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VINE VOICEon 29 April 2011
Mark Curtis presents history at its worst; stories written by journalists with an axe to grind. While ample evidence exists of a credibility gap between government declarations and electoral opinion, Curtis goes the extra mile to "find" historical patterns which are held together with the thinest of arguments in his quest to blame the West for the woes of the world. Consquently, he fails to establish truth but equates his own views with truth. He accuses British foreign policy makers of having "colluded for decades with radical Islamic forces, including terrorists' organisations. They have connived and worked alongside them and sometimes trained and financed them, in order to promote specific foreign policy objectives." He characterises these relationships as "a temporary marriage of convenience to achieve specific short-term outcomes." Apparently he has never heard the phrase "politics makes strange bedfellows."

He argues that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are partly British creations. The former requires reading history as if Jinnah was a British puppet instead of a single-minded nationalist. Jinnah was a member the Indian National Congress from 1906 until he broke with them in 1920 over Gandhi's civil disobediance campaign which he considered would lead to conflict between Hindus and Muslims. Jinnah became head of the Muslim League arguing that Hindus and Muslims were separate nations. Gandhi was dismissive of the two nations idea and the two leaders were unable to reconcile their positions. The creation of Pakistan was not a ploy by the British to divide the Hindu and Muslim communities it represented the failure of those communities to live with each other in a unified India. It mattered not what the British government wanted, Indian independence was a process beyond their economic and political control.

Curtis refers to British troops in action abroad in Indonesia, Kenya, Iran and Egypt. His argument is that the British tended to identify nationalism with Communism and cooperated with radical Islamic groups to maintain control over foreign countries to serve British interests. His analysis is shallow and self-serving. The British ambassador in Tehran wrote, "the need for Persia is not to run the oil industry for herself (which she cannot do) but to profit from the technical ability of the West" from which Curtis opines, "Iran was, as it proved (and as the British were surely aware), perfectly capable of running its own oil industry." He under-estimates the arrogance of the West towards the Middle East. The British elite believed Iran could not manage the oil industry just as it believed that when Nasser seized the Suez canal it could not function without Western staff. Britain had lost its empire but had yet to find a role. Regrettably the imperial attitude persisted both in the Empire and the Colonial Office.

Eden failed to recognise the nature of nationalism, regarding Nasser as the reincarnation of Hitler and nationalisation evidence of Arab aggression. Curtis fails to explore the policy differences between the US and UK which existed under Truman. It is disengenuous to discuss events in 1953 without refering to the wider political context in which the Labour government refused to compromise on oil prices while the US went ahead to establish agreement with Arab states which increased the Arabs' share of the wealth derived from oil. Truman to his credit refused to participate in the overthrow of Mossadegh in 1951, not least because he was resisting Communist military action in Korea. Britain argued Iran was in danger of aligning itself with the Soviet Union and persuaded the Eisenhower regime (and hardliner John Foster Dulles) of the need for preventative action. Sixty years later Cold War rhetoric and action may seem overblown but the Soviets had been physically present in Iran during and after World War Two. This does not justify the overthrow of an elected government, or the establishment of an authoritarian regime to replace it, but the process deserves more than Curtis's slapstick narrative.

In 1993 the Provisional IRA murdered three year old Jonathan Ball and 12 year old Tim Parry by setting off two explosions in Warrington town centre. In addition, over 50 people were injured in the atrocity resulting in widespread protests in Britain and Ireland. Public outrage was quickly overtaken by incredulity when it was revealed the British government were in talks with the IRA at the time. It was the difference between rhetoric and real politique, a distinction Curtis appears not to understand. His basic argument that every contact with terrorist groups is a moral offence against an open society is naive. This is coupled with a largely unsubstantiated assessment of British foreign policy objectives in which the word "likely" appears as a means of justifying Curtis's subjectivity and suppositions rather than revealing the limitations of his knowledge. Curtis is not necessarily wrong but he too often appears to be looking for evidence to prove his thesis rather than examining evidence to see what conclusions can be drawn from it. One advantage of the Wikileaks case is that it does provide concrete evidence of the motives of the governing beauracracy.

