Qunfuz

Robin Yassin-Kassab

Defamation and Binary Idiocy

with 24 comments

by Ali Farzat

To summarise: I have been smeared by a Scottish newspaper. Most of the words they attribute to me I did indeed say, but they have decontextualised and selected to such an extent that they make me say things I do not believe – for instance that September 11th was a good thing, or that the Taliban should take over Afghanistan. What follows is a rather long description of meeting the man from the gutter press, which I hope will set the record a little straighter. Yesterday, meanwhile, 33 civilians were killed

by NATO bombs in Afghanistan.

I was doorstepped the other morning. A young man wearing a suit and an apologetic manner wanted to ask some questions on behalf of the Scottish Mail on Sunday.

What? Stumbling down the stairs in my thermal underwear, wild-haired and bestubbled, I dream for a passing moment that I’ve become as important to the world as Tiger Woods or Amy Winehouse. Perhaps even now press vermin are going through my rubbish bin. Perhaps paparazzi are crowding the front garden.

Alas, our aspiring hack, young Oliver Tree (for so he called himself), hasn’t yet graduated to the tabloid heights, and neither have I. It soon becomes clear that his mission is much more mundane, is indeed the everyday grind of papers like the Mail: to create outrage where there was none before, to smear, misrepresent and decontextualise, in order to strangle the possibility of real debate.

He clutches, rather guiltily, an article of mine. “I wonder if you could say why you think suicide bombing is ‘a leap forward’?” he asks. Nonplussed, I take the article from him and check what I’ve written. It’s a brief piece, but still it’s quite clear to any literate person what I’m saying: that the Taliban’s Code of Conduct is a leap forward – for the Taliban – and that an example of this is that it calls on Taliban fighters to avoid hitting civilians.

A wilful misinterpretation, or possibly just hasty ignorance. Mr Tree informs me that this is one of his first jobs. He seems on the edge of a stutter. Taking pity, I bring him into the house and make him a cup of tea. I spend an hour talking to him. I talk with nuance, knowing that the Mail on Sunday doesn’t usually understand nuance, but I talk nevertheless. It may be that young Tree will hear a more complex story than usual. It may be a good start for him.

Sadly, it soon becomes clear that the hack already has the story. It’s already written in his head. My job is merely to fill in the blanks. None of his questions seek to understand my view of what is happening in the Middle East. They all seek a response which spells MUSLIM TERRORIST. Questions like: Should British soldiers be killed? Do I want the Taliban to win? Do I feel British? (Do they ask George Galloway that question?)

And yesterday, I had a page to myself. A photo-shop picture of me looking mean in front of the burning World Trade Centre. Headline: Facing Fury, the Scottish Writer who Thinks 9/11 Attacks were ‘Work of Art.’

Mr Tree is certainly economical with the truth, but no one can accuse him of inconsistency: he misrepresented every single one of my answers. Everything I said was recorded – by Mr Tree. If anybody wants to hear the interview, I suggest they call him.

Let me make a few points, starting with the headline. I compared the London attacks to the New York attacks and argued that the London bombs were, if we ignore the numbers killed, even more criminal and stupid than the New York atrocity. I then quoted the German composer Stockhausen, who called 9/11 a work of art. Stockhausen didn’t say 9/11 was a good thing; he made the accurate observation that the attacks were planned as a public media event, to create iconic imagery. Obviously. So were the Nuremberg rallies. Recognising this does not make you a Nazi.

Look at this: Yassin-Kassab “went on to say that sources in Syria had told him the United States and Israel were responsible for truck-bombing Iraqi civilians. He added, ‘I know a lot of Iraqi refugees, if you ask them they will say it’s the Americans. It’s the Israelis.’”

What Tree doesn’t tell his readers is what I then said – that I thought Wahhabi-nihilist terrorism was a ‘home-grown’ problem, that it was too simplistic of the Arabs to claim that all the terror was American-originated, although the Americans and Israelis may well have penetrated al-Qa’ida groups, and have certainly created the conditions for al-Qa’ida to flourish.

