Obama at War: The Brooklyn Rail interviews Tariq Ali

An interview with Tariq Ali by Theodore Hamm and Christian Parenti for The Brooklyn Rail, April 9, 2010

Rail: What do you make of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s recent observation that an “amazing” number of innocent Afghan civilians have been killed by U.S. forces? That fact is not surprising—but shouldn’t such high-level acknowledgment of it provoke real opposition to the war?

Tariq Ali: It should but it won’t because North American and European citizens (the latter in large majorities) who oppose the war feel disempowered. In the U.S., of course, Obama promised to escalate the war, an election pledge he has carried out with a vengeance and unless directly affected—as in the days of the draft—liberal Americans don’t care that much if foreigners are being killed. McChrystal’s remarks were designed largely for consumption in Afghanistan: he was simultaneously appealing to Afghans and warning the killer squads to go easy.

Rail: Do you think that Obama’s personal popularity is the main reason why there’s no visible antiwar movement?

Ali: Partially. He speaks of the war in terms of good and evil and gets the benefit of the doubt since his supporters are sure he’s good and even his opponents think the Afghan resistance is evil.  As I mentioned above the main reason for the lack of an effective antiwar movement is that most Americans barely realize they’re at war since they don’t have to fight. The use of mercenaries represents a big shift compared to the U.S. wars of the last century.

Rail: Why do you believe that Obama escalated the war in Afghanistan? Are there important material interests there or is it merely a matter of politics and American “credibility”? read more