Tariq Ali

Tariq Ali’s new book, Winston Churchill: His Life and Crimes will be published next year.

MexicoCity, 6 July 1946. Victor Serge had a year to live. He had spent the morning, as he sometimes did, with Trotsky’s widow, Natalia Sedova. They had been writing a joint memoir of Trotsky; in it Natalia recalls her husband pacing up and down in his study at Coyoacán, engaged in heated imaginary conversation with old dead Bolsheviks, arguing about Stalin, and how and why they...

Bootlicking: In Lahore

Tariq Ali, 20 February 2020

The day​ I arrived in Lahore, two stories dominated the newspapers’ front pages. The Supreme Court had declared the Ministry of Railways the most corrupt department in the country. No surprises there: the minister in charge, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, a veteran rogue who has served in almost every government over the last three decades, making lots of money along the way, is currently an MP...

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali, 23 January 2020

There’sno point being tribal now. Let’s face it: Johnson won the election because the Tories pledged to implement the result of the 2016 referendum without any more shilly-shallying. Democracy matters. Labour’s rejection of the referendum outcome at its bubble party conference last September did them in. John McDonnell was right to take the blame for the defeat. His...

Suspicious: Richard Sorge’s Fate

Tariq Ali, 21 November 2019

Theskills of the three top Soviet spies of the 20th century – Richard Sorge, Leopold Trepper and Ignace Poretsky/Reiss (better known as Ludwik) – remain unmatched. Sorge has always attracted particular attention. Ian Fleming called him the ‘most formidable spy in history’; other admirers included John le Carré, Tom Clancy and General MacArthur. Owen Matthews...

Modi does it again

Tariq Ali, 6 June 2019

That​ Narendra Modi’s party would win again was never really in dispute. The only question was whether the BJP (the Bharatiya Janata, or Indian Peoples’ Party), would emerge merely as the single largest party in the Lok Sabha, and thus be forced to seek coalition partners, or whether it would repeat its astonishing success of 2014 and govern alone. In the end it did better than...

The Unseeables: Caste or Class

Tariq Ali, 30 August 2018

Contrary to the radical slogans of the late 1940s, India’s wasn’t a ‘fake independence’. Self-rule was achieved at a high price and it meant something, but it incorporated many colonial practices. The new masters benefited, but for the untouchables, tribals and others conditions remained the same or got worse. According to recent estimates by India’s National Crime Records Bureau, every 16 minutes a crime is committed by caste Hindus against an untouchable – or Dalit, as they prefer to be called. The figures are horrific: every month 52 Dalits are killed and six kidnapped; every week almost thirty Dalit women are raped by caste Hindus. This will be a serious underestimate.

That was the year that was

Tariq Ali, 24 May 2018

The French May erupted as we were about to launch the first issue of The Black Dwarf, which had come out looking miserabilist and unimaginative. It was generally felt that the cover was awful. We voted to pulp it and D.A.N. Jones, later of the LRB, walked out. We’d lost the editor. I was asked to take over and with the designer Robin Fior looking over my shoulder I wrote: WE SHALL FIGHT, WE WILL WIN: PARIS, LONDON, ROME, BERLIN. The vote was unanimous. We were for Utopia.

In​ October, soon after the seventieth anniversary of Indian independence and the partition of the subcontinent, the Pakistani painter Tassaduq Sohail died in Karachi. The anniversary was celebrated with dazzling military displays: the centrepieces in both Delhi and Islamabad were nuclear missiles. Partition is history now, tales grandparents tell, but for Sohail and others who experienced...

Corbyn’s Progress

Tariq Ali, 3 March 2016

The UK state​ – its economy, its culture, its fractured identities and party system – is in a much deeper crisis than many want to accept. Its governors, at least in public, remain in semi-denial. English politicians assumed that the threat to the unitary state had been seen off after they got the result they wanted in the Scottish independence referendum. The results of last...

Diary: In Athens

Tariq Ali, 30 July 2015

Why did Tsipras hold a referendum at all? ‘He’s so hard and ideological,’ Merkel complained to her advisers. If only. It was a calculated risk. He thought the ‘Yes’ camp would win, and planned to resign and let EU stooges run the government. The EU leaders launched a propaganda blitz and pressured the Greek banks to restrict access to deposits, warning that a ‘No’ vote meant Grexit. Tsipras’s acceptance of Varoufakis’s resignation was an early signal to the EU that he was about to cave in.

The New World Disorder

Tariq Ali, 9 April 2015

Three decades ago​, with the end of the Cold War and the dismantling of the South American dictatorships, many hoped that the much talked about ‘peace dividend’ promised by Bush senior and Thatcher would actually materialise. No such luck. Instead, we have experienced continuous wars, upheavals, intolerance and fundamentalisms of every sort – religious, ethnic and...

In the week​ following the atrocities, a wave of moral hysteria swept France. ‘Je suis Charlie’ became almost obligatory. The Hollande/Valls message was simple: either you were for the magazine or for the terrorists. Quite a few, now as in 2001, were for neither. These included Henri Roussel, the 80-year-old founder of Hara-Kiri, the title under which Charlie Hebdo was published...

It was​ a horrific event. It was condemned in most parts of the world and most poignantly by many cartoonists. Those who planned the atrocity chose their target carefully. They knew that such an act would create the maximum horror. It was quality, not quantity they were after. The response will not have surprised or displeased them. They don’t care a damn for the world of unbelievers....

