Patrick Oliver Cockburn (// KOH-burn; born 5 March 1950) is an Irish journalist who has been a Middle East correspondent for the Financial Times and, since 1991, The Independent. He has also worked as a correspondent in Moscow and Washington and is a frequent contributor to the London Review of Books.
He has written three books on Iraq's recent history. He won the Martha Gellhorn Prize in 2005, the James Cameron Prize in 2006, the Orwell Prize for Journalism in 2009, Foreign Commentator of the Year (Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards 2013), Foreign Affairs Journalist of the Year (British Journalism Awards 2014), Foreign Reporter of the Year (The Press Awards For 2014). Seymour Hersh has described him as the "best western journalist at work in Iraq today."
Early life and family
Cockburn was born in Ireland and grew up in County Cork. His parents were the well-known socialist author and journalist Claud Cockburn and Patricia Byron, née Arbuthnot, author of the book Figure of Eight. He was educated at Trinity College, Glenalmond, Perthshire, and Trinity College, Oxford. He was a research student at the Institute of Irish Studies, Queens University Belfast, from 1972 to 1975.
Cockburn married in 1981 Janet Elisabeth ("Jan") Montefiore (14 November 1948), Professor of English Literature at the University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, daughter of the late Bishop Hugh Montefiore, and has two children, Henry Cockburn (4 January 1982) and Alexander Cockburn (17 April 1987). His two brothers also became journalists, Alexander Cockburn, who died in 2012, and Andrew Cockburn, and a half-sister, mystery writer Sarah Caudwell. Journalists Laura Flanders and Stephanie Flanders are his nieces, daughters of his half-sister Claudia Flanders, and civil rights lawyer Chloe Cockburn and actress Olivia Wilde are his nieces, daughters of Andrew and Leslie Cockburn.
Cockburn has written three books on Iraq. The first, Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein, was written with his brother Andrew prior to the war in Iraq. The same book was later re-published in Britain with the title Saddam Hussein: An American Obsession. Two more were written by Cockburn alone after the U.S. invasion, following his reporting from Iraq. The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq (2006) mixes first hand accounts with reporting. Cockburn's book is critical of the invasion as well as the Salafi fundamentalists who comprise much of the insurgency. The Occupation was nominated for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle award for nonfiction. The second, Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq was published in 2008. Muqtada is a journalistic account of the recent history of the religiously and politically prominent Sadr family, the rise of Muqtada, and the development of the Sadrist movement since the 2003 U.S. invasion. He is also the author of The Jihadis Return: Isis and the New Sunni Uprising (2014), which has been translated into nine languages, and The Rise of Islamic State: Isis and the New Sunni Revolution (2015). Both are about how the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) was able to set up its own state in northern Iraq and eastern Syria.
Cockburn has written a memoir,The Broken Boy (2005), which describes his childhood in 1950s Ireland, as well as an investigation of the way polio was handled – Cockburn himself caught and survived polio in 1956. He has also published a collection of essays on the Soviet Union, titled Getting Russia Wrong: The End of Kremlinology (1989). He co-wrote the book Henry's Demons with his son, Henry, which explains their coming to terms with the latter's diagnosis with schizophrenia. In addition he writes for CounterPunch and the London Review of Books.
Cockburn was criticized for an apparently major discrepancy in his account of the Adra massacre of Alawites and Christians during the Syrian Civil War. The incident is recounted in Cockburn's 2015 book, The Rise of Islamic State, where, according to his critic, Idrees Ahmad, the Irish journalist claims to have been an eye witness to the crime. Ahmad noted that the alleged claim in the book cannot be squared with Cockburn's reportage at the time, where it is stated that he, Cockburn, learned of the killings via "a Syrian [Assad regime] soldier who gave his name as Abu Ali". Ahmad also cast heavy doubt on whether the massacre actually even took place.
In his response, Cockburn said that he had made no such claim in the book; rather, he charged, an "obvious error" had been, at best, misconstrued by Ahmad. Cockburn confirmed that it was his contemporary report that was correct—that is, he did not personally observe the massacre—and admonished Ahmad for doubting the actuality of the massacre: "anybody turning to such an obvious source as Wikipedia […] will find a well-sourced article citing reports from the AP and Reuters news agencies on December 12, 2013 describing the massacre by Islamic militants and quoting local eyewitness on events." Cockburn's publisher conceded the "obvious error", which was eliminated in subsequent printings of the book.
- 2014 Foreign Reporter of the Year (The Press Awards).
- 2014 Foreign Affairs Journalist of the Year (British Journalism Awards UK Press Gazette)
- 2013 Foreign Commentator of the Year (Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards)
- 2011 Costa Book Awards (Biography), shortlist, Henry’s Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son’s Story (with Henry Cockburn)
- 2010 International Media Awards Peace Through Media Award.
- 2009 Orwell Prize, coverage of Iraq and his son's schizophrenia.
- 2006 The National Book Critics Circle award, shortlist, for non-fiction. The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq.
- 2006 James Cameron Prize
- 2005 Martha Gellhorn Prize
- (1989), Getting Russia Wrong: The End of Kremlinology, Verso Books, ISBN 978-0-86091-977-3
- (with Andrew Cockburn, 1999), Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein, HarperCollins. (British title: Saddam Hussein: An American Obsession, 2002.)
- (2005), The Broken Boy, Jonathan Cape, ISBN 978-0-224-07108-6
- (2006), The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq, Verso Books, ISBN 978-1-84467-164-9
- (2008), Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq, Scribner, ISBN 978-1-4165-5147-8. (British title: Muqtada Al-Sadr and the Fall of Iraq, Faber and Faber, ISBN 978-0-571-23974-0; Muqtada Al-Sadr and the Shia Insurgency in Iraq, Faber and Faber, ISBN 978-0-571-23976-4)
- (2011), Henry’s Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son’s Story Charles Scribner's Sons Scribner
- (2014), The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising, OR Books, New York: 2014
- (2016) Chaos and Caliphate: Jihadis and the West in the struggle for the Middle East, OR Books, ISBN 978-1682190289
- "The Jihadis Return". OR Books. 2014. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
- The Broken Boy, here.
- Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 1, page 120.
- Peter Preston, The Observer, 12 June 2005, When polio stalked the land
- Amanda Mitchison (5 February 2011). "Living with schizophrenia". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
- "Patrick Cockburn". London Review of Books. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
- Ahmad, Muhammad Idrees (27 May 2015). "Who's Lying About Syria's Christian Massacre?". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
- "Independent's Patrick Cockburn wins 'Peace Through Media Award'". New Statesman. 10 May 2010. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
- Stephen Brook "Independent's Patrick Cockburn wins 2009 Orwell journalism prize", The Guardian, 23 April 2009