Sunday, October 31, 2004

Election Special: Re-post of "The Legend" with Images

I suspect that most visitors to this site have already read "The Legend of the Squandered Sympathy", the article with which Trans-Int was launched. Unless they are Paris residents, however, they are far less likely to be familiar with the cartoons by Plantu and Serguei that are central to my reconstruction of the tone being set in Le Monde just before and immediately after 9/11. So, I am re-posting "The Legend" now with pictures of the cartoons embedded in the text. In order not to be mistaken about their allies, Americans should know the image of their country that was being conveyed by the the would be French paper of record in the Summer and Fall of 2001 - all the more so since, as I show in text, it was an article by Le Monde's publisher that, with the help of the New York Times, largely gave rise to the legend of the squandered sympathy. In Parisian libraries, Plantu's work can be found in the section labeled "Humor". So, I guess I should say "have fun".... And be sure to pass on the link to any friends or acquaintances you may have who still believe in the myth.

If you have not already seen it, also have a look at "The NYTimes Protects Its Myth", a follow-up to "The Legend of the Squandered Sympathy" including some revealing visuals.

The Legend of the Squandered Sympathy (with images)

The Legend

In the last two months, with John Kerry and the Democratic Party attempting to prove the superiority of their credentials to conduct America’s foreign policy, we have heard much of the legend of the squandered sympathy. According to this legend, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 the US enjoyed the heartfelt sympathy of the world, only to see this capital of goodwill frittered away by the successive faux pas of an inept and arrogant Bush administration and then definitively exhausted by the launching of an illegitimate war on Iraq in defiance of “world public opinion.”

The Democratic National Convention in July already set the tone. In the absence of much else to say on foreign policy matters, speakers at the convention returned to the theme of the squandered sympathy again and again. Jimmy Carter invoked it: “After 9/11, America stood proud, wounded but determined and united. A cowardly attack on innocent civilians brought us an unprecedented level of cooperation and understanding around the world. But in just 34 months, we have watched with deep concern as all this goodwill has been squandered by a virtually unbroken series of mistakes and miscalculations.” Ted Kennedy alluded to it: “The eyes of the world were on us and the hearts of the world were with us after September 11th – until this administration broke that trust. We should have honored, not ignored, the pledges we made. We should have strengthened, not scorned, the alliances that won two World Wars and the Cold War.” And the Reverend Al Sharpton – the extent of whose expertise in international questions was made painfully clear during the Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire when he was unable to distinguish the Federal Reserve Board from the International Monetary Fund – elaborated upon it in characteristically grandiloquent style: “Look at the current view of our nation worldwide and the results of our unilateral foreign policy. We went from unprecedented international support and solidarity on September 12, 2001, to hostility and hatred as we stand here tonight. How did we squander the opportunity to unite the world for democracy and to commit to a global fight against hunger and disease? We did it with a go-it-alone foreign policy based on flawed intelligence.”

In the meanwhile, a group of prominent Democratic foreign policy notables, including former Clinton National Security Advisor Anthony Lake and former Gore foreign policy advisor Leon Fuerth, founded a “527” organization named “Win Back Respect” – echoing the official Kerry/Edwards campaign slogan “Strong at Home, Respected in the World” – with the purpose, in effect, of disseminating the legend through a series of television ads. The organization’s lead ad is titled quite simply “Squandered”. It features the testimonial of one Wright Salisbury, identified as the father-in-law of a 9/11 victim, who dutifully rehearses the essentials of the legend. “There was a tremendous amount of sympathy for America and for what we suffered,” Mr. Salisbury observes, “George Bush, frankly, has squandered it. I think our friends and allies would be willing to help us in a war on terror, but we've been pushing them away.”

Not surprisingly, John Kerry - who is said to count Anthony Lake and Leon Fuerth among his foreign policy advisors - thinks so too. In the first presidential debate, he twice spoke of President Bush having "pushed away" or "pushed aside" real or potential allies.

Now, that America did not enjoy much sympathy, neither before nor after 9/11, in large sections of the Arab-Islamic world should not require much demonstration. The offensiveness of accusing the Bush Administration of “unilateralism” when citizens of coalition allies have been slaughtered in the most brutal fashion as retribution for their countries’ participation in the Iraq war and reconstruction effort is also sufficiently obvious to any fair-minded person as not to require particular commentary. The March 11 attack in Spain and the more recent threats against Britain, Italy, Australia, Poland, and Bulgaria make clear that Al-Qaeda and its affiliates understand, even if some Democrats apparently do not, that America has not acted alone. Whereas, moreover, Franco-German diplomatic efforts to win Russia over to the self-styled “Axis of Peace” eventually bore fruit, Russian authorities, unlike their French and German counterparts, have been notably reluctant to question the rationale of the American war effort and Vladimir Putin himself has offered conspicuous support for the Bush administration’s characterizations of the threat the Iraqi regime represented to American interests. (In this connection, it should be noted that when the French, German, and Russia Foreign Ministers held a joint press conference on March 5, 2003, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov merely indicated that Russia might use its veto to block a proposed Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. The threat was not only vague, but also otiose, since French President Jacques Chirac had already announced that France would use its veto to do the same.) Indeed, the real prospects for Russian-American cooperation on security matters are no doubt greater today than they have been at any time since the end of World War II.

In short, upon closer inspection, it turns out that “the world” of which the Democrats speak consists, not surprisingly, of just Germany and France and their inner-European satellites such as fractious Belgium and mighty Luxembourg. This makes all the more odd Ted Kennedy’s exhortation to the effect that “we should have strengthened, not scorned, the alliances that won two World Wars and the Cold War.” Has Senator Kennedy forgotten that America fought the two World Wars against Germany?

Incidentally, another ad prepared by “Win Back Respect” contains a similar howler. Titled “History”, it features two WWII veterans, one of whom, Robert O’Kane, notes, “There’s a very divided world about why we’re in Iraq – not like World War II.” When the United States entered the Second World War, it did so in coalition with 25 other states, jointly comprising the so-called “United Nations” (from which the later international organization would take its name). The majority of these, however, consisted either of countries already under German occupation, whose governments-in-exile adhered to the coalition, or small Latin American or Caribbean states, which declared war on Germany and Japan, but never sent troops to any theatre of operations. By D-Day, the number of formal adherents to the coalition had risen to the mid-30s, but the bulk of the fighting continued to be born by the US, the UK and the USSR. The number of countries currently contributing personnel to coalition forces in Iraq is 31. Even leaving aside the historical details, a world war supposed to unite, rather than divide, the world is an obvious contradiction in terms. The ad ends with the second veteran, Charlie Vaughn, concluding, “I don’t think our President has any sense of history.” The shoe is evidently on the other foot. It is President Bush’s opponent’s who do not have any sense of history – or logic, for that matter.

Were We All Americans?

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, countless private individuals in western Europe undoubtedly felt sympathy with the victims and many saw fit to express it in small symbolic acts, such as the laying of flowers before the American embassy in Paris. Given the horror of the attacks, such reactions were, so to say, only human. What was more unusual and hence noteworthy, however, was that at the same time the attacks seemed to elicit from the very start a sort of paroxysm of – as an Austrian friend of mine aptly put it – anti-American “ventilating”. In the major media, moreover, the expressions of hatred and contempt for America quickly came to eclipse those of sympathy. An especially conspicuous case in point is provided by the influential French daily Le Monde.

This is ironic, since the legend of the squandered sympathy draws much of its inspiration and seeming plausibility from the headline of the front-page editorial that ran in Le Monde the day after the attacks: “We Are All Americans”. An article that appeared in the New York Times one year later made allusion to this seemingly well-intended, if rather bizarre, affirmation, only then to note that “the same writer” who coined it, Jean-Marie Colombani, had in the meanwhile ascertained that the solidarity it was supposed to express had been largely dissipated. It even seemed to Mr. Colombani that just a year on “we have all become anti-American” (New York Times, September 12, 2002). Various factors were offered to explain this remarkable and remarkably universal change of heart, all of which have since gained pride of place in the standard version of the legend. The Bush administration’s opposition to the Kyoto Protocol and to the Rome Statute establishing an International Criminal Court were mentioned, for instance – even though both policies were of longstanding and neither in fact represented a substantive departure from the Clinton administration. Significantly, even just the mere prospect of an American military intervention in Iraq – President Bush would give his speech before the UN General Assembly demanding Iraqi compliance with Security Council resolutions on that very day, one year and a day after the 9/11 attacks – already figured prominently. Not to be outdone by the news department, some weeks later (October 2, 2002), Thomas Friedman published an op-ed piece in which he describes putting in a personal call to Alain Frachon, who Friedman incorrectly identifies as “the senior editor” of Le Monde, in order to find out first-hand “how his paper was viewing America”. Confirming his own perspicacity, Friedman was able to report that solicitude for America was indeed yielding to hostility and that even the “columnist” who penned the “all Americans” article now only considered himself American some of the time. In fact, if Friedman had stayed on the phone longer or spoken some French, he may have discovered that Jean-Marie Colombani is no mere “columnist” at Le Monde: he is the publisher of the paper.

Cartoon by Plantu, Le Monde, July 19, 2001: 'Tell these kids to stop the violence!'

