Monday, December 20, 2010

Roger Cohen Just Blew My Mind*

The Captive Arab Mind - Global Edition, NYTimes.com

Perhaps he was chagrined by the response to his real-politik stability at all costs appraisal of what should happen when the Special Tribunal for Lebanon indicts Hezbollah, for it seems that Cohen is pulling back and possibly coming to terms with how things really work in the ME. Regarding conspiracy theories in the Arab world (and he even mentions the shark-attack-instigated-by-Israel delusion) he writes:

"What we are dealing with here is the paltry harvest of captive minds. Such minds resort to conspiracy theory because it is the ultimate refuge of the powerless. If you cannot change your own life, it must be that some greater force controls the world.

"...Lebanon is only an extreme case in an Arab world where the internet and new media outlets have not prised open minds conditioned by decades of repression and weakness.

"...Hariri, who was pro-Western and anti-Syrian, was assassinated in downtown Beirut. Suspicion fell on Syrian agents. A United Nations tribunal was set up to investigate — itself a reflection of Lebanon’s weakness in that the country’s own institutions were deemed inadequate.
"Five years later, I found the investigation irrevocably infected by cui bono (who benefits) fever. “Who took advantage of the killing?” Talal Atrissi, a political analyst, asked me. “Not the Syrians, they left Lebanon afterward. It was the United States that benefited.” Hah!
"Ali Fayyad, a Hezbollah member of Parliament, told me: “The tribunal is entirely politicized, an illegal entity used by the United States as one of the tools of regional conflict against Syria and the resistance.”
"Theories abound that Israel penetrated the Lebanese cellphone system to coordinate an assassination portrayed as providing the pretext for a failed anti-Syrian putsch by the West (much as 9/11 is grotesquely perceived in the Arab world as a self-inflicted pretext for the United States to wage war against Muslims).
Why, it is asked, was an international tribunal set up for Hariri but not for Benazir Bhutto’s killing? Why has the C.I.A. not been interrogated? Such questions now have such a hold on Lebanon that I have reluctantly concluded that justice and truth in the Hariri case are impossible, victims of the captive Arab mind.
"In the cui bono universe there can be no closure because events stream on endlessly, opening up boundless possibilities for ex post facto theorizing."
Now, if he could only apply this to the delusions that breed Palestinian intransigence concerning Israel, we would have something to talk about.

Meanwhile Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on the Special Tribunal, dismissing its soon-to-be rulings: "This tribunal is receiving orders from elsewhere and whatever ruling it hands down is null and void." 

* Cohen's pieces on the ME always receive tons of online readers' comments but today they are not being allowed. What are Cohen and the NYT afraid of?

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