Empire for Dummies

I wish I could spend more time with this book but it is WAY overdue from the public library (paying fines is my little way of donating to public services). Arundhati Roy's An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire is a collection of stinging yet witty editorials which is happy to take aim not only at the American imperial project, but also the lingering British version of this in India. As she puts it, "Empire is on the move, and Democracy is its new war cry" (47). Or better, "Democracy has become Empire's euphemism for neo-liberal capitalism" (56).

Her concerns range from corporate control of the so-called "free press" (see my Fors Clavigera post on this), to the "poverty draft" that fills our military ranks (though increasingly not even that is enough).

One of her more witty tropes is the suggestion of Saddam Hussein's remarkable restraint: "If the Saddam Hussein regime indeed has weapons of mass destruction, it is showing an astonishing degree of responsibility and restraint in the teeth of extreme provocation" (35). With all those threatening WMD in Iraq, you'd think he might have pulled the trigger as American forces bore down on Baghdad.


Hitchens on the Clintons: No One Left to Lie To

As I've indicated before, I secretly want to be Christopher Hitchens (or Bernard-Henri Levy). This was further confirmed this past weekend as I enjoyed one of Hitchens' earlier book, No One Left to Lie To: The Values of the Worst Family. As you might imagine, Hitchens' take on Bubba is somewhat different than the version we heard in Clinton's My Life (which we listened to last summer when we drove home from L.A.).

First published in 1999, Hitchens ruthlessly documents the underside of the teflon-Clinton, including everything from his very intentional pandering to the Right by a method of "triangulation" (and his transformation of the Democratic party as a right of center machine), his unabashed opportunism, his wag-the-dog war crimes, and a serious investigation (and substantiation) of rape charges against Clinton. A very sobering book that we'd expect from Hitchens the contrarian, who was almost alone in unmasking the Clinton menace during a time when even Gore Vidal was coming to William Jefferson's aid.

My only disappointment is that I fear Hitchens--whose contrarian tendencies have now made him a defender of Bush's war in Iraq, and even an endorser of Tony Blair in the upcoming election--might never write such a book on George W. Indeed, it is striking to read this book now, 5 years later, as he seems to let Bush off on matters for which he castigated Clinton (especially on the death penalty). Even if his experience seeing the sufferings of the Kurds at the hands of Saddam Husserin has made Hitchens deeply sympathetic to the campaign in Iraq, I hope Hitchens' biting wit, sharp analysis, independence, and rigorous journalism will at some point be turned on the purchased presidency of Bush the Lesser.