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Atlantic Free Press Book Reviews
Book Reviews from Atlantic Free Press Writers and Bloggers 





Quicksand: America's Pursuit of Power in the Middle East - Book Review by Jim Miles
Saturday, 19 June 2010 14:50

From first impression to last impression this book, like its title Quicksand, is deceptive. Even the first physical impression, the physical structure of the book itself - its glossy pages and high quality binding - is designed to impress the reader. Initially the history is written powerfully and revealingly, highlighting information that I have not encountered within other histories of U.S. imperial adventures in the Middle East.

However as the story unfolds, particularly in the final third of the book, a different sense akin to déjà vu surfaces, as the history becomes more of a current events crisis without the in-depth analysis and critique that should have accompanied it. The end result is that instead of discussing the general Middle East geopolitical context and the power of the Israeli lobby within the U.S. - not to mention the lack of global context within the over-riding imperial intent of the United States since its inception - and there are many texts that support that analysis - the history ends leaving a feeling that, well, yes, the U.S. has made some mistakes in their relationships in the Middle East, but their intentions were good.

As well, the book ends with the Iraq war and only the briefest of mention of post Iraq war events (of course the war continues, a downgraded insurgency struggle) that should have been covered in a work with a 2010 publication date. The final section “Conclusion” provides very little in the way of substantive answers and only reinforces the déjà vu sensation of too little analysis of supposedly good intentions.


The last impression of the work is of a poorly analysed position, or more correctly, one viewed through the rose coloured lenses of U.S. beneficence and magnanimity towards the world in general. It begins by reviewing the Iranian situation, using language with either an obvious bias or an obvious ignorance - perhaps both - as the “Iranian security forces are taking their cues from the shah and SAVAK; because the shah was so gentle, he fell.” Oh…really!?? From that interesting and singular interpretation, Wawro then goes briefly into Iran’s nuclear program and “Iran’s curious animosity toward Israel,” as it makes “Israeli pre-emption or massive retaliation inevitable.” Yet there is no reminder at this point of U.S. machinations in the region, nor the U.S.’s strange ‘alliance’ with Israel, nor the double standard that allows Israel to have all the nuclear power in the region outside of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) while Iran is working legally within the NPT.

Then there is a quick turn to the AfPak war where “polls reveal (at last!) that al-Queda and the Taliban are unpopular,” without revealing the polls in Pakistan that the U.S. influence and presence are well below ‘unpopular’ and considered by the vast majority to be at the root of many of the regions problems.






Beyond Fundamentalism - Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization - Book Review by Jim Miles
Friday, 04 June 2010 05:32
by Jim Miles

Beyond Fundamentalism - Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization. Reza Aslan. Random House, New York.

I first encountered Reza Aslan on the Jon Stewart Show and was somewhat perturbed by his interview - unfortunately I have not been able to retrieve that reference on the internet, but it did intrigue me and led me to purchasing his book Beyond Fundamentalism. More than likely that was what his intentions originally were for, to promote purchase and readership of his latest book, originally published as “How to Win a Cosmic War.”

At first appearances the writing seemed highly sensationalized, presenting definitions about the differences between holy wars and ‘cosmic’ wars as if there was a substantial difference between the two. That a “cosmic war is a religious war,” does not seem to offer much differentiation to that of a holy war. That cosmic warriors “are fighting a war of the imagination,” seems all too obvious, either from a secular perspective without a god, or from a religious perspective in which the image and reality of god are often described as unknown realities to mere humans.

However, as the introduction develops it becomes more grounded in reality than philosophy, and discusses the 9/11 attacks as being a “declaration of war” for a “war already in progress…raging between the forces of good and evil…It was an invitation that America’s own cosmic warriors were more than willing to accept.” Aslan accepts the validity of the Muslim grievances, that the “Palestinians really are suffering under Israeli occupation. Arab dictators are in fact propped up by U.S. policies. The Muslim world truly does have reason to feel under attack….” His ultimate statement, one that unfortunately is not reiterated in the rest of the book, is “there is only one way to win a cosmic war: refuse to fight in it.”

Jihadists and Judaism.

