Interview: Picking Up The Peaces
Unions: The Royal Con
National Focus: Around the Grounds
Economics: The Secret War on Trade
International: United Front
History: Confessions of a Badge Collector
Politics: Stalin’s Legacy
Review: Such Was Not Ned’s Life
Poetry: Osama's Top Recruiter
Satire: Woolworths CEO Denied Bonus After Company Posts Profit
The Locker Room
The Fog of War
Trots Bomb Back
Books on Bombs
"The Clash of Fundamentalisms. Crusades, Jihads and Modernity" by Tariq Ali. (Verso, 2002)
Many protesting for peace throughout the world against Bush's American Empire reject his notion of "freedom". Many protesting have also recently learnt to express an abhorrence of fundamentalist Islam, its Jihads and terrorist acts as seen on TV. This modern clash of US/Western versus Islam/Muslim fundamentalisms is Tariq Ali's focus.
He gives wide-ranging arguments against fundamentalist Islam. There is a critical history from the beginnings of the strict monotheism. He explains the empires and the crusades and leads to current fundamentalist Islamic political sects. He explains how these sects have recently developed politically and are active in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Kashmir, and most importantly exposes Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia.
Tariq Ali is a Pakinstani, New Left Review editor, writer and filmmaker who challenges conventional responses to September 11.
Bush's face is on the cover, an image made over like Osama Bin Laden. Tariq Ali gives arguments answering Bush's amazement "because I know how good we are" at the vitriolic hatred of America; A short history of American imperialism is invaluable for those who do not understand what we are experiencing.
This book should be required reading for those who refuse to contemplate any Australian independence from Bush's US Republicans and their war mongering.
We are reminded with warnings from US President Eisenhower onwards of the dangers of the dominance of the US military-industrial complex on US and global politics, (see also Australian Financial Review January 4th 03 Peter Hartcher, Flaws in the War Machine). Debates around blowback, reaping what you sow, from respected historian Chalmers Johnson are canvassed. "When the US is over-extended the more painful the retribution will be."
Tariq Ali critiques the "clash of civilisations" argument of Samuel Huntington. This "clash of civilisations" is a cover for the geo-political reality of US seeking oil in many Islamic countries. We are reminded of the Christian fundamentalism leading the US. Bush's State of the Union address had (alarmingly) the backing of a "loving God" in an attack on Iraq. The American Christian extreme right are powerful. Blair is also a fervent Christian with his moral righteousness for war. (See Brian Toohey, God knows why war is so religious, AFR, February 2003).
The western reader is introduced to new Arab political voices, not heard of much in our radio debates, those who are critical of Islamic fundamentalists. I had not heard of Anwar Shaikh a most critical interpreter of Islam. The mullahs condemn him as a heretic. But his voice should be heard together with his views on the clerics and the politics of gender and sex in Muslim countries.
You are introduced to exiled Saudi novelist Abdelrahman Munif who is most scathing of American oil interests and Saudi reactionary politics.
There are prominent Israeli voices we do not here. Baruch Kimmerling professor of sociology at Hebrew University does a dramatic "I accuse" of P.M. Sharon as a right wing extremist fascist. An interview with the famous Isaac Deutscher on the Israel-Arab war is included.
A history of the Middle East conflict confirms our worst fears of the Israelis and the explosiveness of the region. Tariq Ali provides an indispensable analysis of what has happened with the 1990 Gulf War and the disastrous impact for the Iraq people with thousands of children dying.
He concludes that when a new war is waged against Iraq, the so-called "War against Terrorism" will turn into its opposite. The combination of anger and despair will lead to more and more young people in the Arab world and elsewhere feeling that the only response to state terror is individual terror. So what to we say to these young people?
"The rise of religion is partially explained by the lack of any other alternative to the universal regime of neo-liberalism. Here you will discover that as long as Islamist governments open their countries to global penetration, they will be permitted to do what they want in the socio-political realm. The American Empire used Islam before and it can do so again. Here lies the challenge. We are in desperate need of an Islamic Reformation that sweeps away the crazed conservatism and backwardness of the fundamentalists but more than that opens up the world of Islam to new ideas which are seen to be more advanced than what is currently on offer from the West."
Tariq Ali provides passionate commentary to explain contemporary politics and exposing Islamic fundamentalists. I was disappointed he did not extend his analysis into Indonesia so I could get insight post- Bali into their Islamic sects and politics and the links to Al Quaeda. After reading Tariq Ali you will be able to answer western left sectarians who focus only on an anti-Americanism. A condemnation of the Islamic fundamentalists is required. We know how anti-socialist they have been and are.
