‘Talk to the terrorists, 60s activist urges’ – Tariq Ali in Australia

Tariq Ali interviewed by Paul Maley for The Australian, October 4, 2010

More than 40 years after the revolutionary convulsions of the late 1960s, British-Pakistani author, activist and polemicist Tariq Ali has lost none of the anger that sent him to the streets in protest over — among other things — the war in Vietnam.

“I don’t believe that there’s any group in the world which is waging a fight that can’t be negotiated with,” Mr Ali said yesterday.

In Sydney to address the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, Mr Ali’s talk is perhaps the most dangerous of all. Speaking to The Australian before his talk, titled “What we can learn from terrorists”, Mr Ali accused the West of ignoring the beliefs and motivations of terrorists.

“I think it’s time, as in previous centuries when there were terrorism attacks and people said, ‘this is what we want’ — especially in Europe and North America — finally after outrages, attention was paid to their demands,” he said.

Wouldn’t such an approach legitimise, indeed encourage, the use of terrorism? Mr Ali thinks not. “The thing is, you have to ask if it was worth occupying and invading Iraq and killing a million Iraqis,” he said.

“Because the fact of the matter is the terror employed by the United States against countries is much, much worse than anything these guys have done.”

Mr Ali, who has found acclaim as a writer of fiction nd non-fiction, as a filmmaker and a broadcaster, said the case for modern terrorism was the presence of US troops in the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan and the issue of Palestine.

He praises Bob Brown’s Greens for pushing for a parliamentary debate on Afghanistan but considers the ALP to be run by “faceless apparatchiks”.

Mr Ali is also part of a gathering backlash of left-wing activists critical of Barack Obama, a theme taken up in his latest book The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad.

Mr Ali seems almost broken-hearted at the US President’s failure to meet the soaring expectations he set for himself. read more