A bit repetitive and feels a bit rushed (which it probably was). Some of the chapters seemed more like expanded newspaper articles and I suspect thisA bit repetitive and feels a bit rushed (which it probably was). Some of the chapters seemed more like expanded newspaper articles and I suspect this is what happened. A tacked-on afterword brings events up to October 2014.
Still a very useful overview for me as someone struggling to make sense of the IS crisis. The main points are:
- That the Iraqi govt. & military are too corrupt to defend the country properly - The Iraqi Sunni civilians are stuck between a national army, full of Shia militia members, that thinks nothing of shelling them; or a bunch of medieval-minded zealots who will shoot kids in the face for the slightest misdemeanour - Saudi Arabia (and the other gulf monarchies) has been funding and supporting the jihadis for years all while pushing Wahabbism throughout the Sunni states and is only now starting to rein it in as the risk to themselves increases. Up until recently the Saudi state seemed happy to see Shias taking the brunt of their extremist flavour of Sunni Islam. - Assad is nowhere near defeat and has never been but the Americans continue to try to support other rebel groups in Syria which either are so small they have no power or turn out to be aligned with IS anyway and share some of the materiel they receive with them. They've made the removal of Assad such a central pillar of their policy that they are never going to accommodate him even though he's not realistically going anywhere. - Turkey has only recently decided it would rather deal with the risk of strengthening Kurdish nationalism than ISIS sitting on their border and have started to let some peshmerga fighters through. It's southern border is still the main route for foreign fighters entering Syria. - Most of the media have no idea what's going on which is why we get such a confusing picture here with what seem like dramatic turn-arounds when really we've been given the wrong impression in the first place e.g. of the strength of the Iraqi army, or how close Assad is to being overthrown (not very) etc....more
A short read. Basically an extra long gonzo-style magazine article on the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
It's a weird one. The main piece I took from thiA short read. Basically an extra long gonzo-style magazine article on the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
It's a weird one. The main piece I took from this is how little any of the public knows or understands of becquerels and milli-sieverts and what radiation does or how it works. He spends the entire piece nervously referring to his own potentially unreliable dosimeter. While in comparison many of the Japanese he speaks to seem to trust in their own government to tell them when it's dangerous.
He moves from town to town in the earthquake-ruined areas surrounding the plant interviewing various survivors and their families and always asking what they think about the nuclear plant. Overwhelmingly they appear to believe that it’s not that bad or take it rather stoically at least. It’s not very surprising considering these people are dealing with much more immediate concerns such as salvaging what they can from the husk of their old homes or burying family members. Vollmann seems to wander, worrying about the radiation (as it turns out completely unnecessarily), feeling guilty that he may be exposing his taxi drivers and translator to radiation and ultimately rubbing off his own paranoia onto those drivers and the translator. I didn’t really feel like I learnt all that much about the situation in Fukushima or even that much about how survivors are coping in the tsunami affected areas as even the stories he does manage to collect seem to be told reluctantly....more
Probably the most brutal account of war I've ever read. Between the psychotic bullying, the lack of food and equipment and the ferociousness of the ChProbably the most brutal account of war I've ever read. Between the psychotic bullying, the lack of food and equipment and the ferociousness of the Chechnyans it's incredible that any Russian soldier survives....more