Book Review: Bush in Babylon

coverThe invasion of Iraq by the coalition forces has upset many people all over the world for various reasons. But for Tariq Ali, the Pakistani writer and playright, it is not just the invasion of Iraq that is wrong, but almost everything on this planet Earth. His book Bush in Babylon: The Recolonisation of Iraq is an expression of his anger.
He writes that this event is a turning point in World History and is a part of the two-hundred year old war waged by the North against the South. After that he fails to explain what is this North and South he is talking about. Also first of all he declares that he is not one of those guys who believe that every disaster that has fallen in the Arab world is the result of Western intervention. This is like Fox News saying it is Fair and Balanced because the cover of the book is a picture of a child urinating on an American solider.
But even if your forgive that image as the work of an over enthusiastic publisher, the contents of the book do not change your impression. He claims to be impartial and says that he gets regular mails from both Israel and Palestine, but they just turn out to be letters about acts of violence committed by Israelis. Apparently the innocent Israeli civilians killed by the Palestinian suicide bombers never wrote him a letter.
Then for some reason he gets obsessed with jackals. Everyone in the world is a jackal. He quotes some poets who wrote against the occupation. People who criticised the poets were cursed jackals. The Iraqi Governing Council is a bunch of jackals. The jackal obsession is carried throughout the book till the end and he makes predictions like “the jackals and their masters will fail”.
No book on Iraq is complete without its history. So Tariq Ali writes a few chapters on which the world is composed of Communists, Communist Poets, British imperialists and Ba’athists. There were no Shias, Sunnis or Kurds in any major activities. He goes on touting the virtues of the Communist Party and how they were ruthlessly destroyed by Saddam Hussein. There are also many pictures of these martyred communists and Mr. Ali laments that this was not covered by a single American newspaper.

Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait is just glossed over and Mr. Ali spends lot of time criticizing United States for fighting the most one sided war in history. The only image that remained with him after the war was that of the murdererd Iraqi soldiers.
At the end of the book I understood that he was angry at almost everything in the planet, Israel, America, Jews, New York Times, Musharraf, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, France, Germany, Russia and even Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of India’s Gujarat state. He then starts the name calling as in “white men speak with forked tongue” and British Press Secretary as the head of ministry of propoganda.
If a person like him believes that America is responsible for everything wrong in the world, he is no better than the madrassa students in Indonesia, whom Thomas Friedman interviewed. He is also no different from the folks at the World Social Forum which wasted lot of money to criticize every living thing in the planet, but could not come up with a signle suggestion to improve the conditions of people. It would have been a reasonable book had it been more balanced in the coverage of the autrocities committed by Saddam Hussein against his own people, and the lack of freedom in the Arab countries. It would have been better if he had concentrated his attention on the initial sell of the war as a search for WMD which were never found.
Some of his information is based on images he saw on the Internet (that of American GIs looting Baghdad Museum). Some of the information is what he chose to believe. The Communist are taken at face value while statements by Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and Tony Blair are rejected without any argument. The book lacks focus and turns out sad effort by a disgruntled communist who sees the whole world around him collapsing.