Le Journal and Le Club: Mediapart

Tariq Ali, 23 October 2014

Walking​ from the Bastille to the rue Saint-Antoine in Paris a few weeks ago, I was thinking how swiftly the last few decades have taken their revenge on the past. The spectacle that overshadows all else in France today is the collapse of the political civilisation whose foundations were laid in 1789. Radical France – its intelligentsia, its political parties, its cinema and its press...

Diary: In Cairo

Tariq Ali, 5 June 2014

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...

Short Cuts: Crooked Cricket

Tariq Ali, 8 May 2014

Globalised cricket​ – epitomised by the Indian Premier League with its billions, its imported cheerleaders, its shady business deals, its manic marketing – is enmeshed in crisis. The seventh surreal season of the IPL is currently taking place in Dubai and Sharjah, an emirate that was once considered out of bounds for Indian teams because it is the centre of the betting mafia...

Not long before last month’s elections, dozens of workers (the youngest was 12) were burned to death in factory fires in Karachi and Lahore. Pakistan’s rulers were unmoved: there were token expressions of regret but no talk of tough new laws being passed after the election. There is barely any safety regulation in Pakistan, and if any legislation does impede business a modest...

Short Cuts: Trouble in Sri Lanka

Tariq Ali, 25 April 2013

Four years after the killing of between eight and ten thousand Tamils by the Sri Lankan army, which brought to an end a civil war that had lasted for 26 years, there is trouble on the island again. This time the army isn’t directly responsible: instead it’s the Buddhist monks from Bodu Bala Sena, the most active of the fundamentalist groups that have sprouted in Sinhalese...

Short Cuts: Elections in Pakistan

Tariq Ali, 7 February 2013

Pakistan is preparing for elections in May and June, and an all-party caretaker government will soon take over to supervise the process. Meanwhile, things continue as eventfully as usual. There has been yet another clash between the Supreme Court and the Zardari government; a previously obscure Muslim cleric returned from Canada to lead what he hoped would be a ‘million-strong’...

Ho Chi Minh in Love

Tariq Ali, 22 November 2012

A few weeks after leaving university many years ago, I was lunched by a publisher. ‘What book would you most like to write?’ he asked. The war in Indochina was beginning to escalate, with more and more US ‘advisers’ arriving after the defeat of their local stand-ins at the battle of Ap Bac in January 1963. I had sabotaged my finals by bringing Vietnam into every...

Diary: In Pyongyang

Tariq Ali, 26 January 2012

Forty-two years ago, I was mysteriously invited to visit North Korea. Pakistan’s military dictatorship had been toppled after a three-month struggle and in March 1970 the country was in the throes of its first ever general election campaign. I was travelling to every major town and many smaller ones, interviewing opposition politicians and those who’d taken part in the uprising for a book. I was still there in May, my work unfinished, when the invitation arrived. North Korea was even then a country set apart. The letter came via a local Communist known as Rahim ‘Koreawallah’, secretary of the Pak-Korea Friendship Society. Short, paunchy, loquacious and full of beer, he was out of breath as he handed me the letter from Pyongyang. I had to leave straightaway, he said.

Imran Khan

Tariq Ali, 17 November 2011

A couple of decades ago I was having lunch with Imran Khan at an Italian restaurant in Knightsbridge. He was preoccupied with his approaching retirement from cricket. ‘People like you,’ he frowned, ‘have no idea what it is to be a sportsman. Our careers end in our thirties. We have to think of something new to do.’ Becoming a cricket commentator was obviously out, so I...

Rodric Braithwaite, British ambassador to Moscow between 1988 and 1992, was in Russia when Soviet troops crossed the Oxus into Afghanistan in 1979. His fascinating account of the Soviet intervention is based almost entirely on Russian sources: interviews with participants, information from veterans’ websites and from archives, although those of the GRU and the KGB remain mostly sealed. Each page reads like a warning to Afghanistan’s current occupiers. Braithwaite wrote two devastating articles in the Financial Times opposing the Iraq War and the atmosphere of fear created by New Labour propaganda but Afgantsy is written in a very different register. The Soviet intervention is seen as a tragedy for both the Russians and the Afghans.

Salman Taseer Remembered

Tariq Ali, 20 January 2011

Mumtaz Hussain Qadri smiled as he surrendered to his colleagues after shooting Salman Taseer, the governor of the Punjab, dead. Many in Pakistan seemed to support his actions; others wondered how he’d managed to get a job as a state bodyguard in the carefully screened Elite Force. Geo TV, the country’s most popular channel, reported, and the report has since been confirmed, that ‘Qadri had been kicked out of Special Branch after being declared a security risk,’ that he ‘had requested that he not be fired on but arrested alive if he managed to kill Taseer’ and that ‘many in Elite Force knew of his plans to kill Salman Taseer.’

As if everyday life in Pakistan weren’t dispiriting enough, last month the swift and turbulent Indus burst its banks and swathes of the country disappeared under water. Divine punishment, the poor said, but they were the ones who suffered. Allah rarely targets the rich. As the floods came and the country panicked, its president fled the bunker and went on a tour of inspection to France...

