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Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Best of the Web links to an article by Claudia Rosett in the New York Sun, on the attitudes toward George Bush in Beirut (warning: this link, for some reason, crashed my Netscape several times):
Huh. What a change from a few short years ago, when Elisabetta Burba wrote this for the Wall Street Journal:
The rest of the article is more of the same.
Rather than regard this apparent change of heart with satisfaction, I would caution that it's more likely an example of the fickle nature of politics, especially politics in a region where rhetoric (as well as action) takes forms which are -- to our sensibilities -- overheated, absurd, grotesque. Remember the tales of Kuwaiti babies born in 1991, and proudly given the name of George Bush. Ten or twelve years later, some of their parents regretted their actions, we have been told. Same thing goes with babies named "Saddam".
By the way, speaking of Burba, Reason's Michael Young tried to spread doubt on her story, noting that her evidence is often flimsy: she does not speak Arabic, and relies on those who do to interpret certain events for her. He accuses her of pandering to the WSJ (as a roundabout way of accusing the WSJ of fomenting anti-Arab sentiment).
If you read the two articles, you'll see that Young does have some points. But if we're to take them seriously, we must discount nearly every article on "local opinion" that was ever written by any journalist in a foreign land. Fine by me. Furthermore, Young -- who lives in Lebanon, unlike the visiting Burba -- doesn't counter her observations with any of his own. He only warns against collective responsibility and wrings his hands over Burba's lack of nuance. His assertions are far less well-grounded (in his article, that is) than hers.
Moving along, I also learn from Young that Burba was the journalist who turned over forged documents, regarding attempts by Iraq to buy uranium from Niger, to the US embassy in Rome. If you'll recall, in the 2003 State of the Union address, Bush said that British intelligence had evidence that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa. When the story on these forgeries came up, many rushed to identify these as the basis on which Bush made that claim, although that was far from clear.
Young, still smarting over the Beirut article, calls Burba a "bogus reporter". Burba was given the documents by a "usually reliable source" (see here for details). She investigated, and concluded that the documents were faked, but she did turn them over to the US embassy in Rome, on the instructions of her editor. This makes her a "bogus" reporter of "Nixonian deceptiveness", according to Young, who "betrayed her profession". I was unable to google up a halfway reliable source which explained why she turned them over to the US, and whether she explained her misgivings about them when she did so.
I include this information mostly because I found it, and thought it might be relevant to Burba's claims about the reaction of the Lebanese. But also because I think Michael Young makes himself look like an ass, and that was amusing.