Friday, September 30, 2005

"Sunni death cult is pushing Iraq towards civil war"
"Former US military spokesman signs on with Al-Jazeera"
Violations of human rights that you really really like: "US waives sanctions on Saudis over religious rights"
The poem Pharaonic Summoning by Syrian poet Muhammad Al-Maghut (my translation):
"The world
does not like my nation
and my nation
does not like my homeland
and my homeland
does not like my village
and my village
does not like my
and my quarter
does not like my house
and my house
does not like my room
and my room
does not like my pillow
and my pillow
does not like my head
and my head
does not like my forehead
and my forehead
does not like my poems
and my poems
do not like my fingers
and my fingers
do not like one another
And they all see in me
a steadfast fortress
and a towering mountain
in the face of time
and do not see the
crumbling hut in my depth!
All hear the neighing and screams
of battle,
and see the inscriptions on the saddle,
and the dust of the spurs
swimming in the air,
and do not see
my foot which is stuck
in the heels"
Former Crown Prince Hasan gave an interview on Al-Arabiyya TV, crowning his visit to the US. Did you notice how he became a sudden champion of democracy and Palestinian rights, when he was fired from his royal position by his late brother (who previously would refer to him as "apple of my eye?") He said that he is coming out with a book to speak for Arab public opinion. I ask my Arab readers this: do you know one Arab who accepts to be represented by this former Crown Prince?
Muhammad Hasanayn Haykal's oral memoir on Al-Jazeera TV continues. But at the pace he is going, and most people hear him in anticipation of his experiences with Nasser, he may not be able to get to the Nasser era before the year 2059 (when Haykal would be entering his 140th year). Today, he just finished his impressions and experiences in the era of Tutankhamen. Apparently, Tut was a very jovial fellow, and Haykal knew him very very well. I fault Haykal for many things wrong in Arab political discourse and culture. He is the best selling "non-fiction" writer in Arabic. But Haykal never excelled as a journalist, but as a chief propagandist for Nasser. He was, a sophisticated propagandist--if you are into propaganda that is, but only until 1967. He often reinforces misconceptions and misinformation among Arab public opinion. Today for example. He said that Israel "knew everything about Egypt" by 1948. How could anybody, but somebody who is ignorant abut the reality of what Israel knew and did not know, say something like that. I have always been bothered by the Arab public and elite notion--no doubt peddled by Israeli official propaganda--that Israel knows everything about the Arab world. I have always hated how Arabs dissect every op-ed piece by "an Israeli analyst" or by an Israeli Orientalist. One of the things I did when I came to this country, is to read much of Israeli scholarship on the Arab world. And you realize that the quality is not different from the quality of Arab scholarship. I believe in the equality of people--unlike Lebanonese nationalists who think that the Lebanonese people are superior because they make good Tabbulah and dye their hair blonde, and there are good, mediocre, and lousy scholars everywhere. I remember I was relieved when I read as much of Israeli scholarship as I could. I was happy to rid myself of the false and dangerous notion of superior Israeli knowledge of the Middle East. I collected almost the entire body of Israeli writings on the Arab East one summer in graduate school, and enjoyed marking the mistakes, errors, and inaccuracies in them. I was able to rid myself once and for all of the inferiority complex that Haykal and others want Arabs to internalize. I remember counting mistakes in Moshe Maoz' book on Asad. Haykal also mistakenly identified Chaim Weizmann as "founder of the Zionist movement."
I really feel that Al-Arabiyyah TV director, and Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist, `Abdur-Rahman Ar-Rashid writes every single column with an eye on Thomas Friedman. As in, I wonder if "the great Thomas Friedman will like this article, and cite it in his column."
When Hummus Hit the Fan: Follow up to the Hummus Revolution. Ad-Diyar newspaper and As-Safir gave the most incredible accounts of the last meeting of the Lebanese Council of Ministers. Apparently, the camp of Hariri-Jumblat fought against Emile Lahhud. Obscenities were hurled, fists hit the table, and rivals almost came to blows. This is the new Lebanon.

Muhammad Ad-Durrah, named after his brother Muhammad, who was shot by Israeli occupation soldiers.
An excellent article by Joseph Samahah on foreign aid and Lebanon, and another excellent article by Khalid Saghiyyah on Ilyas Murr and his latest attempt at false heroism.

Israeli occupation forces prevent Palestinians from visiting their olive fields.

The war on terrorists (and their daughters). People of Fallujah demonstrate because US occupation forces kidnapped a young woman accused of..being a daughter of Zarqawi. The residents denied that. Imagine: you have to deny being a son or a daughter of a wanted man. The new signs should read: Wanted: (and your sons and daughters too).
From Bin Laden to Sa`d Al-Hariri. I never trusted the clerics of Lebanon (or clerics anywhere else for that matter). Take the case of the Mufti of Biqa`in Lebanon, Khalil Al-Mays. This fanatical Bin Laden fan was transformed in the last election in the course of weeks, after the influx of Hariri money into the Sunni mosques of Lebanon, into a staunch Hariri fan. Prior to that, he had been a fanatic Bin Ladenite for years.
Flash. Lebanese journalist Michel Abu Jawdah did not die from natural causes (was it in 1993 or 94?). He, according to his nephew, committed suicide. According to the nephew of Abu Jawdah in a phone call to a program on Al-Mustaqbal TV, Michel Abu Jawdah took pills and killed himself after being banned from writing in An-Nahar due to pressures from then Syrian vice-president `Abdul-Halim Khaddam who requested that An-Nahar ban him. Abu Jawdah was a very influential figure in the Arabic press for much of the 1960s and 1970s, and his daily column was an indicator of the Arab Cold War. I used to see him as a child when when we used to go to Egypt during the Christmas holidays, and he stayed at the same hotel. It was then that I noticed the big scar on his face. I then learned from my father how an agent for Lebanese military intelligence slashed his face when he wrote a column mildly critical of Fu'ad Shihab. He also was kidnapped in 1974--but thugs of Rif`at Al-Asad if I am not mistaken, but was later released.
Kamil Mnassah was like the Walter Cronkite of Lebanon when I was growing up. He also was a close family friend. But I heard him say something really silly on Future TV: he said that one of the reasons that Mayy Shidayaq was targeted was because she was "pretty."

Judith Miller waving to Ahmad Chalabi on her way to court. Now that she is free, she pledged to keep writing stories about Iraqi WMDs based on the sources that Chalabi provides her.
PS: if somebody can find the text of my debate with Judith Miller in New York City (I forgot the name of the host organization) in 1992, I would be grateful.
"Whenever I get mixed with the esttemed citizens known as Lebanese, for more than 10 years, I become convinced that most of them are liars. Liars who brag that they are the best people ever brought out to people." This was written by right-wing sectarian columnist, George Nasif in his Kitab Al-Jurh (Dar An-Nahar, 2005), p. 81. The problem with it is that Nasif himself proves that he is a liar too. In a column he wrote on June 19th, 2003, he blamed Israel and its agents for the bombing of Future-TV in Beirut. But as of late, Nasif has been accusing Syrian intelligence of responsibility. Which is which, Mr. Nasif?

Réseaux des stoppages étalon. Marcel Duchamp.
"The number of Iraqi army battalions that can fight insurgents without U.S. and coalition help has dropped from three to one, top U.S. generals told Congress yesterday"
Larry Franklin to testify against former AIPAC officials"
So much for fighting for the principle: "New York Times reporter jailed for refusing to testify about leak of a covert CIA officer's identity released after agreeing to give evidence."
"White farmer sentenced to life for killing black worker by throwing him into lion enclosure."
Dictators you like and support: "Libya: Web Writer's Arrest Stifles Debate"
That is how American correspondents report about the Middle East: "To reach the headquarters of the Iraqi Navy in the port of Umm Qasr, my U.S. Navy escort and I had to drive in from Kuwait. We were met at the border by two jeeps with the Royal Marines who escorted us to Umm Qasr at dusk. Even though this is the safest part of Iraq, we had to be outfitted in body armor, and the Royal Marines had their automatic weapons loaded and ready. They kept every civilian car we passed, every kid on a bicycle, in their sights, just in case one was a suicide bomber." You have to be out of your mind to learn from such "reporters."

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The real cost of Zionism: "Total daily numbers of deaths & injuries - West Bank & Gaza"
Full text. "Behind Closed Doors: Human Rights Abuses in the Psychiatric Facilities, Orphanages and Rehabilitation Centers of Turkey"
Brent Sadler of CNN: this Beirut correspondent is really quite funny. I mean really. Not Family Guy funny, but boring propagandist funny. I mean he should end his reports from Beirut by "...brought to you by the Hariri family." It is that bad and that blatant. I do not have evidence that he is on Hariri payroll, as a Hariri Inc source told me.

