March 04, 2002
Edward Said: Thoughts about America, wherein the noted intellectual lays it all down.
Thomas Friedman tiresomely sermonises to Arabs that they have to be more self-critical, missing in anything he says is the slightest tone of self- criticism. Somehow, he thinks, the atrocities of 11 September entitle him to preach at others, as if only the US had suffered such terrible losses, and as if lives lost elsewhere in the world were not worth lamenting quite as much or drawing as large moral conclusions from.Plenty of other good stuff in that article, but I have to say that the "Arabs need to be more self-critical" line was tired and hypocritical when it (predictably) first started being spewed, but now it's just one endless drone in the thundering din of pundit noise. Silence is a good thing when all the experts are hawking up the same old loogies of wisdom and wasting millions of pages of print with it. To wit:
Yet in a long footnote, Walzer and his colleagues set forth a list of how many American "murders" have occurred at Muslim and Arab hands, including those of the Marines in Beirut in 1983, as well as other military combatants. Somehow making a list of that kind is worth making for these militant defenders of America, whereas the murder of Arabs and Muslims -- including the hundreds of thousands killed with American weapons by Israel with US support, or the hundreds of thousands killed by US- maintained sanctions against the innocent civilian population of Iraq -- need be neither mentioned nor tabulated. What sort of dignity is there in humiliating Palestinians by Israel, with American complicity and even cooperation, and where is the nobility and moral conscience of saying nothing as Palestinian children are killed, millions besieged, and millions more kept as stateless refugees? Or for that matter, the millions killed in Vietnam, Columbia, Turkey, and Indonesia with American support and acquiescence?More on why bootlicking intellectuals make me sick:
All in all, this declaration of principles and complaint addressed by American intellectuals to their Muslim brethren seems like neither a statement of real conscience nor of true intellectual criticism against the arrogant use of power, but rather is the opening salvo in a new cold war declared by the US in full ironic cooperation, it would seem, with those Islamists who have argued that "our" war is with the West and with America. Speaking as someone with a claim on America and the Arabs, I find this sort of hijacking rhetoric profoundly objectionable. While it pretends to the elucidation of principles and the declaration of values, it is in fact exactly the opposite, an exercise in not knowing, in blinding readers with a patriotic rhetoric that encourages ignorance as it overrides real politics, real history, and real moral issues. Despite its vulgar trafficking in great "principles and values," it does none of that, except to wave them around in a bullying way designed to cow foreign readers into submission. I have a feeling that this document wasn't published here for two reasons: one is that it would be so severely criticised by American readers that it would be laughed out of court and two, that it was designed as part of a recently announced, extremely well-funded Pentagon scheme to put out propaganda as part of the war effort, and therefore intended for foreign consumption.