Monday, May 25, 2015

Leah Garchik breaks from the pack on Islam

I was surprised to see the hed on Leah Garchik's Datebook column this morning: "Hirsi Ali sees Islam as religion of violence." This is the first crack in the monolithic Chronicle approach to Islamist violence, which is supposedly only about a few bad apples in that great religious tradition.

Garchik is quoting Hirsi Ali and not presenting her own opinions, but one suspects that she agrees. This is a first for the Chronicle, which has long been wrong about Islam and terrorism, like on the Danish Muhammad cartoon riots, when it editorialized that "The caricatures of Muhammad that have ignited an international furor are offensive and recklessly off base in portraying the prophet as a terrorist." 

Maybe Muhammad wouldn't qualify as a terrorist by present-day standards, but he was a military leader who spread his new religion using military force, which seems like the same thing to me. Of course the Chronicle didn't publish any of the cartoons, but neither did the city's toothless "alternative" media. (I'm the only one to publish the cartoons.)

Garchik's colleague C.W. Nevius got it wrong during the ridiculous controversy about the anti-Jihad ads on Muni buses a few years ago. And Jon Carroll gets honorable mention, as does the editorial department again, and then there's stupidity disguised as news stories, etc.

If there had been a widespread anti-Islam backlash in the US against Muslims after 9/11, this stupidity and spinelessness might be understandable, but that's clearly not the case.

Hirsi Ali revealed the widespread lack of principle among liberals/progressives last year in her interview with Sam Harris (Lifting the Veil of “Islamophobia”). Driven out of Europe and hoping to find safety in a supposedly liberal United States, Ali was shunned by this country's liberal foundations and organizations. She was ultimately taken in by the conservative American Enterprise Institute!

So I approached Cynthia[Schneider], and she took me to the Brookings Institute, and to Rand, and to Johns Hopkins, and to Georgetown—she took me to all these institutions, and there was no interest. They didn’t say it to my face, but I got the feeling that they were uncomfortable with what I had been saying about Islam.

Then, on the last day, just before I left the country, Cynthia suggested that we try the AEI. And I said something like “I can’t believe you’d take me there. It’s supposed to be a right-wing organization.” And she said, “Oh, come on. You Dutch people are too prejudiced against the U.S. Things here are really very different than you think. I was a Clinton appointee, and one of my best friends—one of Clinton’s best friends—Norm Ornstein, is there. So it’s not what you think it is. And it’s definitely not religious.”

So we went to the AEI, and I met with Norm Ornstein and a woman named Colleen Baughman, and they were so enthusiastic. They immediately introduced me to their president, who suggested that we talk again in a month. And we just kept talking. I spoke about my work; they told me about what they do. And I didn’t hear back from any of the other institutions that I had solicited...

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Blind into Baghdad

James Fallows on the origins of the US invasion of Iraq:

...I was in Washington on the morning of September 11, 2001. When the telephones started working again that afternoon, I called my children and parents, and my then-editors at The Atlantic, Michael Kelly and Cullen Murphy. After that, the very next call I made was to a friend who was working inside the Pentagon when it was hit, and had already been mobilized into a team planning the U.S. strategic response. “We don’t know exactly where the attack came from,” he told me that afternoon. “But I can tell you where the response will be: in Iraq.” I wrote about this in The Atlantic not long afterwards, and later in my book. My friend was being honest in expressing his own preferences: He viewed Saddam Hussein as the basic source of instability in the region. But he made clear that even if he personally had felt otherwise, Iraq was where things were already headed.

Four days after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush held a meeting of his advisors at Camp David. Soon after that meeting, rumors emerged of what is by now settled historical fact: that Paul Wolfowitz, with the apparent backing of Donald Rumsfeld, spoke strongly for invading Iraq along with, or instead of, fighting in Afghanistan. (For an academic paper involving the meeting, see this.) The principals voted against moving into Iraq immediately. But from that point on it was a matter of how and when the Iraq front would open up, not whether.

Anyone who was paying attention to military or political trends knew for certain by the end of 2001 that the administration and the military were gearing up to invade Iraq. If you want a timeline, again I refer you to my book—or to this review of Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack, which describes Bush’s meetings with General Tommy Franks in December, 2001, to draw up invasion plans. By late 2001 forces, weapons, and emphasis were already being diverted from Afghanistan in preparation for the Iraq war, even though there had not yet been any national “debate” over launching that war.

Want some proof that we, at The Atlantic, took seriously the fact that the Iraq decision had already been made? By late February, 2002, our editors were basing our coverage plans on the certainty of the coming war. That month I started doing interviews for the article that ran in the November, 2002, issue of the print magazine but which we actually put online in August. It was called “The Fifty-First State” and its premise was: The U.S. is going to war, it will “win” in the short term, but God knows what it will then unleash.

All this was a year before the invasion, seven months before Condoleezza Rice’s scare interview (“We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”), also seven months before Rumsfeld’s “trained ape” quote (“There's no debate in the world as to whether they have these weapons. We all know that. A trained ape knows that”), and six months before Dick Cheney’s big VFW scare speech (“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction”). It was long before the United States supposedly “decided” to go to war.

In the late summer of 2002, the public began hearing about the mounting WMD menace as the reason we had to invade Iraq. But that was not the reason. Plans for the invasion had already been underway for months. The war was already coming; the “reason” for war just had to catch up...