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Prof. Rashid Khalidi in 2003 (photo credit: AP)

For further must-read responses to the slandering of Rashid Khalidi, read Barnett Rubin here and here, and Scott Horton here. Writes Horton:

Rashid Khalidi is an American academic of extraordinary ability and sharp insights. He is also deeply committed to stemming violence in the Middle East, promoting a culture that embraces human rights as a fundamental notion, and building democratic societies. In a sense, Khalidi’s formula for solving the Middle East crisis has not been radically different from George W. Bush’s: both believe in American values and approaches. However, whereas Bush believes these values can be introduced in the wake of bombs and at the barrel of a gun, Khalidi disagrees. He sees education and civic activism as the path to success, and he argues that pervasive military interventionism has historically undermined the Middle East and will continue to do so.

Barnett Rubin, who knows Khalidi, is also one of the most intelligent expert commentators on Iran, Afghanistan, and the Middle East, and his site Informed Comment is well worth adding to your daily rounds. Horton’s pretty damn smart too, but reading his blog always makes me feel under-educated, so go there only if you have a less sensitive ego than mine.

Out of Evil, Good Shall Come

How best to respond to the McCain camps sleazy smearing of Rashid Khalidi as an anti-Semite and the equivalent of a “neo-Nazi”? Politically, the Obama campaign is doing the right thing, stating that this issue is distraction from real politics. True enough. But outside electorial politics, it’s important to loudly proclaim that Khalidi is an important scholar who should be part of the foreign policy conversation in both the United States and the Middle East. So I wholeheartedly support Ezra Klein’s idea that we should buy copies of Khalidi’s The Iron Cage: The Palestinian Struggle for Statehood.

Here’s what Klein has to say:


Presumably, this experience has not been a pleasant one for Khalidi. But it would be nice if some good emerged from it in the form of broader familiarity with his important works. So next time you hear Hannity explain how Rashid Khalidi urinates on a Haggadah during full moons, head over to Amazon and pick up a copy of The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood. Its an important book on its own terms, and its purchase is a worthy counter-statement to this type of anti-Arab fearmongering.

National Review Holds a Purge


National Review loves Donald Rumsfeld; doesn’t care for Christopher Buckley or Jeffrey Hart.


Perhaps because so many of its founding editors were erstwhile Stalinists and Trotskyists, the editors of National Review have always had a propensity for purges, ideological house-cleanings that involve black-balling those who don’t follow the party line. Some of these purges have been entirely justified: the conservative magazine did well to kick out kooks like Revilo Oliver and the Birchers in the early 1960s. And good riddance to the Randians as well. Other purges have been regrettable: anti-war libertarians were a strong presence on the American right till National Review started boycotting them. It would have been nice if those anti-war voices had remained part of the conservative conversation.


Now the magazine seems to be going through another one of its periodic ideological civil wars, kicking out anyone who might have a kind word to say about Barack Obama. As has been widely discussed, Christopher Buckley, son of founding editor William F. Buckley, lost his column in the magazine after he wrote an endorsement of Obama (an article that ran in another publication, The Daily Beast).

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Bush the Bolshevik?

With tongues protruding into their cheeks, many writers have compared the Bush administration to the early Bolsheviks. The points of overlap include ideological rigidity, messianic internationalism, contempt for traditional diplomatic norms and Old Europe, a tolerance for torture camps scattered far and wide, and a propensity to nationalize large industries.


Having said all that, the comparison is deeply unfair. Whatever else you want to say about the Bolsheviks, we should never forget that it was the Red Army that crushed Hitler. By contrast, the Republicans haven’t even been able to defeat the Taliban, who will be governing Afghanistan again soon enough.


The Soviet peoples made enormous blood sacrifices during the Great Patriotic War. It was their heroism and suffering that ensured that Nazism would be utterly destroyed, never to rise up again. I don’t see the Bush administration leaving a comparable legacy.

Keeping up with Mr. Incursion

U.S. special forces attacked a village/building/camp (select one) inside Syria on Sunday, killing eight people, according to Syrian officials. A rationale, given “on background” as all such messages are these days, was soon forthcoming: the area near the Iraqi town of Qaim had long been regarded by the Pentagon as a crossing point into Iraq for weapons, money, and foreign fighters, so as the unnamed U.S. military official in Washington told AP, “We are taking matters into our own hands.”