I did not ‘justify the use of suicide bombers against British troops,’ as if the Taliban are awaiting Shaikh Robin’s fatwa. I did not call the soldiers ‘criminal’, although their political masters and many of their actions are. I did say that the deaths of British soldiers in Afghanistan was ‘logical and natural’, but I did not express happiness about this. I very clearly expressed sadness and revulsion that the troops have been sent to commit criminal acts by a lying government, sent to a country which has not attacked Britain, and sent into a war which cannot be won. That notorious Islamist-terrorist Max Hastings expresses my view that the war is unwinnable in this Daily Mail piece. His opinion is also shared by Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, Britain’s senior military commander in Afghanistan. (I advise Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith to steer clear of the Scottish Mail on Sunday. He could find himself accused of high treason.)

If British occupation troops are walking about in Afghanistan, Afghans will shoot at them. If there were Taliban troops occupying Britain, British people would shoot at them, logically and naturally. If the Mail on Sunday wants to pretend that I am endangering British troops by speaking plain English, that’s its business. But the reality is that it’s the Mail on Sunday (and the rest of the right-wing media, and the Labour and Tory parties) which endanger British lives by spouting pro-war propaganda.

The families of British soldiers should worry about this. They could, after all, lose their sons, as Bob Wright lost his 27-year-old son on an Afghan minefield. The Scottish Mail on Sunday got this grieving father to call me a “traitor”, and to remark that hearing ‘this’ “from someone who lives in this country is disgusting.” This was the general method of the defamation, to sum up my words with something like ‘the Taliban should win’ and then to seek an outraged response from the Scottish Tories, veterans’ groups and the like.

As for my saying the Taliban should win, I spent a long time telling Mr Tree that the Taliban couldn’t conceivably conquer Afghanistan without superpower backing (which it had last time) because half the Afghans don’t like the Taliban. NATO is involved in another people’s complex and long-running civil war – a war caused by foreign interventions in the first place. NATO’s presence does not help to calm the situation.

I probably did say, “I don’t have a blanket condemnation for suicide bombing. Fighting military targets, whether you do that with a Kalashnikov or a suicide bomber or a roadside bomb, is perfectly justifiable,” and I stand by it because I don’t see a moral difference between hitting a target with your body or with a tank. The result for the person killed or maimed is the same. So our moral judgement of the rightness of an action must be based on a political context. For instance, is this person fighting to liberate himself or to oppress others?

In Mail on Sunday land, if you oppose the occupation of Afghanistan or Iraq, you’re a Taliban or Saddam Hussain partisan. If you oppose the depredations of Zionism, you’re an Islamist anti-Semite. If you suggest that American involvement in the region has laid the ground for blowback, your real home is Tora Bora. It’s so very tedious, this idiotic binarism. It’s so very much the opposite of clear and honest thought.

For those who fear that I am, after all, a Wahhabi nihilist, I encourage you to read what I have written about Osama bin Laden and the Saudi regime. (Another piece which upset the patriots at the Mail on Sunday was this one, on poppies. And I strongly suspect that this article on the Quilliam Foundation may have had a role in the episode.)

Anyway, it’s all par for the course and not to be taken too seriously. I am told that the Scottish Mail on Sunday arrived up here only recently – like the BNP – and has a negligible readership.

What adds an unpleasant edge to the episode is that the dangerously undefined ‘glorification of terror’ is now a criminal offence. Ministers and media figures have suggested that ‘supporting armed resistance anywhere in the world’ should qualify as glorification. In order to be as consistent as Mr Tree, these people should now call for Britain to withdraw from the Fourth Geneva Convention, which accepts occupied peoples’ right to resistance.

The aim of such smears is to intimidate. I am not intimidated, because I do not glorify terror. I want terror to stop, and I call for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in order to bring this end closer. In this, I am in agreement with the majority of Britons.

Rereading the page, I don’t like the phrases ‘someone who lives in this country,’ ‘traitor,’ ‘Arab writer’, and ‘half-Syrian.’ I feel these words have a force to them which would not exist if there weren’t an effort being made to intimidate oppositional voices from ‘the Muslim community’. If my name were Robin Smith, I think I’d face less obvious stereotyping. But the overall aim is to shut up anybody willing to think beyond the ideological boundaries.

