The Syrian Civil War – Made in Britain and the USA

  We started this. That's what I can't help thinking every time I hear about the latest death and suffering in Syria. When the US and Britain invaded Iraq in 2003, we set off a chain of events that led inexorably to the killing fields of Damascus and Aleppo. I watched it begin when I was working as a reporter in Iraq. I remember going to an interview at a hospital south of Baghdad: the moment I stepped into his office, the doctor told me "You have to get out of here. They're … [Read more...]

Dear Suzanne Moore, Here’s One Rule For Managing Your Arse: Stop Talking Out Of It

Oh boy. For anyone who doesn't know the background, and finds that title a little brusque, let me fill you in. Suzanne Moore is a well-known feminist columnist. She wrote an article in The Guardian today entitled '10 Rules For Managing Your Penis". "Recent news stories involving sexting, wine, toasters, politicians and penises indicate some men need a refresher course," Ms Moore chirped, "so here are my 10 rules for keeping your penis out of trouble". Ho ho ho. Cue the outrage. Misandry, … [Read more...]

Red Alert! Snow of Death!

Nothing, it seems, distinguishes sane, normal, well-adjusted people from journalists quite like snow. By lunchtime today, London was covered in a soft blanket of snow. Snow on the rooftops, snow on the windowsills, snow covering up the officious no parking signs outside old Spitalfields market, snow being tramped in between the stalls on people's feet, snow on the spire of Christ Church, snow dancing in the wind. London transported, it seemed, to its Dickensian past. Down in Artillery … [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...]

Sandy and the Death of Television News

There was a moment, as Superstorm Sandy hit the east coast of America this week, when you could tell that it was going to be serious. When even those of us watching from thousands of miles away knew this time it wasn't going to be media hype. It was when the television reporters starting going indoors. For hours they had been standing against the most dramatic backdrops they could find, the sea raging behind them, water swirling around their feet, ramping up the tension. "This is a pretty … [Read more...]

The King of Thailand is wrong

Oh damn! Now I've done it. I can never go to Thailand again. I've just committed a serious crime under Thai law. Just for saying "the King of Thailand is wrong", I could go to prison for 15 years. Thankfully, I'm not in Thailand. Because this is not some anachronistic old law nobody cares about any more. Hundreds of people are jailed under the lese majeste law every year. And King Bhumibol Adulyadej is wrong, to allow his people to go to prison under this archaic, disgraceful law. They … [Read more...]

Dancing With the Devil: Rupert Murdoch and Russell Brand come to London

Rupert Murdoch and Russell Brand do not, on the face of it, have much in common. But this week they were both giving evidence to the great and the good of the British Establishment -- Murdoch at the Leveson Enquiry, and Brand at a parliamentary Select Committee -- and I found myself undergoing the alarming vision of the two of them meeting up to celebrate their respective appearances with a night on the town. I saw them carousing the night away together in some of Soho's less salubrious … [Read more...]

Rebellion of the Child Bride

She was married when she was one year old. She didn't get a say, she didn't even know how to speak. Her parents traded her like a piece of property, her life theirs to do with as they pleased. But Laxmi Sargara refused to go along with it. When, years later, her "husband" came to collect her, she told her parents she wasn't going. This week, aged 18, she became the first Indian woman to refuse the marriage she was entered into as a child and demand that it be annulled. She should be … [Read more...]

Camels wrestling…and how to lie your way onto a ministerial flight

My career in journalism didn't start with a bang. It started with camels wrestling. After I finished university I moved to Istanbul to become a foreign correspondent. I had no employer, I was freelance. No newspaper was interested in sending a complete novice abroad. But I wasn't going to let that stand in my way. In my mind, I was going to be the fearless foreign correspondent of myth, the sort you see in the movies exposing wrongdoing, giving a voice to the oppressed, and standing up to … [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...]