Jeune homme triste dans un train. Marcel Duchamp.
Destroyed by Israel. Palestinians at where a house once stood.
Patriotic Porn: "Army Won't Pursue Charges in Porn Site Case"
Update: Karen Hughes in Arabia. "A group of Turkish women confronted Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes on Wednesday with heated complaints about the war in Iraq, turning a session designed to highlight the empowerment of women into a raw display of anger at U.S. policy."
The Old "New" Lebanon: Since I was a kid, I hear Lebanonese nationalists talking about Lubnan Al-Jadid (the New Lebanon). Yet, it is only the very old Lebanon that keeps coming back. There is NO New Lebanon. Only the old one persists, even when it changes colors and clothings.
This is "liberated" Afghanistan: "1979 fault lines in Afghanistan"
Now this is the result of the Bush's doctrine: "Iranians held pro-nuclear rally in Tehran Wednesday."
The theft of the culture is no less offensive than the theft of the land. Here the New York Times speaks about Shawarma and falafil and Arabic bread as "authentic Israeli food." What do you say to that? Now I am not a nationalist purist; I am not even a nationalist. I in fact prefer to refer to many aspects of the Arab culture, like food here, as "Middle East" rather than Arab because what we assume is purely Arab (or what Lebanonese assume to be purely "Lebanonese") is really the product of the contributions by Arabs, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Greeks, and by Muslims, Christians, Jews, and others, and by the interactions between different population groups and different ethnicities). But to make it "authentic Israeli"? Really. No, New York Times. David Ben Gurion did not bring the recipe of Shawirma with him from Russia. Not to my knowledge anyway. The Palestinians had their own culture befor their homeland was taken away from them.
"Ex-army officers attack 'chaos' of Iraqi regime"
It seems that not only are the Taliban back in Afghanistan, but Al-Qa`idah seems to have returned too.
This is Zionism: Israeli occupation forces in South Lebanon, yet again, kidnapped a 15-year old shepherd. He was later released.