Since attention was first called to it in the Times, the title of Colombani’s post-9/11 editorial has been widely cited in the rest of the American media and on the Internet. Its content, however, has been largely ignored. (The only exceptions of which I am aware are an op-ed I published in Newsday on September 27, 2002 and several articles published by Fouad Ajami the following year.) Thus are legends born. For the solidarity ostentatiously displayed in the title of Colombani’s editorial is in fact massively belied by the details of the text itself. By the fifth paragraph, for example, Colombani is offering his general reflections on the geo-political conditions which he supposes provoked the attacks: “The reality is surely that of a world without a counterbalance, physically destabilized and thus dangerous in the absence of a multi-polar equilibrium. And America, in the solitude of its power, of its hyper-power,...has ceased to draw the peoples of the globe to it; or, more exactly, in certain parts of the globe, it seems no longer to attract anything but hatred....And perhaps even we ourselves in Europe, from the Gulf War to the use of F16s against Palestinians by the Israeli Army, have underestimated the hatred which, from the outskirts of Jakarta to those of Durban, by way of the rejoicing crowds of Nablus and of Cairo, is focused on the United States.” The last sentence is grammatically no more coherent in the French original than in English. But it amounted to the first, albeit awkward, suggestion in the French press that America had perhaps merely got what it had coming. In the following paragraph, Colombani went on to add that perhaps too “the reality” was that America had been “trapped by its own cynicism,” noting that Bin Laden himself had, after all, been “trained by the CIA”: a never substantiated charge that has, of course, in the meanwhile become chapter and verse for the blame-America-firsters. “Couldn’t it be, then,” Colombani concluded, “that America gave birth to this devil?”

Cartoon by Serguei, Le Monde, August 18, 2001

For anyone who was a regular reader of Le Monde in the summer of 2001, to find such sentiments expressed in its pages will have come as no surprise. What came as a surprise was to find Jean-Marie Colombani suddenly counting himself, as well apparently as all the French if not indeed all the world, somehow part of a nation that his paper made a habitual practice of vilifying. Indeed, the very expression “the Americans” has long been used in Le Monde as a metonym to speak, for instance, of the American government or American corporations, thus suggesting, given the normally accusatory context, a sort of collective national guilt. In the weeks leading up to the 9/11 attacks, Le Monde had embarked on what seemed like a veritable campaign of incitement against the United States, complete with editorial cartoons on an almost daily basis that would not have been out of place in the most rabidly anti-American specimens of the Arab press. The July 2001 G8 meetings in Genoa provided the occasion, for instance, for a front-page offering of dubious taste by the paper's lead cartoonist Plantu. It shows George W. Bush, protesters in the background, giving orders to seven figures, representing the other participating nations, who are variously depicted as bound, gagged, and blindfolded by American flags or impaled through a variety of orifices upon the flagpoles bearing them. “Tell these kids to stop the violence!” Bush demands. An article on the “anti-globalization” movement Attac in the edition of August 28 was accompanied by a cartoon by Plantu’s colleague Serguei. In it, the world is depicted as the body of a living piggy-bank sporting an Uncle Sam hat and a stubbly beard and with a fat cigar embossed by a dollar sign stuck between its teeth. A small dark figure, evidently the dispossessed of the earth, holds out its hand pathetically. Another offering by Serguei from August, this one accompanying an article on Henry Kissinger and Chile, depicts Uncle Sam with a death’s head, glowering at a globe dripping in blood. In his right hand, the Uncle Sam figure clutches the cigar with the dollar sign on it: the icon of American cupidity.

Cartoon by Serguei, Le Monde, August 28, 2001

The 9/11 attacks did nothing to curb this onslaught. On the contrary, they only seemed to inflect the rising curve of animosity more sharply upwards. In the weeks and months that followed, Le Monde would return with mind-numbing regularity to the theme of American guilt in connection with 9/11, typically leaving it to third-parties to say openly in its pages what its publisher in his “All Americans” piece had merely insinuated or stated as conjecture. The authors of these testimonials ranged all the way from “shaken” New-Yorkers – thus Le Monde titled one article, with a certain hint of Schadenfreude, “Shaken, New Yorkers question themselves about the basis of their lost grandeur” – to supposedly “moderate” Islamists. In the former category, for example, “Daniel”, identified only as “an artist-painter”, was reported to have remarked in conversation with Le Monde’s NY correspondent that “It’s difficult to say this today, but I think that we were asking for it. New York represents the domination of a center that dictates its laws to other countries...” (Le Monde, September 20, 2001). “Daniel’s” words echoed those, cited the day before, of one Nadia Yassine, spokesperson of Morocco’s Islamist “Justice and Welfare” party and featured subject of a front-page article. “Nadia Yassine,” the article explained, “denounces the ‘boomerang effect’ of American domination. The dead at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are only ‘the most recent victims’ of an American power, which, ‘notably in Palestine’, crushes Muslims. ‘Globalization has a face and an address: the United States’”. And so on, mixing – in a journalistic style typical for Le Monde – the author’s words and the subject’s to create the illusion of a common sense obviousness from which no right-thinking person could possibly differ: what more critically-minded French observers have dubbed “la bien-pensance.”

Such was the tenor of Le Monde’s coverage, in effect, just one week after the attacks. The monotonous drone of denunciations continued as the prospect of a military strike against Afghanistan materialized in the weeks ahead, with distraught “New York Jews,” Pashtun warlords and the estranged son of the “O’Dea,” the archetypal all-American family, all chiming in to register their protest and all sounding surprisingly like “third-worldist” Parisian intellectuals – or even indeed like the publisher of Le Monde. (Among other things, the legend of the squandered sympathy occludes the fact that even while a substantial majority of Europeans polled, including in France and Germany, showed spontaneous understanding for American military actions in Afghanistan, large swaths of Europe’s socialist and social-democratic intelligentsia opposed any American military response to the 9/11 attacks whatsoever.) The “boomerang” image went on to become the favored heuristic device of Le Monde and its affiliated publications in their treatment of 9/11. Thus the first issue of the monthly Monde Diplomatique to appear following the events bore the thematic headline “Boomerang Effect”. In a pictorial variation on the same theme, a special insert in Le Monde itself featured a cartoon depicting a little wind-up Taliban doll, “Made in USA” emblazoned across its back, carrying red, white and blue explosives and circling back toward Uncle Sam.

Cartoon by Plantu, Le Monde, September 27, 2001

It was likewise in the pages of Le Monde, and again just one week after the attacks, that the fevered suspicions which would later propel the success of lunatic left best-sellers on both sides of the Atlantic first found their way into print: No, the attacks were not merely a comprehensible, perhaps then even legitimate, response to US domination around the world. The attacks were in fact the work of “the Americans” – the ubiquitous Americans – themselves! In an op-ed piece titled “I Don’t Feel American”, one Marie-José Mondzain of France’s prestigious National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) offered up a delirious brew of truths, half-truths, confusions, and pure fantasies, all seemingly conspiring, by way of some dizzying logical leaps, toward the conclusion that the U.S. government had itself sponsored the hijackers. Here are a few choice extracts: “As in every murder mystery, the question of the investigator is: who profits from the crime? The Palestinians? Certainly not: Sharon is now at last free to do as he wishes.... The Afghans crushed by the Talibans? Neither....The poor? The oppressed? Not in the least.... No. Those who rise up more arrogant and more powerful than ever are Bush, Putin and Sharon. What a success!.... Now, let us look a bit closer: here is a country, the most powerful in the world, that will not allow you to enter its territory with a piece of Camembert, an unvaccinated dog or a membership card for the Communist Party, not even one which has expired; but where as a citizen of an Arab country and member of a terrorist network, you can enter with a false passport, learn to fly, and obtain light arms without raising the least suspicion.... Isn’t it odd? These same Arabs (sic.) are so stupid that they circulate in an airport with light weapons and pilot manuals even two days after the attacks.... The CIA and the FBI, the day before yesterday still so helpless, become incredibly efficient. All of this is so unlikely that one cannot avoid posing grave questions.”

In this connection as well, incidentally, the New York Times managed to miss the story, even indeed obscure it, while ostensibly reporting the story. The Times mentioned Mme. Mondzain’s piece in an article published on September 22 under the title “In Europe, Some Critics Say the Attacks Stemmed From American Failings”. It neglected, however, to note that the gist of Mme. Mondzain’s piece was not that the attacks “stemmed from American failings”, but that, in effect, America did it. Whether this was the result of mere incompetence or a conscious editorial decision to shield American sensibilities from the extremes of French fury, only the reporter and his editor can know for sure. But it should be noted that the Times piece also misidentifies Mondzain as the “director” of the CNRS. If she were that, she would be a very powerful and influential person indeed. But Mondzain is in fact a “research director” at the CNRS: “research director” (directeur de recherche) being an honorific title. There are thousands of “research directors” at the CNRS. Such lapses suggest that the New York Times’s reporters lack the requisite linguistic skills and/or cultural familiarity to report accurately even on a country as generally accessible to Americans as France – a possibility which should give us profound cause to pause concerning the accuracy of their dispatches from more exotic venues. And where real knowledge is lacking, ideological "intuitions" can no doubt be expected to fill the void.

