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(pub'd Tariq's "Clash of Fundamentalisms")
July 8, 2002
An Interview with Tariq Ali
How the Bush Used 9/11 to Remap the World
(Please don't shoot me, I'm just the editor)
[This interview with Tariq Ali was conducted
by Fábio Fernandes of Mão Única,
the Brazilian Magazine.]
Question: After the September 11th attack and its
consequences in US and in the Middle East,
do you believe the world is facing a state of war
right now? Why (or why not)?
Tariq Ali: I think a war is going on in Afghanistan.
Every week there are reports of casualties.
Almost 2000 Afghan civilians have already been killed,
usually by 'accident'. Who mourns for them? Who builds
memorials in their honour? Who cares about their families?
Simultaneously there is Sharon's war against the
Palestinian nation, backed by the Bush administration.
The American media is more biased than the Israeli press.
It treats Israel as the victim. It ignores the fact that
Israel provoked the suicie attacks by a systematic policy
of assassinating Palestinian leaders. 'Operation Defensive
Shield' is designed to crush the Palestinian resistance
and destroy all hopes of a sovereign and independent
Palestinian republic.. Leaving aside the moral abomination
that this is and the double standards of the West, let's
ask ourselves whether such actions will lead to a decrease
or increase in acts of terrorism? Anyone capable of
thinking independently knows the answer to this one.
Question: Along with Noam Chomsky, you are one of the
English-language writers that criticizes
most fiercely the U.S. government policies, particularly
on the subject of security. In your opinion, how does
the opposition (by which we mean the Left, not
especially in the US but in the First World) view the
Tariq Ali: I think that the Left, using the word in
its broadest sense, is divided. Many
intellectuals were panicked into supporting the
'war on terrorism'. Though a strong minority exists
in the United States that opposes the new
imperialism. In Europe there is a majority in
Germany, Britain and Italy that is opposed to any
new war on Iraq and many are now beginning to see
that the US utilised 9/11 to re-map the world. So
there is an opposition in the First World. In
Britain at the moment 170 Members of Parliament
(mainly Labour) have signed a public declaration
against a war on Iraq.
Of course many of those who shifted allegiances to
back Bush's war in Afghanistan -- the belligeratii
-- are also in favour of a war against Iraq. Their
favourite guru is the former Trotskyist Kanaan Makiya
-- the Anglo-Iraqi writer touted by sycophants as
the 'Alexander Solzhenitsyn of Iraq' -- wants his
chums in the US State Department to take over Iraq
and rule it.
Question: A few months ago, you went to the Bienal
do Livro de Sao Paulo, to talk about the
Brazilian edition of your latest book, The Clash
of Fundamentalisms. Are you acquainted with how
people in Latin American countries is reacting to
this not-so-new World Order - especially Brazil,
which current government is considered one of the
most faithful followers of the neoliberalism?
Tariq Ali: My impression is that most of Latin
America is deeply hostile to the
New Order. South America has always been treated
by the US as a 'co-prosperity sphere', ie,
shamelessly exploited and under a permanent
semi-occupation. So opposition to Washington in
this region hardly comes as a surprise. Look
at Argentina. A tragic outcome of neo-liberal
economics. This country was the laboratary
of market fundamentalism. The IMF mullahs
followed its every turn. The US Treasury
authorised its policies.
The result? A total disaster.
This is what the PT in Brazil should be explaining
to the people. Cardoso's policies could lead to a
similar disaster in Brazil. I know perfectly well
that Lula's options are restricted, but if he does
nothing, the result will be a tragedy. The
combination of an economic collapse and mass
depoliticisation is the worst possible scenario.
So the PT has to implement some radical reforms,
especially in relation to health, education and
the landless peasants.
Question: In some of the interviews you gave right
after September 11th, you said that you
didn't fear the U.S. government, but you feared
the fundamentalists. Everyone knows, however, that
this current "enemy of the free world" have already
worked for the CIA and the Pentagon, and had its
religious traits enhanced to attack and destroy.
May the fundamentalism be used in both sides of
this war, and until which point?
Tariq Ali: I think you must have misread some
interview. I have always argued and
this is the thesis of my book that the US Empire
and its economic-military policies are the mother
of all fundamentalisms. They have spawned the groups
which they now fight.
Question: What can we expect of the conflicts between
Jews and Palestinians in the near future?
Are you pessimistic on this subject? That's why you
put in your book that excellent interview with Isaac
Deutscher, by the way?
Tariq Ali: I am not optimistic. How can one be when
the war-criminal Sharon talks to US
Senators about a hundred year war against the Arabs
and an urgent need to transplant a million more
Jews in Israel. This sonofabitch won't be around
for much longer (even Zionists cannot overcome the
laws of biology) but he wants to bequeath a legacy
to the coming generations: war, war and more war.
But the Palestinians will not give up their struggle
for nationhood. Since 1948, all attempts to crush
them, to obliterate their memory have failed.
The Oslo Accords created bantustans. The Palestinians
rejected them. They will not accept a Palestinian
which is an Israeli protectorate. So till the United
States forces Israel to accept a two-state solution
nothing much will change.
Question: In their book Empire, Antonio Negri and
Michael Hardt didn't consider exactly the
US as THE Empire itself, but merely a representation
of it. Were they right?
Tariq Ali: EMPIRE is a very stimulating account of
globalisation, but it is hopelessly wrong
on two central issues. The state has not withered
away. Strong states still exist---USA, China, Germany,
etc----- but the difference with the past is that
there is now only one Empire and this is not the
nebulos entity imagined by Cultural Studies, but
a real, living organism and it has a name; the
United States of America..
Question: Assuming they weren't right on this point:
can we live without the American Empire?
Will we live without it someday?
Tariq Ali: Whether we will live without it is unlikely,
but I hope our children and their children
will. All Empires suffer from an invincibility complex,
but when the end comes we see that it was unpredictable
and it surprises everyone. In the case of the US it
will probably be a combbination of internal and external
factors, economic and military.
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