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Mary Had A Little War
Douglas Feith made up administration-pleasing fairy tales about Iraqi involvement in 9/11. Here, from a New York Times editorial, is how it all got started:

...Top administration officials, especially Mr. Cheney, had long been furious at the C.I.A. for refusing to confirm the delusion about a grand Iraqi terrorist conspiracy, something the Republican right had nursed for years. Their frustration only grew after 9/11 and the C.I.A. still refused to buy these theories.

Mr. Wolfowitz would feverishly sketch out charts showing how this Iraqi knew that Iraqi, who was connected through six more degrees of separation to terrorist attacks, all the way back to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

But the C.I.A. kept saying there was no reliable intelligence about an Iraq-Qaeda link. So Mr. Feith was sent to review the reports and come back with the answers Mr. Cheney wanted. The inspector general’s report said Mr. Feith’ s team gave a September 2002 briefing at the White House on the alleged Iraq-Qaeda connection that had not been vetted by the intelligence community (the director of central intelligence was pointedly not told it was happening) and “was not fully supported by the available intelligence.”

The false information included a meeting in Prague in April 2001 between an Iraqi official and Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 pilots. It never happened. But Mr. Feith’s report said it did, and Mr. Cheney will still not admit that the story is false.

In a statement released yesterday, Senator Carl Levin, the new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who has been dogged in pursuit of the truth about the Iraqi intelligence, noted that the cooked-up Feith briefing had been leaked to the conservative Weekly Standard magazine so Mr. Cheney could quote it as the “best source” of information about the supposed Iraq-Qaeda link.

The Pentagon report is one step in a long-delayed effort to figure out how the intelligence on Iraq was so badly twisted — and by whom. That work should have been finished before the 2004 elections, and it would have been if Pat Roberts, the obedient Republican who ran the Senate Intelligence Committee, had not helped the White House drag it out and load it in ways that would obscure the truth.

It is now up to Mr. Levin and Senator Jay Rockefeller, the current head of the intelligence panel, to give Americans the answers. Mr. Levin’s desire to have the entire inspector general’s report on the Feith scheme declassified is a good place to start. But it will be up to Mr. Rockefeller to finally determine how old, inconclusive, unsubstantiated and false intelligence was transformed into fresh, reliable and definitive reports — and then used by Mr. Bush and other top officials to drag the country into a disastrous and unnecessary war.

How incensed is the right wing about this? Well, on National Review's The Corner blog, I did find a correction they printed from The Washington Post about incorrectly attributed quotes about Feith's report.

Hmmm, I wonder, where's all that outrage they showed when Clinton lied about his penis? Do they care more about penises getting some illicit action in the White House than unnecesssarily dead soldiers who saw illicit action in Iraq?

UPDATE: Oh, wait, then, there's this, from January, 2005:

I Am a Dork [Kathryn Jean Lopez]

I got an extra kick out of SNL last night because Douglas Feith (Undersecretary of Defense for Policy) was spoofed. The reason for the added enjoyment: he’s written for NR.

A little earlier, in October, 2004, National Review's Cliff May came up with this snidery:

I grew up with Uncle Walter. If he says Karl Rove was behind the bin Laden video, it must be true.

And I’ll bet Mark McKinnon did the filming himself. And they probably used a Halliburton jet to get him into Waziristan. Richard Perle and Doug Feith went along for the ride. And they all stopped in Riyadh on the way back for kabobs with their good buddy Prince Abdullah. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

And then, there's this nasty little bit from Jonathan H. Adler, in June, 2005:

Senator Levin is threatening to block confirmation of Douglas Feith's successor at the Defense Department. Apparently this is due to a dispute over documents, and not an effort to see that one of the Senator's relatives gets the position.