The concept of jihad is presented in the first chapter, its various attributes and definitions concerning lesser and greater jihad, leads into a discussion of the development of the “near enemy” and the “far enemy.”

Following that, Aslan very briefly discusses the development of Jewish fundamentalism and the Zionist movement originating in nineteenth century Europe where the rise of nationalism coincided with the rise of anti-Semitism, where the Jews represented an “alien culture” that had “yet to sufficiently assimilate into European society.” Aslan does not identify that Zionism also developed in this milieu of proto-nationalism and Christian identity of the Jews as the ‘other’, outcasts from their society.

His brief history is generally accurate and leads to a concluding statement that “There remains today no more potent symbol of injustice in the Muslim imagination than the suffering of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.” He emphasizes however that the real grievance for the jihadists is between the forces of good and evil, to be enjoined by “all Muslims, Jews, and Christians - three faith communities with long and deeply ingrained traditions of cosmic warfare.”





My Stroke of Insight - A brain scientist's personal journey - Book Review by Kéllia Ramares
Friday, 14 May 2010 05:56
by Kéllia Ramares

    I have heard doctors say, “If you don't have your abilities back by six months after your stroke, then you won't get them back!” Believe me, this is not true. I noticed significant improvement in my brain's ability to learn and function for eight full years post-stroke, at which point I decided my mind and body were totally recovered.

    - Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, My Stroke of Insight, p. 116.

This short book is the amazing first person account of Dr. Taylor's stroke and eight-year path of recovery. In December of 1996, the then-37-year-old neuroanatomist suffered a hemorrhagic stroke from an arteriovenous malformation, a congenital disorder. The hemorrhage flooded the left hemisphere of her brain with blood and created a golfball-sized clot that had to be removed surgically. The stroke left her without the faculties of language, calculation and memory, basically returning her to an infantile state.

The book begins with a short description of her early years, including her brother's diagnosis of schizophrenia, which first got her interested in the workings of the brain. She goes on to describe her education and her associations with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and Harvard University's Brain Bank, a facility that dispenses donated brain tissue to researchers. It was the combination of Dr. Taylor's background in brain science and the fact that the stroke did not render her unconscious that she was able to later record both her brain trauma and its immediate aftermath.

Just before the chapters describing her ordeal, Dr. Taylor presents two chapters of basic brain anatomy to help people understand the various functions of the brain and how they were impaired by her stroke. These chapters are easy and interesting for a layperson to read and although they may be skipped, they shouldn't be. She then describes what happened the morning of the stroke, when she realized what was happening and tried to get help as her cognitive functions were deteriorating.

I learned from reading those chapters two big things: the first was how important it is to be able to reach other people in an emergency. (Dr. Taylor was single and the circumstances of her illness had deprived her of the awareness that her landlady was home, or that 911 could be called for an ambulance). The second was what a shameful excuse for a health care system we have in the United States. As she struggled to get help during this life threatening emergency, Dr. Taylor also worried about where she would get care and how much it would cost:

    [E]ven in this discombobulated state, I felt a nagging obligation to contact my doctor. It was obvious that I would need emergency treatment that would probably be very expensive, and what a sad commentary that even in this disjointed mentality, I knew enough to be worried that my HMO might not cover my costs in the event that I went to the wrong health center for care. (her emphasis) p. 58.

Unfortunately, after having raised this important issue, Dr. Taylor does not resolve it. We never find out to what extent her HMO covered her.





Apocalypse Never: Forging the Path to a Nuclear Weapon-Free World - Book Review by David Swanson
Saturday, 08 May 2010 17:34
by David Swanson

Tad Daley writes, in his new book, "Apocalypse Never: Forging the Path to a Nuclear Weapon-Free World," that he would like his book to have the impact of "Common Sense," "Uncle Tom's Cabin," or "The Jungle." Yeah, buddy, what author wouldn't? But Daley has a unique argument for the moral necessity of sharing his goal and promoting either his book or others like it: our only alternative is the annihilation of all life on earth.

By the time you've read this book, you will in fact be persuaded that if others do not grasp its central points, not just tyranny or slavery or unsafe workplaces will continue, but all trace of humanity and every other life form in the world will be eliminated.

