Patrick Cockburn

In the British weekend papers which I am reading because I find myself in Spain--the Costa Brava is still a summer outpost of the U.K.--the top story is still Lord Mandelson's tell-most-all book The Third Man, a haunting film title from another war in another time.

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Yes, I suppose we are in no position to abandon Yemen, although, frankly, I hardly knew we were really there. Well, we are, as I pointed out in my Abdulmutallab posting on New Year's Day. But imagine how Senators Levin and Leahy would have reacted if poor George Bush had stumbled into the sands of "the empty quarter" without so much as advice, let alone consent. Maybe they were informed. But who knows whether, like the memory of Madame Speaker, theirs are also a bit confused. (By the way, among the first to describe one of the world's largest sand deserts was H. St.

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The Wild Card

Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq By Patrick Cockburn (Scribner, 227 pp., $24) To feel the power of Muqtada al-Sadr, the young Shiite cleric and tormentor of the Americans in Iraq, all you needed to do, in the years after the invasion, was go to the Mohsin Mosque in eastern Baghdad. There, spread in the street for a half a mile, as many as fifteen thousand young men would stand assembled, prayer mats in hand, waiting for the service to begin. The scene was safe: Mahdi Army gunmen searched the cars and the supplicants for bombs.

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