Or Roman. Or Greek. Or Persian. Or Ottoman. Or Nazi. Or Soviet.

    The truth is that some independence movements are necessary, some are optional but worth it, and many are counterproductive. The proper action is to determine which is which, encourage the worthwhile movements and discourage the futile ones.

    Sounds sensible.

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  13. What a buffoon.

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  14. I ‘m an American who knows history, so what I believe is that ….

    Governments require the consent of the governed.
    Governments exist to provide an environment of safety and happiness.
    When governments fail to do this, it is the right of the people to throw off such governments and replacement them with new forms they believe will better effect their safety and happiness.

    There seem to be some basic freedoms in this world, and I’d put this near or at the top of the list. If you can’t control the government that rules you, then you can not possibly think or claim that you are free.

    The one thing all three cases cited by Mr. Cockburn have in common is a belief of the people that the government that rules them is failing them. If you believe in freedom, then the people of all three have the right to try to see if another form of government better suits them.

    I would say the system needs to be flexible enough to let them go either way. Which also seems doubtful in these authoritarian days.

    One problem we seem to have world-wide is how elections can be manipulated in a media-intense society. But that goes to all modern elections and beyond just the question of referendums.

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  15. @22pp22
    I am writing from Greece, where many many people are in dire financial straits. Iceland was outside the EU and picked itself up from its own financial armageddon. Greece is being crucified pour encourager les autres.

    Seen from my window, Cockburn's bletherings look plain silly.

    According to this bozo, they should have stayed as dhimmis in the Ottoman Empire.

    They’d have been better off. The Ottoman Empire treated the Greeks well – it was the Ataturk Turkish Republic which massacred and exiled them – and under the Ottomans, Greek teachers weren’t rooting in garbage bins for something to eat.

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    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
    "The Ottoman Empire treated the Greeks well"

    Pity about the Bulgarians, eh?

    http://www.attackingthedevil.co.uk/related/macgahan.php


    "In the midst of this heap, I could distinguish the slight skeleton form, still enclosed in a chemise, the skull wrapped about with a coloured handkerchief, and the bony ankles encased in the embroidered footless stockings worn by Bulgarian girls. We looked about us. The ground was strewed with bones in every direction, where the dogs had carried them off to gnaw them at their leisure. At the distance of a hundred yards beneath us lay the town. As seen from our standpoint, it reminded one somewhat of the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii . There was not a roof left, not a whole wall standing; all was a mass of ruins, from which arose as we listened a low plaintive wail, like the “keening” of the Irish over their dead, that filled the little valley and gave it voice. We had the explanation of this curious sound when we afterwards descended into the village. We looked again at the heap of skulls and skeletons before us, and we observed that they were all small and that the articles of clothing intermingled with them and lying about were all women's apparel. These, then, were all women and girls. From my saddle I counted about a hundred skulls, not including those that were hidden beneath the others in the ghastly heap nor those that were scattered far and wide through the fields. The skulls were nearly all separated from the rest of the bones - the skeletons were nearly all headless. These women had all been beheaded. We descended into the town. Within the shattered walls of the first house we came to was a woman sitting upon a heap of rubbish rocking herself to and fro, wailing a kind of monotonous chant, half sung, half sobbed, that was not without a wild discordant melody. In her lap she held a babe, and another child sat beside her patiently and silently, and looked at us as we passed with wondering eyes. She paid no attention to us, but we bent our ear to hear what she was saying, and our interpreter said it was as follows: “My home, my home, my poor home, my sweet home; my husband, my husband, my dear husband, my poor husband; my home, my sweet home,” and so on, repeating the same words over again a thousand times. In the next house were two engaged in a similar way; one old, the other young, repeating words nearly identical: “I had a home, now I have none; I had a husband, now I am a widow; I had a son, and now I have none; I had five children, and now I have one,” while rocking themselves to and fro, beating their heads and wringing their hands. "
     
    , @jacques sheete

    The Ottoman Empire treated the Greeks well
     
    Where did you get that idea?