Karen Hughes: busy changing the minds of Arabs and Muslims about the US.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Academics for Bush (and his wars): Fouad Ajami Analyzes the Arab Natives for You. He has one of his usual pieces in the Wall Street Journal (thanks John and Walter). It is really your typical Fouad Ajami (and recently his obedient imitator `Abdur-Rahman Ar-Rashid's) style: "that, look at me, how civilized I am, and how uncivilized Arabs are. Why can't Arabs be civilized like me. Do you not respect me and reward me for being such a civilized guy? It is really sad how uncivilized Arabs are, etc." First he starts by telling you that "The remarkable thing about the terror in Iraq is the silence with which it is greeted in other Arab lands." That is not really true. I have, I think, more extensive access to Arab media, and follow Arab opinions in print, and through TV broadcasts through my SuperDish and the other offerings on Globecast satellite TV, and consider myself a very close watcher of Arab public opinion, not through their jokes only and not through what a few handful Syrian writers in An-Nahar newspaper. And Ajami claim is groundless. The most famous Arab newspapers, Al-Hayat, Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat, Al-Ahram, An-Nahar, and many others, carry regular if not daily denunciations of Zarqawi. Even Sunni Muslim fundamentalist speakers preface their remarks on Iraq by declaring their opposition to Zarqawi and his heinous deeds. But I think that it is true that there may be some who may be deep down sympathetic to Zarqawi, not out of admiration for his agenda or his style of murders, but mostly because they feel, rightly or wrongly, and largely due US propaganda exaggeration of Zarqawi role and influence in Iraq, that he is contributing to the demise of the US project in Iraq, just as there were people (like Walid Jumblat by his own admission) who did not admire or like Bin Laden but may have gloated over American suffering on Sep. 11, as insensitive as this may be. Of course, even if one is opposed to US project in Iraq, Zarqawi should never be treated as an ally, and his murder should be condemned no matter who he targets. But to make this criminal a product of the Arab world or its people is as ridiculous as claiming that an American criminal is the product of American culture or people. Let us apply the same standards of analaysis on the advanced (colonizing) world, and the colonized people. Similarly, there is something to be said, on the other side, for American silence toward the killing of Iraqi civilians: and whether they are shot by US troops or by Zarqawi killers, the responsibility for the security situation in Iraq, from the standpoint of international law, should be squarely blamed on US government's doorsteps as it stands in charge of Iraq, and is the legal occupying power, no matter what dubious UN resolutions ploys are utilized to disguise what can't be disguised: a classic and naked foreign occupation that uses the arguments and methods of past colonial powers in the region. But it is quite untrue to say that Arabs (Sunni Arabs) are not denouncing the crimes of Zarqawi. Take all the Arab TV channels, you hear speakers from different ideological backgrounds speaking against Zarqawi. That is a fact. How dishonest it is for Ajami, or others, who feel the need for purposes of self-promotion, to misreport the reality of Arab public opinion to Western readers. The time when classical Orientalists used to get away with their generalizations and statements about Arabs and Muslims is long gone. We need to shake the arrogant self-confidence, as Maxime Rodinson called it in la fascination de l'islam when he talked about classical Orientalists, of the instant favorite government experts of the Middle East. I will even say this: I have not read one piece, NOT ONE PIECE, by any Arab praising Zarqawi or his deeds. Only his Jordanian biographer, Fu'ad Husayn, seems to express some admiration for him, just as Saudi Ambassador in the US (the new one, Prince Turki al-Faysal) still seems to express admiration for the personality of Bin Laden "when he knew him." I have not heard one person on any Arab channel praising Zarqawi or his deeds. To be sure, on the kooky Bin Ladenite websites, and they are not visited by a large number of visitors (and half of the visitors are most probably from US government agencies and the staff of MEMRI anyway), you will find people offering praise for Zarqawi, but you can also find kooky American website praising all sort of crazy behavior. Ajami tells (or informs) the reader that Zarqawi refers to Shi`ites as Rafidah (which is true, as he does refer to Shi`ites and other Muslims who do not support him in the most crude and vulgar manner) but he defines Rafidah as (Rejectors of Islam). That is not quite accurate: the term was coined to refer to Shi`ite rejection of the divine legitimacy of the rule of the 1st three rightly-guided caliphs. Yes, Zarqawi rails against Shi`ites, but Ajami does not tell the readers that Zarqawi also rails, in the most vicious and crude manner again, against OTHER SUNNI MUSLIMS and Arabs BECAUSE they did not rally to his call, and because they did not join his Jihad. That only proves my point. Zarqawi would not rail against the Sunni clerics and the Sunni people if they were really sympathetic to his cause as Ajami would like you to believe. But it does not look like Ajami has been reading Zarqawi's statements, or maybe only reading what is put out by the unreliable MEMRI. If you rely on MEMRI for your knowledge of Arab discourse, you are really not informed. Arab public opinion, based on MEMRI's releases, is reduced or caricatured to either Bin Laden fans or Bush fans, while Arab public opinion is mosty a fan of neither people. In fact, as somebody who has regularly read his speeches and listened to his audioyellings, I can identify a trend in his discourse: Zarqawi started by expressing almost exclusive hostility against Shi`ites, but his anger has been increasingly rising against all Arabs and all Muslims (and Muslim clerics too because they have distanced themselves from him and his crimes) because they have failed to join his campaign of Jihad. Yes, perhaps there should be more attention paid in the Arab world to the carnage in Iraq, but there should be more attention paid here in the US to the carnage in Iraq. People, and the media, are ignoring the Iraq story, and that does not mean that they are sympathetic to Zarqawi. That is the flaw in his logic of Ajami's argument here. But how bad is the state of Middle East studies, and how much do Orientalist dogmas and cliches still persist in the US, when a "respected" expert on the Middle East (somebody who turned down an offer of a chair at Harvard University's Department of Government) can get away with such statements: "A terrible condition afflicts the Arabs... an addiction to failure." I dare say that no expert of Russia or China or Mexico would dare make a similar statement about the people of those countries, and still get away with it. It is amazing how tolerant the American academe is of statements of prejudice and hostility when made AGAINST the Arabs/Muslims. Here is a generalization about 300 million people made by somebody who lives in New York, and whose declarations, nay assertions about Arab culture--about the Arab "mind" really--are widely circulated and applauded. And what do you make of such statements as "But in truth there is precious little shame in Arab life about the role of the Arabs in the great struggle for and within Iraq." I mean how do you respond to that? How can you argue with that? Imagine if I write a book in Arabic on Americans in which I say something similar, about all Americans. Would that not be the epitome of irresponsibility and reinforcement of cultural and ethnic hatred and animosities, and of cross-cultural misunderstandings? He then tells you that the Damascus-based Union of Arab Writers has refused to grant memberships to Iraqi authors. That is a lie, and Ajami may not even know it. Ajami is so irresponsible with his generalizations and statements, and he knows that there are no limits as to what he gets away with it, that he simply feels no inhibitions in spreading rumors, or repeating something that somebody may have told him at an embassy function, or a dinner party, or even making things up. Fakhri Karim is an Iraqi writer and last I heard he was a member of that Union. But that Union does NOT represent all Arab writers. This has been a controversial Union which has served as a tool really of the Syrian Ba`thist regime. It has been infiltrated by spies of the regime. It has been discredited, and recently the leader of the Union was ousted as a protest against his long history of shameless subservience to a regime that did everything to stifle creativity and artistic and literary expression, in Syria and beyond. He then, so innocently asks about the state of silence in the Arab world vis-a-vis Iraqi suffering. Oh, no: there is no silence, they do talk loudly and daily about Iraqi suffering in Arab publications, but they disagree with Ajami's diagnosis and solutions, and that is why he dismisses their voices, and claims falsely that there is a state of silence. I can easily ask this sudden and convenient champion of Iraq and its people where he was when the Iraqi civilian population--I am not talking about Saddam and his cruel family--was suffering under the most cruel sanctions that were imposed by the will of the US government (under Bush, Clinton, and George W.). He was silent. But silence, to Ajami, is when you do not say "the right word." No speeches will count unless you utter the well-known Bush's propaganda lines and RNC's talking points, packaged by Ajami as Middle East expertise and academic wisdom. No, Iraqis did not suffer alone, there was so much attention paid in the Arab world to the suffering of the Iraqi people under sanctions, unlike the situation in the US, where pundits and government officials (Democrats and Republicans alike) either supported the sanctions or called for tightening them. The rest of the American population (with the exception of pockets of progressive dissent) simply did not pay attention to the suffering of Iraqis. But this is Ajami: it is easy, way too easy, to pick on Arabs in the US, just as it is easy to criticize Israel in the Arab world. So Ajami has as much credibility as a Syrian Ba`thist writer who is willing to criticize Israel but unwilling to criticize her/his own government. Similarly, Ajami refrains from criticizing the US and Israel, because that would change the reception of his words on the Middle East. If he were to do that, he would immediately sound less wise and less profound. That is also true about those Arab neo-conservatives who speak on the Middle East in the US (those who are listed in Benador and Associates site). Notice that when they become convenient analysts of the Middle East, they stop talking about the Palestinians, and in the case of some of the, they stop supporting the Palestinians. That would not be accepted, and the speaking fees would end. I will say this: Professor Muhsin Mahdi (formerly Professor at Harvard University's Center for Middle East Studies and the person who succeeded H.A.R. Gibb as director of the Center) once talked to me about Ajami when he was being considered for a position in the Department of Government there. He was interviewed by the Crimson (as an anonymous source) and he said that he knows of Ajami but only as media phenomenon, and that he does not match his criticisms of the Arab world with any criticism of the US and Israel. So he has the same glaring credibility problem that a Syrian Ba`thist or a Libyan Qadhdhafi fan or a Jordanian mukhabarat writer has, but in an opposite way. Both don't have credibility. And then he uses such language: "a spirit of belligerence have settled upon the Arab world". A professor who writes such a language about 300 million people is a professor whose students leaves his class with more stereotypes and more misconceptions about Arabs than when they entered the class. He makes fun of the dismissal of the Iraqi constitution as "American-Iranian"--although I have not read that in Arabic--as "incoherent" criticism. No it is not. It is quite coherent, and makes a lot of sense. It refers to the process that produced the not-agreed-upon-yet draft version of the Iraqi constitution. And the process was largely determined by Iranian and American influences and intervention, and it shows. I am not sure why Ajami has difficulty in understanding that, but then again: why should I make people's comprehension problems my problem? But my favorite part of the Ajami piece (favorite piece to mock that is) was his reference to Egypt. Ajami is mad at the Egyptians (but that is redundant, as his anger at the Egyptians can be derivative of the his expressed anger at all Arabs), although he often praises the handful of Egyptians who support normalization with Israeli (like the shallow playwright `Ali Salim). I almost laughed at that part. Here I have spent the last two years of this blog keeping track of American changing sequence of accusations against those who are allegedly responsible for the Iraqi insurgency, and I have noticed that at different times, Libya, Iran, Hizbullah, Syria, Zarqawi, `Izzat Ad-Duri, the Iraqi Ba`th organization in Syria, Revolutionary Guards, the Mukhabarat, the Military Office of the Ba`th (the recent version of the theory is in the last issue of Time magazine), Saddam's briefcase, `Udayy, etc were all blamed as the real power behind the Iraqi insurgency. But here, Ajami wants to blame Egypt. It is Egypt that is now responsible for the Iraqi insurgency. But you must understand this. Ajami is on the defensive. He really is. This is a man who lent his expertise and wisdom on Middle East affairs to the US government when it was preparing for the war against Iraq; this is the man whose writings and "predictions" were cited by none other than the Vice-president of the US; this is the man who predicted not only that Iraqis would greet US occupiers, but that the Arabs would greet the "liberation of Iraq"--that was cited in Cheney's speech in August 2002 joyfully and excitedly. Ajami has to explain to his fans in government why things just did not proceed according to his reading of Arab public opinion. If you ask me, Ajami's take on the Iraq war and its impact on Arab politics should have discredited him mightily (compare that--not only to my own prediction found weeks after the war started in my interview with the Boston Globe, still on this site--to the analysis of other Middle East experts at the time). Ajami revealed himself to be quite deficient in reading Arab public opinion, and that explains why he is lashing out against it. I like it that Ajami found the statement by the Hijazi King of Jordan on the "Shi`ite crescent" to be bigoted. Not that I don't find it bigoted, it is. But I never see Ajami ever being sensitive to any manifestations of bigotry against Arabs and Muslim, save this reference to the Shi`ite crescent. Since when is Ajami sensitive to bigotry against Islam and Muslim, I rhetorically ask. That was never his forte or his concern. Never. I will concede something he said about the Jordanian intellectual class: that many of them have woefully expressed support and even admiration for Saddam. But contrary to Ajami's clear sympathy for the regime in Jordan, the Jordanian regime that he praises is responsible for that. He forgot to remember that Saddam's most solid of alliances with King Husayn created the personality cult for Saddam in Jordan. He forgot to remember that when King Husayn was the best ally of Saddam, this current King, then prince, was best friend with `Udayy Saddam Husayn. When the fathers talked "business" and wars, `Udayy and Prince `Abdullah would talk "play" and fun. That is never mentioned in the Western press I notice about the silly King of Jordan. Ajami forgot to remember that the first shot of the Iraqi invasion of Iran was fired (from a tank) by the Jordanian King (Husayn) himself. Yes, there is religious extremism in parts of the Arab world, but Ajami provides no historical or socio-economic analysis of its underlying causes. And why are Christian and Jewish fundamentalisms never defined as "bigotry?" Nobody would ever describe Jewish and Christian fundamentalisms as "bigoted" movements as he casually does with Islamic fundamentalism. And remember that I read this piece of Fouad Ajami more as a psychological ploy, and as an attempt to explain one's own blunders of prediction. Listen to Ajami here: "We may not fully appreciate the historical change we unleashed on the Arab world, but we have given liberty to the stepchildren of the Arab world." What a tactic for the self-preservation of one's reputation despite series of blunders and mistakes. So here he tells you, that yes he has made all those predictions about Iraq, and wants you to also know that he will not take them back. But he wants to assure you that his predictions will materialize, but not now. In 50 years or so. So just give Ajami 100 years before you judge his mispredictions of the Iraq war, ok? Is that too much to ask? This is akin to me predicting rain, not tomorrow, not next week, not next month, but sometime in the next 10 years. And when it rains, I want you to know that I had predicted it. This is the Ajami's power of anlaysis and preduction about Middle East events. I also find it curious that Ajami wants you to be proud that the US war added "self-worth to the seminarians of Najaf." This ostensible secularist wants Americans to be proud that he we have increased the self-confidence and self-esteem of Muqtada As-Sadr, or even of an Ayatollah who never left his house in 6 years (until his hospitalization in London)--somebody who has not even permitted the playing of chess, and whose views on women are clearly sexist and misogynist? And was it not really a desperate and highly ineffective ploy to blame US blunders and debacles on the Arabists of the State Department? I mean really. That accusation may have made sense some 20 years ago, or 30 years ago, but now, in the Clinton and Bush administration? He says (in shifting blame): "Washington has its cadre of Arabists reared on Arab nationalist historiography. This camp had a seat at the table, but the very scale of what was at play in Iraq, and the redemptionism at the heart of George Bush's ideology, dwarfed them." Arabists? Where were they? There are no Arabists at the table anymore? The Arabists, assuming there are any who dare to use that label about their careers anymore, may be stamping passports at Jiddah at best, but sitting at the table? Unless he was talking about their family dinner tables? Arabists? Elliot Abrams? David Sutterfield? Zalmay Khalilzad? The national security staff the Defense Department or the Vice-president's? Who are these Arabists? I guarantee you that if you name one, that person will be fired on the spot. The US government today is as hospitable to Arabists as the US government was hospitable to communists in the 1950s. Two years ago, in a talk I gave at a conference at Georgetown University, I spoke about the war against the Arabists in the US government, and that only fanatic Zionists (under Clinton and Bush) are permitted to handle the making the US foreign policy in the Middle East. These people are hired on the basis of one qualification only: fanatic loyalty to Zionist militancy (notice that I did not say militant Zionism). After my talk, a former US Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East approached me and said nice things about my talk, but then added, almost pleadingly: "...But don't use the word Arabists anymore. It really has bad connotations in the US government and in this city." In fact, I had assumed that Robert Kaplan's book on the Arabists was written as their obituary, no? But let me add, lest I am misunderstood, that I do agree with Ajami on the horrible state of Sunni-Shi`ite relations in the region (and this piece of his is a contribution to that bad state of affairs), but I blame it almost equally on Zarqawi AND the US war and occupation. Does anybody deny that the US has pursued a lethal policy of sectarian manipulation in Iraq? I mean you just need to read Thomas Friedman's last piece..of know what I am talking about. But Ajami then adds with the most insincere and fake modesty that he could muster: "We have not always been brilliant in the war we have waged, for these are lands we did not fully know." Did not fully know? But are you not the Middle East know-it-all? You, not the Arabists, had a seat, nay a front seat, at the table. You were the one who was informing top government officials, and now you say "we did not know". You can't have it both way. You can't pose as the foremost Middle East expert, and have the unprecedented access that you have, and then claim that you did not know. As we say in Arabic, it is bad if you did not know, and worse if you knew. Which way is it? It can't be both. And Ajami invoked Lebanon. I thought that people are already embarrassed to use Lebanon, which is on the verge of civil strife, and with a war against "ghosts" going on according to the Minister of Interior, and which is undergoing one of the worst epoch of sectarian hatreds and tensions in recent memory, as an example of the Bush doctrine. Lebanon? Even the Lebanese openly talk about the end of March 14th "movement." But Ajami is served by American public ignorance of the Middle East, not by their kowledge. Most of the people who (in the US media and government) hailed the Hummus Revolution have not written or said a word about Lebanon in months, given the recent course of events. Has Ajami not heard? And have you noticed the Ajami and Bernard Lewis are permitted to use as footnote sources that we don't even allow our undergraduate students to use, like here: "A Kuwaiti businessman" who told him this thing or that, etc. Lewis once cited a letter to the editor written seemingly by a Muslim. And I could not believe that Ajami (like Bush today) invoked the case of Tal Afar in Iraq as an example of success: "This time, at Tal Afar, Iraq security forces were there to stay, and a Sunni Arab defense minister with the most impeccable tribal credentials, Saadoun Dulaimi, issued a challenge to Iraq's enemy, a message that his soldiers would fight for their country." Just as Bush today was informing the American public about success against the war on terrorism by US troops. He said that after Tal Afar was "liberated", Iraqi troops took over and that they will not permit terrorists to return. But hours after Ajami's piece was published, and minutes before Bush gave his speech, a suicide bomber struck in Tal Afar. IN TAL AFAR after its "liberation" by US troops, and its alleged takeover by Iraqi troops. Try another example. And it was not unbecoming of Ajami at all to end his article with the same demagogic propaganda line that Bush used, to great effect I may add, during his presidential campaign.