A Kashmiri lawyer rang me last week in an agitated state. Had I heard about the latest tragedies in Kashmir? I had not. He was stunned. So was I when he told me in detail what had been taking place there over the last three weeks. As far as I could see, none of the British daily papers or TV news bulletins had covered the story; after I met him I rescued two emails from Kashmir informing me of the horrors from my spam box. I was truly shamed. The next day I scoured the press again. Nothing. The only story in the Guardian from the paper’s Delhi correspondent – a full half-page – was headlined: ‘Model’s death brings new claims of dark side to India’s fashion industry’.

Unhappy Yemen: In Yemen

Tariq Ali, 25 March 2010

The net result of the West’s worries about the AQAP effect is that the US will send $63 million in aid to Yemen this year. A fifth has already been earmarked for weaponry, much of the rest will go to the president and his cronies, and some into the pockets of the military high command. What’s left will be fought over by the bosses of different regions. (The sum doesn’t include the Pentagon’s remittance for counter terrorism, which last year amounted to $67 million.) A Yemeni businessman told me that he’d been taken aback a few years ago when the then prime minister, an apparently respectable and moderate man, demanded a 30 per cent rake-off from a deal he’d been negotiating. Seeing the shock on the businessman’s face, the PM reassured him: 20 per cent of that was for the president.

Short Cuts: Af-Pak

Tariq Ali, 19 November 2009

It’s been a bad autumn for Nato in Afghanistan, with twin disasters on the political and military fronts. First, Kai Eide, the UN headman in Kabul, a well-meaning, but not very bright Norwegian, fell out with his deputy, Peter Galbraith, who as the de facto representative of the US State Department had decreed that President Karzai’s election was rigged and went public about it....

This is now Obama’s war. He campaigned to send more troops into Afghanistan and to extend the war, if necessary, into Pakistan. These pledges are now being fulfilled. On the day he publicly expressed his sadness at the death of a young Iranian woman caught up in the repression in Tehran, US drones killed 60 people in Pakistan.

The immediate casualty of the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore earlier this month will be the future of cricket in Pakistan. A few optimists point out that the Munich massacre didn’t bring the 1972 Olympics to a halt. But I doubt whether even Zimbabwe could now be induced to come and play at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. Who can blame them? Pakistan’s captain,...

Diary: The Future of Cricket

Tariq Ali, 12 March 2009

The BBC’s decision to stop showing cricket in the late 1980s was brought about by a combination of the cricket establishment’s greed, misplaced sporting priorities on the part of public broadcasters and, according to some, strong pressure from Margaret Thatcher, who was determined to help Rupert Murdoch build up his television empire. Within a few years there was no live cricket...

Diary: Murder in the Family

Tariq Ali, 18 December 2008

If cheating in bed was always settled by the bullet, many of us would be dead. Gerald Martin’s new biography of Gabriel García Márquez reveals that Chronicle of a Death Foretold was based on the murder of the novelist’s friend Cayetano Gentile in Sucre in 1951. He had seduced, deflowered and abandoned Margarita Chica Salas. On her wedding day Margarita’s husband was told that she was no longer a virgin. The bride was sent back to her family home. Her brothers then found Gentile and chopped his body into pieces. Márquez blamed the socio-moral dictatorship of the Catholic Church.

Next Door to War: After Benazir

Tariq Ali, 17 July 2008

To recapitulate. After Benazir Bhutto was assassinated last December, her will was read out to the family’s assembled political retainers. Her 19-year-old son, Bilawal, inherited the Pakistan People’s Party, but until he came of age her husband, Asif Zardari, would act as regent. The general election, postponed following her death, took place in February. The immediate impact of...

Daughter of the West: the Bhuttos

Tariq Ali, 13 December 2007

The fatal bullet had been fired at close range. The trap had been carefully laid, but as is the way in Pakistan, the crudeness of the operation – false entries in police logbooks, lost evidence, witnesses arrested and intimidated, the provincial PPP governor (regarded as untrustworthy) dispatched to a non-event in Egypt, a policeman killed who they feared might talk – made it obvious that the decision to execute the prime minister’s brother had been taken at a very high level.

Pakistan is best avoided in August, when the rains come and transform the plains into a huge steam bath. When I lived there we fled to the mountains, but this year I stayed put. The real killer is the humidity. Relief arrives in short bursts: a sudden stillness followed by the darkening of the sky, thunderclaps like distant bombs and then the hard rain. Rivers and tributaries quickly overflow; flash floods make cities impassable. Sewage runs through slums and posh neighbourhoods alike. Even if you go straight from air-conditioned room to air-conditioned car you can’t completely escape the smell. In August sixty years ago, Pakistan was separated from the subcontinent. This summer, as power appeared to be draining away from Pervez Musharraf, the country’s fourth military dictator, it was instructive to observe the process at first hand.

In Princes’ Pockets: Saudi Oil

Tariq Ali, 19 July 2007

The day after the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, a Saudi woman resident in London, a member of a wealthy family, rang her sister in Riyadh to discuss the crisis affecting the kingdom. Her niece answered the phone.

‘Where’s your mother?’

‘She’s here, dearest aunt, and I’ll get her in a minute, but is that all you have to say to me? No congratulations for yesterday?’

The dearest aunt, out of the country for far too long, was taken aback. She should not have been. The fervour that didn’t dare show itself in public was strong even at the upper levels of Saudi society.

