The Unravelling

June 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

unravellingThis review appeared in the Guardian.

Emma Sky’s “The Unravelling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq” is an very useful, eminently sensible “tale of unintended consequences, both of President Bush’s efforts to impose democracy and of President Obama’s detachment.” A critical insider’s account, it undermines the too-easy assumptions of left as well as right, realists as well as neoconservatives, exposing the achievements and (more often) stupidities of both administrations.

In 2003 Sky was a British civilian opponent of the war who nevertheless volunteered, arrived into chaos, and found herself governing the province of Kirkuk. When Saddam was a Western ally, a quarter of a million Kurds and Turkmen had been cleansed from Kirkuk and tens of thousands of (mainly Shia) Arabs moved in. Assyrian Christians and Yazidis add to the mix. Oil-rich, Kirkuk’s incorporation into Kurdistan would make that national project economically viable. “No group recognised the grievances of the others,” writes Sky, referring too to “the American tribe” who at first she railed against, “so out of place, running around in uniforms which looked like pyjamas, with their name tags on their chests.”

Sky witnessed the gallop from regime change to state collapse in the first days of occupation. The Coalition Provisional Authority and the Governing Council together institutionalised sectarianism. “The emphasis had been on identifying communal representatives rather than bridging communal divides.” Unelected Iraqi elites set about seizing the spoils, excluding Sunnis and the Shia working-class Sadrist movement.

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Adam Curtis: The Living Dead

June 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

The Living Dead is a series of three films focussing on the power of the past. It was the second major documentary series made by Adam Curtis. In it he investigated the way that history and memory (both national and individual) have been used by politicians and others. It was braodcast in 1995. The series features Paul Fussell whose book The Great War and Modern Memory is in the Listmuse 100 Best History Books of All Time list.

On the Desperate Edge of Now

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The “Islamic State” and the Strategists of Terror

June 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

Christoph Reuter is one of the world’s most important investigative journalists. His dispatches for Der Spiegel have illuminated many of the otherwise murky details of conflicts around the Middle East and South-Central Asia. Recently he may have written his most important story yet when he came into possession of the initial planning documents for the organisation that we now know as the “Islamic State”. Here is joins Petra Stienen in conversation at the Heinrich Böll Foundation to discuss the groups origins, which he writes about in detail in his recent book Die Schwarz Macht. (The interview in English starts at 24:10).

Panorama: Britain’s Secret Terror Deals

May 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

British security forces have been accused of involvement in dozens of murders during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Reporter Darragh MacIntyre investigates.

Syria: Beyond the Red Line

May 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

An important discussion on Syria, hosted by the Frontline Club, featuring Jonathan Littell, Orwa Nyrabia, Laila Alodaat, and Nerma Jelacic.

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Robin on Syria for the BBC World Service

May 22, 2015 § Leave a comment

Pulse editor Robin Yassin-Kassab speaking to the BBC on a program titled Islamic State controls over half of Syria.

Islamic State controls over half of Syria (50 mins) | mp3

The Architecture of Public Truth—from Chechnya to Syria

May 19, 2015 § Leave a comment

Jonathan Littell in conversation with Eyal Weizman.

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