One of those central points is this: we can either eliminate all nuclear weapons or we can watch them proliferate. There's no middle way. We can either have no nuclear weapons states, or we can have many. This is not a moral or a logical point, but a practical observation backed up with enough specifics to convince you of its certainty. As long as some states have nuclear weapons others will desire them, and the more that have them the more easily they will spread to others still. The number of nuclear states has jumped from six to nine since the end of the Cold War, and more are likely.

A second central point is that if nuclear weapons continue to exist, there will very likely be a nuclear catastrophe, and the more the weapons have proliferated, the sooner it will come. Once Daley recounts some of the incidents (there have been hundreds) that have nearly destroyed our world through accident, confusion, misunderstanding, and extremely irrational machismo, you will be amazed that you are currently alive and that anyone else is. And then you'll want to eliminate the chance of such a tragedy playing out in the future, not increase it to the point of near certainty, which is what proliferation does. And when you add in the quite real and increasing possibility of non-state terrorists acquiring and using nuclear weapons, the danger grows dramatically -- and is only increased by the policies of nuclear states that react to terrorism in ways that seem designed to recruit more terrorists.





Tales of the Taliban in their own words - My life with the Taliban - Book Review by Ehsan Azari Ph.D.
Saturday, 01 May 2010 06:11
by Ehsan Azari Ph.D.

My life with the Taliban
By Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef
Scribe Publications, Melbourne, Australia

Like genies of the tales of the Arabian Nights they sprang forth from the wasteland of the post-Russian Afghan civil war. Early one morning in the autumn of 1994 about forty long-bearded mullahs gathered in a tiny mosque in Sangisar of Kandahar known as the White Mosque to found a new religious movement. They had no car or money. An old and noisy Russian motorbike with no exhaust-pipe was their only means of transport. The bike was nicknamed ‘Tank of Islam’ as a reward for its service. Then an unknown man barged into their checkpoint and donated a sack filled with 90 million Afghanis (about A$2 million). “I have donated this money for the sake of God alone. I don’t need anyone to know about it,” this man insisted, “there is no need for a receipt, or for my name to be known.” The following evening the BBC spread the word around the world about the birth of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

With the rise of the Taliban in deeply conservative rural Afghanistan the world’s political map suddenly has changed. The fire-brand religious movement soon began roaming about in swarms, flogging women in bazaars, burning schools, killing musicians, destroying TV sets, cameras and tape recorders. They unleashed a reign of fear in most of the country. The Taliban regime fell in a few weeks, when in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, the US-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001. But in less than one year, the Taliban re-incarnated into an insurgency that is now tenaciously fighting Western and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

This messianic religious movement blended a puritanical spiritual belief with fanatical devotion and thus turned religion into a violent ideology closed in on itself, which has so far failed to find a normal and acceptable presence in the world today. But Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef sets out to present a counter-narrative about the Taliban in his autobiographical book, My Life with the Taliban. The ex-Taliban ambassador in Pakistan remains unrepentant for working with the Taliban after spending four years in Guantánamo Bay, even though he now is living in Kabul far from Taliban. “I was a Talib (singular of plural Taliban), I am a Talib and I will always be a Talib”.

Zaeef (Arabic word meaning weak and humble) trawls through his past, picking up stories from his childhood, his life in the Islamic maddrassas (Islamic schools), his schooling in the Pakistani spy agency ISI (Inter-Service Intelligence), his participation in anti-Russian Jihad, his life during the rise and fall of the Taliban and beyond.





Proving Election Fraud - Book Review by Michael Collins
Wednesday, 21 April 2010 06:41
by Michael Collins

Stock deals are rigged for insiders. Big money runs Congress. And we've gone to war based on a series of calculated lies.

Are you willing to accept the fact that our elections are subject to the same type of corruption?

If you are, then Proving Election Fraud by Richard Charnin pulls back the curtain and exposes the pattern of election fraud over the past four decades. It's not a mystery when your look at the numbers and check them against multiple public sources. The information is all there - if the experts care to look.

Charnin is the widely known internet poster using the name TruthIsAll. He was the first to discover the glaring discrepancies in the 2004 election results shortly after the polls closed. His internet posts on the mathematical impossibility of a Bush victory were critical in fueling the doubts about that election and those that followed.