    Ever hear of the history of Eyalet of Epirus, or the history of Ioaninna, or of the Souliote wars to name just a few instances of where you may want to modify that statement?
    , @22pp22
    Great being Armenia too, They were slaughtered before the end of WWI. Then there was the massacre of the Iraqi Christians. I haven't seen anyone in Thessaloniki eating out of a garbage bin.
    , @Avery
    { The Ottoman Empire treated the Greeks well }

    Nonsense.

    Ottomans (Muslim Turks) treated all non-Muslims as sub-humans.
    Especially the Christians: Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks.
    In 1895 Ottoman Sultan Hamid ordered the massacre of ~300,000 Armenians: sure sounds like treating Christians 'well', donnit?

    Before that, Christians of Asia Minor, which nomad Turks invaded ~1,000 A.D., were massacred, forcibly Islamized, their Christian children abducted and raised as Muslims, taxed into destitute, ....

    Where the Hell did you get the notion that invadonomad Turk savages from East and Central Asia treated indigenous Christians, quote, 'well'?
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  16. “In fact, Britons, Kurds and Catalans are more like Edward Lear’s Jumblies, who famously went to sea in a sieve despite warnings that they would all be drowned”

    Britain managed as an independent nation from 1700-odd til 1972. The problem with the UK now is that most of the governing class are bought and paid for, and don’t have the interests of ordinary Brits at heart.

    (It’s interesting btw to see the usual suspects, supporters of murderous Irish nationalism for decades, suddenly finding the hidden virtues of the Spanish and Iraqi states.)

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    • Replies: @The Alarmist

    "The problem with the UK now is that most of the governing class are bought and paid for, and don’t have the interests of ordinary Brits at heart."
     
    Sauce for the Gander. This is how England brought Wales into the Union.
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  17. @Fiendly Neighborhood Terrorist
    They'd have been better off. The Ottoman Empire treated the Greeks well - it was the Ataturk Turkish Republic which massacred and exiled them - and under the Ottomans, Greek teachers weren't rooting in garbage bins for something to eat.

    “The Ottoman Empire treated the Greeks well”

    Pity about the Bulgarians, eh?

    http://www.attackingthedevil.co.uk/related/macgahan.php

    “In the midst of this heap, I could distinguish the slight skeleton form, still enclosed in a chemise, the skull wrapped about with a coloured handkerchief, and the bony ankles encased in the embroidered footless stockings worn by Bulgarian girls. We looked about us. The ground was strewed with bones in every direction, where the dogs had carried them off to gnaw them at their leisure. At the distance of a hundred yards beneath us lay the town. As seen from our standpoint, it reminded one somewhat of the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii . There was not a roof left, not a whole wall standing; all was a mass of ruins, from which arose as we listened a low plaintive wail, like the “keening” of the Irish over their dead, that filled the little valley and gave it voice. We had the explanation of this curious sound when we afterwards descended into the village. We looked again at the heap of skulls and skeletons before us, and we observed that they were all small and that the articles of clothing intermingled with them and lying about were all women’s apparel. These, then, were all women and girls. From my saddle I counted about a hundred skulls, not including those that were hidden beneath the others in the ghastly heap nor those that were scattered far and wide through the fields. The skulls were nearly all separated from the rest of the bones – the skeletons were nearly all headless. These women had all been beheaded. We descended into the town. Within the shattered walls of the first house we came to was a woman sitting upon a heap of rubbish rocking herself to and fro, wailing a kind of monotonous chant, half sung, half sobbed, that was not without a wild discordant melody. In her lap she held a babe, and another child sat beside her patiently and silently, and looked at us as we passed with wondering eyes. She paid no attention to us, but we bent our ear to hear what she was saying, and our interpreter said it was as follows: “My home, my home, my poor home, my sweet home; my husband, my husband, my dear husband, my poor husband; my home, my sweet home,” and so on, repeating the same words over again a thousand times. In the next house were two engaged in a similar way; one old, the other young, repeating words nearly identical: “I had a home, now I have none; I had a husband, now I am a widow; I had a son, and now I have none; I had five children, and now I have one,” while rocking themselves to and fro, beating their heads and wringing their hands. “

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  18. A non-binding referendum must be annulled? How? Such a requirement is utter idiocy.

