'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Monday, January 05, 2004

Smiley Gets Pissed

There's a pretty interesting interview with John le Carre up on salon

The bizarre thing is that instead of becoming less ideological, the people who are in charge of the last superpower have become, at least in this administration, even more ideological.

I think they have become insanely ideological. I feel that these are tendentious ideologies and we need to have them clearly defined for us. We've almost reached a point, I think, where people should state their religious convictions when they enter high office. It's certainly of great concern to me. It really matters if a politician believes, for example, that the Jewish people have an absolute right to "Greater Israel." That's something we need to know about. If he believes that Islam is something close to the Antichrist, that's also something we need to hear about.

Do you feel that leaders are insisting that their religious beliefs -- not just moral principles, but literal religious beliefs -- be enacted in the political realm? That's not being acknowledged.

People are not acknowledging it, not looking it in the eye, and if you do look at it in the eye, you get into deep trouble. My book's just come out here [in Britain] and been greatly attacked by the right-wing press and applauded on the whole by the critical press. One argument that's been used against me is very interesting: that the book is too political to be a novel. It leaves me with the impression that for as long as you write about the status quo, you're OK. But to take up arms against the status quo is subversive.

There are two ways that those critical of the war have described the motivations behind it. One interpretation is completely mercenary: It's just about oil. But some of these people -- however much we may disagree with them -- are also motivated by ideals that are, as you put it, often religious in nature. That's what's confusing about it. The left is used to thinking that it has idealism on its side. These people have these ideals that may seem crackpot to us, but they believe they're going to change the world for the better.

They do. That's what's really terrifying. In order to carry out their campaigns, they have to reduce the world to black and white. They have to arrogate to themselves the right to determine what is a bad state and what is a good state. They also arrogate to themselves not just the right to take preemptive action, but to take preventative action. There's a difference in international law. The effect is that the superpower can say, "We don't like the look of that country. It has bad intentions, and we will attack it." It doesn't have to say that the country is threatening us.

The attack on Iraq was planned, we now know, about three or four years before it took place. It was 9/11 that legitimized it. Through an extraordinary trick of public persuasion in which they were greatly assisted by the corporate media, the neoconservative ideologues persuaded the U.S. to a great extent -- one's told seven out of 10 people -- that somehow Saddam was mixed up in the destruction of the twin towers and the attack on the Pentagon. He wasn't. They admit they have no evidence of this. Anyone who's taken even one bus ride through the Middle East would surely know that between the secular Baathists of Iraq and the infuriated fundamentalists that follow Osama bin Laden there is no conceivable bond possible. The religious extremists loathed Saddam because Saddam and the Baath Party were secular and anti-clerical.

Are your critics claiming that this new book is too political to be literary?

Too political to be real. My problem is that I think the status quo stinks and I want to say that. I found myself joining the big marches against the war and mingling with people who just thought they had no chance of being heard. There is no political party in England with any power, any force or any credibility that has opposed the war. And so I've felt, well, I can do something and I do feel this stuff and I will make a story about it.

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