Ted is no liberal. Ted is no kinda green peace leftie. He is an old school leftie. If there is a war, there must be an economic reason. Iraq was about oil and funding the military industrial complex. Afghanistan is about an oil and gas pipeline and funding the military industrial complex.
Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?
Essays and Graphic Novellas, 2006
NBM Hardback, 6?x9?, 304 pp., $22.95
“Ted Rall’s Silk Road to Ruin is a rollicking, subversive and satirical portrait of the region that is part travelogue, part graphic novel. It’s fresh and edgy and neatly captures the reality of travel in the region.”
—Lonely Planet Guide to Central Asia
Comprising travelogue, political analysis and five graphic novellas, SILK ROAD TO RUIN is the book Ted Rall wanted to write in lieu of TO AFGHANISTAN AND BACK: a comprehensive look at what he calls the “New Middle East”–the part of the world the United States will focus upon in the near future. SILK ROAD TO RUIN, featuring an introduction by “Taliban” author Ahmed Rashid, includes 200 pages of essays about everything from oil politics to the wild sport of buzkashi and 100 pages of graphic novel–format comics about five of his trips to the region.
Elderly Central Asians are starving to death in nations sitting atop the world’s largest untapped reserves of oil and natural gas. Looters are cavalierly ambling around in flatbed trucks loaded with disinterred nuclear missiles. Statues of and slogans by crazy dictators are springing up as quickly as their corrupt military policemen can rob a passing motorist. And on the main drag in the capital city of each of these profoundly dysfunctional societies, a gleaming American embassy whose staff quietly calls the shots in a new campaign to de-Russify access to those staggering energy resources.
CIA agents, oilmen and prostitutes mix uneasily and awkwardly in ad hoc British-style pubs where beers cost a dollar–a day’s pay and more than enough to keep out the locals. In an extreme case of the “oil curse,” wealth is being pillaged by U.S.-backed autocrats while their subjects plunged into poverty. Meanwhile Taliban-trained Islamic radicals are waiting to fill the vacuum.
It is a volatile mix. But does anybody care?
Transformed by what he saw being done in America’s name and eager to sound the alarm, Rall went back to remote Central Asia again and again. He returned to visit the region’s most rural mountain villages. He brought two dozen ordinary Americans on the bus tour from hell. He went as a rogue independent and as a guest of the State Department. He returned to cover the American invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11, then went back again. Capitals moved, street names changed and the economic fortunes of entire nations turned on a dime from year to the next, but those changes merely reinforced Rall’s firm belief that Central Asia is the new Middle East: thrilling, terrifying, simultaneously hopeful and bleak, a battleground for proxy war and endless chaos. It is the ultimate tectonic, cultural and political collision zone. Far away from television cameras and Western reporters, Central Asia is poised to spawn some of the new century’s worst nightmares.
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