Across the Bay

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

OutLandis Duplicity

It's always interesting to watch apologists at work. It's especially amusing when you start keeping track of their statements, hypocrisies and duplicity.

And then you catch them in the act. In the case of Joshua Landis, keeping record of all the things he said from all the different sides of his mouth is not an easy task, especially lately, when he has reached new lows.

Instead, I'll just point out one little example of what happens when someone decides to consciously sell out integrity and scholarship for the sake of apologetics for thugs.

In a recent pathetic discussion with the clueless Philip Weiss (a discussion that I don't have the time to fully demolish as it deserves to be), Landis made this remarkable statement:

As it was, right or wrong, "we shed a lot of blood for the value of national integrity. When Arab nationalists do that, we call them fascists. Yet Syrians are thinking about their country in precisely those terms."

It was particularly odd, because as I recall, back when Josh was interested in scholarly integrity, he wrote an interesting and thorough response to a couple of his academic colleagues who were trying to wiggle around Arab nationalist fascism and its fascination with Nazism. (The relevant threads are "Non-Iraqi Arabs in Rashid Ali's Wartime Baghdad" and "De-Baathification, Nazism, and history")

Josh, who at the time was not interested in apologetics on behalf of thugs to hip Leftist bloggers, very convincingly marshalled irrefutable evidence from the Arab nationalists' writings that they were indeed fascists and Nazi sympathizers:

For example Jundi writes:

"We were racists who admired the Nazis. We read their books and the sources of their thought." (p. 27)

He mentions the works of Nietzsche (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 1883-85 and The Birth of Tragedy, 1872), Fichte (Addresses to the German Nation), and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the Anglo-German racial theorist who argued that the German nation was the best nation (Die Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts or The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, 1899.) The book's central idea is that Western civilization's moral, cultural, scientific, and technological superiority comes largely from the positive influence of the "Germanic" race.) He also mentions someone whose name I don't recognize (Darah, who wrote (Race or al-`arq) and insists, "We were the first to have the idea of translating Hitler's Mein Kampf."

He adds: "Those who lived this period in Damascus can appreciate the tendency of the Arab people to sympathize with Nazism. It was the power that took revenge for them. Losers naturally like winners. But we (the Ba`thists) were of a different school." (27)What he means here is that the Bathists were not like ordinary Syrians who just wanted revenge. Rather, they were deeply interested in Nazi thought and nationalist theories.

Jundi describes how on 29 November 1940, Arsuzi founded a party named al-Ba`th al-`Arabi (the Arab Resurrection or Renaissance), which originally consisted of six students. It was at the apartment of Abd al-Halim Qadur, a law student. Arsuzi gave a four-hour lecture on the occasion which dealt with "democracy, communism, and Nazism."

These are the ideological underpinnings of Arab nationalists, whose ideology was directly related to ethnic cleansing campaigns against Kurds and Assyrians.

My my, how things change when you become a full-time apologist. Now we have statements about how "Syria has managed the internal ethnic and religious divisions better than its neighbors." Yet, back in the day, we were told that not only was that same Arab nationalism the only ideology allowed in Syria (and that in the school curricula, there is no mention of "Syria"), but that "[w]ithout Arabism, Syrians have only their sectarian communities to fall back on, because Syrianism has been denied to them. The strength of sectarian identities in Syria is potentially very dangerous should there be sudden regime-change."

So let me see if I get this straight. Syria has better managed its ethnic and religious divisions than its neighbors have. Nevertheless, without Arabism, the same ideology that Josh clearly linked to fascism (before recanting), Syrians will have nothing but their ethnic and religious identities to fall back on, which is "potentially very dangerous," i.e., it might lead them to kill each other (which Josh has said or implied elsewhere). He repeated this in a truly nauseating NYT op-ed back in 9/05:

[A]uthoritarian culture extends into the deepest corners of Syrian life, into families, classrooms and mosques. Damascus's small liberal opposition groups readily confess that they are not prepared to govern. Though they welcome American pressure, like most Syrians, they fear the deep religious animosities and ethnic hatreds that could so easily tear the country apart if the government falls.

It's worth noting that in that worthless op-ed, Josh actually gave us an indication of how Syria's regime manages its ethnic and religious divisions. He advised the US to help Bashar crush Syrian Sunnis, whom Josh blamed as the reason why Assad was aiding insurgents in Iraq (and on this issue, Josh has used up every possible millimeter of his mouth saying everything and its opposite). But then he had the audacity to write that the regime has "worked hard to repair sectarian relations in Syria"! Indeed!