No, you sleazebag. Carl Levin has been the senator from Michigan since I was a kid, and there's a reason for that. He's a pretty good guy and he does a pretty good job. Here's the money quote from the June, 2005, Washington Post article Adler links:

Levin has criticized Feith for portraying the relationship as more extensive and significant than U.S. intelligence agencies thought at the time. Administration officials have defended Feith's prewar efforts as reflecting a legitimate attempt to provide an alternative analysis.

National Review has been awwwwful quiet in the mea culpa department...along with the rest of the vast right-wing conspiracy. And, while the Democrats largely appear to be a bunch of dimwits, it does seem that there is a right-wing conspiracy -- against having the truth come out.

Posted by aalkon at February 11, 2007 1:24 PM

Comments

Disband the CIA, this won't be a problem. Should we have trusted them anyway?

By the way, what was their budget for fiscal '06? Just curious.

Posted by: Crid at February 11, 2007 6:52 AM

The problem is with the made-to-order "intelligence." Doesn't that give you pause?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 11, 2007 6:58 AM

Perhaps there was a right-wing conspiracy to mislead. If so, the New York Times doesn't make the case: what I see is Administration frustration with an incompetent CIA, internal briefings that criticized the CIA, the failure of those reports in hindsight to be any more accurate than the intelligence personnel who were being criticized, bureaucratic infighting by career personnel to blame failures on political personnel no longer in office, partisan politicians and journalists slanting the results of the investigation, and you taking it a step even further than the Times took it.

The Inspector General's report certainly doesn't support the conclusions in this post. Why is it "inappropriate" as the IG says (much less a conspiracy) for a defense department official to "that there are 'fundamental problems' with the way that the Intelligence Community was assessing information"? How on earth does it make our intelligence gathering better, rather than worse, if future personnel know that dissent with the "Intelligence Community" can lead to this sort of witch-hunt in the future?

Posted by: Ted at February 11, 2007 7:12 AM

Even if the Czech story is untrue (the Czech government still stands by it), Saddam Hussein's ties to international terrorism was still very extensive. Abu Nidal, Abu Abbas, and Abdul Rahman Yasin top the list.

Posted by: Feh at February 11, 2007 9:45 AM

Oh, there's where I want my war-justifying intelligence to come from, the Czech government. Saddam, if you'll remember, was a little busy oppressing his own people to get into the international terrorism business. Did he take a meeting or two? Dabble here and there? Perhaps. But, it seems the welfare he was most interested in was his own. For example:

http://www.cfr.org/publication/9153/

In 1983, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein expelled Abu Nidal and his group in an attempt to win American military support for Iraq’s 1980s war with neighboring Iran. Once the war ended, Iraq resumed its support of Abu Nidal.

And Ted, there's nothing wrong and a lot right with criticizing the problems with the way our "intelligence community" assesses intelligence. There's a whole lot wrong with just making shit up.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 11, 2007 10:30 AM

"And Ted, there's nothing wrong and a lot right with criticizing the problems with the way our 'intelligence community' assesses intelligence."

Then you agree with me and you disagree with the Inspector General's report, which found such criticism "inappropriate." And if the Inspector General's report is wrong, then the NY Times' extension of those conclusions to reach their conclusions are wrong. And if that's wrong, then your original accusations based on the Times' analysis are wrong.

"There's a whole lot wrong with just making shit up."

I think we can all agree about that. But there's still no evidence of that.

Posted by: Ted at February 11, 2007 11:17 AM

And Saddam was doing more than dabbling in terror. Right up until the end of his regime he was funding Palestinian terror activities that had killed Americans and Israelis.

