After 9/11. George W. Bush’s administration declared that they were going to have to work through ‘the dark side’. And they did: they turned their backs on international law and on America’s history of respecting human rights. They wanted only legal advice that made it okay to torture, and they made sure they got it. Voices of dissent were sidelined, while low level officials brainstormed interrogation techniques and took their lead from Jack Bauer in 24.
In Torture Team, Philippe Sands tracks down and interviews those responsible, and makes a compelling case that, in an ugly blotch on Americda’s recent past, war crimes were committed for which no one has yet been held to account.
What kind of hypocrite should voters choose as their next leader? The question seems utterly cynical. But, as David Runciman suggests, it is actually much more cynical to pretend that politics can ever be completely sincere. The most dangerous form of political hypocrisy is to claim to have a politics without hypocrisy. Political Hypocrisy is a timely, and timeless, book on the problems of sincerity and truth in politics, and how we can deal with them without slipping into hypocrisy ourselves. Runciman tackles the problems through lessons drawn from some of the great truth-tellers in modern political thought – Hobbes, Mandeville, Jefferson, Bentham, Sidgwick, and Orwell – and applies his ideas to different kinds of hypocritical politicians from Oliver Cromwell to Hillary Clinton.
Runciman argues that we should accept hypocrisy as a fact of politics, but without resigning ourselves to it, let alone cynically embracing it. We should stop trying to eliminate every form of hypocrisy, and we should stop vainly searching for ideally authentic politicians. Instead, we should try to distinguish between harmless and harmful hypocrisies and should worry only about its most damaging varieties.
Written in a lively style, this book will change how we look at political hypocrisy and how we answer some basic questions about politics: What are the limits of truthfulness in politics? And when, where, and how should we expect our politicians to be honest with us, and about what?
The war on terror is being lost – but not just in Iraq. As this devastating book shows, the real crisis zone now lies in central Asia. Veteran reporter Ahmed Rashid has unparalleled access to the region and knows its leading players, from presidents to warlords. Here he documents how closely Pakistan’s US-backed regime is linked with extremists; how broken promises in Afghanistan have led to a resurgent Taliban fed by drugs money; and how the largest landmass in the world is now a breeding ground for terrorism.
In this story of squandered opportunities, misguided alliances and double-dealing, Rashid pinpoints with chilling accuracy where the true threat to our global security comes from.
You know the people in this book.
You’ll remember the harassed waitress from your local Chinese restaurant. You’ve noticed those builders across the street working funny hours and without helmets. You’ve eaten the lettuce they picked, or bought the microwave they assembled. The words ‘cockle-pickers’, ‘Morecambe Bay’, ‘Chinese illegals found dead in lorry’ will ring a bell.
But did you know that there are hundreds of thousands of illegal Chinese immigrants in Britain? They’ve travelled here because of desperate poverty, and must keep their heads down and work themselves to the bone.
Hsiao-Hung Pai, the only journalist who knows this community, went undercover to hear the stories of this hidden work force. She reveals a scary, shadowy world where human beings are exploited in ways unimaginable in our civilized twenty-first century.
Chinese Whispers exposes the truth behind the lives of a hidden work force here in Britain. You owe it to yourself, and them, to read it.
Hitler’s empire was the largest, most brutal and most ambitious reshaping of Europe in history. Inspired by the imperial legacy of those such as the British, the Third Reich cast its shadow from the Channel Islands to the Caucasus and ruled hundreds of millions. Yet, as Mark Mazower’s groundbreaking new account shows, it was an empire built on an illusion.
From Hitler’s plans for vast motorways crossing an ethnically cleansed Russian steppe, to dreams of a German super-economy rivalling America’s, Mazower reveals the lethal fusion of mass murder, modern managerialism and colossal incompetence that underpinned the Nazi New Order. Ultimately Hitler’s empire ended up consuming its own, leaving destruction in its wake and finishing not just with the downfall of Germany, but an entire continent.
An unprecedented insight into the grim brutality of the Russian revolution and the terror of the Cold War.
On a midsummer day in 1937, the young Commissar Boris Bibikov kissed his two daughters goodbye and disappeared into the official Packard waiting outside. It was the last time his family ever saw him. Arrested by Stalin’s secret police, the loyal Party man confessed to a grotesque series of crimes against the Revolution. His wife, an Enemy of the People by association, was sent to the gulag, leaving the young Lyudmila and Lenina alone to face separation in a world turned suddenly cold.