Diary: in Cochabamba

Tariq Ali, 21 June 2007

The 1960s skyscrapers of Caracas seemed uglier than usual. The Hotel Gran Melia wasn’t very appealing either. The kitsch ceiling in the giant lobby was reminiscent of the Dubai School (why does oil wealth seem to result in such bad architecture?) and I wished I was staying, as I normally do, at the shabby, bare, miserable but atmospheric Hilton. I was in Caracas to speak at a conference...

If there is a single consistent theme in Pervez Musharraf’s memoir, it is the familiar military dogma that Pakistan has fared better under its generals than under its politicians. The first batch of generals were the offspring of the departing colonial power. They had been taught to obey orders, respect the command structure of the army whatever the cost and uphold the traditions of the British Indian Army. The bureaucrats who ran Pakistan in its early days were the product of imperial selection procedures designed to turn out incorruptible civil servants wearing a mask of objectivity. The military chain of command is still respected, but the civil service now consists largely of ruthlessly corrupt time-servers. Once its members were loyal to the imperial state: today they cater to the needs of the army.

Diary: in Turkish Kurdistan

Tariq Ali, 16 November 2006

It was barely light in Istanbul as I stumbled into a taxi and headed for the airport to board a flight for Diyarbakir, the largest Kurdish city in eastern Turkey, not far from the Iraqi border. The plane was full, thanks to a large party of what looked like chattering students with closely shaved heads, whose nervous excitement seemed to indicate they’d never left home before. One of...

‘We’ve been trying to get you to come and talk here for the last three years,’ my host complained as we shook hands at the airport. ‘Here’ was Tripoli, capital of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, bathed in mild February sunshine; my host a functionary from the World Centre for the Studies and Researches of the Green Book – the Green Book...

The pundits say that the Indian electorate does not cast votes, but votes castes. This is generally true but at key moments in its postcolonial history, the citizens of the world’s largest democracy – India’s population is just over a billion – have acted to punish the ruling elites. It is the subaltern’s revenge, unpredictable and unpredicted. Almost every...

Most of those killed during the first two years of the ‘war on terror’ have already been forgotten. An exception is Daniel Pearl, the South Asia bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal, who, early in 2002, was lured to a fashionable restaurant in Karachi, kidnapped and then executed by his captors. A video showing Pearl’s throat being slit was distributed to the Western...

Diary: In Pakistan

Tariq Ali, 19 June 2003

May and June are the worst months to visit Pakistan: temperatures in Lahore can go up to 120°F, and I still remember the melting tar on the road, which virtually doubled the time it took to bike home from school. I had been invited, however, to give the Eqbal Ahmed Memorial Lectures in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi. Ahmed – whose dream of setting up a serious postgraduate university...

Diary: al-Jazeera

Tariq Ali, 22 August 2002

In Cairo and Abu Dhabi, the two Arab capitals I have visited this year, street and palace are for once in harmony. A pre-emptive strike against Saddam Hussein on the grounds that he might, at some point in the future, authorise the production of nuclear weapons, would be, for the people of the region, a classic display of imperial double-standards. They know that the only country which...

I never believed in God, not even between the ages of six and ten, when I was an agnostic. This unbelief was instinctive. I was sure there was nothing else out there but space. It could have been my lack of imagination. In the jasmine-scented summer nights, long before mosques were allowed to use loudspeakers, it was enough to savour the silence, look up at the exquisitely lit sky, count the...

Bitter Chill of Winter: Kashmir

Tariq Ali, 19 April 2001

One evening a few months ago when Clinton was still President, I found myself in a dive on Eighth Avenue between 41st and 42nd Street. A Democratic Congressman, ‘a friend of the people of Kashmir’, was addressing a meeting of Kashmiri Muslims. Recently returned from a visit to the country, he had been ‘deeply moved’ by the suffering he had witnessed and was now...

From The Blog
24 May 2019

That Narendra Modi would win again was never really in dispute. The only question was whether the Bharatiya Janata Party would be forced to seek coalition partners in the Lok Sabha, or repeat its astonishing success of 2014 and govern alone. The main opposition, the Congress, turned the campaign into a referendum on Modi. Could the tea-seller’s son, they asked, an untutored, uncouth, bigoted, small-town petit-bourgeois (who can’t even speak English) be trusted again? India’s electorate has now provided the answer. They love their Modi.

From The Blog
26 February 2019

Adil Ahmad Dar, the 20-year-old Kashmiri suicide terrorist who killed himself along with forty Indian soldiers at Pulwama on 14 February, will be regarded as a hero and martyr by many Kashmiris of his generation, alienated, desperate and angered by the atrocities that have been rained down on them by the Indian military on the orders of successive governments (the Congress record is appalling) for many decades. Blinding young men in Kashmir with pellet guns is an Indian innovation. Had Dar acted alone, a few might even have dared call him a hero in public. Instead an oppressive silence reigns throughout Kashmir.

From The Blog
13 August 2018

V.S. Naipaul never saw himself as just another face in the mural of 20th-century literature. The mural was, in any case, not his favourite art form. He loved and possessed a very fine collection of Persian and Indian miniatures. But this wasn’t a frame in which he saw himself either. Long before the knighthood and the Nobel Prize, it was the mirror that excited him. Destiny stared him in the face every morning. He believed in himself. The Trinidadian was to become a very fine writer of English prose.