And now what to do? I will learn some lessons. Newspapers like the Mail on Sunday are not the fourth estate but instruments of power. They are very often no more than platforms for defamation. So I will not let their hacks in, however small and scared they look. I will ask what the purpose of the article is, and then I’ll ask them to send written questions, to which I will give one-sentence answers, and I’ll keep a written record of our exchange.

Perhaps two-word answers would be better still.

Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

February 22, 2010 at 11:08 am

24 Responses

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  1. I would say just ignore them, but that’s not so easy when it’s such a personal attack.

    You are on the right side of history, not them. Remember the Daily Mail supported Mosley and his fascist gang.

    Asa

    February 22, 2010 at 11:24 am

  2. I had to redo this for technical reasons, and so I’ve lost several comments. Sorry. Tali offered her solidarity. Malachi asked why I’d been so stupid as to let the hack in. (Only because I’ve never been doorstepped before, Malachi, and wasn’t thinking. I was indeed stupid. Now I know.) Maha asked why they want to intimidate me specifically. (I don’t think I’m particularly important, Maha. It’s just that any ‘story’ which feeds into the mad-terrorist-muslim-fascist discourse excites them very much).

    Robin Yassin-Kassab

    February 22, 2010 at 12:04 pm

  3. Just for the record, there’s my solidarity again ✌
    And I’ll say it again: you used this defamation well within a great article, retelling your enlightening views on the Middle East. I think you owe Mr. Tree a basket of goodies.

    Tali Shapiro

    February 22, 2010 at 12:51 pm

  4. Robin, Namaste
    “Anyway, it’s all par for the course and not to be taken too seriously. I am told that the Scottish Mail on Sunday arrived up here only recently – like the BNP – and has a negligible readership.”
    How dare you call folk “negligible”? ;-)

    Par for the course, indeed.

    Sadly, most folk have already got their opinions formed and armor-plated. The number who are susceptible to change by “opinion-formers”, e.g. The Mail or The Independent, are few, and unlikely to seek out opinion which challenges their own.

    You and I are little different in this, I fear.

    Salaam/Shalom/Shanthi/Peace
    -ed

    Ed Iglehart

    February 22, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    • Should that be “par for the coarse”? ;-)
      Have you noted the Mail family’s fondness for Gothic typeface?

      Salaam
      ed

      Ed Iglehart

      February 22, 2010 at 1:09 pm

  5. I’m behind you 100% Robin. Let me know if you need any support. Sons-of-bitches…

    Christian Avard

    February 22, 2010 at 1:15 pm

  6. Would love to have time to post an article about this, reminiscing about drinking Moroccan and British tea and putting the world to rights in Rabat.

    The treatment of tough subjects just cannot work out right in most of the press. The reason soundbite politics works is because it drops the entry bar enough to get the disinterested to take sides and, possibly, vote. The disenfranchised, on the other hand, don’t have the money to pay the soundbite authors, and they don’t have the spokespeople they need either.

    Still think there might be a good side to this. Bad exposure is better than no exposure, and getting the chance to respond intelligently – and no doubt with a few sentence only answers too, yes you gotta eat the dogfood – might just be the light at the end of this rather twisted, dank and sombre tunnel.

    Simon White

    February 22, 2010 at 2:47 pm

  7. I was once involved in a minor scandal in Ireland that involved an Irish sailor friend of mine who faked his own death but totally botched the lies and got caught. It made the tabloids and eventually the mainstream papers in Ireland because the whole story was so laughably absurd. I willingly participated when people called me for interviews because I thought it would be a laugh, and yeah, there’s that feeling of being flattered that the world is suddenly paying attention to you.

    But even for something as silly as this, I was constantly mis-quoted, taken out of context, and attacked for no apparent reason. Luckily it wasn’t anything serious and I could shrug and laugh it off. But the media is seriously a joke these days.

    Live and learn.

    Pamela Olson

    February 22, 2010 at 6:13 pm

  8. Without having even read the originals you are discussing, it’s very easy to see how you are trying to play both sides against the middle. Here, for instance:

    I very clearly expressed sadness and revulsion that the troops have been sent to commit criminal acts by a lying government, sent to a country which has not attacked Britain, and sent into a war which cannot be won.