Lyudmila grew up a fighter, and when she fell in love with a tall young foreigner in Moscow at the height of the Cold War, she knew there would be further battles ahead. Naively infatuated with Russia, Mervyn Matthews had embarked on a dangerous flirtation with the KGB. But when finally asked to work for the organisation, he refused. Revenge came quickly: Mervyn was thrown out of the country; Lyudmila lost her job. For six years, stranded on opposite sides of the ideological divide that shaped their generation, they kept their love alive in a daily stream of letters – some anguished, some funny, but all suffused with a hope that they would eventually be reunited.
Decades later, Owen Matthews pieces together his grandfather’s passage through the harrowing world of Stalin’s purges, and tells the story of his parents’ Cold War love affair through their letters and memories. Interspersed with the story of his family is his own journey as a young reporter in nineties Moscow. This is a raw, vivid memoir about a young man’s struggle to understand his parents’ lives and the strange country which ‘made us and freed us and very nearly broke us.’
After a noisy upbringing as one of six children, and adulthood as a vocal feminist and mother, Sara Maitland began to crave silence. Over the past five years, she has spent periods of silence in the Sinai Desert and the Australian bush and on the Isle of Skye. She interweaves these experiences with the history of silence told through fairy tale and myth, Western and Eastern religious traditions, the Enlightenment and psychoanalysis, up to the ambivalence towards silence in contemporary society. Maitland has built a hermitage on an isolated Scottish moor, and the book culminates powerfully with her experiences of silence in this new home.
Hatim Kanaaneh is a Palestinian doctor who has struggled for over 35 years to bring medical care to Palestinians in Galilee, against a culture of anti-Arab discrimination. This is the story of how he fought for the human rights of his patients and overcame the Israeli authorities’ cruel indifference to their suffering.
Kanaaneh is a native of Galilee, born before the creation of Israel. He left to study medicine at Harvard, before returning to work as a public health physician with the intention of helping his own people. He discovered a shocking level of disease and malnutrition in his community and a shameful lack of support from the Israeli authorities. After doing all he could for his patients by working from inside the system, Kanaaneh set up The Galilee Society, an NGO working for equitable health, environmental and socio-economic conditions for Palestinian Arabs in Israel.
This is a brilliant memoir that shows how grass roots organisations can loosen the Zionist grip upon Palestinian lives.
As Tony Judt argues persuasively in Reappraisals, we have entered an ‘age of forgetting’.
Today’s world is so utterly unlike the world of just twenty years ago that we have set aside our immediate past even before we could make sense of it. We literally don’t know where we came from, and the results of this burgeoning ignorance are proving calamitous, with the clear prospect of worse to come. We have lost touch with three generations of international policy debate, social thought and public-spirited social activism. We no longer know how to discuss such concepts and we have forgotten the role once played by intellectuals in debating, transmitting and defending the ideas that shaped their time.
In Reappraisals, Tony Judt resurrects key aspects of the world we have lost and reminds us how important they still are to us: now and to our hopes for the future.
Judt draws provocative connections between a dazzling range of subjects, from the history of the neglect and recovery of the Holocaust and the challenge of ‘evil’ in understanding the European past, to the rise and fall of the state in public affairs and the displacement of history by ‘heritage’.Ranging with his trademark acuity and élan from Belgium to Israel, from the memory of Marxism to the practice of foreign policy, he takes us beyond what we think we know to show us how we came to know it, and reveals how much of our history has been sacrificed in the triumph of myth-making over understanding and denial over memory. His book is a road map back to the historical sense we urgently need.
In 1925, in the aftermath of World War One and the vengeful Treaty of Versailles, six of Germany’s leading chemical companies banded together in a cartel to protect their business from increasing international competition. The merger succeeded beyond their wildest dreams and within a few years I. G. Farben, as the cartel was named, dominated the lucrative global chemical business.
Yet twenty years later the directors found themselves on trial in the same Nuremberg courtroom that had decided the fates of the surviving leaders of the Third Reich. They were accused, in the words of the prosecutor, Telford Taylor, of being: ‘the men who made war possible…the magicians who made the fantasies of Mein Kampf come true.’
How had one of the world’s leading companies, whose scientists had won Nobel prizes, pioneered aspirin and a host of other essential drugs, and whose knowledge and expertise were the envy of the world, fallen from the heights of such success to become Hitler’s creature, directly involved in the Holocaust with their experimental I. G. Monowitz plant at Auschwitz?
In this brilliantly researched and compelling book, Diarmuid Jeffreys shines a bright light on I. G. Farben’s Faustian pact with the Third Reich to reveal the detailed story of the original military-industrial complex.
