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Britain's not-so-humanitarian interventions
on 26 January 2010
In Web of Deceit, Curtis draws extensively on formerly secret government files and archive press reports to rescue crucial details from the memory hole. Fastidiously researched and impeccably sourced, this is essentially the missing history book of postwar British foreign policy. From propping up repressive governments to toppling democratically-elected ones and crushing popular rebellions, it's all a far cry from the simplistic and childish narrative of 'Our Boys versus The Evildoers' propagated by Whitehall, Westminster and Fleet Street.
Well organized, including 50 pages of end notes and a chronology of main events, it comes across like a British version of William Blum's 'Rogue State'. As you progress through the chapters on Kenya, Malaya, Rwanda, Iran, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Kosovo, Indonesia, Diego Garcia and more, it becomes ever more apparent that our post-9/11 interventions in the Middle East appear to be little more than business as usual. Even recent shocking allegations of torture are essentially nothing new.
This is quite a lengthy and comprehensive book; heavy on fact and quite wide-ranging in scope. Just a little repetitive in parts, but overall Curtis does a good job of preventing it all from becoming too dry, and for me at least, his writing seems to fall a healthy midway between the over-sentimentality that can sometimes threaten to diminish Pilger, and the dry convolution that can cripple Chomsky. Like those two writers, Curtis is not afraid to resort to the occasional caustic remark whenever words like 'ethical' or 'humanitarian' come into play - and in most instances, his sarcasm is justified.
Ultimately then, this does what it promises: it provides concrete evidence of deceit. There are already plenty of books out there that tackle the hypocrisy of US foreign policy, and this is one of the few that focuses on our own little island (which is surprising, given our long and checkered history). However the blame shouldn't be levelled entirely at our elected officials; that all the information is publicly available yet has gone largely unmentioned by mainstream journalism is ultimately a devastating indictment on our much-hyped 'free press'.