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A Very British Killing: The Death of Baha Mousa Paperback – 13 Jun 2013

4.7 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (13 Jun. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099575116
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099575115
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 326,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"A deserving winner of the Orwell Prize" (Independent)

"[An] incendiary, eloquent account... A brilliantly researched indictment which argues that torture is endemic in the military" (Arifa Akbar Independent)

"For all its forensic detail, the book grips us emotionally, and has as keen a sense of storytelling as a horror story or courtroom drama. Ultimately, the greatest achievement of this incendiary, eloquent and angry book is that it humanises Mousa beyond the iconic and infamous figure he has become in his death" (Judges of the Orwell Prize for Political Writing 2013)

"This is a landmark book. Fluently, meticulously, A. T. Williams allows us to understand both the murderous nature of colonial war and the insidious moral corruption behind its institutional facades" (John Pilger)

"What to do after reading it? some might put this book away and try to forget about it, the way you would a bad dream. Others will feel changed by the awareness. A few will channel their feelings into action. There can't be any better definition of political writing at its most excellent" (Independent)

Book Description

Winner of the Orwell Prize for Political Writing 2013

This is the true story of a murder that sums up the stink of invading Iraq and why the Iraq story is far from over.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be an incredibly engaging, coherent and most of all, eye-opening account of the death of Baha Moussa. The book opens as it carries on, taking the reader on a concise and succinct journey through the morally bankrupt heart of the British Army. It is a great read not only for its fascinating (yet troubling) content, but also the manner in which it is written by Williams. I thoroughly recommend!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are quite a few books around now about the failure of the 'civilised West' in the face of 9-11 to live up to its human rights rhetoric, even some books about the UK's complicity in the US' breaches at Guantanamo/Bagram/through Rendition. But this is the first detailed account of how far short the UK - the mother of all democracies - fell in Iraq and the war on terror. The answer is shocking. The book is well written and the detail meticulous. What happened to Baha Mousa should never be allowed to happen again, but I fear that it will. Truly a shameful moment in our history and an important book that shines a light on a part of the British state that this 'help for heroes' generation prefers to ignore...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The particular killing that forms the subject of Andrew Williams book is that of Baha Mousa. Mousa, a young father living in Basra, was arrested with a number of others when arms were found in the hotel where he worked in the autumn of 2003. After more than two days of vile abuse and physical assaults (with a minimum of 19 soldiers involved) Mousa died.

Williams book, a forensic examination of this incident, comes in four parts. The first, situated in Iraq, and second part where we return to Britain, cover the investigation by the Royal Military Police who don't, even taking into account the difficult conditions, inspire much confidence, but still they are attempting to construct a case? Eventually 7 soldiers are charged including a senior officer, and a date for a court martial set. All this takes three years.

Williams expert eye on matters legal is readily apparent, and throws much needed light on the shady court martial that forms the third part of the book. All the prosecution witnesses from the army have developed a pretty comprehensive case of amnesia that no amount of prodding by the prosecution will cure; the Iraqi witnesses are subjected to protracted, aggressive questioning by the "best" legal minds in the country, who take brutal advantage of the fact that the Iraqis were hooded with empty hessian sandbags for almost the entirety of their ordeal. And if after that your not feeling thoroughly nauseated there's a whole barrage of witnesses heaping extravagant praise of the pass me the bucket brand on the most senior of the accused, Colonel Mendonca. Eventually the trial is brought to a halt by the judge.
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Format: Paperback
This is written by Andrew Williams who is Professor of Law at Warwick University. It was published in 2013 by Vintage. From the copy I have I cannot tell if Williams has published other material. He should. This is a magisterial record of the events that lead to the death of Baha Mousa on 15th September 2003 and the subsequent court martial. The later public enquiry by Sir William Gage is dealt with in an epilogue.
298 pages including a 25 page epilogue. A great and annoying failure is that there is no index. This is the sort of non fiction publication that will remain on shelves as a work of reference. It should have had an index.
Professor Williams has a wonderful writing style that I compare to Anthony Beevor. Super grasp of detail and comment are related in a way that impels the reader through the narrative. I am not surprised this book won the Orwell Prize for political writing. The narrative thrust is accompanied by commentaries on the use of worldwide torture, the Geneva Convention, the laws of war etc. I have one or two comments which should not prevent readers getting this book. I felt Williams often failed to hide his disdain for the barristers (QCs etc) at the court martial and for the Bar in general and he clearly thinks very little of the now retired Col. Mendonca who commanded the regiment responsible for the death of Baha Mousa. In these 2 areas I felt he allowed his otherwise resoundingly objective approach to fall away a little. Subject to those comments I recommend that anyone interested in modern Britain and our global role should read this book. I refrain from using the word murder or to describe the privates involved as 'thugs' etc as some reviews have done. The death of Baha Mousa was the coming together of a great number of complex actual and historical factors. Williams does his best to bring a balance and he does not pretend to offer solutions - just pointers.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a fantastic read. It's very well written and very difficult to put down once you start it. I highly recommended it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although this is a serious book about the British army's treatment of terrorist suspects, it is a real page-turner. It's totally absorbing, not a book you can dip in and out of. This isn't for the fainthearted, there are some graphic descriptions of the inhumane treatment of suspects, but a book well worth reading as it provides
a more balanced view of what actually happens to soldiers and their prisoners when there is deep mutual distrust.
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