Thursday, January 8, 2009

Muqtada or Human Rights

Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq

Author: Patrick Cockburn

Time magazine listed him as one of its "100 People Who Shape Our World." Newsweek featured him on its cover under the headline "How Al-Sadr May Control U.S. Fate in Iraq." Paul Bremer denounced him as a "Bolshevik Islamist" and ordered that he be captured "dead or alive." Who is Muqtada al-Sadr, and why is he so vital to the future of Iraq and, arguably, the entire Middle East?
In this compellingly readable account, prize-winning journalist Patrick Cockburn tells the story of Muqtada's rise to become the leader of Iraq's poor Shi'ites and the resistance to the occupation. Cockburn looks at the killings by Saddam's executioners and hit men of the young cleric's father, two brothers, and father-in-law; his leadership of the seventy-thousand-strong Mehdi Army; the fierce rivalries between him and other Shia religious leaders; his complex relationship with the Iraqi government; and his frequent confrontations with the American military, including battles that took place in Najaf in 2004. The portrait that emerges is of a complex man and a sophisticated politician, who engages with religious and nationalist aspirations in a manner unlike any other Iraqi leader.
Cockburn, who was among the very few Western journalists to remain in Baghdad during the Gulf War and has been an intrepid reporter of Iraq ever since, draws on his extensive firsthand experience in the country to produce a book that is richly interwoven with the voices of Iraqis themselves. His personal encounters with the Mehdi Army include a tense occasion when he was nearly killed at a roadblock outside the city of Kufa.
Though it often reads like an adventure story, Muqtada is also a work of painstakingresearch and measured analysis that leads to a deeper understanding both of one of the most critical conflicts in the world today and of the man who may well be a decisive voice in determining the future of Iraq when the Americans eventually leave.

The New York Times - James Glanz

When it comes to the cat's cradle of Iraqi sects, tribes, families, ethnicities, parties, regions and seemingly eternal animosities, there is hardly a better candidate for teasing apart those crisscrossing threads than Patrick Cockburn. The Iraq correspondent for The Independent in London, he has been visiting Iraq since 1977 and has written two previous books on the country. Cockburn lives up to those credentials in his important new book, Muqtada, which goes a long way toward helping us understand the radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr by following his family through the modern history of Iraq…Muqtada will immediately become one of a small handful of books that are required reading for anyone who wants to unravel the meaning of events in Iraq five years into the war.

The Washington Post - Vali Nasr

As veteran British journalist Patrick Cockburn's authoritative biography should make clear, it is unwise to assume a future for Iraq that does not include Muqtada al-Sadr and his movement. Americans need to learn more about him, and Cockburn's empathetic, insightful study is a good place to start. Having covered Iraq for more than three decades for London's Independent and the Financial Times, Cockburn is well placed to introduce readers to this forbidding, enigmatic man and his blood-soaked past.

Publishers Weekly

Cockburn (The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq), a veteran Middle East correspondent for The Independent, knew the Iraq occupation was doomed when, in 2004, his Irish passport saved him from certain death at the hands of Mehdi Army militiamen convinced he was an American spy: "Bush and Blair never seemed to understand that the problem was not training or equipment, but legitimacy and loyalty." Building on this idea, Cockburn takes a close look at Muqtada al-Sadr, the country's major Shi'ite opposition leader, who has been consistently demonized and belittled by U.S. authorities even as he gains legitimacy among Iraqis. Calling him "the most important and surprising figure to emerge" in post-invasion Iraq, Cockburn details Muqtada's rise, beginning in 1999 when he took his assassinated father's place as head of the Sadrists, a populist religious movement. Mounting frustration toward the U.S. led many to join the Sadrists, the only Shia group to oppose outright the occupation, quickly making Muqtada the political representative of millions. Cockburn's incisive critique of U.S. policy mistakes in Iraq goes back to the first invasion, and draws some dire conclusions, among them that it's too late for Iraq "to exist as anything more than a loose federation." This probing look at a singularly divisive, undoubtedly important figure makes an invaluable resource for anyone weighing U.S. policy in Iraq.
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Michael LaMagna - Library Journal

Cockburn (Middle East correspondent, the Independent; The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq) offers a compelling biography of Muqtada al-Sadr, the militant cleric who has been an influential opposition leader to the American presence in Iraq. Relying on his own extensive interviews (but not with Muqtada), Cockburn not only tells the story of Muqtada but places him in the greater context of Iraqi history and politics. There is considerable discussion about Iraq's internal political climate during Saddam Hussein's reign and how Muqtada's family held a leadership role in the Shia community. The political activity and popularity of the family led to the assassination of his father (in 1999) and two brothers by the Hussein regime. It was after his father's assassination that Muqtada assumed his own leadership role in the Shia community. Cockburn presents a complex individual interested in preserving the Iraqi and particularly the Shia communities and shows that Muqtada is not a one-dimensional militant cleric, as usually portrayed in the West, but a powerful individual who will figure prominently in efforts to stabilize Iraq. Recommended for large public and all academic libraries.

Interesting textbook: The Return of the Primitive or Walking with the Wind

Human Rights: A Very Short Introduction

Author: Andrew Clapham

From the controversial incarceration of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, to the brutal ethnic cleansing being practiced in Darfur, to the widespread denial of equal rights to women in many areas of the world, human rights violations are a constant presence in the news and in our lives. Taking an international perspective, and focusing on highly topical issues such as torture, arbitrary detention, privacy, health, and discrimination, this Very Short Introduction will help readers to understand for themselves the controversies and complexities behind this vitally relevant issue. Looking at the philosophical justification for rights, the historical origins of human rights and how they are formed in law, Andrew Clapham explains what our human rights actually are, what they might be, and where the human rights movement is heading.

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