Confronting Empire

By Newsinger, John | Capital & Class, Autumn 2001 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Confronting Empire


Newsinger, John, Capital & Class


Pluto Press, London, 2000. pp. 177 ISBN 0 745-31? 138 (pbk) L10.99 ISBN 0 745-31712-X (hbk) L35.00

Reviewed by John Newsinger

Eqbal Ahmad died in May 1999 of heart failure, following surgery for cancer of the colon that had only been diagnosed the week before. His sudden death was a shock to friends and comrades throughout the world. This volume of edited discussions with David Barsamian appropriately titled Confronting Empire, is a fitting commemoration. It shows him at his best: an intelligent, committed, sometimes provocative, thinker, a Socialist and a democrat, a determined opponent of Imperialism and supporter of the struggles of `the Wretched of the Earth'. There is only space here to discuss three of the areas covered in the discussions: the demonisation of Islam, Pakistan and the Palestinian struggle.

The demonisation of Islam by the United States, its identification as an enemy capable of replacing the Soviet Union, is, as Ahmad shows, just so much hypocrisy:

`The us concern is not who is fundamentalist and who is progressive, who treats women nicely and who treats them badly. That's not the issue. The issue is who is more likely to ensure the safety of the oil resources that the United States or its corporations could control?' (p. 50)

He goes on to develop this argument. First, during the Cold War when the Soviet Union was the perceived threat, the United States actively allied itself with, encouraged and supported militant Islam. The fundamentalists were seen as a useful antidote to the influence of the left throughout the Muslim world and later as an armed resistance to the Russians in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, as he points out, `Islamic fundamentalists of a really hardcore variety, the mujihideen', received billions of dollars worth of military assistance. The ciA encouraged the recruitment of an Islamic International Brigade to fight the Russians:

'I have seen planeloads of them arriving from Algeria, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, even from Palestine where at that time Israel was supporting Hamas against Al Fatah... These people were brought in, given an ideology, and told that armed struggle is virtuous-and the whole notion of jihad as an international, pan-Islamic terrorist movement was born. The us has spent billions in producing the bin Ladens of our time' (p.91).

He goes so far as to argue that the very notion of the jihad as a just struggle, in abeyance in the Muslim world since the tenth century, was actually revived by the United States for the struggle against atheistic Communism.

Moreover, since the Russian defeat, the United States has done its best to remain on good terms with the Taliban, `the most murderous, by far the most crazy of Islamic fundamentalist groups' (P.49). They regard them as a strategic asset, as a valuable piece in the effort to secure control of Central Asian oil. Clinton, Ahmad reminds us, made personal telephone calls to the presidents of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan, urging them to sign up with USA oil companies. There are two possible ways to get the oil out, avoiding Russia: through Iran or through Afghanistan. As far as the United States is concerned Afghanistan is likely to be the more reliable client. Oil overrides all other concerns. Far from human rights being lower down the agenda, it is not even on the agenda, but rather serves as merely the latest way of disguising the agenda.

This cynicism does not just apply to Afghanistan, of course. The United States' number one client in the Arab world is Saudi Arabia, whose corrupt and brutal regime, `has been by far the most fundamentalist in the history of Islam.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Confronting Empire
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?