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When Jihadis Win Power

Owen Bennett-Jones, 4 December 2014

The Inevitable Caliphate? A History of the Struggle for Global Islamic Union, 1924 to the Present 
by Reza Pankhurst.
Hurst, 280 pp., £18.99, June 2013, 978 1 84904 251 2
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... After​ the Islamic State astonished its enemies by sweeping through Iraq’s second city, Mosul, the self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, appeared in a mosque to give a victory speech. When he raised his right arm to emphasise a point, the sleeve of his black robe fell back to reveal what some on social media identified as a Rolex watch. Online satirists taunted Baghdadi’s supporters: their caliph was like all politicians, claiming virtue in public while enriching himself in private ...

Pissing on Pedestrians

Owen Bennett-Jones: A Great Unravelling, 1 April 2021

Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell 
by John Preston.
Viking, 322 pp., £18.99, February, 978 0 241 38867 9
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... Given​ how many of those who worked closely with Robert Maxwell wrote a book about him, it’s interesting that so many facts about him remain unclear. Did he face a death sentence at the age of sixteen? Was he in the French Foreign Legion? In the months before his death, in 1991, was he really being investigated for a war crime? Did MI6 finance his first business in order to recruit Soviet scientists? Was he a KGB asset? Did he have a financial relationship with Jeffrey Epstein? ‘He has done more for Israel than can be said here today,’ Yitzhak Shamir said at his funeral ...

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 increasing by more than two million each month ...

The Overlooked

Owen Bennett-Jones: The Deobandis, 8 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 groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis, Hizb ut Tahrir and, most recently, Turkey’s alleged coup plotters, the Gulenists, who follow a charismatic, exiled Turkish cleric who lives in rural Pennsylvania ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 my second government ...

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 Owen Bennett 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, which have all too often been given to hysterical talk about state collapse, military tyranny, imminent Islamist revolution, terrorist takeover and a nuclear war with India ...

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 2019, 978 1 78590 440 0
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... academic contributing to a proper historical debate.’ Actually – and Gove’s new biographer Owen Bennett 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, and with a German enemy that might not have been wholly ...

‘Auntie Mabel doesn’t give a toss about Serbia’

Jo Glanville: The World Service, 25 August 2011

... for a short time. One of the programme’s great coups was an interview that Kofi Annan gave to Owen Bennett-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 decision appeared symptomatic of a lack of ...

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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... 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 Junta. The first was that Britain wanted better relations ...
... 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 previously. Mrs Thatcher clearly regards herself as a dea ex ...


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 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 killed 14 Catholics in the Millfield district of Belfast ...

On Thatcher

Karl Miller, 25 April 2013

... 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 previously. Mrs Thatcher clearly regards herself as a dea ex ...

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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... 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, according to Craig ...

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