“Europe’s Catastrophe”

On the whole, the initial response to the attacks in the German media was more subdued and less equivocal than that in the French media. It was notable, however, and a sign of things to come that the German press very quickly and almost universally adopted words invoking retaliation [Vergeltung] or even revenge [Rache] to describe prospective American military action, thus tacitly dismissing in advance the legal justification for such action, viz. security and legitimate defense. Within just a few months, the prestigious German weekly Die Zeit had begun to play much the same role as respectable “ventilator” of anti-American ressentiments in Germany as Le Monde was playing in France. President Bush’s May 2002 visit to Berlin provided an ideal occasion for such ventilating. Die Zeit chose to mark the occasion by publishing a collection of “open letters” to Bush from German and European notables (Die Zeit, May 16, 2002). These included a letter from the performance artist Christoph Schlingensief. “I have played with the idea of quite simply blowing you up at our next meeting,” Schlingensief wrote. Schlingensief’s stock-in-trade are pseudo-political “provocations” in which the border between satirical send-up and genuine engagement gets hopelessly blurred. Something is apparently being parodied, but it is not clear what, and the seeming parody lacks what is usually deemed an essential element of the genre: viz. humor. But, in any case, the alibi of it all being a matter of “art” cannot diminish the enormity of an author being found to contemplate the assassination of the US president in the pages of Germany’s most influential weekly paper. Moreover, Schlingensief’s German readership will not have failed to hear in his threat an allusion to the so-called “July 20th Conspirators,” who on July 20, 1944 tried precisely to “blow up Hitler” at a meeting of the Wehrmacht general staff.

If the Bush-Hitler comparison was merely implicit in Schlingensief’s “letter,” it was entirely open in that of another contributor: the actor Josef Bierbichler, three times the German stage’s “Actor of the Year”. “But time is always metamorphosing into itself,” Bierbichler mused, “Yes. Like money. Or as Fascism metamorphoses into civilization and vice-versa – or precisely Hitler into Bush.” Apart from the meanderings of the “artists,” the Zeit feature also included ostensibly more systematic reflections on transatlantic relations by the fashionable Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek. Eschewing the “Hitler” allusion for classical mythology, Zizek made the downright hallucinatory suggestion that America’s response to 9/11 amounted to nothing less than a new “rape of Europa.” This was apparently supposed to be because “the Europeans” had not been able to prevent the attack on Afghanistan, nor impose “their” solution to the Mideast crisis. “The true political-ideological catastrophe of September 11 is in fact Europe’s catastrophe,” Zizek wrote, thus apparently placing European hurt-feelings above the dead and wounded of America, or even indeed Afghanistan, in the scale of human calamities. “It is not the resistance of the Third World against American imperialism,” he concluded, “but only united Europe that is able to stand up to the world powers, the USA and China. The left should therefore without hesitation make its own the motto of a united Europe as a counter-power [sic.] to Americanized Globalism.”

The co-publisher of Die Zeit is, incidentally, Michael Naumann, formerly Minister of Culture in the Schröder government. From 2001 until June of this year, Naumann was also co-editor of the paper, which serves as the most prominent mouthpiece in Germany for Social Democratic opinion. (Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt was for many years the publisher of the paper and he retains the title of co-publisher.) Given this context, the seemingly off-the-cuff remarks made a few months after Bush’s Berlin visit by then German Minister of Justice, Herta Däubler-Gmelin, comparing the President’s threats of military action against Iraq to the war-mongering of an Adolf Hitler, should not have come as any surprise. Following the narrow re-election of his “red-green” coalition, Gerhard Schröder quickly let it be known that Frau Däubler-Gmelin would not form part of his new government. A report in The New York Times obligingly cited unnamed officials of Schröder’s Social Democratic party claiming that her comments might even have cost them “1-2%” at the polls. Thus was the premise of fundamental sympathy to be salvaged. In fact, however, given the widespread hostility toward the United States which Social Democratic and Green intellectuals had been dutifully stoking in the preceding months, her comments may well have won Schröder the election. Indeed, there is reason to believe that these comments were not so unstudied as has generally been assumed: that, in effect, Frau Däubler-Gmelin may have taken one for the team. Michael Hahn was the reporter at the Schwäbische Tagblatt whose article on a SPD election rally first made Däubler-Gmelin’s remarks public. By way of a half-hearted denial, Däubler-Gmelin would subsequently say that whatever her exact words were, she “did not mean anything” by them. In an interview with the Berlin weekly Jungle World (September 25, 2002), Hahn, on the contrary, recalls that she consulted with him twice after the rally – once in the editorial offices of his paper with the Editor-in-Chief present – in order to assure that she would be quoted exactly as she wanted.

The Iraq War and European Anti-Americanism

It should be noted that the examples I have here cited come essentially from the first few months after the 9/11 attacks through the middle of May 2002, i.e. before even just the diplomatic mobilization for the Iraq war, let alone the military mobilization, had begun. They are drawn, moreover, from the two newspapers that arguably have the most powerful influence on the formation of “mainstream,” ostensibly educated, opinion in France and Germany respectively. They are not drawn from the fringes. This suggests that there is indeed a relationship between the Bush administration’s Iraq policy and rampant anti-Americanism in the Franco-German “core” of Europe. It is not, however, the relationship that is customarily supposed. It was not the nature of Bush’s policy that provoked the anti-American rage; it was rather the daily dosage of anti-American conditioning in the French and German media that predisposed the more susceptible sections of the public to assume nefarious motives behind a policy whose rationale in light of 12 years of Security Council Resolutions on Iraq and in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks was reasonably straightforward and obvious. For someone who imaginatively associated America with death’s heads, dollar signs and globes dripping in blood or who believed George W. Bush was the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler – a notion which implies, incidentally, that roughly half of the American electorate are Nazis – it was certainly not a great leap to believe that America invaded Iraq to control Iraqi oil rather than to neutralize a security threat. The fact of the matter is that a public systematically nourished on such phantasms was not by and large going to support Bush’s Iraq policy NO MATTER WHAT.

The conduits by which these European phantasms have in the intervening years managed to infiltrate the political debate in the US as well is a subject deserving attention in its own right.

(Note: All translations from French or German in the above are mine. - JR)

(Note 2: "the Legend of the Squandered Sympathy" has also been published as "The Myth of Squandered Sympathy" on the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal.)

Follow-Up: Arte and the "War of Words"

In a comment to "American Beheaders", Alene remarked that there appears to be "a propaganda war being waged against the US". It would indeed seem that way. I don't think it has anything to do with earlier Soviet propaganda, as Alene speculates it might. Arte, for instance, has in the past proven itself capable of being as anti-Communist as it is anti-American. This is perhaps not so surprising. There has, after all, been at least one major modern political ideology - one which had a notable run of successes in Europe in the 1930s - which combined ferocious anti-Communism with ostensible "anti-Imperialism" and which already back in the day identified the "Anglo-Saxon" powers, the United States and the United Kingdom (not to mention "the Jews" of course), as the principal agents of imperialism.

Citing Antoine-Henri Jomini's 1837 Précis de l’art de la guerre [Handbook of the Art of War] in a (Marxist!) critique of philosopher du jour Antonio Negri that appeared in the French journal Cahiers pour l'Analyse concrète, Hugo Rossi writes, "All the great strategic thinkers have noted the tight relation that exists between a 'war of words' and war as such, as much during the course of an armed conflict as in preparing the ideological ground for the conflict or in order to weaken the enemy from the interior." Seen in this perspective, it is not only the Islamist militants of Al Qaeda and its affiliates that are today at war with the US, but also, in effect, Germany and France, which use their taxpayers' money to finance the incitation of hatred against America and "the Americans". In light of modern communications technologies, it should be added that the war in which France and Germany are engaged against the US is both a "war of words" and a "war of images". The predilection of Arte and kindred media for broadcasting gruesome images of civilian casualties - preferably children - of American military operations, as contrasted with the daintiness displayed by these same media in dealing with the victims of Islamist terror, makes this perfectly clear. It should also be noted that whereas the US under George W. Bush has responded to the armed Islamist offensive in resolute fashion, France's and Germany's "war of words" with the US has remained decidedly one-sided. I can easily imagine that some French reader of bad faith might respond to this remark: "What about Fox? Surely, Fox must engage in heinous French-bashing on a regular basis." But, firstly, while I have crossed paths with many a French detractor of Fox News, I have yet to meet one who has actually watched it; and, secondly, Fox is a private network and hence whether it is francophobe or francophile or simply indifferent (the mostly likely option, it seems to me, even if the most hurtful) is irrelevant in this context. The American public media, what little there are of them, are most certainly not used to incite hatred or contempt for France or Germany: not for their peoples, nor their institutions, nor their political leaderships.

What makes the conduct of the French and German governments in subsidizing Arte's anti-American propaganda especially hostile and especially deleterious to American interests, is that the dissemination of Arte programming is by no means limited to France and Germany alone. Arte is widely available elsewhere in Europe on cable or satellite networks, and, by virtue of partnership agreements Arte has concluded, selected Arte programming is also rebroadcast on public television in several other European countries, including, notably, Spain. A comment posted by Kees Rudolf on David's Medienkritik, which was kind enough to link to my Arte piece, gives some idea of the consequences. "In the Netherlands Arte is available on cable-television," Kees Rudolf writes, "Most households here have got cable television. It plays certainly some role in forming 'would-be sophisticated, would-be politically engaged opinion'..., in addition to the role of some other high-brow media. It's really pure poison. ...I think a lot of 'documentaries' on other TV-channels follow exactly the same pattern. To my regret, I can see the impact of it on the brains of some young students, who, in their desire to be well informed and to have well founded opinions, mistake this insidious propaganda for reliable information."

