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Bush in Babylon:
Tariq Ali is a novelist, essayist, and BBC commentator who was among the best-known radical student leaders in late 1960s Britain. One of the ways he distinguishes himself from his anti-war contemporaries is via prodigious and multidisciplinary cultural knowledge; he once collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Derek Jarman on a film about the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, for instance. Bush in Babylon benefits greatly from such knowledge. The book is essentially a harsh critique of the way the Bush administration has dealt with Iraq in the wake of 9-11, referred to as "corporate looting." The most captivating chapter centers on the history of Iraqi resistance as exemplified in poetry made by Iraqis in exile. Ali translates important contemporary works by poets who left during Hussein's regime but are still denied entry back into Iraq by Coalition forces. These are works that have traveled from the Internet to the oral tradition, to become instant spoken-word hits, and they provide a fascinating glimpse into the Iraqi situation that one cannot simply find in a daily newspaper in the West or on CNN. Ali's biggest fault is an undisguised disgust for the "imperialist" United States government. When he lists the casualties in Hiroshima and Nagasaki alongside those in Vietnam with no discussion of the difference between the two events, he alienates many potential fans of his important work. Bush in Babylon has a lot going for it, despite a polemical tone which invariably grates as one marches through this smart, well-researched book. --Mike McGonigal [via]