Posted by: Ted at February 11, 2007 11:19 AM

Instead of going full-force after Al Qaeda, we pretty much dropped that and attacked Iraq. Dumb. And in a wishy-washy way that ensured we'd be in a Vietnamish quagmire for quite some time. Even dumber. And based on lies.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 11, 2007 11:37 AM

What Americans were killed by Palestinian terrorist activities? Americans in Israel? I remember a Hammas bombing of an Israeli university cafeteria where one or two students were US citizens. Also, when Hammas found out that Americans were killed... they held a press conference to apologize for the deaths. So all Middle Eastern terror groups consist of one monolithic entity hell bent on destroy the US? Or just certain groups? Please specify and show a distinct pattern of Palestinian groups targeting US sites in Israel. Its an old beltway trick to confuse the public's already lack of knowledge of the region. The nightmare scenario for various Palestinian terror groups would be waking up one morning and seeing a US aircraft carrier off the coast of Gaza and the other P.A. terroritories. Their fight is with Israel and not the USA.

Sadaam Hussein didn't have complete control over his own nation. The money from the Oil for Food program was used to bribe various Kurdish clan chieftains and Shiite leaders. The only area Hussein had complete control was Bahgdad and the Sunni Triangle. He couldn't use his 'air force' to place fear in the other regions, because of the UN No Fly Zone and the occasional targeted bombings of various missle/radar sites by US and British fighter squadrons. The rest of the money was used to support that ultra-cheezy playboy lifestyle. Not the symbol of the guy who was in control of a vast terror-intelligence-network. What happened to the story about the fake plane located on a base outside Bahgdad? Used for mock hi-jackings. The pseudo-chemical-bio-nuclear weapons program was a post modern composite of an elaborate paper trail and defective or outdated equipment to fool the international community and especially to put fear in his neighboring countries. (Iran)

There have been factional wars within the CIA since the founding of the agency in 1947. Especially, during the Cold War. I would recommend Evan Thomas' "The Very Best Man: Four Who Dared: The Early Years of the CIA". He documents the various factions within the agency. Their turf wars and differences in the application of intelligence gathering.

After the Cold War and prior to 9-11-01, the factions were between the entrenched analysts under George Tenet (former analyst) and the agents in the field. Robert Baer's book "See No Evil" documents those rivalries. It also documents his attempted coup against Hussein in 1994 with a few cell phones, a laptop computer, bags of money, a mobile satellite communication system, Kurdish militias and an defecting Iraqi general who would have replaced the dictator. Another sign that the late former Iraqi dictator wasn't in complete control of his own country.

Posted by: Joe at February 11, 2007 1:06 PM

Feh,

The comment that the Czech government backs the intelligence finding of Hussein's connection to 9/11? I would recommend reading this article from March, 2004:

http://www.radio.cz/en/article/57782

Also, the publication and radio network is controlled by the Czech government. While reading the article, pay special attention on the last paragraph on the 9/11 Commission findings. When you are finished... could you please tell me what is the color of the sky in your world?


Posted by: Joe at February 11, 2007 1:14 PM

Given that the CIA blew it on NK's nukes, 9/11, the Cole, the 1993 WTC bombing, and pretty much everything else back to the beginning of the Clinton adminstration (and probably well before then) should Bush have trusted them unquestioningly?

What I want to know is why did George Tenet still have a job on 9/12/01?

Posted by: brian at February 11, 2007 2:36 PM

Tenet retained his job solely on the idea that Bush is very easily impressed, because of his lack of experience. Remember the POTUS even considered himself a failure until he was 40. Bush is very intelligent person, but what he lacks is depth. It is a very dangerous quality for a POTUS. When he makes a decision that is it. No compromises. No back pedaling. No budging. Its like dealing with a little kid.

The CIA is charged with a next to impossible task. How can an agency with limited experienced personnel take on the task of proactively finding a possible terrorist plot? Do you know how many signals or 'noise' from terrorist sources they get in a month? During the mid 1990s, it was 30,000 to 60,000 signals. Now how can anyone find the correct series of signals that will lead to a possible terrorist act? Include a massive entrenched bureaucracy that will stifle creativity and out of the box thinking.

The media stories right after 9/11 about why it wasn't stopped by the various agencies. I understand its more of a psychological reason for these stories, but it is next to impossible. Unless the agencies actively infiltrate the various terror networks.