Thursday, October 28, 2004

American Beheaders or How a Publicly-Financed Franco-German “Cultural” Channel Creates Moral Equivalence between America and its Enemies

The French-German “cultural” channel Arte is not much known in the States. It should be, however. Arte is a strange beast. Co-financed by the French and German governments, with France officially being the major contributor, it also receives substantial indirect subsidies from Germany inasmuch as the greater part of the German-language programming it broadcasts is originally produced by and for inner-German public television. The role played by the channel in the two countries is also very different. To say that in Germany virtually no one watches Arte would be just a slight exaggeration. The channel is only available on cable or satellite and struggles to achieve a 1% market share. The disinterest is hardly surprising when one considers that so much of the programming consists of rebroadcasts of material that has already been shown on the more prominent public networks, ARD and ZDF. Whereas the audience for Arte in France is also limited, hovering in the 3-4% range, its influence is disproportionate to its modest market share. This is, above all, a function of the fact that in France, Arte figures among the five “national” channels that are available without cable or special subscription. (More precisely, Arte shares a spot on the dial with France5, an educational channel that broadcasts during the day and yields to Arte in prime time.) Given how little developed cable television is in France, comprising less than 20% of households according to statistics from 2001, a place among the “national” channels constitutes a substantial advantage. Moreover, standard nightly fare on the other networks ranges from game shows to reality television to dubbed American series or their (dubbed) German or French knock-offs. On most nights and in most timeslots, anyone seeking ostensibly more edifying entertainment on network television – bearing, for instance, on questions of European or international politics – is virtually obliged to turn to Arte. Thus, Arte plays a major and unique role in forming would-be sophisticated, would-be politically-engaged opinion in France.

Those Americans inclined to react to every apparent expression of French rage at America by posing the proverbial and doleful question “Why do they hate us?” might consider Arte and then realize that perhaps “they” don’t know us. The problem with Arte in this connection is not that there is a lack of material on American society and politics in its programming, but rather that there is a wildly excessive offering of such material, almost all of it, however, being selected and spun in such a way as to caste the US in the most negative imaginable light and some of it consisting of outright disinformation. Yesterday’s line-up was typical. The prime-time slot was devoted to a ZDF-produced documentary entitled “Martin Luther King, a Crime of State” suggesting King’s murder was the product of a US government “conspiracy”. This was followed by the weekly news magazine “Arte Report”, with 3 of the 4 subjects concerning the US, including a story on the mother of a fallen American soldier in Iraq who “cries out her pain to the entire world” and another on two deserters from the American army who “in line with a long tradition” have fled to Canada. It can hardly be doubted that the choice of these subjects in particular is designed to put in question the legitimacy of the American-led intervention in Iraq. In the same spirit, Arte’s nightly news program, “Arte Info”, does not hesitate to describe the Islamist militants operating out of Fallujah as simply “the resistance to the occupier” (Arte Info, 25 September 2004).

It is extremely revealing of the nature and quality of Arte’s sources on American matters, that its website recommends the work of Eric Laurent. Laurent is a French conspiracy theorist and author of "La face cachée du 11 septembre" [The Hidden Face of September 11], who, among other things, continues to disseminate the long debunked rumor about the Saudi dignitaries who are supposed to have flown out of the US in the days after 9/11 when American airspace was officially still closed and persistently insinuates an Israeli/Mossad connection to the 9/11 attacks. He also insinuates that the US government was connected to or at least had foreknowledge of the attacks. Thus, he cites the fact that a high-ranking CIA official was until “just before” the attacks an executive at the investment bank A.B. Brown, a Deutsche Bank subsidiary that in the days prior to 9/11 took a large volume of “put options” – in effect, bets that a share price will fall – on United Airlines stock. This “scoop” has long circulated on the Internet, since indeed the very first weeks after 9/11, and concerns, more precisely, CIA Executive Director A.B. “Buzzy” Krongard. But in fact Mr. Krongard left A.B. Brown already in 1998, before its takeover (via the Bankers Trust purchase) by Deutsche Bank and more than three years before the 9/11 attacks. In a non-fevered condition, it is hard to follow what is supposed to be sinister about such a circumstantial “connection”.

George W. Bush is, of course, a favorite object of derision and scorn on Arte, and in the run-up to the American elections hardly a day has passed without Arte devoting at least a report, if not a full-length documentary or even an entire “thematic evening”, to some alleged failing or failings of the current American president. A typically scurrilous example is provided by a documentary aired on October 5 and titled “The Bush Dynasty”. Among other things, it insinuates that President Bush married his wife Laura for political gain (he needed a native Texan wife for the purpose of a local congressional campaign), devotes several pathetic minutes to the story of a used-car dealer who claims to have been expelled from his home – seemingly by George W. Bush in person rather than perhaps, and as would seem more plausible, by the state under the doctrine of eminent domain – to make way for the construction of the Texas Rangers baseball stadium, and concludes with a stirring tribute to George H. W. Bush (with whom throughout the film George W. is unfavorably contrasted) and his seemingly exalted decision in 1991 not to send American troops to Baghdad. No mention is made of the fact that this decision was taken in the context of a cease-fire agreement with the Iraqi regime and that it is precisely the terms of this agreement which the regime would blatantly violate for the next 12 years and hence which, in effect, provided the legal basis for the more recent Iraq intervention. The documentary also manages to interject that George W. Bush’s popularity was “in free fall” before 9/11: a claim which (a) is not borne out by the relevant public opinion data (which merely shows a slight fall off in Bush’s job approval rating and in some polls [Zogby] even an uptick) and (b) provides obvious fuel for the fire of the most outlandish conspiracy theories.

But it would be wrong to think that Arte seeks “merely” to encourage contempt for the American president and not also for America and Americans as such. A particularly egregious case in point is provided by a story broadcast on the October 6 edition of “Arte Report” and titled “Vietnam: The Death-Squad”. The title refers to the American Army’s elite “Tiger Force” unit and its activities in the Vietnamese Central Highlands in 1967 at the height of the Vietnam War. The basis for the “Arte Report” story is identified as a Pulitzer-Prize-winning report published in an Ohio paper, and indeed in October 2003 the Toledo Blade published a long multi-part investigative report, for which it would win a Pulitzer Prize the following year, on alleged war crimes committed by Tiger Force members in the Central Highlands. Curiously, however, none of the Toledo Blade journalists is interviewed for the Arte program. Amidst all the myriad and gruesome details recounted in the Toledo Blade series, one especially grisly and astonishing item seems to have caught the attention of the Arte producers: namely, the fact that American soldiers are accused in the report of having decapitated Vietnamese civilians. Two such alleged episodes are mentioned in the Toledo Blade series: one just in passing, without a perpetrator being named, and as based on the Blade’s own interviews with former soldiers; and a second, more highly corroborated, episode in connection with the central figure in the Army’s own official investigation into alleged war crimes by Tiger Force members. Indeed, allegations regarding the latter episode are what sparked the Army's investigation. The individual in question seems to have been nearly universally regarded by his fellow soldiers and his commanders as exceptionally deranged and is accused by them – n.B., by other members of the force – of having committed any number of cruel and barbaric acts, the details of which, for reasons of decency, I prefer not to relate here. While still in the force he would be court-martialed three times, before being dishonorably discharged in 1971, and he is in the meanwhile deceased.

The Arte report neither further investigates these charges, nor does it provide any of the specific context for them available in the Toledo Blade series. Rather, it reproduces the accusations. In the space of the relatively brief segment, two separate Vietnamese peasants can be heard – at least per the rendering given in the Arte translation – claiming to have witnessed Vietnamese being beheaded by American troops. Given the brevity of the report and the lack of context, the repetition of the claim creates the strong impression that this must have been a regular practice. If this sudden discovery by Arte of American beheaders seems oddly fortuitous in light of the recent series of beheadings of American and other hostages in Iraq by the al-Zarqawi group, the details of the second of the two testimonials give particular cause to pause. For after referring to the alleged beheadings, the second supposed peasant witness, an elderly gentleman, immediately launches into a denunciation of …the American intervention in Iraq, and then, in an even more surprising turn, seemingly spontaneously offers his endorsement of John Kerry for the American presidency. Noting that Kerry had fought in Vietnam, he reasons that at least he knows what war is like. Some moments later the voice-over for the segment adds that Americans “tortured hundreds to death” in Vietnam – a claim for which no source is given.

The segment ends with interviews of young Vietnamese, seemingly students, and in a changed, now apparently urban setting. One young woman - sounding suspiciously like a French student of a similar age who might garner her views on world affairs from Arte - comments, “The Americans always find some reason to go to war: in Vietnam, it was Communism; in Iraq, it’s oil.” The allusions to the Iraq intervention pervade the short segment and lest the point has not been gotten, following its conclusion the host of “Arte Report” notes ominously that the “Tiger Force” unit is active in Iraq today – as if the present members of the force have anything to do with the crimes committed or not committed by some of their predecessors nearly forty years ago.

The overall effect of the report is most certainly not to educate viewers about the Vietnam War or even about the circumstances of war crimes committed by some American soldiers in the context of it. Rather, given the report's lack of specificity and the constant drawing of analogies with the American intervention in Iraq, the effect is to convey an image of Americans as somehow inherently savage – with the apparent exception of John Kerry. The beheading motif, moreover, insidiously permits the drawing of a moral equivalence between "the Americans"and the Islamist extremists with which the US is presently at war. The depraved acts allegedly committed by some American soldiers and which were denounced as such by other American soldiers - indeed the record suggests it might be a matter of a depraved act commited by a single American soldier - are thus stylized by Arte in such a way as seemingly to annul the depraved acts ritualistically performed by organized groups of Islamist fanatics in the name of their God and filmed and broadcast by these same groups for all the world to see.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Re-Post: Tariq Ramadan, Non-Violent Man of Peace

I have just posted the completed "Tariq Ramadan, Non-Violent Man of Peace", an exposé of the distortions and gaps in the NYTimes recent profile of Ramadan. Thanks for the patience of those who have been waiting since the publication of the first two installments last week.

