Like Geldof, he inherited the social conscience of the 1960s without its political radicalism, which is why he has proved so convenient a front man for the neo-liberals.
In fact, as Browne points out, he has cosied up to racists such as Jesse Helms, whitewashed architects of the Iraqi adventure such as Tony Blair and Paul Wolfowitz, and discovered a soulmate in the shock-doctrine economist Jeffrey Sachs. He has also brownnosed the Queen, sucked up to the Israelis, grovelled at the feet of corporate bullies and allied himself with rightwing anti-condom US evangelicals in Africa. The man who seems to flash a peace sign every four seconds apparently has no problem with the sponsorship of the arms corporation BAE. His consistent mistake has been to regard these powers as essentially benign, and to see no fundamental conflict of interests between their own priorities and the needs of the poor. They just need to be sweet-talked by a charmingly bestubbled Celt. Though he has undoubtedly done some good in the world, as this book readily acknowledges, a fair bit of it has been as much pro-Bono as pro bono republico.
If Bono really knew the history of his own people, he would be aware that the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s was not the result of a food shortage. Famines rarely are. There were plenty of crops in the country, but they had to be exported to pay the landlords' rents. There was also enough food in Britain at the time to feed Ireland several times over. What turned a crisis into a catastrophe was the free market doctrine for which the U2 front man is so ardent an apologist. Widespread hunger is the result of predatory social systems, a fact that Bono's depoliticising language of humanitarianism serves to conceal.
Browne's case is simple but devastating. As a multimillionaire investor, world-class tax avoider, pal of Bush and Blair and crony of the bankers and neo-cons, Bono has lent credence to the global forces that wreak much of the havoc he is eager to mop up. His technocratic, west-centred, corporation-friendly campaigns have driven him into one false solution, unsavoury alliance and embarrassing debacle after another. The poor for him, Browne claims, exist largely as objects of the west's charity. They are not seen as capable of the kind of militant mobilisation that might threaten western interests.
Bertolt Brecht tells the tale of a king in the East who was pained by all the suffering in the world. So he called his wise men together and asked them to inquire into its cause. The wise men duly looked into the matter, and returned with the news that the cause of the world's suffering was the king.