His many posts are the basis for a consistent narrative and argument using a clearly outlined and heavily quantified analysis. The result is a wealth of information about how elections really work and a methodology (the True Vote Model) that allows the interested reader to check the official results of any national or state election.

Charnin's straightforward style fits his subject matter. For example, early on he makes a powerful point, one of many that appear throughout the book:

"Simple mathematics proves that the 1968, 1988, 2004 and 2008 elections were fraudulent. The returning voter mix required for the Final Exit Poll to match the recorded vote was not just implausible -- it was impossible. In each election, more voters from the prior election returned to vote than were alive. The fact that they were returning Nixon, Bush 1 and Bush 2 voters cannot just be a coincidence. The statistical anomaly has no rational explanation other than election fraud." (p.52)

When the official victory margin includes dead voters and excludes uncounted votes, it's more than reasonable to assume election fraud.

How does Charnin know this? He took the time to correlate pre-election polls, historical (Census) votes cast and recorded, voter mortality, returning voter turnout and national exit poll vote shares. Using this basic information, he calculates the True Vote for each presidential election since 1968. And he debunks the arguments designed to convince us that Bush actually won while the exit polls "behaved badly," including "reluctant Bush responder," "swing/red shift," and "false recall."





Belén Fernández "Coffee with Hezbollah" - Book Review by Mary Rizzo
Wednesday, 21 April 2010 05:16
by Mary Rizzo 
You can purchase Coffee with Hezbollah through Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Coffee-Hezbollah-Belen-Fernandez/dp/0982531478

Before reading the wonderful book by Belén Fernández “Coffee with Hezbollah”, I never would have imagined it possible to read about the post-destruction aftermath of Lebanon and smile at the same time. The pretext alone, a hitchhiking trip from Turkey to southern Lebanon simply “feels” dramatic, especially when the memory of Brides on Tour, was still fresh. Would two young, attractive, independent women meet a better fate than the raped and assassinated Pippa Bacca, travelling in the same way, with each new step being not only a test of their own wits and good fortune, but also a constant surrender to trust in a world wracked by its encounter with the ultimate violence?

Belén and her friend and travelling partner Amelia Opalinska were on the road in much the same way as Che Guevara and Alberto Granata, and it’s not incidental that they recount moments from their adventures in Latin America and Cuba in “Coffee with Hezbollah”. In a similar way to the historically relevant on the road experiences of the revolutionary, conversations described and rapid changes in plan (or even in mood) allowed the reader to feel a sincere interest in the persons they encountered as well as a way to describe the larger paradigm of Lebanon. The people who populate this book, with their idiosyncrasies, their habits, beliefs and expressions, are part of the story, an exchange that appears to these eyes only slightly hampered by needing to resort to “pidgin English” (however, the fact that many of these people spoke some English at all is testament to their desire to reach out to the world). Nevertheless, each conversation and encounter left up to fate brought a new insight, a new interpretation of a fragmented reality.

Reading this book, I often reminded myself that this endeavour, simple on the surface of things, is actually quite complicated if one is a creature of habit or seeks a modicum of security. I kept thinking, “how brave they are,” and “I’d never let my daughter do that,” much in the way Belén describes her own family, Americans who admire the great revolutionary spirit of they find in many people’s struggles. Her parents would boast about this exciting feat to their friends, but exhibit particular paternal worry to her. There is indeed a dynamic of the contradictions, the paradox of wanting something and also wanting something entirely different that the author detects in many of those she describes. It is a description of compassion and love that never, even for five seconds, sinks into banal sentimentalism. There is one moment in the book, where actually, the tragedy of what evil has hit the innocent Lebanese people is all brought home in an admirable piece of narrative journalism. It is an encounter with a family in the south of Lebanon where only the strongest readers might be able to hold back the tears. It is an encounter with Maryam, a young girl whose family could have been “evacuated” with others escaping the bombing raids of Israel, but chose to remain because the elderly members would not be allowed to join them. It is an encounter of such exquisite beauty, innocence, sadness and love that it was well on its way to breaking my heart. Yet, the manner in which this story is told does not tip the hat to cheap emotion, but captures the essence of the kind of suffering, and the “love of life” that is never abandoned by the Lebanese people.

