Across the Bay

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Beyond Bias

Speaking of irrelevant pundits, take a look at this repugnant piece by John Burns of the NYT. I don't have time to comment on it now (I'll come back to it later), but this thing is a jaw-dropping beauty.

Addendum: Add this piece to Burns'. To be perfectly frank, this stuff strikes me as thinly veiled, unreconstructed Sunni Arab nationalist propaganda. It's amazing to hear this stuff uncritically regurgitated like that. This is a redux of the worst prejudices related in Kaplan's The Arabists. It's precisely this nonsense that cost the Iraqis 12 more years of horror. It's this nonsense that sanctioned tyranny and oppression of Shiites and other minorities, and casting of suspicions on minorities (which led, e.g., senior Shiite cleric Fadlallah, in response to Abdullah's remarks, to reassert the Shiites' allegiance to Arabism, etc.). It's this nonsense that has maintained the grip of that poisonous ideology (Arabism) and the ensuing pathologies that dominate the ME and its discourse.

Update: I don't have time to edit this, so I'm posting my critique of Burns' piece in the form of bullet points. Bear with me as I scroll down the piece.

- How does one evaluate Burns' position on postponing the Iraqi elections, which he masks as native opinion? How many people did he ask that didn't share that view, especially that cheap bit about them being held under occupation. Needless to say, it turns out that it was 8 million!

- What was this paragraph all about:

"Many Iraqis, interviews in recent months have shown, do not accept that fundamental choices about the shape of their future political system should be made by a foreign power, particularly one they regard as a harbinger of secular, materialistic values far removed from the Muslim world's."

That's as dishonest as anything I've read on Iraq.

- Then again this quote:

"But questions over the election go far beyond the American stewardship, to issues that touch on whether it was ever wise or realistic to think that Jeffersonian-style democracy, with its elaborate checks on power and guarantees for minority rights, could be implanted, at least so rapidly, in a country and a region that has little experience with anything but winner-take-all politics."

Are you serious?! That's the worst attempt at covering up a misrepresentation.

- Keep scrolling:

"Compounding those objections, the elections are being held in the grip of a paralyzing fear that many Iraqis see as inconsistent with a free vote. A savage insurgency, and the harsh measures America's 150,000 troops have taken in response, have angered and terrified Iraqis, who now face election conditions that have made an obstacle course of the process, at every stage."

Paralyzing fear? We saw that didn't we!!?? Of course, it's all about the "harsh measures" by the US, right? Why not say the truth, that the entire country was silent as the US pummeled Fallujah. Sistani gave the green light and left to London while the US smashed Sadr. Do you think the US does this on its own!? Dishonest, again.

- Then that one guy he quotes about the Shiites being chameleons. That was simply revolting.

- The very best one: The anonymous Sunni guy who wanted Saddam back! Burns never says where he's from, if he's a Tikriti, a former Baathi... Who is this guy? Burns presents him as a faceless "average Iraqi."

Same for the Abu Mustapha guy who for Burns is the final arbiter on what Iraqi "tradition and culture" is!! Notice how Burns fills that caveat for his readers! Repugnant. And notice the division of Shiites and Sunnis, with the Shiites being "chameleons," and the pro-Saddam Sunnis coming across as adherents to the tradition and culture! Spare me.

- He again returns to postponing the elections!! Unbelievable. That's reporting!? Write an op-ed. Don't camouflage this position under the guise of a report.

- The other shoe drops on the Shiites: the threat of theocratic rule by clerics loyal to Iran! This is precisely the bogeyman of Sunni Arab nationalist propaganda. And of course the bit on how the Iranians are the winners. The "cunning" Iranians (not the "stupid" Bush).

- Then the jab at Bush being "rigid" put forth as an Iraqi complaint, while it's clearly an internal issue in the US. Cf. the reference to the Taliban as the cherry on top!

This is a piece unbecoming to Burns.