'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Rare Debate on US Policy in the Middle East 

American policymakers and their representatives are scrupulous about not putting themselves in a position of actually having to engage informed critics of US policy in the Middle East, and American media assists them through the exercise of self-censorship in regard to the range of opinions that it requires such policymakers to address. But, here, there is an actual debate between General Richard Myers, a former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and As'ad Abukhalil about Obama's decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Myers literally doesn't know what hit him.

Curiously, Abukhalil lets Myers get away with implicitly stereotyping Arab governments as uniquely corrupt in contrast to the developed world when Myers speaks as if only Arabs are adversely influenced by money. Abukhalil could have also acidly inquired, and, yes, General Myers, where perchance does this money come from? Maybe, he thought it was all rather obvious to the audience, which, if I am any indication, it was. But Abukhalil scores a body blow when he accurately characterizes the US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan as efforts to colonize the two countries, a statement that so shocked Myers, who has been sheltered from such a blunt discourse in the US, that he could only absurdly sputter that the US actions are altruistic. Apparently, he's never heard of Paul Bremer and what Bremer unsuccessfully tried to accomplish in Iraq.

As it became more and more obviously that Abukhalil was mopping the floor with him, Myers could only fall back to that old American populist standby, anti-intellectualism, comically comparing Abukhalil to the purported academics that erroneously advised the Bush administration that Iraqis would welcome the US military presence in their country. Again, Abukhalil let this one pass, again apparently recognizing that he did not have to underscore the ridiculousnes of this comparison for the audience. If I may hazard one constructive criticism of Abukhalil, it would be that he should point his figure at the monitor less frequently as he makes his argument. Oh, did I mention that network that aired the interview? PBS? CNN? MSNBC? No, Aljazeera English.

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