Putting Cruelty First

Alan Johnson – editor of the online journal, Democratiya, conducted an interview with Kanan Makiya in December of 2005. Following on from two previous postings here at our website (See “What’s Going On” and “Inside the Whale”), this interview amounts to the next chapter in Makiya’s on-the-fly history of the Iraq “project.”

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Stop Breaking Down

One of the cartoons which my local newspaper has refused to print shows two veiled women, their staring round eyes, all that can be seen of their faces, expressing alarm, while a bearded man, apparently the Prophet, with a bar obscuring his eyes, his features otherwise visible, radiates a chilling and furious certainty. It is a pretty good cartoon: it raises the question of who is blinded, and to what, and who has been silenced, and how. It does this with remarkable economy, and with compassionate if mirthless wit. As economical if mirthless jokes go, it isn’t a patch on the one represented by the editors, academics and politicians who claim that reproducing that cartoon is a mistake more or less equivalent to threatening to murder whoever drew it.

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Indispensable Men

A 70’s piece on The Uses of James Baldwin by Benjamin DeMott takes on a new resonance after a viewing of No Direction Home. Baldwin figures in the Dylan documentary because he was a presence in Greenwich Village during the 50s and 60s, but these two bohemian culture heroes shared more than a social context as the opening lines of DeMott’s article suggest:

Pity spokesman: their lot is hard. The movement of their ideas is looked at differently, studied for clues and confirmations, seems unindividual – less a result of personal growth than of cultural upsurge.

DeMott defined a range of difficulties faced by any artist who went public in the 60s including one problem having “to do with expense of spirit”:

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