THE REDS & THE WHITES & THE BLUES by Michael Moorcock (Arthur, 2003)


Waving the flags of empire in the 21st century

by Michael Moorcock

Originally published in Arthur No. 5 (July 2003)

“It’s not easy to get everyone against you.”

                           Imran Khan, Pakistani cricketer, April 2002

“What God hates most is arrogance. And what I see in the United States is sheer arrogance.”

                          Mullah Anar M. Anif, Peshawar, Pakistan, April 2002

“Chap in a dishdash coming through.”

                          British officer in Iraq, March 2003

BLOOD RUNS DOWN  the camera lens. The American plane has shot up a column of Kurds, US Special Forces and a BBC TV crew. “A scene from hell,” says journalist John Simpson, whose interpreter has just been killed. Some of the footage, sans the blood, is shown on American network TV for a few seconds. Most of these scenes from hell, of course, are not filmed. They are happening to people who don’t own video cameras. 

Sitting here in Texas watching BBC TV on my computer reminds me that there is no film from Amritsar except the fictional reconstruction offered in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi. That hypocritical piece of imperial self-serving posed as an authentic account. The massacre was portrayed as an aberration rather than the norm. I also start thinking of Lawrence of Arabia, David Lean’s powerful piece of romanticized imperial history. I recall how disgusted I was by Attenborough’s other essay into whitewashing middle-class liberal sensibilities, Cry, Freedom, about the murder of Steve Bitko in South Africa. The British are good at this kind of misleading sentimentality. They’re subtler than Americans who crudely rewrite history to show themselves or versions of themselves as simple heroes, whether it’s Errol Flynn single-handedly ‘liberating’ Burma in WW2, Mel Gibson defeating the British in The Patriot, Mel Gibson pretending to be a Norman baron gone native in Braveheart, the falsifications of Blackhawk Down, or Americans (rather than British) discovering how to beat the Germans with the Enigma machine. The British are ultimately more persuasive, I suspect. They’ve had more practice at this kind of patriotic propaganda than the Americans, by and large. Everyone’s learned from Goebbels, whether they know it or not, of course.

“Chap in a dishdash…”


Those of us still alert to the language of Empire remember the teenage soldiers coming home to Britain to tell stories of the tricks they played on brown civilians across the globe in the 1940s and 50s as the British slowly gave ground to angry freedom fighters in, for instance, Burma, Malaya, Kenya, Palestine and Cyprus.


I’d forgotten about dishdash, which in the language of British imperialism is used as a generic for almost any Middle Eastern garment, though I hadn’t forgotten about ‘imshi’, for instance. I’ve written a bit about British colonial occupations in, my book Breakfast in the Ruins (available free on the net at RevolutionSF off the SF Site, if you’re interested). My book A Nomad of the Time Streams also dealt with the idealism of Empire and how it gets decent people to do its dirty work (that isn’t free, but it’s pretty cheap, second hand). All my writing life, in fact, I’ve been addressing the matter of Empire and I’d rather hoped I was seeing the end of that particular aggressive folly…

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Today's Autonomedia Jubilee Saint – SARGON BOULUS

Iraqi-born Assyrian beatnik poet, translator.


1878 — Anti-Socialist Law passed in Germany.
1887 — Greenwich Village revolutionist John Reed born, Portland, Oregon.
1897 — World’s first car dealership opens, London, England.
1913 — Action photographer Robert Capa born, Budapest, Austria–Hungary.
1918 — Flu epidemic claims one fourth of all Americans, killing half a million.
1962 — Missile crisis develops over Soviet warheads in Fidel Castro’s Cuba.
2007 — Assyrian Iraqi beatnik poet Sargon Boulus dies, Berlin, Germany.

Excerpted from The 2009 Autonomedia Calendar of Jubilee Saints: Radical Heroes for the New Millennium by James Koehnline and the Autonomedia Collective

Iraqi Maqam

Iraqi Jawza player Salih Shemayyil at the First Cairo Congress of Arab Music (1932)

When London-based Honest Jon’s Records compilation Give Me Love: Songs of the Brokenhearted – Baghdad, 1925-29 appeared last year, it was a ear-opening and mind-expanding glimpse into a world few of us in the U.S. had even imagined – the glorious music of Iraq as it was recorded generations ago by musicians long since gone. For many, it and the Choubi Choubi comp on Sublime Frequencies may have provided a first look at Iraqi musical culture, since so little else (Munir Bashir and Rahim AlHaj excluded) has ever been available in the West.