    You accuse British troops of being criminals, and express “sadness” that Britain has sent to criminals to Afghanistan to die in a war “that cannot be won”. It’s very easy to read between the lines there. And then there’s this:

    As for my saying the Taliban should win, I spent a long time telling Mr Tree that the Taliban couldn’t conceivably conquer Afghanistan…

    You just said the war could not be won. Now you say it cannot be lost. Which is it? You seem to be saying now that NATO troops don’t even need to be in Afghanistan because the Taliban can’t win anyway. The only explanation I can come up with to explain thsi contradiction is that you don’t want NATO troops in Afghanistan and you try to simultaneously claim that:

    a) they aren’t necessary (the Taliban will lose anyway)

    b) they can’t defeat the Taliban

    You wouldn’t make such contradictory claims if you didn’t have an agenda.

    …without superpower backing (which it had last time) because half the Afghans don’t like the Taliban.

    The Taliban succeeded in Afghanistan because they had the backing of Pakistan. Are you suggesting Pakistan is a super-power? Are you suggesting that if NATO withdrew, Pakistan would oppose rather than support the Taliban, in the future? If so, on what basis do you make such claims? I haven’t even seen any firm anti-Taliban rhetoric coming out of Afghanistan, let alone actions. And that’s despite a tremendous amount of pressure being put on Pakistan by the US. What is the most likely course of action for Pakistan if the US and NATO withdraw from Afghanistan?

    I could go on but I think these two snippets prove my point well enough.If this is what you’ve got to offer in what must have been a very carefully crafted rebuttal then I have to assume that what you’ve got to say when you aren’t defending yourself is much worse than this.

    I don’t know who you are, and I’m not familiar with this publication, but I don’t think it’s out of line for somebody to try to get you to say what you really believe. You leave yourself too many backdoors and escape routes with what you write. Plausible deniability and all that, right? Well, what are people supposed to do when they read your words? I’m sure people on both sides of the issue read between the lines. Just like I did.

    Craig

    February 22, 2010 at 11:51 pm

  9. By the way, I noticed only comments that were supportive of you have been published here. Is that because your readers are all like minded individuals? :)

    Craig

    February 22, 2010 at 11:52 pm

  10. In the short term, you will experience bouts of self-doubt, have serious reservations about your naivety and the way you handled the whole affair, perhaps you will experience feelings of having been been violated and a pressing need to re-balance the obvious misrepresentations, distortions and lies. You may even sense the feeling of losing control of part of who you actually are. In the medium term, those feelings will probably turn to focusing on the inevitability of such an experience and what the experience says about the climate of fear being fanned by opportunistic and self-serving media types.It will also give you a greater insight into the discourse of the mad-terrorist-Muslim nut within which any careful analysis is being fed and disseminated. You may also become a little more aware of how the culture of self-censorship works and how the media construct frameworks of ideas within which dissenters must carefully navigate themselves. In the longer-term, I think you will establish an even greater credibility amongst those who really know you and follow your writing and become stronger for having had the experience. In the very long term,inshallah, your voice will be counted amongst those who stood up for justice and spoke with integrity and sincerity in the court of the mythmaker.

    Tariq

    February 23, 2010 at 12:11 am

  11. Craig – Tell me what you read between the lines. It’s quite clear on the surface, I think. I believe the occupation of Afghanistan is criminal. I think NATO forces should be withdrawn.

    Your next point falls into the trap of ‘binary idiocy’. You think there are only two options, either NATO wins or the Taliban wins. I don’t think either can win, if winning means taking control of the whole country and imposing their kind of government. NATO can’t win because they are foreign occupiers (this provokes resistance even from people who don’t subscibe at all to the Taliban programme) who have taken a side in a civil war. The Taliban can’t win because they are only one side in the same civil war. In the ned peace can only come when the Afghan parties themselves fight it out until they are ready to come to some kind of power-sharing agreement. The NATO presence just exacerbates the war.

    The Taliban had the backing of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. The United States is a superpower.

    The Pakistani army has been a tool of the United Staes for many years. It was a tool of the US when it backed the Taliban, and it is a tool of the US now that it fights the Taliban. This is a disaster for Pakistan. As a result, there is an enormous security crisis in this enormous country, a far more important country than Afghanistan. The army has bombed its own people, and some of thos people have responded with horrific violence against civilians. Your solution is for the army to slaughter more villagers. I disagree with your solution.

