Facts Are Subversive: Political Writing from a Decade Without a Name by Timothy Garton Ash - review by Dominic Sandbrook

Dominic Sandbrook

History of the Present

Facts Are Subversive: Political Writing from a Decade Without a Name

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On the last day of May 2001, The Guardian columnist Timothy Garton Ash went to see George W Bush at the White House. Preparing for his first official trip to Europe, the new President had invited a smattering of eminent thinkers for an informal seminar. ‘Quite tall. Square-set, tanned. Dark suit. Quite formal greetings. Clipped style’, Garton Ash recorded in his journal. Their conversation ranged over the future of the EU, the Kyoto treaty and Bush’s plans for a missile shield; among the subjects not mentioned at all were Islam, Iraq and Osama bin Laden. There had been far too many half-baked American military interventions abroad, Bush said at one point: ‘I ain’t going to get into no Somalia.’

One of the pleasures of Garton Ash’s collection of essays is that it allows us to view the recent past unclouded by hindsight. He thinks that Bush was a terrible president, one of the worst in history; but as he points out, nobody knew that then. ‘One of

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