    Referenda have their place. Questions such as were presented on Brexit and secession are good examples of this. When the answer to the question is either yes or no, then such a vote is legit. There is no such thing as being kinda pregnant, and on such issues as Brexit, you’re either in or out. One side is going to be dissatisfied, but that’s the nature of democracy.

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  19. I normally like Mr. Cockburn’s writing. But that is when he sticks to what he’s very knowledgeable about, which is the politics of the Middle East. I liked his previous article on the Kurdish moves and the problems they will likely face. It was well informed and appears to be turning out to be accurate.

    However, in this case, he appears to have let his own personal animosity towards Brexit drive his writing off the cliff into total nonsense. Too bad. Or, perhaps his editors requested/required this. I’ve noticed of late that the columnists for the Independent seem to be following editorial guidance more.

    Either way, I look forward to when Mr. Cockburn returns to writing about what he’s very knowledgeable about. I miss his older brother’s writing now that he’s gone, so I appreciate the younger Cockburn a bit more. On most days.

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  20. rosemerry says:
    @Randal
    The usual biased anti-Brexit propaganda from yet another establishment journalist who is clearly unable to overcome his own partisan view on the issue.

    The awkward fact for the likes of Cockburn is that the whole reason for what establishment figures like him refer to dismissively as "populism" and claim is a function of ignorant masses led astray by manipulative demagogues, is the systematically unrepresentative nature of our supposed political representatives on particular issues, such as mass immigration, open borders, and the subordination of the nation to globalism and internationalism for profit.

    As an example, here's a Chatham House survey of European opinion on muslim immigration:

    What Do Europeans Think About Muslim Immigration?

    Drawing on a unique, new Chatham House survey of more than 10,000 people from 10 European states, we can throw new light on what people think about migration from mainly Muslim countries. Our results are striking and sobering. They suggest that public opposition to any further migration from predominantly Muslim states is by no means confined to Trump’s electorate in the US but is fairly widespread.

    In our survey, carried out before President Trump’s executive order was announced, respondents were given the following statement: ‘All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped’. They were then asked to what extent did they agree or disagree with this statement. Overall, across all 10 of the European countries an average of 55% agreed that all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped, 25% neither agreed nor disagreed and 20% disagreed.

    Majorities in all but two of the ten states agreed, ranging from 71% in Poland, 65% in Austria, 53% in Germany and 51% in Italy to 47% in the United Kingdom and 41% in Spain. In no country did the percentage that disagreed surpass 32%.
     
    In which of those countries is there a legislature that honestly reflects, or even begins to reflect, that general consensus on muslim immigration?

    Certainly not in Britain, France, or Germany, where such views are dogmatically dismissed as "unacceptable" and their expression is close to being outright criminalised, and probably with Cockburn's enthusiastic support.

    Because of the UK’s colonial past, most of the Muslim immigrants would come not from the EU but from Pakistan and even India, so being outside the EU would not help.

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    • Replies: @Randal
    I didn't say it would, though it's at least a start on the long hard road to getting back control of our borders. I merely pointed out that "populism" in general is a necessary response to dysfunctional and corrupted supposed democratic "representation", and gave a specific example.

    That's as true on Brexit, by the way, as it is on muslim and other immigration. A narrow majority voted to outright leave the EU. How many MPs do you think before the vote would have supported the leave option in a free Commons vote? Put it this way, it would have been a lot less than half of them.
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  21. @YetAnotherAnon
    "In fact, Britons, Kurds and Catalans are more like Edward Lear’s Jumblies, who famously went to sea in a sieve despite warnings that they would all be drowned"

    Britain managed as an independent nation from 1700-odd til 1972. The problem with the UK now is that most of the governing class are bought and paid for, and don't have the interests of ordinary Brits at heart.

    (It's interesting btw to see the usual suspects, supporters of murderous Irish nationalism for decades, suddenly finding the hidden virtues of the Spanish and Iraqi states.)

    “The problem with the UK now is that most of the governing class are bought and paid for, and don’t have the interests of ordinary Brits at heart.”

    Sauce for the Gander. This is how England brought Wales into the Union.

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    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
    "This is how England brought Wales into the Union."

    I thought things were a bit more forceful than buying a few people off - building a lot of castles was involved, men on horseback with swords etc. Long time since there was a Parliament in Machynlleth.

