Four Books, one Movie – drugs, drones, Hitler, India & Pakistan, Snowden

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Four books which have caught my attention, although I’ve only read reviews. Plus one movie, which I have seen.

Chasing the ScreamChasing the Scream, the First & Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari, a summation of why this is another war – like the War on Terror – which is absurd and unwinnable. The back and forth on the Bali 9 and the threatened execution of the two ‘ringleaders’ has certainly brought the whole absurdity up all over again. Legalise the stuff, there may be some costs in one direction, but I think there will be far more savings in the other. The Age/Sydney Morning Herald review in Australia certainly agreed. An Ed Vulliamy review in The Guardian questioned if the effects of drug legalisation might not be so positive in the developing world.




After Hitler: The Last Days of the Second World War in Europe by Michael Jones traces the assorted events in the 10 days after Hitler died before World War II finally stuttered to a halt and new horrors began. I’ve read The Fall of Berlin 1945 by Anthony Beevor, which recounts the horrors in Berlin as the war reached its conclusion there. The end of the war was, of course, followed by The Iron Curtain, the Crushing of Eastern Europe.

The Longest August: The Unflinching Rivalry Between India & Pakistan by Dilip Hiro looks once again at the damage partition has done to those two countries, lays blame (more Gandhi’s fault than Jinnah’s for the actual split, more Jinnah’s for the disaster that followed) and the ‘Divide & Rue’ review in The Economist raises, once again, the idea that perhaps they’d all be better off if it had never happened. The Independent’s review is not too enthusiastic.

Drone TheoryDrone Theory by Gregoire Chamayou, a summation of the absurdity of this one, something else which has nagged at my attention for years now. I certainly had opportunity to muse about drones as I travelled up through Pakistan on the Karakoram Highway for Dark Lands. Popular culture, the play Grounded as a good example, certainly focus attention on them, but there’s no sign of the US government rethinking what a stupid weapon they are.

Citizenfour-imageCitizenfour winning the documentary Oscar a couple of days ago reminded me of what I wrote about Snowden, Obama and drones back in 2013:

Last week Barack Obama showed he’s also got a sense of humour, even if it’s a rather macabre one, when he suggested that if Edward Snowden wanted justice he could come back from Russia and make his case in an American court. Uh, excuse me? Is that a court in the country that administers lynch-mob-style justice via drones, no accusation, no arrest, no trial necessary, just instant execution? Or grabs people and whisks them off to Guantánamo without any case presented? That sort of justice? If I was Mr Snowden I certainly wouldn’t want to make my case in a US court in the current climate.