From The Blog
29 November 2017

Yet another manufactured crisis in Pakistan with a hard-line religious group at its core; the country’s political capital, Islamabad, cut off for over a fortnight from its twin military capital, Rawalpindi. The people laying siege are not too far from military GHQ. A whiff of grapeshot and they would have dispersed like rabbits. But the demonstrators were confident. The leaders were actually hoping for a few martyrs. The government did not oblige. Yesterday it capitulated in toto to the demands of the TLY, the Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (Movement to Obey the Prophet), a group set up two years ago in Karachi.

From The Blog
11 December 2014

‘We live in a post-racial society,’ Obama enthused, referring to his own victory, soon after entering the White House. It sounded hollow at the time, though many wanted to believe it. Nobody does today. Not even Toni Morrison. But the response of tens of thousands of young US citizens to the recent outrages in Ferguson, Cleveland and New York is much more important and interesting than the vapours being emitted in DC.

From The Blog
2 September 2014

A trip through the dark corridors and political galleries suggests that what we are witnessing in Pakistan today – street demos in Lahore and Islamabad, attempts to seize the prime minister’s house, a token occupation of the state television building – is little more than a crude struggle for power between the incumbents (the two stooges otherwise known as the Sharif brothers) and a segment of the opposition led by Imran Khan and the forces unleashed by the Canadian-based ‘moderate’ Islamist cleric Tahirul Qadri, who controls a large network of madrassahs that were supported by the Sharifs and many others. Mohammad Sarwar, for instance, the governor of Punjab (a millionaire chum of Blair and Brown and former New Labour MP from Glasgow), joined Qadri’s procession, presumably to demonstrate his faith.

From The Blog
8 August 2014

Stupidity knows no bounds, especially when fuelled by narcissism and a tongue laced with demagogy. There is no other way to describe George Galloway’s absurd and offensive suggestion that Bradford should impose a total ban on Israeli tourists. Statistically it would be interesting to see how many tourists from any country visit Bradford (even after Galloway’s election as the Respect MP, an election that some of us welcomed at the time).

From The Blog
31 July 2014

The United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, denounced the bombing of the UN school in Gaza as ‘outrageous’ and ‘unjustifiable’. His officials have described the massacres as a ‘disgrace to the world’. Who stands disgraced? The UN General Assembly has regularly voted in favour of an independent Palestine. It is the Security Council that has vetoed the very thought and the Security Council, as everyone knows, is dominated by the United States; on this issue, Russia and China have remained on message.

From The Blog
18 July 2014

On Wednesday I received four calls from the BBC's Good Morning Wales. First morning call: was I available to be interviewed about Gaza tomorrow morning? I said yes. First afternoon call: could I tell them what I would say? I said (a) Israel was a rogue state, pampered and cosseted by the US and its vassals. (b) Targeting and killing Palestinian children (especially boys) and blaming the victims was an old Israeli custom. (c) The BBC coverage of Palestine was appalling and if they didn't cut me off I would explain how and why. Second afternoon call: was I prepared to debate a pro-Israeli? I said yes. Afternoon message left on my phone: terribly sorry. There's been a motorway crash in Wales, so we've decided to drop your item.

From The Blog
30 August 2013

Rejoice. Rejoice. The first chain of vassaldom has been broken. They will repair it, no doubt, but let’s celebrate independence while it lasts. For the first time in fifty years, the House of Commons has voted against participating in an imperial war. Aware of the deep and sustained opposition inside the country and within the military establishment, members of parliament decided to represent the will of the people. The speeches of all three leaders were pretty pathetic. Neither the opposition amendment nor the war resolution could muster enough support. That’s all we needed. The thirty odd Tory dissidents who made British participation impossible by voting against their leadership deserve our thanks. Perhaps now the BBC will start reflecting popular opinion instead of acting as the voice of the warmongers.

From The Blog
28 August 2013

The aim of the ‘limited war’ as set out by the United States and its European vassals is simple. The Syrian regime was slowly re-establishing its control over the country against the opposition armed by the West and its tributary states in the region (Saudi Arabia and Qatar). This situation required correction. The opposition in this depressing civil war needed to be strengthened militarily and psychologically. Since Obama had said chemical weapons were the ‘red line’, the weapons were bound to come into play. Cui prodest? as the Romans used to inquire. Who profits? Clearly, not the Syrian regime.

From The Blog
7 August 2013

Mercifully, I was in South India for two events that showed the English at their worst: a long-delayed sporting triumph and the arrival of George Alexander Louis. So I missed the response to Andy Murray’s win at Wimbledon and the eruption that greeted the birth of yet another royal. Before these there was the ‘multicultural triumph’ of the Olympics, followed recently by the ‘illegal immigrant’ buses and non-white citizens being stopped at railway stations. Even the UKIP leader denounced this as not being ‘the British way’.

From The Blog
19 June 2013

How it changes. When I was in Istanbul last April the mood was sombre. Even the most ebullient of friends were downcast. The latent hostility to the regime was always present, but the AKP’s hegemony, I was told many times, went deep. Erdoğan was a reptile, cynical but clever and not averse to quoting the odd verse from Nâzım Hikmet, the much-loved communist poet imprisoned by Atatürk. The poet had escaped in a boat and been rescued by a Soviet tanker. ‘Can you prove you’re Hikmet,’ the captain asked him. He laughed and pointed to a poster in the captain’s cabin which had his photograph on it. He died in Moscow in 1963. His remains are still in exile.