This, obviously, raises serious issues of national sovereignty, jus ad bellum, and the rule of international law. But the most serious of all is the question of how I’m supposed to keep track of this stuff. Continue reading

McCain’s New Low

You can say this about the McCain campaign, whenever you think they’ve hit rock bottom they still manage to surprise you by going even lower. Last week there was the email warning that a President Obama could lead to a second Holocaust. Now there is the curious attack on Obama’s friendship with the respected Arab-American historian Rashid Khalidi, likened by John McCain to a “neo-Nazi.”

We should be clear about this: since the death of Edward Said, Rashid Khalidi has been the pre-eminent Arab-American intellectual. He is a small-d democrat. If the United States is serious in its goal of spreading democracy and peace in the Middle East (a big if), then it needs to work with respected figures like Khalidi. And indeed in an earlier life, John McCain was well aware of this fact, since he steered money to a research institute founded by Khalidi.

By smearing Khalidi as a “neo-Nazi” McCain is basically saying, “if you are an Arab, no matter how accomplished or decent you may be, you can never be a good American.”


Spencer Ackerman makes exactly the right point on this issue: to libel a scholar like Khalidi as a big scary terrorist Arab monster is nothing less than racism.

Alan Greenspan Learns a Lesson


(Via The Washington Independent, Rand and Greenspan)


When he was young, Alan Greenspan suckled at the bony breasts of Ayn Rand, drinking in as his mother’s milk libertarian and Objectivist thought. After being furthered mentored by Milton Friedman, Greenspan rose to ranks of policy making until he became Federal Reserve chairman. In that position he was the world’s pre-eminent advocate of neo-liberalism, always quick to lecture on the need for deregulation so that markets could do their magic.


And now with the current global financial crisis something completely unexpected has happened. Greenspan, age 82 and a very old dog indeed, has learned something new: that markets don’t always give you the best result.


Grilled by members of the U.S. Congress, Greenspan admitted “I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organisations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms.”

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Obama as the Next Hitler

(From the far-right Israeli website Kumah. Thanks to Philip Weiss for calling attention to this terrible image.)


 Almost all political campaigns suffer from overheated rhetoric but there is something especially febrile and demented about the ongoing American presidential election, where the intensity of attacks on Barack Obama are notable not only for being over-the-top but also because they’ve been authorized and sanctioned by reputable and elite sources (i.e., the Republican party and its fellow travelers in the press). Not just on blogs but in publications like National Review and the Wall Street Journal as well the speeches of John McCain and Sarah Palin, one can read stories about Obama being a terrorist sympathizer, a covert Marxist, a man with shadowy ties to the enemies of America.

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Just like Ulysses, but about book illustrations

Arabesques from a 16th-century Koran
Arabesques from a 16th-century Koran

Written by Sydney-based “PK” (the P standing for Paul, the K being of unknown origin), Bibliodyssey is a blog devoted to the collection and display of the visual culture locked away in old books and only now being made available digitally by libraries and archives around the world. PK’s range of interests is stimulating and broad, covering the decorative arts of the late medieval Islamic world on one day, and the eerie but fascinating illustrations of 20th-century Louisiana artist Caroline Durieux on another.

Visit it. Bookmark it. Enjoy it.

The Socialists Roots of the Current Crisis

Socialism supposedly died in 1989 but like Dracula it has enjoyed a busy afterlife. Both on this blog and elsewehere, the Wall Street bailout has been described as socialism for the rich.  Major public figures have taken praising Karl Marx. And John McCain and Sarah Palin have taken to accusing Barack Obama of being a socialist.

And now Barbara Ehrenreich, a self-admitted leftist, confesses that socialists are actually responsible for the current crisis. An excerpt:


Surely you have heard by now of the imminent socialist takeover of America, and if you find the prospect unlikely, ask yourself: How many socialists do you know who lost millions in the recent stock market crashes? Just as I thought—none—and that’s not only because you don’t know any socialists. The truth is that we, the Socialist International Conspiracy, not only saw this coming, we are the ones who made it happen.


First, we selected a cadre of crusty punks from the streets of Seattle, stripped off their Che t-shirts, suited them up in Armani’s and wingtips, and introduced them to the concepts of derivatives and dental floss. Then we shipped them to Wall Street with firm instructions: Make as much money as you can, as fast as you can, and as soon as the money starts rolling in, send it out to make more money by whatever dodgy means you can find – subprime loans, credit default swaps, pyramid schemes – anything goes. And oh yes: Spend your own earnings in the most flamboyantly gross ways you can think of — $10,000 martinis, fountains of champagne – so as to fan the flames of class resentment.