The assault and capture of Iraq—and the resistance it has provoked—will shape the politics of the twenty-first century. In this passionate and provocative book, Tariq Ali provides a history of Iraqi resistance against empires old and new, and argues against the view that sees imperialist occupation as the only viable solution to bring about regime-change in corrupt and dictatorial states. Like the author’s previous work, The Clash of Fundamentalisms, this book presents a magnificent cultural history.
Detailing the longstanding imperial ambitions of key figures in the Bush administration and how war profiteers close to Bush are cashing in, Bush in Babylon is unique in moving beyond the corporate looting by the US military government to offer the reader an expert and in-depth analysis of the extent of resistance to the US occupation in Iraq.
On 15 February 2003, eight million people marched on the streets of five continents against a war that had not yet begun. A historically unprecedented number of people rejected official justifications for war that the secular Ba’ath Party of Iraq was connected to al-Qaeda or that “weapons of mass destruction” existed in the region, outside of Israel.
More people than ever are convinced that the greatest threat to peace comes from the center of the American empire and its satrapies, with Blair and Sharon as lieutenants to the Commander-in-Chief. Examining how countries from Japan to France eventually rushed to support US aims, as well as the futile UN resistance, Tariq Ali proposes a re-founding of Mark Twain’s mammoth American Anti-Imperialist League (which included William James, W.E.B. DuBois, William Dean Howells, and John Dewey) to carry forward the antiwar movement. Meanwhile, as Iraqis show unexpected hostility and independence, rather than gratitude, for “liberation,” Ali is unique is uncovering the depth of the resistance now occurring inside occupied Iraq.
Tariq Ali is a novelist, essayist, and BBC commentator who was among the best-known radical student leaders in late 1960s Britain. One of the ways he distinguishes himself from his anti-war contemporaries is via prodigious and multidisciplinary cultural knowledge; he once collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Derek Jarman on a film about the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, for instance. Bush in Babylon benefits greatly from such knowledge. The book is essentially a harsh critique of the way the Bush administration has dealt with Iraq in the wake of 9-11, referred to as "corporate looting." The most captivating chapter centers on the history of Iraqi resistance as exemplified in poetry made by Iraqis in exile. Ali translates important contemporary works by poets who left during Hussein's regime but are still denied entry back into Iraq by Coalition forces. These are works that have traveled from the Internet to the oral tradition, to become instant spoken-word hits, and they provide a fascinating glimpse into the Iraqi situation that one cannot simply find in a daily newspaper in the West or on CNN. Ali's biggest fault is an undisguised disgust for the "imperialist" United States government. When he lists the casualties in Hiroshima and Nagasaki alongside those in Vietnam with no discussion of the difference between the two events, he alienates many potential fans of his important work. Bush in Babylon has a lot going for it, despite a polemical tone which invariably grates as one marches through this smart, well-researched book. --Mike McGonigal