    The disasters of the UK fall upon Wales as hard as on any nation, as you hear more Scouse than Welsh in Bangor, wealthier English refugees from diversity buy up housing in Welsh-speaking Cardigan, North Pembrokeshire and Merioneth (Gwynedd to you young-uns) - while the useless Plaid Cymru virtue signal even as Cardiff and Swansea city centres start to look like somewhere east of the Balkans.

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  22. “British society has been deeply divided, probably more so than at any time since the 17th-century civil war 375 years ago.”

    Dude, that Civil War had nothing to do with a divide in society and everything to do with a divide at the top of the house as to the balace of powers between them. It only filtered down to the rest of society in the way they owed allegiances and obligations to those above them.

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  23. @The Alarmist

    "The problem with the UK now is that most of the governing class are bought and paid for, and don’t have the interests of ordinary Brits at heart."
     
    Sauce for the Gander. This is how England brought Wales into the Union.

    “This is how England brought Wales into the Union.”

    I thought things were a bit more forceful than buying a few people off – building a lot of castles was involved, men on horseback with swords etc. Long time since there was a Parliament in Machynlleth.

    The disasters of the UK fall upon Wales as hard as on any nation, as you hear more Scouse than Welsh in Bangor, wealthier English refugees from diversity buy up housing in Welsh-speaking Cardigan, North Pembrokeshire and Merioneth (Gwynedd to you young-uns) – while the useless Plaid Cymru virtue signal even as Cardiff and Swansea city centres start to look like somewhere east of the Balkans.

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    • Replies: @The Alarmist
    Yeah, there was a fair amount of good, old-fashioned conquest going on, but the acts of Union were readily and willingly signed onto by the Welsh nobles, who jumped at the chance to be accepted as equals at Westminster.
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  24. anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Cockburn’s somewhat superior sniffing at democratic referendums is not surprising. Globalist elites find democracy and elections SOOOOO inconvenient. Perhaps we could do away with democracy altogether and let Superior Beings like him take all the decisions for us.

    People voted for Brexit, not because they were harking back to some imaginary golden age, but because they were repelled by the insufferable arrogance, the endemic corruption, and comprehensively anti democratic nature of the EU.

    If 52% is insufficient to decide the outcome, then how many MPs elected on barely a third of the vote need to find alternative employment? It’s strange how MPs try to impose high thresholds on referendums and trade union voting which they would never accept for themselves.

    Cockburn has a problem with the 42% Catalan turnout. Quite a few people had difficulty voting – they were busy trying to avoid being clubbed, shot, beaten up and sexually assaulted by Madrid’s Fascist thugs. That’s if they could find a polling station that hadn’t been smashed up or a ballot box that hadn’t been stolen. The referendum certainly had one great advantage – it showed the true character of the Fascist regime Catalans have to decide whether they wish to belong to.

    A few years ago the Swiss held a referendum on whether or not to buy some more planes for the Swiss air force. And if so, whether to buy American, Swedish or Russian planes. The Swiss voted to buy some more planes, and to get them from America. Seemed to work perfectly well.

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  25. anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @anonymos
    Joshua M. Landis is an expert on Syria. He is the head of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, and since 2004 has published the blog Syria Comment.
    Mr. Landis is close to USG where regularly appears on the zionist media. His view on President Assad is close to mass murderers in Washington. Yet, he is very concerned with the prejudices committed by the traitor kurds against minorities in Syria.

    Although I do not agree with his views on Syria, but what he is discussing here is very ALARMING.
    Barzani clan is very corrupt where enriched themselves on Iraqis' stolen oil. Barzani family mememnbers are billionaires and have occupied every important job in Kurdish area in Iraq and Syria. Although Barzani family have stolen millions of dollars and transferred to the Western Banks and made investments in REAL ESTATE in the west, but, the Kuridsh teachers and other workers have not been paid for months. Some of them may eating grass to survive while Barzani mafia sitting on stolen money. Barzani is NOT a president since two years ago, but continues as 'president' illegally. Referendum is against Iraqi's constitution.