Similar turf wars occurred in the FBI during the 1990s. The 2 main divisions within the Bureau... criminal directorate and domestic intelligence were constantly fighting over increases in funding/special attention by the Director Louis Freeh. Under Freeh's (former fed judge) control it was the criminal directorate/departments that got the special attention and the domestic intelligence got the shaft.

I believed there was just one FBI agent (John O’Neill) actively investigating the connection between the first WTC bombing and this new terrorist group called Al Qaeda. Who resigned because of the stonewalling from the entrenched bureaucratic management at the FBI’s headquarters in DC. O’Neill’s next job was in charge of security at the WTC and was killed on 9/11.

The response after 9/11 should not have been the creation of the Dept. of Homeland Security. I told a friend that the POTUS should have taken the FBI and divided it into 2 agencies. The criminal division would retain the name FBI and a separate domestic intelligence gathering agency modeled not after the CIA, but the UK's MI-5. Now we have a broken CIA, semi-broken FBI and a monster of an incompetent bureaucracy Dept. Homeland Security.

Posted by: Joe at February 11, 2007 4:16 PM

Ditto, Joe, about the MI-5 model. We have a buncha people in the USA who apparently think the Yellow Pages should be the only place a Federal investigator is supposed to look for threats.

Ditto the bureaucracy. Years ago, it was proposed that the BATF be disbanded and rolled into the FBI, because of considerable obviously-illegal activity by the BATF. The FBI couldn't take them. Part of that was bureaucratic protectionism, and part of that was avoiding the legal morass following BATF civil rights violations. So there's one reason the "right" thing isn't getting done.

----

Hey, it's still burning me up that Mr. Clinton's sexual peccadillos - like you'd say that was OK if you were married to him? - are the only thing Americans can think of. Even the ones professing to be "smart" in some way. Better think about selling influence, instead. Think, "John Huang". After you get over the concerted "WHO?" from everyone in earshot similarly infatuated with Mr. Clinton's sex life, have them look up http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1996_United_States_campaign_finance_controversy

An earlier blog item wondered about the "native" requirement for our President. That's a good reason why to keep it.

Posted by: Radwaste at February 11, 2007 5:20 PM

I love you guys

Posted by: Crid at February 11, 2007 5:37 PM

Remember the POTUS even considered himself a failure until he was 40.

And there are those of us who still do.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 11, 2007 6:55 PM

Amy,

The GREATER TRUTH is that Saddam Hussein's regime was deeply involved in international terrorism at all levels. This includes providing sanctuary for the man responsible for the destruction of PAN AM flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland that killed over 260 people, many of them Americans.

Here's a quote from Joe Lieberman in 2003:

"I want to be real clear about the connection with terrorists. I’ve seen a lot of evidence on this. There are extensive contacts between Saddam Hussein’s government and al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. I never could reach the conclusion that [Saddam] was part of September 11. Don’t get me wrong about that. But there was so much smoke there that it made me worry. And you know, some people say with a great facility, al Qaeda and Saddam could never get together. He is secular and they’re theological. But there’s something that tied them together. It’s their hatred of us."

Joe: Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas were Palestinian terrorists and they killed plenty of Americans.

Posted by: Feh at February 11, 2007 10:19 PM

Feh,

Also, you failed to mention that Abu Nidal was killed by Iraqi security forces under the orders of Hussein on August, 2002. Of course Iraqi news sources stated it was 'suicide' with 4 gunshot wounds to the body.

http://www.janes.com/security/international_security/news/jwit/jwit020823_1_n.shtml

Now why would Hussein want to kill a fellow terrorist? Out of paranoia that Abu Nidal would provide mercenary services for a possible American led invasion? Would you consider Abu Nidal a true believer?

I will concede that various Palestinian terrorists have killed Americans in the past. My main argument is that the violence is not systematic, more sporadic and rare compared to Israeli targets.

