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3.2 out of 5 stars
Bush in Babylon
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18 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 2 January 2004
The strengths of the book are obvious: (a) unlike so many academic books it is written in lucid and elegant prose which makes it immensely readable and passionate (b) it provides one with a startling history of Iraq which puts the Baathist dictatorship in a proper perspective. to read it is to climb a mountain from which one can view a wide terrain of history, ideas and shared experiences. Like 'Clash of Fundamentalisms' it is the author's personal response to history, politics and literature which makes the book a rich combination of history, anecdote and autobiography. (c) it introduces the reader to the great poets of Iraq (of which I, for one, was totally ignorant) and the richness of intellectual life before and during the dictatorship (d) it confirms my strong opposition to the war even though I'm less optimistic than the author regarding the Resistance. I think the Americans are digging in for a long stay, but I hope I'm wrong. I feel a sense of gratitude that I could share the author's journey through time, culture and history. Now I'll turn to his novels.
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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 28 December 2003
I picked up this book at Heathrow Airport and read it on a plane journey from London to Amman, from where I went to Baghdad. To my astonishment the book was being sold in the black market. I was there as a consultant to a US firm wishing to invest. The book opened my eyes. I had no idea of the scale of the resistance against the British and after some weeks in Baghdad and Najaf it became clear to me that the Iraqi people , minus the Kurdish tribal groups, are very hostile to the Occupation. Saddam's arrest and his co-operation with the US has enraged many in the South. This book helped me to understand why. What makes it different from the others books on the subject is that it is a serious history, not lightweight journalism hurriedly collected into a book. His account of the Baath terror, the tragedy of the Iraqi Communist Party, the role of the Army and, above all the wonderful poets of Iraq makes this is a very vital book, even for those who support the war. I have not read anything by this author before and had not even heard of him, but I will now read Clash of Fundamentalisms as well, despite the fact that in it he defends atheism (I am a believer). But where he is correct is in pointing out that the Western-style modernity imposed by war and economic policies will not work in the Arab world. I experienced this in Iraq. I had to warn the company that hired me that it would not be safe for them to function in an occupied country with a resistance that grows every month.
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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 29 December 2003
I am an Iranian, who lost a brother in the Iraq-Iran war unleashed by Saddam Hussein, armed and backed by the US and Britain. I found this book haunting. The exiled poets of Iraq introduced to us in Bush in Babylon remind me of the great Iranian poet, Shamlu. But the book teaches more than poetry. It is a sharp critique of western imperialism and corrupt and dictatorial Arab regimes. The author believes that the best way for dictators to be removed is by their own people. Imperialist interventions never solve any real problems of local people and are carried out to serve US interests or British interests. And to wage war the politicians tell lies. This is all true.
My only criticism is that the book needed another section on the Shia population of Southern Iraq and their organisations. This sector will be decisive in winning back real freedom for Iraq and with Saddam's capture the activity against the occupation army has already increased in Najaf and Kerbela. I have recommended this book to many of my friends.
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 21 August 2005
I haven't read this book yet, it's on my wish list, but if it is anything like Ali's Clash of Fundamentalisms or the other numerous articles and interviews I have read with him, I am sure it will certainly be an enjoyable and enlightening read.
I find it interesting that of the four reviews above only one bothers to focus on Ali's book (and this is from a person who seems to agree with him, so doesn't need to present her political views - an interesting review though), the other three reviewers lambast it by presenting us with their own views. This cannot be helpful for people who are thinking of buying the book. Amazon tells us that when reviewing to: "Please focus your comments on the item's content and features." So please do so.
Was this review helpful? Probably not, but hopefully the rest will be.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 25 April 2013
The work is sharp and witty. 'Baby' Bush's adventures in Babylone are well recounted and assessed for their utter folly. His 'Mission accomplished' slogan will haunt the Western economies for decades and traumatise Western political systems too.

America and her blind allies must wake up to the fact that democracy is not for export but for practice at home.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 November 2014
I have bought this as a present for someone and hope they enjoy it. I liked the review I read of the book and all I'd read concerning Tariq Ali.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 June 2011
I was not sure what to expect as my only other Tariq Ali books were regarding Pakistani politics. He has adhered to his style and made the facts a pleasurable reading. Very thought provoking.
