International TV interview with Hamid Taqvaee
May 2004

TV International/English: The heinous torture of Iraqi prisoners by US forces and the barbaric decapitation of Nick Berg, the American, by Islamist forces have been in the headlines. You have said that the USA and political Islam’s forces are two sides of the same coin. What would you say then to those who claim that the video of Berg’s decapitation shows that the Islamists are the more barbaric of the two and that they are not one and the same? As a US newspaper put it: if Berg had been given the choice between dog bites or decapitation, he would have chosen the dog bites. Can you please comment?

Hamid Taqvaee: First of all, why are there only two choices or two alternatives? What if Berg chose neither of them? Who says you need to choose between being bitten by a dog or decapitation? And you cannot compare which is the more barbaric. If there is a crime, violence, or brutality, it is a crime, violence or brutality; you can hardly say which one is worse. Even if you want to measure them, what criteria would you use and how would you do it? As far as the USA is concerned, which is more barbaric: Nick Berg’s decapitation or what the USA has done in Iraq and in many other places like Vietnam, Somalia, and during World War II, i.e. the killing of hundreds of thousands in two cities in Japan? Can you measure these? In Iraq, for example, look at what the USA did in Falluja; they killed hundreds via air strikes and we still don’t know how many they killed. So which one is more barbaric? From my standpoint, both of them are barbaric; both are against human beings. Both must be condemned. Both are criminals. It is not a question of comparison.

Another important point is who set up the political arena for such brutalities from both sides to begin with. When you think about it in this way you see that actually Islamic terrorism has been pushed to the fore in the political arena by US policy. Look at what they did in Afghanistan fifteen years ago in bringing the Taliban in Afghanistan to the fore or twenty plus years ago in bringing the Islamic Republic of Iran to power and now they have other factions of Islamists in the Iraqi government. So we are not witnessing two different types of terrorism. If you scratch the surface, you can see that they are actually one and the same.

TV International/English: The Islamists have said that they killed Nick Berg to avenge the torture of Iraqi prisoners by USA forces. There are also people who say that the USA is occupying Iraq, and if Berg was working as a “contractor” there, he was aiding US imperialism and was thus a legitimate target for the ‘resistance’. What would you say to them?

Hamid Taqvaee: Actually with this sort of reasoning everyone is responsible for everything. You can justify the killing of American children by saying that they are going to grow up, become soldiers and attack somebody. With this reasoning you can kill someone because at some point someone killed your friends or family or comrades. This is not resistance. True resistance is the protest of people who don’t want either of them – USA or Islamic terrorism – people who want a peaceful life, people who want to live in a normal society with schools, hospitals, jobs and employment; people who want a civilised society – that is the resistance that is not represented by Islamic forces or Kurdish nationalists or Sunnis and Shiites. All of these forces are part of the problem not the solution.

To say that killing an American citizen in Iraq is justified for what the USA forces did in Falluja or because of the torture of Iraqi prisoners in Iraq only perpetrates a vicious and un-ending circle. After this, US forces can say their attack on another city in Iraq is in response to the beheading of an American and on and on like what is happening in Palestine and Israel. Revenge doesn’t make sense. Resistance is not what we are seeing in Iraq. These forces are merely different forces of a dark scenario that are playing against each other; all of them are part of the problem.

TV International/English: In various debates, you see that people seem to have a need to choose one side or the other. You say both sides – USA and Islamic terrorism – must be opposed. But people need to take sides so what ‘side’ can they take?

Hamid Taqvaee: They can take our side – the side of the Left, the radicals, the side of human beings in the 21st century; the side of civilisation. If you watch CNN or BBC or mainstream media and follow the news the way they describe it, then of course you come to the conclusion that there are no apparent other ways. But even in Iraq today there is the Worker Communist Party of Iraq; they are very active in many arenas, including on the woman question, secularism, unemployment, and other things but you never hear of them because they are not part of the scenario that the USA has. The USA brings in Islamists and nationalists into the provisional government but you never hear about the party which is the third force there. That is the side people can choose. It is the only way to freedom, to having a radical, humanistic and civilised resistance against all of the reactionary forces in Iraq and having a people’s government there. If people take matters into their own hands they will put aside the USA, Islamic and other reactionary forces. That’s the actual side people should take.

