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Friday, November 28, 2008

(Video) Eric Margolis on the causes and consequences of the Mumbai attacks

Whenever I want to find out more about what's going on in South or Central Asia, I turn first to Eric Margolis, a foreign affairs columnist for Canada's Sun Media newspaper chain. Margolis is a veteran journalist who has spent decades reporting on and trying to understand conflicts in the region.

I caught him on CNN earlier today talking about the Mumbai terrorist attacks, speculating on the terrorists' motivations, providing geopolitical context which is missing from so many recent reports, and explaining what bearing recent developments have on the US, Canada and NATO allies in Afghanistan.

Margolis has a new book out entitled American Raj which I'm planning to pick up soon. From the book description:

American Raj: Liberation or Domination takes the reader behind the conventional headlines and into the thinking and world view of anti-Western Islamic radicals throughout the Muslim world, and identifies the historical, political and religious factors that have played such a huge role in generating Islamic hostility towards the West. Employing the model of Britain’s imperialist hegemony in Asia, which culminated in the eighteenth-century Raj, Margolis explores in fascinating detail whether the West—and in particular the United States—risks a repetition of the Raj experience or whether we face an entirely new—and entirely unfamiliar—world order.

If it's anything like his last book or his regular columns, it will be an indispensable tool for anyone wanting to get a firm grasp on the areas and conflicts considered.

You can get your copy at Amazon.com:

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 28, 2008 in International Affairs | Permalink


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What??? Mr. Marg is a left wing anti-Bush thinker. Everything was Bush's fault. I used to read his columns, now I bypass them.

He may have a lot of information in his head, but they come out coloured.

Posted by: tomax7 | 2008-11-28 9:38:28 AM


A harsh critic of the Bush's policies? Yes. But a left-winger? Certainly not.

Here's Margolis writing in a recent column:

"Bob says I'm picking on poor President George W. Bush and lack patriotism for not supporting W's wars of "liberation" in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Worse, Bob accuses me of becoming a ... gasp ... Democratic liberal! In America, "liberal" means a lefty. Them's fightin' words.

I've been called a lot of things, including "fascist hyena," "CIA agent," and "right-wing warmonger," but a leftist Democrat? I'm more likely to become a Hare Krishna than a liberal!

Actually, I'm a rogue Republican.

I've always been a moderate conservative Eisenhower Republican who believes in small government, low taxes, saving, hard work, individual freedoms, and avoiding overseas adventures."


Remember Ike? The guy who popularized the term "military-industrial complex"?

The Eisenhower wing of the GOP may not be the most prominent anymore, and believers in small-government may be unrecognizable to modern Bush-McCain Republicans...but that's what Margolis is–not a man of the left.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-11-28 11:56:01 AM

Margolis is a hopeless, ideological twerp. Here's an example of his confused thinking.

1998: "Yasser Arafat suffers from advancing Parkinson’s disease. Like many other Arab leaders, he also has hypertension, digestive problems and nerve disorders."

2004: "This writer believes Arafat may have been murdered by an untraceable toxin brought to Israel from the KGB’s Moscow labs."

Posted by: greenmamba | 2008-11-28 12:10:54 PM

While he does not sound like someone whose writings I would read, I admit to not really knowing him. However, I do admit to be tired of various "intellectuals" of all stripes performing mental gymnastics to explain the so-called causes of such evil. It matters not one bit what their reasons are, just as it matters not what motivated a murderer to murder.

These are acts of barbarism and evil and the perpetuators and their supporters must be dealt with effectively without being influenced by bleeding-hearts.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-11-28 12:33:53 PM

There's something wrong with the archives on Margolis' website, so I couldn't follow those links.

I'd be interested to read how he presents the latter claim and what sort of evidence or clues he provides. Granted, he's not stating what he believes to be a fact, but it's an allegation that begs support beyond a certain writer's belief, especially when the toxin in question is 'untraceable'.

I'm still nonetheless curious about what your argument is. That Margolis' blind adherence to his "moderate conservative" ideology caused him to speculate about the nature of Arafat's illness and the causes of his death?

Unless they know something that the rest of the world doesn't, it seems to me that any observer of Middle Eastern politics can only guess at that.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-11-28 12:39:35 PM

Mr Margolis is a nasty, flip, pernicious and mendacious piece of work who plays on his readership's lack of knowledge. See these posts at "Daimnation!":


Mr Margolis is always ranting that Afghanistan is about oil and pipelines:

Here's the truth about Afstan and pipelnes in a letter of mine in the "Hill Times" (note the plans to export west across the Caspian, which Mr Margolis intentionally does not mention in his piece above):



Posted by: Mark Ottawa | 2008-11-28 1:36:19 PM

Kalim: Margolis seems to have limited how far back one can go on his web site; a good idea for someone like him. I made a note of that particular anomaly some years ago and saved it. I should have saved html files I suppose.