    I believe many things which are controversial in this country, and I’m not in the least ashamed of what I believe. The Mail on Sunday had me saying things I do not believe. I’ve explained that already.

    Yours is the first negative comment I’ve had. I’m happy to say that people, here and on PULSE and by email and phone call, have been very supportive. My blog doesn’t have a huge readership, and probably most readers are ‘like-minded people’. I like to think that they are intelligent people who actually know something about the world.

    Robin Yassin-Kassab

    February 23, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    • Craig – Tell me what you read between the lines. It’s quite clear on the surface, I think. I believe the occupation of Afghanistan is criminal. I think NATO forces should be withdrawn.

      Well, first off on what basis do you think the occupation is criminal? Who has declared the occupation of Afghanistan to be criminal? The UN has certainly endorsed it. Also, that isn’t what you said. You said:

      …the troops have been sent to commit criminal acts by a lying government

      You are accusing British troops of being war criminals. That’s a pretty sharp charge, especially if you are basing it on a personal opinion that the “occupation” (Afghanistan is not under occupation and hasn’t been for quite some time) is illegal, when there doesn’t seem to be any basis for such a position.

      …sent to a country which has not attacked Britain

      The US was attacked. The NATO charter was invoked. Britain is a member of NATO.

      Your next point falls into the trap of ‘binary idiocy’. You think there are only two options, either NATO wins or the Taliban wins.

      I don’t understand what the confusion is. From my perspective (or from any Westerner’s perspective, I suspect) NATO has lost if it withdraws without having defeated the Taliban and AQ. And driving NATO out of Afghanistan would be a victory for the Taliban, by any measure. You disagree with this? That “binary” exists whether you want to acknowledge it or not, Robin.

      I don’t think either can win, if winning means taking control of the whole country and imposing their kind of government.

      And who says that’s what “winning” means? Who is dealing in absolutes now? :)

      NATO can’t win because they are foreign occupiers (this provokes resistance even from people who don’t subscibe at all to the Taliban programme) who have taken a side in a civil war.

      I’m quite cynical about the NATO effort in Afghanistan, but I disagree with that statement about foreign occupiers never being able to win.

      If the mission in Afghanistan fails it will be for one reason and one reason only: Pakistan

      The Taliban can’t win because they are only one side in the same civil war.

      The Taliban certainly CAN win. If they can reasonably claim that they chased NATO out of Afghanistan, that’s a victory all by itself. Who knows what happens after that, but the Taliban does not have to control all of Afghanistan to be able to claim victory.

      In the ned peace can only come when the Afghan parties themselves fight it out until they are ready to come to some kind of power-sharing agreement.

      That’s not going to happen, whether NATO stays or goes. Pakistan and Iran are both going to be in there, same as they were before 2001. And my bet is that the Taliban comes out on top (again) for the same reason they did last time: Pakistan

      The NATO presence just exacerbates the war.

      NATO wasn’t even there the last time this scenario played out. And as I recall back in 2002 a lot of Afghans were blaming the US for having abandoned them after the Russians pulled out, and leaving a power vacuum that allowed the Taliban to take control of the country. Not that I subscribe to that view, but it seems to me we’re “damned if we do, damned if we don’t” when it comes to Afghanistan.

      The Taliban had the backing of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. The United States is a superpower.

      No you are playing games again. The Taliban is a Pakistani project, and has always been a Pakistani project. Blaming the Taliban (or al Qaida) on the US is something I expect from western leftists who are completely ignorant about South Asia. You are presenting yourself as somebody who is informed.

      The Pakistani army has been a tool of the United Staes for many years. It was a tool of the US when it backed the Taliban, and it is a tool of the US now that it fights the Taliban.

      Fights the Taliban? lol

      Robin, if we can get Pakistan to fight the Taliban for real rather than just making symbolic gestures, then the Taliban loses. It’s just that simple. However, I don’t believe Pakistan is ever going to make a real effort to fight the Taliban (many in Pakistan see the Taliban as their “ace in the hole” against India) and that’s why I think US/NATO/etc ought to get out and let whatever is going to happen in South Asia happen without us standing in the crossfire.

