Edward Said skewers Kanan Makiya

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Dec 3 10:42:42 MST 2002

Counterpunch, December 3, 2002

Misinformation About Iraq
A Fantastical Future, Predicted by the Terminally Disengaged

The flurry of reports, leaks, and misinformation about the looming US
war against Saddam Hussein's dictatorship in Iraq continues unabated. It
is impossible to know, however, how much of this is a brilliantly
managed campaign of psychological war against Iraq, how much the public
floundering of a government uncertain about its next step. In any event,
I find it as possible to believe that there will be a war as that there
will not. Certainly the sheer belligerency of the verbal assaults on the
average citizen are unprecedented in their ferocity, with the result
that very little is totally certain about what is actually taking place.
No one can independently confirm the various troop and navy movements
reported on a daily basis, and given the lurching opacity of his
thinking, George W Bush's real intentions are difficult to read. But
that the whole world is concerned -- indeed, deeply anxious -- about the
catastrophic chaos that will ensue after another Afghanistan-like air
campaign against the people of Iraq, of that there is little doubt.

And yet, one aspect of the deluge of opinion, and a fact that is most
disturbing quite on its own and without reference to its actual
intention, is the spate of articles concerning post-Saddam Iraq. One
that I'd like to discuss in particular is obviously part of a continuing
effort by an Iraqi expatriate, Kanan Makiya, to promote himself as the
father of what he calls a "non-Arab" and decentralised post-Ba'ath
country. Now it is quite clear to anyone with the slightest concern
about the travails of this rich and once-flourishing country that the
years of Ba'athist rule have been disastrous, despite the regime's early
programme of development and building. So there can be little quarrel
with trying to imagine what Iraq might look like if Saddam is toppled
either by American intervention or by internal coup. Makiya's
contribution to this effort has been a steady one, both on the airwaves
and in quality journals where he is given a platform to air his views,
about which I shall speak in a moment. What has been made less clear,
however, is who he is and from what background he emerges. I think it is
important to know these things, if only to judge the value of his
contribution and to understand more precisely the special quality of his
thoughts and ideas.

Usually identified as having a research connection with Harvard and as a
professor at Brandeis University (both in Boston), Makiya when I knew
him first in the early 1970s was closely affiliated with the Popular
Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. As I recall, he was
then an architecture student at MIT, but he hardly said anything during
the occasions I saw him. Then he disappeared from view, or rather from
my view. He surfaced in 1990 as Samir Khalil, the author of a vaunted
book called The Republic of Fear that described Saddam Hussein's rule
with considerable dread and drama. One of the media-rousing works of the
first Gulf War, The Republic of Fear seemed to have been written --
according to a fawning interview with Makiya that appeared in the New
Yorker magazine -- while Makiya took time off from working as an
associate of his father's architectural firm in Iraq itself. He admitted
in the interview that, in a sense, Saddam had financed the writing of
his book indirectly, although no one accused Makiya of collaborating
with a regime he obviously detested.

full: http://www.counterpunch.org/


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