The piece now consists of the following four parts:

Pt I: Stoning and the Non-Violent Man of Peace
Pt II: The Non-Violent Man of Peace, 9/11 and the Assassination of Children
Pt III: The Non-Violent Man of Peace and "the Jews" (Real and Imagined)
Pt IV: Hassan Al-Banna, Non-Violent Man of Peace?

For those new to the site, please see too the recent posts on Caroline Fourest's investigation of Ramadan's lectures and writings.

Tariq Ramadan, Non-Violent Man of Peace (complete)

Pt I: Stoning and the Non-Violent Man of Peace

The NYTimes October 6 piece on the Muslim academic Tariq Ramadan and the visa difficulties that are currently preventing him from taking up a teaching post at Notre Dame University ("Mystery of the Islamic Scholar Who Was Barred by the U.S.") is a classic example of the deformations to which the Times reporting on European/Transatlantic matters is prone - a classic example indeed of the deformations to which the Times reporting as such is prone, though that is not my subject here. It is a classic example, in the first place, because the story ostensibly being reported was not news. Though one would never know it from reading the Times piece, Tariq Ramadan's visa to enter the U.S. was in fact revoked in early August. The matter had in the meanwhile been widely reported and discussed in other media. It had, notably, been discussed by Middle East scholars Fouad Ajami and Daniel Pipes, in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Sun respectively, who, pointing to various troubling aspects of Tariq Ramadan's itinerary, associations and public pronouncements, both welcomed the revocation decision. As is so often the case, the Times in finally broaching the matter was thus not reporting the news, but rather, in light of the relentlessly favorable tenor of the article, seemingly attempting to influence it.

(The Times piece, incidentally, alludes in a single sentence to Ajami's and Pipes's criticisms. It fails, however, to mention any of the particular details they cite - such as the fact, for instance, that Djamel Beghal, arrested for planning an attack against the American Embassy in Paris, claimed in a deposition to have studied with Mr. Ramadan. Indeed, according to Antoine Sfeir, director of the respected French journal of Middle Eastern studies les Cahiers de l'Orient, no less than 50 young Muslims from the region of Lyon are supposed to have traveled to Afghanistan to join the forces of Al-Qaeda - a phenomenon that Sfeir has publicly linked to, among other things, the prestige enjoyed by Tariq Ramadan's teachings in the poor Arab ghettos of the city. The Times article does, however, find place to mention that Mr. Ramadan is supposed to have met Mother Teresa.)

Tariq Ramadan is described in the Times article as "a preacher of self-empowerment to European Muslims" and "a trim, telegenic man with a soft, measured voice who condemns the use of violence in the name of Islam". In the same vein, the Rev. Edward A. Malloy, president of Notre Dame, is quoted saying, "He seems to be an above ground, forthright advocate of what some refer to as moderate Islam and we see him as a really good fit for our peace institute," referring, namely, to the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, at which Mr. Ramadan was supposed to have taken up his post. "In much of his work," the article adds, "Mr. Ramadan tries to define a blended identity for Muslims in the West, arguing that one can be both fully Muslim and fully Western. His message to European Muslims is: reject your feelings of victimization, take part more fully in your countries of residence and demand your rights."

It is worth noting that the article makes no specific reference whatsoever to any of Mr. Ramadan's publications or public statements in support of such agreeable generalizations. Thus the reader is left to assume that the sole basis for them is Mr. Ramadan's own affirmations in being interviewed for the piece by the Times - and an Islamic scholar hoping to obtain a visa to teach in the United States is hardly likely to say in speaking to the New York Times that he endorses the use of violence in the name of Islam. Towards its conclusion, moreover, the article touches briefly upon the fact that in a televised debate last fall with the then French Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy, Mr. Ramadan refused to condemn the practice of stoning women accused of adultery as mandated by Koranic law. "I won't change any thinking in the Muslim world if I issue a blanket condemnation of stoning to please the French interior minister," Mr. Ramadan is quoted as having said. In fact, according to my recollection of the exchange, Mr. Ramadan did not say exactly this and the transcripts that I have been able quickly to track down (see for instance, the complete transcript of the exchange [in French] here) nowhere reflect quite this wording. So seemingly this formulation represents Mr. Ramadan's own rendering in conversation with the Times of the gist of his response to Nicolas Sarkozy. All the more reason to be astonished. What, after all, is the stoning of women in accordance with Koranic law but "the use of violence in the name of Islam"?

Pt II: The Non-Violent Man of Peace, 9/11 and the Assassination of Children

Of course, in referring to "the use of violence in the name of Islam" and Tariq Ramadan's alleged condemnation thereof, the Times presumably has in mind just the use of violence to further the political aims of Islamist movements such as Hamas or Islamic Jihad in the Middle East or Al-Qaeda and its affiliates on a global scale. The use of violence in the name of Islam against Muslims and, more specifically, Muslim women somehow does not register as violence in the pages of the NYTimes. But, as the following quote cited by Daniel Pipes from the Italian magazine Panorama makes clear, even Mr. Ramadan's "condemnation" of the killing of Israeli children by Islamic terrorists is hardly unequivocal. Indeed - like his stance on stoning, which Ramadan in his debate with Nicholas Sarkozy somehow claimed to be "non-applicable" even as he refused to call for its abolition - it could hardly be more equivocal. Asked whether it is right to kill Israeli children since they will become soldiers as adults, Mr. Ramadan responded:

"I don't believe that an eight year old child is a soldier. These acts are condemnable; therefore one has to condemn them in themselves. But I say to the international community that they are contextually explicable, and not justifiable. What does this mean? It means that the international community today has placed the Palestinians in a situation where they are delivered [to? - JR] political oppression, which explains (not justifying it) that at a certain point people say: we don't have arms, we don't have anything, and so we cannot do anything other than this. It is contextually explicable but morally condemnable."

Despite the fact that Tariq Ramadan is careful here to use repeatedly the word "condemn" and its variants, a "condemnation" which treats the ostensibly "condemnable" acts as, in effect, inevitable - and remember what is at issue is the assassination of children - is clearly not in fact a condemnation, since the very notion of condemning some act implies that the agent who performed it could have acted otherwise. It is also notable in this quote that Mr. Ramadan never says in the first person that he himself condemns the acts in question, but merely that in the abstract they are "condemnable" and that "one" has to condemn them.

As for "condemning" the violence of Al-Qaeda, Tariq Ramadan's response to the 9/11 attacks, as recorded in an interview that he gave to the Swiss paper La Gruyère on September 22 (hat tip to Olivier Guitta in The American Thinker), was not merely to call into question the attribution of responsibility for the attacks to the network of Bin Laden - a skeptical attitude that so early on might per se have been reasonable. In fact, Ramadan went so far as to insinuate that the United States government itself - or perhaps Israel? - could have been the guilty party. "We need to ask ourselves 'Who profits from the crime?'," Ramadan remarked coyly, "No Arab or Islamic cause will profit from these events. On the contrary, the peoples and all Muslims will suffer as a consequence." Despite the enormity of what was being implied, Ramadan's suggestion - as those who have read "The Legend of the Squandered Sympathy" will recognize - did not even have the merit of originality. The French academic Marie-José Mondzain had insinuated exactly the same scenario, using the same phrase, some days before in the pages of Le Monde. "I wonder," Mr. Ramadan continued, "Maybe Ben Laden is just being used to scare people, like Saddam Hussein. The diabolical image that one makes of him might be serving other geostrategic, economic or political designs. One shouldn't simplify anything."

By the way, Marie-José Mondzain and Tariq Ramadan were not the only European intellectuals publicly to pose the question of "who profits from the crime?" in the aftermath of 9/11. The German neo-Nazi Horst Mahler posed the same question: "cui bono?". And he too, like Tariq Ramadan, suggested, in effect, that complex "geostrategic, economic and political" considerations might lie behind the attacks. "Naturally, Israel has an interest in chaining the U.S. to itself," Mahler wrote, "Naturally, the Globalists have an interest in not letting the unavoidable collapse of the world economy appear to be a System crisis, but rather as the consequence of war. Naturally, the Bankster-Jews have an interest in the world economic crisis, since they make money from it and will expand their power again in the crisis."

One shouldn't simplify anything...

Pt III: The Non-Violent Man of Peace and "the Jews" (Real and Imagined)

The NYTimes October 6 piece on Tariq Ramadan notes that he "set off a storm in France last fall when he wrote an online essay criticizing several French Jewish intellectuals for being 'biased toward the concerns of their community' by defending Israel - in its construction of a barrier in the West Bank, for instance - and supporting, to varying degrees, the Iraq war." The allusion to the Israeli barrier is subtly misleading. Mr. Ramadan's article on, titled "Critique of the (New) Communitarian Intellectuals" - I will not pause to comment on the strangeness of an ostensible critique of communitarianism being published on a site called "" - does indeed mention the barrier in passing in order to upbraid the French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut for apparently supporting it. More precisely, Finkielkraut is criticized by Ramadan for employing the Israeli government's preferred designation for the structure - "security barrier" - rather than that which Ramadan himself evidently prefers: to wit, "wall of shame" ("mur de la honte"). This word choice on the part of Mr. Finkielkraut is, according to Tariq Ramadan, supposed to to be symptomatic of the philosopher's adoption of a "communitarian attitude": namely, to be more explicit, as a Jew. It is worth reflecting upon the logic of this accusation: it implies that anyone who might prefer the descriptive term "security barrier" to the rather more emotive "wall of shame" must do so not because they find the description plausibly accurate - for instance, in light of the hundreds of Israelis who have been killed in the last years by suicide bombers infiltrating Israel from the West Bank - but rather... because they are Jews. Mr. Ramadan thus, in effect, delegitimates in advance any understanding for the Israeli position as following from a "communitarian impulse" among Jews - as if it were impossible for anyone who is not Jewish to be convinced by the Israeli arguments.

