I-House hosts talk on “occupation”

By Usman Ahmed

Tariq Ali, a novelist and editor of the New Left Review, spoke at the International House Tuesday evening in a talk entitled “The Occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine.” The event was co-sponsored by the Political Union, International House, and SGFC.

In what he described as a pervading political apathy among college students, Ali began his talk by contrasting the present-day political climate with college campuses in the Vietnam War years of the 1960s, in which he said, “everyone knew the U.S. was at war.”

Ali pointed to the absence of a military draft, which would galvanize young people to take a more immediate interest in America’s military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, as a major source of the differences in political attitudes over time.

Ali then shifted his talk to reviewing the circumstances of the most recent war in Iraq. In the buildup to war, Ali said that much of the West was disinterested in an invasion of Iraq. For this reason, he argued, the Bush administration concocted its claim of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction “to drag a skeptical Western world into war.”

Ali was also cynical of the administration’s secondary claim that Saddam Hussein’s brutal actions against Kurds and Shiites warranted his removal from power. He noted that some of Hussein’s most horrific actions were carried out while Hussein was an American ally with its tacit approval.

Ali concluded his remarks on Iraq with an analysis of the logic of occupation.

“Most people in most countries in the world do not like being occupied,” he said. Ali suggested there was a causal relationship between occupation and resistance movements, adding that the bloodshed and unrest in Iraq and elsewhere would not stop until occupational forces are removed.

In his discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ali said that Israel has established a certain permanency in the region, and that the issue could only be resolved by the creation of a Palestinian state or a single, pluralistic nation.

“People need to learn to live together,” Ali said, arguing in favor of the creation of a single nation, while dismissing the two-state solution as “virtually impossible.”

Before concluding his talk, Ali said that American foreign policy could not be reversed or modified by other nations because of U.S. political dominance.

“It is your responsibility to act as citizens,” Ali said to the packed crowd, suggesting that American policy can only be reformulated domestically.