John Pilger was deservingly given rousing ovations at the large Sydney peace rallies. He is a positive role model for journalists speaking out key truths against the establishment. It is a disgrace that Australian journalists are not like Pilger. Howard's craven support for Bush's war crime activities is a case in point...but not exposed.
If you want arguments backgrounding the war on Iraq and what we are facing read his stirring book (Verso, 2002; also released on SBS TV.)
The American Government's duplicity on Iraq is exposed. What the West has done after the 1990 Gulf war to the Iraqi people is detailed. "We think the price is worth it," says Clinton's Madeleine Albright when asked if the deaths of half a million Iraqi children were a price worth paying for sanctions. This leads to the US geo-political capture of Central Asia and the Middle East's oil and gas.
John Pilger gives a detailed critique of US Vice President Cheney's description of the "war on terror" and how our period is like George Orwell's great novel "1984". (Read 1984 if you haven't!)
John Pilger charts the dominance of the US regime. His journalistic style is easily read. Particularly prescient for Australians is his analysis of the role of the US in support of the murderous and terrorist Suharto regime. The US through the World Bank was allowed by President Suharto entry and western corporations captured the Indonesian economy and exploited the Indonesian people.
The power of the US military machine in recent decades is exposed.
The history the US regimes support for Bin Laden against the Soviets in Afghanistan is explained. The "war on terror" can be more clearly understood.
John Pilger passionately attacks the Howard Government's inhuman treatment of Aborigines and Ruddock's cruel regime for refugees. This is a key to how we are ruled.
I hope that The New Rulers of the World will be published soon in paperback so it is accessible to more readers. I look forward to it being replayed on commercial TV! Thank goodness we can access on the net some radical alternative journalists reporting on what's happening.
"Understanding Power The Indispensable Chomsky" edited by P.R. Mitchell and J. Schoeffel (The New Press, 2002) is a series of discussions with one of Americas finest public intellectuals where he critiques the American imperialist foreign policy and domestic social inequalities.
If you have not read Chomsky this is a lengthy yet accessible coverage of his ability to cut through to the essence of what the American Empire is doing. He explains many contemporary political issues. He is particularly incisive against the media. Those who know Chomsky will remember his 1992 movie Manufacturing Consent. He is most interesting when discussing organising change in the USA, the role of social movements and unions and political activism. This compilation of his essays and speeches was compiled prior to September 11. Chomsky has a pamphlet out on September 11th. He has another movie out about September 11th. Watch for it at your local cinema. But answers to many of the most important questions about US imperialism explaining those attacks will be found in these readings.
There is a new edition of Noam Chomsky's Pirates and Emperors, Old and New. International Terrorism in the Real World (Pluto Press), 2002. The title comes from St Augustine who tells the story of a pirate captured by Alexander the Great who asked him "how he dares molest the sea." "How dare you molest the whole world? The pirate replied. "Because I do it with a little ship only, I am called a thief; you, doing it with a great navy, are called an Emperor." We are shown today's state terrorism. Excellent reading.
I enjoyed Umberto Eco's sweeping new novel Baudolino, with his hero's adventures in 1204 with a background clash of Christian and Muslim fundamentalisms. Umberto Eco also has out Five moral pieces, a reprint including his first gulf war essay Reflections on War. He argues that today's conditions that make war impossible. Nuclear weapons, far greater technological power, the unstoppable flow of information, chaos, parallel intelligence systems, the new war defying decisional calculations, the enemy always behind the lines, new wars triggering economic crisis...this is what we are experiencing. And whether war today should be taboo. There are other interesting moral arguments for your modern reader.
For a refreshingly different and welcome angry yet hilarious response to Bush, read and give as gifts Michael Moore's popular new book Stupid White Men (Penguin 2002).
It is a biting satirical attack on his own "President" Bush and the Republican Government. And the Democrats and Clinton do not come out so good.
You will be enraged about Bush the man and his corporate backers and the extreme right wing agenda he serves. See who is in his Cabinet and his close advisers. This is really scary. We have the story of the travesty of the American "democratic" electoral system with Bush's "rigged" election, a very American coup. Michael Moore was on the election trail, including in Florida meeting up with Jeb Bush. Michael Moore puts politics in a funny story telling style. You meet the real America, ordinary working people struggling to make ends meet on low wages whilst the corporate crooks get richer. At least the worst corporate excesses are satirised by Michael Moore.