From The Blog
12 March 2013

On 9 February, after ten years on death row, Mohammed Afzal Guru was judicially assassinated in Delhi. The BJP warmly supported and publicly celebrated the event. A veteran Kashmiri activist and a medical student (born in 1969), he had been picked up and accused of being part of a terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001. The evidence was totally circumstantial, the confession obtained under torture and a threat to kill his family. All this is well known. Had the Chinese regime behaved in this fashion towards a Tibetan, the media and political response in the West would have dominated the news. Kashmir remains invisible to the world. In India all the mainstream parties welcomed the hanging. The media was supportive of the government. In Kashmir a general strike shut down the province and the police opened fire on demonstrators.

From The Blog
30 January 2013

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is consciously restrictive, concentrating as it does on how the vote was manipulated and the 13th Amendment passed, but Mrs Lincoln is not exactly missing from the movie. So why didn’t the scriptwriter Tony Kushner, a staunch gay rights activist who ‘personally believe[s] that there is some reason to speculate that Lincoln might have been bisexual or gay’, include any of that speculation in the film? There is a great deal of circumstantial evidence to suggest that Lincoln slept with a number of men. In an interview with Gold Derby, Kushner said:

From The Blog
8 January 2013

The rape in Delhi has shocked India. Has it really? Or was it the sight of thousands of young students, male and female, demonstrating on the streets and being assaulted by the police for daring to demonstrate that made some Indian citizens think seriously about the problem? As for the Congress government that has, like most of the opposition parties, tolerated this for decades, it was the bad publicity abroad that finally did the trick, but only as far as this case is concerned. Rape takes place in police stations, in military barracks, in the streets and occasionally in some provincial parliaments. The feminist Communist parliamentarian Brinda Karat, who has long campaigned on the issue, pointed to the assault of a member of the Trinamool assembly by a male oppositionist on 11 December last year. 'Women were not safe even inside the assembly,' she said.

From The Blog
12 March 2012

In most colonial wars people are arrested, tortured at random and killed. Not even a façade of legality is considered necessary. The ‘lone’ American gunman who butchered innocents in Afghanistan in the early hours of Sunday morning was far from being an exception. For this is not the act of a deranged maniac killing schoolchildren in an American city. The ‘lone’ killer is a sergeant in the US army. He’s not the first and won’t be the last to kill like this.

From The Blog
12 January 2012

It’s now official. Urinating on dead insurgents, the US Marine Corps informs the world, is 'not consistent with its core values'. I think we need a list of non-core values as soon as possible. Pissing on the dead is considered loathsome in most cultures, but clearly can be a morale-booster for demoralised troops in an occupied country where the war is going badly for western civilisation. What better way to assert civilisational values against the barbarians and win local hearts and minds? And why stop here? The next stage surely is to excrete on them and use their beards as toilet paper. That would enhance the value of the videos and might even win the innovators the Santorum Prize for Moral Superiority.

From The Blog
28 November 2011

The Nato assault on a Pakistani checkpoint close to the Afghan border which killed 24 soldiers on Saturday must have been deliberate. Nato commanders have long been supplied with maps marking these checkpoints by the Pakistani military. They knew that the target was a military outpost. The explanation that they were fired on first rings false and has been ferociously denied by Islamabad. Previous such attacks were pronounced ‘accidental’ and apologies were given and accepted. This time it seems more serious. It has come too soon after other ‘breaches of sovereignty’, in the words of the local press, but Pakistani sovereignty is a fiction. The military high command and the country’s political leaders willingly surrendered their sovereignty many decades ago. That it is now being violated openly and brutally is the real cause for concern.

From The Blog
30 September 2011

After the hopeful Wisconsin flutter, might this be the beginning of an Egyptian summer in New York? Spring has absconded from the heart of political America for far too long. The frozen winters of the Reagan and Bush years didn't melt with Clinton or Obama: hollow men who rule over a hollow system where money overpowers all and the much-maligned state is used mainly to preserve the financial status quo and fund the wars of the 21st century. Discussion, serious debate, openness have virtually disappeared from mainstream political life in the United States and its more extreme versions in Europe, with Britain as the cock on the dung heap. The extreme right is small. The extreme left barely exists. It is the extreme centre that dominates political and financial life.

From The Blog
9 August 2011

Why is it that the same areas always erupt first, whatever the cause? Pure accident? Might it have something to do with race and class and institutionalised poverty and the sheer grimness of everyday life? The coalition politicians (including new New Labour, who might well sign up to a national government if the recession continues apace) with their petrified ideologies can’t say that because all three parties are equally responsible for the crisis. They made the mess.

From The Blog
7 July 2011

‘What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?’ The Sri Lankan cricketer Kumar Sangakkara, giving the Spirit of Cricket lecture at Lords a few days ago, answered this question – first posed by C.L.R. James in Beyond the Boundary half a century ago – at length and in some detail. It was a virtuoso performance that linked cricket to the history and politics of the island. It was witty, intelligent and, above all, courageous. Sangakkara’s assault on the cricketing establishment (the Ministry of Sport) of his own country is a model for others to follow. Listening to the speech I wondered whether there was any other practising cricketer in the world today who could have made it.