And, as artfully as the drama of this story was told, the author throws us a life-saver and the bittersweet irony of a post-war survival period, with its fears, hopes, black humour and tedium have us back in the passenger seat, waiting to see the next thing, with a few expectations, but not many demands made. In Italy, they would say, “very easy”, and this way of going with the flow of things, looking at the surface but also below it and not imposing one’s own literal or figurative baggage on those who let you hop a ride, keep the unexpected always close at hand, making for absolutely entertaining reading.





My Father Was A Freedom Fighter - Book Review by Jim Miles
Tuesday, 20 April 2010 04:31
by Jim Miles

My Father Was A Freedom Fighter - Gaza’s Untold Story. Ramzy Baroud. Pluto Press, London, 2010.

Ramzy Baroud has written what should become an icon of historical-cultural writing for the people of Palestine. My Father Was a Freedom Fighter is an amazingly powerful and wonderfully well written tapestry of the modern history of Palestine, combining a family history focussed on the individual of Ramzy’s father Mohammed with the overall history of the Jewish-Zionist/Palestinian-Arabic conflict in the area. The latter evolves at two levels: the first as was most visibly seen and understood by Mohammed Ramzy; the second encompasses the larger view of the ‘near’ Middle East as revealed by historical records.

It is a highly emotional read, ranging from bitterness and anger to outright laughter - and books seldom if ever make me laugh. The bitterness and anger is obvious from Mohammed’s personal history of dispossession, poverty, the anxiety for his family and the losses they suffered and endured. It carries over into the larger geopolitical scene where the callousness of the Arabic elites and the Israeli military and political system strikes hard against the resident and dispossessed populations. The humour comes suddenly, revealing the essential spirit of the Baroud family and the people of Gaza in general in face of the violence perpetrated against them on a daily basis. The humour is both subtle and obvious, a combination of the macabre pathos of the situation combined with the undying spirit and resilience of the Palestinian people and Gazans in particular. Simply existing in the face of the imposed hardships becomes a supreme act of defiance in itself.

The Baroud family lived in Beit Daras, a small village north of Gaza, west of Jerusalem, just south of Jaffa. It provided a peaceful and comfortable living for the families that lived there not without the usual travails of life in general. When Mohammed was nine years old, “the Zionist military campaign to take over Palestine rolled into action. No one…was to foresee the atrocities that followed: the uneven war, the dispossession, the massacres, the betrayal, and the lifelong suffering.” Through all this, while everyone suffered, the “children hardly understood why their lives would be forever altered.”

From the brief historical introduction that leads up to that point, the story proceeds through the events that devastated the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. It is a family story, of births, deaths, murders, weddings, love, humour, arguments, anger, and frustration. The story of Mohammed is as unique as his personality that is revealed through the actions he undertakes in order to try and survive, to one day be able to return to the village and home that he had known as a child, a village that was destroyed after a strong yet hopeless resistance against the attacking Zionist military.

The story is also a history of the Palestinian people in general, all of whom suffered similar fates of dispossession and the imposed military law of the Israelis people. The two aspects cannot be separated, one intertwined with the other. Nor is one story larger than the other as the life of Mohammed is an integral part of the overall fabric of Palestine - to follow that one thread is to be woven deeply into the anxieties, frustrations, anger, fear, loves, and humour of the larger view.





Voice of the Hawk Elder by Seneca Wisdomkeeper Edna Gordon - Book Review by Harvey Arden
Sunday, 18 April 2010 03:24
by Harvey Arden
Voice of the Hawk Elder by Seneca Wisdomkeeper Edna Gordon - We need changes in this world, really big changes. I'm prayin' they'll be peaceable changes, not violent and bloody ones. I'd like to see a peaceable revolution, a revolution of broomsticks instead of guns.Call it a Broomstick Revolution. That's right. The People pick up their broomsticks and march together and Sweep Injustice Out! Make a clean sweep, a big cleanin' like's never been seen before. Broomsticks against Injustice. Now that'll be the day! We'll take our broomsticks and we'll sweep Leonard Peltier right out o' prison, along with all the other innocents. Yep—a Broomstick Revolution! That's what we need!
"Welcome to my umbrella tree," says Hawk Elder Edna Gordon, seating herself opposite me at her well-weathered backyard picnic-table, gesturing with a wide sweep of her hand at the rich tapestry of overhanging branches arching all the way to the ground around us, creating a kind of natural gazebo.

