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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Tariq Ali interviews John Lennon on revolution and politics

In this fascinating interview conducted for Red Mole, Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn interview John Lennon at his home, discussing Lennon’s political beliefs and ideological attitude. Tariq Ali remembered their meeting for the Guardian, 30 years after Lennon’s assassination, this week in 1980.

The day after the interview he rang me and said he had enjoyed it so much that he’d written a song for the movement, which he then proceeded to sing down the line: Power to the People. The events in Derry on Bloody Sunday angered him greatly and he subsequently suggested that he wished to march on the next Troops Out demonstration on Ireland, and did so, together with Yoko Ono, wearing Red Mole T-shirts and holding the paper high. Its headline was: “For the IRA, Against British Imperialism”.’

The full transcript of the interview can be  …

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From the archive

  • ‘A beacon of hope for the rebirth of Bolívar’s dream’

    November 9, 2006

    ‘A beacon of hope for the rebirth of Bolívar’s dream’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, November 9, 2006

    A shadow of his former self, Ortega’s victory is still an expression of the wider demand for change sweeping Latin America

    Daniel Ortega, blessed by the church, flanked by a former Contra as his vice-president and still loathed by the US ambassador, may be a sickly shadow of his former self, but his victory undoubtedly reflects the desire of Nicaraguans for change. Will Managua follow the radically redistributive policies of anti-imperialist Caracas or confine itself to rhetoric and remain a client of the International Monetary Fund?

    Ortega’s victory comes at a time when Latin America is on the march again. There have been some spectacular demonstrations of the popular will in Porto Alegre, Caracas, Buenos Aires, Cochabamba and Cuzco,  …

  • ‘At the Manor of the White Queen’ – Tariq Ali blogs for the LRB

    August 10, 2010

    Tariq Ali on Zardari for the London Review of Books Blog, August 10, 2010

    As the floodwaters surged through Pakistan, killing hundreds of people and displacing millions, the president was on his way to Europe. Properties had to be inspected; his son had to be crowned as the future leader of Pakistan at a rally in Birmingham. And to reinforce Zardari’s pose as the permanent widower of the ‘goddess of democracy’, the kids had to be introduced to both Sarko and Cameron.

    Mercifully the coronation in Birmingham was postponed. It was too crass even for the loyalists. Instead Zardari delivered an appalling speech and a Kashmiri elder, angered by the nonsense being spouted, rose to his feet and hurled one of his shoes at the businessman-president. Zardari left the hall in anger. ‘Zardari joins the Shoe Club with  …

  • ‘On the Death of Pramoedya Ananta Toer’

    May 13, 2006

    ‘On the Death of Pramoedya Ananta Toer’ by Tariq Ali for Counterpunch, May 2, 2006

    The death of the writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer, who died in Jakarta on April 30, is an enormous loss to world literature. He was a leading intellectual of the Indonesian left and a brilliant writer of fiction, always in pursuit of a time that never came. Sometimes he would think he had glimpsed the future and this immediately became magnified and was reflected in his fiction. His passion for radical politics was never hidden. Author of the ‘Buru Quartet’, he spent 15 years in prison—first under the Dutch, then under Suharto.

    In “Diajang menjerah”, “She Who Gave Up”, a short story published in a 1952 collection (Tjerita dari Blora, “Stories from Blora”), he wrote:

    ‘In such times too the rage for politics roared  …