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October 27, 2007

Here's Where I Went Wrong

Digby was nice enough to mention the post of mine on Walid Jumblatt from yesterday. One of the commenters there wrote this:

It all reminds me of the numerous hugs and kisses that former President Clinton bestowed on Yaser Arafat, and the hug and kisses Mrs. Clinton gave to Mrs. Arafat subsequently.

What a silly-ass post. I guess when you've got nothing, you go with this kind of vapidity.

John Cole | 10.27.07 - 9:48 am |

(Clarification: this is not the John Cole of Balloon Juice.)

The commenter is mostly wrong, but does point to an important aspect of this phenomenon I wasn't clear about.

MOSTLY WRONG: It's unlikely Arafat would ever have said the kind of things Jumblatt has; i.e., about how "we are all happy" about American soldiers being killed in a mideast war. This isn't because Arafat was a nice person--he was about as nice as a similar figure, David Ben Gurion--but because he always knew what side his bread was buttered on. He generally understood the balance of power in the world, and so, contrary to standard US mythology, tried desperately for decades to get in America's good graces. For instance, during the 1970s he secretly came to an agreement with the CIA to warn about us about possible attacks on U.S. Embassy employees by other Palestinian organizations.

Thus, the Arafat=Jumblatt analogy is very weak, at least in the way John Cole is making it.

WHAT I LEFT OUT: The dividing line between what foreign leaders are acceptable isn't, as I implied, just whether Democrats or Republicans are meeting with them. The dividing line is also (perhaps mostly) whether they've knuckled under to US foreign policy. Anyone who has is acceptable, and Democrats are generally safe cozying up to them. Anyone who hasn't is radioactive, and if Republicans meet with them, they may well be attacked from the right, with Democrats joining in.

To understand this phenomenon, look again at Arafat. He was a vile terror-monger up until 1993, and any American politician who met him was a terrorist-lover. This had nothing to do with Arafat making any statement like Jumblatt has--it was purely because he wasn't doing exactly what we told him to do.

Then, when we finally broke him and he agreed to be the US-Israeli subcontractor under the Oslo accords, he received the seal of approval. Clinton could hug and kiss him as much as he liked. (Later, after Arafat surprised us with unexpected backbone in 2000, he went back to being a vile terror-monger.)

The process worked in reverse with Saddam Hussein. It was perfectly fine for a bipartisan group of senators to meet with him in spring, 1990 at the height of his criminality. They all happily smooched his ass, with Alan Simpson commiserating with him about the "haughty, pampered press." (This was shortly after Saddam had had a British journalist executed.)

Then when Saddam disobeyed orders and invaded Kuwait, he was suddenly transformed into the Butcher of Baghdad. No one, Democrat or Republican, could possibly have met with him after that without the standard explosion of insanity.

Or take the two Mahmouds, Abbas and Ahmadinejad. They've both engaged in exactly the same kind of holocaust denial, with Abbas writing, "Many scholars have debated the figure of six million and reached stunning conclusions—fixing the number of Jewish victims at only a few hundred thousand."

But it's perfectly fine for Abbas to have said it, and fine for George Bush or Hillary Clinton to hang out with him, because Abbas follows orders. If he stopped following orders, that holocaust quote would be repeated every time he's mentioned in the US media, and Hillary couldn't meet with him anymore. Conversely, if Ahmadinejad would just start following orders, he could deny the holocaust all he wants, and Hillary could make out with him on national TV. No problem.

This is so glaringly obvious you'd think it might occasionally appear in a US newspaper, perhaps as often as once a decade. But it doesn't. As Noam Chomsky likes to say, you've got to admire the discipline.

Posted at October 27, 2007 03:03 PM | TrackBack

Say what you may like about that Terrorist Arafat, a murderous maniac and a thief, and ONE HELL of a politician. He RAPED both sides and they LOVED HIM. (talk about Stockholm Syndrome) EVEN if he was murdered, as some claim, they didn't get it young, he was damn near dead of old age as it was. AND HE LEFT THE WIFE AND KIDS, WELL OFF.( in paris) (can I say the same?)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 27, 2007 04:43 PM


Please be polite when you call.

