Bush in Babylon: The Recolonisation of Iraq
by Tariq Ali
New York: Verso, 2003. 214 pp. $20, paper.
Reviewed by Patrick Clawson
Middle East Quarterly
Stalin reportedly said that paper holds whatever is written on it. Ali tests that proposition to the limit. But rather than his ridiculous book being dismissed out of hand, it has been respectfully reviewed by Serge Schmemann in The New York Times, not bad for a book about Iraq's history of the last sixty years that passes over in silence Saddam's brutality except as directed at communists. Ali does not regard as worthy of mention the secret police who killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, genocidal attacks on the Kurds, or the slaughter of thousands in the 1991 rebellions. Ignoring the suffering of the Iraqi people under Saddam, he instead directs his fire at those "quislings" who work to bring democracy to post-Saddam Iraq.
Ali is indeed the direct heir of Stalin. He understands politics only as the exercise of force in pursuit of ideological objectives; hence his utter lack of interest in such issues as human rights or the rule of law. His praise is reserved for those who would kill for Arab nationalism and anti-Western extremism. More than a quarter of the book is devoted to the travails of the Iraqi Communist Party, but he neglects to mention that it is part of the governing council set up by the U.S.-led coalition post-Saddam. (It would be most inconvenient to acknowledge that the United States has reached out to a broad range of Iraqi opinion and that Iraqi progressives hated Saddam's fascist rule.)
Most striking, and most firmly in Stalin's tradition, Ali shows no concern at what has happened to the Iraqi people over the years. He writes not at all about the collapse of their standard of living, not even to decry the impact of the United Nations sanctions made necessary by Saddam's refusal to comply with United Nations (U.N.) Security Council resolutions. Evidently the little people are of small interest to Ali in his pursuit of the grander goal of resisting the West, presumably including Western ideals such as democracy and human rights about which he says nothing.
 "The Coalition of the Unbelieving," Jan. 25, 2004.
Related Topics: Iraq, US policy | Patrick Clawson | Summer 2004 MEQ
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