TV International/English: Harvard professor Samuel Huntington whose theory of the Clash of Civilisations has become famous has said that the US will never gain victory in Iraq because of this very clash. Is the reason that the USA can’t win because of a clash of civilisations?

Hamid Taqvaee: That theory is pure nonsense. It is aimed at covering up the real political reasons behind everything. The basis of this theory is that we have different types of so-called civilisations. My question is what is a civilisation? What are the different components of a civilisation? Take for example science which is a component of civilisation. I ask you: do we have different types of maths in the world? Different types of physics, different types of chemistry? This is pure nonsense. You may say science is an exception; what about art and literature? Again, let me ask you: isn’t Shakespeare or Homer appreciated all over the world? Or any other form of classical art or literature in general? You may again say these are exceptions. What about pop culture? If you ask any music producer or Hollywood movie producer they know they are creating a product for the entire world. All the movies and blockbusters are popular everywhere. Pop stars like Michael Jackson, Eminem, Madonna, Elvis and the Beatles or others have all sold millions of albums across the world – in Asia, Africa, Eastern and Western Europe and so on. So what remains for there to be different types of civilisations? Do we actually have different civilisations? Civilisation is based on the basic goals, emotions, and needs that people have all over the world. If we get hungry, if we need food, if we all need a place to live, if we all like having a better life; all of us appreciate loving each other, all of us laugh and cry in similar situations, then there can only be one common and universal civilization. The point is that now this is represented in the west, but the west inherited it from the east a few hundred years ago. So historically, the whole world took part in developing the human civilization as we know it today. So even when you consider the historic and actual process of development of what is called western civilization, you find out that it is not opposed to eastern culture.

Now they are talking about the Iraq conflict within this context. The reason they are using the clash of civilisations theory is because they want to cover up the real political and economic reasons behind the war on Iraq. There is no clash of civilisations. There is a clash between the interests of the US administration and ruling class of America with the interests of ordinary people – workers, women, different segments in the Middle East and American society itself.

TV International English: We continue to hear about the despicable torture of Iraqi prisoners by USA forces. Obviously torture by USA forces is nothing new and has been going on for a long time. Why has it become front page news now?

Hamid Taqvaee: It is similar to the time near the end of the Vietnam war. When there is a problem; when USA foreign policy doesn’t go ahead as planned, then the other opposing party inside the USA takes advantage of that. The same thing is happening now because we are close to the US elections. On the other hand, the media is not monopolised by the BBC and CNN and western media companies anymore. There are different types of media now. As everyone knows, the news of the torture of Iraqi prisoners first appeared in Al Jazeera TV and they couldn’t cover it up anymore. Because we are close to the elections and there is a conflict between the two parties in the USA, the news has been broadcast across the world.

TV International English: Staying on the issue of torture, the Islamic regime of Iran’s Guardian Council has for the first time approved a Majlis bill prohibiting torture. Is this connected to the torture in Iraq? Why is it happening now?

Hamid Taqvaee: I don’t think it is directly linked to what is happening in Iraq. The Islamic regime of Iran is under pressure from human rights activists in Iran. One may say there is a link with Iraq in terms of exerting pressure on the Iranian regime to force its retreat from Iraq. Now the Islamic Republic can say it’s doing something about torture in Iran. But what they interpret as torture is not what we or people would call torture. If you look at them, all Islamic rules are torture; Islamic Sharia regarding women or many other barbaric Islamic laws is torturous. But they don’t call it torture because that’s Islam or their ‘own culture’, or as cultural- relativists or Huntington would say, it is Islamic or eastern culture. What is considered torture by the Islamic regime in Iran is already forbidden in the Islamic Republic’s constitution; this has never had any effect on what they are doing in the prisons.

The above is the edited transcript of interviews with Hamid Taqvaee on two TV International English programmes with Maryam Namazie in May 2004.

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