From The Blog
2 May 2011

A US Special Forces operation in Pakistan has taken out Osama bin Laden and a few others. He was in a safe house close to Kakul Military Academy (Pakistan’s Sandhurst). The only interesting question is who betrayed his whereabouts and why. The leak could only have come from the ISI and, if this is the case, which I’m convinced it is, then General Kayani, the military boss of the country, must have green-lighted the decision. What pressure was put on him will come out sooner or later. The event took me back to a conversation I had a few years ago.

From The Blog
24 January 2011

The 'Palestine Papers' being published this week by al-Jazeera confirm in every detail what many Palestinians have suspected for a long time: their leaders have been collaborating in the most shameful fashion with Israel and the United States. Their grovelling is described in grim detail. The process, though few accepted it at the time, began with the much-trumpeted Oslo Accords, described by Edward Said in the LRB at the time as a ‘Palestinian Versailles'. Even he would have been taken aback by the sheer scale of what the PLO leadership agreed to surrender: virtually everything except their own salaries. Their weaknesses, inadequacies and cravenness are now in the public domain.

From The Blog
11 December 2010

Last year’s recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize escalated the war in Afghanistan a few weeks after receiving the prize. The award surprised even Obama. This year the Chinese government were foolish to make a martyr of the president of Chinese PEN and neo-con Liu Xiaobo. He should never have been arrested, but the Norwegian politicians who comprise the committee, led by Thorbjørn Jagland, a former Labour prime minister, wanted to teach China a lesson. And so they ignored their hero’s views. Or perhaps they didn’t, given that their own views are not dissimilar. The committee thought about giving Bush and Blair a joint peace prize for invading Iraq but a public outcry forced a retreat. For the record, Liu Xiaobo has stated publicly that in his view:

From The Blog
3 December 2010

The Wikileaks confirm what we already know about Af-Pak. Pakistan is a US satrapy: its military and political leaders constitute a venal elite happy to kill and maim its people at the behest of a foreign power. The US proconsul in Islamabad, Anne Patterson, emerges as a shrewd diplomat, repeatedly warning her country of the consequences in Pakistan if they carry on as before. Amusing but hardly a surprise is Zardari reassuring the US that if he were assassinated his sister, Faryal Talpur, would replace him and all would continue as before. Always nice to know that the country is regarded by its ruler as a personal fiefdom.

From The Blog
26 October 2010

Arundhati Roy is both loathed and feared by the Indian elite. Loathed because she speaks her mind. Feared because her voice reaches the world outside India and damages the myths perpetrated by New Delhi regardless of which party holds power. She often annoys the official Indian Left because she writes and speaks of events for which they are either responsible or of which they dare not speak. Roy will not allow her life to be subjugated by lies. She never affects a courage or contempt she does not feel. Her campaigns against injustice are undertaken with no view to either fame or profit. Hence the respect awarded her by the poor, ordinary citizens, who know the truth but are not allowed a voice in the public sphere. The authorities can’t buy her silence. One of the few voices in India who has spoken loudly against the continuing Indian atrocities in Kashmir, she is now being threatened.

From The Blog
1 September 2010

The mood in Pakistan is bitter, angry and vengeful. Effigies of Salman Butt have been burned, his name has been painted on donkeys and the no-ball bowlers are being violently abused all over the country. Demands that the corrupt cricketers be hanged in public are gaining ground. Among younger members of the elite there is shock that Butt (educated at a posh school) has let the side down. Mohammad Amir they could understand since he’s from a poor family. The blindness of this cocooned layer of young Pakistanis is hardly a surprise, but popular anger should not be underestimated. The no-ballers and their captain will need round-the-clock security when they return. Much better to take a long holiday abroad (surely they can afford it) and let tempers cool. There is enough evidence already for them to be suspended, if not by the neck.

From The Blog
24 August 2010

A friend in Afghanistan reminded me of what might have been had the West used Najibullah, the Afghan president abandoned by the Soviet Union, as their pawn rather than green-lighting the Pakistan-backed Taliban take-over of the country. In this last desperate interview with the New York Times in March 1992, a few months before he was toppled and hanged by the Taliban, Najibullah warned: If fundamentalism comes to Afghanistan, war will continue for many more years... Afghanistan will turn into a center of world smuggling for narcotic drugs.

From The Blog
10 August 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 Bush’ was the headline in the News. The report continued:

From The Blog
24 June 2010

General Stanley McChrystal's kamikaze interview had the desired effect. He was sacked and replaced by his boss General David Petraeus. But behind the drama in Washington is a war gone badly wrong and no amount of sweet talk can hide this fact. The loathing for Holbrooke (a Clinton creature) goes deep not because of his personal defects, of which there are many, but because his attempt to dump Karzai without a serious replacement angered the generals. Aware that the war is unwinnable, they were not prepared to see Karzai fall: without a Pashtun point man in the country the collapse might reach Saigon proportions. All the generals are aware that the stalemate is not easy to break, but desirous of building reputations and careers and experimenting with new weapons and new strategies (real war games are always appealing to the military provided the risks are small) they have obeyed orders despite disagreements with each other and the politicians.

Anyone for gulli-danda?

Tariq Ali, 15 July 1999

The cricket matches I grew up with in the Indian subcontinent during the Forties and Fifties lasted five days. The players were dressed in immaculate white or off-white flannels, the ball was dark red and the spectators were well-dressed and sedate. It was no different in the West Indies: English cricket was everywhere the model. Our heroes were the great English batsmen and bowlers of the time. There were great Australians, too, but, we joked, they were only Englishmen twice removed – once from prison and once from England.