More to the point, however, whereas Mr. Ramadan does indeed mention Alain Finkielkraut's support for - or rather failure to denounce - the Israeli barrier, the main object of his criticism is Mr. Finkielkraut's recent book Au nom de l’Autre, réflexions sur l’antisémitisme qui vient - In the Name of the Other, Reflections on the Coming Anti-Semitism - a book which, as the title indicates, has nothing per se to do with Israel, but is rather on Anti-Semitism. In effect, Tariq Ramadan criticizes Alain Finkielkraut... for criticizing Anti-Semitism. Since he cites no specific elements of Finkielkraut's treatment of contemporary Anti-Semitism that he regards as flawed, one is left with the impression that the mere fact of Finkielkraut's noting a certain recrudescence of Anti-Semitism in the world, and notably in France, is supposed in and of itself to be a symptom of a "communitarian attitude" - i.e. something only a Jew would do. Indeed, this is the general tenor of Ramadan's article. Thus he concludes: "Whether on the domestic front (the struggle against Anti-Semitism) or on the international scene (defense of Zionism), we are witnessing the emergence of a new attitude among certain intellectuals who are omnipresent in the medias.... It is easy to see that their political positions respond to communitarian logics, as Jews or nationalists, as defenders of Israel."

As further evidence in support of his thesis, Ramadan cites the example of Pierre-André Taguieff, whose book La nouvelle judéophobie - The New Judeophobia - was one of the first publications in France to warn of the resurgence of Anti-Semitism in France and in Europe. The problem with the example is that Taguieff is not Jewish. It was, above all, this odd faux pas that raised a number of eyebrows in France. It is seemingly propelled by the same sort of logic as we discovered in Tariq Ramadan's accusation regarding Alain Finkielkraut's support for Israel: 1. Only a Jew could denounce the resurgence of Anti-Semitism in France (or: If x denounces the resurgence of Anti-Semitism in France, x is a Jew); 2. Pierre-André Taguieff denounces the resurgence of Anti-Semitism in France; 3. Therefore, Taguieff is a Jew.

The NYTimes October 6 article does not mention the fact that the "several French Jewish intellectuals" criticized by Tariq Ramadan in his piece include a prominent French scholar of Anti-Semitism - arguably, France's most prominent scholar of Anti-Semitism - who is not Jewish. Indeed, the Times article makes no mention of the fact that Ramadan accused the allegedly Jewish intellectuals of being "biased toward the concerns of their community" not only in defending Israeli policies or supporting the Iraq War (an accusation which, incidentally, not so subtly gives creedence to the rumor that "Jewish interests" were somehow responsible for the latter), but also in their denunciations of resurgent Anti-Semitism. This is odd, since roughly half the article is devoted to this theme and the very first author discussed by Mr. Ramadan's is none other than Pierre-André Taguieff. One is left wondering whether the Times reporter, Deborah Sontag, ever in fact read the piece.

Pt IV: Hassan Al-Banna, Non-Violent Man of Peace?

The NYTimes article notes that "Mr. Ramadan is the grandson of Hasan al-Banna, one of the most important Islamist figures of the 20th century, and for many of his detractors that alone makes him suspect." I have yet to come across any prominent critic of Tariq Ramadan who criticizes him for the simple fact of being the grandson of Hassan Al-Banna. The Times's remark is revealingly tendentious and seems only to serve to delegitimate Ramadan's "detractors". Ramadan's critics accuse him rather of having not distanced himself sufficiently from the ideas of his "troublesome grandfather," as the Times puts it, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood, of which some of today’s most notorious Islamic terrorist organizations, including Hamas, are institutional offshoots. The French journalist Caroline Fourest - who, as has been seen here, can be safely assumed to have studied the matter far more thoroughly than Deborah Sontag - concludes that Ramadan is in fact "the man who has done the most to disseminate" the method and thought of Hassan Al-Banna. Ramadan's, to say the least, indulgence towards Banna is indeed much in evidence in the Times profile, which quotes him to the effect that his grandfather has been "misremembered": "For instance, although the history of the Muslim Brotherhood is dotted with violence, and the group gave rise to more militant organizations, Mr. Banna himself was not personally violent, nor did he legitimize violence, Mr. Ramadan said. His empathy for the poor was admirable, Mr. Ramadan said, and his thinking was more nuanced than many followers and critics understand." Deborah Sontag and the Times merely reproduce what "Mr. Ramadan said". No effort is made to corroborate Tariq Ramadan's assertions or even just to canvass the reasons of his critics - even just a single critic - for thinking otherwise. Caroline Fourest notes that the assertion that Banna was non-violent forms a standard part of Ramadan's angelic depiction of him. As she puts it, "This sends chills down one's spine when one knows the extent to which Banna was a fanatic, that he gave birth to a movement out of which the worst Jihadis... have emerged."

The German political scientist Matthias Küntzel has indeed found Banna and his organization to be at the very origins of the notion of "belligerent jihad". In his article “Islamic Anti-Semitism and its Nazi Roots”, Küntzel points in particular to a 1938 essay by Banna entitled "The industry of Death”, in which Banna writes, “To a nation that perfects the industry of death and which knows how to die nobly, God gives proud life in this world and eternal grace in the life to come.”

“The concept of belligerent jihad was welcome with enthusiasm by the ‘Troops of God’ as the Brotherhood referred to itself,” Küntzel explains, “Whenever their battalions marched down the boulevards of Cairo in semi-fascist formation, they sang: ‘We are not afraid of death, we desire it... Let us die in redemption for Muslims.’” This hardly sounds like “not legitimizing” violence. Moreover, one can have doubts about Deborah Sontag’s or her editor’s choice of the charming little participle “dotted” – as in “dotted with violence” – to discuss the Muslim Brotherhood’s history.

For more about the history of the Muslim Brotherhood and, in particular, the numerous connections of the Brotherhood with Nazi Germany, I cannot do better than heartily to recommend the work of Matthias Küntzel: for German readers, his recent book Djihad und Judenhass or, for instance, his new article “Von Zeesen bis Beirut” in the Berlin weekly Jungle World; and for all, his website, where numerous articles are available in German, English and French.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Caroline Fourest on Tariq Ramadan: the Evidence

The dossier published by L'Express on Caroline Fourest's forthcoming book Frère Tariq includes a large selection of extracts. These relate largely to the content of Tariq Ramadam's public lectures, as documented in a series of cassettes that circulate widely in French Muslim milieus. As noted in my earlier (and still evolving) post on "Tariq Ramadan, Non-Violent Man of Peace", the French Middle East specialist Antoine Sfeir has publicly linked the influence exerted by Ramadan's lectures in the banlieues of Lyon to the extraordinary flow of young Muslim men from the Lyon region to Afghanistan to join the forces of al-Qaeda. Incidentally, Mr. Ramadan sued Antoine Sfeir on account of the latter's public statements to this effect in the magazine Lyon Mag - and he lost. The Court of Appeals of Lyon found in its decision of May 22, 2003, and as cited by Caroline Fourest, that preachers like Tariq Ramadan "may have an influence on the young Islamists and constitute a factor of incitation that could lead them to join the partisans of violent measures."

Caroline Fourest's examination of Mr. Ramadan's lectures, as well as of the record of his other public pronouncements, represents exactly the sort of systematic investigation which is required to form an accurate assessment of his teachings and their impact upon his audience of choice: French Muslims. The contrast to the method employed by the NYTimes in its recent puff piece on Mr. Ramadan - simply to go ask the man what he thinks, without making any effort to corroborate his assertions from other public sources - could not be more stark. The Times's approach is particularly dubious in the case of a figure who has repeatedly been accused of maintaining what in French is called a "double discours": of saying one thing when he addresses his privileged audience or "community" - viz. Muslims - in restricted fora (such as his lectures) and quite another when he addresses the broader public, for instance through the major media.

Caroline Fourest suggests that Mr. Ramadan has raised this "double discours" to an art-form, such that he is even able through the strategic ambiguity of his vocabulary to address both audiences at the same time - and still have them understand different messages. Thus she cites a handbook on "Comprehension, Terminology and Discourse", edited and largely written by Tariq Ramadan and published by the Tawhid Press under the auspices of the Union of Young Muslims (UJM) . One section, for instance, is devoted to the "semantic redefinition" of the words "law, rationality, democracy and community". "For each word," Mme. Fourest writes, "the book explains how the word could be understood by westerners, to what it extent it poses a problem for Muslims, and proposes a 'conceptual formulation' that strongly resembles a redefinition designed to confuse one's interlocutors.... The word 'rationality', for instance, is no longer synonymous with the critical spirit of the Enlightenment, but rather with an "intellectual pathway permitting the discovery of faith".... In fact, for each keyword..., Ramadan has developed a second definition - accessible to those who have followed his lectures or read his most confidential books. This permits him to have an apparently inoffensive discourse while remaining faithful to an eminently Islamist message and without having to lie overtly - at least not in his eyes."

Mme. Fourest has also, however, documented cases in which Mr. Ramadan has indeed "lied overtly" - or at least blatantly contradicted himself regarding his own supposed convictions within a remarkably short period of time. Thus, she cites the interview that Mr. Ramadan gave in November 2003 to "Beur FM", France's communitarian radio station "for Muslims", and in which he openly identified himself with the rigorist "Salafist" current in Islam, claiming to be for a "salafist reformism". Only four months later at an UNESCO colloquium, when challenged by a prominent advocate of liberal Islam - of which Mme. Fourest is careful to point out there are many in France, but Mr. Ramadan is not one of them - Ramadan would protest: "I am not a Salafist! 'Salafi' means literalist and I am not a literalist."

