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January 17, 2007

Thank God Our Leaders Are Completely Different From Saddam Hussein

I really could spend the rest of my life doing this.

This is from a 2004 article in Rolling Stone:

Over at Defense, competent intelligence professionals were purged in order to ease the way to war. Douglas Feith, brought in under Rumsfeld to serve as undersecretary of defense for policy, applied an ideological test to his staff: He didn’t want competence; he wanted fervor. Col. Pat Lang, a Middle East expert who served under five presidents, Republican and Democratic, in key posts in military intelligence, recalls being considered for a job at the Pentagon. During the job interview, Feith scanned Lang’s impressive resume. “I see you speak Arabic,” Feith said. When Lang nodded, Feith said, “Too bad,” and dismissed him.

From an Atlantic article about U.S. government Arabists:

"Arabist" is among the most loaded words in America's political lexicon...In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries an Arabist was a student of the language, history, and culture..."It became a pejorative for 'he who intellectually sleeps with Arabs,'" said Richard Murphy, a former assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs.

From the Pentagon's Iraq Perspectives Report, p. 11-12:

Instead of accurate reports of the realities around him, Saddam received increasing amounts of flawed assessments and lies that only served to strengthen his preconceptions. Real knowledge was not a prized commodity in Iraq, and its final worth was established by the dictator himself when, in front of a group of senior officers, he singled out a future Republican Guard Corps commander, known to read widely in military history and theory, and publicly ridiculed him for "thinking like an American."

Posted at January 17, 2007 08:40 AM | TrackBack

I remember thinking about this same phenomenon when I heard about the GWB interview with 60 minutes which aired this past Sunday, and how he talked about the "debt of gratitude" the Iraqis owe to the US. Immediately I thought about how Saddam went to the gallows, and how he was said to have no regrets because he supposedly did everything he did for the people of Iraq.

One imagines they both really believe(believed) these things. Although in dubya's case I wonder if the desire that his victims feel a 'debt of gratitude' to him for wrecking their country may also be a projection of unacknowledged guilt, one that he'll never face or admit to.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at January 17, 2007 11:59 AM

One of the very best posts in this always-entertaining series.

Nice one!

Posted by: oyster at January 17, 2007 12:06 PM

Was Saddam ever ignorant about American "thinking" or reading habits. If our civilian and military leaders had ever read "Street Without Joy," (1961) by Bernard B. Fall, would they have marched down that same street as the French did?
Unless they were destructive and self-destructive idiots, no.
But today's bunch (of leaders) are exactly that.
And they have made "thinking like an American" into an oxymoron.

Posted by: donescobar at January 17, 2007 12:38 PM

They are destructive and self-desturctive idiots far beyong the Ugly American's wildest dreams, and we continue to be a nation of sheep such as would sweeten the dreams of the last mad Basque standing.

Posted by: Jesus B. Ochoa at January 17, 2007 02:38 PM

GWB is rite - I raq does owe us, big time. We captured a knone terorist that wanted to harm us bad. Now hes with satin. If people would only put asside there diferenses and lissen to the man, they would come away with a hole new perspictive as far as his inteligense and thurow understanding of the problem with terorists and there liberul alies here. Its to bad we cant do something like that here. Anyway, were wining and they cant do anything aboot it! Suport the war, suport the president, hes a god feering man!

Posted by: Carl Gordon at January 17, 2007 05:19 PM

who told you about the satin, Carl?

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at January 17, 2007 06:10 PM

This Carl Gordon guy is a strange one. I came here from "The Carpetbagger Report" via Salon where he had another one of these Faux Troll posts.

The misspelling looks intentional rather than phonetic, as is usually the case with people who are actually undereducated.

The post itself was dead on. Reminds me of the "we create our own reality" quote from an anonymous White House staffer a few years back.....

Posted by: Pat Ryan at January 17, 2007 06:52 PM

So, Pat Ryan, would you put GWB in the "actually undereducated" class, despite (because of?) his Yale BA and Harvard MBA?
If your answer is incorrect, we will read your mail and audit you.

Posted by: donescobar at January 17, 2007 08:50 PM

Jon, I share your admiration for Pat Lang, whose blog has been taking W to task over Iraq for some time now, and is always interesting to read. However, there are reasons why "the rest of us" are sometimes mistrustful of "Arabists." Back in the summer of 1990, there was very clear evidence (through national technical means) as early as July 27th of major, unprecedented Iraqi military deployments that presaged an invasion of Kuwait, but the intelligence community's Arabists, including Pat Lang (DIA's most senior Mideast analyst) waited for another 3-4 days before changing their longtime belief that "no Arab country would invade another." As a branch chief in Army Intelligence at the time, I heard these same words from my own Arabist, an arrogant woman who constantly flaunted her Ph.D. in Middle Eastern Studies and denounced any of us who dared venture contrary opinions about the Iraq-Kuwait crisis. I enjoyed a bit of schadenfreude when, after having first been proven wrong by the Iraqi invasion, a few days later she proclaimed in censorious tones that "no Arab government would invite US troops into their country." The TV was on, and even as she was speaking CNN announced that the 82nd Airborne Division was being deployed to Saudi Arabia. The lesson is that while there's a lot to be said for deep cultural knowledge and experience, regional specialists are no less prone to "axiomatic thinking" than the rest of us.

Posted by: Ralph Hitchens at January 18, 2007 08:44 AM

Back during the previous century, when I was in grad school, one of my professors said, "If you read just [the professional literature of our particular field], it makes you stupid." As I understood him [and I have made a point of reading widely, regularly attendaning religious services, and practicing of austeries appropriate to my position in life, and consequently I believe I am well on my way to becoming a wise and good person - and did I mention modest?], he would agree with the generalization of this to [the professional literature of just one particular field, no matter which one it is].

Arabists take note.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at January 19, 2007 07:06 AM

attendaning = attending

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at January 19, 2007 07:07 AM