Posted by: Mickey Mayer at October 27, 2007 05:09 PM

The US press, with their usual flair for words, summarizes this distinction by using the terms 'moderate' and 'extremist'.

Posted by: Dick Durata at October 27, 2007 05:16 PM

Kneel before Zod!

Posted by: Svlad Jelly at October 27, 2007 05:36 PM

There were three other people in that thread having a pretty good discussion of the Zionist use of terrorism in that thread--it's worth reading for that, though not for the moronic comment by John Cole.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at October 27, 2007 05:58 PM

Thanks for the pointer to the comments, Donald. That was worthwhile.

My instinctive answer to anon's challenge to name the terrorist incident that killed the most people in the Middle East was the U.S.S. Vincennes' shootdown of Iranian flight 655 in 1988, killing all 290 people aboard. Immediately, I hear the cry, "Oh, but that was a terrible mistake, not an act of terrorism."

Maybe. The Vincennes was in Iranian territorial waters at the time, and the commander was trigger-happy. What converted it into an act of terrorism for me was the response of then-president Reagan and soon-to-be-president Bush: They refused to accept responsibility or apologize, and awarded medals and honors to the Vincennes crew and captain. To this day the govt officially denies responsibility for the incident.

But on a moment's further reflection, it occurs to me that we've all heard of a terrorist bombing that killed far more people than either of the Patria or flight 655 incidents. It happened this year, only a few months ago, and failed to make much of an impression on people not part of the targeted group, either in the region or here.

I'm referring to the huge August 14 bomb that killed more than 500 Yezidis in Sinjar, Ninevah province.

Posted by: Nell at October 27, 2007 08:18 PM

In Iraq.

Posted by: Nell at October 27, 2007 08:26 PM

What a fascinating problem for the blogger-- to respond to an asshole who's sort-of right. It's interesting: in the same way that drunk people LOVE telling others how drunk they are, Cole's enhjoying telling others how self-righteous he is. That is: there's a perfectly understandable reason I'm being such a 'hole, but--rather than hiding it--I'll celebrate it. (I celebrate myself.)

And unless the blogger's 100% correct--meaning not just correct but also completist--he (Jon) has to be the bigger one in the situation. Because he's the primary text.

(Being an English major's okay if you go on to law school. I'll see you all in three years.)

Posted by: Sully at October 27, 2007 08:27 PM

Oh man, how come you haven't posted on your siteyour buddy Professor Harris' earnest pledge to change the tenor of political debate in America when he gets his 4 minutes of fame on CNN? Especially gag inducing is his ridiculously false modesty and transparently fake claims that he threatened not to be on CNN if they didn't want to play by *his* rules. Bob Harris would blow a donkey if it would get him on TV. Hysterical.

Posted by: m at October 28, 2007 06:22 AM

It must be hell to be a world leader in the era of American hegemony. Not only do you have to make your people happy (or very afraid), but you must stand firmly on the shifting sands of American, domestic politics. Not even the Europeans are exempt, witness Rumsfeld's dismissal of "Old Europe" when they didn't go along with Iraq plans.

Sooner or later, our outright bullying is going to come back to haunt us. Unfortunately, i figure that i will be alive to see it...

Posted by: Alexi Koltowicz at October 28, 2007 08:47 AM

Alexi: Damn 'cause and effect' and we may not be much older and wiser when the schise hits the fanssa.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 28, 2007 12:02 PM

Mickey Mayer: I DARE YOU to call 1-202-225-0100 and say that.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 28, 2007 12:05 PM

OT: This morning's Sunday talkies seem to have ratcheted up the Bomb Iran rhetoric significantly.

As we speak, CNN is giving an HD powerpoint presentation on Iran and its power structure. It's been drumbeating all morning.

Based on this, I'm adjusting my previous TiVo settings from Spring 2008 to Jan-Feb 2008. I was particularly emboldened by the Face The Nation's punditry "debate" between Levin and Graham -- surely a "well balanced" debate between opposing views. Although I was mildly surprised that Graham indicated waterboarding is torture.

Posted by: Ted at October 28, 2007 01:18 PM