Islamabad remains the official capital, but these days real power in Pakistan is exercised from the Punjabi capital of Lahore. This city, dry, warm and abundant, where I spent the first 20 years of my life and which I still love, is always changing, usually for the worse. The old Mall at its lower end, near Kim’s Gun, was once the haunt of bohemians of every sort. Poets, artists, left-wing intellectuals, film directors could be seen at their tables in the Coffee House, cursing the dictator of the day or discussing the merits of blank verse as they dipped their samosas in a mint-chilli compote and sipped tea throughout the month of Ramadan. That was more than thirty years ago. Queen Victoria’s statue, which once sat in front of the Punjab Assembly building, has long since gone. Some imaginative soul decided to replace history with fantasy. A giant stone Koran is poised precariously on the plinth where the Queen once sat.

From The Blog
6 April 2010

Never a quiet moment in the dear Fatherland. I'm not referring to the bombing of the US Consulate in Peshawar, which is hardly a surprise given the intensity of US drone attacks in recent weeks. On other fronts there are some interesting developments. Parliament has taken away all the president's powers, repealing the amendments introduced by previous military dictators. As if on cue the Supreme Court summoned the attorney general and asked him to provide the court with all the papers relating to the Swiss case against Zardari and his late wife regarding money-laundering and corruption. The Law Ministry refused to part with the documents. The attorney general informed the court and resigned in protest. Some spin doctor or other must have advised the president that a counter move was necessary to restore his image. Zardari announced that after his death all his organs, indeed 'his whole body' would be donated to the nation. When the news was reported on Pak Point, readers had a field day. A few of these comments convey the tone of the rest. Let nobody doubt Zardari's popularity:

From The Blog
18 March 2010

It's one of those ironies of history: a by-product of the clerical revolution in Iran was the emergence of a new wave of Iranian cinema. Kiarostami became the most celebrated auteur in the west, but he was part of a much larger creative and critical community. They view each other’s work at rough-cut stage, they comment on scripts, they suggest actors: there is a strong sense of solidarity. The cinematic language is varied, the interior destiny of each filmmaker is different, but even the self-contained Makhmalbaf family benefits from being part of a larger group. Watching their work one can see the influences that stretch from Rossellini, Fellini and Godard to Kurosawa, Ray and Hou Hsia-hsien. I’ve always regarded one of this group, Jafar Panahi, as the country’s most fearless filmmaker.

From The Blog
14 January 2010

With the historical memory of the country virtually non-existent it's good to know there are a few wise heads still around at the BBC who are, at least, aware of what's going on in the world even if they can't share this knowledge with viewers who pay to keep the BBC going as a public service. Adam Curtis's documentaries are usually very good but he makes only one or two a year. Why on earth he isn't given a weekly late-night history slot escapes me. Time surely for BBC viewers to organise a petition or threaten a licence-fee boycott if the Corporation continues to degenerate. In the meantime read Curtis's blog and learn about Yemen.

From The Blog
6 January 2010

P.J.Tobia’s photographs of these monstrous buildings in Kabul convey only part of the horror. Their location is not too far from the slum dwellings that house the poor of the city, sans water, sans electricity, sans sewage, sans everything. A young photo-journalist from Philadelphia, Tobia supplied the captions and writes on True/Slant:

From The Blog
23 July 2009

Following the Diary I wrote in the last issue of theLRB I received a number of angry emails. One reader was annoyed that I was sceptical regarding the rumours of Zardari’s involvement in his wife’s assassination. I was sent a link to a video showing one of Benazir's main bodyguards, Khalid Shahenshah, behaving most oddly in the minutes before her death.

Letter

Our Man

10 May 2007

Shashi Tharoor protests too much (Letters, 16 August). My recollection of our conversation is unchanged, perhaps because I have no desire to become the secretary-general of the UN.
Letter
Tariq Ali writes: Steven Wilkinson is correct to reprimand me for my short-hand formula on events in Junagadh and Hyderabad. Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, encouraged the Nawab of Junagadh to disregard the views of his subjects, much to the annoyance of the Indian leaders. On Partition casualties, I remain unconvinced. Most of those who died in the Punjab and Bengal were from the...

Baseball’s Loss: The Unstoppable Hugo Chávez

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 1 November 2007

In Venezuela at the end of June, Evo Morales, Hugo Chávez and Diego Maradona, three heroes of the people in Latin America, kicked off the Copa América. Morales, pleased with his...

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I prefer to be an Ottoman: Tariq Ali

Justin Huggler, 30 November 2000

No country in the Islamic world has embraced the West as eagerly as Turkey has, which makes it an intriguing setting for the third novel in Tariq Ali’s Islamic Quartet: a series of...

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I was just beginning to write about 1968 when I learned of the death in New Orleans of Ron Ridenhour, the GI who exposed the massacre at My Lai. He was only 52, which means that he was in his...

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Here is a little family

Amit Chaudhuri, 9 July 1992

The narrator of After Silence is Max Fischer, the famous cartoonist. At the Los Angeles County Museum, where his work is on display, his life collides with that of Lily Aaron, a divorcee with a...

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When students ruled the earth

D.A.N. Jones, 17 March 1988

Twenty years is a long time in politics. To me, the flavour of the year 1968 is still ‘anti-Fascism’. The meanings of ‘Fascism’ and ‘National Socialism’ are...

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