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Thursday, 24 February 2011

A book that changed my life

It is getting on for twenty years since I read Paul Johnson's History of the Modern World from 1917 to the 1990s, a masterpiece of conservative history, which deserves to be read by every liberal, whose prejudices it magnificently challenges - and we all need our prejudices challenged wholesale at least once or twice in a lifetime. It is to that book that I owe the realisation that, in the 1970s and 80s, Colonel Gaddafi tried to subdue "all of Chad by fire and sword, or rather by napalm and helicopter". Apart from Johnson, nobody has ever told me anything about this.

Did anybody care? Was there a campaign for an academic boycott? Did the Chad Solidarity Campaign mass for rallies in Trafalgar Square? Were we told that "the injustices faced by the Chadian people underly much of the anger that fuels global terrorism"? Nope. None of the above. Because almost nobody cared. Actually, having just looked it up, it turns out that I'm wrong. The French cared and so, in their way, did the Americans under Reagan. But nobody really remembers. Most of us who fancy we know a bit about foreign policy, what do we know about Chad? My point being, why are we surprised by what's now happening with Gaddafi, given his track record?

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