11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 16 February 2007
A clear-minded observation of the current occupation of Iraq by American and British forces. Written with Cockburn's typically unobtrusive and understated style, this work cuts through much of the rhetoric issued by Governments and the press alike, to give a straightforward account both of the occupation and the events leading to it.
In just 226 pages, this is a concise and efficient piece of writing concerning one of the most complex political issues of our time.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 8 March 2010
Patrick Cockburn, long time Independent correspondent in the Middle East, wrote this account of the occupation of Iraq and the resistance to that occupation in 2006. Cockburn writes from the point of view of his own experiences and observations, beginning in the north of the country on the eve of invasion to his time in Baghdad, with increasingly limited and dangerous excursions into other areas of occupied Iraq.
One can't but admire his bravery, as a non-embedded journalist living in Baghdad he lives at risk from all sides but still manages to get out and see the occupation and resistance at first hand, and to speak with ordinary Iraqis. On these grounds, it is an invaluable piece of journalism. Where I feel it falls short, is in the analysis that would help the reader put the events in context in the wider world. On the context within Iraq itself Cockburn is very good, but to dismiss the debate on why the US invaded Iraq as "over-sophisticated" (which debate? In what way was it over-sophisticated?), and to simply suggest that the "main motive for going to war was that the White House thought it could win such a conflict very easily and to it's own great advantage" explains very little. While Paul Bremer receives some attention, his follow-on John Negroponte, Reagan's former Central American Tsar during the time of the Death squads, is conspicuous by his absence.
Those complaints to one side, the book is a valuable document from a journalist who is willing to make the effort, which in Iraq at that time was no small thing, to get at the story in person, speak to the people who were living through the conflict and record it for posterity.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 17 February 2009
without getting shot at...or blown up...
The author has lived in Iraq on and off since the 1970s, and he knows the streets and the personalities. They probably (non pc thought coming up here...) trust him more because he's Irish, not American or English. His brother writes the CounterPunch articles.
Reading this book, you can smell the anarchy and the fear out there... No I'm not being melodramatic. He has a unique ability to convey that very fully in an understated manner. He has access to more personnalities in Iraq from government level to street level than you could imagine would talk to one man. But, and this is the crunch, it all fits togetherlike a glove. This man knows Iraq like few other Westerners. He can get under the skin of the place and has done so succesfully. Again he is Irish so he has none of the overbeaeing arrogance, and/or self-righteousness, false pity of many American and English authors. He has no imperial/do gooder baggage to drag around. He tells it exactly as he sees it - no, he tells it exactly as THEY see it, the PBI (Poor bloody Iraqis). He pulls no punches,but weaves their narratives together with compassion and intelligence. He lets THEM do the talking...
But don't take my word for it; just go read it for yourselves and understand...
10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 5 January 2007
Patrick Cockburn, the Independent's Middle East correspondent, has written a vivid first-hand account of the US-British occupation of Iraq. He notes of the war's prelude, the 1990s sanctions on Iraq, "Imposing sanctions on all ordinary Iraqis was a cruel collective punishment, one of the great man-made disasters of the last century."
He shows that opposition to the invasion and occupation of Iraq radicalized most of the suicide bombers in Iraq. An Israeli study also concluded that almost all the foreign fighters in Iraq had been radicalized by the invasion. A Saudi investigation showed that few suicide bombers had any contact with al Qaeda before 2003.
Cockburn details the brutalities of the occupation, the imperial arrogance, the use of mercenaries, the deepening religious divisions, the vile sectarian killings, the lawlessness and insecurity, the rampant corruption and the economic chaos (oil, electricity, water and sewerage are all still worse than they were pre-war). All lead to growing national resistance.
The Bush administration claimed that toppling Saddam would stabilise the Middle East. Instead the invasion and occupation have destabilised all the region's countries. The war has destroyed Iraq, worsened the prospects of peace and justice for the Palestinian people and strengthened the al Qaeda terrorists.
The war was `a terrible mistake', as the Royal Institute for International Affairs recently noted. US General William Odom, a former head of the National Security Agency, called the war `the greatest strategic disaster in American history'. We need our troops back home, to defend our borders against the terrorists, people-smugglers and drug-runners generated by the Labour government's criminal wars against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 April 2008
Patrick Cockburn knows his subject well and writes clearly about the invasion and occupation of Iraq from the perspective of the Iraqis. Very well written and (almost) wholly depressing and bleak.
The writer clearly knows the country well and has an access that few other journalists do. On the downside there is little from the American point of view and nothing that puts the war/invasion into the grander world view. However as a study of a country on the brink (of an american made?) abyss it is sombre, thoughtful and extremely worthwhile.