Somewhere in the jungles of Uganda, there hides a fugitive rebel-leader: he is said to take his orders direct from the spirit world and, together with his ragged army of brutalised child soldiers, he has left a bloody trail of devastation across his country.
Joseph Kony is now an internationally-wanted criminal, and yet nobody really knows who he is or what he is fighting for. Intrigued by the myths, Matthew Green heads off into a war zone, meeting the victims, the peacemakers and the regional powerbrokers, as he tracks down the man himself.
The Wizard of the Nile is the first book to peel back the layers of mysticism and murky politics surrounding Kony, to shine a searching light onto this forgotten conflict, and to tell the gripping human story behind an inhumane war and a humanitarian crisis.
Eva Figes and her family fled the horror of Nazi Germany when Eva was only six, forced to leave behind them friends, relatives and their housemaid, Edith. Ten years later, Edith suddenly re-enters their lives. Having miraculously survived wartime Berlin, she had reluctantly emigrated to hostile, volatile Palestine.
Recounting Edith’s story, Figes boldly argues that Israel was a product of US foreign policy and continuing and widespread anti-Semitism. Part memoir, part brave polemic, Journey to Nowhere is both a moving account of post-war displacement and a fierce attack on America’s role in the Middle East.
‘Finally I was forced to admit that I work in a corrupted profession.’ When award-winning journalist Nick Davies decided to break Fleet Street’s unwritten rule by investigating his own colleagues, he found that the business of reporting the truth had been slowly subverted by the mass production of ignorance.
Working with a network of off-the-record sources, Davies uncovered the story of the prestigious Sunday newspaper which allowed the CIA and MI6 to plant fiction in its columns; the newsroom which routinely rejects stories about black people; the respected paper that hired a professional fraudster to set up a front company to entrap senior political figures; the newspapers which support law and order while paying cash bribes to bent detectives. Davies names names and exposes the national stories which turn out to be pseudo events manufactured by the PR industry, and the global news stories which prove to be fiction generated by a new machinery of international propaganda. He shows the impact of this on a world where consumers believe a mass of stories which, in truth, are as false as the idea that the Earth is flat – from the millennium bug to the WMD in Iraq – tainting government policy, perverting popular belief. He presents a new model for understanding news. With the help of researchers from Cardiff University, who ran a ground-breaking analysis of our daily news, Davies found most reporters, most of the time, are not allowed to dig up stories or check their facts – a profession corrupted at the core.
Read All About It. The news will never look the same again.
Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Shia insurgency and the Mehdi Army, is the most important political figure in post-occupation Iraq. At first grossly underestimated by the US, Muqtada has become the kingmaker of this divided country through a potent combination of nationalism and religious fervour.
This is the first biography of the controversial and influential cleric, and draws on Patrick Cockburn’s more than thirty years of reporting from the Middle East, as well as being one of the few books to be based on interviews with Iraqi eyewitnesses. Muqtada al-Sadr is compulsory reading for anyone who wishes to understand the current state of Iraq. This paperback edition includes a new afterword which updates the story of Muqtada’s rise.
Foreign Matters tries to join the dots and tell it like it is. Postions? It takes them. Debates? It makes them.
Some blogs will use the language of diplomats without translation, Foreign Matters seeks to explain that a ‘Working Group’ is 5 or more people sitting in a room failing to achieve anything, and a ‘ Bi-lateral’ is a meeting involving two people chatting.
Home of the Freedom Pass Anarchists and the wonderful world of professional wrestling, psychogeography, allotments and the class struggle.
On the day that I retired from my final job as a lockkeeper I left the following on the wall. …… I started work at fifteen years of age Worked on the river and at sea but I also worked in factories and fields. In the circus and in films. I never achieved much. But I never crossed a picket line. Never judged a fellow worker by their colour or creed Nor sucked up to the bosses for my own ends….. Pretty much sums it all up.
The police: upholding the law, protecting the weak and innocent, bringing the guilty to justice… or a self-defeating tangle of bureacratic vogons? The opinion in this blog is not official, but it is that of a real serving policewoman and is copyright of PC EE Bloggs. PS, just because I am a police officer does not mean I am responsible for any of the following: poor police driving you saw, roads near you being closed for hours, your unlawful arrest last week.
Longlisted for blogposts published at PoliticalBetting.com and the Daily Kos.
Greg Callus is the Deputy Editor of PoliticalBetting.com.
PoliticalBetting.com is Britain’s most-read political blog – and the best online resource for betting on politics.