The Suffering of the City of New Orleans. !865. Edgar Degas
"An Army captain who reported new allegations of detainee abuse in Iraq said Tuesday that Army investigators seemed more concerned about tracking down young soldiers who reported misconduct than in following up the accusations and investigating whether higher-ranking officers knew of the abuses."
"Saudi women dispute U.S. envoy's notions: Defense of their role in society surprises Bush aide Hughes"
"Nightmare for African Women: Birthing Injury and Little Help"
Karen Hughes of Texas in Arabia: "Karen Hughes, the Bush nanny who knows nothing about the Muslim world and yet is charged with selling the U.S. to it, wasted even more fuel this week flying to Saudi Arabia to tell women covered from head to toe in black how much she likes driving even though they can't. She knows so little about the Middle East that she looked taken aback when some Saudi women told her that just because they could not vote or drive did not mean that they felt they were treated unfairly.One thing Saudi women like even less than not having certain rights is to have hypocritical Americans patronize them."
This trash talk from Thomas Friedman passes as Middle East expertise in the US: "We should arm the Shiites and Kurds and leave the Sunnis of Iraq to reap the wind. We must not throw more good American lives after good American lives for people who hate others more than they love their own children." (Also notice that `Abdur-Rahman Ar-Rashid of Al-Arabiyya TV now makes available for Friedman his English translations of his columns in Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Karen Hughes in the Middle East Update: she kindly asked Saudi government to allow women to drive very small toy cars in the kingdom. And trying to change Muslim/Arab views of the US, she asked Prince Sultan (shown above) to show more love and affection for US wars. He agreed immediately. Thus, the mission was declared a success. OK.
"Britain 'agreed in secret' to expel Saudis during £40bn arms talks"
Lessons for Arab Governments: "US agrees to pull out of Uzbek airbase after talks collapse"
Holding a piece of an Israeli missile that was launched against a school in Gaza.

Palestinian children protest the bombing of a school in Gaza by Israeli occupation forces.
Palestinian children protest the bombing of a school in Gaza by Israeli occupation forces.
"Enough of Self-Criticisms."
White Supremacy at the New York Times. For the First times, the New York Times sheds tears: "South Africa to Take Farm From a White"
"St. Vincent Medical Center, one of the largest organ transplantation centers in the state, has suspended its liver program after discovering that its doctors improperly arranged for a transplant to a Saudi national using an organ that should have gone to a much higher priority patient at another hospital, officials said."

School children in Gaza protesting Israeli occupation bombing of a school. A school! Did you hear me?
"Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side'" (See the full study below)
Full text. "Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies"
Layth Kubbah and Ba`thist Rhetoric: Layth Kubbah, formerly of the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington DC, and currently Ibrahim Ja`fari's spokesperson, yesterday made a statement in which he pledged to "purify" Sunni areas from terrorists. That is exactly how Saddam's ministers used to talk.
Karen Hughes is in the Middle East to change Muslim/Arab views of the US. Her visit is successful. How can I tell? Well, as soon as I read that she landed in Egypt, I found myself a changed man. My views of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan have now changed, and now I believe that Arab people should find US bombs over their heads pleasurable and funny. It must be Hughes' visit that changed my views, no? Also, she hailed Saudi "fight against terrorism." But she did not mention Saudi funding and arming of terrorists (with US support) for much of the 1980s and beyond. Also, Bush asked Americans to drive less. As soon as I heard that, I developed a sudden urge to take a car trip to Canada and back, and then to Mexico and back, and then to Maine and back, and then to Mexico and back. I don't know why.

Breaking-In. 1860s. Edgar Degas.
Zarqawi aide no. 495840000000000000000 was killed in Iraq.
Ineffective Lebanese Prime Minister Fu'ad Sanyurah asked the US for "technical" help in solving the mystery of the assassinations and bombings in Lebanon. The US? Let the US first solve the mystery of explosions and bombings in Iraq.

Israeli occupation soldiers getting ready (and getting giddy) to bomb Gaza (the most densely populated area in the world).