What is also apparent is that public control or supervision of the nation's foreign policy is minimal. Robin Cook's commitment to an "ethical" foreign policy was on the rocks within eighteen months of its announcement. The Blair government actively discouraged expressions of dissent when China came to town. The policy of appeasing the Saudi regime in order to sell arms and attact Arab wealth to Britain was trumpeted as being in the national interest. Curtis writes as if he is revealing a new world to the general public but the public is not as naive as he thinks. This is an easy to read journalistic presentation of Curtis's opinions which has failed to persuade this reviewer of its main argument. However, it's worth reading with evidence of extensive research contained in sixtythree pages of footnotes. On balance it just scrapes a five.
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on 11 August 2010
Mark Curtis again offers a run-down of the various ways the UK state has ill-served its own people ( 7/7) and what is, one supposes for want of a better word, called "democracy" - to be pronounced in a strong Texan accent, in honour of the late president Dubya.I say "state" since the mandarins collude with the politicians, ideologists and spin-doctors to hide the unpleasant truth that the UK has supported, protected and continues to support the main sponsors of jihadism. The role of the Saudis is virtually never allowed to surface in our media; nor that of the Pakistani regimes from Benazir Bhutto ( well, from Zia) to the present.The ritual bleat from Mr Cameron regarding Pakistan's mixed, shall we say, response to militant Islamists no doubt provides a moment's tv infotainment, but the revelations in Curtis's book show how "our" chaps have nothing to learn in double-talk from, say, the Muslim Brotherhood, whose activities down the years and across different countries, including the UK, are analysed in this book.I did not find the book quite as flowing as others by Curtis, and a full annotated bibliography would be useful in a second edition. As in Unpeople and Web of Deceit by the same author, however, the muck-raking is timely, revealing and well-put together. One hopes that many young subjects of Her Majesty will read this account , and perhaps conclude that most of us do not actually have a lot in common with the Saudi monarchy, despite the fawning assertion of the FCO in a 2005 document Curtis cites but which did not get the attention from our press that it merited.No more than the Strategic defence review which Blair designed to justify "humanitarian interventionism"; nor the 2007 projection of our energy needs. Finally, as Greenspan so unwisely remarked, it is about oil, of course.And about both our nostalgia for empire and our junior partnership status with the MegaPower.The image of Blair as Bush's poodle was perhaps vulgar, superficial and a little flippant, but it encapsulated a healthy popular insight.In case any reader should conclude from this comment that Curtis downplays the UK role in the genesis and persistence of jihadism , I must say that, on the contrary, he emphasises how large, multi-facetted and perverse our part has been.
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on 6 June 2011
I found this book to be one of the most frightening books that I have read in a very long time. The content that Mark curtis has revealed is quite frankly, staggering.

The book takes the reader through a consistant catalogue of collusion by British authorities throughout a very long period. It names persons who have held high office and shows that these people certainly have blood on their hands.

There are copious notes throughout the book and these give details of source of information. This verification I found to be necessary as some of the charges that Mark Curtis makes are simply staggering.

This book should be read by anyone who has even a slight interest in the machinations of politics. It is an eye opener on a huge scale.

Whilst I found the content staggering, I found the book to be eminently readable and would hav no hesitation in recommending the book to anyone.
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on 23 February 2015
The book is based on historical events and facts, government & government personnel reports, intelligence investigations and undercover plans. There is hardly any presented idea without a reference, the ideas form a cohesion which is the true western governments' intentions in the east, which is their own interests and not the good and democracy of eastern countries. The support of extremists is evident throughout the book, which is done to put a hand on the reserves of oil.

This book forms the UK's view from an eastern point of view, which is opposite to its own values toward its own people.
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on 15 July 2013
Got this for my dad on fathers day, He loves it and said it is very gripping and truthful,

Not sure what else I can say, I havent personally read it, but the rest of the reviews speak for themselves.
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on 31 October 2015
This book sheds light on the many dirty secrets of our governments involvement and meddling in places it has no business being. Makes you feel ashamed to be British.
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on 23 February 2013
Excellent exposé of official British sponsorship of Islamic terror for sordid and short-sighted gains. And it is all ending in tears, with much worse to come!
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on 11 November 2013
It makes you understdand the politics in the area of the Middle East and how Britain has always been involved and shaping this area of the world.
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on 24 June 2013
Excellent and a must read about the relationship between the Muslim Brothers and its terrorists affiliates with the the UK
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on 24 May 2013
A brilliant book written by a person who is not afraid to tell it how it really is. enlightening reading.
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