Who Are the Bad Guys?

The bad guys kill for fun.
The most illustrious, most powerful men and women of the American political classes have always been fond of telling us who the Bad Guys were. According to them we’re surrounded by them, have been for a long time. In the 50’s and 60’s it was the Russians. Remember them? They had recently contributed 20 million dead to help us win the Second World War, but we immediately felt we had to be their enemies. Churchill, who was miffed for being sidelined by Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta, actually advocated “neutralizing” them as soon as the war was over. Continue reading


I’d Like You to Meet Lewis Lapham

Louis LaphamI’ve been an unconditional admirer of Lewis Lapham ever since I discovered Harper’s Magazine many years ago. Lapham was the editor of Harper’s for 30 years, from 1976 to 2006. His current title is “editor emeritus,” which is not to say he’s retired. He still writes his regular Notebook feature for Harper’s and he’s embarked on a new history-journal project called Lapham’s Quarterly. The journal’s interest goes beyond its excellent content, for the three media it employs simultaneously: online, print and radio. Not to drag this introduction out, I just want to offer you some of Lapham’s comments on YouTube. There are a couple of hour-long interviews, along with some shorter features. All of them are worth spending your time. Lewis Lapham is a singular American. If there were 100 like him it would be a different country. Continue reading

Who Sees What from Where and Why


One of the main assertions of my book, The Turncoat Chronicles, is that there are aspects of American society which can be seen better from abroad than from “under the American bell jar.” What we outsiders can see clearly–while wondering why the Americans themselves have so much trouble discerning the same phenomena– is how the United States interacts both with other countries around the world, as well as with their domestic minorities. From abroad we see cynicism, manipulation, lies, pre-emptive warfare, economic abuses, and torture. Inside of the United States we see a troubled and truculent populace armed to the teeth, the world’s largest prison population, and the loathsome death penalty. I’m sorry. That’s what we see in the media, both domestic and foreign, online and offline, along with the unending attempts by the U.S. establishment to cover it all up or simply deny it. Continue reading


Angel Olgoso, portrait by Angeles PrietoMaureen is always dragging me off to music recitals and poetry readings. The other night it was the presentation of a new book of short, short stories, in one of Granada’s many historic palaces which have been renovated by the town hall for public use. There was no way I could get out of it as the publisher, Miguel Angel Arcas of Cuadernos del Vigía is a friend, the only intellectual I know prepared to come out early on a Sunday morning to hunt mushrooms with me. So I was not about to let him down. Continue reading

Between Two Fires, Drama Beneath the Surface in a Spanish Village

Guerrilla War in the Spanish Sierras, cover

British journalist, editor, world traveller, and old Spain hand David Baird has written a new book, his seventh, and he didn’t have to go far to research it. He’s been sitting virtually on top of it since he arrived in the Andalusian village of Frigiliana to live in 1971. Between Two Fires: Guerrilla War in the Spanish Sierras, about to be published by Maroma Press in English and Editorial Almuzara in Spanish (where the title is Entre dos fuegos: Guerra sin cuartel en las sierras andaluzas) tells the long-ignored story of “the people of the sierra”. This was the anti-Franco guerrilla movement which operated in the mountains of Spain’s Málaga and Granada provinces in the 1940s and 50s during the fierce Franco repression after the Spanish Civil War.

For years Baird had heard hushed references to “la gente de la sierra”, and “el maquis”, as the anti-Franco resistance fighters were known, but it wasn’t till he started doing his research for Between Two Fires that he discovered that his own adopted village of Frigiliana was one of the principal centers both for guerrilla and counter-guerrilla activity.

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Robert Fisk Has Had Enough

The British reporter, Robert Fisk, was not only a valuable source for me in researching and writing The You of My Song, but a significant moral support, as well, when it came to writing not just with honesty, but with conviction. Now, after spending more than three decades covering the most conflictive areas of Europe and the Middle East, always in the vanguard, Robert Fisk has announced his retirement in an interview on New Zealand Television’s ‘Campbell Live’. In the interview, which you can see here:

Fisk gives the reasons for his decision to leave active duty, and describes his sense of despair at how little positive impact he feels his work has had.What has made Fisk’s journalism unique is his personalized, combative reporting style, along with a notable disregard for personal danger. When he was in Pakistan covering the first days of the American attack on Afghanistan in 2001, he was beaten nearly to death by a crowd of Afghan refugees.The next article he wrote included these lines: “I couldn’t blame them for what they were doing…” and their “brutality was entirely the product of others, of us — of we who had armed their struggle against the Russians and ignored their pain and laughed at their civil war and then armed and paid them again for the ‘War for Civilisation’ just a few miles away and then bombed their homes and ripped up their families and called them ‘collateral damage.’”

American actor John Malkovich precipitated an international incident when he declared in 2002 at the British Cambridge Union Society, when asked whom he would most like to “fight to the death,” he replied that he would “rather just shoot” journalist Robert Fisk. Fisk’s reply to Malkovich, (published here: http://www.robert-fisk.com/articles77.htm) was eloquent and all inclusive. Continue reading

You Can’t Say That!

Speak no evilAfter years of simmering indignation with the direction the United States was taking, both at home and abroad, last year I finally started writing The You of My Song: Notes from a Voluntary Exile. Not that I thought I was going to add any new revelations to the story, as the facts are all there for anyone who wants to look them up. I did, however, think I could contribute one new element to the discussion: a fresh point of view, that of a person who rejected the American dream at the end of the sixties, and went looking for something better. I found that alternative in Spain. That’s a long story, which the book deals with in detail. Here, though, I want to remark on an interesting by product which came along with my move across the Atlantic and longtime residence abroad: a clearer view of the country which I left behind. Continue reading