Monday, September 26, 2005

I watch Andrew Sullivan and I get bored; I read him and I fall asleep. I hope I never meet him.
"Baghdad in the dark as power cuts continue to blight the city"
"The true story of how multinational drug companies took liberties with African lives"
"In the chaotic, hopeful April of 2003, Baghdad's Karrada district was one of those neighborhoods where residents showered flowers on U.S. forces entering the capital. Revelers threw water on one another and the Americans, exuding joy at the crushing of a dictatorship that had silenced, tortured and killed their people. Now, with the end of the third and in many ways hardest summer of the U.S.-led occupation, the lights of Karrada are dimmer. The collapse of Iraq's central power system has left Baghdad averaging less than eight hours of electricity a day. The crowds on the sidewalks have thinned -- kidnapping and other forms of lawlessness since the invasion mean Baghdad's comparatively liberated women seldom leave home without a good reason. Car bombings and other insurgent attacks, as unknown in Baghdad before the invasion as suicide subway bombings were in London until this summer, have killed more than 3,000 people in the capital since late spring."
Jordanian-US relations, and the King's need for US military and financial aid, requires that the government there uncovers a diabolical Bin Ladenite plot once a week.
I usually report to you media that I have watched, read, or listened to. But my mother in Beirut reported to me an interview she watched on Dubai TV with Lebanese editor of Ad-Diyar newspaper, Charles Ayyub--who likes to have it both ways (he was close to Rustum and to Hariri). He told the interviewer there that he used to receive $100,000 a month from Rafiq Hariri, as other editors did, but that when he once criticized Hariri, the funding stopped and that Hariri tried to "hurt him."
Hummus Rhetoric: I am not making this up. I was watching the right-wing, sleazy, and sectarian Christian LBC-TV's coverage of a rally at the Hummus Square in Beirut in solidarity with May Shidyaq. Several speakers--and they are known as leaders of the Lebanonese "democratic movement"--I kid you not actually said this: "Let us set up the gallows, right here." The crowd cheered.
"More than 80 percent of the $1.5 billion in contracts signed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency alone were awarded without bidding or with limited competition, government records show, provoking concerns among auditors and government officials about the potential for favoritism or abuse."
"Jürgen Habermas and Post-Secular Societies"

A Palestinian boy, yesteday.
"(Foreigners account for perhaps 2% of the suspected guerrillas who have been captured or killed.) The secret history of U.S. mistakes, misjudgments and intelligence failures that let the Iraqi dictator and his allies launch an insurgency now ripping Iraq apart"

Tear of "liberation" in Iraq.
Fu'ad Husayn (the biographer of Abu Mus`ab Az-Zarqawi) is either a fan of Zarqawi or a fan of Jordanian mukhabarat. It can't be both.
Deterioration of PLO Politics: Under Yasir `Arafat, PLO offices used to cheer for the victory of the Labor Party against Likud in Israel. Under Mahmud `Abbas, what is left of PLO offices cheer for the victory of Sharon against Netanyahu. (Both schools (of `Arafat and `Abbas) are wrong, of course).
Whenever the Lebanese state feels like flexing its muscles, it always takes it out on the Palestinian refugee camps. A day after a bombing in Lebanon, blamed by the Hariri funciontary, Hasan As-Sab` (Minister of Interior), on a "ghost"--I kid you not--Lebanese Security Forces with heavy weapons brandished moved to Sabra and Shatila refugee camps--yes, that Sabra and Shatila--ostensibly to remove "urban violations."
Do you know that most of the Saudi "liberal" advocates of today, were passionate advocates for Bin Laden AND Saddam in the 1980s? Take Jamal Kashuqji, who was until recently the press secretary of the Saudi Embassy in London, and who may become the press secretary of the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC. He edited Al-Watan newspaper for two months until fundamentalist outrage led to his dismissal. He now is a well-known Saudi "liberal" voice in the world. Do you know that he even knew Bin Laden? Take Ahmad Jarrallah, the well-known Kuwaiti editor. This "liberal" voice was one of the early champions of Saddam, who really did a lot to construct Saddam's personality cult outside of Iraq.
The fact that Saudi Minister of Labor, Ghazi Al-Qusaybi, is very well-informed, interesting, cosmpolitan, "cultured," literary, outwardly liberal, makes him more--not less--guilty by association. (He admits that half of his books are banned in Saudi Arabia. His least memorable work is a book dedicated to Princess Diana, whom he called The Myth).
Walid Jumblat: has a new advisor. In an interview with the American propaganda TV, Al-Hurra (watched by no less than 4 people in the Middle East region), Jumblat (who heads a "Progressive Socialist Party"--I kid you not--said: "I will not take a political position by myself. I will consult with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Sa`d Al-Hariri, Hizbullah, and all the forces that are concerned for the Arabism of Lebanon." I need to have a daily section in which I notify readers of the new position taken by Jumblat. They sometimes change on an hourly basis.
"Taxes and ghosts" (in Arabic)
There is nothing that Arab governments would not do to stay in power: they would kill Palestinians, they would betray their own ruling ideologies, they would violate their own laws, they would break their own promises, all to stay in power. I say these words after reading that the Syrian government suddenly transferred funds that belong to the Iraqi people to the puppet/theocratic government in Baghdad. That money will be used to partically defray the cost of an increasingly costly American (and Macedonian) occupation.
Palestinian tears are not recognized by the US media and government. Those tears from yesterday. The New York Times has a policy of never showing Palestinian funerals, if the victims were killed by Israeli occupation soldiers.
The Lebanese National Anthem for Beginners: Between listening to the Lebanese national anthem and listening to the "music" of John Tesh, I would choose the latter. Between reading the lyrics of the Lebanese national anthem and reading the phone book, I would choose the latter.

The Dead Fox. c. 1861-1864. Edgar Degas.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Assassination of Women in Middle East History: The assassination attempt on May Shidyaq made me think about the history of assassination of women in Islamic or Middle East (it is not about religion) history. Certainly it was known, in early and late Islam. From even before the Khawarij wars. One happened during Muhammad's time (as was reported in Kitab Al-Hudud by Abu Dawud) when a blind man got mad at his wife (named `Asma' bint Marwan in some accounts) who would constantly curse and attack the prophet, so he inserted a small sword in her until he killed her one day. There were more accounts of women ordering or committing assassinations. Zumurrud Khatun, the wife of a Seljuki sultan fed poisoned grapes to her son, Tutush. In recent times in Lebanon during the civil war, Linda Jumblat (Kamal's sister) was assassinated by Lebanese Forces militia but to hurt her brother. She never played a political role, and assumed that she would be left alone if she lived in East Beirut. The assassination attempt on Shidyaq's life indicates that women are now more influential than before, and are opinion makers, claims to the contrary in Western writings notwithstanding. May Shiyaq, for the right-wing fanatical Lebanese Forces sectarian Christian militia, was a very important figure and that explains why young people of the Lebanese Forces turned out at the hospital immediately. And May Shidyaq (and I as I indicated yesterday disagreed with her on everything except her appreciation of Estee Lauder's Knowing--and no, I am not endorsing Estee Lauder you silly ones) was more courageous and more outspoken than the men. One thing I will say about her: she was always consistent. And even during the previous Syrian domination era, when all the outspoken men today were sitting outside the offices of Rustum Ghazalah hoping for an audience, May Shiyaq was herself. She refused to utter the imposed party line. (I don't want to be misunderstood again: her views were fanatical ultra-nationalist, right-wing and anti-Arab, and very Hummus Lebanonese). But she never wavered and never compromised. But in the history of Islam, the most famous assassination of a woman is (to my mind) the assassination of Shajarat Ad-Durr. Shajarat Ad-Durr was not the first ruler in Islam of course; Radiyyat Ad-Din ruled the Sultanate of Delhi before her. Shajarat Ad-Durr ruled for 80 days, and then killed Aybak, whose widow later sent her concubines to attack Shajarat Ad-Durr in the bath, and according to some accounts was hit with "qabaqib" (wooden shoes) until she died in 1257 AD. But Ibn Kathir in Al-Bidayah wa-l-Nihayah says that she "was killed and thrown with her pudendum uncovered on top of a garbage dump." He then cites this relevant passage from the Qur'an: (Say: O Allah! Owner of Sovereignty! Thou givest sovereignty unto whom Thou wilt, and Thou withdrawest sovereignty from whom Thou wilt. Thou exaltest whom Thou wilt, and Thou abasest whom Thou wilt. In Thy hand is the good. Lo! Thou art Able to do all things.)
قُلِ اللَّهُمَّ مَالِكَ الْمُلْكِ تُؤْتِي الْمُلْكَ مَنْ تَشَاءُ وَتَنْزِعُ الْمُلْكَ مِمَّنْ تَشَاءُ وَتُعِزُّ مَنْ تَشَاءُ وَتُذِلُّ مَنْ تَشَاءُ بِيَدِكَ الْخَيْرُ إِنَّكَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِير
"IRA Disarms, Fulfilling Vow Made in July, Official Says" (Israel is fully armed and dangerous, Angry Arab says)
Very causally reported: "One woman was wounded when an Israel Air Force helicopter fired a missile at an industrial area north of Gaza City early Monday, Israel Radio said."
"The US military told an al-Jazeera cameraman being held at Guantánamo Bay that he would be released as long as he agreed to spy on journalists at the Arabic news channel, according to documents seen by the Guardian."
British Empire is Back (in their dreams): "Britain refuses apology and compensation for Iraqis caught up in Basra riots"
News from "liberated" Iraq: 'How can you establish a free media in such fear and anarchy?'
"War Pornography: US soldiers trade grisly photos of dead and mutilated Iraqis for access to amateur porn. The press is strangely silent." (thanks Muhammad)

Palestinian schools are also legitimate bombing targets, according to Zionism.