She nods at the tree as at a cherished old friend, and nods at me, her visitor.

"This old tree's the whole of Creation, you know, if you got eyes to see…," she says, and her throaty voice trails away thoughtfully.

I look upward into the drooping canopy of heavily leafed branches all but encasing us.

"Like a house of leaves," I say.

"More'n that," she says, "…the whole Creation's right here in this tree, if you can see it… You're sittin' right inside o' Creation itself! Don't you see it? Can't you feel it?"

I put the palm of my hand on the rough bark of the trunk.

"I …I can feel it, I think," I say.

"Your hand on the tree, that's Life on Life," Edna says. "This Umbrella tree here's at the center of the Universe! And so are we!"

Certainly, when you're with a visionary like Edna Gordon, the Universe, the Creation itself, occupies not the background of your consciousness but the foreground. She's continually reminding me—and all of us—of the oft-forgotten fact that We Exist! that the World, the Universe, the very Creation itself is here and now with us at every magical instant—and that it's our privilege, our joy, and our duty as living beings to realize this in every conscious moment, to see it, to appreciate it, to be ever-thankful and ever-marveling at all of this unthinkable vastness and infinite particularity around us and within us. She insists that we see—and, yes, feel--this miracle that we ourselves are an integral, even essential part of this Mystery beyond all mysteries.





Behind the Wall - Life, Love, and Struggle in Palestine. Rich Wiles - Book Review by Jim Miles
Tuesday, 23 March 2010 05:58
by Jim Miles

“Do you know what amazes me more than all else? The impotence of force to organize anything. There are only two powers in the world: the spirit and the sword. In the long run, the sword will always be conquered by the spirit.”

- Napoleon Bonaparte

“The IOF may have the firepower to end lives, but it seems it cannot break the spirit.”

“If Theodor Herzl, Golda Meir, Ariel Sharon, or Ehud Olmert really ever believed the refugees could be forgotten or silenced, they were badly mistaken. If they ever thought memory would die or pass with time, they were wrong. If they hoped that future generations would lie down in submission and dutifully accept all the wrongs that have been perpetuated against them without struggling for their rights, they should have thought again.”

- Rich Wiles from Behind the Wall

Behind the Wall - Life, Love, and Struggle in Palestine. Rich Wiles. Potomac Books, Washington, D.C. 2010.

Rich Wiles’ Behind the Wall is an amazingly powerful read, relating the stories of the people of Palestine and their suffering and struggle against the occupiers of their territory. It relates the great pathos and the brief joys of life lived under dispossession and oppression. Above all, it is the story of the Palestinian sumoud - steadfastness - when confronted with ongoing everyday repression and hostility.

It is a story also seen mainly through the eyes of the children, second and third generations growing up in refugee camps. It is the children who have grasped and understood the dreams of return of their parents, reinforced daily by the confined and fearful existence they are forced to live under occupation. Children who have been imprisoned, tortured, murdered, denied their health, their education, denied the simple pleasures of seeing green fields lying under open blue sky.





The Bases of Empire - The Global Struggle against U.S. Military Posts - Book Review by Jim Miles
Tuesday, 23 March 2010 05:46
by Jim Miles

The Bases of Empire - The Global Struggle against U.S. Military Posts. Ed. Catherine Lutz. New York University Press, 2009.

A book that detailed all the military posts around the world would be encyclopaedic in size and nature, for in order to be comprehensive to cover all the bases and all the impacts and affects on human culture and demographics would require a vast array of information. Thankfully that information can be obtained from choosing prime examples of military exploitation as found in The Bases of Empire edited by Catherine Lutz. Lutz’s intention is “to describe both the worldwide network of U.S military bases and the vigorous campaigns to hold the United States accountable for that damage and to reorient their countries’ security policies in other, more human, and truly secure directions.”

