On History: Tariq Ali and Oliver Stone in Conversation
the politics of history.
Their dialogue brings to light a number of forgotten—or deliberately buried—episodes of American history, from the US intervention against the Russian Revolution and the dynamic radicalism of the
Industrial Workers of the World to Henry Wallace’s sidelining by Democratic Party machine insiders and the ongoing interference of the United States in Pakistani political affairs.
For Stone and Ali—two of our most insightful observers on history and popular culture—no topic is sacred, no orthodoxy goes unchallenged.
TARIQ ALI is an internationally acclaimed Pakistani writer and filmmaker. He has written more than two dozen books on world history and politics and seven novels (translated into over a dozen languages) as well as scripts for the stage and screen. He is an editor of New Left Review and lives in London.
OLIVER STONE has directed, among other films, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, W., World Trade Center, Alexander, Any Given Sunday, Nixon, Natural Born Killers, Heaven and Earth, JFK, The Doors, Born on the Fourth of July, Talk Radio, Wall Street, Platoon, Salvador, and the documentaries Looking for Fidel, Comandante, Persona Non Grata, South of the Border, and the upcoming The Untold History of the United States series for Showtime.
Was there a moment during the Second World War when the United States became an imperial power of the magnitude to inherit the British mantle? From the moment it began, really, something had to give. If the First World War was a decisive event for making the United States a world power, bringing it onto the world stage, the Second World War was a decisive event in terms of making the United States an imperial power, which meant it had to fight wars to preserve its dominion. This soon led to the
the way to change the world is to hit strategic targets. The anarchists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries used to try to kill presidents, heads of state, the tsar of Russia. Sometimes they succeeded, but usually they failed. In Paris, they would bomb bourgeois cafés, and say “we’re killing the bourgeoisie.” This sort of nonsense has happened for a long time. It never really changes anything, but it makes people who carry out these acts feel good. It was referred to as
played a much more important part than it should have in impelling the Bush administration to take Iraq. The Pentagon would also have known that as they knew that the Iraqi army was quite diminished, that Iraq barely had any armaments left to wage a real struggle, that the Iraqi air force had been destroyed. Iraq was already a defeated country, defeated by sanctions, wrecked by the years of US bombings in the “no-fly zones” in the northern parts of the country. So we were looking for a
the war? This is after England is under serious attack and is in jeopardy of falling. Many people have suggested that Roosevelt felt that England would fall. Yes. So he would be willing to give away— England. Europe? I think so. And I think it was not only him. To be fair to Roosevelt, most people thought England wouldn’t survive. If that’s the case, then I would think Roosevelt is thinking about a future world without England as controlling all these colonies. Would these colonies
perhaps become available to Roosevelt? Absolutely. I think that this was a big point of discussion within the United States ruling elite: the British Empire is collapsing, and we will have to take it over, as much as we can, in order to preserve and protect our own global interests. In one message to Churchill, Roosevelt said it would be a big tragedy if the British Navy fell into the hands of the Germans, so I suggest you send your entire navy to US ports so we can look after it for you. And