The books reviewed:
Dilip Hiro - Secrets and Lies
Frank McLynn - 1759
A review of Dilip Hiro's book cannot bring out its true impact, utterly absorbing though the book itself is. Having lived through the war (in the Thucydidean sense), through the memories of Tacitus and this blog, the recapitulation of the events of the runup to the war in March 2003 have a dreamlike quality to them - just re-reading the names of the protagonists; the frankly amazing Kanan Makiya, Ahmad Chalabi and so forth almost magically recalls it.
Some of the more amazing facts revealed by Dilip Hiro's book was how close-run the fakery was, even upto February 2003. Almost everyone outside the inner circle realised pretty soon that the entire story underlying the WMD claims were fake. Cobbling together the fabricated "evidence" and fantasy waffle into a coherent story to sell to the world (and its media) must rank up there with Gleiwicz.
Of course Mr Hiro wrote the book too soon. There is nothing mentioned about Mr Curveball, for instance, as far as I could see, so that Mr Hiro could not know that the fake stories were even more fake than he could even have imagined.
In the light of events of the past few years, how interesting the attitudes of the minor protagonists in 2003 appear to be. The two European nations on the opposite sides of the fence - M de Villepin, vainly trying to cobble together a French Commonwealth opposition in the UN, knowing that the invasion would lead almost inevitably, and as it in fact did, to the explosion of al-Qaeda where it didn't exist in power in 2003 - Francophone North and West Africa! Senor Aznar OTOH - how statemanlike, independent and imposing in his steadfast personal belief. After the events of the President of Bolivia's personal airplane rerouting last year, we now realise how necessary the figure of an imposing independent Senor Aznar was, and how impressively it was created. Mr Hiro should update the book in another 5 years or so, after the true extent of the blowback of enabling of al-Qaeda from 2003 onwards (in Syria, Libya and ME/Africa generally) becomes clearer.
An important tribute was paid to the book in having 2 reviews.
Frank McLynn is one of my favourite historians following his single volume summary of Napoleon. For once I completely agree with the book's puff piece
Although 1759 is not a date as well known in British history as 1215, 1588, or 1688, there is a strong case to be made that it is the most significant year since 1066. In 1759 - the fourth year of the Seven Years War - the British defeated the French in arduous campaigns on four continents and also achieved absolute mastery of the seas.
Drawing on a mass of primary materials - from texts in the Vatican archives to oral histories of the North American Indians - Frank McLynn shows how the conflict between Brtiain and France triggered the first 'world war', raging from Europe to Africa; the Caribbean to the Pacific; the plains of the Ganges to the Great Lakes of North America. It also brought about the War of Independence, the acquisition by Britain of the Falkland Islands and, ultimately, the French Revolution.
Which is why we speak English here, and not French.
What books are people reading?