You cannot lump all Middle Eastern terrorist groups into one monolithic entity. Then use the 'us against them' mentality favored by the current occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

There are factions, religious and philosophical differences among the various groups within the Middle East. The best strategy is to exploit these differences and insecurities. Divide and conquer. Let the factions fight each other and negotiate with the least violent and religious. Make some concessions and prop up 'enlighten' secular despots of the Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and Habib Bourguiba model.

On the Joe Lieberman quote:

Where is his sources? Notice the fine linguistic dance between almost saying that Hussein had a connection and in another sentence denying it. What are the odds of a politician making a muddled announcement??? Say it aint so, Joe. Say it aint so.

Posted by: Joe at February 12, 2007 7:55 AM

You cannot lump all Middle Eastern terrorist groups into one monolithic entity. Then use the 'us against them' mentality favored by the current occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Exactly right.

Unfortunately, those occupants seemed to have no notion of what they were actually up against: "Ohhh, Sunni and Shiite are different?!"

As for Joe Lieberman: "Tonight we have Tevye in the role of 'Uncle Tom'..."

He's Uncle Tomming the rest of us, in case you were wondering. Does George Bush have a big tattoo on his ass where Lieberman's lips fit perfectly?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 12, 2007 8:06 AM

Joe, so Hamas apologized for killing Americans. What good guys.
Are you kidding?

It has now become clear that Arafat ordered the killing of two US diplomats in Sudan in 1973. Our own State Dept hid this from Americans and most likely some Presidents for 30 years.

Posted by: Jon at February 12, 2007 8:53 AM

This entire post is a sterling example of not being able to see the forest for the trees. Reasons are for children, and those with a political axe to grind. We've been under attack by Iran since Jimmy Carter concluded that the Shah wasn't "clean" enough to be our guy in Tehran. AQ is an extension of these attacks. We are presently engaged in a proxy war with the Iranians in Iraq because that is WHERE we can fight them. Would you prefer the streets of NYC?

You and the NYT are both out of your depth. Carl Levin re-elected because he's a great Senator? No, he's the union-whore apparatchik in the rotten burough known as Michigan. Stick to advice to the lovelorn. You're pretty good at that.

xxoo
Casca

Posted by: Casca at February 12, 2007 8:54 AM

Joe and Amy,

Lieberman is a Senator. He chairs the committee on Homeland Security. I think he's in a better position than the two of you to know.

Hillary Clinton was making similar remarks to what Joe Lieberman said in 2002.

Amy: Your last comment was disgusting on so many levels.

Posted by: feh at February 12, 2007 8:56 AM

Casca,
I'd prefer to fight Iran in Iran. It's clear now that this half-war in Iraq is worse than no war.

I don't care about Democracy in Iraq. All I care about is that they do not threaten Americans. Did Iraq threaten the US before the war? Of course, but isn't Iran *more* threatening?

But with Iraq the way it is, moving on Iran has become much more difficult. Half wars are pathetic. What a waste

Posted by: Jon at February 12, 2007 9:34 AM

And how pray tell would you go about doing this? I'm sure that at least in hindsight, FDR would have preferred to attack the Japanese, vice the other way round. Neophytes have a Hollywood image of war, short, quick, clean, and never in doubt. Real war is rarely any of the above.

Posted by: Casca at February 12, 2007 3:22 PM

WSJ op-ed makes much more sense than that of the NYT:

Senator Ahab
February 12, 2007; Page A14

In a reasonable world, Douglas Feith would have received an apology late last week from Senator Carl Levin. But the obsessive Democrat won't let go of his story that the Bush Administration "politicized" pre-war Iraq intelligence no matter how many times the facts disprove it. Senator Ahab is now going even further and suggesting behavior standards that would make the U.S. intelligence bureaucracy less accountable to elected officials; this could get Americans killed.