One of his pet peeves is Israel. He hates the place. It was not surprising that he would try and stick them with poisoning Arafat, despite what he said 6 years before.

Like Alain, I get annoyed by people who talk as if Western forces taking out the Taliban in Afghanistan is any kind of justification for various bad behaviours. How about the Christians being persecuted in Iraq, Egypt and Gaza, just for starters? Would EM advance that as an explanation if someone bombed a mosque in Canada over it?

Posted by: greenmamba | 2008-11-28 2:01:54 PM

How about the Christians being persecuted in Iraq, Egypt and Gaza, just for starters?
Posted by: greenmamba | 28-Nov-08 2:01:54 PM

And India.

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-11-28 2:05:40 PM

Frankly, I stopped reading Mr. Margolis years ago, but not because I disagreed with him. I gave up on him because he is utterly predictable in his analysis and therefore his new work is utterly redundant. Admittedly, at one time in the past (when his knowledge was still fresh) he provided useful input into the discussion. Now he reads like he has a list of templates that he strings together in varying order.

Posted by: meinbc | 2008-11-28 2:12:57 PM


I think you're conflating "explanation" and "justification", a mistake Margolis doesn't make. In fact, he makes precisely that point in this clip.

Analyzing the factors which motivate people to commit crimes is not the same as providing justification for them. We can say that an individual killed his father so he could get his inheritance money early to pay for critical medical treatment for his wife without excusing patricide. A motive is often one of the key things a prosecutor must provide in a murder case to secure a guilty conviction, exactly as it should be.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-11-28 2:14:28 PM

Kalim: no time to get into it seriously right now but I saw EM on the subject on CTV as well and I think he is in effect, justifying. He is usually critical of western actions but the root of all this is irrational behaviour on the part of non or semi democratic countries with strong tribal components. He seems the west should kow-tow to them.

Posted by: greenmamba | 2008-11-28 2:22:52 PM

No doubt Margolis does not tell us that the primary target is white people.


Posted by: DJ | 2008-11-28 4:48:17 PM

No doubt Margolis does not tell us that the primary target is white people.
Posted by: DJ | 28-Nov-08 4:48:17 PM

Huh? You didn't watch the video did you?

Margolis brings up that the terrorists were targeting Westerners (which I guess to you equals "white people") and then a good part of the discussion focuses on the significance of the targeting of individuals with British and U.S. Passports, which he relates in part to the coalition occupation and bombing in Afghanistan and the US bombing in Pakistan.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-11-28 4:58:02 PM

Margolis spends very little time talking about the jihadists, which is the justification for these attacks. It is their duty to attack the infidels> That's why they let the Turkish muslims live and killed the three women that were in the room with them.

Blaming the situation in Afghanistan for jihadist murderers is ridiculous. Just read the papers every day of hordes of muslims attacking christians, raping their girls etc. in Pakistan, and in Egypt the attacks on the churches, and in the Philippines, etc. etc. Its in the koran...reminds me of a song...

Posted by: Markalta | 2008-11-28 8:43:12 PM


You make a valid point, he says very little in this clip about the destructive and violent ideology which informs the world view of Muslim terrorists. That is no doubt a factor which cannot be ignored in trying to understanding violent "anti-Western Islamic radicals," I wonder whether he addresses the politics of Islamism as exemplified in groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in his book. He has certainly spent enough time in terrorist training camps and the like to understand these factors.

However, He does certainly have a few things to say about the term "Islamofascism", you can read what he thinks here: http://www.lewrockwell.com/margolis/margolis46.html

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-11-28 9:43:22 PM

"This ugly term was probably first coined in Israel – as was the other hugely successful propaganda term, "terrorism" – to dehumanize and demonize opponents and deny them any rational political motivation, hence removing any need to deal with their grievances and demands."

Mr. Margolis was talking about the term islamofascism. Sorry, Kalim I couldn't get past this. He has already attempted to belittle Israel, as he uses the term as a negative and blames them for it.

Of course, the "demands" are for all infidels to convert to Islam or die. Gee, don't see much negotiation room there, do you? Margolis is a putz.

Also, the link to fascism is very real, as WWII showed some big cheese of the Islamic world assisting the nazi's. (I'm sorry I can't remember his name right now) Let's face it, the nazi's were doing then what the islamic jihadists would like to do today. And have you seen the Hezbollah marches?

I also dislike the term terrorism when discussing jihadists. They certainly do use terrorism, but the term terrorism has co-opted the real term of islamic jihadists for politically correct reasons.

Posted by: Markalta | 2008-11-29 10:26:41 AM

Kalim: It was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem I was trying to think of in my previous post. Also, al-Banna the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood had allied himself with the Nazis, but I assume that you probably knew that.

Posted by: Markalta | 2008-11-29 10:54:48 AM

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