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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

  • Perpetual War and Permanent Unrest: The Battle of Algiers After 9/11

    This essay is excerpted from Sohail Daulatzai's Fifty Years of The Battle of Algiers: Past as Prologue, published by the University of Minnesota Press. A new 4K restoration of The Battle of Algiers is currently touring theaters across the United States. 



    Though it is both troubling and telling, the screening of the film by the Pentagon in the aftermath of 9/11 and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan is only the latest chapter in the afterlife of The Battle of Algiers. In many ways, the film is a battleground and a microcosm of the enduring struggles between the West and the Rest, whiteness and its others. But in a post- 9/11 moment, it’s hard to ignore the ways in which the centrality and omnipresence of the figure of the Muslim and the “War on Terror” have not only coded and shaped every aspect of social life but have also sought to undermine the power and politics of The Battle of Algiers.

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  • Trump's Inheritance: the Bipartisan Consensus on Islamophobia



    Donald Trump’s proposal to create a registry of immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, along with
    previous statements promising to forcefully catalogue all Muslims in the United States, while unnerving, are entirely inherited ventures. While national outrage is sharpened in the direction of Trump and his projected administration, which looks like a macabre cast of arch-villains, mechanisms already in place thanks to previous administrations have long isolated Muslim-Americans — flagging them as hostile targets whose very lives are at the mercy of the state. This capitalist national security apparatus, made up of registries and countless monitoring agencies, has bled through the judicial system while riding on the back of national tragedy. This draconian apparatus is now securely wrapped around the Muslim-American community like a cage.

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  • Ebook Highlights from Verso’s Archive from $1/£1


    *** THE SALE IS NOW OVER - THANKS FOR ORDERING! ***

    We’ve come to realize that our 90% off ebook sale has placed our readers in a dual crisis of both shortening time and expanding options, leaving many paralyzed or uncertain on how to navigate this vast terrain of radical ebooks. The task is certainly daunting. With a diverse list of authors ranging from Rosa Luxemburg, Ellen Meiksins Wood, Fredric Jameson, David Harvey, and Benedict Anderson to Patrick Cockburn, Liza Featherstone, John Berger, and Richard Seymour, choosing the right bundle can be a challenge. 

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