In another post, Josh explained to us the situation of the Kurds in Syria, which, mind you, we are now told that ethnic problems are being managed better than in neighboring countries:

Solving the Kurdish question has become urgent not only because of the glaring inequality the stateless Kurds in Syria, but because of the radical changes to the status of the Kurds in neighboring Iraq and Turkey. Syria has always been able to boast that it treated its Kurds better than its neighbors did. That boast is now hollow. In the future, Syria's Kurds of the North-East will no longer be content to submit to the deprivations of old. The riots of last spring testify to this. If Syrians want the loyalty of the Kurds, they must accord them equal respect and rights. The plight of the stateless Kurds has long been a stain on Syria's claim to treat its people with equality and dignity regardless of ethnic or religious background.

The question of stateless Kurds in Syria began in 1962, when President Qudsi, passed a law that required that the inhabitants of the Governorate of Hasaka (the region of North-East Syria between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers) be counted in one day. Those who were found to have come into the country without proper papers were stripped of their citizenship in August 1962 along with any children born in Syria.

In fact, Josh quoted another regime cheerleader and fellow traveller, Sami Moubayed, to explain the ideology behind Syria's Kurdish policy. You'll see that it relates quite well with what Josh wrote to his academic colleagues above:

To prove their Arab zeal, Syria's new leaders passed decree number 93, stripping about 120,000 Syrian Kurds of their Syrian citizenship.

Josh ended by saying:

Everyone, not just the Sryian authorities, tended to view the Kurds of the Jazira region as a problem and infiltrators who could be dealt with in the most humiliating and discriminatory fashion. It is this past, which Syria is now struggling to put behind it.

It should be noted that the current regime has been launching a brutal campaign against Kurds, which included house demolitions aside from mass arrests and other brutal policies.

So my question is, how exactly then has Syria better managed its internal ethnic and religious division?

Well it depends on which Josh you're talking to. One time Josh told us this:

When Hafiz al-Asad came to power in 1970, one of his primary goals was to establish a new balance between the government and Islam. One of the central planks of his "Corrective Movement" was to abandon the radical secularism and socialism of the Jadid regime that preceded him. Although he reached out to Sunni clerics, giving them greater leeway in society, he strictly limited their influence in politics. At the same time, he encouraged Alawites to embrace mainstream Islam. He declared the Alawites to be nothing but Twelver Shiites, forbade Alawite Shaykhs to venerate Ali excessively, and set the example for his people by adhering to Sunni practice. He built mosques in Alawite towns, prayed publicly and fasted and encouraged his people to do the same.

In short he tried to turn Alawites into "good" (read Sunnified) Muslims in exchange for preserving a modicum of secularism and tolerance in society. (For a better understanding of this process see my article on Islamic education in Syria.) To police this understanding, he squashed any semblance of democracy in Syrian political life, forbidding elections even within professional organizations and trade unions. As a result, civil society was crushed, ministries became havens for mafia groups, and any political life outside the secretive factions in the regime came to a standstill.

More recently, when he became more involved in the type of propaganda he threw at Weiss, he spun this brutal picture by telling us (he actually wrote this!) that Hafez Asad, "[r]ealizing that he could not convert Syrians to liberalism, he spent considerable energy trying to convert Alawites into mainstream Muslims." Yes, everyone knows that champion of liberalism, Hafez Asad! Poor Hafez! His liberal utopia crushed, he went on to kill 30,000 people and imprison thousands upon thousands of others, 17,000 of whom have "vanished."

Lee Smith nailed it in a couple of pieces in the Weekly Standard. The essential truth is best expressed in this sentence:

It is worthwhile to note that a state fearful of sectarian conflict runs a regional policy in Lebanon, Iraq, and Israel that aims to provoke elsewhere its own worst nightmares at home.

Bingo. In other words, as Lee wrote, the regime has always pursued a policy, that is at once regional and domestic, of exporting violence in order to exhaust its own sectarian fears and furies. This is what Josh sells as "better managing" ethnic and religion divisions: brutal repression at home, along with deadly export of violence to neighbors, and then, as Lee put it, "sweeping" it all "under an Arab nationalist rug." Mind you, that same Arab nationalist rug was what Josh once properly labeled fascist before deciding to take the sure Bush-bashing route with a Leftist blogger in order to defend the thugs in Damascus. It's the sure route that every dictator in the ME (and their Arabist cheerleaders) treads. That is one of the reasons why Josh has become utterly unreliable.

So, in the end, Josh, to respond to your "outrage" at how "when Arab nationalists do that [ethnic cleansing], we call them fascists." No, not "we" Josh; "You." You have called them fascists, and now you are calling them "worth protecting," and something Syrians "can be very proud of." Indeed.