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When Patrick Cockburn, currently Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper in the UK, first went to the Middle East in 1975, and when Chris Hedges arrived a decade later, most of the states were ruled by dictators, usually army officers or hereditary monarchs, though the level of cruelty and repression varied widely. Today they are mostly still dictatorships, but the cruelty, repression and suffering has exponentially increased. Even in the handful of state where there is somewhat greater political freedom, such as Iraq, power has been seized by a kleptocratic elite who have, as Cockburn notes, siphoned off oil revenues for their own benefit, built little essential infrastructure, and with the fall of oil prices are unable to pay wages and salaries. Rather more countries, he writes, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, have collapsed into chaos and war. States that remain at peace, such as Turkey and Egypt, have seen freedom of speech crushed and opposition to the government criminalized. The disintegration of the Middle East is the result of two decades of U.S., NATO, and Israeli military intervention in the region, which has stoked sectarian wars and spawned numerous radical jihadist groups determined to rid the region of the foreign occupier. The morass in the Middle East is compounded by our ignorance of what is happening, the result of the anemic state of journalism. Readers and viewers are largely unaware of the realities on the ground and the consequences of western policies for those in the Middle East and those in the industrialized west who fall victim to acts of terrorism.
Patrick Cockburn has authored six books on the recent history of the Middle East, including this latest, Behind Enemy Lines: War, News and Chaos in the Middle East.
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