Caroline Fourest's detailed citations from Mr. Ramadan show him indeed to be an adherent of rigorist principles: not only, as seen in my earlier post, refusing to condemn the stoning of women, but also in his lectures militating against co-ed swimming pools and even discouraging Muslim girls from participating in any sport in which they would run the risk of "revealing their bodies to men". This is "not permitted", Mr. Ramadan says in a recorded lecture on "The Muslim Woman".

It is also notable that while Mr. Ramadan claims to be an advocate of the integration of Muslims in western societies, in his lectures he makes this integration conditional upon the respect of four "pillars" of Muslim identity of his own devising. Whereas, as Mme. Fourest points out, these four "pillars" might seem harmless, they are so vaguely formulated - "to be able fully to live our spirituality and our pratices", for instance, or "to be able to act in the name of our faith" - that it would not be easy to say whether they are being respected or not. And if not, Mr. Ramadan is clear about the consequences: "If a society denies me one of these four points, I will resist this society, I will combat it."

Before taking any further measures in the case of Tariq Ramadan, US authorities would be well advised to study Caroline Fourest's book carefully.

Caroline Fourest on Tariq Ramadan

Here are two excerpts from the interview published by L'Express with Caroline Fourest. The interview bears the provacative title "Ramadan is a Warlord" ("Ramadan est un chef de guerre"). For this is what Caroline Fourest claims one discovers upon listening to the cassettes of Tariq Ramadan's lectures, in which he addresses "his public - often young graduates susceptible to Islamist theses." "One here discovers Ramadan, the warlord," Caroline Fourest says, "giving orders and spelling out his political objectives: to modify the secular state and help matters evolve toward 'more Islam'. Unfortunately, the Islam in question is not an enlightened and modern Islam, but a reactionary and fundamentalist one...." The full interview is available in French here.

L'Express: "Ramadan wants 'more Islam', you say. But that doesn't mean that he wants to islamicize society as such, including non-Muslims."

C.F.: "I don't see anyone today who is as effective as Tariq Ramadan in furthering fundamentalism in France. He radicalizes the Muslims under his influence by introducing them to the thought of Hassan al-Banna (this constitutes the introduction to his recorded seminars), then he brings them into contact with the present-day ideologues of the Muslim Brotherhood: Youssef al-Qaradhawi, one of the few Muslim theologians openly to approve suicide attacks, or Fayçal Mawlawi, who is not only a Muslim Brother, but also the principal chief of a Lebanese terrorist organization. And that is not all. He weakens secular resistance to fundamentalism by forming alliances with secular anti-racist associations. He has accomplished a sort of tour de force: to make Islamism seductive in the eyes of certain militants of the anti-globalization Left. His tactic is simple: to send young partisans of his cause to register in anti-racist associations and left-wing parties."


L'Express: "Tariq Ramadan is the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna. One can hardly hold him responsible for this. On the other hand, you say that he is indeed the political heir of his grandfather. Why are you so sure?"

C.F.: "Because I've studied his statements and his writing. I was struck by the extent to which the discourse of Tariq Ramadan is often just a repetition of the discourse that Banna had at the beginning of the 20th century in Egypt. He never criticizes his grandfather. On the contrary, he presents him as a model to be followed, a person beyond reproach, non-violent and unjustly criticized because of the "Zionist lobby"! This sends chills down one's spine when one knows the extent to which Banna was a fanatic, that he gave birth to a movement out of which the worst Jihadis (like Ayman al-Zawahiri, the n° 2 man of Al-Qaeda) have emerged and that he wanted to establish a theocracy in every country having a single Muslim. Tariq Ramadan claims that he is not a Muslim Brother. Like all the Muslims Brothers... since it's a fraternity which is 3/4 secret.... A Muslim Brother is above all someone who adopts the methods and the thought of Banna. Ramadan is the man who has done the most to disseminate this method and this thought."

Flash: Frère Tariq - New Book on Tariq Ramadan

The French publishing house Grasset is scheduled this month to release a new book by the journalist Caroline Fourest titled Frère Tariq : Discours, stratégie et méthode de Tariq Ramadan : Brother Tariq: Discourse, Strategy and Method of Tariq Ramadan. The magazine L'Express, whose current cover story is devoted to the book's release, calls it: "an implacably argued analysis in which this specialist of Islamic fundamentalism reveals, on the basis of written sources, that Tariq Ramadan is indeed the Islamist that some have feared. Caroline Fourest has examined each published work of the preacher - twenty in all - as well as the majority of his taped lectures." The last point is especially important, since these tapes, of which tens of thousands of copies are said to be produced every year, circulate widely in the Muslim sub-culture of the French banlieues.

L'Express has published extracts from the book, as well as an interview with the author. I will be back shortly (really) with translated excerpts from both.

Monday, October 18, 2004

The NYTimes Protects Its Myth

In "The Legend of the Squandered Sympathy", I pose the question of whether the NYTimes's obscuring of the massive hostility to the US expressed in the mainstream European media before and even just after 9/11 was a matter of simple incompetence or conscious editorial decision. I cite some examples that suggest a healthy dose of incompetence was at least a factor. But whether the Times's myth of "squandered sympathy" was created through accident or design or (which is the likeliest choice) some combination of both, now that it has gained widespread currency and is even beneficial to a certain Democratic presidential candidate, it would seem that the Times's editors are prepared to use quite deliberate means to protect its sanctity against any rude interference of reality.

Here is a screen capture from an October 11 NYTimes article on the German magazine Der Spiegel.

Notice the photos at the right, including half of a Spiegel cover depicting George Bush as a cowboy with guns drawn. Why in the world would the Times show only HALF a Spiegel cover?

Here is a closer look of the Spiegel cover as it appears cropped in the NYTimes.

Why in the world...?

Well, maybe it's because the full cover looks like this.

The title reads "The - little - Sheriff: George Bush Jr. against the Rest of the World." Well, what's the problem with that? We all know that after 9/11 George Bush squandered the sympathy of the world with his "unilateral" foreign policy based on the use of force rather than the seeking of dialogue and so on and so forth and so on. The problem is that (as the caption to the photos in the Times piece clumsily notes) - this Spiegel cover dates from April 2001.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

More on The NYTimes and the Frankfurt Book Fair

Re. my earlier post on the NYTimes and the Frankfurt Book Fair, I would be amiss not to add - although this does not quite constitute a "correction" - that the Times piece overlooked what might well have been the major story of the entire event. Not only did the fair, at which "the Arab World" was the "guest of honor", feature openly anti-Semitic literature - as the Time's own report reflects but cannot bring itself to say - but at the opening ceremony the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder shared the stage with a noted Holocaust denier and apologist for suicide bombers. Mohammad Salmawy, who read a message of greetings from the Nobel Prize Laureate Nagib Machfus, is the editor of the French language Egyptian paper Al Ahram Hebdo. In its pages, he has written concerning Auschwitz: "There are no findings which would indicate the existence of mass graves, because the size of the ovens could not have had the capacity to kill so many Jews." According to the German journalist and Middle East specialist Thomas von der Osten-Sacken, Salmawy also points to alleged Soviet documentation which is supposed to show that there were "no more than 70,000 Jews" in the camp. The number of Jews who died at Auschwitz is generally held by historians to have exceeded two million. There are even persons classified as "Holocaust deniers" in western Europe who, nonetheless, acknowledge a figure of upwards of 800,000. But seemingly western politicians and intellectuals have different standards when dealing with "the Arab world." On the deportations of German Jews, Salmawy has written, "the Germans had no choice but to load the Jews onto trains and deport them to the East, because they were underdeveloped and a burden to the German economy....” And in an interview with the BBC, he has claimed "that the Israeli Mossad was behind the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US, despite the evidence claiming otherwise." For these and other gems from Salmawy, see von der Osten-Sacken's report here in German or here in English translation. (Hat tip to David of David's Medienkritik.) Thanks to von der Osten-Sacken's thoughtful posting of the English translation of his original article from October 8, Salmawy's presence at the fair has already received comment in the Anglophone blogosphere; and, without doing much looking, I have come across three major German papers - the Tagespiegel, the Frankfurter Rundschau, and the Tageszeitung - which have also in the meanwhile called critical attention to it. The leftist Tageszeitung or "Taz", for instance, qualified it a "scandal" in an editorial of October 11. The Times, however, has apparently yet to judge it worthy of mention.

Weekend Preview

The Transatlantic Intelligencer is "resting" the weekend. As consequence, the long-delayed continuation of "Tariq Ramadan, Non-Violent Man of Peace" will be still further delayed. I can, however, give you a preview of the next two installments:

Part III: Tariq Ramadan and "the Jews" (Real and Imagined)

What was the source of the controversy over Tariq Ramadan's article on "Jewish Intellectuals" on Not surprisingly, not exactly what the NYTimes says...

Part IV: Hassan Al-Banna, Non-Violent Man of Peace (Huh?)

"Mr. Ramadan is the grandson of Hasan al-Banna, one of the most important Islamist figures of the 20th century, and for many of his detractors that alone makes him suspect." So writes the NYTimes. We will provide links to the research of a German political scientist, exposing the historical connections between the organization al-Banna founded, the Muslim Brotherhood, and National Socialism and showing al-Banna to be the theoretician of "belligerent jihad".

