Pre-Emptive Empire: A Guide to Bush's Kingdom
Award-winning documentary maker, writer and radio broadcaster Saul Landau modestly suggests that he is offering some recent ‘journal extracts as contemporary history’. Many of these short pieces were originally written as monologues for radio or appeared as columns in small alternative presses.
As the title suggests, much of the writing deals with the disastrous policies of the current White House goons but Landau also sets the material in the historical context of American foreign policy – imperialism in all but name.
Landau’s style is chatty and easy-going. He has fun writing a spoof Farewell Address for President Clinton and falls about laughing when – for one week only – Henry Kissinger is appointed by George W Bush to head the investigation into the intelligence failure around 9/11. He’s not so impressed when the architects of the Iran-Contra scandal are appointed to key posts in the new administration.
While some of the material about 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq is fairly predictable, Landau widens the net to encompass some great writing on Cuba (he is a frequent visitor) and presents a useful summary of the recent developments in Latin America.
Towards the end, Landau quotes anarchist Emma Goldman: ‘Let us not overlook vital things because of the bulk of trifles confronting us.’ While the humanitarian disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan are quite the opposite of trifles, it’s good to see Landau make frequent references to ‘the screaming demands of the environment’ which, with the current stakes, we overlook at our peril.