      This is a disaster for Pakistan. As a result, there is an enormous security crisis in this enormous country, a far more important country than Afghanistan.

      Pakistan’s disaster is everyone’s disaster, and it is nobodies fault but Pakistan’s.

      The army has bombed its own people, and some of thos people have responded with horrific violence against civilians. Your solution is for the army to slaughter more villagers. I disagree with your solution.

      Now you are resorting to IMPOSING binaries on me? lol

      The Mail on Sunday had me saying things I do not believe.

      I don’t have much sympathy for you, considering you just put words in my mouth a few sentences prior to this one :)

      Yours is the first negative comment I’ve had.

      Well, I’m gratified to hear that you aren’t using the moderation to filter out dissent. I always wonder when somebody has moderation enabled, and the comments all seem to be in agreement with the author. Especially on controversial posts.

      I’m happy to say that people, here and on PULSE and by email and phone call, have been very supportive. My blog doesn’t have a huge readership, and probably most readers are ‘like-minded people’.

      If you’re wondering where I came from, I saw your post featured on Toot.

      I like to think that they are intelligent people who actually know something about the world.

      Implication being that I’m not, of course :p

      Craig

      February 23, 2010 at 5:31 pm

  12. Craig,
    “The US was attacked. The NATO charter was invoked. Britain is a member of NATO.”

    The US was not attacked by Afghanistan, or even “the Taliban” neither was Britain or NATO,

    Some pertinent thoughts:

    http://home2.btconnect.com/tipiglen/thoughts.html,

    Notably:
    “XX. The aim and result of war necessarily is not peace but victory, and any victory won by violence necessarily justifies the violence that won it and leads to further violence. If we are serious about innovation, must we not conclude that we need something new to replace our perpetual “war to end war?”

    XXI. What leads to peace is not violence but peaceableness, which is not passivity, but an alert, informed, practiced, and active state of being. We should recognize that while we have extravagantly subsidized the means of war, we have almost totally neglected the ways of peaceableness. We have, for example, several national military academies, but not one peace academy. We have ignored the teachings and the examples of Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and other peaceable leaders. And here we have an inescapable duty to notice also that war is profitable, whereas the means of peaceableness, being cheap or free, make no money.”

    Practice Peace

    Ed Iglehart

    February 23, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    • The US was not attacked by Afghanistan, or even “the Taliban” neither was Britain or NATO

      Ed, to imply the Taliban (which was the sovereign power in Afghanistan, “recognized” or not) a free pass for attacks made by a terrorist group which is in partnership with the Taliban pretty strange. Even stranger than claiming that Lebanon should get a free pass for attacks Hezbollah commits on other countries. That’s similar to saying that Gazans are not responsible for what Hamas does. Do you believe that, too?

      Regardless of the legal merits of this argument (and I believe it has none) – no country is going to allow itself to be attacked by a militia that is allowed to operate with impunity in another country, and not do something about it. That’s the only reason (in my opinion) that Pakistan even pretends to be doing something about the various terror groups operating in their country. If they did not at least make a token effort, then the US/NATO and India (and others) would be fully justified under international law to unilaterally take action against Pakistan, in self-defense.

      Practice Peace

      Believe it or not, I’m a big fan of peace. When you convince AQ and the Taliban that peace is better thaj jihad, let me know. I won’t waste any time signing up for that.

      Craig

      February 24, 2010 at 1:13 am

      • I refer the gentleman to the comment I made earlier:

        “Sadly, most folk have already got their opinions formed and armor-plated. The number who are susceptible to change by “opinion-formers”, e.g. The Mail or The Independent, are few, and unlikely to seek out opinion which challenges their own.

        You and I are little different in this, I fear.”

        On colonisation

        Peace

        Ed Iglehart

        February 24, 2010 at 10:08 am

  13. OK, then. If you define Taliban victory as driving NATO out of Afghanistan, then I think that the Taliban will probably be victorious. I don’t think it can take over the whole country though.

