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ISSUE 117 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 3/5/2004

Roy attacks U.S. globalization in 'War Talk'

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 5, 2004

Perhaps many of us here in the Northern Hemisphere, here in the birthplace of Coca-Cola, Bechtel, Enron and pre-emptive warfare (the South is very familiar with this idea, although they use the much less sophisticated term "imperialism"), are under the impression that the process of corporate globalization is beneficial and democratic, a natural function of the capitalist society. In an effort to convince America and the world of the opposite, novelist and essayist Arundhati Roy presents the ravaging effects of globalization on the environment, citizenry and political institutions of her native India in her latest collection of political essays, entitled "War Talk." In an eloquent and often satirical voice, she draws the connections between the "corporate revolution," the U.S. militaristic and economic imperialism that drives it, and increased state and religious violence in India and elsewhere. All of this adds up to a "greatly increased distance between those who make the decisions and those who have to suffer them." She argues globalization is actually a deeply undemocratic process, if one considers that the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and the World Bank -- the three most powerful economic institutions in the world -- are free from any process of popular regulation.

Their decisions are made in secret. The people who head them are appointed behind closed doors...Nobody elected them," Roy said.

She provided a chilling example: the damming of the Narmada river, the largest in India. Funded by the World Bank, the project that was meant to provide irrigation to rural farmers now submerges more land than it irrigates, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of people it has displaced, with no implementable resettlement plan.

Risking her very livelihood in India by advocating non-violent civil disobedience to halt construction of dams and denouncing India's possession of nuclear weaponry, in "War Talk" Arundhati Roy also attacks the "creeping fascism" of her government. Describing an atmosphere she compares to pre-WWII Germany, she recounts the massacre of Muslims in the Indian state of Gujarat in which 2,000 men, women and children were tortured, dismembered and burned alive by Hindu nationalists backed by the state.

Just as fearlessly, Roy implicates the arrogance and recklessness of America's military and economic dominance as the greatest threat to world peace and stability. In a volume consisting of 112 pages and 148 citations, she makes her case with the thoroughness of a forensic scientist, recounting how throughout the past century U.S. foreign policy has brazenly and immorally sought to uphold its own dominance, at the cost of environmental sustainability, human rights, human lives, democracy and international law.

Seeing in the current "War on Terror" the continuation of this policy, Roy shakes her head at the notion that war can defeat terrorism.

"Any government's condemnation of terrorism, she says, is only credible if it shows itself to be responsive to persistent, reasonable, closely argued, nonviolent dissent .... If we do not respect and honor [nonviolent resistance movements], by default we privilege those who turn to violent means."

Ultimately, Roy is no ideologue. "War Talk" reads more like a cry of grief than a political manifesto, more like poetry than analysis. When she speaks of ahimsa (nonviolent resistance), what she calls "India's greatest gift to the world, one can almost see her smiling, sadly, lovingly; courageously."

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