Protest and Survive

Novelist and historian Tariq Ali on the war and the antiwar movement

CP: Are they perceived by the U.S. government as the enemy?

Ali: Probably, but the principal enemy of the U.S. empire is democracy, which is now very difficult to permit in case they are nationalist and want to control their own government. We saw that Arab nationalism happen in the '60s; a number of brutal wars had to be fought to defeat them and many times the United States used fundamentalist Arabs to help in those wars. Today many Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan and elsewhere believe they will be working with the United States again in the future. They are quite open about this.

CP: What do you think will happen in Iraq?

Tariq Ali: "The principal enemy of the U.S. empire is democracy"
Courtesy of the Walker
Tariq Ali: "The principal enemy of the U.S. empire is democracy"

Ali: I think you have to understand that, contrary to the propaganda, the Hussein regime is very weak--the army is weak, the weaponry is very old--and he doesn't have the power to resist the United States. So the key question is, How many civilian casualties in Iraq are necessary to permit a U.S. occupation? What do they bomb and destroy? It is not going to be easy to wipe out the Iraqi army, which is based in the cities, without killing tens of thousands of people. It is just incredibly cynical of American citizens not to care about other people being killed. This double standard makes people very angry, and if civilian casualties are high it will lead to a big, big growth in terrorism, as people despair and no one else seems capable of resisting the United States. When people despair they become completely irrational. So far from decreasing terrorism this war will lead to a big increase, and I think the war could well lead to a new nationalism in the Arab world that could sweep these regimes in the region aside. If people see the occupation of Iraq further strengthening Israel and hurting the Palestinians, this could happen.

If the U.S. planned to disarm the whole region of its weapons of mass destruction, it would be impossible for Iraq to resist disarming. But Israel has a huge stockpile of these weapons; they admit having them. It is that kind of huge double standard in that part of the world that makes people angry, and American people need to understand that. It is like saying, if you are white you are allowed to carry a gun, but if you are black, you can't.

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