LRB Diary

Conversations in Cairo are punctuated by dates: 11 February (Mubarak’s fall), 24 June (Morsi’s election), 30 June (Sisi’s coup), which takes a bit of getting used to. On the street murals depicting the martyrs are defaced with black ink; barbed wire, state-constructed barricades and gates used to seal off roads remain in place. My publisher, Karem Youssef, talks me through the geography of the uprising, describing how she herself was radicalised as week followed week. It’s too soon to treat the events nostalgically since, according to some, they are not yet over. I’m not sure about that, but what is indisputable is that hope is dead.

During and after the uprising Mubarak’s name stood for amorality, cynicism, duplicity, corruption, greed and opportunism. A few months after Morsi’s triumph at the polls, the same adjectives were being used to describe his rule,  …

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How Vladimir Putin became evil

Once again, it seems that Russia and the United States are finding it difficult to agree on how to deal with their respective ambitions. This clash of interests is highlighted by the Ukrainian crisis. The provocation in this particular instance, as the leaked recording of a US diplomat, Victoria Nuland, saying “Fuck the EU” suggests, came from Washington.

Several decades ago, at the height of the cold war, George Kennan, a leading American foreign policy strategist invited to give the Reith Lectures, informed his audience: “There is, let me assure you, nothing in nature more egocentric than embattled democracy. It soon becomes the victim of its own propaganda. It then tends to attach to its own cause an absolute value which distorts its own vision … Its enemy becomes the embodiment of all evil. Its own side is the centre  …

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The Abbotabad Incident: A Lesson For Young Americans

Antigone: Death yearns for equal law for the dead. Creon: Not that the good and bad draw equal shares. Antigone: Who knows that this is holiness below? Creon: Never the enemy, even in death, a friend. Antigone: I cannot share in hatred, but in love. Creon: Then go down there, if you must love, and love the dead. No woman rules me while I live.

Antigone, Sophocles, 441 BCE  

U-S-A. U-S-A. Obama got Osama. Obama Got Osama. You can’t beat us (clap-clap-clap-clap-clap-clap). You can’t beat us. Fuck bin La-den. Fuck bin La-den.

N+1 Blog, chants heard at Ground Zero, New York, May 2011

We got Voldemort, We Got Voldermort.

Chant, heard on campuses at Iowa, Stanford, and UC Davis, May 2011

 

Contrary to what many liberals imagined in November 2008, the debasement of American political culture continues apace. Instead of reversing the trend,  …

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Stuart Hall’s message to those who want change

It is the way our sympathy flows and recoils that really determines our lives. This opening sentence from Stuart Hall’s 1960 review of Lady Chatterley’s Lover belongs to DH Lawrence. The critic had unearthed it from deep inside the novel. It could serve as an epitaph for Stuart himself. His own sympathies and aversions played a huge part in determining his political makeup. It is not easy to sum up what he leaves behind in a few words. Soon, one hopes, that the conversation his colleague and friend, Bill Schwartz had been conducting with him over several years will be edited and published in book form.

He was, first and foremost, a political person. Politics mattered to him and enabled him to develop his skills as a mesmerising orator.

He was a 1956-er. The twin crises that erupted that year  …

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Pakistan’s future is tied to the Taliban

Twelve years ago, a few weeks into the occupation of Afghanistan, I suggested (in these pages) that the euphoria aroused by an easy conquest was misplaced. It would be a long war and one of its side effects would be to seriously destabilise Pakistan. Unfortunately, events have not contradicted the analysis. The spillover into Pakistan has been creating havoc for years. The view that this has nothing to do with Afghanistan is too shallow to deserve serious consideration.

It’s no secret that, since 9/11, successive governments –Musharraf, Zardari and now the Sharif brothers – have agreed to US drone attacks and been aware of covert CIA operations being carried out in Pakistan. Opinion polls, however, reveal that a large majority of Pakistani citizens are opposed to US policies. The capitulation of liberal secular parties to Washington left the field wide  …

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From the archive

  • ‘A rebel shaped by intellect’

    August 20, 2010

    Tariq Ali interviewed about Night of the Golden Butterfly by Syed Hamad Ali for Gulf News, August 20, 2010

    Tariq Ali has always spoken his mind without the fear that it might raise a storm …

    For nearly half a century Tariq Ali has stood a towering figure on the Left who has rallied against the corruption that power breeds. “I am used to being attacked in the Western media,” the writer tells Weekend Review. “It used to happen non-stop and still does occasionally. But I am never really bothered. My advice to others, especially young writers starting to write, is: Never write to please. If you write to please those in power or those who determine literary prizes, it’s not good for creativity or literature. Write what you really feel like, whatever it is, but never  …

  • ‘My heart bleeds for Pakistan. It deserves better than this grotesque feudal charade’

    December 31, 2007

    ‘My heart bleeds for Pakistan…’ by Tariq Ali for The Independent, December 31, 2007

    Six hours before she was executed, Mary, Queen of Scots wrote to her brother-in-law, Henry III of France: “…As for my son, I commend him to you in so far as he deserves, for I cannot answer for him.” The year was 1587.

    On 30 December 2007, a conclave of feudal potentates gathered in the home of the slain Benazir Bhutto to hear her last will and testament being read out and its contents subsequently announced to the world media. Where Mary was tentative, her modern-day equivalent left no room for doubt. She could certainly answer for her son.

    A triumvirate consisting of her husband, Asif Zardari (one of the most venal and discredited politicians in the country and still facing corruption charges in  …

  • ‘Nato’s lost cause’

    June 11, 2008

    ‘Nato’s lost cause’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, June 11, 2008

    The west’s ‘good war’ in Afghanistan has turned bad. A local solution, rather than a neocolonial one, is what’s needed

    In the latest clashes on the Pakistan-Afghan border, Nato troops have killed 11 Pakistani soldiers and injured many more, creating a serious crisis in the country and angering the Pakistan military high command, already split on the question.

    US failure in Afghanistan is now evident and Nato desperation only too visible. Spreading the war to Pakistan would be a disaster for all sides. The Bush-Cheney era is drawing to a close, but it is unlikely that their replacements, despite the debacle in Iraq, will settle the American giant back to a digestive sleep.

    The temporary cleavage that opened up between some EU states and Washington on  …