    He writes:


    [The KDP Patronage System

    While it is fully within the rights of anyone to join a political party of their preference, including the KDP, it must be understood that the KDP pursues a strategy of selecting members of minority communities to serve as figureheads, putting them on the Party’s payroll, appointing them to positions of importance, and then using them to implement its policy agendas while pointing at them to make the claim that the KDP enjoys significant loyalty within the minority community. The following excerpts from the report discuss the KDP patronage strategy:

    To strengthen their prospects of incorporating the Nineveh Plain into the Kurdistan Region, Kurdish authorities have for more than a decade practiced a strategy of offering incentives to minority communities in exchange for their support for the KRG’s claims to the Nineveh Plain, while imposing restrictions on those who do not. The KDP buys the allegiances of many Assyrian tribal and political leaders through a patronage system that fosters political divisions within the community]


    His discussion reveals the face of fascist terrorist kurds, to wipe the indigenous population off the map. WE NEVER ALLOW A SECOND ISRAEL IN THE REGION. All Kurds who have been cooperating with the evil empire, ISIS to steal Syrian and Iraqis' land with oil wells are TRAITORS AND SHOULD BE TREATED AS WAR CRIMINALS.

    http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/

    The terrorist kurds are copying the zionist ethnic cleanings in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

    See Syriangirl’s postings on how non Kurds are being terrorised and intimidated into voting the “right” way by the Kurds. And the stuffing of ballot boxes and other abuses. That’s if Facebook/ YouTube haven’t been doing their usual censorship party piece.

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  26. […] The Unz Review: This Is Why Referendums Are Always Doomed to Fail By PATRICK COCKBURN […]

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  27. @YetAnotherAnon
    "This is how England brought Wales into the Union."

    I thought things were a bit more forceful than buying a few people off - building a lot of castles was involved, men on horseback with swords etc. Long time since there was a Parliament in Machynlleth.

    The disasters of the UK fall upon Wales as hard as on any nation, as you hear more Scouse than Welsh in Bangor, wealthier English refugees from diversity buy up housing in Welsh-speaking Cardigan, North Pembrokeshire and Merioneth (Gwynedd to you young-uns) - while the useless Plaid Cymru virtue signal even as Cardiff and Swansea city centres start to look like somewhere east of the Balkans.

    Yeah, there was a fair amount of good, old-fashioned conquest going on, but the acts of Union were readily and willingly signed onto by the Welsh nobles, who jumped at the chance to be accepted as equals at Westminster.

    Read More
    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
    I think that's called "making a virtue of necessity". Wales had been unable to stop English (Norman?) conquest since Edward I time (despite Glyndwr), whereas Scotland was in doubt until after 1745 (and the Scottish Parliament had signed up for union in 1703, because they were bust after the Darien misadventure).
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  28. @The Alarmist
    Yeah, there was a fair amount of good, old-fashioned conquest going on, but the acts of Union were readily and willingly signed onto by the Welsh nobles, who jumped at the chance to be accepted as equals at Westminster.

    I think that’s called “making a virtue of necessity”. Wales had been unable to stop English (Norman?) conquest since Edward I time (despite Glyndwr), whereas Scotland was in doubt until after 1745 (and the Scottish Parliament had signed up for union in 1703, because they were bust after the Darien misadventure).

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    • Replies: @The Alarmist
    The Scots are a real mystery, because they weren't nearly as mistreated as others, and they have "punched above their weight" in British politics and business for much of the last couple of centuries.
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  29. @YetAnotherAnon
    I think that's called "making a virtue of necessity". Wales had been unable to stop English (Norman?) conquest since Edward I time (despite Glyndwr), whereas Scotland was in doubt until after 1745 (and the Scottish Parliament had signed up for union in 1703, because they were bust after the Darien misadventure).

    The Scots are a real mystery, because they weren’t nearly as mistreated as others, and they have “punched above their weight” in British politics and business for much of the last couple of centuries.

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    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
    To be fair, so did Ulstermen like Bernard Montgomery and Nicholson. The Empire was a joint enterprise in which Scots and Ulstermen played a leading role. But Scots have retained their influence in politics, while political Ulstermen have concentrated on Ulster's divisions.

