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Author Topic: Peruvian Novelist Mario Vargas Llosa Reports From Iraq
drgoodword
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posted 06 September 2003 01:01 PM      Profile for drgoodword   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Published In The Guardian

quote:
Iraq is the country with the greatest freedom in the world, but since freedom without law and order is chaos, it is also the most dangerous. There are no customs, nor customs officers, and the CPA (coalition provisional authority) governed by Paul Bremer has abolished all tariffs and duties on imports until December 31. As a result, the Iraqi borders have become strainers, through which all kinds of goods - except weapons - are pouring in without difficulties or costs. At the border with Jordan, the US watch officer assured me that just this week an average of 3,000 vehicles a day had entered Iraq with all types of merchandise.

That is why the two large avenues Karrada In and Karrada Out, which zigzag through Baghdad like conjoined twins, present an immense variety of industrial goods, clothes and food. The innumerable shops that flank them have spilled out on to the streets, turning the pavements into a plethoric bazaar - and into a paradise of pirate records, compact discs and videos. However, the one product that citizens of Baghdad are buying most eagerly is parabolic aerials, which allow them to see television broadcasts from all over the world, something that had never been possible before, and that infuriates the conservative Islamic clerics, who see this television frenzy as an invasion of the corrupting western pornography. Now Iraqis can also surf freely over the web, which in the days of Saddam Hussein was considered a crime. It is amusing to observe, in the internet coffee shops which have mushroomed throughout Baghdad, the passion with which the Baghdadis, especially the young, indulge in this new pastime that connects them with the rest of the world.

The active street trade has more in common with primitive bartering than with modern dealing. As there are no banks, nor cheques, nor credit cards, all transactions are made in cash and, given the plunge of the dinar (the rate was approximately 1,500 dinars to the dollar on my last day there), buyers, in order to make a purchase, must bring bundles of notes with them, at times suitcases full, which can be nicked from them at any moment by the scourge of the day: the omnipresent Ali Babas. For on top of the lack of customs officers, there are no policemen, no judges and no police stations to report the robberies or outrages one suffers. The ministries are closed, as are the public registers and the postal service; the telephones don't work, and there aren't any rules and regulations that stipulate what a citizen can or cannot do. Everything is left to each individual's intuition, boldness, prudence and instinct. The result is reckless freedom, which makes people feel helpless and frightened.

The only authority is represented by the tanks, the armoured cars, trucks and jeeps, and by foot patrols of US soldiers who cross and re-cross streets all over, armed with rifles and submachine guns, making the buildings shake with the power of their war vehicles. Soldiers who, on a closer look, seem as helpless and frightened as the citizens of Baghdad themselves. Since I arrived the attacks against them have been increasing systematically, and have already killed 30 and injured around 300. It is not surprising that they seem suspicious and in bad spirits, with fingers on triggers, patrolling streets full of people with whom they cannot communicate, amidst a hellish heat, which for them, dressed in helmets, bullet-proof jackets and other war paraphernalia, must be even worse than for the average local. I tried to talk to them - many being adolescents not yet capable of growing a beard - on four occasions, but I got only very concise replies. They were all pouring sweat, eyeballs perpetually moving, like distrustful grasshoppers.

But Morgana, my daughter, succeeded in conversing on a more personal level with a soldier of Mexican origin who suddenly opened his heart from atop his tank: "I've had it! I've been here for three months and I cannot stand it any longer! I ask myself what the hell I'm doing here every day! This morning they killed two buddies. I can't wait to go back to my wife and child, damn it!"


I find it amazing that anyone can still claim this illegal invasion has in any way made Iraq or the world a better place.

Truly, better the devil you know than the one you don't.


From: Toronto | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 06 September 2003 02:40 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
But look! Can't you see them buying and selling everything they want? Consumer paradise!

(Except for the fact that it appears that inflation has hit Iraq in spades just as it did other countries after a war)


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
kingblake
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posted 07 September 2003 02:32 PM      Profile for kingblake     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Mario Vargas Llosa is an extremely odd man politically, though an amazing novelist. He taught my dad in university. When he was young he was a Trotskyist. He is now an arch-conservative who runs for president based upon a program of opening up Peru to the IMF/WB cartel.
His novel The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta is one of my favorites. Its the story of a failed trotskyist insurrection, probably the best novel written about trotskyism (are there any others?) I think any leftist would get a real kick out of some of the scenes describing trotskyist clandestine meetings and internal wranglings. There's several laugh out loud moments

From: In Regina, the land of Exotica | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
lagatta
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posted 07 September 2003 03:12 PM      Profile for lagatta     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
There are many others. Alan Wald has written at length on this topic. Both Saul Bellow and Norman Mailer flirted with Trotskyism in their youth and have written novels reflecting this period. Victor Serge was a left oppositionist, but a very idiosyncratic one; his writing, fictional and non-fictional, is certainly close to Trotskyism, but also to left-libertarian thought. However, unlike Bellow, some of the "New York Intellectuals" Wald describes and to a lesser extent Mailer, Serge remained faithful to his revolutionary and anti-Stalinist convictions until he died.

Tariq Ali penned Redemption, a rather dreadful roman à clef about the Fourth International, in the late '80s in a period of deep cynicism about far left politics, since then, he has reactivated politically around issues of war and imperialism.

Many of the Surrealists had strong sympathies with Trotskyism, and also had a strong libertarian streak of course, but they tended to be against the novel as an art form, and certainly suspicious of reducing literature to utilitarian propaganda. Poet Benjamin Péret was among those most politically active.

I shall have to ask an Argentinean friend who is a professor of Latin American literature about this topic in his country...


From: Se non ora, quando? | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
Courage
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posted 07 September 2003 03:36 PM      Profile for Courage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by kingblake:
Mario Vargas Llosa is an extremely odd man politically, though an amazing novelist. He taught my dad in university. When he was young he was a Trotskyist. He is now an arch-conservative who runs for president based upon a program of opening up Peru to the IMF/WB cartel.
His novel The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta is one of my favorites. Its the story of a failed trotskyist insurrection, probably the best novel written about trotskyism (are there any others?) I think any leftist would get a real kick out of some of the scenes describing trotskyist clandestine meetings and internal wranglings. There's several laugh out loud moments

I'm glad someone can make Trotskyites funny; for the most part they are Booooooooring....

Don't ever get cornered by one at a party...

Anyway, there are actually a lot of former Trotskyists and Marxists who have joined the neo-con bandwagon. A few years ago it was quite common in some nominally leftist circles to claim that Marx was actually pro-colonialism/European imperialism because it furthered the cause of industrial development in the Third World. All kinds of statistics about industrial development in these places were dredged up to show how things were actually better. Of course this analysis left out so much regarding social conditions, political control, etc.. Aijaz Ahmad did a nice job of taking on these types in an essay published in Lineages of the Present - among other places - entitled "Imperialism and Progress".

Anyway, this kind of thinking has lead more than one 'Marxist' to look to the IMF model as the means to further industrial development and thus social and political conditions in Third World countries. I can't say that is definitely the case with the author in question, but I wouldn't be suprised if his position followed similar lines.

Many of these Marxists-gone-neo-con figures picture themselves as a sort of revolutionary modernisation/civilisation force which is ultimately only liberational for everyone everywhere - in this they mirror some of the basic revolutionary ideals of ideological utopian Marxists.

[ 07 September 2003: Message edited by: Courage ]


From: Earth | Registered: Apr 2003  |  IP: Logged

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