In his latest collection of essays, Hold Everything Dear, John Berger makes a striking comparison in a piece first published in 2002 between Hiroshima 1945 and World Trade Centre 2001 as representing significant turns in our perceptions of American power.

I’m not going to try to summarise Berger; this quote represents only an extract:

Watching either, one knew that the world would never again be the same; the risks everywhere, to which life was heir, had been changed on the morning of a new unclouded day.

The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki announced that the United States was henceforth the supreme armed power in the world. The attack of 11 September announced that this power was no longer guaranteed invulnerability on its home ground. The two events mark the beginnaning and end of a certain historical period.

Elsewhere in the same collection, in “Let Us Think About Fear”, John Berger quotes a memorable epigram by the actor and writer Peter Ustinov:

“Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich”.

A sympathetic review of the book can be found in the New Statesman. A facile one – a travesty of the newspaper’s usual editorial quality – in the Financial Times.

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