    Be interesting to see if Scottish political prominence survives the rise of Scottish nationalism.


    http://www.lookandlearn.com/blog/13104/nikal-seyn-the-fearless-lion-of-the-punjab/
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  30. CPH says:

    I’m a “Brexiteer” with no illusions about Britain’s so-called glorious past but definite and specific fears about an inglorious future trapped in an EU in which creatures like the unelected and heavily-overpaid Juncker, who rose to fame devising tax scams for corporations, and who govern us ignorant cogs; in which sages like Merkel decide one day that every unskilled, functionally illiterate migrant in North Africa and the mid East is ‘welcome to come to Germany’ and then decides that what she meant was ‘everywhere in Europe that didn’t ask for them and doesn’t want them’; and I am really worried about an economic system that so clearly works against the interests of the majority of the population and for the benefit of transnational corporations like those served by creatures like Juncker. If that’s a future you want, move to France or Germany. They’d love to have you.

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  31. anonymos says:

    The kurds are in the service of US/Israel and close cooperation with ISIS against Syrian Government, are stealing land with oil wells. It is necessary for Russia to bomb their position and force criminal trump regime out of Syria and punish the traitor kurds.

    Despite Syrian Government’s Attempts to Unify Country US-backed Kurdish SDF Persist with Land Theft

    https://www.globalresearch.ca/despite-syrian-governments-attempts-to-unify-country-us-backed-kurdish-sdf-persist-with-land-theft/5612716

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  32. @The Alarmist
    The Scots are a real mystery, because they weren't nearly as mistreated as others, and they have "punched above their weight" in British politics and business for much of the last couple of centuries.

    To be fair, so did Ulstermen like Bernard Montgomery and Nicholson. The Empire was a joint enterprise in which Scots and Ulstermen played a leading role. But Scots have retained their influence in politics, while political Ulstermen have concentrated on Ulster’s divisions.

    Be interesting to see if Scottish political prominence survives the rise of Scottish nationalism.

    http://www.lookandlearn.com/blog/13104/nikal-seyn-the-fearless-lion-of-the-punjab/

    Read More
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  33. Randal says:
    @rosemerry
    Because of the UK's colonial past, most of the Muslim immigrants would come not from the EU but from Pakistan and even India, so being outside the EU would not help.

    I didn’t say it would, though it’s at least a start on the long hard road to getting back control of our borders. I merely pointed out that “populism” in general is a necessary response to dysfunctional and corrupted supposed democratic “representation”, and gave a specific example.

    That’s as true on Brexit, by the way, as it is on muslim and other immigration. A narrow majority voted to outright leave the EU. How many MPs do you think before the vote would have supported the leave option in a free Commons vote? Put it this way, it would have been a lot less than half of them.

    Read More
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  34. @Fiendly Neighborhood Terrorist
    They'd have been better off. The Ottoman Empire treated the Greeks well - it was the Ataturk Turkish Republic which massacred and exiled them - and under the Ottomans, Greek teachers weren't rooting in garbage bins for something to eat.

    The Ottoman Empire treated the Greeks well

    Where did you get that idea?

    Ever hear of the history of Eyalet of Epirus, or the history of Ioaninna, or of the Souliote wars to name just a few instances of where you may want to modify that statement?

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  35. 22pp22 says:
    @ananymos
    [According to this bozo, they should have stayed as dhimmis in the Ottoman Empire.]

    You are so silly to write such a silly statement. dhimmis is HOAX like 'antisemite'. These people were rich and influential in Muslim countries. Look at the situation now and laugh at yourself,

    The land of Palestinians has been stolen by ziofascist and influence of Rottenchild family where was transferred to European colonists with the blessing of the criminal West and Russia. The kurds who are in evil Empire army and trained by mass murderers ziofasicst have NO RIGHT to a state. They never has a country and never will. No one will trust traitor kurds who are fighting for an Evil Empire to grab land and oil wells in Iraq and Syria to claim is theirs. The kurds are in the service of the enemy, US/Israel, and should be punished as one.

    I grew up in a place in England. The nearest city where I went to school had a huge Muslim minority. I am not ignorant. Dhimmi is not a hoax, nor are grooming gangs.

    I’ve lived with Islam and I don’t like it.