    Pakistan and Iran are still in there. Iran is keeping western Afghanistan quiet. If Iran is attacked by the West, this will change. In any case, Iranian and Pak influence in Afghanistan makes sense. It’s part of the solution.

    “No you are playing games again. The Taliban is a Pakistani project, and has always been a Pakistani project. Blaming the Taliban (or al Qaida) on the US is something I expect from western leftists who are completely ignorant about South Asia. You are presenting yourself as somebody who is informed.”

    I don’t play games on these matters, Craig. I have lived in south Asia and worked as a journalist there. I have read tens of books on south asia. I know very many south asians. I’m afraid your comments show YOU to be ignorant. You believe there is no occupation. You believe Afghanistan attacked America. I let the readers judge.

    There are indeed branches of the Pak army which still have good relations with the Taliban. Nevertheless, the Pak army is fighting the Taliban. Are you aware of the different groups under the heading ‘taliban’?

    The bit where you think i put words in your mouth – I’m afraid i really dont understand what you’re on about. Really.

    I publish any comment which is not racist or abusive and which contributes to the discussion.

    Yes, that was my implication.

    Robin Yassin-Kassab

    February 23, 2010 at 7:23 pm

  14. Hizbullah is a resistance movement which was born out of the brutal 22-year Israeli occupation of Lebanon, you fool.

    And so on. You say the ‘whole world’ has decided that Afghanistan is not occupied. I remeber Bush getting the UN to pass a resolution and then announcing that IUraq was no longer occupied. Hooray. But the Iraqois didn’t notice a decrease in the number of American troops walking around your country.

    The rest of what you say id full of filthy insinuations against the suffering people of Gaza, etc, amd me. You call me a liar. This week I’ve had enough of offensive fools with bad attitudes and no understanding of the world, so I’m deleting your abusive comment. Go and live in Israel and work on your theory of non-occupation, and watch out for the jihadists.

    Robin Yassin-Kassab

    February 24, 2010 at 9:41 am

    • Is my reply that you are replying to here, deleted? I don’t see it. Oh well.

      Hizbullah is a resistance movement which was born out of the brutal 22-year Israeli occupation of Lebanon…

      Hezbollah was crated in 1981 by Iranian IRGC. Israel had just invaded Lebanon, so where is this “22 years of occupation of Lebanon” coming from? And besides that, HA’s purpose for existing was initially to serve as an Iranian proxy in Lebanon’s civil war. HA still serves as an Iranian proxy, it’s just that Iran’s objectives in Lebanon have changed. Mainly because their previous objectives in Lebanon have been met. Lebanon is for all intents and purposes an Iranian colony in the Arab world. The IRI doesn’t really care about Israel, you know… The hated zionist entity is just a convenient mechanism for the manipulation of Arabs.

      …you fool.

      You have a short temper when people disagree with you, I see. I haven’t even been rude, yet. Nor am I the one saying foolish things. Is this the way you spoke to that stupid journalist?

      You say the ‘whole world’ has decided that Afghanistan is not occupied.

      That’s not what I said. I said the whole world passed judgment on whether or not the invasion of Afghanistan was justified. Occupation is a matter of definition under international law. If you don’t understand what the term “military occupation” means, I suggest you either look it up or stop using it.

      The rest of what you say id full of filthy insinuations against the suffering people of Gaza, etc, amd me. You call me a liar. This week I’ve had enough of offensive fools with bad attitudes and no understanding of the world, so I’m deleting your abusive comment.

      The only one being abusive here is you. And you deleted my comment just because I disagreed with you. After denying twice that you do that.

      You’re done with me. I’m also done with you. I’ve had enough of thin skinned bloggers who can’t tolerate dissenting opinions. Have a nice life.

      Craig

      February 24, 2010 at 3:03 pm

  15. The world is full of ill-informed people Robin, but that doesn’t make them as much fools as victims. It’s hard to show the path to enlightenment when the powers that be have discovered how to make anti-lights which darken without extinguishing the illuminated.

    Sadly personal abuse did start to creep into the comments, which nonetheless had (up until then) elicited much interesting debate.

