Across the Bay

Friday, May 14, 2004

Cole's Second Try

After pointing out to him that his first condescending attempt at ridiculing "the talking heads of US cable news" and atoning for the Arabs was seriously weak due to its lack of any quotes from Arab papers, Juan Cole took another shot at it today by checking the BBC World Monitoring service where he found two sources of condemnation of both Abu Ghraib's prison abuse and Berg's murder.

The first source was Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Mahir, and it was picked up from MENA (Middle East News Agency). Since it's a subscription service, I wasn't able to read the full comment. As you might have realized, I now find it difficult to trust Cole's selectivity and editorial liberty after I actually checked the inital quotes of condemnation he refered to, and seeing how grossly he misquoted them just to fit his initial position.

However, I was able to read the second source which is the English-language Jordan Times. That editorial was actually good, and here is how it concluded:

"We cannot have become so inured to cruelty and pain. No amount of barbarism can and should kill our humanism.

Perpetrators of crime have to be brought to justice. Whoever and wherever they are.

International conventions and the rule of law must be observed. Humanity cannot be held ransom to barbarity and nothing justifies killing.

There was no apology for Islam, and it managed to keep things balanced with regards to Abu Ghraib (despite the typical reference to Israeli assassinations which have nothing to do with the issue). The best thing is that it tried to keep things in humanist terms.

So we actually found one decent reaction in the Arab media, in an English-language Jordanian paper! Of course Cole doesn't mention a thing about those in the Arab world who are calling the video "fabricated." But he thinks that the Muslim "Vatican" has spoken, so what the hell are we ingrates complaining about!?

This however did not prevent Cole from once again editing and selecting quotes, on a different topic. In a post dealing with the fate of the Brahimi plan, Cole found it irresistable to take a shot at Wolfowitz, on a completely different issue, totally unrelated to the subject of the post:

"I saw a clip of Wolfowitz testifying on the Hill on Thursday. He was pressed as to whether keeping someone in a hood for 36 hours was a crime. Wolfowitz hemmed and hawed and said he didn't "know what that means." The democratic senator interviewing him called him "unresponsive.""

I saw that testimony (before the Senate Armed Services Committee) on C-Span 2, and in fact, the senator (Jack Reed, D-RI) asked Wolfowitz whether he thought it was "humane" to keep someone in a hood for 72 hours. To which Wolfowitz responded "it doesn't strike me as humane." Gen. Peter Pace (Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman) sitting next to Wolfowitz in the testimony added that he thought that such practice was a violation of the Geneva convention. The "didn't know what that means" comment that Cole alluded to is also misleading (as was the paraphrasing of the entire scenario). The senator was reading the various practices, among which was "sensory deprivation," and Wolfowitz said he wasn't sure if that meant putting a hood on someone's head and forcing them to crouch for 72 hours. Regardless, he did say that if that were the case then of course it's not humane. So it was a rather cheap manipulation by Cole, and for no apparent reason as it was unrelated to the topic of the post.

As I was checking out MENA's site, I found this title on its guest page:

"16:48:00 (GMT) 14-05-04
MENA 89 US-Iraq Wolfowitz says US treatment of Iraqi prisoners 'inhuman'.

I guess Cole didn't see that when he was browsing the MENA website shopping for Arab condemnations.