Who is the Terrorist? Another Palestinian terrorist bombed by Israeli occupation troops. And the New York Times gives this title to the bombing campaign that injured this child: "Israel Orders Army to Quell Rocket Fire" (So according to the New York Times, this child was firing rockets into Israel, and needed to be punished.)
Regarding Lebanese obsession with ranks: As-Safir newspaper reported that Hariri family has flown into Beirut "the biggest specialist" in limb surgery in France.
By the way, regarding the Saudi ownership of LBC-TV. Al-Walid's ownership (of the 49% of the shares) does not extend to the land LBC-TV, which is owned by Lebanese Forces (in the name of Pierre Dahir, the CEO of LBC). The LBC-TV satellite version is the one that has Arab shares.
The Yemeni family of Hamid Ad-Din: I just read that the Yemeni president will compensate the family of Hamid Ad-Din (the royal family that was overthrown in the republican revolution). I went to school with Majid Hamid Ad-Din (a member of that family). He was one of the nicest guys I knew, and never minded my strong anti-monarchist attitudes.
That Kofi Annan. He issued an extensive statement of condemnation of the assassination attempt on May Shidyaq. I mean I condemn it too of course, but that Annan: Palestinians are being shot every day by Israeli occupation soldiers and I never hear a word from him. Do you notice that he only feigns outrage when that outrage coincides with US foreign policy adventures? I know that he is not allowed to be human or black or African in his job--those who installed him would not allow that--but does he issue statements of condemnation when people in Africa are killed? If there is an International Award for Shameful Behavior, he would be the top recipient.
UAE has just produced the first feature film ever, titled Dream. The producers complained about lack of government support. The government there is busy pursuing the most expensive and most tacky urban design, not to mention the sleazy culture for Dubai. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is still producing 10 million barrels of crude oil a day.

May Shidyaq
: survived an assassination attempt in Lebanon. I met May two years ago. An-Nahar's columnist `Ali Hamadi urged her to interview me on the LBC-TV's Naharkum Sa`id program. Hamadi knew my views of LBC and I told him that I would not appear with some of their other newscasters. But I very much respected the skills and talents of Shidyaq. I appeared on that show, and found her to be extremely competent with excellent command of Arabic, English, and French, and she studied some German when she spent time in Switzerland one time. Shidyaq was one of the few LBC-TV's broadcasters who had such an advanced command of Arabic. Her politics is as far right-wing as you can get: clearly sympathetic to the Lebanese Forces militia (the Lebanese Forces' magazine, An-Najwah-Al-Masirah, today called her "comrade"), and she makes no attempt at hiding her partisan and sectarian Christian sympathies. In the first interview with her, I thought that she assumed that I must be easy to categorize politically. So after I made my criticisms of Rafiq Hariri known, and of right-wing politics in Lebanon, she asked me about Syrian policy. And when I made it clear that I am not a fan, she was surprised. In the commercial break, she asked me: "What are you?" For a second, I did not understand, and then she made it clearer: "What sect are you?" A year later, when I was in Lebanon, she invited me again, but this time, she was carrying a stack of my articles in Arabic on Lebanese affairs, and was visibly shaken. She introduced me on the air by saying that many Lebanese don't agree with my views on Lebanon. But I must admit this: despite my political disagreements with her, and despite my distaste for the editorial policy of LBC-TV, I could not but enjoy being interviewed with this most competent of journalists. She is very tough but very good at what she does. She has such a sharp mind, and such a strong personality. She is witty and has a sense of humor, which shows on the air. I have mocked Lebanese tendency to rank everything, and I have been caught recently ranking, so I will not say that she is the most talented and most competent journalist on Middle East TV. I also was impressed with her preparedness. I noted once to her how prepared she appears on the air. Modestly, she immediately said that she has some help, but I can always tell that the preparation is her work and effort mostly. I also found her to be nice and kind to the staff and workers at the station. Last time she interviewed me, we talked about her perfume: she was impressed that I was able to identify it as Estee Lauder's Knowing. She told me that she and her sister are the only ones who use it in Lebanon. She said that she gets it from Europe. She also told me that she is not as far extreme as Jubran Tuwayni. But last time I was in Lebanon (last summer), she did not call me. I assumed that my views on the Hummus Revolution went too far as far as she is concerned. I wish her full recovery.

On the Racing Field. 1861. Edgar Degas.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

