Across the Bay

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Disingenuous Comment

It's well beyond "Speculative Comment" with Juan Cole. Cole's disingenuousness is nothing new, but it's quite something to observe this man misrepresent Arabic sources to his readers, just to push his ideological line.

Witness how Cole decides to represent, without offering a link to the original source of course, an Al-Hayat report about the Cairo conference on Iraq:

The other surprise of the Cairo conference is that the negotiators accepted the right for Iraqi groups to mount an armed resistance against the foreign troops. The participants were careful to condemn universally the killing of innocent non-combatants. They decried "takfir" or declaring a Muslim to be an unbeliever.

Of course Cole would like to convey this message as it's his fantastic ideological vantage point that he's been pushing for two years (remember that piece in Le Monde Diplomatique in 2004, when Cole jumped on the failed insurgency of the "young Shiite nationalist" Sadr, and declared the rebirth of a "transcendent nationalism" that would unite Shiites and Sunnis against the imperial colonial occupiers?). It's your average Third-Worldist (with a sprinkle of romantic Arab nationalism) fantasy worldview.

But his version has little resemblance to the original. First off, he conveniently leaves out important details from the report. For instance, al-Hayat notes the fact that the Shiite delegation refused the initial draft which made a distinction between resistance and terrorism (as Bashar Asad has maintained in all his recent interviews, whether on CNN or in As-Safir). The initial draft would've declared "a distinction between terrorism and resistance, and the consideration of resistance as a legal right for people under occupation." Jawad al-Maliki, the Shiite representative, threatened the withdrawal of the Shiites from the talks if this wasn't changed. He's quoted as having said: "recognizing the resistance means dealing a blow to the legitimacy of the government which had asked the foreign troops to extend their mission in Iraq. How can we ask them to stay in the country and at the same time sanction their targeting?" This line has been echoed by Talabani and others in various recent statements (Iraqi VP Adel Abdul Mahdi, and Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, both made similar statements [PDF] afterwards about the insurgency not being a "resistance." Barzani noted that the US a liberation force, and is there by request of the Iraqi government. Abdul-Mahdi said that the only resistance acceptable is political or diplomatic.)

The final compromise formula said that while "resistance is a legal right for all peoples, however terrorism does not constitute legitimate resistance. As such, we condemn terrorism and the acts of violence and killing and kidnapping that target Iraqis and humane and civil institutions and the government and the national resources and religious places, and request they be opposed immediately."

In other words they've condemned everything that's been going on in Iraq, without distinguishing one thing as terrorism and another as resistance. While the statement leaves out any reference to foreign troops, it also leaves out any reference to occupation, which in itself neutralizes the angle of legitimate resistance. The addition of the government and state institutions in there by default refers back to Maliki's words that it is in fact the government that requested the foreign troops. Therefore, any attack on them is by default an attack on the government's authority.

While not perfect, it's a far cry from Juanito's skewed and dishonest version. Remarkable, this fellow. I won't even bother comment on the other silly remarks he made. It's Cole after all.