About 20 years ago I said to Tariq that God, Allah, called the two of us to His presence and said to us, “One of you is to go the left, and one of you is to go to the right.” The problem is, He didn’t tell us which was which, and maybe He didn’t know Himself. And Tariq laughed. He understood exactly what I was saying, and he didn’t dispute it.
Danny Postel: What exactly were you saying?
Fred Halliday: My view is that the kind of position which the New Left Review and Tariq have adopted in terms of the conflict in the Middle East is an extremely reactionary, right-wing one. It starts with Afghanistan. To my mind, Afghanistan is central to the history of the Left, and to the history of the world, since the 1980s. It is to the early 21st century, to the years we’re now living through, what the Spanish Civil War was to Europe in the mid and late 20th century. It was the kitchen in which the contradictions of the contemporary world, and many of the violent evils of the century, were cooked and then spread out. Just as Italian and German fascism trained in Spain for the broader conquest of Europe and the Mediterranean,the militant jihadi Islamists, of whom bin Laden was a part, received their training, their primal experiences, in Afghanistan. They have been carrying out this broad jihad across the Middle East and elsewhere ever since, including, of course, the attacks of September 11th. You cannot understand this unless you go back to Afghanistan in the 1980s. [más]