Across the Bay

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Across the Bay in the Old Town

I was recently notified that the bloggers at the OTR Chronicles have picked up my blog and gave it its fair share of criticism. The blog is run by a team with varying views. Morgan (who's labeled the "post-Leftish" one) for instance enjoyed the blog, especially my post on the Lieven vs. Berman fiasco. Another team member, Dr. Emile (labeled the "Pessimist;" and Justin Timberlake is the "pretty one!" Sorry, had to throw that one in there!), wasn't quite impressed. Fair enough, however he decided to go down the unfortunate route of innuendo and guilt by association, essentially accusing me of being a right winger. I will return to Dr. Emile's earlier post at a later time in order to address its actual valid points on the war in Iraq and the US policies in the ME.

Dr. Emile saw that his characterization was a bit unwarranted, so he posted (see the first link above) an apology of sorts, acknowledging that I at least try to think on my own! However, the post tried to have its cake and eat it too. Instead of accusing me of "peddling the line" of "right wingers" like the Belmont Club or MEMRI, the Dr. reformulated his position by pointing to my links! Lo and behold, MEMRI, Belmont Club, and (egad) Martin Kramer are listed! I'm not sure how this is not to be taken as another form of innuendo! Yes, I link to MEMRI, and you can call it whatever you like: "Watchdog," "God's greatest gift to man," "Fox News Jr." etc. I link to MEMRI because it translates stuff from ME papers to English. Whether you, or I, like what's being translated is another matter. As you can see, not everything they publish earns a commentary from me. Also, they don't only publish "the dirt" of the ME. In fact, a very important thing they do is pick up on voices of criticism by dissenters in the ME and provide them with a wider audience. Now whether people like Abu Aardvark or Juan Cole think that these voices are "not of the mainstream" really matters very little to me. Regardless, I don't see why having MEMRI in my links should be taken as an insight to the workings of my mind!

As for Belmont Club, its addition to the links was recent. I have been checking it out for a while, on and off, because a lot of what it posts is worth reading, plain and simple. This is not to say that I necessarily agree with, or care about, all of it! Same applies to Chrenkoff, who, even by Dr. Emile's standards, counts as a "talented" blogger! He also happens to care about the well-being of people in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has followed the often unreported good news and developments taking place over there.

Finally, Martin Kramer. Emile commits a double-sin of guilt by association here. Not only does he use my linking to Kramer's site against me, he also reduces Kramer to a Daniel Pipes tag-along of sorts! Unfortunately, that's not 'nuff, Emile! Conveniently, Kramer recently touched on this matter in a post where it turns out that he and Pipes actually don't always see eye to eye! Imagine that! Furthermore, as with all the above cases, just because I link to him and cite him often, doesn't mean that I see eye to eye with him on most things either! For instance, our positions on Iraq are very different. Nevertheless, his criticism of the state of ME studies, as well as his longer academic articles, are always interesting.

Now whether all the above renders me a "right winger" is up to you to decide, I frankly don't give a damn! I was recently referred to as a "Lebanese Neocon" and that's fine too! Whatever! If you need to use the labels, who am I to stop you!? But what Emile left out were my posts on, and advocacy of, liberalism in the ME. In fact, my blog can be summarized as a forum against the totalitarian and fascist ideologies that have, and continue to dominate the region. It's also a site searching for a new liberal discourse when it comes to civil liberties, individual rights, and identity narratives/minority rights. Also, my other point is the encouragement of a historical-critical approach to Islam, which I happen to think is essential for the future of the ME (and the West for that matter). Those hardly qualify me as a "right winger." But hey, whatever turns you on!

One last thing. I must correct a factual mistake in Emile's post. When referring to my more "redeeming" links, such as my buddy Josh Landis' site, Emile wrote:

"[H]e [i.e. Josh] seems to have refuted, incidentally, a recent post about insurgents posing with high-ranking Syrian officials that was discussed on Across the Bay... It turned out to be propaganda from "The Reform Party of Syria, Farid Ghadry's US-based, anti regime group.""

Josh didn't refute anything! Josh's post quotes Nick Blanford saying that any hints made (by Josh, not me, incidentally!) of VP Khaddam's involvement in the Iraqi insurgency seem to be overblown. I never made the case, neither has Josh, that the official in the picture seized in Iraq was Khaddam himself. In fact, I've been recently told who it was, and it's not Khaddam.

Furthermore, the Lebanese station LBC recently ran footage of a captured insurgent in Iraq who seems to be a former Baathi military commander now part of a Salafi outfit (the Jaysh Muhammad group). The footage was part of a story on the comments made by the Iraqi minister Shaalan urging the Syrians and Iranians to stop supporting the insurgents. If not, the Iraqis will make public all the evidence they have of the two neighbors involvement (and carry the fight into the streets of Damascus and Tehran). The prisoner discussed his meetings with mukhabarat officers in Syria, and disclosed the involvement of the Iranians. None of this should shock anyone of course. Anyway, I just wanted to point to Emile's error.

In the end, I must thank both Morgan and Emile for finding this site interesting enough to pick up and comment on! Please make sure to check theirs out as well, as it has some thoughtful pieces. At any rate, I'll return to discuss Emile's points on the ME.

Addendum: I must add this quote to my list of quotes on Arabism and Islam found in my post on Lieven and Berman ("Lieven Let Die"). It's by the infamous Shiite cleric Fadlallah. He recently issued a statement quoted in the Lebanese papers that reads: "Islam is a source of strength for Arabism and Arabism is a source of strength for Islam." All in all it's just another brick in the wall.