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  1. #1
    Ruks is offline Moderator
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Good Muslim, Bad Muslim
    America, the Cold War and the Roots of Terror

    Reviewed by Kate Prendergast

    By Mahmood Mamdani
    Publisher: Pantheon, New York, 2004
    ISBN: 0375422854
    Pages: 320

    Mahmood Mamdani, Professor of Government and Director of the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University, is widely acknowledged as one of the foremost analysts of the history and politics of the nation state in the developing world. Mamdani’s area of expertise is the constraints imposed by Western colonial and post-colonial powers on the prospects for popular non-Western nationalist movements to create viable states, and hitherto his work has focused on Africa. His books Citizen and Subject, which traces the influence of the colonial state structure on politics in post-colonial Africa, and When Victims Become Killers, which focuses on the causes of the Rwandan genocide, have become required reading for students of the modern African state. So much so that Mamdani is rightly credited with helping to give voice and shape to a whole new generation of critique on the factors that enable and constrain “Third World” political movements to develop in the contemporary globalized order.

    Mamdani devotes most of the book to an exploration of the ways in which the US government developed the policy of proxy war; the context, Mamdani argues, in which fundamentalist Islamic “terrorists” have flourished in the contemporary world. He traces the beginnings of this policy to the US defeat in Vietnam in 1975, and to the collapse of the Portuguese Empire in Africa around the same time. Defeat in Vietnam led to a new ideology for the American administration: that “Asian boys must fight Asian wars.”

    The shift of the Cold War to Africa provided the perfect opportunity for the United States to experiment with its new strategy of proxy war, using the Apartheid regime in South Africa to fight the MPLA in Angola and to fund Renamo in Mozambique.

    The United States and its allies had long had an ambivalent relationship with political Islam. Prepared to fund it on occasion – Hamas, for example, was initially encouraged by Israel and played off against the PLO – it was nonetheless only tolerated when it suited the US’s wider regional interests. Hence, because the Islamist regime that came to power in Iran after the 1979 revolution was also nationalist, it was considered a threat to US interests and was relentlessly opposed. This was the context in which Saddam Hussein was recruited as a US ally, to fight a proxy war against the Iranians. Saddam’s troops, trained and armed (including with chemical weapons) by the United States, invaded Iran in 1980.

    As Mamdani makes clear, Iraq had been softened up for invasion by a decade of a new and utterly devastating weapon of proxy war: UN sanctions. Sanctions appear to have led to the death of over half a million Iraqi children under the age of five, and they put severe stress on Iraqi state infrastructure. Thus, the threats cited by the US as an excuse to invade Iraq were bogeymen. The “Muslim terrorists” were in fact US creations, while the specter of militant nationalism in Iraq had been broken by a decade of extreme punishment by the sanctions regime. Thus, American boys are fighting in Iraq today because the occupation of Iraq is in fact an overt form of imperialism, reflecting US interests in the region, rather than the interests of the Iraqi people.

    But it is also in Iraq that Mamdani suggests we may finally see the unraveling of US ambitions to dominate the globe. In taking the fight against nationalist and militant Islamic terror into a state that still retains some sense of national identity and infrastructure – however beleaguered and battered - the US has chosen to shed the veil of covert brutality and opted for overt conflict with the nationals of another state.


  2. #2
    Boualem-DZ is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Thanks for the review, makes the book very interesting to get.
    Keep posting!


  3. #3
    Ruks is offline Moderator
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Thanks Boualem - will do my best!

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