But just in the past few week and seemingly out of the clear, blue sky comes the staggering Iraqi Maqam blog and its accompanying YouTube channel which focus exclusively on the uniquely Iraqi take on maqam, the umbrella of elevated Arab classical musics. Drawing mainly from exceedingly scarce recordings of the 1920s-30s, already Iraqi Maqam has provided a dizzying wealth of musicological, biographical and anecdotal information in both Arabic and English to hours and hours worth of virtuosic and deeply moving recordings (including truly precious translations of the poems sung), profusely illustrated with period photographs. That such a monumental, thoroughly-researched and thoughtfully-presented body of work even exists, not to mention that it is appearantly a free gift to mankind, is fortifying and exciting stuff in a hard, old world.

AMERICA'S VICTORY IS INFINITE: Dave Reeves goes to Vietnam

American victory in Vietnam! That’s right! Iraq too! We always win!
by Dave Reeves

originally published in Arthur No. 31 (Oct 2008)

Hanoi, Vietnam: I’m in Vietnam picking out a baby for my Prius. Problem is, the damn babies all look the same. Needing to calm down, I pay fifty bucks for what looks like weed and smells like weed; but when rolled into Bob Marley blunts only gets me high enough to watch television. I’m mad, until I realize that getting ripped off for illegal drugs in a supposed Buddho/communist country indicates a total victory of the Judeo-Christian/capitalist cause.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t declare victory over nothing. It’s not about fifty bucks. I consider occasional rip-offs to be like union dues in the underworld. I’ve paid money for a baggie of gravel in Amsterdam, purchased placebos purporting to be mescaline in Texas and ingested sheets of Georgia rat poison acid. Besides, I get ripped off for real back in California all the time, what with the rolling blackouts, profit prisons and wars without end.

It’s the constant miracle of Hanoi traffic that got me open to the hustle. Vietnamese people tend to ride their mopeds at full speed, in a scrum, about as far from one another as you are from this page. The stoplights are but suggestions, hidden behind the foliage, way up on the periphery behind the “go” sign. The side of the road a driver chooses is dictated by whimsy. Nonetheless, at each intersection the masses of mopeds weave through each other unscathed,with no cursing, nor shots fired.

I thought this symbiosis indicated that Buddhism was The Answer, because it’s about respect for the value of human life and yadda yah. It only takes one terrible joint to realize that the reason the Vietnamese people can ride like that is because their weed sucks. Don’t try that shit back in California. Those motherfuckers are high.

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“Mission Creeps: One of Us Is Not as Dumb as All of Us” by DAVE REEVES (Arthur, 2006)

“Do the Math” column by Dave Reeves
originally published in Arthur No. 24 (Oct 02006)

Mission Creeps: One of Us Is Not as Dumb as All of Us

For the first time in history, the average American is as informed as the president, whose grasp of world affairs is Power Point deep. From what Americans can tell by looking at the current clusterfuck on television is that Palestinians are like Mexicans: fierce sons of bitches with the same preference for moustaches and shitbox stucco. The type of people that swarm over fences erected in the middle of a desert in order to get at civilization. Palestinians need to get out of the street and stop their kids from throwing rocks. Go home and take a bath. I mean really, were they raised in a hovel?

The British gave Israel to the Jews fair and square. If that isn’t enough to get these so-called Palestinians high on Zion then maybe they need to check out a little real estate document called the Bible which makes it clear who belongs “down among the Philistines,” wherever that is.

Israel has been a gracious host. If I was Israel I would force these wandering Arabs into a voluntary “Back to Palestine” movement modeled on the deal we had with Marcus Gravy and the coloreds. Nothing is too good for these guys, and that’s exactly what they get.

The mandate of America, cobbled together from innate prejudice, televison news, propaganda from football coaches masquerading as high school history teachers demands that we bomb any building that hates super double freedom and the fries that come with it. Then strafe whoever runs from the wreckage.

Our leaders won’t let one of these bleeding head liberal house Arabs doubletalk us into getting specific about which Arabs did what. The known knowns of what we now know we did know then doesn’t matter anymore. It’s racialistic to discriminate.

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