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  36. 22pp22 says:
    @Fiendly Neighborhood Terrorist
    They'd have been better off. The Ottoman Empire treated the Greeks well - it was the Ataturk Turkish Republic which massacred and exiled them - and under the Ottomans, Greek teachers weren't rooting in garbage bins for something to eat.

    Great being Armenia too, They were slaughtered before the end of WWI. Then there was the massacre of the Iraqi Christians. I haven’t seen anyone in Thessaloniki eating out of a garbage bin.

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    • Replies: @Wally
    The Armenians certainly slaughtered a lot of Turks too.

    Nice try.
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  37. anomynos says:

    [I’ve lived with Islam and I don’t like it.]

    You are an ignorant zionist. I guess more than 6 millions that US CHRISTIAN/JEWISH killed in Vietnam were ‘Muslims’, 8 millions Christians killed in N. Korea. Thousands that Jews killed in occupied Palestine and still is going on, millions of people killed in Arab countries, women and children were raped. I guess millions that British CHRISTIAN killed in Africa, Asia to steal their resources are ignored by ignorant zionists?

    Take you LIES somewhere else

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  38. Avery says:
    @Fiendly Neighborhood Terrorist
    They'd have been better off. The Ottoman Empire treated the Greeks well - it was the Ataturk Turkish Republic which massacred and exiled them - and under the Ottomans, Greek teachers weren't rooting in garbage bins for something to eat.

    { The Ottoman Empire treated the Greeks well }

    Nonsense.

    Ottomans (Muslim Turks) treated all non-Muslims as sub-humans.
    Especially the Christians: Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks.
    In 1895 Ottoman Sultan Hamid ordered the massacre of ~300,000 Armenians: sure sounds like treating Christians ‘well’, donnit?

    Before that, Christians of Asia Minor, which nomad Turks invaded ~1,000 A.D., were massacred, forcibly Islamized, their Christian children abducted and raised as Muslims, taxed into destitute, ….

    Where the Hell did you get the notion that invadonomad Turk savages from East and Central Asia treated indigenous Christians, quote, ‘well’?

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  39. Logan says:
    @Mao Cheng Ji
    Yeah, "Referendums Are Always Doomed to Fail", "from the moment the polls closed on 23 June 2016, British society has been deeply divided, probably more so than at any time since the 17th-century civil war 375 years ago", and it's all "self-destructive idiocy".

    So, what about about all those the referenda for joining the EU? Joining the NATO? Those are fine, as far as you're concerned, I presume? People must accept that they are stupid, shut up, and follow wise and well-meaning liberal technocrats, eh?

    The Jacobite rising of 1745 didn’t indicate any divisions in British society.

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  40. Wally says:
    @22pp22
    Great being Armenia too, They were slaughtered before the end of WWI. Then there was the massacre of the Iraqi Christians. I haven't seen anyone in Thessaloniki eating out of a garbage bin.

    The Armenians certainly slaughtered a lot of Turks too.

    Nice try.

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    • Replies: @Avery
    If Armenians supposedly slaughtered a lot of Turks, how is it that there are hardly any Armenians, or Assyrians, or Greeks left in Turkey today 2017, when 25% of Ottoman Turkey was Christian - Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks - circa 1915.

    Your genocidal, savage, nomad Muslim Turk kin from Uyguristan invaded Asia Minor, and over many centuries exterminated the indigenous Christian peoples, ending in the great Genocide of 1915-1923, when ~4 million Christians were exterminated.

    Try again you lying denialist filthy scum.

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  41. Avery says:
    @Wally
    The Armenians certainly slaughtered a lot of Turks too.

    Nice try.

    If Armenians supposedly slaughtered a lot of Turks, how is it that there are hardly any Armenians, or Assyrians, or Greeks left in Turkey today 2017, when 25% of Ottoman Turkey was Christian – Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks – circa 1915.

    Your genocidal, savage, nomad Muslim Turk kin from Uyguristan invaded Asia Minor, and over many centuries exterminated the indigenous Christian peoples, ending in the great Genocide of 1915-1923, when ~4 million Christians were exterminated.

    Try again you lying denialist filthy scum.

    Read More
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