Tony Blair Cannot Carry the Blame for Iraq Alone

When I arrived in Baghdad in the hot and frightening summer of 2003, there were still plenty of people prepared to argue that Tony Blair and George Bush had done the right thing by invading Iraq. I remember a distinguished British journalist telling me by the pool at the al-Hamra hotel that things were getting better, as the sound of gunfire echoed in the distance and tracer fire lit up the sky. That morning I had seen an entire bus full of passengers being robbed by highwaymen at gunpoint on … [Read more...]

Who is the Villain of Brexit?

In the aftermath of Britain's decision to leave the European Union, I cannot help thinking of that old Mitchell and Webb sketch in which the terrible truth dawns on two Nazi SS officers fighting in the Second World War: that they're the "baddies". I don't think the same realistion has come to the British yet, that in the wake of last week's disastrous Brexit vote, we are the villains of Europe. Consider what happened. We voted to abandon our friends and allies. Even as Europe's borders are … [Read more...]

This is London Calling: Keep the Lights on in Europe

In 1914, on the eve of the First World War, the British foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey looked out of his window at the street lamps being lit, and said "The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime". Now, on the eve of the Brexit referendum, I fear the lights may be about to start going out again in Europe -- and this time the first place to fall dark will be Britain. The European Union was built on a dream. Not a dream of common markets or … [Read more...]

Who Killed Jo Cox?

Who killed Jo Cox? Not Nigel Farage. Though he showed us the broken and helpless and told us to fear them. They fled crucifixion and poison gas and he told us to hate them. "If voting doesn't work, violence is next," he said.  But that's just Nigel, that's his way. Did you see him on the Thames?  You've got to put Britain first, you see. Not David Cameron. Though he told us a "swarm" was coming across the sea to take advantage of us. David Cameron is an honourable man. he was just trying … [Read more...]

A Vote to Leave is Just Running Away

That is no country for the young, where the old plan to rob their children of a future just to bask in the nostalgia of a past that never was. That is what the British people plan to do next week, if they vote to leave the European Union. They will turn out in their millions to vote away their children's inheritance, because they are scared of a world that has grown too large for them. I remember as a child asking my grandmother, a Londoner born and bred, if she thought life was better when … [Read more...]

Meeting the Yazidis: an Encounter with the “Devil-Worshippers” of Iraq

When I went to meet the Yazidis, the “devil-worshippers” of Iraq, I thought I had found a strange and improbable oasis of peace in that ravaged land. I remember the Yazidis were so amazed to be visited by a journalist from another country that they took photographs ofme. Though they were surrounded by the mayhem and violence of Iraq, their villages in the shadow of the Sinjar mountains seemed an echo of an older Iraq. Children played in the fields, and the men chuckled as they told me how … [Read more...]

It’s Still About The Oil

  The Iraq war was always about oil. The ISIS extremists who are trying to seize control of the country’s largest refinery know that. Everyone was braced for the battle for Baghdad. But first they went after the oil. Just like the Americans. In 2003, when Baghdad was a chaos of looting, the one thing the Americans secured was the Oil Ministry. Because oil is power. If all you’ve got is a cave on a mountain side somewhere in Afghanistan, you have to do something really big to … [Read more...]

There Are Worse Things Than Dictators

Everything they told you about Syria was wrong. The story where the noble, brave resistance were fighting to liberate their country. The story where Assad was the one the world had to worry about. Well, those resistance fighters have shown their faces now. And they are the butchers of ISIS, beheading their way through Iraq towards Baghdad. Syria and Iraq are the same war. They have been for a long time. ISIS is fighting in both countries, it wants to establish a single Taliban-style state … [Read more...]

First We Took Afghanistan. Then We Gave Them Iraq

First we took away Al-Qaeda’s base in Afghanistan. Then we gave them a new one in Iraq. Strip away the treachery and deceit, murder and mayhem of the last twelve and a half years, and that’s all that remains. In 2001, we went to war to chase Al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan. I was there. I watched the bombs fall, and I saw the bodies. Al-Qaeda were holed up in the poorest country on earth. They practically had to run their global jihad out of a cave. They were out on the fringes, cut off … [Read more...]

Last Thoughts on Conchita Wurst & World War III

There’s nothing new about bearded ladies. They had them in the freak shows that worked the roads long before there was a Europe or television. Not that I’ve got a problem with Conchita Wurst—he seems an admirable young lady, and anyway, who wouldn’t be on the side of the freaks in a world run by the likes of Vladimir Putin? But to listen to some of the commentary on his victory in the Eurovision Song Contest you’d think it was a sign of some great social upheaval. As if no one had ever done … [Read more...]