The World According to TomDispatch

Issue section: 
(327)

Edited by Tom Engelhardt, Verso, £10.99

The "war on terror", we are told, is pursued in the name of democracy, liberty and, above all, freedom. This is why we have removed tyrannies "surgically" with minimum collateral damage, eliciting so little gratitude on the part of the "liberated".

These and other myths are rebuked and dispelled in this book edited by Tom Engelhardt, a collection of articles taken from the blogging site Tomdispatch.com. In an age where the US media is dominated by corporations and censorship, the internet has become the true fourth estate, a bastion of independent and critical journalism. This book exemplifies that tradition.

The articles constitute a running catalogue of the missing stories of the "war on terror". The contributions are arranged by theme, running from a more analytical study of the nature of US geopolitics and its spheres of influence, to the aptly named petro-industrial complex and the prize of Iraqi oil, and the untold human costs and tragedies of the war on terror.

In one essay Tom Engelhardt explains the changing military face of imperialism, arguing that it is not so much about physically capturing colonies and establishing protectorates and puppet regimes, but more a network of 700 military and intelligence bases or "enduring camps" as the US government euphemistically calls them. This military "footprint" enables them to project their military power towards the "arc of instability", conveniently situated near the sites of valuable strategic prizes such as oil and natural gas deposits.

In another chapter the subject of oil and the Bush administration's pursuit of "a stupendous source of strategic power and one of the greatest material prizes in world history", as one US official infamously opined, is analysed incisively by Michael Schwartz. The machinations of the Bush administration before and after the war to secure Iraqi oil for Western corporations is delineated. The story of the Iraqi resistance, in particular the Iraqi oil workers, and how they have been so far successfully resisted the scheme is compelling.

The only reservation of this book is that, with notable exceptions, the story of those resisting US imperialism is largely absent. They are cast as passive victims, exemplified in the chapter devoted to the "invisible victims". By and large the analysis of imperialism is bereft of any class analysis, and consequently no substantive connection is made between Pax Americana and the structures of capitalism.

Nevertheless, for students and activists resisting imperialism and war, there are plenty of juicy morsels to chew on.