Imperial Roots

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Review of 'Striking Terror', eds. Robert B Silvers and Barbara Epstein, New York Review of Books £10.99

As George Bush prepares to launch an attack on Iraq the publication of this book is a timely reminder of the horrors of US imperialism. This collection of essays puts together a series of articles that originally appeared in the 'New York Review of Books' in the months following 11 September 2001.

Two articles by Pankaj Mishra on Afghanistan are particularly good. He describes the background to the Russian invasion in December 1979, and explains how Afghanistan was central to the superpowers' influence in that region. Mishra quotes Zbiginew Brzezinski, national security adviser in the Carter administration, boasting how successful the US had been in provoking the Russians into invading Afghanistan.

Mishra's piece on the civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal clearly outlines the conditions in which a movement like the Taliban could emerge. Mishra explains how a small but organised force could enter Kabul, and be welcomed by the civilian population for ending the civil war and imposing some order, albeit an austere, Whabbist strand of Islamic order.

The article emphasises the cynicism with which the Saudis, Pakistani intelligence services and the US state bankrolled, trained and armed various Islamic groupings throughout the 1980s. By the mid 1980s the CIA base in Islamabad was second in size only to its headquarters in Langley, Virginia!

There are two articles on the proliferation of biological and chemical weapons. One article by Garwin shows how since the Second World War it has been nuclear reactors, state sponsored nuclear weapons explosions and experiments that have contributed to the spread of germ warfare and disease.

In addition, Matthew Meselson points out how responsible the Bush administration has been stalling and vetoing any multilateral controls and verification policies because such measures would ultimately highlight the US as the biggest perpetrator of chemical and biological warfare.

This collection provides valuable facts and insights into the crazed logic that is propelling the world towards war that unfortunately will make the horrors of New York and Bali more likely.