The familiar accusation against Mr. Feith is that the former Undersecretary of Defense was responsible for all the government's intelligence failures on Iraq because his office had the temerity to review and critique intelligence on the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. His alleged pressure to find a strong link is said to have so influenced apparently weak-kneed CIA analysts that they made a false case for war. Senate Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller went so far as to accuse Mr. Feith of "running a private intelligence failure [sic], which is not lawful."

This preposterous narrative has already been debunked many times -- notably in a bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee itself. That 2004 report found that not only had CIA analysts not been pressured to change their views but that Mr. Feith's review had sometimes "actually improved the Central Intelligence Agency's products." A year later the Robb-Silberman commission also found no evidence that prewar intelligence had been politicized. And last week the Defense Department's Inspector General delivered to Congress a report that likewise exonerates Mr. Feith of doing anything unlawful and acknowledges that his actions were authorized by the Secretary or Deputy Secretary of Defense.

But instead of moving on to more important things, Mr. Levin is still chasing his great white whale. He's grabbed on to an odd bit of editorializing by the Inspector General that Mr. Feith "was inappropriately performing Intelligence Activities . . . that should be performed by the Intelligence Community."

"Inappropriately"? What on Earth does that mean? The charge is so vague that it has the air of a political sop that Acting Inspector General Thomas Gimble tossed to Mr. Levin to avoid being hauled in front of the Senate and accused of a cover-up. The myth persists that Inspectors General are King Solomons who are above politics, but in this case Mr. Gimble split the baby, and in a way that could harm U.S. security.

He and Mr. Levin are essentially saying that officials appointed by an elected President aren't allowed to question the "consensus" of the "intelligence community." Yet the work of Mr. Feith's office on al Qaeda had nothing to do with what everyone now concedes was the main intelligence failure on Iraq, which was the lack of WMD stockpiles. Former CIA Director George Tenet said it was a "slam dunk" that Saddam Hussein had such stockpiles, and it was this intelligence "consensus" that the Bush Administration relied on in making its main case for war. Any links between al Qaeda and Iraq is a separate issue that was barely mentioned in the run-up to war.

Make no mistake, the people "politicizing" intelligence here are Senators Levin and Rockefeller, whose smears against Mr. Feith will have a chilling effect on anyone who wants to question "consensus" judgments in the future. This is dangerous, because if recent experience has taught us anything it is that we need far more such questioning.

It was the intelligence community that underestimated Saddam's nuclear capabilities before the first Gulf War, only to overestimate them later. It was the CIA "consensus" that also vastly overestimated the strength of the Soviet economy even as Moscow was about to sue for peace. Before 9/11 it was also the intelligence consensus -- led by former CIA Near East chief analyst Paul Pillar -- that terrorism was a minor and manageable problem. Too bad Mr. Feith and his team weren't around to scrub those judgments.

We learned much of what we know about intelligence from the late, great Cold War strategists, Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter. And what they taught was that in the intelligence business almost nothing is certain. Albert Wohlstetter especially disliked "national intelligence estimates," which were always the product of lowest-common-denominator judgments -- or group-think. These judgments, in turn, often lead to public pronouncements that claim a degree of certainty that simply doesn't exist -- and then to charges of "politicizing" intelligence when those judgments turn out not to be true.

Messrs. Levin and Rockefeller may enjoy scoring partisan points. But their nasty obsession with Mr. Feith will have the effect of endorsing more group-think as the last, best word in intelligence -- and will lead to more Iraqs and more 9/11s.

Posted by: Ted at February 12, 2007 4:22 PM

Jon,

Did I say Hammas were the good guys? They are smart enough not to tick off the wrong country. So Jon, I recommend you read my past posts on Amy's site. I would make Zartosht blush in my dealings with the Middle East.

