In February 2003, Patrick Cockburn secretly crossed the Tigris river from Syria into Iraq just before the US/British invasion, and has covered the war ever since. In The Occupation, he provides a vivid and disturbing picture of a country in turmoil, and the dangers and privations endured by its people.
The Occupation explores the mosaic of communities in Iraq, the US and Britain's failure to understand the country they were invading and how this led to fatal mistakes. Cockburn, who has been visiting Iraq since 1978, describes the disintegration of the country under the occupation. Travelling throughout Iraq, from the Kurdish north, to Baghdad, Falluja and Basra, he records the response of the country's population – Shia and Sunni, Arab and Kurd – to the invasion, the growth of the resistance and its transformation into a full-scale uprising. He explains why deepening religious and ethnic divisions drove the country towards civil war.
Above all, Cockburn traces how the occupation's failure led to the collapse of the country, and the high price paid by Iraqis. He charts the impact of savage sectarian killings, rampant corruption and economic chaos on everyday life: from the near destruction of Baghdad's al-Mutanabi book market to the failure to supply electricity, water and, ironically, fuel to Iraq's population.
The Occupation is a compelling portrait of a ravaged country, and the appalling consequences of imperial arrogance.
The January 7th massacre at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris has sparked an outburst of critical conversation across social and other media concerning freedom of expression, the politically charged proliferation of the ‘je suis Charlie’ slogan, and the consequential upsurge of anti-Muslim sentiment. On the London Review of Books blog, Adam Shatz considers the implications of the populist Charlie slogan as a “declaration of allegiance” that counterpoises itself against those “on the other side…the Islamic enemy that threatens life in the modern, democratic West”. In The New Yorker, Teju Cole questions whether it is possible to defend racist speech without endorsing racism, arguing that it is possible to condemn the murders of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists without condoning the ideology of their cartoons. Along similar lines Tariq Ali reflects on the contents of Charlie Hebdo itself – satire that primarily targeted Islam, and paid far less attention to Judaism and Catholicism. Also well worth a look is Joe Sacco’s take on the events – a cartoon that is itself a pastiche on satire, the medium responding to the medium, so to speak. We have put together an essential reading list of works that contribute to these current debates, including books by Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Tariq Ali, Patrick Cockburn and Gareth Peirce.
What can be learned from Iraq's recent past — a past haunted by imperial power — to help us critically engage with the present cycle of violence in Iraq?
Verso has been actively publishing books over the last decade that addresses the conflict in Iraq. Below is a list of critical texts that seeks to contextualize the disaster which has resulted from the US and UK "War on Terror".
Yesterday, Tariq Ali published an op-ed denouncing possible United States military intervention in Syria. Ali accuses the United States of stretching their intelligence reports as an excuse to further stir the civil war and assist the opposition they had armed. He writes:
The Syrian regime was slowly re-establishing its control over the country against the opposition armed by the West and its tributary states in the region (Saudi Arabia and Qatar). This situation required correction. The opposition in this depressing civil war needed to be strengthened militarily and psychologically.
With the White House having announced that the recent chemical attacks in Syria were unequivocally the work of the Assad regime, many are anxious to see whether the Obama administration will now pursue the promised military intervention. To elaborate on his editorial piece, Tariq Ali joined Steven Clemons, Washington editor-at-large for The Atlantic, on Democracy Now to discuss who is to blame for the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the politics of a Syrian invasion.