What Bush is doing raping the environment is serious, as the rest of the world knows campaigning on Kyoto. "Kill Whitey" is where he exposes the deep racism from the establishment against blacks for no reason. He really puts some faith back into seeing Americans particularly black Americans and women and workers as knowing and experiencing the vicious class politics in America, (although the notion of class is not used). It is good to understand where Australia does not want to be like America. This matters unless of course you are corporate rich. He gives stories of the majority of Americans on poor wages, constant job insecurity, and poor health services and after reading about their education system I do know why it is an "Idiot Nation". And by criminalizing the poor and jailing them in private profit making prisons and executing them (when many are proved innocent later) it is a law and order we do not want.
"The End of Man" chronicles powerful men, stupid white men, who are the corporate and political elite, with few women anywhere near power. It typical fashion there is helpful hints on "How Men can Avoid Extinction".
There is the story of this book being printed prior to September 11 and distribution stopped because it was too hot and critical of the President. After an email campaign from American librarians for Stupid White Men to be published, it is now out and deservedly on the bestseller lists. In an era of political apathy, a call to become involved and be politically active is great. "I want us all to face our fears and stop behaving like our goal in life is to merely survive. Surviving is for wimps and game show contestants stranded in the jungle or on a desert island. You are not stranded. You own the store. The bad guys are just a bunch of silly, stupid white men. And there's a helluva lot more of us than there are of them. Use your power. You deserve better."
Michael Moore is a breath of fresh air, very funny, a smart American working class activist, with an earlier brilliant TV show called TV Nation. The making of his shows is chronicled in his book with Kathleen Glynn "Adventures in a TV Nation The Stories Behind America's Most Outrageous TV Show" (like The Awful Truth on SBS) (HarperPerrenial, 1998) and how he filmed and fought against critical segments being censored. It is really funny with inventive political theatrical events against the rich and famous.
Although we in Australia think that our political comedians really hit home they are nowhere compared to the activities of Michael Moore who now as an activist has a huge following not only in America but also worldwide: www.michaelmoore.com. He really does put much of our Australian media to shame. Our commercial popular current affairs shows are rubbish. Michael Moore does make some direct political hits on corporate bosses and their political sycophants.
I did enjoy the Chaser's annual 2002 "The war on Error/Terror"(Text publishing, 2002) similar to their excellent CNNN ABC show. Their inventiveness, showmanship, satirical interviewing is good. But Michael Moore is my favourite. It is great that Michael Moore's new movie is doing so well. If you haven't seen Bowling for Columbine, his great expose of America's love for guns please do so. It is the case of a truly frightening and disturbed society. The availability and use of guns politically sanctioned consequently does end with school children shooting friends and schoolteachers as at the Columbine school. The interview with Charlton Heston of the National American Rifleman's Association is classic. And look for the link to guns and the production of America's military means of mass destruction, a glimpse of the industrial-military complex. By all the accounts of the film's popularity, the public wants to see this type of satire. If you know of anyone who wants to be introduced to great political theatre that is clever, scathing and funny then introduced them to Michael Moore.
Really it is an indictment of Howard's cultural control that Aussie Michael Moore's are not flourishing. Only in the USA. Maybe there is some hope after-all. Some optimism of the will for change!
Whilst on our American Empire, I read a great novel. Gore Vidal's MThe Golden Age (Abacus 2000)is the most recent of his great historical novels on American politics and culture set in Washington in the 1940s. What an era! His Golden Age is really entertaining. His characters are the ruling elite amongst real Washington Republicans and Democrats and their Presidents and candidates. You are in the political and social chattering, the dining, the parties and the affairs.
One theme is the debate on whether the US should enter into WW11. The story of President Roosevelt's political manoeuvring leading to the provocation of Japan to attack Pearl Harbour so that America enters WW11 is most instructive and entertaining. Ending in the 1950's this Washington was at the beginning of the end of the American Golden Age. If you have not read Gore Vidal, a great American literary figure, do not hesitate to start on his many books.
I read the French novelist Michel Houellebecq's new novel Platform (Heinemann, 2002). While in no way seeing it as brilliant as promoted, I can see how sex is popular. Post Bali bombings it stimulates current conversation about Muslims and Westerners, the European middle classes, and us. Sex has a lot to answer for! I won't reveal the ending.
I have resubscribed to journals. Please read the latest issue "All for peace and peace for all" no. 32 of Australian Options, a left discussion for social justice and political change. Only $5 at bookshops. Subscribe for $20 and $15 concession. Reply paid 431, Goodwood 5034 or fax credit card payment to 08 82127566. See www.australian-options.org.au
The latest issue of the left magazine Arena has excellent analysis of the war period we are experiencing. Available in bookshops. Subscribe by contacting Arena PO Box 18 Carlton North 3054 or [email protected] and visit www.arena.org.au.
Chris White worked for the unions for 27 years and was former Secretary of the UTLC. He is now an independent researcher and commentator.
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