Feh,

Does Lieberman know Arabic? Did Lieberman ever spend 4 months (not consecutively) living with Bedouin tribes in Saudi Arabia and Jordan? Before and after 9/11? Does Lieberman know how to drive a camel on 55 foot side of a sand dune without falling on his ass? (I still have a bruised marking on my upper left thigh) Or getting sucked up in shamal? I could tell you stories about incidents of violence among the locals. If I told you the reason behind these altercations... you would laugh your ass off. How about lessons in Sharaf, Ird, diyafa, hamasa,assahiya and muruwa?

So, Senator Joe is the chairman of Senate Committee on Homeland Security? Wow. I'm impressed. Does he get to keep the gavel? How does getting spoon-fed information make a person aware of the situation? How about a person who has been in the various countries and around the people who might soon become collateral damage from some future missile and bomb launching based on the Senator's misinformed briefings?

From 1998 to 2003 I worked for an international medical-scientific charity, affiliated with American University. My parents were volunteered with a Catholic charity/American University in Beirut that helped Christian Lebanese families to emigrate to the US during the 1960s through the 1970s (just before the civil war) So there would be times of a newly arrived Lebanese family staying in our home for a few months. Like Amy, I was raised in the Great Lakes region of the US. Where there are large populations of Arabs-Americans. Fortunately, my area the majority are Christian Arabs.

My travels to Lebanon, Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Turkey, Tunisia, Malaysia and Indonesia. There were other nations on my list, but these have the majority Muslim populations. My field of expertise is Molecular Biology/Bio-chemistry. Through my contacts at the charity, I would run into my Middle Eastern colleagues and counterparts.

I'm not one of those romantic-Arabists types who sees himself as another Lawrence of Arabia. Or pro-Palestinian and anti Israel. So drop the stereotypes, if you want to have a debate.

I will you a little secret on why I got more ground with Arabs in respecting me. I'm an atheist. Another fact you won't learn on cable news... Arabs respect atheists. Why? I do not have a religious agenda. Oh, they believe I will rot in Hell with the rest of the infidels. Sometimes it boggles their mind that I'm godless and will perform alms/zakat through the charity. Other qualities they admired about me: My Jesuit-Catholic schooling, my Mediterranean roots (Italian) and my knowledge of their language, customs and faith. You would be surprised how shocked they are when American can guess which tribe they belong to. Their particular regional differences and the various spellings of certain parts of their entire names signify the particular tribe.

They would ask me questions about Qur’an and my views of the Prophet Mohammed. Yes, I read the book. Why didn't you feel the spiritual power to convert? Because I don't believe in any gods. Also, I would appeal to their inborn nativist pride. What good would your faith be with a American convert like myself? Always questioning. Arousing jihns (jeanies) Smiling during salah (5 prayers daily). Going to McDonalds after fasting. Super size after Ramadan? Don't forget that my American humor can easily translate into condescending my Arab hosts. So I learned fast on how to walk the fine line. The more secular/modern the hosts, I would openly debate on the future of the Middle East and the West, but in a respectful tone.

Jon and Feh what has been your experiences in the Middle East? I'm honestly curious. Military? Clandestine groups? Charity? Journalism? Cultural exchanges? Tourist travel? ESL schools?

Posted by: Joe at February 12, 2007 5:24 PM

Joe, all I pointed out was that you suggested Hamas should not be faulted for accidently killing Americans when they were really just trying to kill jews. Thats a bit gross.

Then I bought your attention to the newly rediscovered fact that the US State Dept squashed the evidence that Arafat ordered the killing of two US diplomats in 1973.
You asked
"What Americans were killed by Palestinian terrorist activities?"
I guess that was rhetorical and you don't care?

I've only been in Dubai, Cairo and Alexandria on a self guided tour with a girlfriend in 2000. It was tense tour even though we both are very reserved and respectful. My girlfriend was accidentily hit in the face by yelling gesticulating horse buggy driver after I only gave him 50% more than what we had agreed on.
Should I have hit him back, given him more money, or yelled loudly in return?
I now know what I should have done, years too late.

Posted by: Jon at February 13, 2007 8:57 AM

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