By Jenny Haines
Bombs, Baghdad, London, Terror
In Rough Music, Blair, Bombs,
Baghdad, London, Terror (Verso, 2005), Tariq Ali provides a
comprehensive analysis of the actions and motives of the Blair
Government in Britain in the lead up to the Iraq War, its
unwholesome dealings with American power, its denial of the gravity and
moral depravity of the Iraq War, and its increasing political
bankruptcy in the face of the consequences of the war — bombs, terror
and attacks on civil liberties. Rough
Music gets its title from from the historian E.P. Thompson's Customs in Common:
Rough music is the term which has
generally been used in England since the end of the seventeenth century
to denote a rude cacaphony, with or without more elaborate ritual,
which usually directed mockery or hostility against individuals who
offended against certain community norms.
Rough Music is the
latest in a series of books by Tariq Ali explaining, polemicising and
laying bare the historical and political background of the politics of
imperialism, oil and exploitation since the terror attacks of September
In The Clash of Fundamentalisms
(Verso, 2002) he reminds that what the West is experiencing since
September 11 is the return of history in a horrific form. The war on
terror is a clash of fundamentalisms, not a clash of civilisations. It
is a war of imperialism versus religion.
He writes eloquently of his own youth in Pakistan and reviews the
horrible history that is now returning to haunt us and hurt us. His Letter to a Young Muslim at the end
of this book is directed at all young Muslims, and all who seek to
understand fundamentalist Islam. He says "What do the Islamists offer?
A route to the past which mercifully, for the people of the seventh
century, never existed."
Bush in Babylon, The
Recolonisation of Iraq (Verso 2003), is the brutal history of
the lead up to the war in Iraq, and the history of Iraq in recent
times, the repression of the communists, and the ugly, vicious and
bloodthirsty rise of Baathism. It is also a lament, in beautiful,
lilting writing, for the plight of the Arab and Islamic world.
He uses the poetry of Saadi Youssef, titled The Jackals' Wedding, to denounce
the Iraqi quislings who met with the imperial powers in London in 2003
to make a deal about postwar Iraq. It is also a statement of proud
Iraqi independence and the right to self determination. Bush in Babylon provides a taste of
the despair that is prevalent in the Arab and Islamic world at the
return of occupying powers — despair that is now, among the frustrated
young, turning into martyrdom.
In Tariq Ali, Speaking of Empire and
Resistance (Scribe Publications, Melbourne, 2005), Ali is
interviewed by David Barsamian about his recent writings and his views
of a range of topics: the fate of modern Pakistan, the occupation of
Afghanistan and Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the state of
the Islamic world and the continuing role of imperialism in the 21st
century. He explains the motives for his recent writings, and he
summarises what he sees as the way forward.
In the cover note to Rough Music,
Ali says the book "lays bare the vengeful platitudes of Blair's war on
civil liberities, mounts a scorching attack on the cosy falsehoods of
the government's consensus on what the threat amounts to, and how to
respond, and denounces the corruption of the political-media bubble
which allows it to go unchallenged."
In the final chapter, he sets out what should be done — the withdrawal
of all imperial troops from Afghanistan and Iraq; a moratorium on the
state censorship of religion; Britain to develop a rational,
independent foreign policy; reform and democratisation of the British
Parliament, and the development of a united movement to the left of New
Labor, building on the best of the radical and socialist traditions in
England. In the meantime, he says, Blair must go, as he, like those put
on trial at Nuremberg after World War II, is responsible for war crimes.