Tony Blair: the Messiah and the Monster

Sometimes I think the only way Tony Blair could ever be truly happy is if he managed to get himself crucified. A big Calvary moment, complete with movie cameras, crowds of extras, make-up and lighting, is the only thing that could ever satisfy his Messiah complex-- But no, Blair was always a bargain basement Messiah, and he was always happy to pay in some one else's blood. Astonishingly, this week he declared he had no regrets over the decision to invade Iraq ten years ago. Well, he did … [Read more...]

My Bloody Valentine in Fallujah

I spent Valentine's Day in Fallujah once -- an indication, perhaps, of how unhealthy my lifestyle had become. It was 2004, I was working as a journalist, covering the US-led occupation of Iraq, and it was beginning to go badly wrong. I was at the hotel in Baghdad when the news came through that heavily armed insurgents had stormed the police station and the new Iraqi army barracks in Fallujah, freeing prisoners and killing 17 police officers. The first thing I wanted to do was go … [Read more...]

Gun Control? Tell that to the Iraqis

Watching the gun control debate in the United States from afar, I was stuck by an odd dissonance. Something about the rhetoric of the pro-gun lobby didn't quite fit with my own experience.  It took me a while to realise what it was. And then I remembered, it went back to Baghdad, when I was there as a journalist in the long hot summer of 2003, as the US occupation began to go wrong, and the situations started to spin out of control. Facing increasing attacks from Iraqi insurgents, US forces … [Read more...]

How I fell in love with Syria

I remember the day I fell in love with Syria. We had got up early to watch dawn rise over the ruins of Palmyra in the desert, and as I sat on a piece of ancient wall, feeling the warm of the sun on my face, I saw a figure approaching out of the desert. It was a little like that scene in Lawrence of Arabia where Omar Sharif shimmers out of the mirage on a camel, except this was a small boy and he was on foot, but he was dressed in full Arab robes, headscarf and all. There was no sound except the … [Read more...]

The Election that affects us all

So, Barack or Mitt? Today Americans vote in an election whose effects will be felt in almost every corner of the globe. I'm not an American, and I don't have a vote, so I'm not going to say who I think should win between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. In a sense, as Stephen Fry said recently, it's none of my business. I know how offended I get when outsiders start telling me how we should run our country -- most recently when Mitt Romney said this summer that London wasn't properly prepared … [Read more...]

Burden of the Desert…from a Baghdad Hotel Room to a Novel

The proofs for the cover of my first novel, Burden of the Desert, arrived this week. It was a strange experience to see them -- exciting, certainly, but humbling too, to think that this story I have carried in my head for so long will soon be a book. Looking at them, I thought of that night long ago when the idea for the novel first came to me in a hotel room in occupied Baghdad. It was 2004 and I could hear the sounds of the city outside my window, the traffic, the constant gunfire, the … [Read more...]

View from a Terrace

Where do I begin? I'm sitting on the terrace of my apartment in Delhi. It's early evening and the light is already fading, but it's still warm, and the leaves are falling all around me. The leaves fall in spring in Delhi, which seems strange to some one like me who grew up in Europe, and associates the fall with the nights drawing in, huddling around the bonfire for warmth, and the death of the year. But here it is the summer everyone fears, summer is the season of death, and even the trees are … [Read more...]