For those who care, we (thanks Neal) have added a new section below. It provides links to the most circulated posts of the cite.
In Arab countries in the Gulf alone, some $450 million in advertisements are spent (or wasted) during Ramadan according to Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat.
This old Palestinian man was injured during the Israeli raid on Gaza yesterday. He will soon be considered a "terrorist."
"So what were two undercover British soldiers up to in Basra?"
"The Hebron confessions: As ex-soldiers speak out about seeing Palestinian civilians being killed, Donald Macintyre talks to the victims' families"
"Inside the best school in the world: Shorter days in class, long holidays, respect for teachers: it's the formula for excellence"
"An extraordinary appeal to Americans from the Bush administration for money to help pay for the reconstruction of Iraq has raised only $600 (£337), The Observer has learnt. Yet since the appeal was launched earlier this month, donations to rebuild New Orleans have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars."
"US forces have fired so many bullets in Iraq and Afghanistan - an estimated 250,000 for every insurgent killed - that American ammunition-makers cannot keep up with demand. As a result the US is having to import supplies from Israel."
The American Left and the Middle East (Part 6): The Natives just don't count. While driving last week, I heard Phil Donahue speak out against the war in Iraq on the O'Reilly show on Fox News. For 20 minutes, Donahue spoke against the war without once mentioning the plight of the Iraqi population, or the Iraqi civilian casualties of the US war and occupation. In the same week, an actress (who the papers said spoke against the war) at the EMI awards merely said: "Oh, and our troops in Iraq. Let's bring the boys back home." It is all about the American "boys," because there are no Iraqi boys and girls. And those US troops are not boys. I have seen the pictures of Abu Ghrayb, the torturers in the pictures are not boys. They are adult men and women. And yet a psychologist has now joined the analysis: apparently Lynddie Englands is a "child" too. (But I find it sexist and escapist to blame all the torture at Abu Ghrayb on Englands. And why is it that the only name we know from the scandal is hers.) Next time you hear liberal or leftist American critics of the war, notice if they mention the Iraqi population.
"Students and teachers at British universities are working to revive the academic boycott against Israel. The British Committee for Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) recently began organizing an open forum of British university campuses in an effort to place the academic boycott against Israel" (It is time for us to do something similar here in the US)
I notice that politicians in Lebanon and US think that if they invoke the names of Churchill or De Gaulle they then come across as "statesmen"--whatever that means. Notice that the bufoonish Gen. `Awn has biographies of De Gaulle behind him when he gives interviews.
From Ruba`iyat-i Khayyam (my translation) (But don't expect much Persian translations from me, as it takes me forever):
"If we came respectful to the mosque,
we did not come to attend to
the requirements of prayer;
But we had stolen a carpet*,
and to replace the old one
we came again"
(He used sajjade as in the Arabic Sijjadah, which here means prayer rug)
"Chrysler Unleashed: Are You a Speed Freak?"
A leader of a leftwing Palestinian organization who now resides in Syria told me a few years ago (and he had lived in Lebanon and Jordan) that there are such powerful energies among the Syrian people, but that they all are muzzled.
Yesterday, Bush asked the Jordanian King to go and visit Sharon. The king said yes. Today, Bush asked the king to get him a beverage, and the king asked him whether he wanted ice in it.
Neo-conservatives and Walid Jumblat: neo-conservatives (especially Charles Krauthhammer and Christopher Hitchens) have not stopped quoting the one interview that Walid Jumblat gave to David Ignatius of the Washington Post after the death of his friend/patron Rafiq Hariri in which he claimed that he was inspired by Bush's wars, although he later repeatedly and regularly repudiated that one interview. Yesterday, in a new interview with AlJazeera, this sectarian feudal warlord also said that he gloated when he saw footage of the planes slamming into World Trade Center on Sep. 11. Do you think that Hitchens will mention that to his audience when he relies on Walid Jumblat to falsely claim that Arabs are cheering Bush in the region?
Whether Barbie is covered or uncovered, whether Barbie is veiled or unveiled, this is true: whether in the East or in the West, women are seen as sexual objects, to be covered or uncovered. It does not matter. The principle (in both patriarchal societies) is the same.
The American Left and the Middle East (Part 5): Molly Yard was a fierce political activist for (liberal) feminism and for progressive causes in general. When she was the leader of the National Organization for Women in the late 1980s, a group of us Arabs in Washington, DC, met with her hoping to urge her to address the Palestinian question. She would not budge. We would talk to her about Palestinian women under Israeli occuapation, about Zionist murder of Palestinian civilians, and she would reply: "The Security of Israel" is very important, and Israel has the right to defend itself, etc." I had to fight the urge to doze off.
Ad-Da`wah Party: reading the encyclopedic book Hizb Ad-Da`wah-l-Islamiyyah: Haqa'iq wa Watha'iq by Salah Al-Kharsan, I came up with those conclusions.
1. Hizb Ad-Da`wah, as other Islamic-oriented political parties in the Middle East benefited from the Leninist organizational experience (I wrote an article in the late 1980s in Middle Eastern Studies about Hizbullah in Lebanon, subtitled, The Islamization of Leninist Organizational Principles).
2. Ad-Da`wah was an extremely effective and extensive political organization.
3. The ideology (and organization of the party) reflected the conflicts and disagreements of the various marji`s in Shi`ite Islam.
4. There was always a tension between an Arab-oriented and an Iranian-oriented trend in the party.
5. Iranian influence was always present and politically salient in Shi`ite political culture and organization in Iraq.
6. `Ali Kurani is a name that most people have not heard of, but this man has been influential in forming and leading Hizb Ad-Da`wah, and later Hizbullah in Lebanon.
7. Saddam Husayn's intelligence apparatus penetrated deep into the organization and had extensive intelligence about its members and leaders (secret intelligence reports that were later captured indicated that Saddam's mukhabarat even knew a lot about Ad-Da`wah members in Iran, and street names, and building numbers.
8. There was no limits to the brutality or savagery of the Iraqi regime in fighting Ad-Da`wah, and that later shaped and influenced the Shi`ite political culture in post-Saddam Iraq. In one directive by Saddam, he promised (he lied as this was violated) to reduce death sentences of confessed members of Da`wah if they pledged to: 1) shoot other members of Da`wah, 2) if they write long essays on the Ba`th Party relying exclusively on Saddam's speeches as sources. The second article is no less cruel than the first of course.
9. Ayatollah Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah is quite influential among Iraqi Shi`ites. He in fact was invited after the fall of Saddam to relocate to Iraq (as a counter-weight to Sistani) but has refused. I had met him several times in the late 1980s, and but have not seen him in recent years. I saw his son and his grandson (who look like him) when I was invited by his apparatus to give a talk in the southern suburbs of Beirut.
10. Hizb Ad-Da`wah was early on (like most Iraqi religious-oriented parties, and this was confirmed to me by Fadlallah who was born in Najaf and spent his early years there) influenced by the success of communist organizations in appealing to poor Shi`ites (among other Iraqis at the time).
11. The ideology of the party is not characterized by fixity. It has evolved over time.
12. Muhammad Baqir As-Sadr's role extended well beyond Iraq.
13. People joined the party in large number despite the tremendous risks to them, and to their families.
14. Coke Zero is much better than Pepsi One.
That somebody like Thomas Friedman is considered an "intellectual" is only a sign of the poverty of ideas in this country.
On Arab public opinion: I get quite irritated when I read some lazy writers on the Middle East claim that it is quite appropriate for them to generalize about all Arabs and all Muslims simply because there are no public opinion surveys in their region. Bernard Lewis went around the US after Sep. 11 beginning his recycled speeches by telling a lame joke about some cab driver in Cairo (he changed the city occasionally). And he always justified this bizarre footnote by saying that there are no public opinion surveys in the region. First, there are public opinion surveys in the region, and Mark Tessler of University of Michigan--to his credit--has been studying Middle East public opinion for decades, and has conducted surveys in a number of Arab countries. Public opinion firms and pollsters are now present in a number of Arab countries. Secondly, some argue that in countries where there are no public opinion surveys, it is justifiable to generalize about the people (as in Syria or in Libya). No, I say. Also, not justifiable. People in Syria or Libya or in Algeria also write poetry, novels, make TV serials, appear on satellite channels, publish underground literature, etc. Just because you don't (or can't) read or listen to what they have to say, is your problem, not theirs.

London Bridge. 1885. James Abbott McNeill Whistler.
Misogynist dictators you like and arm: "Pakistani Leader's Comments on Rape Stir Outrage"
"U.S. BARS ROBERT FISK FROM ENTERING COUNTRY" (I am sure that he will be let in once they know his admiration for Rafiq Hariri)

Friday, September 23, 2005

"Affluent Students Displaced by Katrina Find World of Options, While Others Must Put Education on Hold" (thanks Maryam)
The Washington Post webpage says: "The Angry Arab New Service:Blogger lives up to his name." (Angry Arab: The Washington Post also lives up to its name)
"Sistani tells followers to support new constitution" (Another reason to oppose it)
Full text. "New Accounts of Torture by U.S. Troops."
"On the eve of large anti-war demonstrations in Washington and London, Hart Viges has told how indiscriminate fire from US troops is likely to have killed an untold number of Iraqi civilians. Mr Viges, 29, said he was still haunted by the memories of what he experienced and urged President George Bush to withdraw US troops from Iraq."
"Half of European citizens speak a second language, according to a European Union survey released Friday."
"A Pakistani man cut the nose and lips off his 19-year-old sister-in-law after she went to court for a divorce"
"a congressionally mandated advisory panel to the department warned that "America's image and reputation abroad could hardly be worse."" No way! Why?
Look at the opinion page of the Daily Star, a Lebanese newspaper published in the Arab world. Do they really speak for opinion in Lebanon, or in the region? (By the way, the editor of this page is right-wing neo-con, Michael Young)
"Purging the Poor"
"FBI, Michigan Police Tag Peace Group, Affirmative Action Group, and Others as “Terrorist”"
When Jalal Talbani tells American leaders of the Wall Street Journal: "Thank you for liberating my country. Please don't leave before the job is done.," how many Iraqis does he speak for? Do some Americans really assume that he is speaking here on behalf of all Iraqis?
From the poem From the Notebooks of Fog by Syrian poet Muhammad Al-Maghut (my translation):
"Advise to any poem:
The hungry will eat you
the frustrated will get you
the merchant will sell you
the doctor will deform you
the philosopher will debate you
the lover will recite you
and the struggler will
trade in you
And you, o poets, critics, singers,
and executioners, beware of
remember the sight of
Saddam Husayn the moment of
his capture before the whole world"
This is the new Beirut. The Municipality of Beirut, headed by a Hariri functionary, decided yesterday to name the new avenue by the sea, the King Fahd Corniche.
True story: when I was a graduate student in the 1980s, I was invited by an Arab student group at the University of Kansas to give a talk. The leader of the group was a Syrian student by the name of Tha'ir Lahham. He picked me up from the airport, and takes me for tea at his place. In his apartment, I see a huge poster for the Syrian comedian, Durayd Lahham. I looked, and asked my host: "Do you like him"? He said: "yes, very much. What about you?" I said: "I used to like him when he was a silly clown, but find him very obnoxious and annoying when he started to take himself too seriously, wanting to be a "moviestar." He should just go back to his clowning days, and forget about these boringly serious movie roles." He listened but did not react. Later, after my talk, the Arab students invited me to dinner. During dinner, as we were joking, Tha'ir was laughing. I looked at him and said: "I can't believe this. You laugh like Durayd Lahham." He said:" He is my dad."

Nocturne in Blue and Green; Chelsea. 1870. James Abbott McNeill Whistler.
As you know, I have never ever been a fan of Hamas. I disagree with them on ideology and on practice and on style. Not only do I disagree with their suicide bombings, and rhetoric, but I have also particularly detested their rhetorical bombast and their military parades. I don't know what or who was behind the explosion today during a Hamas parade, and I know that throwing bombs into crowded streets and population concentrations has been consistent with Zionist actions from the beginning, but what was the parade for? I mean, Palestinians are being hunted down like pigeons by Israeli planes and helicopters, and Hamas is busy launching a military parade? I just don't understand this organization. How dumb can their leaders be?
"Nato-controlled Afghan regions record huge increase in opium production"
"This is global warming, says environmental chief"
"Saudi militants in Iraq."
Bush at the White House yesterday with Hijazi King `Abdullah of Jordan sitting next to thim:
" One of the things I asked His Majesty to do was to go to visit with Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas." The King later asked Bush what he should wear, and whether he can take his kids with him too.
"The US and the Iraqi government have overstated the number of foreign fighters in Iraq, "feeding the myth" that they are the backbone of the insurgency, an American thinktank says in a new report."

