Alexander Cockburn

Alexander Cockburn is the author of Corruptions of Empire: Life Studies and the Reagan Era and, with Susanna Hecht, of The Fate of the Forest: Developers, Destroyers and Defenders of the Amazon.

Diary: ‘West of America’

Alexander Cockburn, 11 July 1991

From the moment of its opening in mid-March to its closing at the beginning of this month abuse descended heavily on the Smithsonian’s ‘West as America’ exhibition in Washington DC. At the heart of the row was something that will figure even more powerfully next year, in the various commemorations of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s voyage to the New World: how much should Europe’s conquest of the Americas, as treated today in exhibitions and commemorations, reflect the experience of the people on the receiving end of the conquest?

Human Rights and Wrongs

Alexander Cockburn, 9 May 1991

No Iraqi atrocity seized the public imagination more vividly than the charge that in the days following the 2 August invasion of Kuwait Iraqi soldiers murdered at least 312 prematurely born babies by plundering their incubators. President Bush, according to his publicists, had Amnesty’s December report at his elbow as he planned to go to war. (The fact that it was at an elbow normally secluded from human rights reports probably had something to do with the fact that his former Chief of Staff, Craig Fuller, was in the employ of Hill and Knowlton, a PR firm retained by the Sabah family.) Bush referred to the incubator charges at least six times in the month before the bombing began, as well as indirectly in his speech of 17 January as explosives descended on Baghdad. Amnesty’s imprimatur – eventually withdrawn – was important in firming resolve for a ‘just’ war across the Coalition.

Right Stuff

Alexander Cockburn, 7 February 1991

As he neared the end of a recent diatribe against President Bush for plotting war secretly, and in defiance of the US Constitution, the American journalist Anthony Lewis felt impelled to add: ‘None of this argues that George Bush is a bad man. He is not.’

The Power of Sunshine

Alexander Cockburn, 10 January 1991

‘City of Quartz’? Los Angeles is indeed bright, hard, opaque. Even the astonishing sunsets one can see from Interstate 15, looking west towards Pomona, have a sepulchral flush to them as the red light filters through the foul air rolling towards Riverside and the desert seventy miles east of the Pacific. And when the Santa Ana winds blow the other way and clean out the whole basin there’s nothing warm in the colour tones even then, just an eerie depth of field so clear throughout its focal range that it’s hard to keep an accurate sense of perspective.


Alexander Cockburn, 21 December 1989

The place I’ve called home for the past year or so is a motel just off Route 1 as it heads down the Pacific coast from Santa Cruz to Watsonville. Late on the night of the earthquake a friend called me from where she lived near Carmel, an hour’s drive south, to tell me what had happened. It was early the next day with me, since I was in southern Ireland, having just buried my mother. God was having a busy month of it. Aside from Hurricane Hugo and the earthquake, He had found time to direct a few cows into the path of a train carrying pilgrims to a shrine at Knock, in County Clare. Why put the pilgrims on a train to pray to Our Lady of Knock if He was going to detain them with injuries after the train crashed into the cows? He must have planned it out, right from the moment He created Knock, centuries ago.

Hogshit and Chickenshit

Michael Rogin, 1 August 1996

William Jefferson (‘Bill’) Clinton is not the man from Hope for nothing. And the major story in the American media this election year recounts his resurrection from the politically...

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How to be Green

Mary Douglas, 13 September 1990

Much Green writing implies that in addition to a change of heart, the remedy would require strong political and economic controls. Herein lies the dilemma, for the idea of moving to a command economy is...

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Alexander the Brilliant

Edward Said, 18 February 1988

Much the best way to convey appreciation of Alexander Cockburn’s rousing and combative prose is to quote him at length. The protocols of reviewing, however, preclude such a practice, so one...

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