Born in western India on November 24, 1959, Suzanna Arundhati Roy is a writer who first gained fame in 1997 with her debut novel, The God of Small Things, a semi-autobiographical story that sold over 6 million copies, was translated into some 40 languages, and won Roy the coveted Booker Prize. All of Roy’s subsequent books were non-fiction until the 2017 publication of her second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Over the years, Roy has become particularly renowned for her scathing condemnations of America, capitalism, and globalization.
In a September 29, 2001 article titled “The Algebra of Infinite Justice,” Roy claimed that “the stygian anger that led to the [9/11] attacks has its taproot … in the U.S. government’s record of commitment and support to … military and economic terrorism, insurgency, military dictatorship, religious bigotry and unimaginable genocide”; that the U.S. government “will use the climate of [post-9/11] war as an excuse to curtail civil liberties,… harass ethnic and religious minorities, cut back on public spending, and divert huge amounts of money to the defense industry”; that “the September 11 attacks were a monstrous calling card … signed by the ghosts of the [millions of] victims of America’s old wars”; and that Osama bin Laden was “sculpted from the spare rib of a world laid to waste by America’s foreign policy: its gunboat diplomacy, its nuclear arsenal, its vulgarly stated policy of ‘full-spectrum dominance’, its chilling disregard for non- American lives, its barbarous military interventions, its support for despotic and dictatorial regimes, [and] its merciless economic agenda that has munched through the economies of poor countries like a cloud of locusts.”
A month later, Roy wrote an article stating that the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan was “not revenge” for 9/11, but rather, was “yet another [American] act of terror against the people of the world,” whom America had historically chosen to “dominate, humiliate and subjugate – usually in the service of America’s real religion, the ‘free market.’”
In her 2001 book, Power Politics, Roy writes that “terrorism is the symptom, not the disease,” and that it marches “arm in arm with the project of corporate globalism.” She adds that America’s military response to the 9/11 attacks will only “spawn more anger and more terror across the world,” because “for every ‘terrorist’ or his ‘supporter’ who is killed, hundreds of innocent people are being killed, too”; that it is “absurd” even to “toy with the notion that [a government] can stamp out terrorism with more violence and oppression,” because “one country’s terrorist is too often another’s freedom fighter”; that George W. Bush and his allies were “cowardly baby killers, water poisoners, and pusillanimous long-distance bombers” who posed the “greatest threat to the world”; that Bush and Osama bin Laden were “twins … blurring into one another and gradually becoming interchangeable”; that not even al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, or “all the other despots” around the world were “in the same league” as Bush and his allies, in terms of how evil they were; that the war on terror was “not only about oil,” but was also “about a superpower’s self-destructive impulse towards supremacy, stranglehold, [and] global hegemony”; and that the conflict in Iraq was ultimately a “racist war” that “engenders racism in everybody.”
In a September 2002 speech, Roy lamented that “the poor are getting poorer, and the rich richer,” as a result of “the free market,” which she described as “a fertile breeding ground for terrible things: cultural nationalism, religious bigotry, fascism and, of course, terrorism.” “All these march arm in arm with corporate globalization,” she argued. By Roy’s calculus, America’s brand of “twenty-first-century market capitalism” – which aims to create “a world run by a handful of greedy bankers and CEOs who [sic] nobody elected” – will “fail for the same reasons” as “Soviet-style communism failed”: “not because it was intrinsically evil, but because it was flawed. It allowed too few people to usurp too much power.”
In her January 2003 article, “Confronting Empire,” Roy claimed that “killing people to save them from dictatorship or ideological corruption is … an old U.S. government sport.”
At the 2004 World Social Forum, Roy characterized the U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein‘s Baathist regime as a duel between two equally despicable serial killers. “To applaud the U.S. army’s capture of Saddam Hussein and therefore, in retrospect, justify its invasion and occupation of Iraq is like deifying Jack the Ripper for disemboweling the Boston Strangler,” she said.
In an August 2004 speech titled “Power Politics in the Age of Empire, Roy derided the U.S. government, as well as “the corporate media and Hollywood,” for weaving an “elaborate web of paranoia” whereby “ordinary Americans have been manipulated into imagining they are a people under siege whose sole refuge and protector is their government. If it isn’t the Communists, it’s al-Qaeda. If it isn’t Cuba, it’s Nicaragua.” “As a result of this,” said Roy, “the most powerful nation in the world–with its unmatchable arsenal of weapons, its history of having waged and sponsored endless wars, and the only nation in history to have actually used nuclear bombs–is peopled by a terrified citizenry, jumping at shadows. A people bonded to the state not by social services or public health care or employment guarantees, but by fear. This synthetically manufactured fear is used to gain public sanction for further acts of aggression.” Further, Roy denounced the Iraq War as “an illegal invasion,” a “brutal occupation in the name of liberation,” and a pretext for “the shameless appropriation of [Iraq’s] wealth and resources by corporations allied to the occupation.” “As the rift between the rich and poor grows,” said Roy, “as the need to appropriate and control the world’s resources to feed the great capitalist machine becomes more urgent, the unrest will only escalate.”
In November 2004, Roy was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize. In her acceptance lecture, she denounced globalization and American “imperialism.” She also accused the U.S. of “butchering” the Iraqi people and lamented that “the ‘civilized’ ‘modern’ world — built painstakingly on a legacy of genocide, slavery and colonialism — now controls most of the world’s oil … weapons … money, and … media.”
In June 2005, Roy was a guest speaker at the World Tribunal on Iraq, a mock “war crimes” trial held in Istanbul, Turkey, which produced a joint declaration backing the Iraqi insurgency. Said Roy at the Tribunal: “[W]e do seem to live in a world where the United States of America has defined an enemy combatant [as] someone whom they can kidnap from any country, from anyplace in the world, and take for trial to America. An enemy combatant seems to be anybody who harbors thoughts of resistance. Well, if this is the definition, then I, for one, am an enemy combatant.”
Roy resides in Delhi, India, where she continues to write and speak out on a wide array of issues.
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