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The Liberal Defence of Murder

An updated account of how liberal calls for humanitarian intervention provide a smoke screen for imperial conquest.

A war that has killed more than a million Iraqis was a "humanitarian intervention", the US army is a force for liberation, and the main threat to world peace is posed by Islam. These are the arguments of a host of liberal commentators, including such notable names as Christopher Hitchens, Kanan Makiya, Michael Ignatieff, Paul Berman, and Bernard-Henri Lévy.

In this critical intervention, Richard Seymour unearths the history of liberal justifications for empire, showing how savage policies of conquest—including genocide and slavery—have been retailed as charitable missions. From the Cold War to the War on Terror, Seymour argues that colonialist notions of "civilization" and "progress" still shape liberal pro-war discourse, concealing the same bloody realities.

In a new afterword, Seymour revisits the debates on liberal imperialism in the era of Obama and in the light of the Afghan and Iraqi debacles.

Reviews

  • “A powerful critique of ‘humanitarian intervention’ and of those liberal intellectuals who support it.”
  • “A great deal of damning material on the apologists of recent illegalities.”
  • “Among those who share responsibility for the carnage and chaos in the Gulf are the useful idiots who gave the war intellectual cover and attempted to lend it a liberal imprimatur. The more belligerent they sounded the more bankrupt they became; the more strident their voice the more craven their position. As the war they have supported degrades into a murderous mess, Richard Seymour expertly traces their descent from humanitarian intervention to blatant islamophobia.”
  • “An excellent antidote to the propagandists of the crisis of our times.”
  • “A powerful counterblast against the monstrous regiment of ‘useful idiots.’”
  • “Indispensable ... Seymour brilliantly uncovers the pre-history and modern reality of the so-called ‘pro-war Left.’”
  • “[Seymour] delves into areas that are usually politely ignored, carefully uncovering liberalism and reformism’s own shameful record of collaboration with mass murder…essential reading.”
  • “We need to understand where these ideas comes from and how to fight them. This book is a major contribution to this understanding.”
  • “With elegant asperity and mordant antipathy, Seymour undresses the unsavory record of the liberal apologists for empire in a sane and steady voice that will enrage many and enlighten more. He combines an electrifying and formidable historical study with close readings and incisive analysis, not to mention a brilliant eye for the horrible detail of hypocritical posturing. ... [T]his is a book with the potential to reshape the entire study of deradicalization.”
  • The Liberal Defence of Murder is an important and scrupulously researched book with much to offer those who want to know why the likes of Christopher Hitchens have gone so loopy.”
  • “The most authoritative historical analysis of its kind … [Seymour] displays a welcome critical engagement, meaningful intellectualism and unabashed factual analysis.”

Blog

  • The World Today with Tariq Ali

    Tariq Ali's weekly, online review show, The World Today, is now collected in full online on Tariq's new website. Produced for Venezualan broadcaster teleSUR’s English language online channel by Dartmouth Films, the show consists of 4 segments:

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  • Bernard-Henri Lévy is ‘France’s Sham Philosopher’



    In Counterpunch, Ramzy Baroud writes in response to the right-wing newspaper The Jerusalem Post proclaiming the controversial intellectual and ‘sham philosopher’ Bernard Henry Levy the 45th “most influential Jew” in the world.  Baroud, needless to say, does not have kind words to say about Lévy.

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  • VIDEO: Tariq Ali Speaks Out Against Possible Syrian Invasion

    Yesterday, Tariq Ali published an op-ed denouncing possible United States military intervention in Syria. Ali accuses the United States of stretching their intelligence reports as an excuse to further stir the civil war and assist the opposition they had armed. He writes:

    The Syrian regime was slowly re-establishing its control over the country against the opposition armed by the West and its tributary states in the region (Saudi Arabia and Qatar). This situation required correction. The opposition in this depressing civil war needed to be strengthened militarily and psychologically.


    With the White House having announced that the recent chemical attacks in Syria were unequivocally the work of the Assad regime, many are anxious to see whether the Obama administration will now pursue the promised military intervention. To elaborate on his editorial piece, Tariq Ali joined Steven Clemons, Washington editor-at-large for The Atlantic, on Democracy Now to discuss who is to blame for the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the politics of a Syrian invasion.


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