After CNN, a closer look


After the Gulf War: For Peace in the Middle East
Edited by StJohn Kettle and Stephanie Dowrick
Pluto Press, 1991. 134 pp. $9.95
Reviewed by Tracy Sorensen

There is always a lag between the television news which hits us in 30-second grabs and the slower paced, more considered analysis that comes afterwards, as we digest its significance. Thanks to conference telephones, desktop publishing and fax machines, that lag is getting shorter all the time.

After the Gulf War is a testament to the speed at which a book can now be produced. More importantly, it represents a pause for thought in the midst of mass media which encourage us to imbibe the news without digestion and go on to the next thing.

Bringing together contributions from peace movement activists, media critics, academics and members of the Arab-Australian community, the book's explicit aim is, as the editors write, to "undermine the fairytale metaphor which legitimated war in the West: that a hero (the United States) reluctantly took up arms to rescue an innocent victim (Kuwait) from a villain (Saddam)."

If a metaphor for the war is needed, they argue, a more accurate one might go like this: a struggle between a local gangster (Saddam) and a global warlord (the United States) for a valuable treasure (Kuwait).

"This book came about as a result of cooperation between a group of people who cared intensely, who worked hard and with passion", Stephanie Dowrick told those gathered for the book's May 2 launch at Sydney's Harold Park Hotel.

Contributor Ahmad Shboul, associate professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Sydney University, pointed out that in the aftermath of the war, the US "Star Wars" program was getting a new lease of life: "There have been reports of space shuttles going out to investigate the program in relation to enemy cruise missiles".

At the same time, "liberated" Kuwait was a mess of 600 burning oilwells, while thousands of Kuwaitis fled the country. "They are hardly enjoying their liberation", he said.

The real aspirations of the peoples of the region continued to be ignored, as it went on being the theatre of operations for outsiders.

"This isn't a very funny book", said Shboul, "but it will make you think very deeply about the irony of our situation". n