    Keep fighting the good fight

    Simon White

    February 24, 2010 at 2:51 pm

  16. I deleted Craig’s last but one comment because it called me a liar.

    I am suggesting that if the UN decides to bless an occupation, and to not formally call it an occupation, it remains an occupation so long as foreign troops continue to occupy the country concerned. Not very difficult. When the French occupied Syria it was called a Mandate, but the Syrians called it, and still call it, an occupation. Given that the French ran the Syrian economy and government, drew the country’s borders, and did so by force of arms, I think the Syrians are right.

    I refer people to stuff I’ve previously written about Hizbullah and the sectarian and anti-Iranian discourse being promoted by the client Arab states and people like Craig. Israel invaded Lebanon in 1978 and remained until 2000 (it still occupies the Shabaa Farms). That makes 22 years. Hizbullah has certainly received Iranian sponsorship but is a grass roots Lebanese movement. I recommend Amal Saad-Ghorayeb’s book. Hizbullah developed out of other movements, such as the Jihad organisation. Hizbullah is the only Lebanese party which did not massacre other Lebanese during the civil war. Instead it focused its fire on the Israeli occupier. If this was Iranian policy in the Lebanese war, then Iran had a very good policy. That is why at least 50% of the Lebanese support Hizbullah at any one moment.

    Robin Yassin-Kassab

    February 24, 2010 at 3:18 pm

  17. I directly implied in my comment that Robin should not have called you a fool, Craig. In referencing abuse I was referring to the overall tone, which while maintaining a modicum of politeness, was starting to stray a little on the sharp side.

    I try to maintain a healthy level of doubt in matters of international politics, having myself lived (for five years) in a Muslim country and rubbed shoulders with the real policy makers (diplomats). They’re not even elected. I tend to side with Robin, but that doesn’t mean I agree with everything he says. I do however bow down to his greater knowledge of most of the issues in the Middle East – which sadly most of the politicians don’t even scrape the surface of, and even then they are highly influenced by the lobbies. No question which lobbies are the most heard either, it’s always the rich who want to maintain their power, and not the opressed, who get a seat at the unofficial tables where the real deals are struck.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with everything you say either, there are two sides to the argument and many truths, half truths and outright lies bandied around in official institutions and diplomatic circles. Saying the US was attacked by terrorists is true. Saying that we could establish any kind of state sponsorship for the attacks is stretching the bounds of reality. You seemed to imply that you swallow the “axis of evil” rhetoric which did so much to damage the reputation of the USA in France. Chirac stood up to the whole sponsoring of the war in Iraq – and he was right IMHO.

    The main failure in complex debate about international issues (Ireland comes to mind too, a lot of US involvement there too as it happens) is that you cannot easily polarise opinion without slipping into binary logic, the whole point of the original article. The tough thing is that it’s difficult to argue on equal terms when you have to have encyclopedic knowledge of the issues to really set the record straight, and nobody has that. Robin sometimes confounds me because I realise I can’t maintain an argument because he has a much bigger deck of cards than me (much more knowledge of the history).

    Simon White

    February 24, 2010 at 3:48 pm

  18. o true, Simon. I shouldn’t have called Craig a fool. I probably shouldn’t have deleted the comment in which he called me a liar. It wasn’t fanatical or racist abuse, and no worse than me saying fool (he did start it). I am indeed a thin-skinned blogger today. The last few days have caught up, and I am quick-tempered and exhausted. Anyway.

    He did make a reasonable point in the deleted mail about Iran’s backing for the northern alliance, which i wanted to respond to. Perhaps I’ll write something more about Afghanistan at some point.

    To clarify: this blog has comment control for the first time a person posts a comment. This is to avoid spam comments (such as “Hi! Great blog! Why not come over to the world’s best bingo site!” and then a link to something off the topic). After a first comment by an author has been accepted, the comments are not controlled. WordPress does allow me (or any other blogger) to delete comments. I only do this if they are racist (against anyone) or engage in personal abuse. Calling me a liar – and he was referring to ideas and information rather than me in my personal life – is not so serious. I should have left it. As I said, I am somewhat hyper-sensitive to anything that looks like a persoanl attack at the moment, after what has happened. I need to get a good night’s sleep and try to be a better person tomorrow.

    Robin Yassin-Kassab

    February 24, 2010 at 8:10 pm


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