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TARIQ ALI Printer Friendly Page

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April 25, 2005

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  • Author and anti-war activist 
  • Advisory Board member for Occupation Watch
  • Supports the “resistance” in post-war Iraq

Tariq Ali was born in October 1943 in Lahore, which was then part of British-ruled India and is now located in Pakistan. Raised by parents who were both atheists and communists, Ali grew to share these traits with them. While attending Government College, which was part of Punjab University, Ali was elected President of the Young Students' Union. He was banned from participating in student politics, however, after he led several public demonstrations against Pakistan's military dictatorship.

Following his graduation from Government College, his parents, fearful that their volatile son's growing radicalism might cause him to be arrested, sent him abroad to Britain's Exeter College to study Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. At Exeter, Ali joined the University Labour Club and its Socialist Group, and he became President of the Oxford Union in 1965. Developing a reputation for his passionate anti-Americanism, during the Vietnam War era he debated such notables as U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and British Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart. Also at this time, Ali joined the Trotskyist party and became involved with the leftwing newspaper The Black Dwarf and the British political journal New Left Review.

As the 1970s began, Ali openly embraced Leninism and became a leader of the International Marxist Group as well as a member of the International Executive Committee of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, a leadership body that sought to unify all existing Communist parties around the globe. “The way capitalist politics is functioning,” Ali says today, “is increasingly authoritarian, designed not to wipe out, perhaps, but completely to marginalize dissenting voices.” In recent decades, he has focused his energies on writing books and newspaper articles about the social and political issues of the day. In 1990 he published his first novel, Redemption, a satire recounting the disillusionment of the Trotskyists after the fall of the Soviet Union. In Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity -- a collection of essays released in book form in 2002 -- Ali blames U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "For the past sixty years and more," said Ali in 2002, "the United States has toppled democratic leaders, bombed countries in three continents and used nuclear weapons against Japanese civilians, but it never knew what it felt like to have its own cities under attack. Now [as a result of 9/11] they [Americans] know." 

In 2004, Ali published his book Bush in Babylon: The Recolonization of Iraq, which uses poetry and disassociated rants to condemn the the War in Iraq. In 2007, Ali penned the introduction to Fidel Castro’s The Declarations of Havana (Revolutions). He has also done some work as a broadcaster for the BBC and has co-produced stage plays and a film. 

An Advisory Board member for Iraq Occupation Watch, Ali is a supporter of the "resistance" in Iraq and has called for the killing of U.S. troops stationed there. Intimating that the 9/11 attacks had given America a taste of its own medicine, Ali made his goals explicit in the May-June 2003 issue of New Left Review. There, he forecast that "the invaders of Iraq will eventually be harried out of the country by a growing national reaction to the occupation regime they install." He further expressed his hope that America's "collaborators may meet the fate of Nuri Said before them" -- a reference to the mangled corpse of the former British-installed Iraqi Prime Minister being dragged through the streets by his killers.

In 2003, Ali was a signatory to a letter entitled “To the Conscience of the World,” which alleged not only that the “international order has been violated” by the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but also that America was working to undermine Cuba’s “self-determination” as a pretext to launching an invasion there. Other signers of the letter included Leslie Cagan, Rigoberta Menchu, Robert Jensen, Noam Chomsky, William Blum, Danny Glover, Tanya Reinhart, and Harry Belafonte.

In August 2006, Ali signed a letter condemning Israel’s military effort (which the letter characterized as a “war crime” and a “massacre”) against the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah. Denouncing also what they called the “state terror” that Israel was inflicting on Palestinians “in the Gaza ghetto,” Ali and his fellow signatories pledged their “solidarity and support to the victims of this brutality and to those who mount a resistance against it.” Other signers included John Pilger, Gore Vidal, Richard Falk, Anthony Arnove, Joel Beinin, Alexander Cockburn, Ilan Pappe, Harold Pinter, Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Tanya Reinhart, Stephen Zunes, and Howard Zinn.

On July 8, 2005, Ali penned an article blaming the West's (and Israel's) alleged mistreatment of Muslims worldwide for the previous day's terrorist bombings of some London subway trains. He wrote: "The principal cause of this violence is the violence that is being inflicted on the people of the Muslim world. ... And unless this is recognized the horrors will continue. … The real solution lies in immediately ending the occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.”

“Ever since 9/11,” Ali added, “I have been arguing that the 'war against terror' is immoral and counterproductive. It sanctions the the use of state terror -- bombing raids, tortures, countless civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq -- against Islamo-anarchists whose numbers are small, but whose reach is deadly. The solution ... is political, not military.”


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