Across the Bay

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Michael Hudson Joins the Baath

My jaw dropped upon reading this précis of a talk given by Georgetown Arabist Michael Hudson to Syrian reporters and journalists in Damascus.

The author of the article, Bahiyya Mardini, reported that Hudson told his audience that "Syria's' problem with the US is not about democracy or reform. Rather, the problem is that the US does not want a nationalist regime in Syria because it's in conflict with US strategic interests and Israeli interests. Therefore, it prefers that this regime be removed."

Hudson then went on to explain that "the US has not made up its mind about Damascus just yet. There are those who say that a withdrawal from Lebanon, along with political and economic reforms, and cooperation on Iraq, terrorism, the Palestinian factions and Hizbullah may restore cooperation between the two. On the other hand, there are those who do not object to regime change in Syria."

Mardini then writes that Hudson said that "Neocons have started to lose their positions, and some have been relieved from their duties," pointing out that "the theory of constructive instability which was popular among Neocons has started to lose support after what happened in Iraq."

Hudson then reportedly questioned American intentions in occupying Iraq, and went through the "excuses" that were used to occupy it, last among which, according to Hudson, was that the spread of democracy was the reason behind the war. The truth, Hudson reportedly said, is that "the US did not achieve democracy, and what's going on today in Iraq is a deepening of sectarianism among Sunnis and Shiites."

Hudson added that there are those in the administration who are sincere about reform, but others believe that fighting terrorism and US national interests should take precedence over democracy and freedom especially when the democratization of Arab states might not serve US interests.

Mardini goes on to say that Hudson remarked that "Bush and his administration do not mean what they say about not targeting Islam and Arabs, when their acts contradict that and no one believes what they say. This leads to the spread of violence and hatred towards America which should change its arrogant policies so that its maligned image could be cleared around the world."

After supporting the UN Human development report, Hudson noted that "change should come from within and not from the outside, because Arabs love freedom and democracy but they hate America, and therein lies the contradiction."

The unfiltered Arab nationalism that permeates these reported quotes is startling to say the least. I'm not sure what's worse: that these people pose as interpreters of the ME to American audiences, or that they pose to Arab audiences as interpreters of the US, unlocking the secrets of Washington for them. They have failed miserably in the first case, and, judging from the garbage reported here, they're failing miserably in the second. In the end, they end up merely regurgitating the official line of the ruling regimes (take for instance the case of Flynt Leverett, who's propping himself up to be the new Patrick Seale: Assad biographer and confidant).

Simply pathetic.