September 29, 2004

READING ROOM: More on David Dreier, the AIPAC spies, the Debate, Hitchens, und so weiter...

THE L.A. WEEKLY asked me to gin up a quick piece on the reactions to my piece in the LAW last week, 'The Outing: David Dreier's Straight Hypocrisy." To read this followup piece, "Quiet, Dear: Responses to the Outing of David Drier," click here:...

My friend Sam Smith, whose daily press review, UNDERNEWS, is always a must-read for me, has a "Fake Debates" page detailing some of the restrictive rules for tomorrow night's Miami badminton match...And the debate reform organization Open Debates has a wealth of material on the corruption of the now-corporate-controlled presidential debates process...

Tom Engelhardt's thoughtful blog for The Nation Institute, TomDispatch, today carries a sharp piece from Swiss writer Bruno Giussani: "Memo to Kerry from Europe: Help (for Iraq) Is Not on the Way." Giussani explains why "Europe will not rush to 'share the burden,' nor to significantly reduce the cost of the Mesopotamian adventure to American taxpayers. Truth is, the United States will have to see Iraq through mostly by itself..." Giussani's piece should be read in preparation for tomorrow night's debates, in which Kerry will predictably trot out his "I-can-get-allies-for-Iraq" mantra.

The new Washington Monthly has a detailed piece on the AIPAC spy ring scandal, which the mag is calling "Iran-Contra II." The piece--by Joshua Micah Marshall, Laura Rozen, and Paul Glastris--lays out how the investigation of the spying is shedding light on "an unauthorized back-channel between Iranian dissidents and advisers in Feith's office, which more senior administration officials first tried in vain to shut down and then later attempted to cover up." ( DIRELAND analyzed the Iran connection to the spies in a previous post in early September).

The Annenberg Center
today released a new poll showing how a majority of voters are ignorant of the differences between Kerry and Bush on domestic issues. For example, half of the electorate doesn't know that Bush wants to privatize parts of Social Security, or that Kerry wants to end tax breaks for overseas profits of U.S. corporations. Two-thirds didn't know only Bush favors more restrictions on abortions...and so forth. Read the whole poll--it's sickening testimony to the superficial vapidity of this presidential campaign, as well as to Kerry's singular ineptitude in talking up domestic policy...

The Institute for Policy Studies and Foreign Policy in Focus have issued a new report on " A Failed 'Transition': The Mounting Costs of the Iraq War."

Among the many fascinating nuggets in this 86 page study is the shrinking nature of the "coaliton" Bush keeps braying about: like La Peau du chagrin in the famous Stendhal novel of the same name, Bush's alliance of the bought keeps shrinking: "U.S.- led Coalition Shrinks Further During the "Transition": The number of countries in the Coalition backing the U.S.-led war started with 30 on March 18, 2003, then grew in the early months of the war. Since then, eight countries have withdrawn their troops and Costa Rica has demanded to be taken off the coalition list. At the war's start, coalition countries represented 19.1 percent of the world's population; today, the remaining countries with forces in Iraq represent only 13.6 percent of the world's population."...

CORRESPONDENCE: Jason Vest, a journalist who writes about national security matters, has e-mailed me the following comment on The Independent's interview with Christopher Hitchens I recommended in an earlier post:

The Sept 22 edition of the Independent (UK) carried a Johann Hari piece that is latest example of what I fear is becoming a tired-but-with-no-end-in-sight subgenre of journalism: The "old-friend-of-Hitchens-goes-to -interview -Christopher-in-an-effort-to-draw-a-more-precise-bead-on-his-current-political- views-and-ends-up-anguishing-over-or-lamenting-what-he-finds" story. Though other deadlines do not allow me to inveigh against this cottage industry (and the lacking considerations of its source) immediately, I think I will at some point in the near future. But in the meantime, there is something about the piece that I think deserves immediate attention, and perhaps your delightfully-named DIRELAND is the place to do so. To wit:

The piece contains the following graf:

But can we trust the Bush administration - filled with people like Dick Cheney, who didn't even support the release of Nelson Mandela - to support democracy and the spread of American values now? He offers an anecdote in response. There is a new liberal-left heroine in the States called Azar Nafisi. Her book 'Reading Lolita in Tehran' documents an underground feminist resistance movement to the Iranian Mullahs that concentrated on reading great - and banned - works of Western literature. "And who is this book by an icon of the Iranian resistance dedicated to? [US Deputy Secretary of Defence] Paul Wolfowitz, the bogeyman of the left, and the intellectual force behind [the recent war in] Iraq."

As it so happens, I have a copy of Reading Lolita in Tehran in my library. When I read the above graf, I made a mental note to consult the text to verify what struck me as having to surely be one of the most amazingly neglected acknowledgments in recent times. Leave it to the intrepid Danny Postel to beat me to the punch, who dispatched via email the following on Tuesday:

To the Editor and Mr. Hari: In Johann Hari’s otherwise wonderfully crafted profile of Christopher Hitchens of 22 September, his subject is quoted as saying that Azar Nafisi’s book Reading Lolita in Tehran is dedicated to Paul Wolfowitz (“And who is this book by an icon of the Iranian resistance dedicated to? [US Deputy Secretary of Defence] Paul Wolfowitz…”). In fact, the book is not dedicated to Mr. Wolfowitz. The dedication reads as follows:

In memory of my mother, Nezhat Nafisi
For my father, Ahmad Nafisi,And my family: Bijan, Negar and Dara Naderi

Mr. Wolfowitz’s name does not even appear in the book’s Acknowledgements, which run a full three pages in length.
The error, of course, is Mr. Hitchens’ – but Mr. Hari might have thought to check the claim, as might The Independent have thought to do before running it.

Danny Postel
Journalist, Chicago
www.postelservice.com danny@postelservice.com

Wishful thinking on Christopher's part?

slainte, Jason

Posted by Direland at 10:34 PM | Permalink


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Sorry, I should have written Wolfowitz was Dean of the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). From "John Hopkins Magazine." "Her course evaluates the influence of culture on politics through the eyepiece of literature. SAIS Dean Paul Wolfowitz, who became interested in differences in Islamic culture while serving three years as U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, supports Nafisi's idea that "there is a larger, wider argument about how culture shapes policy."


Posted by: Peter K. | Oct 1, 2004 2:08:08 PM

It's entirely possible Hari mistranscribed his notes to the effect that Hitchens said "dedicated." But apparently, Hitchens is guilty until proven innocent. This all seems unbelievably trivial. However, since Wolfowitz taught at Johns Hopkins where Nafisi teaches, it's possible they met there. Neither thinks much of the current Iranian government, so there's another plausible link.

Posted by: Peter K. | Oct 1, 2004 1:47:19 PM

Could the Paul have been Nitze, the founder of SAIS at JHU and who knew Strauss as a peer not as an acolyte? Nitze is still alive and kicking at 97 years old...

Has Hitchens offered proof of his assertion; has anyone asked Nafisi? And does anyone care, other than to embarass Hitchens?

Posted by: Jack McEnany | Sep 30, 2004 9:23:12 PM

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