Also forthcoming:

"The Shadow of a Great Power: French Diplomacy and the Iraq War Revisited"


"American Beheaders"
"How a Publicly-Financed Franco-German Television Channel Creates Moral Equivalence between America and Its Enemies"

Come Back Monday for More....

And, btw, thanks for all the comments and e-mails. Even if I am not able to respond to each one individually, rest assured that I appreciate them all - apart from those I did not appreciate. (There are already some trolls out there.)

Friday, October 15, 2004

A Letter from a Reader: WWII and Polish Exile Forces

Kevin Kearney writes me an interesting note in response to my statement in "the Legend of the Squandered Sympathy" that in WWII, although the anti-Nazi coalition by D-day formally comprised some 30-odd member, "the bulk of the fighting continued to be born by the US, the UK and the USSR". Kevin says that this is "not quite accurate" and, more specifically, overlooks the contributions of the Polish exile forces. "Polish exiles ... provided the fourth largest armed forces in the Allied cause," Kevin writes, "Several hundred thousand Polish men and women fought in every European and North African campaign from the Battle of France to the Battle of Britain , to the Polish armies formed to fight on the Eastern Front , to the actions against the Afrika Korps. Polish air men accounted for over 20 % of all air victories over German aircraft during the battle of Britain , and the highest scoring Allied fighter squadron during the Battle of Britain was the Polish 303rd . Polish troops closed the Falaise Pocket after the Normandy invasion , and they captured the fortress at Monte Cassino in Italy. Polish Home Army fighters operating within occupied Poland tied up tens of thousands of German personnel in anti-partisan duties in Poland , troops which were badly needed by the Nazis elsewhere ." In a second note, Kevin mentions as well, "the contributions of the Polish Navy , much of which escaped the Nazis by sailing to Britain while under intense attack and the Polish cryptologists who first broke the German Enigma codes."

Well, I'm not sure if my formulation is exactly wrong. I imagine if you added up the troop deployments of the USSR, the UK, and the US, you would still get the "bulk" of the forces, that is, a substantial majority (though if there are military historians out there who know otherwise, by all means correct me). But that said, I certainly was not aware of just how massive the contribution of the Polish exile forces was. So, thanks for your e-mail, Kevin! And all honor to the contributions and sacrifices of the Polish exile forces and indeed to those of the forces of all the governments in exile!

Daniel Libeskind & 9/11 or the Man Who Wouldn't Go Away

On Wednesday, USA Today published a puff piece on Daniel Libeskind, the designer of the Ground Zero "master plan". It begins breathlessly: "He has been called the world's most watched architect, and Daniel Libeskind is loving almost every minute of it. And no wonder: He's the master planner for the rebuilding of New York's World Trade Center site. In effect, he is the architect of healing and hope, whose vision is supposed to salve the nation's terrible wound."

Oh no, it is not like that. In the first place, it is not like that because Libeskind's "master plan", having been unbuildable to begin with, not surprisingly will not be built. Elements of it are, however, being retained in the more pragmatic site plan that has taken shape since Libeskind's coronation as "master planner" in February 2003. But it is also not like that because far from being suited "to salve the nation's terrible wound," on closer inspection Libeskind's "vision" shows remarkable contempt for America. It is indeed a "vision" that would not be unpleasing to the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and their cheerleaders and fellow-travelers around the world. After all, the center-piece of Libeskind's original proposal was precisely to leave "the nation's terrible wound" open: to leave, namely, the crater formed by tha attacks where the old World Trade Center had once stood. The contempt becomes clearer if one considers Daniel Libeskind's earlier career as "star architect" in Germany and the twisted parallelism between his Jewish Museum building in Berlin and his WTC "master plan".

Sound like the beginning of another interminable post? Not necessary. I've already written all about it in the June/July issue of Policy Review magazine. You can check it out here.

BTW, the USA Today article mentions that the US State Department has appointed Libeskind "its first U.S. cultural ambassador for architecture." Whatever that is supposed to be, I think you will agree after reading my article in Policy Review that this is a scandal and gives further cause to wonder what the heck is going on in the State Department.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

"Corrections": The NYTimes on the Frankfurt Book Fair: Of "Jewish Rights" and German Censorship

(For an explanation of the "Corrections" feature on Trans-Int, see here.)

The NYTimes writing on Germany is always a source of amusement or at least bemusement for anyone familiar with German society and history. This is, after all, the paper that in a recent article on Germany referred to "the old song 'Deutschland Uber Alles'" ("Beeskow Journal", April 18, 2003). "The old song" in question was in fact the German national anthem and indeed is so today, though since it's reinstatement as such in the FRG after WWII the verse containing the infamous phrase "Deutschland, Deutschland über Alles" has as a rule not been sung. Incidentally, the melody of "the old song", regrettably sullied by its connection to the phrase, is by Haydn.

Edward Wyatt's October 9 piece in the Times on the controversy surrounding the Frankfurt Book Fair ("Anti-Zionist Arab Books Criticized at Fair") does not disappoint. The piece reflects the Times's typical, and typically illogical, wishy-washiness on the issue of anti-Semitism in the Arab world. Thus, for instance, it refuses to designate the publications at the source of the controversy as anti-Semitic - note the title - even while citing the following extracts from one of them: "As for Jews, they are the most spiteful and cunning towards Islam and Muslims," "their plots against the Islamic system throughout history were too many to closely investigate." Well, that seems pretty clear: it's about Jews - and "throughout history" no less! - not about the Zionist movement (which only exists since the late 19th Century) or Israel.

But, anyway, the main topic of the article is not what interests me here. The Times may well succeed in sowing more confusion through the ancillary remarks supposed to provide background information in its reports than through its treatment of the actual events being reported. In this connection, the piece on the Frankfurt Book Fair contains two notable howlers.

First, the piece identifies the Simon Wiesenthal Center as an "international Jewish Rights organization". Huh? The Wiesenthal Center is, according to its own description, an "international Jewish human rights organization" - this being admittedly a rather difficult expression to parse, but nonetheless clearly implying something rather different than a "Jewish Rights" organization. It is the organization that is qualified as being both "international" and "Jewish" and its activity concerns "human rights". If "Jewish" was supposed to qualify the rights in question, then in combination with the qualifier "human" this would obviously imply a contradiction, since "human rights" by definition pertain to or are attributed to individuals simply as humans, and not per their real or ascribed membership in any particular (religious, "racial", national, "ethnic", etc.) group.

The Wiesenthal Center is named for the famous (and in some quarters in Europe, if truth be told, infamous) "Nazi Hunter" Simon Wiesenthal, who made it his business after the Second World War to track down Nazi war criminals. The Center has dedicated its activity essentially to educational work on the Holocaust and exposing and combating contemporary expressions of anti-Semitism. The only specifically "Jewish right" upon which such an activity might be construed as having some bearing is the right of Jews not to be persecuted for being Jews - but this is not in fact a specifically "Jewish right", but rather, per the classical UN version of "human rights", just the right of every individual, not be discriminated against, much less persecuted or killed, on account of real or supposed race, religion, "national origin", etc.

This might seem like splitting hairs. But it is not. The academically fashionable notion of "group rights" - which in Europe, unfortunately, is not limited to the academy, but is gaining ground in actual law - is fundamentally illiberal. It is dangerous in itself and, as I have tried to show in my article "Anti-Semitism and Ethnicity in Europe" in the magazine Policy Review, it comports particular dangers for Jews living in Europe.

Second - and on, I guess, a somewhat lighter note - the Times piece on the Frankfurt Book Fair, alluding to the fact that German laws prohibit Holocaust denial and the incitation of racial hatred (or so-called "Volksverhetzung"), also mentions that they "prohibit books that are pornographic". Huh-uh? I am not sure what Edward Wyatt understands specifically by "pornographic books" : if he thinks, for instance, that Fanny Hill or perhaps Joyce's Ulysses are banned in Germany. Entirely respectable German papers regularly run ads for books that feature volumes that from their titles and covers I would have to venture to guess are of the pornographic variety, even if the category under which they figure is something called "Erotik". But in any case, if Edward Wyatt's colleagues in the Berlin bureau (who might have helped him out here) are ever looking for videos and magazines of this same genre, I would suggest they take a walk around Bahnhof Zoo. Those little stores with the black curtains in front of the entrance and the curiously shaped gadgets in the window - and the flashing neon signs that say "SEX SHOP" (which is German for "sex shop") - should be able to help. Germany does, of course, have laws prohibiting child pornography and the distribution of pornographic materials to minors. Perhaps this is the source of the confusion....

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Practical Matters

I've included now a contact e-mail in my profile, which you will find by clicking on "view my complete profile" in the upper right hand corner. (Please no attachments for the moment.) Rather than remaining an international man of mystery, I will probably before long even put a few biographical details in the "profile". As I get a hang of this, I'll also start putting up links to related blogs and other resources that I think could be of interest.

The 18th century Scottish traveler, essayist, and roustabout James Boswell recounts that when he one day went to ask for an interview with the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, he was told that Rousseau would see him, but that as the master was not feeling well, the meeting would have to be short. "I dreaded the word 'short'," Boswell remarks (or something to that effect). I'm afraid that I am much the same when it comes to writing. I seem to be incapable of writing anything brief or of writing quickly for that matter. As consequence, I think I will make a practice of using the "installment" approach that I've adopted for the "Tariq Ramadan Non-Violent Man of Peace" post. As I add on installments, I'll re-post the whole with the parts clearly marked, so that those who have read earlier installments can easily pick up where they've left off.

Sorry for the delay on the continuation of the Ramadan piece, btw. At latest, I'll get back to it tom'w...