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Preserver and Destroyer

Anatol Lieven: Pakistan’s Predicament

23 January 2003
Pakistan: Eye of the Storm 
by Owen​ Bennett-Jones.
Yale, 328 pp., £18.95, August 2002, 0 300 09760 3
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... Pakistan has been described as ‘the most dangerous place on earth’, yet OwenBennett Jones’s title is appropriate, for though storms rage all around Pakistan, the country itself is surprisingly calm – surprisingly at least to anyone depending for information on the Western media ...

The Demented Dalek

Richard J. Evans: Michael Gove

12 September 2019
Michael Gove: A Man in a Hurry 
by Owen Bennett.
Biteback, 422 pp., £20, July, 978 1 78590 440 0
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... of an undergraduate cynic playing to the gallery in a Cambridge Footlights revue rather than a sober academic contributing to a proper historical debate.’ Actually – and Gove’s new biographer OwenBennett might have pointed this out – all I’d said was that with tsarist Russia as Britain’s major ally, with 40 per cent of British adult males denied the vote until the Reform Act of 1918 ...

The Overlooked

Owen​ Bennett-Jones: The Deobandis

7 September 2016
... Largely​ because 15 of the 19 hijackers involved in the 9/11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism is often cited as the fountainhead of violent jihadism, but that is to make too much of its significance compared to other Islamic movements, some of them little known in the West. The distinction between Shias and Sunnis is widely understood, and more recently the mainstream press has also discussed ...

Bunches of Guys

Owen​ Bennett-Jones: Just the Right Amount of Violence

19 December 2013
Decoding al-Qaida’s Strategy: The Deep Battle against America 
by Michael Ryan.
Columbia, 368 pp., £23.15, September 2013, 978 0 231 16384 2
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The Terrorist’s Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organisations 
by Jacob Shapiro.
Princeton, 352 pp., £19.95, July 2013, 978 0 691 15721 4
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... As they fled Afghanistan after 9/11 some of bin Laden’s followers wondered whether the attacks on the US had been a mistake. Among them was one of al-Qaida’s most acerbic writers, Abu Musab al-Suri. In public he backed bin Laden: privately he described him as an obstinate egotist. And he was scathing about the consequences of 9/11: ‘The outcome, as I see it, was to put a catastrophic end to the ...

The Military and the Mullahs

Owen​ Bennett-Jones

3 March 2016
... On 4 October​ 1954 Pakistan’s army chief General Ayub Khan passed the hours of a sleepless night at the Dorchester Hotel in London writing ‘A Short Appreciation of Present and Future Problems of Pakistan’. It ran to 2500 words and outlined the general’s views on how best to manage a country that had existed for seven years but had been unable to agree a constitution. Fifty-two years later ...

I only want to keep my hand in

Owen​ Bennett-Jones: Gerry Adams

16 November 2017
Gerry Adams: An Unauthorised Life 
by Malachi O’Doherty.
Faber, 356 pp., £14.99, September 2017, 978 0 571 31595 6
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... Historians​ of Northern Ireland have plenty of material to work with. A book called Lost Lives (2001) records the lives and deaths of each of the 3720 people who were killed during the Troubles. Fighters, activists, officials and politicians on all sides have spoken to the media and written books themselves. Public inquiries have published hundreds of pages of hitherto secret evidence. Journalists ...

Can’t Afford to Tell the Truth

Owen​ Bennett-Jones: Trouble at the BBC

20 December 2018
... Depending​ on how one defines the BBC’s purpose, its licence fee income of £3.8 billion is either too much or not enough. In a world dominated by Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, it’s ever harder for the BBC to keep up. It is estimated that Netflix alone will have spent upwards of $12 billion on content in 2018. It has a global audience of more than 130 million, a figure that is ...

Questions Concerning the Murder of Benazir Bhutto

Owen​ Bennett-Jones: Who killed Benazir Bhutto?

6 December 2012
... In her posthumously published book, Reconciliation, Benazir Bhutto named a man who she believed had tried to procure bombs for an unsuccessful attempt on her life in Karachi in October 2007: I was informed of a meeting that had taken place in Lahore where the bomb blasts were planned … a bomb maker was needed for the bombs. Enter Qari Saifullah Akhtar, a wanted terrorist who had tried to overthrow ...

Britain’s Juntas

Arthur Gavshon

19 September 1985
The Disappeared: Voices from a Secret War 
by John Simpson and Jana Bennett.
Robson, 416 pp., £12.95, June 1985, 0 86051 292 4
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... me.’ The kidnappers, torturers and executioners of the Junta were still hard at work in August 1980 when the immaculate Cecil Parkinson visited Videla in Buenos Aires. As John Simpson and Jana Bennett of the British Broadcasting Corporation relate in their excellently-researched but somewhat inhibited book, the one-time Secretary for Trade and Industry had brought two messages for leaders of the ...
25 August 2011
... Service one of his less popular moves was to kill The Interview, a radio programme that I produced for a short time. One of the programme’s great coups was an interview that Kofi Annan gave to OwenBennett-Jones in 2004 in which Annan said that the invasion of Iraq was illegal. The Interview has now been replaced by the BBC World television programme Hard Talk, in a version for radio. The ...
15 April 2013
... could of course be applied to churches. It’s a good job Mrs T isn’t archbishop of Canterbury, or we would just be left with the cathedrals and a few other ‘viable places of worship’.​Alan Bennett, 5 December 1985 What makes things even worse for radical, progressive spirits is that the ultra-right appears to be even more in control of the Conservative Party this year than it has been ...

This Charming Man

Frank Kermode

24 February 1994
The Collected and Recollected Marc 
Fourth Estate, 51 pp., £25, November 1993, 1 85702 164 9Show More
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... Jenkins is a smiling serpent, Muggeridge has an accusing face and defensive hands. Betjeman, looking amusingly miserable, is on his knees. Among the bull’s-eyes are Robin Day, Ian Paisley, David Owen, Douglas Hurd, Kenneth Baker, David Mellor, Alan Bennett. There are a few outers: Jonathan Miller, Stephen Spender, Alfred Brendel, Melvyn Bragg – but even in these he is good on the hair, which ...

Monopoly Mule

Anthony Howard

25 January 1996
Plant Here the ‘Standard’ 
by Dennis Griffiths.
Macmillan, 417 pp., £35, November 1995, 0 333 55565 1
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... Diary (his own invention), frequently using it as the vehicle for the pursuit of his own campaigns and vendettas. With the emphasis that he also gave to its books pages (he brought in Arnold Bennett as chief literary critic), he was determined that the Evening Standard should continue to maintain its up-market position. Throughout the first 37 years of his ownership he was never deterred by the ...

On Thatcher

Karl Miller

25 April 2013
... could of course be applied to churches. It’s a good job Mrs T isn’t archbishop of Canterbury, or we would just be left with the cathedrals and a few other ‘viable places of worship’.Alan Bennett, 5 December 1985 What makes things even worse for radical, progressive spirits is that the ultra-right appears to be even more in control of the Conservative Party this year than it has been ...


Ronan Bennett

16 December 1993
De Valera: Long Fellow, Long Shadow 
by Tim Pat Coogan.
Hutchinson, 772 pp., £20, October 1993, 9780091750305
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... Nixon’s gang went on a sectarian killing spree. In one episode, on the night of 24 March 1922, Nixon organised a group of armed men, four of them in police uniform, who broke into the home of Owen McMahon, a Catholic publican from north Belfast. Six members of the family were killed and another wounded. Nixon went on to perpetrate the Arnon Street massacre on 1 April 1922, and in July his gang ...

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