Andrew Cockburn

Andrew Cockburn is Washington editor at Harper’s.

Kennedy was perfectly aware that nuclear missiles in Cuba posed no real threat to national security, even if they slightly narrowed America’s enormous lead in weapons capable of reaching the other’s homeland. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had told him that a US nuclear attack would obliterate Soviet society but the inevitable retaliation might still kill as many as fifteen million Americans. War with the USSR was therefore out of the question. ‘What difference does it make?’ Kennedy said on 16 October 1962, the day he was presented with photographic evidence of the Cuban rockets. ‘They’ve got enough to blow us up anyway.’ But the presence of an enemy nuclear base in America’s backyard nonetheless threatened him with political disaster. He dealt with the problem by making a deal with Khrushchev, behind the backs of most of his senior advisers, to withdraw US missiles from Turkey in return for a similar Soviet withdrawal from Cuba. The deal remained buried in secrecy long after Kennedy was dead.

Blips on the Screen: Risk-Free Assassinations

Andrew Cockburn, 3 December 2020

Amidthe death and destruction of the current conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, one shining success story has emerged: the Turkish-designed and manufactured Bayraktar TB2 drone, widely credited with stellar results against Armenian forces. ‘Thanks to advanced Turkish drones owned by the Azerbaijan military, our casualties on the front shrank,’ Azerbaijan’s...

Like a Ball of Fire

Andrew Cockburn, 5 March 2020

Atthe end of last year the Russian military announced that it had deployed a revolutionary weapon, designed to give Russia a decisive advantage in the strategic nuclear arms race. Avangard, as the new system is called, is a ‘hypersonic glide’ missile. Unlike traditional Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, which follow a fixed and predictable trajectory, arcing up as high as...

Drones, baby, drones

Andrew Cockburn, 8 March 2012

It’s generally assumed that with the Iraq War officially over and troops withdrawing from Afghanistan, US defence spending will drop. Obama’s reference in his State of the Union address to ‘saving half a trillion dollars’ from the defence budget encouraged this assumption, as have Republican complaints that such cuts would ‘decimate’ the nation’s...

Making Money: The Chalabis

Andrew Cockburn, 1 December 2011

Tamara Chalabi’s chronicle of her family might make for an ideal TV series, recounting as it does a comforting upper-class idyll complete with loyal attendants, marred only by revolution, exile and controversy and concluding with a triumphant return home to prosperity. An honest recounting of the story would have to feature among its climactic episodes the chequered career of the...

SH @ same time: Rumsfeld

Andrew Cockburn, 31 March 2011

Donald Rumsfeld, you could say, has had a remarkable career, stretching from a middle-class upbringing amid wealthier neighbours on the edge of Chicago, through Congress and high office in the Nixon and Ford administrations, including a spell as secretary of defense, a profitable excursion into business, and finally six tumultuous years heading the Pentagon under George W. Bush. Oddly,...

Worth It: The Iraq Sanctions

Andrew Cockburn, 22 July 2010

Few people now remember that for many months after the First World War ended in November 1918 the blockade of Germany, where the population was already on the edge of starvation, was maintained with full rigour. By the following spring, the German authorities were projecting a 50 per cent increase in the infant mortality rate. In a later memoir, John Maynard Keynes attributed the prolongation of civilian punishment ‘to a cause inherent in bureaucracy. The blockade had become by that time a very perfect instrument. It had taken four years to create and was Whitehall’s finest achievement; it had evoked the qualities of the English at their subtlest. Its authors had grown to love it for its own sake.’

Killing the dragon

Andrew Cockburn, 19 April 1984

Between 22 June 1941 and 9 May 1945 the Red Army of Workers and Peasants disposed of ten million German troops, destroyed over six hundred enemy divisions, liberated all of Eastern Europe and finally stormed, unaided, the ‘lair of the fascist beast’, Berlin. This achievement must be considered one of the most extraordinary in military history, for at the outset the Russians were caught completely by surprise and almost completely unprepared. Most of their professional military leadership had recently been consigned to the firing squad or labour camps, and had been replaced by incompetent time-servers. Within a few months of the attack a large proportion of the Soviet Union’s industrial and natural resources had fallen into enemy hands. The Russians’ British allies assumed at the time of the invasion that Germany would be victorious within a month or six weeks. Yet by 1943 the Soviet Union had trained new commanders and had rebuilt its industrial machine, far behind the lines, in greater strength than before. It was the British war effort that had become the sideshow.

Dual Loyalty

Victor Mallet, 5 December 1991

It has long been accepted in the Arab world and in Iran that US foreign policy towards the Middle Last is a conspiracy devised by the American Jewish lobby. It has long been accepted in Europe...

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