Writer and journalist;
Born: June 6, 1941; Died: July 21, 2012.
Alexander Cockburn, who has died aged 71 of cancer, was a Scots-born radical writer who became one of the leading left-wing journalists in the US.
A long-time columnist for The Nation magazine and editor of the political newsletter CounterPunch, he died in Germany where he had been receiving medical treatment.
The son of the communist writer and novelist Claud Cockburn and his third wife, the writer Patricia Byron, he was born in Ardgay, on the north-west shore of the Dornoch Firth and spent much of his childhood in Ireland.
After studying at Glenalmond College, Perthshire, and at Keble College, Oxford, he worked for The Times Literary Supplement and The New Statesman before becoming a permanent resident of the US in 1973.
He was known for an acidic pen that spared few on either the left or right for policies that he felt were hypocritical or corrupt.
In his last column for The Nation, published on July 11, he lamented the "culture of rabid criminality" in the international banking system and predicted that even reform and tough enforcement would not save it from eventual collapse.
In another recent missive he likened US President Barack Obama to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il for supporting the handling of suspected terrorists in military, rather than civilian courts – a step he called another "mile marker in the steady slide of the US downhill towards the status of a banana republic".
Cockburn infuriated some liberals by writing sceptically about global warming and bothered neo-conservatives with his ferocious attacks on Israel.
"He was an extraordinarily provocative, polemical, elegant columnist and writer. And he certainly was someone who never wavered in dissenting from what was the conventional line," said Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation.
Cockburn had disclosed his illness to only a few people. Announcing his death, friend and colleague Jeffrey St Clair wrote that he kept quiet about the cancer because he did not want friends and readers showering him with sympathy.
"His body was deteriorating, but his prose remained as sharp, lucid and deadly as ever," Mr St Clair wrote.
Cockburn wrote for New York's Village Voice in the 1970s and 1980s, but was sacked for taking a £6400 grant from the Institute of Arab Studies to write a book about Israel's invasion of Lebanon. He also had a column for a time in the Wall Street Journal.
But his longest affiliation was with The Nation, where he wrote columns for decades, attacking US foreign policy, lambasting the mainstream press and assailing Democrats for not being progressive enough.
He also became known for his battles in print with a fellow columnist at The Nation, Christopher Hitchens.
When Hitchens died of cancer last year, Cockburn did not mince words in a remembrance in CounterPunch (which he co-founded with Mr St Clair in 1996).
He wrote: "He courted the label 'contrarian' but if the word is to have any muscle, it surely must imply the expression of dangerous opinions.
"Hitchens never wrote anything truly discommoding to respectable opinion and if he had he would never have enjoyed so long a billet at Vanity Fair."
Among his ancestors was Sir George Cockburn, an English admiral who helped burn down the White House in 1814, during the War of 1812.
He was married for five years to the author Emma Tennant.
He is survived by a daughter, Daisy, and brothers, Andrew, an author, and Patrick, a felllow journalist.
BBC journalist Stephanie Flanders was his half-niece.
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