Ian Birrell rss

Mexican soldiers stand amidst poppy flowers and marijuana plants (Photo: Getty)

The war on drugs is stupid and counter-productive

18 July 2015
Zero Zero Zero Roberto Saviano

Allen Lane, pp.448, £20, ISBN: 9781846147692

Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic Sam Quinones

Bloomsbury, pp.380, £18.99, ISBN: 9781620402504

Rosalio Reta was 13 years old when recruited by a Mexican drug cartel. He was given a loyalty test — shoot dead a man tied to a chair — then… Read more


Crimean notebook: ‘They’ll have to break all my bones to make me a Russian citizen’

15 March 2014

Vladimir Putin still swears that there are no Russian troops in Crimea, so their mission is to say as little as possible as they invade this holiday region in their… Read more

Burkina Faso President Blaire Compaore (

Africa’s Afghanistan

14 July 2012

For centuries, the people of Timbuktu have sought guidance from their Sufi saints. They took pride in the mausoleums of these medieval Muslim holy men, who spread their faith around… Read more

Big charity

18 February 2012

The aid business has grown fat. It’s time there was proper scrutiny Such a simple question: should Oxfam spend a couple of hundred pounds a month opening up the swimming… Read more


Hell or high water

22 January 2011
Unbroken: An Extraordinary True Story of Courage and Survival by Air, Sea and Land Laura Hillenbrand

4th Estate, pp.475, 20

As his battered bomber hurtled towards the Pacific in May 1943, Louis Zamperini thought to himself that no one was going to survive the crash. If he had had the… Read more

The making of the coalition

4 December 2010
22 Days in May David Laws

Biteback, pp.335, 9.99

5 Days to Power Rob Wilson

Biteback, pp.293, 9.99

David Cameron was despondent on the evening of 10 May. Although the election result was pretty much as he had predicted privately, he feared that his ‘big, open and comprehensive… Read more


That turbulent decade

23 October 2010
No Such Thing as Society: A History of Britain in the 1980s Andy McSmith

Constable, pp.342, 14.99

On 2 January, 1980, a new decade was ushered in with a strike by steelworkers. It was their first national stoppage for half a century, and after three tense months… Read more


Caught in the crossfire

24 July 2010
Curfewed Night Basharat Peer

HarperPress, pp.240, 16.99

Maqbool Sheikh dreaded hearing a knock at the door of his home. For he was the most intimate witness to one of the world’s most enduring and forgotten conflicts, the… Read more

The hell I share with David Cameron

22 October 2005

My daughter suffered two seizures the other night. One was shortly after midnight, the other a couple of hours later. Having been away on business the previous night, it was… Read more