Book Review

Authors Take Sides

The Guardian previews a published compilation of (mostly British) writers and authors views of the recent Iraq war. As one would expect most of those whose views were printed were against any action taking place although the reasons for coming to that conclusion varied.

Bestselling writer Louis de Bernieres thinks liberating Arabs from tyranny is likely to be a waste of time because

Arabs have no natural tradition of democracy, and their religion gives them an ultra-conservative, patriarchal, authoritarian and absolutist cast of mind

Michael Holroyd doesn’t give too hoots about dictators putting writers to death as long as they don’t live in truly important cities

Iraq has no nuclear weapons (which are the only real “weapons of mass destruction”) and did not threaten New York or London. Did you feel threatened? Nor did I

As might be imagined playwright Harold Pinter dispenses with logic or evidence in coming to the decision to oppose the war and exposes himself further as full of empty rhetoric (to put it mildly)

Liberation of the Iraqi people? Rubbish.

That’s not to say that all of them were as empty-headed as Pinter. Margaret Drabble at least allowed for the fact that she might be wrong

I doubt if the intervention will bring peace and lasting stability in the region, though if it does, I will eat some of my words

Welsh novelist DM Thomas breaks ranks with his fellow authors in their condemnation of the war and states

I would much rather trust the views of taxi-drivers on any matter of great political importance than those of writers and intellectuals. History shows that the latter almost always get it wrong.

Despite that, chronicler of working-class life Alan Sillitoe is the only one quoted who seems to have been in favour of deposing Saddam without reservation and quotes Milton to help explain why

Oh, how comely it is and how reviving
To the Spirits of just men long opprest!
When God into the hands of their deliverer
Puts invincible might
To quell the might of the Earth, th’ oppressour,
The brute and boist’rous force of violent men…
He all their Ammunition
And feats of War defeats
With plain Heroic magnitude of mind…
Their Armories and Magazins contemns,
Renders them useless, while
With winged expedition
Swift as the lightning glance he executes
His errand on the wicked, who surpris’d
Lose their defence distracted and amaz’d.

Have a look for yourself. There is more of interest than I have time to quote from.