It has been too long since I’ve linked to anything by Johann Hari, one of the best journalists around. So today I am linking him twice.
I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to Iraq’s Ayatollah Sistani, but he has and what he reports is pretty encouraging.
Before the war, some of us argued that, in a Saddam-free Iraq, democratic strains of Islamic thought would begin to emerge. We were right – but the violence has been so terrible that nobody noticed. Reuel Marc Gerecht, an expert in Shia political thought, says that Sistani’s philosophical arguments for democracy are “almost unprecedented in their scope. He speaks the language of inalienable rights: one man, one vote, and a constitution written by elected representatives and approved by popular referendum. Sistani has managed to launch a project that Muslim progressives have only ever dreamed of: establishing a democratic political order sanctioned and even protected by the clergy.” Here are the slow, tentative roots of the Islamic Reformation so badly needed in the Middle East.
Read the rest. There’s plenty more where that came from.
The arguments between the left and the right don’t interest me as much as the arguments within the left and within the right. Especially since the latest across-the-aisle mudslinging-fest is about Vietnam – not my fight. (Is it really too much to ask to have a presidential campaign about the current war in the current century? I guess with these two idiot candidates the answer is yes.) Even if Vietnam were my fight, there’s nothing quite like grabbing a bowl of popcorn and watching the neoconservatives flail the paleocons.
Likewise, I prefer to read about a face-off between a brilliant leftist like Johann Hari and a nutcase leftist like the former terrorist Antonio Negri, co-author of “Empire,” the new Communist Manifesto.
In the late 1980s, the Italian President Francesco Cossiga described Antonio Negri as “a psychopath” who “poisoned the minds of an entire generation of Italy’s youth”. Negri has been accused of murdering Italy’s former Prime Minister, Aldo Moro, and of being il grande vecchio – the grand old man – behind the Red Brigades, one of the most notorious terror groups to attack post-war Europe until al-Qa’ida. In prison he co-wrote an anti-globalisation bible, Empire. Now he’s out, and he’s heading to London. I am waiting patiently at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, in the shadow of Buckingham Palace, to have my mind poisoned.
Don’t just read the teaser, read the whole thing.