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6 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 2 January 2004
Tariq Ali has set out to present a case that there has been a consistent pattern of "resistance to imperialism" in Iraq over the past 80 years or so. In doing so, he selectively presents a series of poetry and selectively presents political history in order to exaggerate the strength and importance of the Iraqi Communist Party.
Reality is far, far more complex. Far from being "tribal groups", for example, the Kurdish parties are relatively sophisticated, as is the Supreme Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, both of which supported the US intervention against Saddam, although they did so guardedly.
It is important to point out the dangers of the "neo-conservative" clique running the White House, but this should not lead us to conclude, with Tariq Ali, that the ex-Baathists and al-Qaeda people now blowing up Iraqis (as well as American soldiers) are somehow noble "resistors".
Form my own visits to Baghdad and other parts of Iraq this year, I would say that most people against the Americans leaving too soon. They want some kind of stable political structure in place first. Tariq Ali has nothing to say about this.
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2 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 4 July 2005
It's amusing to read the reviews of the "house Arabs" who write in support of the American occupation. These paid agents of the United States piously wring their hands at the occupation of Iraq, but then go on to say that the Iraqi government (in its present incarnation) is better than nothing, and the insurgents should not resist the Americans. Instead they should meekly bow their heads and assume the role of a conquered,beaten people, a role these syncophants of the United States know so well. Their point about the suffering of the Kurds and the Shia under Sadaam is correct. But the Kurds now seem more interested in building an independent state than participating in a new Iraq, and the Shia feel that the hour has finally arrived for them to take control of the Iraqi state. If everybody has an agenda, consisting basically of advancing their own interests-often at the expense of other groups-then why should one group be singled out? Not to mention the fact that both the Kurds and the Shia have their own militias which presumably are ready for action if called upon. To attempt to create the impression that the Iraqi people are in love with the occupation and welcome the presence of the Americans seems to me to be absurd and an attempt at propaganda.
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4 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Tariq Ali’s 'The Coming British Revolution', written around 1969, seems to have slipped out of print. But reading 'Bush in Babylon', it’s interesting to see how little of Mr Ali’s worldview has changed, even if his hopes have switched from Britain to Iraq.
Although Leon Trotsky is not in ‘Bush and Babylon’, the old Trotskyist argument is - even if it's just as wrong. If only the Iraqi Communist Party had been prepared to seize power in 1958/9, then the revolution would have succeeded and everything would have been different.
The real point of the book is to slam the imperialists – Bush, Blair etc – and Mr Ali makes some very telling points (although many of them will be meaningful only to people who follow the political debates in the US and Europe). He also quotes some attractive Arab poetry.
But his desire to support those currently “resisting” (by, let us remember, blowing up the Red Cross in Baghdad, or killing 80 people leaving Friday prayers outside the mosque of Imam Ali in Najaf) leads to the unpleasant, and trademark, Trotskyist condemnation of anyone who doesn’t fit the rather simplistic world-view.
Those Iraqis who supported – however guardedly – the US war are, says Mr Ali, “carefully chosen quislings”. Mr Ali, from the comfort of London, is hereby condemning men like Adbul-Aziz Hakim who has seen 18 members of his family killed by Saddam. Or Hoshyar Zebari, the interim foreign minister, whose two brothers were murdered. Or many, many more who are trying to build a new Iraq in the real world rather than in a Trotskyist fantasy factory.
There is a nastiness and arrogance in Tariq Ali’s writing that are deeply sinister. One can argue that the Iraqi writer Kanan Makiya was wrong to argue for US involvement, but is he really a “member of an imperial freemasonry”? What does such a cheap snide show about Mr Ali's attitude to Makiya's painstaking acount of the Anfal, when the Baathist regime killed 180,000 Kurds in 1988-90?
Those interested in human rights in Iraq would do well to read Makiya’s “Cruelty and Silence” and judge for themselves. It's far better, and more humane book than this one. For the real poetry is in the pity.
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