The truly secure position from those whose lives have been so occupied with the invasive bases would be to eliminate the bases altogether, limiting them to the U.S. ‘homeland’ - but even that has problems as Puerto Rico and Hawaii, both are contested territories (as many sites within the ‘homeland’ probably are). The conditions presented and argued in this book provide excellent examples of the overbearing presence of U.S. military might around the world. The various authors hold mainly academic positions, but regardless all are actively involved in illuminating and clarifying the intents and purposes of military occupation.


Up until the Bush II administration the denial machine still actively denied the U.S. its rightful position among the empires of global history. Those that did accept empire usually did so with the qualifier of it being an “accidental” empire, with its main purpose being to save the people, spread democracy, and civilize/Christianize the natives. Empire is denied for various reasons, the main factor argued in is that the U.S. has no colonies and does not have an empirical land base with which to operate within. Lutz provides a very clear definition of empire as when a countries “policies aim to assert and maintain dominance of other regions. Those policies succeed when wealth is extracted from peripheral areas and redistributed to the imperial center.”

This highlights two features of the U.S. empire. First, that while it does not have colonies it does have many - hundreds, eight or nine, approaching or exceeding a thousand depending on sources - bases that dominate most of the world. The wealth extracted is not so much redistributed to a physical center as Rome, Paris, London as in older empires, but is redistributed to a more amorphous corporate base encompassing the U.S. and the European Union. It can be argued as well that both the U.S. and EU have their own internal arrangements of ‘heartland’ and ‘hinterland’.





Three Kings - The Rise of an American Empire in the Middle East After World War II - Book Review by Jim Miles
Friday, 19 March 2010 06:34
by Jim Miles

Three Kings - The Rise of an American Empire in the Middle East After World War II. Lloyd C. Gardner. New Press, N.Y., 2009.

This concisely written and well documented work covers the “Truman Doctrine…the essential rubric under which the United States projected its power globally after World War II…the ideological foundation for the “imperial presidency.” Lloyd Gardner focuses his analysis on the Middle East, although the imperial trends expanded globally through the Americas and on into Asia as the old empires faded and the U.S. took their place. More specifically it is a study of “U.S. maneuvers to replace the British in the region of signal importance, the Middle East.” The signal importance of the region contains two factors: oil, the regional resource that enticed the British into the area in the first place; and ‘international communism’ and the rhetorically inflated fears of a grand international conspiracy to attack and dominate the world.


When I first started my readings on current events as related to 9/11, the attack on Afghanistan and then on Iraq, it soon became clear that Palestine was symbolically at the heart of the problems in the Middle East. Beyond that, it is also at the heart of other problems involving human rights, international law, the U.S. government, and corporate power among others. The Second World War ended with the violent remainders of various empires imploding on themselves, most significantly the British Empire collapsed in India and the Middle East. Right from the outset, the Palestinian situation was identified as a “major stumbling block” to U.S. imperial ambitions as “Of all the political problems which call for solution in this area the Palestine question is probably the most important and urgent at the present time.”

Unfortunately it remains the most important and urgent - with apologies to the peoples of the occupied countries of Iraq and Afghanistan and the increasing subversive problems in Pakistan - as it represents the worst of U.S. foreign policy dominated by the Israeli state operating outside of the majority of international protocols and laws. Oil of course was the main imperial consideration and the people of Palestine were incidental to that, but the other Arab states were very much involved with the Palestinian problem. Before Truman entered the picture, Roosevelt recognized that Palestine “was the single most dangerous question they faced in trying to secure an American presence in the Middle East after the war.”





Misadventures of the Most Favored Nations - Book Review by Jim Miles
Tuesday, 16 March 2010 01:12
by Jim Miles

Misadventures of the Most Favored Nations - Clashing Egos, Inflated Ambitions, and the Great Shambles of the World Trade System. Paul Blustein. Public Affairs (Perseus Books).New York, 2009.

Since its arrival in public awareness - at least for the public that follows ideas related to international trade, not many in our star studded frivolous media world - I have been antagonistic to the WTO. Reading this work by Paul Blustein was a self appointed task to read the opposition’s own ideas and how they are formulated.
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