Another day in "liberated" Iraq yesterday.
Some 100 Saudi infiltrators were found in Iraq last week, and yet the US media and the US government made no mention of that. And the Saudi Foreign Minister was the star visitor in DC yesterday.
"Insurgents plunge Thailand into security crisis" (Bush affirms that Zarqawi terrorists infiltrated into Thailand from Syria, just across the border)
I can't believe that Robin Right, who I knew and liked very much during my days in Washington, DC in the 1980s, and who knew Lebanon well during those years, would describe Rafiq Hariri as "the country's leading reformer." The Lebanese people (of different sects and political persuasions) would have a different story to tell. We never had more corruption and embezzlements at the scale that we now have before Hariri, and you call him reformer?. Hariri is a reformer if Bush is a visionary, if Rumsfeld is humane, if Cheney is a socialist, if Abbas is independent and if Mubarak is legitimate. Hariri is the same man who accumulated Lebanon's suffocating foreign debt. And in this interview, Prime Minister, Fu'ad Sanyurah, said: "President Emile Lahoud had been imposed on Lebanon by Syria." Now Mr. Sanyurah, or Sanyurah or Ghraybah (a Lebanonese joke here) your statement is true, but Syria (which indeed imposed Lahhud) had also imposed Rafiq Hariri (and by extension YOU) on the Lebanese people. We never knew you before you were imposed as part of the Hariri entourage in 1992 which helped establish the Syrian-Lebanese security state which oppressed and impoverished the Lebanese people. You only became in conflict with Lahhud rather late, and NOT on principles.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

I almost ran fetching a..berverage. Thomas Friedman on the same list with...Habermas??? Where do I begin to critique this list.
The best Arab columnist, the brilliant Joseph Samahah, points out today that the biggest armed militia in the Middle East is the Israeli occupation settler community. How true.
PS. I tried to no avail to convince Joseph to collect his articles on Lebanon during the Hummus Revolution in a book. They constituted a rare sane, critical, and insightful take on the situation.

Nocturne: Grey and Gold - Westminster Bridge. 1871-74. James Abbott McNeill Whistler.
Correction: in my post yesterday about the Egyptian movie that was misunderstood, and mis-presented by the New York Times' correspondent in Cairo, I erred in saying that that movie was based on the book `Amarat Ya`qubyan. The movie based on this book is still in the making, `Amir reminded me. This correction, however, does not in any way detract from my well-known infallibility.
Bomb them or talk to them? Joshua Landis here replies to my brief criticisms of his piece in the New York Times. I will not elaborate too much as Landis misses the point, unsurprisingly, and it takes him to say in 100 words what can be easily said in 5 words, and that is not due to the Syrian educational system, I assume. It is also tedious to read the circle of neo-cons-who-write-in-the-Middle-East, because you have to read Landis' citing Young, and Young citing Smith, and Smith citing Fattah, and Fattah citing Young, and on and on. It can be quite irritating. If you noticed, in my previous post that he replies to, I did not engage Landis' piece in the New York Times at any expansive level. I just wanted to focus on what I think was blatantly glaring, and what I rightly assumed was going to be missed in reactions to the piece. Only Rime adequately refuted his arguments I thought. I wanted to point out that traces of colonial thinking persist in Western writings, including academic, on the Middle East. I did not even address his point whether US should talk (to or with or on or for, etc) the Syrian government or not, because I reject the premise. The premise is quite colonialist and politically missionary: what is the US to do? Bomb them or talk to them? That is the question, and it is a question that is now being raised in polite company, and in academic conferences and workshops. Bomb them or talk to them? I argue that we should even refuse to award the US the right to settle the destiny of the nation--any nation, whether by talks or by bombing. The destiny of Libya has now been settled, without war, by the US whereby the Libyan people will get to live and languish under a terrorist regime that had admitted downing a civilian airliner (which carried innocent students from Syracuse University among other innocent passengers). Such a regime, which (outside of the US and the Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia) gave the most generous funding of terrorism in the last several decades. He wants, in the hope of sounding sensitive to the Syrian people, to argue that my brief reply was similar to Bush's argument, and that it is quite fine to argue that Syria is not ready for democracy. Who even mentioned democracy, and who ever said that democracy represents the solution to all ills and problems? Landis may have confused me with Cheney, although our names are spelled differently. Not me for sure, and you can even see the archives. Visiting professors, and I know that may be old fashioned, should not determine the future of nations, just as rising or falling empires should not. And then Landis talk about the Syrian "culture" not being democratic, and he assures us that he has taken "democracy 101." That should make us feel better about Landis' recipe for Syria's salvation, or is it the salvation of US Empire, as he argues, as advocates of colonial rule always do, from the standpoint of what is good for US Empire, and not from the standpoint of what it is good for the Syrian people. And let me say something about authoritarianism. I can always tell when people who talk and write about authoritarianism have read Theodore Adorno's The Authoritarian Personality. Landis has not, and he does not seem to have read the series of works by John L. Sullivan (not to be confused with John A. Sullivan, or John B. Sullivan, or John C. Sullivan, or John D. Sullivan, you get the point), especially Political Tolerance and American Democracy. Landis wonders, not in pain, I hope: "I wish Asad would describe one democratic institution in Syria." To that, I wonder: I wish Landis would describe one democratic institution in...US?? Would it be the school, the church, the corporation, the college, the club, the labor union, the military, fraternity? None of those institutions are really democratic. But it is always important to dwell on the oppression "over there" because it helps to obscure the oppression over here. This very true in the gender question. It was important for many in the US to shed (mostly) crocodile tears over the plight of women in Afghanistan in order that we forget about the reality of gender oppression right here in the US. That is why we always need an exotic place of oppression because it helps in perpetuating conformity and obedience here, and how important are those in a democracy? And then he shares with us stories and tales about testing in Syria, which I would not dispute. You see, I may not be disputing facts, but methodology and assumptions, that often can make the selected facts marginal. But Landis dwells on the details. It is the context. Context, dear friends and enemies. Yes, the testing is lousy in Syrian education, but Landis has not read, I can tell, Nicholas Lemann's The Big Test : The Secret History of the American Meritocracy either. (Let me know if you want me to make you a reading list for next summer). Landis teaches at a state university, as I do, and he must know how the class (and derivatively the grade) elitism of American education (and class domination) is perpetuated by the testing standards, that are as arbitrary as the selection of fortune cookies to customers at a Chinese restaurant. Two white male professors at Harvard University, decades ago, produced a formula for success that is inherently undemocratic and (and classist in outcome--against the intentions of the two dudes) and contradictory in its aim (SATs are supposed to measure how well students do in college, and overall males perform better on it than females, and yet overall females do better than males--solve that riddle, NOW). And I am somebody who went to American schools since infancy, and studied at American universities (whether in Beirut or in Washington, DC) and I can assure you that I had professors that are not different from the ones that you describe in Syria. Of course, there are additional problems in Syrian institutions stemming from the nature of the oppressive regime, and a ruthless mukhabarat, and ruling party, etc. And that same Barut that you mention is the product of Syrian education and he knows more--I know, I have read his books and articles--about Western thought and about Foucault and post-modernist thought than your president (Bush) who went to elite US universities. (And Saddam's functionary, Sa`dun Hammadi attended US schools in Beirut and in Wisconsin, and don't forget that Sayyid Qutb studied in the US, while the symbol of Arab "liberal" and enlightenment thinking, Taha Husayn, is a graduate of Al-Azhar). In fact, Bush is a testimony to the limitation of the American educational system. I would argue he would have gotten better knowledge of world affairs and geography in Tartus, than in New Haven. Lastly, I also noticed how Landis tells you (more than once) that Riyad At-Turk (Landis needs to check IJMES for accurate transliteration or perhaps further study of Arabic, as my name is not `Asad (which does not read Arabic even) but As`ad) and Yasin Al-Hajj Salih are "smart" and that they are the "smartest." Notice that the European is always qualified to decide who among the natives is "intelligent" and who is not. That must be a nice quality to have. The Syrian people should decide what to do with their own affairs, and I certainly don't respect arguments that wish to add to the longevity of an oppressive regime, in order to facilitate US imperial projects in the region, unless one is overwhelmed with the fear of fitnah that overwhelmed Ghazzali. But is it not fitnah that the US" democratic" project brought to Iraq?